Lightning-Fast Friday Link Love

We’re officially in a season in the Dana household when there is so much going on it’s actually comical. My Lenten discipline of “doing nothing extra” could not come at a better time… though it’s often hard to figure out what’s “extra,” and even when one separates the wheat from the chaff, there is still more to do than time to do it.

So here’s a quick Friday Link Love. Maybe like me you need a little palate cleanser between must-do tasks. Hope these bring a little joy and inspiration.

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First, the obligatory links of self-promotion:

Sabbath in the Suburbs was reviewed in the Christian Century. Who wins the cage match between MaryAnn McKibben Dana and Rachel Held Evans? OK, I’m kidding, but how wonderful is this:

MaryAnn McKibben Dana’s Sabbath in the Suburbs: A Family’s Experiment with Holy Time will probably make a much smaller splash than Evans’s book even though it is one of the most helpful and well-conceived books on spirituality I’ve ever read.

Many thanks to Bromleigh McCleneghan, who wrote a pretty awesome book herself.

Seond link: here I am on God Complex Radio.

And finally, we’re having a giveaway on GoodReads—three signed copies of the book. I’d love to give one to a Blue Room reader!

Now on to the show:

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National Day of Unplugging — Sabbath Manifesto

March 1-2 is the annual day to put away the cell phones. iPads and laptops, and savor the world of relationships right around you. Here are some ideas to get you primed for the big day.

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17 Mesmerizing Before and After Photoshop GIFs — Buzzfeed

anigif_enhanced-buzz-16931-1360693844-4

Love your self. Love your body.

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Using the Crowd to Save People after Disasters — Fast Company

Social media serves a powerful purpose:

In the aftermath of a major disaster, it’s hard for aid workers to know what’s happening on the ground, and to direct resources where they are needed most. That’s when text messaging and social media can help. By analyzing tweets and other snippets, it’s possible to see trends–say, where people are trapped, or where there are water shortages–and do something about them.

The issue is the analysis part, says Lukas Biewald, CEO of CrowdFlower, a San Francisco company that finds people online willing to do “micro tasks” (normally for commercial purposes). One, you’ve got a huge amount of data to sift through, and not a lot of time. And two, all the text might be in a language–or filled with local references–that you don’t understand. You need some way of crunching it quickly, using people who aren’t put off by colloquial or foreign terms.

Patrick Meier, director of social innovation at the Qatar Foundation’s Computing Research Institute, and a member of a group called the Digital Humanitarian Network, says crowdsourcing can help. Following last December’s Typhoon Pablo, in the Philippines, DHN identified 20,000 relevant tweets, and then called on CrowdFlower to find volunteers to make the first assessment. The groups identified, one, messages with links to photos and video, and, two, messages that referred to damage that could be geo-tagged. From about 100 tweets, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) could then build a map plotting damaged houses and bridges, flooding, and so on.

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An Artist, 25 Years in the Making — Imgur

An artist posted photos of his artwork, starting when he was 2 years old. Lovely to see the artist emerge.

QwxbAVX

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William Lowrey: Don’t Lose the Larger Vision — Faith and Leadership

A Presbyterian minister who helped resolve bloody conflicts in Sudan reflects on his long career of peacemaking in America and Africa.

Bill Lowrey is a friend and colleague here in the greater DC area an amazing inspiration. I love that Faith and Leadership saw fit to feature him on their site. People who think that Christianity is nothing but hate and intolerance need to read about this fine man who has quietly and humbly devoted his life to peace and justice.

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Peace be with you all.

Friday Link Love: Tech Overload, Life of Pi, and the Death of Homework?

Away we go!

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dove-hands12NEXT Church 

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.

Bookmark it! Share it! Love it!

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.

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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.

Take a tech sabbath!

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Can Faith in the Better Story Sustain Us? Survival and Significance in “Life of Pi” — Nick Olson, Patheos

Life-of-Pi

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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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A 120-Year-Old Mechanical Device that Perfectly Mimics the Sound of a Bird — Colossal

Get out the headphones or turn up your speakers and prepare to be impressed by archaic 19th century engineering.

