September 26, 2008

Perpetually Connecting

Thanks to Kelly for pointing me to this video of Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld. Who knew, Bill can act!

September 19, 2008


When I was in high school, our district managed to scrape together the funds to build themselves a whole bunch of new stuff. We got a brand new high school tacked onto the old one, and the old one became the junior high. Now, some things were of apparent importance over others: we got a ton of new sports fields, state of the art, and a new gym and weight room, but no new auditorium (apparently the old one with no wings and eight feet of fly space was deemed "acceptable" by the board, who all loved football). In this new gym, of course, were the best of everything, including wall padding, retractable bleachers and hoops, and of course, the logo for the middle of the court. The logo, though, ended up being a bit of a controversy, because after it was painted, many of the area residents were appalled.

Now, the team at Victor was the "Blue Devils," and up until now had featured this little cartoon baby-looking devil with a pointy tail, naturally colored blue. But somebody had got it in their heads to hold a contest for the new gym floor, and had picked a winner. It looked real.

It was a scary logo; the horns almost glistened, the creases on his face were curved up in a wicked smile, and the shoulders looked like they were about to leap into action (there was no more, it was a head-shot). I can only imagine what the first home game would've been like for the visiting team, seeing that thing in mid-court at the toss; talk about home-court advantage, but it was truly hideous. And naturally, half the parents in the district called the superintendent or members of the board to have it repainted with something less ... offensive. Something less ...


I remember people kept saying "but it's so real! We can't expose our kids to that!" Reality can be very scary. We like to hide it, to deny it's there, to push it away so we don't have to think about it. I know that a devil with horns is as much a cultural image as any (I don't think the devil has actual horns, but maybe he does), but we Americans (maybe all human beings) like to push away things that don't make us comfortable. Like the poor. Like the homeless. Like people who smell funny. Like nerds or bullies. If you're poor, you push away the rich because they represent to you everything that is wrong in your life. If you're rich, you ignore the poor because you're better than they are. If you're in the middle class, you try really hard to get rich, and giving to the poor doesn't help that, so you ignore them too. The poor are uncomfortable to the rich, and the rich are uncomfortable for the poor. The middle class is confused, because they don't want to be poor, but any attempt to get rich might make them poor. Bullies push around the nerds because they are easy targets, and the nerds try to ignore or get back at the bullies because they make the nerds uncomfortable. It's a vicious cycle.

A bully I knew in high school died this week. He committed suicide, and it's making everybody uncomfortable, myself included. Because I'm a Christian now, and Christians are supposed to love our enemies, even the guys who pushed us around all through grade school. I didn't know what to do with myself when I found out, but I think I do now - pray for the family. Thinking back, I wonder if I'd treated him differently, if that might have helped him, if it might have changed his life to the point that at least he wouldn't think he was better off not sticking around. What if I'd not let my discomfort dictate my actions?

Rob Bell has a new book out. It's about this, sort of. I just finished reading it, and I recommend you go buy it and read too. But you'll have a choice when you finish: you can either push it aside or talk about how "wrong" it is (because it WILL make you uncomfortable), or you can choose to respond, to let it mess with your thinking and maybe change you a little. I think I'll have to read it again soon - I read it in two days - but for now, please go find a copy. It's called
Jesus Wants to Save Chrisitans. It's about reality, and how sometimes we don't notice the things right in front of us that maybe we should.

Trust me, just give it a shot.

September 15, 2008

Conflict of Reasoning

It's always the little things that get you. Something I read in one of my anthropology texts tonight suddenly illuminated a lot of my experiences in Australia. In a book called "American Cultural Patterns: A Cross-Cultural Perspective," the author writes that Americans tend to be inductive thinkers (whaddya know, I'm in "Inductive Bible Study" this semester), while Europeans (and by implication, Australians) tend to think deductively. For those of you who have no idea, here's how it is:

Inductive thinking is when you start with a bunch of information and then figure out how that information is related. You take "bare facts" that are (supposedly) free of bias, and then create a theory as to why they are related and how they fit together. It's all about the "why". You start out assuming you're wrong, and then look for the information that might disprove otherwise, often called the "null hypothesis."

