Are We Having Fun Yet

September 19, 2019

I’m writing this on an airplane returning from a tech conference in California.

I renewed a number of acquaintances on this trip. Many I have not seen since February, and some for a year.

There was a guy I’ve known for twenty years. He’s always full of energy. His company had developed a cutting edge product a couple of years ago. When I left him, he had the same high energy and enthusiasm as ever. He’s in his element. Having fun.

The husband and wife who own the company sponsoring the conference were still enthused and energized some 15 years down the road from founding the company.

When I talked with the host’s chief advisor, we chatted about the industry and how they were doing. He asked about me and then asked several times, But you’re still having fun, right.

Advice books abound telling us to pursue our passions and dreams. Many are full of just so much hot air.

But doing what you’re good at–that is fun.

Creating–that is fun.

The discipline to get up every day and do it–that, too.

Mind Grabbing

September 17, 2019

I have long proposed to my wife the teacher and others that a core part of the unofficial curriculum of schools should be understanding how advertising manipulates your desires and emotions in order to motivate you to buy.

Magazines were one thing, but TV ads really pushed the envelop.

Now it is the Web.

We get sites for free in return for our attention. Part of that attention is diverted to advertising. Often we don’t know what’s an ad and what is merely information. We click and the site owner gets paid.

Now we learn how the Web companies are using mind manipulation to grab our minds and keep us on site.

They grab all the information about us they can–and they can grab a lot.

They sell information about us to companies for various reasons.

They discover our hot buttons. Politics, sex, expensive toys. They manipulate what we see in order to drive up our emotions and desires. They can make us good and mad. And we repost things we don’t even know if they are true or not. But they sound good and they worked us up.

But people (companies, countries) can buy that information and do the same thing. Feed us stuff to get us upset. Stoke our fears. Manipulate us.

Discipline says that we maintain control over our emotions, desires, drives. We understand we are being used. We control our responses.

We ask, “Who’s in charge here?”

Grace and Discipline

September 16, 2019

God exhibits two sides.

There is grace for when we fall short or take the wrong path.

There is discipline for when we take the wrong path yet obstinately continue pursue it.

Just so, we should follow the example. Discipline ourselves as well as others when we need to get back on the way.

Offer ourselves and others grace when we stray.

Too Brittle To Bend

September 13, 2019

Carol Dweck, author and psychologist, talked about her freshman psych course at Stanford. “Kids today are brittle; they are exhausted and anxious because they need to maintain their perfect record.”

We, the boomer generation, created that in our kids. And it is transferring down.

The pressure is on. From age 4 to get into the right preschool. Then into the right kindergarten. And the right elementary leading to the right high school and then the right university. All for what?

Not all those kids succeed. Many are neurotic messes.

Brittle.

Exhausted.

Anxious.

Those are the exact opposite of the spiritual life.

Flexible, yielding without breaking, go with the flow yet with a strong core.

Refreshed, energetic, ready to go out and solve problems yet also enjoy live.

Calm, able to take time aside in stillness, at peace.

If you were choosing, what would you choose?

I went from the first to the second. How about you?

The World Sometimes Is Both-And

September 12, 2019

Some people present us with two propositions. Many times these people are called politicians. Other times preachers. Or just the guy down the street.

They tell us that it’s either this or that.

Then we all fall into that trap.

But sometimes or even often the answer is both this AND that.

We can do both. And it is good.

The earliest Christ-followers had faith. And they gathered together into their own group. And they sang worship songs. And they prayed for themselves.

Then James came along and said, wait a minute. We were not made to just sit around in our own little group singing our songs.

We also need to serve others. Physically. Get off our butts and help the widows and orphans and those in needs.

And to this day 2,000 years later, we still have people with too much time on their hands and too much caffeine in their brains who debate either faith or works.

But James didn’t say that.

He said that you start with a foundation of faith. Without that, you will find yourself drifting. But he said in addition to faith, or maybe because of your faith, you need to get out and serve others. Physically. Not just a throw-away comment, “I’ll pray for you.” No, it’s getting out and doing.

Both-and, not either-or. Yet, I read a book by some learned scholar recently still arguing the points. To which I say, get a life, get out of your study, go on a mission trip.

And if you really want to get creative, sometimes the answer is neither but a third way.

I would like that choice often in elections.

