Before the modern electronic revolution really got going, William Butler Yeats wrote a poem called "The Leaders of the Crowd." These were those, he wrote, who "hawk for news/Whatever their loose fantasy invent/And murmur it with bated breath, as though/The abounding gutter had been Helicon/Or calumny a song."
And these leaders of the crowd did not yet have an Internet at their disposal, or video games, or electronic tablets.
Asked Yeats: "How can they know/Truth flourishes where the student's lamp has shone/and there alone, that have no solitude?"
"So the crowd come they care not what may come," wrote Yeats.
Pope Benedict XVI made a powerful observation in his Easter Vigil sermon. "The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil," he said.
"If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other 'lights,' that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk," he said.
"Today we can illuminate our cities so brightly that the stars of the sky are no longer visible," said the pope. "Is this not an image of the problems caused by our version of enlightenment? With regard to material things, our knowledge and our technical accomplishments are legion, but what reaches beyond, the things of God and the question of good, we can no longer identify."
Out in the Sinai, where the stars shine as brightly as anywhere on earth, a nearly complete copy of the Bible, inscribed in Greek in the 4th century, sat in the monastery library, century after century, unknown to the Western world -- until it was rediscovered in the 19th century.
Here in 21st century America, we should consider taking off our electronic leashes once in a while, dusting off our old books and teaching our children how to read them.
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