You Need To Know About This, 02/03/13

Bust a Move

I’ve professed my theo-man-crush of Tripp Hudgins before. His recent episode of Busted Stuff just made it worse.

I hang out with people who are twice my age all the time. I hang out with 90 year olds who know so much about Jesus. They make the rest of us emergenty, not religious, spiritual but not religious, “none” types look like we don’t know what the fuck we’re talking about.

Busted Stuff with Tripp Hudgins

A Portmanteau in the Storm

Carmen Faye Mathes suggests that the English language is just not adequate for the purposes of completing her dissertation. Here’s some words she’d like to have available:

Contrapunctual – adjective – 1. intentional belatedness with respect to poetic form; 2. my dissertation schedule with respect to my dissertation.

Hegemonkey – noun – 1. apish answer to ideology; 2. tree-dwelling mammal in a suit.

Insistenance – noun – 1. food in the fridge that calls me away from my computer multiple times per day; 2. large portions of cold, leftover pasta.

WORDS THAT I NEED FOR MY DISSERTATION THAT DON’T EXIST.

Gut Bomb

Jad Abumrad of RadioLab reminds us that going without a map is key to creative success.

Jad Abumrad: Why “Gut Churn” Is an Essential Part of the Creative Process

Quitters Always Win

You may think that your success has everything to do with your talent. You would be wrong.

In interviews we did with high achievers for a book, we expected to hear that talent, persistence, dedication and luck played crucial roles in their success. Surprisingly, however, self-awareness played an equally strong role.

The successful people we spoke with — in business, entertainment, sports and the arts — all had similar responses when faced with obstacles: they subjected themselves to fairly merciless self-examination that prompted reinvention of their goals and the methods by which they endeavored to achieve them.

Secret Ingredient for Success

You Need To Know About This, 01/20/13

The Story of Stuff

Bob Wollenberg is an anxious empty-nester, looking for something to do. So he’s decided to spend the year taking pictures of all his possessions. He’s only 6 days into his project deconstructing “stuff” and I’m hooked, I tell you. Hooked.

I noticed today that Merriam-Webster’s first definition of “possession” is: “the act of having or taking into control.” Is that why it’s so hard to let go of our stuff…it’s a matter of losing control? What kind of control do we gain through our possessions? What’s hardest to let go of? Maybe for me, some of these possessions tell me who I am – they tell something of my life story and so they give meaning to my life. I’d hate to let go of that.

Counting My Stuff

Say that to my face

Rocky Supinger contends that social media may not be the best place to have in-depth conversations about hard topics. He recently felt compelled to unfriend a family member on Facebook. That’s ballsy.

When we share something on Facebook, whether we compose it ourselves or post it from another source, we’re offering a hot steamy pizza to our social network. Some of our friends will gobble it up, liking it and commenting, “Amen!” and “Thanks for sharing.” Others, though, won’t like it. And their comments effectively throw tofu on the pizza. And nobody likes tofu. Especially on pizza.

Tofu on the Facebook Pizza

You Need To Know About This, 01/13/13

Nunya business

Elizabeth Drescher’s article from Religion Dispatches has been screwing me up all week. I’ve always had a hunch, but she has confirmed (as much as one woman can) that the “Nones” we keep harping on about are – in large part – just people who do not want to be reduced to a label. As one who feels called to nurture and support Christian community, I have to admit I’m at a loss.

I’m beginning to wonder if the hold of traditional religion on the American imagination in general and the news media in particular is so great that it is impossible for us not to imagine those without a formal, institutional religious identification or affiliation as necessarily being unbelievers…But the tenaciousness of this imaginary label [“Nones”] seems also to extend to unbelievers themselves, who have often been just as quick as religionists to claim Nones as atheists, secularists, or other varieties of unbelievers despite plentiful demographic and anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

None Means None (Not Atheist, Agnostic, Unbeliever…)

Da Bears

In early 2010, I sat in my rocking chair with a serious pair of headphones on and my eyes closed, and caught my breath no less than a dozen times listening to Mumford and Son’s Sigh No More. Ever since, I have been on the search for an album that would reintroduce me to that experience.

I found it. Bears of Legend’s Good morning, Motherland is a most extraordinary collection of music.

