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Posted February 1, 2012

Expediency vs. Prudence

By Father Eugene Hemrick

"I used to be liberal, but now I find myself being conservative and wondering if we are moving ahead far too fast and way beyond our means of being in control of ourselves."

This statement was made by a friend who was talking with me about the oil disaster and whether the end justified the means.

We definitely need oil. This is certainly a justifiable end, and it needs acting on now. Drilling in the ocean to obtain it is also a justifiable means.

Do we then just chalk up the oil disaster as a freak accident and leave it at that, or is it a sign that there is a need for profound wisdom in our accelerating times?

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, "No man is justified in doing evil on the ground of expediency."

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. expanded on Roosevelt's idea in observing: "The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men."

The word "expedite," which means to accelerate, raises the question: Are we now in an age that is racing ahead of itself, losing control over its newfound powers?

As we continued to converse, my friend observed people walking down the street text-messaging, talking on cell phones and listening to music.

"No doubt cell phones are a great invention, as are iPods, but we have embraced the new age of technology too fast without considering all of its consequences," he said, and then asked, "Do we really know what it is doing to us?"

"Look at the array of beautiful flowers and listen to the birds singing around us. These people are totally oblivious of the awesome show Mother Nature is putting on."

The renowned theologian Father Romano Guardini, who died in 1968, saw the dangers of running headlong into things without verifying whether the end justifies the means. In his book "The End of the Modern World," he called for a more profound prudence to deal with our newfound powers. Without it, he cautioned, a time will come when our newly developed powers could destroy us.

Newly developed technologies are wonderful indeed. However, they tend to possess us and often endanger our lives.

Do we just dismiss new technologies' dangers as inconsequential when compared to their advantages?

The deaths that have resulted because people were distracted by their cell phones and the fallout from the Gulf oil disaster give us our answer, and it is a resounding no!

Our new age of expediency needs a new age of prudence to balance it, thereby helping it to avoid running headlong into things and decapitating itself.