Delightful:

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Have a wonderful weekend.

Toggl: A Tool for Pastors and Other Busy People

One of the presenters at CREDO a couple of weeks ago talked about Jim Collins, the business consultant and author of Good to Great, who breaks down his work week in the following way:

53% Creative
28% Teaching
19% Other

I don’t remember the presenter’s point any more; I just remember scoffing at the percentages. “Must be nice,” I thought to myself. In parish ministry, what with committee structures and aging buildings and never-ending communications tasks, the administrative load is considerable. (And the emails never end.)

The next night at CREDO I received the results of the Clergy Vocational Profile, which is a 93-question survey that 10 members of Tiny Church filled out.The profile asked them to rate me in terms of various skills and activities, but also how important they considered those skills and activities. I filled out the same profile for myself. There were two free-form questions at the end: what does this person do well, and what does she need to work on.

I learned a couple things from the CVP. One, and not surprising, I am much harder on myself than others are on me. But that’s not what this post is about.

Two is that, while administration was not unimportant to the respondents, when it came to the free-form question, nobody affirmed the way that I put the Sunday School schedule together. Instead they affirmed gifts in preaching, worship, teaching, communication, spiritual guidance, and visionary leadership.

By the end of the week I had come back around to Jim Collins’s ratios. I began to wonder whether I’d been letting my schedule happen to me, rather than trying to create a schedule that matched my skills and the things that the people at Tiny Church value about me.

The other thing I claimed while at CREDO is that I am a creative person, who needs to spend time doing creative tasks in order to feel fulfilled and whole. (This realization came after the “play with art supplies” evening, when I asked to take home some stuff so I could make a book of my CREDO experience over the remaining days. Ahem.)

So! Given all this, I created a goal: to re-balance my schedule to reflect the following ratios as much as possible:

50% Creative: sermon prep, order of worship prep, reading, writing, vision work
25-30% Connecting: pastoral care, teaching, mentoring leaders, meetings
20-25% Logistics: paperwork, email, right-hand-left-hand stuff

I have a number of steps in place to make progress on this goal. One of them is to use Toggl to keep track of what I do with my time.

What is Toggl? Toggl is an application (web, desktop and smartphone) that lets you track how long you spend doing various things. You can use it in two ways:

  • Live: Say you’re working on the bulletin. You type “bulletin” into the window, select a project (mine would be “Creative”) and hit Start. When you’re done, hit Stop. That’s it.
  • After the fact: Say you’re visiting someone in the hospital. You can manually enter in the time you spent with that person afterwards.

Toggl also lets you generate pie graphs to show how long you worked on various things. So I can look at my ministry activities and see whether creative really does take up half the “plate.”

Insert standard caveats here about how ministry does not conform to easy categories. And there is a sense in which ministry is by nature reactive. If the building floods, as it did at my friend Eric’s church this week, the “logistics” piece of pie is going to be huge.

But still, let’s be honest. We clergy often use the unpredictability of ministry as an excuse, letting our time be taken up with the low-hanging fruit that makes us feel busy but that doesn’t actually transform lives for the sake of the gospel.

I am just as guilty of this as anyone… but I’m hoping that, with a better sense of how I spend my time, I can improve.

Now the question is, where does Facebook fit into the pie…

Friday Link Love

Away we go!

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Winners of the 2012 Wildlife Photographer of the Year — Colossal

Lots of goodness here. My favorite:

Cristóbal Serrano / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012

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If You’re Too Busy to Meditate, Read This — LifeHacker

Yesterday on the Sabbath blog I wrote about the benefits of Sabbath on children, in the hopes of coaxing parents to think about the practice as beneficial for their kids’ overall development. LifeHacker appears to be taking a similar approach here:

People say the hardest part about meditating is finding the time to meditate. This makes sense: who these days has time to do nothing? It’s hard to justify. Meditation brings many benefits: It refreshes us, helps us settle into what’s happening now, makes us wiser and gentler, helps us cope in a world that overloads us with information and communication, and more. But if you’re still looking for a business case to justify spending time meditating, try this one: Meditation makes you more productive.