It conforms to some pop sensibilities, but to call it “pop” would diminish it. It appears to be a concept album, but that would place too much burden on the narrative. It has all the traits of folk, but I’m not versed enough in traditional Quebecois music to know.

I just think its lovely and astounding and good. I hope you do, too.

(Make sure and watch until the end. It’s gripping.)

You Need To Know About This, 01/06/13

“One” is the best number

Please stop organizing meetings. Introverts need time to actually work. This is the plea that Alan Jacobs makes. And even though this post is a bit mean in its tone (and he’s wrong about the spelling, btw…), I still think he’s is repeating something that many introverts wish that our externally focus sisters and brothers would understand.

…So people I do not know will regularly send me emails: “Hey, I’ll be in your town soon and I’d love to have lunch or coffee. Just let me know which you’d prefer!” Notice the missing option: not being forced to have a meal and make conversation with a stranger. (Once a highly extraverted friend of mine was trying to get me involved in some project and said, cheerily, “You’ll get to meet lots of new people!” I turned to him and replied, “You realize, don’t you, that you’ve just ensured my refusal to participate?”)

Hey Extraverts: Enough is Enough

Rank amateurs

Chuck Close makes a mockery of our notions of “inspiration”:

Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will — through work — bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art idea.’ And the belief that process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today, you know what you’ll do, you could be doing what you were doing yesterday, and tomorrow you are gonna do what you did today, and at least for a certain period of time you can just work. If you hang in there, you will get somewhere.

[…]

I never had painter’s block in my whole life.

Chuck Close on Creativity, Work Ethic, and Problem-Solving vs. Problem-Creating

Beloved, let us love one another

This is the way to write music for the church.

While you’re at it, check out their previous album, Hope for a Tree Cut Down.

You Need To Know About This, 12/30/12

Well, hello there

What a pleasant surprise. I discovered The Oh Hello’s last year when they released their eponymous EP, but then I drifted away from Bandcamp for a lot of 2012. Cruising the site this week revealed that a band I thought had a ton of potential has, indeed, lived up to it.

If I had been more on top of my game, this would have made my year end “best of” list, fo sho.

My fave: “The Lament of Eustace Scrubb”

It’s always in the last place you look

Tripp Hudgins maintains that U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” can (and for him, does) function as a creed of the SBNRs.

Of course, the profound nod to church just underscores U2’s compositional/performative intentions. It’s a gospel song. They say as much. And the song is a confession of faith or a creed in lyrical content and, well, in the way that it is embedded in the African-American Gospel Music genre. It also crosses genre from Gospel Song to Rock Anthem…it’s in both simultaneously. It’s a worldly song. It’s meant to be sung in church, played on the radio and at Wimbley Stadium. It’s for all these reasons that it’s been my creed…It’s in the world.

A Gen-X Spiritual-But-Not-Religious Creed?

The New Norm

This one is for the Churchies among us…

University of Dubuque Theological Seminary’s Rob Hoch notes that the role congregation’s have historically played in the faith formation of many would be pastors is no longer taking place. Theological pedagogy is a particular interest of mine and Hoch’s analysis is pretty good, as far as I can see.

Today, we see a “new norm” taking shape: Students arriving at the seminary doorstep have only recently returned to a church they left during their college and early professional years.

“Their ecclesial formation,” says Murry, “lags behind their academic preparation. They arrive prepared for an M.Div., for the academic side, but lag behind in terms of their identification with the life of the local church. And given what we’re seeing with the decline of the church, we’re likely to see more of this rather than less.”

Consequently, the church’s role as incubator or “little seminary” for future pastors has been diminished or interrupted.

Theological education: liberating our hapless Gulliver

Mob Rule

Jaron Lanier’s book You Are Not A Gadget was recommended to me by my publisher when I first started writing Open Source Church. One of the visionaries and main proponents of Web 2.0, he now thinks that “the wisdom of crowds” will most likely result in an online lynch mob.

