Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Political Animal

Yes, it's a school, I'm not appolozing.

Man is by nature a political animal
Humans have been engaging in politics time immemorial. What is politics? The Merriam Webster dictionary defines politics as: "the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government" Now, political systems and issues have come and gone over the years. The advent of the information superhighway (better know as the net) has added new dynamic to the way people connect. Solomon got it right when he observed that "there is nothing new under the sun." The internet is just the latest instrument to join the chorus in the age old symphony of politics. Not a single issue faced by the America at large is truly new, indeed the tune is an old one. Yet because humans are stubborn and quick to forget, the song appears unfamiliar.
Technology and several other issues shape America's political landscape today. There is (paradoxically) an enormous connection over age old issues because of technology and a splintering along ideological lines.

Cable television has provided a shiny new soapbox for political detractors. Men like Glenn Beck (on the conservative side and Keith Olbermann (on the liberal) pull in millions of viewers. Their goal has nothing to do with actually helping anyone. Instead, such men tap into the anger of the respective audiences, blasting the opposition for the problems faced by all. The logic is simple, nobody is going to watch a political show centered around bipartisanship and progress. It is much easier to gain a viewership by appealing to negative emotion and demonizing those who are wrong or don't agree with you. Brutus did the same thing when Caesar was murdered. The only difference is Fox is able to reach a much wider audience with cable TV, and they aren't interested in murdering anyone.

This point about cable news networks leads directly into the second point, namely the 24/7 365 nature of news. To be sure, things have come a long way from the printing presses of Benjamin Franklin. Now, with the click of button, HLN, CNN, FOX, and MSNBC are accessible. News stories are cycled through like pez out of a dispenser. Once the public has munched one for a few seconds, the anchor tilts back the little head and ejects another thirty second highlight. Long gone are the days where weeks passed before states knew who the new president was. Instead of having adequate time to process a story, people are expected to have answers immediately. After all, the story is breaking right now, shouldn't an answer be available simultaneously? After any major news story breaks, the cable news networks are faithful to gather round the proverbial campfire with a few experts favorable to their cultural paradigm and hash out exactly what is going on.

Yet, even the idea of a Television news network is bit Archaic in light of the new media. With the advent of the net, the press went digital. As with any technological leap, the traditional sources of news are fading into the background as younger, more nimble outlets supplant their elders. Trains, once set in their course, are not easily rerouted, and the internet represents a totally new set of tracks. Such a fundamental shift in the way Americans consume news and information, shapes the way they interact with politics. Sites like the Huffington Post, the drudge report and even Arab news network Aljazeera engaging technology, helping to define how people interact with politics. Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" would probably be abbreviated into about 5 pages, and even that would be pushing it. After all, it's hard to sit down for an intellectual three course dinner when your mental diet consists of pez and fast food. It would be posted on Paine's blog, googled by revolutionaries, posted on Facebook and retweeted like a bouncy ball. Then, in all likelihood, it would be relegated the digital dustbin in a month's time. 

Now, more than ever before, politics are a global concern. What Columbus believed and WWII solidified, technology has only continued to affirm. It's a small world after all, and America has a very big role in the story. People are able to experience news as it's occurring. Protests in the middle east, earthquakes in Japan, protests in the Capital. Imagine having a modern video camera during the sit-ins or Nazi persecution of the Jews, or Jesus ministry. Voters are able to see and hear first hand, how the actions of their leaders effect the rest of the world. Today Al Jazeera is the most watched news channel on You Tube, receiving 2.5 million views per month. Launched on April 16, 2007, the Al Jazeera English YouTube site has more than 10,000 videos currently live on the English channel. SITE

This historic deluge of information makes for the most informed and ADD voter base in history. It remains to be seen whether the free flow of information which technology permits will generate serious negative consequences by causing voters to lose focus. It must be noted that people have always been selfish and near sited when it comes to picking leaders. Look at Israel's old testament cry for a King; it didn't go over well.

Technological advances have have been tremendously impactful in political campaigns. Suddenly, it doesn't matter very much that you bought every 30 second slot during prime time. Now, it matters how many people follow you on Facebook and twitter. It matters how many hits your youtube channel gets, it matters how much money you can raise from small donors via the net. The under dogs have been given a golden ticket.

