Why I Sometimes have a Hard Time with Social Media

The weighing and weight of words is all but forgotten

Truncated thought often replaces the profound

Volume becomes a poser for meaningfulness

Ideas are birthed without gestation, and it shows

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The Cross

What is the cross if not God’s way of saying, “I know how you feel and I am with you in this?” He is not a God who avoids our pain, goes around it or abandons us in our time of need. To the contrary, he puts himself right in the middle of our turmoil, stationing himself in the very spot where the jeers are the most hurtful, the arrows fly the fiercest, the screaming reaches deafening decibels and the prayers resemble a brawl more than a conversation of the holy. And, oh by the way, God isn’t a mere observer of these things. He’s experiencing them too. He enters into our suffering.  And for that I am so very grateful.

The State of the (our) Union

Last week I was watching TV while  running on a treadmill at the gym and towards the end of my workout the programming switched over to The State of the Union.Wanting to hear the commentary and the address I turned up the volume on my set and settled in to the last few miles of my workout. Literally the moment Obama took the stage, before he had a chance to make a single remark,  I heard someone from behind me yell, “you’re a f—ing idiot, Obama! Get off the stage! No one wants to hear your stupid remarks.” Taken aback, I glanced over my shoulder to figure out who was yelling at such a high volume that I could hear it through my headset. As more yelling and swearing ensued, I determined that the noise was coming from the guy on the row directly behind me. I turned up the volume on my set, again, in hopes of drowning him out and noticed everyone around him was doing the same.

Five minutes later the yelling started up again, at which point I started to get angry. First of all, we were in a public place and I think it’s rude to behave in such a way that disrupts the peace for those around you. Secondly, this guy was yelling so loudly I couldn’t even hear what was being said in Obama’s speech. Most of all, I was frustrated that this guy wasn’t providing Obama a chance to speak before passing judgement. Moreover, the thing that was being judged wasn’t  the speech at all, it was Obama himself.  As the swearing and yelling continued, I hurriedly finished my workout and left the gym with a whole new pile of frustrations.

As I was leaving, I checked my Twitter and Facebook feeds to see  how others were reacting to the speech. Reading people’s comments I quickly realized that the experience I’d had the gym, where preemptive judgement was embraced as opposed to critical thinking, was the norm and not the exception.  Posting after posting cast the speech and Obama in either a black or a white light, save for maybe two comments, there was no middle ground. What is it about our culture that we prefer to immediately place things into pre-determined categories as opposed to wrestling through the tension, ambiguity and nuance that are so prevalent in issues of politics, faith, immigration and the like?

I so appreciate Seth Godin’s take on matters such as this (from Tribes):

“A fundamentalist is a person who considers whether a fact is acceptable to his religion before he explores it.  As opposed to a curious person who explores first and then considers whether or not he wants to accept the ramifications.  A curious person embraces the tension between his religion and something new, wrestles with it and through it, and then decides whether to embrace the new idea or reject it. Curious is the key word.  [It has] nothing to do with organized religion.  It has to do with a desire to understand, a desire to try, a desire to push whatever envelope is interesting. […] What we’re seeing is that fundamentalism really has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with an outlook regardless what your religion is.”

Perhaps the reason we’re prone to reduce, simplify and prematurely compartmentalize complex situations is that engagement in critical thinking and dialogue may lead to us having to admit we don’t have all of the answers (and let’s face it, if there’s anything Americans are supposed to have at all times its answers….) All of this makes me wonder, will there ever be a day that critical thinking is embraced and and not feared in this country?

Mid-term Elections: Voter Turnout and Community Engagement

With mid-term elections just around the corner I find my thoughts drifting back to the elections a few Novembers ago, yes, that election. (I’d only been back in the U.S. for a few years so was thrilled to be able to watch the debates (live and on T.V.) and get caught up in the drama, the arguments and the intensity of it all.) Some view the day the final tallies came in as a death others as a rebirth. But, I’d like to argue that the greatest victory of the last election had nothing to do with a result and everything to do with a resurgence of community engagement. Do you realize that the voter turnout was the highest it had been in over 30 years (http://to.ly/7awG)? People not only talked about their beliefs, they actively did something to back them up.

As we approach November I’ve noticed that something’s missing… it’s eerily quiet. Sure there’s lots of political noise occurring on newscasts, the radio and TV but the activity seems to be contained to those spaces & the community at large isn’t talking about these elections. In fact, most people don’t even know there’s an election coming up. In 2008 everyone was talking about the election, you couldn’t escape it. Tina Fey even came out of semi-SNL retirement for the conversation. I get it, the mid-term elections don’t have the level of pomp that you’d see in a presidential election. We’ve all been told that the decisions of the president have less bearing on our day to day lives than those made by the Senate, the House or local councils but a lot more work is required to learn the names, faces and deciding issues for those elections. I don’t really know where I’m going with all of this. I guess coming out of the last election I’d hoped that the energy and spirit of 2008 would spill over to the community at large, that we’d continue to engage in the issues and decisions that affect our lives. Maybe it has but I’m not seeing it.

My Saturday in Sydney

I’m currently in Australia for a work trip and have the rare gift of a weekend to explore Sydney. I decided to spend my Saturday hiking Wentworth Falls in the the Blue Mountains, a few hours to the west of the city. Here are some highlights:

The Tasmanian guide was so knowledgeable and he’s in the recently released documentary, Drive, http://www.drive.org.au/. Hope to have a chance to view it soon.

(Re)active: Thoughts on Responses the BP Oil Crisis

Crisis strikes. We clamor and fight to react in such a way to show our support and solidarity, to help, to do something. Our intentions are good but sometimes we do things that are reactive but not an active part of the solution.

I’ve noticed this tendency in myself and others as we’ve grappled with how to respond to the BP oil spill crisis. The destruction in the Gulf is gut-wrenching. The images of the piles of dead, oil-saturated wildlife have invoked tears. I’ve had many impassioned conversations with friends regarding what could be done to show our outrage and decided to boycott BP to demonstrate said outrage. That’d show them! I felt better about my protest for about a day until perspective came by way of a conversation, a tweet and the recollection of a few basic economic principles. What would happen exactly if other purchasers of BP decided to react in protest as I had? Well, BP would likely approach bankruptcy very quickly meaning the responsibility for the cleanup would fall squarely on the shoulders of the government and communities of the Gulf, hundreds of thousands of former BP employees would be without jobs, franchises would have to close their doors, and the efforts of myself and hundreds of others would have been made in vain.

I realized that crisis had caused me to react instead of act. In my anger I’d failed to pause and determine whether my response would actually help and not hinder. All of this makes me wonder, what would happen if I chose instead to respond in such a way that heeds a larger perspective instead of my emotions? What if the better response is sometimes one that seems to contradict our pervading emotions? I’m not an economist by any stretch, but I have to wonder what would happen if we all decided to purchase our gasoline from BP instead of another provider for the next several months? Would it ensure that their company is healthy and in a position to better focus on cleanup efforts and restoration? I don’t know. But I do know that the next time I’m faced with crisis or disaster I hope I’ll stop and think before (re)acting.