Deductive thinking, on the other hand, is when you start with a theory, and then you go looking to figure out why you're right. You start with "this is how I think it is" (which is, I think, to a certain extent, based on subjective experience) and then find the information that proves it right. A theory is only ever wrong if you can prove it wrong - you have to be given the information contrary to your supporting evidence. You assume you're right, then someone else has to prove you wrong.

I wish I had known this when I was at
Urban Seed. Every moderately deep conversation (read "argument") I had there seems to have this running through its core - I'm an inductive thinker, asking for the facts to support the case that I obviously don't agree with, but they're sitting there assuming they're right and asking me to disprove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Now, to be clear, neither of us could have actually proven right or wrong, because all the information we were all working with was subjective in nature. Nobody can prove anything - you can only make leaps of faith with limited support. But that's another post altogether.

This came to a most potent example when my good friend Sally came to visit us here in the States when my daughter was born. Sally is Australian, and I have a hunch tends to think more deductively (it would tend to fit her character). But Sally and I would often have long conversations about praxis, the "working out" of faith. We'd talk for days about one thing or another, but the one that really hooked our interest and passions was pacifism. I am not a pacifist, though I tend toward pacifist tendencies in my behavior. Sally, on the other hand, is a strong pacifist, and so this naturally led itself towards an argument. I spent a lot of time giving her information that proved my way of thinking, and saying that I could possibly be wrong, but here's why I think I'm right. But instead of agreeing with me, she kept going back to her theories on pacifism, and insisting that she was right, and that I hadn't yet proven her theory wrong. More than just a matter of facts, this was a disagreement in the way we were both approaching the problem. I wanted her to prove herself right, assuming she was wrong until convinced otherwise, but she wanted me to prove her wrong, assuming she was right until proven otherwise. It was a cross-cultural conflict that I think neither of us were prepared for after spending a year in close proximity.

I don't have much of a point other than that. When you get into an argument with somebody, try (though I know it's hard) to step back and look at not only what they're saying, but HOW they're saying it. Are they starting with facts or with questions? Then ask how you're talking, and compare the two. I tried to tell this to my wife tonight, and she told me I was crazy, and so naturally I proved my point at her telling me this - she was thinking like a classic American. But then I realized that so was I. I think we'll find that a lot of arguments fall back on the way we're approaching the problem, and not the information being debated. We all have different assumptions about reality, and a lot of those are substantiated by the way we go about acquiring and processing the reality presented to us through our senses.

Think about the next time somebody pisses you off.

September 1, 2008


I'm back! Sort of, anyway. I spent the last two and a half weeks away - in New York for a few days to celebrate my grandparents' sixtieth wedding anniversary with the whole family (congrats again Grossmami and Grosspapi), and then to Switzerland for two weeks. It was a great vacation, though it wasn't one of those "relaxing" times I could've used. Instead of sleeping in, reading fiction, drawing, playing guitar and generally doing whatever lazy thing I felt like, it was a "sightseeing" vacation where we got up early and trucked ourselves off to various places where we found castles, cities, museums, ancient libraries or cathedrals, and of course, mountains. Lots of mountains. It was fantastic! I'm still working through the pictures (there's about 8 gigs of pictures from our Digital SLR camera to look through and edit), so when I get them edited, I'll put them up here and on flickr. And don't worry, there are lots of Rori, she's gotten so big! She's walking now, and has begun blabbering in a way only God himself can understand. We just play along as if she's making perfect sense. But sometimes we know what she wants ... "mmmmm" means "please" (Liz's doing), "dadadadadadada" means "Daddy", and "mamamamamama" means "Mommy." Sometimes she'll say "nana" which means "banana" but I'm not entirely convinced that she knows for sure what it means.

I start a new semester this week, my last of seminary. I have four classes, but with one of them as my one-credit "Senior Seminar," I'm not feeling particularly stressed about it. I'm still at a 3.8 GPA, even after my first "B+" of seminary this summer (first and ONLY as far as I'm concerned), and feeling good about being done soon. I'm definitely ready to go back out into the real world again (my friend Sam in college said that a college is several square miles surrounded by reality), and have been applying to worship pastor positions at a plethora of churches. One is looking hopeful, but none are a sure thing yet. I'll keep you all updated on that.

I'll leave you with a teaser of pictures to come. I took this on top of the Saintis, a mountain in the Swiss Alps. Enjoy!