In the words of King Solomon, "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun." The internet, even though it may seem new, is really just a fancy tool, helping humans accomplish things they have always desired. Things like better communication, information collection, and a voice in politics are attainable through technology. Just as with any other tool, it may be used for good or evil. Prayerfully the internet will continue to serve as a way for people to engage in the political process, not because they have the most money or a large organization backing them up, but because they deserve to be heard. The Greek city state where very voice had a place is not such a distant memory after all. 

ESV Bible

Webster's pocket quotation book

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Beauty & Truth

Beauty is truth in tangible form. All truth holds beauty and all beauty reminds the soul of the Creator's majesty. 

God is love. Love is the supreme truth, the supreme beauty. 

Beauty is tangible love.When God smiles, when He laughs we hear it in the song of birds and the happiness of 

children, the roar of oceans and the howling wind.

It is seen in sunsets and fire and snow and couples in love. 

If such fractured mirrors reflect his glory, what must his presence be like?

Grasping, trying not to be incinerated. My heart reveling, as all the beauty is revealed at once.

 Pain and time melting away like wax, fading into eternity past.


Show me what it means to bring beauty, your beauty, into this finite world. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thoughts on Art and Writing

I've decided to no longer allow myself to feel guilty for doing something I love with my time. I've had a productive day today. Tomorrow will be productive. There are things which must be attended to, but I refuse to feel guilty about allocating time to things that I want to do-provided they are productive. I can't make excuses for movies or facebook.

Spending time working in areas where I can make improvements in my life is worth the effort and the time.

Last time I went on vacation, I spent the time the way I wanted to: reading, writing, hiking, listening to my iPod and watching more TV than I'd like to admit. Aside from TV, those are all ways I love to spend my time. Obviously it's neither realistic nor healthy to make that my whole world, but none of those things are bad. As Dave Ramsey points out so often, “we’ll be the same people in five years, except for the books we read and the people we meet.”

For the longest time I've had some vague idea that I'm going to do all these fun things in High School, then another semester passes and I just haven't taken the time to" smell the roses" as it where.

With greater age comes greater responsibility. Sometimes I fear the prospect of the responsibility, sometimes I relish it. Part of shouldering that responsibility is being wise with finite resources such as time and money. Better do develop a habit of spending time on things which grow me into a better person.

“Taking time to smell the roses,” may look like a number of different things. Mostly, I think it looks like focusing on God. How I got to thinking that attending to eternal matters would somehow resolve it beats me. Studying scripture can’t be outsourced, you’ve gotta hunker down and read.

Focusing on writing is another component I feel compelled to give my attention to. I know I'm not particularly good at composing prose, but some part of it feels to right to me.

As one of my favorite authors Don Miller puts it:

For this reason, a creator distrusts emotion. Certainly a writer can turn a scene in a novel with a tear on his cheek, but the tear also causes him to question whether or not the page will be thrown out the following day for too much sentimentality, because a book is to the writer like the house is to the builder, it’s right fitting boards and plumb windows, not a feeling of love for the boards or the windows.

Don doesn’t discount creativity, nor does he hate his job; he’s simply making the point that writing is work just like anything else.
When it comes to writing, I want to wait for an emotional high or a creative spark, but those moments don’t happen all the time. A boxer trains every day, his canvas is ring and the tools of his trade are sweat, pain and fast fists. What he creates in the boxing ring may look natural, but in reality has been drummed into him until his very bones reverent with his craft.

The art of writing is a struggle, like boxing and all other worthy pursuits. If only for those occasional moments where I feel like I've gotten it right, its worth all the effort expended in the endeavor. In those moments I love writing, Jon Foreman describes it the creative process as an archeological dig. We don’t create the city we’re uncovering; we simply expose it for the rest of the world to admire.

As a male I'm driven to create, to conquer and to compete. As a male I am incredibly insecure about my performance, myself worthy is deeply tied up what I achieve. Every time I experience really good art, there is a sense of both admiration and discouragement. “Wow,” I think, “That's so beautiful and true.” Then everything goes downhill, “I wish could be that good, I bet it took him/her years of hard work before they were talented enough to create that. Do I have the potential to express such genius through my writing?

How on earth will I know when I'm great writer? Aren't most of the best writers dead? Great, so now I'll never know if I was good, regardless of my effort, I won't be famous and I'll probably be poor if I try writing as a career path. Oh, so now it’s about being famous? Really? You're so freakin vain…..