The Joy of Discovery

September 11, 2019

What if…

What if, we taught history and politics and other social “sciences” through reading stories of men and women and discussing their life and times?

We could, from a very young age teach reading, writing, thinking, oh, and history and politics and how people lived and organized their lives.

What if, we taught math and science not in some Aristotelian logical breakdown of facts but instead by following the trail of problems they were trying to solve and how they went about solving them.

And we learn numbers and measurements and functions. I learned more trigonometry through model rocketry than from the class in school.

What if, we taught spiritual development not through rote memorization of Scripture only, but through the joy of discovery of life in the spirit by people in scripture as well as people from the first century until now.

What if we inculcated the joy of discovery, of solving big problems, of thinking, of communicating, of curiosity into the very structure of education?

Humility

September 10, 2019

That word presented itself last evening without further explanation. Just the feeling I should meditate on what it means.

Maybe it’s that feeling that we need to tell other people what to do.

Sometimes that comes from a profession. Teachers, for example, have an entire professional life composed of organizing and leading students. The younger the student the more they need to be told what to do.

Managers often see it as their duty to tell people what to do. Maybe because they, in turn, have managers holding them responsible for everything their direct reports do. And so on up the chain of command.

My other “career” is soccer official. And counselor. I’ve had officials who approach a game as all about them. I have to bring them down to earth.

Humility is thinking of others first.

For many of us depending mostly on upbringing this is a difficult attitude to adopt. I am positive that many people never even realize how self-centered they are.

Except for the few who learned this as a child, the rest of us must first learn self-awareness. Aware that we have been focusing on the wrong person, us, we then learn to listen. This comes before humility.

The ability to see others as also children of God with their own set of needs and emotions leads to changing our own attitude away from basking in our own glory and focusing on the other.

It becomes a sort of mantra–It’s not all about me; others have needs, too.

When We Cannot Get Around To It

September 9, 2019

It’s Monday morning.

Do you know what your most important tasks of the week / day are?

Are there leftover projects from the weekend that you never got around to it?

Do you have co-workers who owe you information or follow up and they just didn’t get around to it?

Here’s help. A gift for you. And you can forward to friends and co-workers who just can’t seem to get things done.

Voila–a Round Tuit.

You’re welcome.

A Round Tuit Drink Coaster

Ethics, Working for Good

September 6, 2019

Oh, the crunch enhancer? Yeah, it’s a non-nutritive cereal varnish. It’s semi-permeable. It’s non-osmotic. What it does is it coats and seals the flake, prevents the milk from penetrating it. Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Technology is for the benefit of humans. It has been ever since some human figured out a better way to trap a gazelle or plow a field.

Except for my wife, who hates soggy cereal, how much benefit is there in cereal varnish?

Or the product manager at Facebook working with engineers and psychologists figuring out ways to keep attention fixed on the app so that an additional few ads can be served up?

Or the engineers doing some fantastic work on digital voice recognition which could do great good for disabled people or help in dangerous situations instead figuring out how Alexa can spy on people 24 hours a day to accumulate data on when people are home to be sold to telemarketers or to governments to find terrorists or political opponents?

Ethics at work concerns developing things for the benefit of people and society. But weapons developed for defense could also be used offensively. Something good could be used to corrupt us. Or undermine us.

Ethics is both what we do and what we fail to do.

Mostly ethics should be in our awareness. At the end of the day one question we can ask ourselves, “What did I do for the good today? Where did I fail to act where I could have made a difference for the good?”

Worship As A Spiritual Practice

September 5, 2019

There are three types of worship as I see it.

There is formal worship conducted with a sense of awe, reverence, connection with the divine.

Protestant worship has evolved into what has been called a “rock concert with a TED Talk.” The music and prayer part is designed to create energy in the room. Depending upon the speaker, the talk is more or less “teaching” rather than “preaching”.

Then there is a “traditional” worship that my grandparents and great-grandparents would feel right at home with. 19th Century hymns, some liturgy, and before it starts a great social time like when the farmer families would gather for the one time a week when you’d see other people.

Then, there are two types of worship, or rather, worshippers.

Those who attend whether they need it or not.

Those who seek a regular connection with God.

These are all preferences of personality or upbringing. As we read in the Gospel, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Like prayer, like service, like study–it’s all about our attitude. This is what matters.