Happy birthday, Jeff!
Thanks! I heartily return each and every one of your sentiments!
Yes, I think we've known -- at least I think I knew -- that you, me and Peter all had birthdays clustered closely together. Strangely, Suz and her two longtime best friends from high school also have closely clustered birthdays, and used to have joint birthday parties (well, at least they did one year).
And yes, despite the limitations and potential pitfalls of online community, there is also the potential for enhancing and extending genuine community in incredibly enriching ways, and we've definitely experienced that here.
Following that tangent ... already in 1971 the Pastoral Instruction Communio et Progressio
went so far as to say that the power of the communications media to facilitate "continual and often close consultations" among people "exactly coincides with the Christian conception of how men should live together
. These technical advances have the high purpose of bringing men into closer contact with one another." It went on to say:
Communication is more than the expression of ideas and the indication of emotion. At its most profound level it is the giving of self in love. Christ's communication was, in fact, spirit and life. In the institution of the Holy Eucharist, Christ gave us the most perfect and most intimate form of communion between God and man possible in this life, and, out of this, the deepest possible unity between men. Further, Christ communicated to us His life-giving Spirit, who brings all men together in unity. ...
So, "among the wonderful technical inventions" which foster communication among human beings, Christians find means that have been devised under God's Providence for the encouragement of social relations during their pilgrimage on earth. These means, in fact, serve to build new relationships and to fashion a new language which permits men to know themselves better and to understand one another more easily. By this, men are led to a mutual understanding and shared ambition. And this, in turn, inclines them to justice and peace, to good will and active charity, to mutual help, to love and, in the end, to communion. The tools of communication, then, provide some of the most effective means for the cultivation of that charity among men which is at once the cause and the expression of fellowship.
The modern media of social communication offer men of today a great round table. At this they are able to participate in a world-wide exchange in search of brotherhood and cooperation. It is not surprising that this should be so, for the media are at the disposal of all and are channels for that very dialogue which they themselves stimulate. The torrent of information and opinion pouring through these channels makes every man a partner in the business of the human race. This interchange creates the proper conditions for that mutual and sympathetic understanding which leads to universal progress.
The swift advances of the means of social communication tear down the barriers that time and space have erected between men. They can make for greater understanding and closer unity.
Is there another side to that coin? Sure (and Communio et Progressio
talks about that too). And we've experienced some of that here too. It's a fallen world. But God is at work in this fallen world, and He's at work on the Internet, and here at A&F.