But I’d already learned to respond to most challenges and catastrophes by saying not, “God is trying to tell me something,” like pain is a code, but, “There is a way to serve God in every situation.” Suffering can be offered up for others; it can change us, make us more humble or more loving; it’s an opportunity to trust in God; when the suffering is a result of societal crimes and “structural sin” it can be an opportunity to fight for justice. These are all ways of serving God through pain. I don’t know if it’s best to think of these acts as revealing the meaning which was always embedded by God in our suffering, or as imbuing our suffering with meaning by imbuing it with love.
The Internet threatens final confirmation of Adorno and Horkheimer’s dictum that the culture industry allows the “freedom to choose what is always the same.” Champions of online life promised a utopia of infinite availability: a “long tail” of perpetually in-stock products would revive interest in non-mainstream culture. One need not have read Astra Taylor and other critics to sense that this utopia has been slow in arriving. Culture appears more monolithic than ever, with a few gigantic corporations—Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon—presiding over unprecedented monopolies. Internet discourse has become tighter, more coercive. Search engines guide you away from peculiar words. (“Did you mean . . . ?”) Headlines have an authoritarian bark (“This Map of Planes in the Air Right Now Will Blow Your Mind”). “Most Read” lists at the top of Web sites imply that you should read the same stories everyone else is reading. Technology conspires with populism to create an ideologically vacant dictatorship of likes.