I wish everyone could read the article I just read in Relevant Magazine on “Pride in the Age of Twitter.” Twitter is an instant messaging site, but it’s also a buzz-word; not a buzz-word that I use very often. But I think the author, Brett McCracken from UCLA, is using it to refer to the change from the 80s, where we used land line phones and snail mail, to today where we check facebook, myspace, you tube, AIM, tivo, gchat, texts, ringtones, and other self-proclaiming instant information devices every hour of the day. In the 80s we didn’t even think we could contact people while they were driving. Why would you? Today it’s strange if you can’t. If you are interested in this topic, go get the Jan_Feb 09 issue of Relevant. Have you ever thought about this? It is the irony of facebook. I am about to use one of these instant-convenience making machines to decry the bad in instant-convenience making machines. It is ironic, sure, but if you can look past that at the following quotes, I think it would do us all some good. Here are some quotes from the article after he warms us up with the history of the internet and our hyper-convenience driven technology. “I’m not saying these are bad technologies or that we’d be better off back in time a few decades. I’m just suggesting that these technologies are, strikingly and swiftly, changing the way we conceive ourselves: as fluid, adaptable, hypertext HTML bodies with the ability to cut, paste, copy or delete anything we like or dislike about ourselves.” He’s right. Facebook is not Satan, okay? This is not what either of us are saying. I think it’s great how it helps people stay in touch. The problem is, without a strong mind to discern the good and the bad within FB, it does much more than that. “We’ve become obsessed with status, but not status in the sense of being measurable or community-derived (as in our social status), but status in the attention-deficit sense: “this is what I am doing right now.” Our lives have suddenly become much more dramatic, worthy of being performed on a stage visible to millions. But since when are our lives so interesting that we feel compelled to share them with the world? Perhaps it’s not primarily the fact that we can tell our stories to the world but that – we desperately long to.” Right again. Have you ever thought about the desire that every human has for relationships? I call it the pressure-spot. We all have it. We all want acceptance, excellence, esteem, acclaim – we all want a story worth telling and we want others to notice. I have never met someone who was exempt from this condition, just people who fill it in different ways. “There is a real sense of emptiness in our generation. We’ve grown up in relative stability and lived borderline boring lives. We’ve consumed more media than ever before – living in movies, television shows, video games and other fantasy worlds. There’s been a dissonance between who we are (boring, unknown) and what the media tells us we can be (interesting, glamorous, famous). The result is a massive cultural longing to be known.” “Berkeley journalism professor Rebecca Solnit described “the great struggle in our time” as being “the endeavor to become a producer of meaning rather than a consumer of meaning.” We’re a generation exhausted by consumerism, and yet it is all we know. Our impulse now is to do something other than take from culture; we desperately seek to contribute – to be significant.” “Blogs give us this chance, and so does YouTube, and Twitter, and FB, and the rest. But these ways of reaching out or giving back to culture are still predominantly about me. About how I find meaning by bouncing ideas off of the wider web world. About feeling important, validated, useful, interesting.” Just think about iMac, ipod, itunes, iweb, ilife – all about I. “This is a problem. It creates a new frontier of self-entitlement for a generation that is already way too self-entitled. The problem of self-entitlement (or pride, to be more direct) is a familiar one for the church, and technology has only exacerbated it. In time like these, when it is easier and more alluring than ever to be or feel important, Christians must remember we are not called to be web superstars, we’re called to be living sacrifices. We’re not instructed to make ourselves look as good as possible in front of the largest audience we can; no we are instructed to deny ourselves and humbly follow Christ.” Personal note: IF you are reading this and you are offended by it, then you are like me. Two years ago I was so hooked to FB that I didn’t know what to do. It was almost like a drug. I wanted to be someone worth talking about and I wanted the small habits of my daily routine to matter to someone. This was idolatry. I am so guilty of it. And only because Christ gave me a passion to do something worthwhile (teach) am I now free of it. Sometimes, the truth is offensive, because it tells us that we are not okay and that we need to be pulled out of our current lifestyle. So I won’t say sorry for offending you. What is the answer? I’m pretty sure this period of self-exaltation is a college-student / twenty something phenomenon. It comes from the fact that we are not being fulfilled, or are not doing something that is fulfilling us in our daily routine. I recommend praying about it first, and then going out and doing whatever it is you are called to do. Class CAN BE a calling. Teaching is great because it occupies almost all of my time and it is a worthwhile cause. It is something bigger than myself, so I commit myself to it and forget about me for a while. I love that. And I want everyone to have something like that. So listen to the quiet voice within you that is telling you – this is what you have wanted to do your whole life – and go work for it. What I taught my psychology class Fall 2008: According to a study by Seligman (2002), there are three types of positive lives: 1. The pleasant life: People are successful in their pursuit of pleasure and positive emotions as to achieve a constant positive mental state – without these “fixes” they crash. 2. The good life: People are successful in using their strengths to obtain abundant and authentic gratification (rising to the top of social hierarchies). 3. The meaningful life: People are successful in using their strengths in the service of something larger than themselves – life is no longer about them only. “Vocation is the place where the world’s greatest need meets your greatest joy.” – Frederick Buechner “The purpose of life is a life of purpose” – Robert Byrne
1. My time in America for Christmas
2. My UK road trip with family
3. Reading and Listening and Viewing
1. I came home for two weeks and, as you could imagine for someone coming back to the states after four months in europe, it was a strange switch back to familiarity. I saw everything with different eyes – when I drove past a Hummer dealership I thought “what would a European think about this?” When I took a second glance at the absurd amount of variety at an Arby’s Buffet Bar, I though “What would a European think about this?” When I went hunting with Jimmie and Alan and dressed in camo and orange hats, I thought “There is no where else in the world where you will see this.” It really is mind blowing to consider how different our two countries have become in only two hundred forty years. No where else in the world do you see “suburbs” or “neighborhoods” the way we have them. Interstate interchanges. Mega-malls. Candles in widnows. Southern accents. These are truly American and belong to no one else but us. The future of the English language is one thing to consider, although with the internet and digital age of instant communication it’s likely to become even more worldwide and homogenuous. Many of these details are obvious, but you won’t care that they are yours until you leave what’s yours and make your reality someone else’s.
