Away we go! ~
I am on the strategy team for the NEXT Church, an initiative that is trying to encourage dynamic and vibrant ministry, particularly in the Presbyterian Church (USA). If that's something you care about too, you want to be reading our blog, perusing (and contributing to) our archive of ministry resources, and registering for our 2013 gathering, March 4-5 in Charlotte.
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Update: The latest post on the NEXT blog is by yours truly. Yes, I'm getting cranky about not singing Christmas carols during Advent again.
Time to Tune Out -- Roger Cohen, New York Times
Posted this on FB/Twitter yesterday with the question, "Is disconnecting from technology going to be the new trend?" Here's the article again:
[The author quotes a reader who unplugged from Facebook] “Now, I am back to reading books when I would have been Facebooking. I talk to folks at the café I frequent. People have started calling me on the phone again to catch up because they don’t know what is going on with me otherwise. I have a hunch that being DISconnected is on its way to being the new trend.”
So here’s to doses of disconnection in 2013. Get out of the cross hairs of your devices from time to time. Drink experience unfiltered by hyperconnection. Gaze with patience. Listen through silences. Let your longings breathe.
Can Faith in the Better Story Sustain Us? Survival and Significance in “Life of Pi” -- Nick Olson, Patheos
Life of Pi is a story about Story, which means I love it:
Taken together, Life of Pi‘s various themes seem to suggest a longing for human significance couched in vaguely religious language. It’s a contemplative tale rooted in questions with room for open-ended interpretation. More specifically, Lee’s film — as an extension of Martel’s novel — suggests that our difficult, often tragic lives matter in a way that cold “facts” can’t totally explain. You might characterize the story as a “desperate” (survivalist) attempt to re-enchant a supposedly disenchanted modern world. Interestingly, in an interview with PBS, Martel says that he wrote his novel during a time when he felt lost: “I was sort of looking for a story, not only with a small ‘s’ but sort of with a capital ‘S’ — something that would direct my life.” Martel’s existential plight seems to have been Pi’s shipwrecked plight: lonely and directionless. Having “faith” in this particular context has a less specific range; its content is the simple belief that our lives — suffering included — are filled with meaning, purpose, and wonder. Which is to say, in Life of Pi, the religious and literary imaginations merely function as signals of the truth of significance itself, a “better Story” compared to a disenchanted, cold rationalism because there is more to humanity and existence than meets the eye.
Isaac Newton v. Rube Goldberg -- 2D House (Video, 1:07)
Who will win the battle? Why, you will, because you'll be wonderfully entertained. Here it is. (Can't embed for some reason)
Today's Assignment -- Louis Menand, The New Yorker
Is homework useful? The article looks at attitudes about homework in two very different countries, Finland and South Korea.
Yet both systems are successful, and the reason is that Finnish schools are doing what Finns want them to do, which is to bring everyone up to the same level and instill a commitment to equality, and South Korean schools are doing what South Koreans want, which is to enable hard workers to get ahead. When President Hollande promises to end homework, make the school day shorter, and devote more teachers to disadvantaged areas, he is saying that he wants France to be more like Finland. His reforms will work only if that is, in fact, what the French want.
What do Americans want? Not to be like Finland is a safe guess. Americans have an egalitarian approach to inequality: they want everyone to have an equal chance to become better-off than everyone else.
That's one of the truer sentences about the American Dream I've ever read. He goes on:
The dirty little secret of education reform is that one of the greatest predictors of academic success is household income. Even the standardized tests used for college admissions, like the S.A.T.s, are essentially proxies for income: students from better-off backgrounds get higher scores. The educational system is supposed to be an engine of opportunity and social readjustment, but in some ways it operates as a perpetuator of the status quo.
An Age-Old Question: Readers Debate Science and Theology -- New York Times
The author, Nicholas Wade, wrote a reflection on Marco Rubio's recent comments about the age of the earth. These are some of the responses to that article, which I found interesting. Here's one:
In calling Senator Marco Rubio’s answer to a question about the age of the earth “15 back flips and a hissy fit,” Nicholas Wade grossly misdescribed the answer quoted earlier in his article. Mr. Rubio’s answer was a simple and ordinary evasion. It left room for Mr. Rubio’s religious right supporters to hope that he will support teaching the Bible in science class, while leaving himself room not to appear to be an outright science denier, to appease his more scientific supporters.
Possibly, the article should have been put in the political news section rather than the science section; the scientific truth of the theory of evolution has not been news since about 1859.
I'm not sure whether it was a simple evasion or not, but it seems plausible.
"Couponing" for Authors -- J.L. Greger, Mystery Writing is Murder
This link is going to be most of interest for writers; if that's you, check it out. The author describes a process by which she collects stories, data and tidbits that might be inspiration for a bit of writing.
Good principles here. But the main reason I'm linking to the article: it gives me yet another chance to profess my love for Evernote. I have several notebooks set up at the moment, in which I'm couponing ideas for new book projects.
Get out the headphones or turn up your speakers and prepare to be impressed by archaic 19th century engineering.
Have a wonderful weekend.