Stickers cover the back of my laptop, forming a small collage of my personality and of the various influences in my life.
In the centre glows an apple with a single missing bite.
The choice of the Apple logo seems straightforward; it’s simple, appealing (pun intended), and recognisable. Further, apples represent enlightenment and erudition—consider, for instance, the old tradition of giving teachers an apple. And yet, the apple as a symbol of knowledge bears a troubling correspondence, which Apple executives partially acknowledge:
Former Apple executive Jean Louis Gassée called the logo “the symbol of lust and knowledge.” The Apple logo symbolises our use of their computers to obtain knowledge and, ideally, enlighten the human race.The Logo Creative
Although the original logo was based upon the apple that supposedly led to Newton’s discovery of gravity, the modern icon is reminiscent of another tale of fallen fruit. Whatever the intent behind this iconic Apple, though, it has become exactly that: an icon.
It is interesting that “logo” and “icon” can be used almost interchangeably, for the first is primarily associated with business and branding and the latter with devotion and contemplation. Indeed, the term “icon” has been largely reappropriated from the theological to the technological sphere, as indicated by Merriam-Webster Online:
What Merriam-Webster does not explain is that icons are traditionally sacred images intended to direct devotion toward the divine. These images become idols if they themselves become an object of worship or degrade their devotees. This applies also to secular “icons,” which may become objects of “uncritical devotion” and thus idols instead of icons or mere images.
The use of “icon” as both a theological and technological term is telling, and the glowing Apple of our iPhones and MacBooks may represent the potential of our devices as secular “icons” to attract and direct our devotion—for good or evil.Tweet
As a business, Apple is concerned with consumption, however, the ease with which their symbol can be considered an “icon” implies a degree of contemplation as well. While a sacred image may be intentionally placed to facilitate contemplation, Apple products surround us constantly; where the illuminated face of a saint might inspire divine devotion, the glowing face of a screen draws us further into digital dependence. The use of “icon” as both a theological and technological term is thus telling, and the glowing Apple of our iPhones and MacBooks may represent the potential of our devices as secular “icons” to attract and direct our devotion—for good or evil.
In the digital era, we have access to an unprecedented wealth of knowledge; however, we may yet lack true wisdom. Knowledge may be power, but unlimited knowledge—like unlimited power—may prove corrupting. And isn’t this the original problem? In eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve came to know sin and suffering. The same temptation to seek knowledge beyond discernment plagues us today; our devices afford instant access to knowledge—whether permitted or forbidden, true or false, helpful or hurtful—and are inscribed with the very icon which promises wisdom, is “a delight to the eye,” and yet may lead to dire consequences (Genesis 3:6, ESV).
Our technological engagement is not beyond the bounds of our theological commitments; it is a form of contemplation as well as consumption.Tweet
I am not arguing that Apple products are evil but, rather, that in considering the Apple logo as an icon, we might be continually convicted in our use of technology and pursuit of knowledge, both of which have immense potential for either good or evil. Recognising the resemblance between this pervasive icon and the symbol of mankind’s first trespass reminds us that our technological engagement is not beyond the bounds of our theological commitments and that it is a form of contemplation as well as consumption.
We may be ages and miles from the original tree but the proverbial apple did not fall far, and we face the same temptation of Adam and Eve. Without discretion, we are likely to follow the pattern of our first parents, to glut ourselves on the fruit of the tree which promised glory but brought only shame. As in all areas, though, we can surrender before the tree of shame which is yet our glory in Christ.
Conscientiously examining pervasive cultural icons such as the Apple logo may serve to sharpen our discernment. Each day, we ought to take active note of the Apple icon, and, in this moment of awareness, determine whether we will use our devices to mindlessly consume the glowing fruit of the fall or to intentionally commit to bearing the fruit of our Saviour. . .one byte at a time.