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The Power of Quiet — Susan Cain and Molly Crabapple (video)

This is one of those scribble videos that are all the rage right now—and one of the better ones. Susan Cain narrates some insights from her book Quiet and Molly Crabapple illustrates. Powerful stuff.

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Winner of the 2012 Juggling Festival — Colossal

I posted this video earlier in the week just for the joy of it. It’s 6 minutes—if you need to watch an abbreviated version, start at minute 3 or so. Yanazo is amazing. Screw you, gravity! I’M THE LAW NOW!!!

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How to Get Paid What You’re Worth and Other Negotiating Tips — 99U

This is a growing edge for me as I negotiate honoraria and speaker’s fees:

Money isn’t the only factor in a negotiation. If we make it all about money, the negotiation only has one measure of success. In a 2001 Harvard Business Review article, Harvard professor James Sebenius advises us to recognize the other factors that may be less blank-or-white.

For example, when negotiating a project with a client, price isn’t the only thing on the table. You can discuss deadlines, delivery methods, communication preferences and a host of other options. Give a little on deadlines, but propose a higher rate. The more variables you can negotiate, the higher the likelihood that both parties will feel like winners.

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Homework: A Parent’s Plea for Quality over Quantity — Ellen Painter Dollar

I’m not going to excerpt this article—if you care about this issue you should read the whole thing because it’s stellar. We have the girls’ parent/teacher conferences today and I’ll have this post in my mind as we talk.

In other news, as a writer I covet Ellen’s name. Totally distinctive, yet completely straightforward. Easy to say and spell.

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A Teen Confronts Her iPhone Addiction — WaPo

Good for her:

When a friend jokingly challenged me to one week without my phone, I questioned whether I would be able to do it. I realized that I needed to prove that I could live in a world without iPhones. So the next night I shut it off, hid it in a drawer and began my phoneless week.

Deciding to do it was probably the hardest part of the whole experiment. It’s not that I was scared, but I was unhappy about it. I expected the week to be boring, slow and frustrating at times, especially when trying to get in contact with people.

But this was not the case….

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Our weekend is cray-cray, with a variety of kid activities scheduled such that we have these bizarre two-hour windows of free time between them. A long stretch of Sabbath will be hard to come by… I think instead we will strive to go about these things Sabbathly—with mindfulness and care, with an eye for delight.

What’s your weekend like? Will there be Sabbath time in it?

Deep Acting at 35,000 Feet, and in the Grocery Store Line

That poor mannequin looks dead inside!

My friend Jan recently uninstalled the Disaster Alert app on her phone. Her hope was that the app would move her to pray and respond to natural and human-inflicted disasters as they happened. Instead, the app overwhelmed her and stressed her out.

Some years ago a Twitter acquaintance went through a terrible crisis. I followed the sad progression of events and grieved the person’s loss even though I had never met anyone involved. On one level, this is a beautiful thing: community that transcends the traditional boundaries. On another level, it left me depleted, and for no good purpose. There was nothing I could “do.” Compassion fatigue is very real, and in the digital age, its effects are compounded by being connected to more people than ever before.

Last week at CREDO we talked about emotional labor. Emotional labor is the work involved in responding appropriately to different emotionally fraught situations. Many professions involve heavy doses of emotional labor—ministry is one of them. We might go from leading a staff meeting, to celebrating a job promotion on the phone with a parishioner, to navigating a conflict with a co-worker, to visiting a dying person in the hospital, to teaching a group of 6th graders at the mid-week children’s program. And that’s before we get home and have another set of emotional issues to respond to among our families and friends. Lots of stops and starts. Lots of switching gears.

It can be tiring.

