On Nurturing Man’s Spiritual Relationship with Technology
SEARCHING FOR WARMTH IN A COLD, MECHANICAL WORLD
Naturally, I have no memory of dwelling inside my mother’s womb, but I can imagine the benevolent warmth and the deep awareness of essential love. Such immersion in serenity and joy is never quite experienced in adult life. Lately, I have been craving some trace of that existential warmth. Despite the surge of energy I normally enjoy when the autumn air cools, and the wind and rain rebel against the months-long oppression of summer, these days I find myself wishing for a more nurturing climate, far away from my office and the long days spent largely on the computer.
Ignoring the irony, I turn to my cellphone. After reviewing dozens of new email headlines, each one grasping for my attention with gimmicks and grandiosity, I zero in on a sensational news story. Apparently, researchers have nearly perfected the manufacture of a laboratory-specific environment that could replace the functions of a mother’s womb. Biologist J.B.S. Haldane predicted such “ectogenesis” way back in the 1920s, arguing that it would be a force for the liberation of women from pregnancy. He mocked those who favored a more sacred, traditional beginning for babies, declaring, “There is no great invention, from fire to flying, which has not been hailed as an insult to some god.” Haldane would find kindred spirits in today’s techno-atheists. It grieves me to see women and men belligerently manipulating our human nature, even our essential differences as parents, as a way to resolve the unnatural struggles between the sexes.
The wisdom of Sylvia Plath, shared in her personal journals, comes to mind. “How we need that security,” she wrote. “How we need another soul to cling to, another body to keep us warm. To rest and trust; to give your soul in confidence: I need this. I need someone to pour myself into.”
An email that I read over and over again came from a close friend who volunteered at a hospital to hold and comfort preemie babies who were undergoing painful withdrawal from the drugs their mothers had ingested while pregnant. She told me how the babies shook uncontrollably, cried out from their very souls, and clung to her finger like it was the last lifeboat on the Titanic. Those babies knew in their very being what Plath was talking about. They clearly dreaded returning to the plastic, high-tech incubators that would save their lives but would never truly be their homes. My friend and the babies she held cried in unison. The incubator, however, stood alone and empty, awkwardly supplementing that intimate chorus with a synthetic buzzing sound. I suppose one of those new artificial uteruses will fit into the human world with a similar mix of utility and alienation.
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