Highlights of being home include: catching up with 100 people, capital ale house, dollar bills, christmas cookies, gap, driving, playing cornhole, dr. mario, my tendency to use british inflections when I don’t mean to, church, Christmas in Dixie with four wheelers and bon fires and Joey and the bloodhound howling at the moon, the very first Christmas Ale Exchange, the Catholic midnight service downtown, monopoly, and the roof of the Omni.
But after you spend so much time doing “reality shifts,” your reality gets larger and it doesn’t seem weird anymore. It seemed weird to my friend Antonella when Jimmie and I showed up at her Adriatic Sea coastal town and were walking around on the beach. It would seem weird if my Newcastle friend Nathan came to Richmond and hung out with us at a bar. It seemed weird to Jimmie when he ran into the Joneses eating bratwurst in a German restraunt in Hyde Park. But that’s only because our realities are limited and need to expand. And this is why I love being abroad.
2. I’ll save my opinions of the trip for another time. Here’s what we did:
DAy One: Flew from Dulles to Heathrow overnight and stayed up all day in London with caffeine, going to museums, riding the London Eye, having tea and biscuits in a hotel, riding the double deckers, and desperately trying to stay awake. Funny times when my family tried to communicate with me after I had taken a one hour nap starting at 7 pm.
Day two: Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Sq., very first pub lunch for the Joneses, the National Gallery of paintings, Wagamamas, The Lion King the musical in the West End, and burger king milkshakes?
Day three: Westminster cathedral, street performers in Covent Gardens, all of the Egyptian artifacts in the British Museum, ice skating in Hyde Park, German bratwurst, Jimmie meeting us for the ferris wheel, Alyssa and Bridget, new year’s eve next to big ben.
Day Four: renting a car and driving to Bath, where frost covered everything, toured the Roman Baths, blew two tires on the A36 carriageway, police escorts and tow trucks, (the two really nice people who were probably Christians who stopped and gave us directions and waited until the police showed up – makes you want to repeat this kind of kindness for others), being towed into Plummer Manor in Sturminster Newton, a really fancy dinner with very posh British owners. I had duck.
Day Five: Tires (tyres) fixed in the am, Bryanston, Corfe Castle ruins, having tea and scones, buying gingerbread men, visiting the sea, playground, workout time with sisters, dinner at White Horse Inn, Dorset Apple cake!, and watched Atonement in the hotel room.
Day Six: Salisbury Cathedral, meat and vegetable pasties, Stonehenge where my audio guide died five minutes into it, amazing sunset on the way home that made Mom take a wrong turn and get lost.
3. Since I do have a good deal of free time over here, here is what my brain has been swimming in during the past four months:
– Confessions of Saint Augustine
– The Great Gastby ( FS Fitzgerald)
– When I Don’t Desire God (John Piper) (five stars)
– Under Milk Wood (Dylan Thomas)
– The Abolition of Man (CS Lewis)
– Mystics and Zen Masters (Thomas Merton)
– History of Western Philosophy (Russel)
– Why We’re Not Emergent (Deyoung and Kluck)
(didn’t finish them all, and this is outside of class reading for teaching)
– Friendly Fires: Self Titled
– Fleet Foxes: Self Titled
– Best of Russian, German, French, English, American, Mediterranean Romance Classics
– Copeland: You Are My Sunshine
– Ryan Adams: Cardinology (five stars)
– Dizzee Rascal: Dance Wiv Me (single)
– MGMT: Oracular Spectacular
– The Stills: Being Here (single)
– Sigur Ros: Med sud i eyrum vid spilum endalaust
– Conor Oberst: Self Titled
– Jon Foreman: Spring and Summer
– New Found Glory: From the screen to your stereo 2 (five stars)!
– John Legend: Green Light (single)
– Shakespeare in Love
– Hard Day’s Night
– Finding Forrester
– Rocky I
– Son of Rambow