Emotional labor was fleshed out by Arlie Russell Hochschild in her book The Managed Heart, which looked at flight attendants and the ways they must put on a persona in order to respond to airplane passengers. During the presentation, we received an article by Barbara Brown Taylor for the Christian Century some 14 years ago. From BBT’s article:

Emotional labor must not show, however. If the flight attendant feels tired and irritable, this must be disguised. If a passenger turns hostile, the flight attendance is taught to reconceive that person as a fearful flyer or a little child—anything that will help the attendant overlook the rude behavior and relate sympathetically to the passenger. The point of all these “feeling rules” is to win the customer’s repeat business. …

Hochschild found that most flight attendants cope by learning a form of “deep acting” that helps them produce the desired feelings in themselves. They learn other strategies for repressing negative feelings so that they do no erupt on the job. After awhile, many say they have a hard time recovering their true feelings once their shifts are over. They begin to lose track of when they are acting and when they are not. Eventually they become aware that the hidden cost of managing their emotions is the impoverishment of their emotional lives. They have sold their hearts, and do not know how to buy them back.

What happens at CREDO stays at CREDO—-there’s a confidentiality I won’t breach. Suffice to say there were many lightbulbs during this presentation, and also many tears throughout the week as these good clergyfolk got in touch with some deep wells of emotion, wells they may have thought were capped and done with.

Since returning from CREDO I have been monitoring my own responses and reactions as I go throughout my day, and I had an epiphany in the grocery store. While waiting in a long line I did what many of us do, which is fiddle with my phone. I saw something on Facebook that took my breath away: a picture of a child I care about very much, who is going through leukemia treatment. I saw her hairless head and her bright smile as she beamed at the camera. I saw her beads of courage, ropes and ropes of them around her neck. I read the accompanying message. She is a warrior. But she is a small child. And no child should have to fight in any war, even (and perhaps especially) a war against cancer.

I wanted to cry for her, and I could have cried for her, even in the checkout line. But I did not. I checked myself… but this time, I was aware of checking myself.

Emotional labor.

Like many people, I have long wondered about (and written about) the impact technology has on our attention spans and our ability to be present in the moment. This is something I struggle with, and strive to put boundaries around (grocery store checkout lines notwithstanding). But I saw another way that our constant access to technology can harm us: sometimes we are not in a place to respond emotionally to the images we see, so those emotions get suppressed. That can hurt us in the long run.

It’s an irony—we praise technology (often rightly) for the ways it connects us, but we become disconnected from ourselves in the process. We have sold our hearts—how do we go about buying them back?

Friday Link Love

Away we go!

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“I am in a state of shock” — Flannery O’Connor

A lit class in 1961 tries to understand “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” They, um, miss the mark. O’Connor responds in part:

The meaning of a story should go on expanding for the reader the more he thinks about it, but meaning cannot be captured in an interpretation. If teachers are in the habit of approaching a story as if it were a research problem for which any answer is believable so long as it is not obvious, then I think students will never learn to enjoy fiction. Too much interpretation is certainly worse than too little, and where feeling for a story is absent, theory will not supply it.

My tone is not meant to be obnoxious. I am in a state of shock.

H/t Keith.

On a different note but still related to the power of story:

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The Bible Is Not a Diet Plan — Religion Dispatches

On Rick Warren’s “Daniel Plan” for fitness, which he cribs from the pages of an apocalyptic text:

I can’t begrudge anyone whatever motivation they need to live a healthier life, and Warren deserves respect for using some of his enormous cultural capital to fight obesity—especially now that biblical values are suddenly synonymous with consuming fried chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. But I am in awe at the superhuman degree of willful blindness it must take to read a profound story of conquest and resistance, of identity and assimilation, and discover, at the bottom of it all… a diet plan!

A story, sacred or secular, is a test of our empathy: an invitation to enter into the trials and hopes of a stranger. And it takes a remarkable self-centeredness to deliberately reject that invitation, to mine that story for anything that helps us grow our portfolios or shrink our waistlines, and throw away the husk of the human at its heart once we’ve sucked out all we can use. We can read selfishly just as we can act selfishly.