He might be right…

And so it is with Jaron Lanier and the ideology he helped create, Web 2.0 futurism, digital utopianism, which he now calls “digital Maoism,” indicting “internet intellectuals,” accusing giants like Facebook and Google of being “spy agencies.” Lanier was one of the creators of our current digital reality and now he wants to subvert the “hive mind,” as the web world’s been called, before it engulfs us all, destroys political discourse, economic stability, the dignity of personhood and leads to “social catastrophe.” Jaron Lanier is the spy who came in from the cold 2.0.

What Turned Jaron Lanier Against the Web?

You Need To Know About This, 12/23/12

Kneel before Zod

We serve an ancient deity, say Gary Willis. His true name is “Moloch,” but we call him “Gun.”

The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?

Our Moloch

I pity the fool

Seth Godin is a fool. And he’s a genius. He pushes marketers to be better by being more authentic. Crazy thought, huh? He reminds me of a bit of St. Francis. A “holy fool” indeed.

Ridiculous isn’t safe. If you do something ridiculous and you fail, people get to say, “you idiot, of course you failed, what you were doing was ridiculous.” Which is precisely why it’s so rare. Not because we are unable to imagine being ridiculous, but because we’re afraid to be.

Ridiculous is the new remarkable

You better watch out

I’m not ashamed of it: I hate the Elf on the Shelf. I know some of you will hate me for it, but… Lee Hull Moses sums up the pertinent questions nicely.

And what will parents do come January, when the elf flies home for the rest of the year? Who will keep the children in line?

The tattle-tale elf leaves little room for redemption. Mischievous activity is reported to Santa, and that’s the end of it. There’s no role for repentance, making amends or healing relationships, and it’s not at all clear how many naughty acts gets you demoted from presents or how many nice one make up for this.

No elf on our shelf

One is the loneliest number

I’m calling it now: The Lone Bellow‘s album (due out on January 22) is an early favorite for my 2013 Album of the Year. Enjoy “Two Sides of Lonely”:

You Need To Know About This, 12/16/12

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves

Taking a cue from classicist Phuc Tran, Theresa Cho incisively names the ways our grammar shapes our experience of ministry in the church:

So what does this have to do with church? My experience with churches is that we swim between the indicative and the subjunctive – mostly not in helpful ways. We use the subjunctive when viewing our reality when really we need to embrace the indicative. We get stuck in the indicative of membership, finances, and energy when dreaming of possibilities of the future when we should be swimming in the subjunctive.

The Subjunctive & Indicative of Church Ministry

“Wisdom of crowds” or lemmings?

After writing Open Source Church, I have tried to keep my eyes peeled for keen and nuanced critiques of the crowdsourcing theory. Steven Poole offers one of the best:

It is surprising how often Wikipedia is cited by such cyber-pedlars as a paradigm of communal “knowledge creation”, given that Wikipedia explicitly bans the creation of any new knowledge. Its highest law is “no original research”, barring any mention of either “facts” or “ideas” that are not already published elsewhere. Observance of this edict has the effect that Wikipedia is entirely dependent on its cited sources, including newspaper and journal articles, for the “knowledge” it contains. This does not mean that Wikipedia is useless – far from it – but it is not an example of what it is so often claimed to be.

Invasion of the cyber hustlers

No Talent Hack

Mark Hobson, photographer and philosopher of Art, addresses “the myth about talent.” It should not surprise you that I would like to see Hobson’s distinction between “skill” and “talent” applied wholesale to our ordination processes.

IMO, those who are dismissive of the idea of talent as a special natural ability / god-given gift / preternatural ability (pick one descriptor or feel free to make up your own), or who, at the very least, approach the notion in a diminishing manner, are basing their belief on their confusion with the idea of acquiring a skill with that of having a talent.

To be certain, there are many in the picture making world who are very skilled at the craft of making pictures. They regularly make pictures which are widely admired and often imitated. Many enjoy great success in both the serious amateur and the professional picture making worlds. And, there is no denying most have worked hard and long to get there.

However, what they and their pictures lack is that special je ne sais quoi / “genius” which separates their work from that of picture makers with talent. In many cases, the separation between the work of the skilled and that of the talented is more like a crack in the pavement rather than the distance between opposing walls of the Grand Canyon. Nevertheless, there is a difference and it is a meaningful one.

civilized ku # 2410-13 ~ the myth about talent