What do I have to offer the world which hasn't already been brought up?”

At this point I'll turn back to whatever I'd been doing before, Like Leonardo DiCaprio and his top; I'm not quite sure what reality is supposed to be.

Honestly, I'm not sure how much I believe in genius or his stepbrother talent. After reading portions of a book titled “Outliers,” I have doubts. Essentially the author's premise is that people are good at those things which they devote the most time to. Bill Gates is where he is today (in part) because he was working with computers years before most people. Mr. Gates extra experience is what gave him the edge when it came to starting Microsoft. So people become proficient at what they love, not the other way round.

The earlier you start, and the more time you commit the better you become. Ten thousand hours represents the threshold separating amateurs from professionals in a discipline, whether physical, or mental.

Ten thousand hours...

Welp, there's no time like the present!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

You Did What!

I deleted my Facebook account.

Yeah, how's that for radical my friends?

One week ago today I unplugged my life from the greatest leap in human communication since....well at least the invention of e-mail. I'm quite sure facebook doesn't qualify as "better than sliced bread," because sliced bread is pretty freakin awesome.

Why you may ask? Read on.

I've used this blog to vent my frustration over a lack of direction in my life. Even if I'm unsure of the college I'll attend or the vocation I'll pursue, there are still skills and habits I can embrace NOW, to ensure I'm a more prepared person THEN. Facebook, for all of its advantages was simply getting in the way of that goal.

I wish I had the will power to simply log in two or three times a week and communicate when it's important. But, if there is one thing I've discovered about myself in 17 years, it's that I'm deficient when it comes to willpower.

Facebook became an escape from school work, a distraction which chipped away at my productivity five minutes at a time. After two hours I would look up and realize I was no closer to completing the task than when I sat down.

Facebook was always the first thing I went to upon arriving in from work, classes or the gym. Though I browse other sites, the majority of my traffic went straight to Zuckerburg's brain child.

Facebook became (inadvertently) a way to feed my narcissistic tendencies. I measured my popularity (at least to an extent) by the number of notifications I had upon signing in. Of course this doesn't eliminate the problem of self-absorption, nor was it really Facebook's fault.

Facebook caused me to feel as if I was missing something interesting. In reality all I was missing was the fact that three of my friends had completed a survey which cleared up for them once and for all what Star Wars character they were most like. Was this and earth-shattering revelation? Not really.However it seemed like a justifiable reason to stop writing the paper I was supposed to be working on and check every fifteen minutes.

Facebook was turning me into someone who had to absorb information in status size blurbs. I was (and am) having trouble maintaining long periods of concentration on anything. Again, this is problem I don’t wish to foist upon Facebook. Such ADD absorption of information is a defining characteristic of 21st century communication. Personally though, Facebook made this worse. I want to be a deep thinker, you just can't tweet/post/update some things. Too often the medium is insufficient to carry the message adequately.

I don't think these things are evil, any more than I think guns are evil. Both are tools, it's up to us to decide how to use them. I abused Facebook. I voluntarily gave it up.

While I can recount several memorable moments on Facebook, none of them compare to actually connecting with people face to face. I want to use time I'm given wisely. Often, I'm a very poor steward. But I think by saving a few minutes here and there, I'll more easily be able to focus on people I'm around. By shutting off the computer, I'll be able go and do instead of passively watching other people's lives float by in status updates.

I don't have the emotional capacity to sustain relationships with all of my Facebook friends. This is why the site only shows you updates from the people you talk to most, it knows you don't have that kind of time or energy.

Actually, I don't have the time or energy for the vast majority of people. It's only by the grace of God I'm a civil human being. In much the same why I want to be a deep thinker, I also want to be a deep friend and a true companion. Such things are not obtained by attempting to absorb the day to day lives of some 200 individuals.

Eliminating Facebook helps me focus on writing. More and more I think that writing is a part of who I am.

So, the long and short of it is, I don't hate Facebook, but I need a chance to step back. I don't think it's wrong; in fact Facebook is a wonderful thing when used correctly.

I can't seem to use Facebook correctly; therefore I shan't use it at all.

What about you? What are your feelings on the matter? I'm interested to know what you think. Also if you should ever happen to see an error/flaw in my writing grammatical or otherwise don't hesitate to point it out.

Thanks for reading!