A big AMEN to that.

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A Mother Tries to Atone for a Deadly Hate Crime — NPR

At 40, Julie Sanders is a mother of three from Portland, Ore. But when she was 16, Sanders belonged to a white supremacist group — and one night in 1988, she witnessed a murder. Since then, she’s kept the event a secret from most of her friends and family.

She has broken the cycle and raised thoughtful and courageous children—one of them is defending a cross-dresser in his high school who’s being hassled—but it doesn’t feel like enough:

“But, I just still feel like not a good person,” she says. “And I don’t forgive myself.”

Sanders recently completed a degree in social work. She plans to work with kids who are at risk of joining hate groups.

How “much” atonement is enough? Is it even fruitful to think that way?

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Half Drag — Leland Bobbe

These are closeup portraits of drag queens with half of the face made up and half au naturel. Says the artist: ‘My intention with Half-Drag is to capture both the male and the alter-ego female side of these subjects in one image.’

What is feminine? Masculine? Beautiful? Where does authenticity originate and how does it find expression? These are some of the questions that come to mind as I look at these.

Not to mention that the images are amazing. The makeup itself is artistry.

;

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Offline: How’s It Going — Paul Miller

I featured Paul’s year-long no internet experiment a while back and here’s an update:

The first two weeks were a zen-like blur. I’ve never felt so calm and happy in my life. Never. And then I started actually getting stuff done. I bought copies of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, and Aeschylus. I was writing at an amazing pace. For the first time ever I seemed to be outpacing my editors.

Without the internet, everything seemed new to me. Every untweeted observation of daily life was more sacred. Every conversation was face to face or a phone call, and filled with a hundred fresh nuances. The air smelled better. My sentences seemed less convoluted. I lost a bit of weight.

Three months later, I don’t miss the internet at all. It doesn’t factor into my daily life. I don’t say to myself, “ugh, I wish I could just use the internet to do that.” It’s more like it doesn’t exist for me. I still say “ugh, I have to do that” — it’s just not the internet’s fault.

But now that not having internet is no longer new, just normal, the zen calm is gone. I don’t wake with the sunrise while chirping birds pull back the covers. I still have a job. I feel pressure and stress and frustration. I get lonely and bored. My articles aren’t always submitted on time. Sometimes my sentences aren’t good.

I’m just stock Paul Miller. No more Not-Using-The-Internet custom skin; I’m just myself. And it’s not all sunshine and epiphanies.

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The Veil of Opulence — NYT

This is a long but clear excursus on how we decide what’s fair and what’s not as a society, for the purposes of, say, designing a tax policy. It’s hard to figure out where to excerpt, so read the whole thing, but here’s the crux: the veil of ignorance (a traditional way of evaluating what’s fair) has been replaced in many quarters by a “veil of opulence.” Chopping mercilessly at the article:

The idea behind the veil of ignorance is relatively simple: to force us to think outside of our parochial personal concerns in order that we consider others. What Rawls saw clearly is that it is not easy for us to put ourselves in the position of others. We tend to think about others always from our own personal vantage; we tend to equate another person’s predicament with our own. Imagining what it must be like to be poor, for instance, we import presumptions about available resources, talents and opportunities — encouraging, say, the homeless to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and to just get a job, any job, as if getting a job is as simple as filling out an application. Meanwhile, we give little thought to how challenging this can be for those who suffer from chronic illnesses or disabling conditions. What Rawls also saw clearly was that other classic principles of justice, like the golden rule or mutual benevolence, are subject to distortion precisely because we tend to do this.

Nowadays, the veil of ignorance is challenged by a powerful but ancient contender: the veil of opulence. While no serious political philosopher actually defends such a device — the term is my own — the veil of opulence runs thick in our political discourse. Where the veil of ignorance offers a test for fairness from an impersonal, universal point of view — “What system would I want if I had no idea who I was going to be, or what talents and resources I was going to have?” — the veil of opulence offers a test for fairness from the first-person, partial point of view: “What system would I want if I were so-and-so?” These two doctrines of fairness — the universal view and the first-person view — are both compelling in their own way, but only one of them offers moral clarity impartial enough to guide our policy decisions.

Those who don the veil of opulence may imagine themselves to be fantastically wealthy movie stars or extremely successful business entrepreneurs. They vote and set policies according to this fantasy. “If I were such and such a wealthy person,” they ask, “how would I feel about giving X percentage of my income, or Y real dollars per year, to pay for services that I will never see nor use?” We see this repeatedly in our tax policy discussions…

…The veil of opulence assumes that the playing field is level, that all gains are fairly gotten, that there is no cosmic adversity. In doing so, it is partial to the fortunate — for fortune here is entirely earned or deserved. The veil of ignorance, on the other hand, introduces the possibility that one might fall on hard luck or that one is not born into luck. It never once closes out the possibility that that same person might take steps to overcome that bad luck. In this respect, it is not partial to the fortunate but impartial to all. Some will win by merit, some will win by lottery. Others will lose by laziness, while still others will lose because the world has thrown them some unfathomably awful disease or some catastrophically terrible car accident. It is an illusion of prosperity to believe that each of us deserves everything we get.

Interesting example in the NFL draft.

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One final link: I preached some time ago about Dan Savage and Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage sitting at table together. Here is the video of that debate. I haven’t watched any of it yet and caveat emptor because Dan is famously salty in his speech. (Though I should also warn about Brian Brown, since many people find his perspective much more offensive than an errant F-bomb.)

Anyway, I link, you decide.

When Everything’s Up for Grabs

Not quite real, but a good reality check nonetheless.

I got sucked in by a photo yesterday (pictured) that turned out not to be exactly accurate. But the karmic universe balanced out when I was able to correct another friend a few hours later, showing that Mitt Romney did NOT say he was too important to go to Vietnam.

Meanwhile there’s a photo that some say provides definitive proof that President Obama, a constitutional law scholar and former editor of the Harvard Law Review, may or may not know how to spell Ohio using his hands.

My kids don’t watch a ton of commercial television—we’re PBS partisans, for the most part—but stuff leaks through. No big deal, except that they’ve started to needle me for all these amazing products they’re seeing on TV. Like Packit, the freezable lunch bag. The product is so ingenious, you see. And the spokesperson is very chipper. Surely we need one! Or many!

It’s a testament to my kids’ sincerity and powers of persuasion that I want to buy one of these even though

a) I work from home (and thus eat lunch at home) multiple days a week

b) Robert and I both have fridges at our workplaces

c) the girls eat sandwiches for lunch, and a few hours in a backpack isn’t going to ruin honey ham.

They were puzzled by my gentle pushback. But the TV people said it was awesome! And they were so certain about it! It was a good teachable moment. It also broke my heart a little, because they also have to deal with doctored Mars photos and partisan Internet hoaxes. Outrageous marketing claims on the the teevee feel so quaint and old fashioned in comparison.

When the origins of the Mars picture were pointed out to me I lamented, “Good Lord, do I have to factcheck EVERYTHING?!?” It gets tiring to be skeptical all the time, though I’ve resigned myself to it.

But my three amigos haven’t.

At the risk of getting all won’t-someone-please-think-of-the-children here… how do we prepare young minds to live in a world that can so easily deceive them?

You might say that relationships trump everything. You can count on love, because while the Internet can lie, love cannot be faked. But anyone with a broken heart knows better.

Besides, after I took Caroline to see Bolt (about a dog who discovers that his whole life is an adventure show) she had nightmares for weeks, and once tearfully asked me, “How do I even know you’re really my mom?!?”

Oh honey.

And there are faith implications to this. If my kids grow into adults with a strong belief in God/the Holy/the Really Real/the Great Whatever/the Life-giving Story/what have you, well, of course that’s fine. Good. Beautiful. Potentially life-giving.

But ignorance of inconvenient scientific facts in supposed service to that belief = not OK with me.

What say you, Gentle Reader?