Category Archives: Culture Critique

The Complete Hunger Games Series Review (Author Suzanne Collins)

I just finished reading the three books in the Hunger Games series.  I have to admit that I was blown away by the first book and it compelled me to read this whole Young Adult book series.

Here are my summaries on the three books. Note: I may reveal things you don’t want to know if you want to read the books yourself.  I will conclude with my thoughts on the series and if you’re going to read the boos yourself, feel free to skip to the conclusion and make your own summaries later.

(1) The Hunger Games – The main character Katniss situates us in a world called Panem, in a world with 12 districts each providing the Capital city with a certain resource.  12 produced coal in mines.  It is clear that the districts are given only what they need to survive.  Each year, the districts have to send two youth to The Hunger Games.  A gladiatorial combat game where there can be only one survivor.  The Capital glories in the violence and it reminds the districts, who had been subdued by the capital in a past war, where they stand.  Under the Capital’s thumb.  Katniss and her friend Peeta end up in the games and it is action packed, bloody, and the end is a mind blower.  The theme is survival in the face of all odds.  The story is primarily about Katniss but also about how she doesn’t want to have to kill anyone.  The genetic mutations and the excesses of the Capital stand in a terrible contrast to life in the districts.  The large amount of time spent in District 12 felt good for this book.  You felt the culture, the lives, the ability to hold on despite terrible circumstance.  The depression and hardship was evident.  Haymitch, a drunken character, who had seen the contrast between wealth and poverty, emblemized the sadness in this book. But it is a book ultimately about victory against all odds by the underdogs. Because of a fake (or is it) relationship, the two (Katniss and Peeta) survive rather than the One in the Hunger games.  This book is a page turner all the way through.  The way the rules change to allow two to win, however, shows the sympathies of the people in the Capital for the relationship, and the Capital loses their iron propaganda grip on the people.  The end of this book leaves uncertainty in the air.  They won, but what will the Capital do to them next?

(2) Catching Fire – Katniss and Peeta are sent from District to district to be shown off as victors.  They see the conditions of each place and recognize the types of people who they had to kill from the different districts in the arena.  The Girl on Fire, as Katniss is called (because of her amazing costume designer Cinna), lights a flame of rebellion as she is seen by certain districts.  They are sent back to District 12, but things have gotten worse there.  Katniss, a hunter, can no longer get around the electric fence to the woods, the old peace keepers have been replaced by tougher more army like people, and a new head peacekeeper takes violent vengeance on everyone who breaks rules.  The black market is burned, Katniss’ love interest from 12 is whipped to near death, but it doesn’t matter because the year ends up being a Quarter Quell.  Victors from past Hunger Games are to reenter the Hunger Games, and fight to the death.  Peeta and Katniss are rounded up and placed again in the ring.  The President of the Capital shows his power and scares Katniss.  There is a lot of build up, but the Hunger games have  more personality this time around.  The victors are very unique and have reasons they had won the Hunger Games before.  It would be very intense.  Though the games never finish.  The rebellion is behind the scenes.  This book is about Rebellion – and stands up to the times we are in with Revolutions around the world.  It takes a long time to build the action, but the action is very creative.  Well written, and the end of the book again blows your mind.  The discovery of the hidden and forgotten district 13, with nuclear arms, promises hope for the rebellion. People die to fight the capital, then get bombed.  District 12 is wiped clean at the end of this book.

(3) Mockingjay – This book begins in District 13.  Katniss is disoriented and spends a lot of time building up the nerve to be the “Mockingjay” of the people.  Basically a symbol of the rebellion – the Girl on fire.  Much of the book is about details of spreading rebel propaganda to the Capital which has closely secured television networks.  She visits the battlefield, you see her get to know her sister more.  They find a comfort from the family cat, though Katniss has a hate relationship with it.  District 13 is underground and has nuclear armaments.  The President of 13 is just as conniving and brilliant as the President of the Capital.  Coin is her name.  Snow is the name of the Capital’s president.  They are both power brokers with ruthless plans for their rule.  Katniss cares nothing for power, but eventually agrees to be the Mockingjay and goes into battle.  Much of this book is about medications, order in the community, fighting the Capital, but the end builds to a Real Life Hunger Games as the rebels move into the Capital after capturing all the districts and their resources.  Katniss promises to take the life of President Snow and so she pushes her military unit into the heat of battle and they end up in some tough spots.  They lose most of their team but in the end there is a shocker.  The rebels take the city, but it seems that Coin had it staged that many children would be bombed to make people hate President Snow.  Katniss can’t stand Coin or Snow in the end.  She gets knocked so bad by the end bombs that she has to be patched up, but the series really takes some interesting turns here.  I  won’t reveal the very end but I will say that I expected it to end as it did.

Conclusion – This series is perfect to be read in conjunction with what is happening in our world today.  The rebellions, the survival of people across the world, the huge amount of accumulated wealth in contrast to abject poverty in most of the nations of the earth and the feeling of being under the thumb of those who hold onto power in the midst of walls and money.  The people who live in the midst of the wealth have no clue how bad the world is as a whole, or if they feel it, it is more of a ghost of a feeling rather than an actual knowledge.  There are many who choose not to know that the world outside the walls are not as nice as within.  But the strength of this book really shows how those who are refined on the outside, without realizing it, are much stronger, and their wills eventually win out.  Those who live in complacency and within the walls of corruption and greed – eventually fall.  Why?  People build good nations on bonds of loyalty and trust.  Any nation ruled on the back of pure power and fear will eventually be superseded. Whether God intends this, or it is just a basic principle, I highly recommend all to read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  A very worthy read and right up there (in the realm of ideas and worlds) as the Dune Series by the Hebert (though much smaller in scope as a universe). The movies will be coming out soon as well.  That will be interesting.  Read the books first!

The Adjustment Bureau and How to View the World: Free Will vs. Predestination

**warning – possible spoilers**

Amanda and I recently saw The Adjustment Bureau and it really got me thinking about some big theological concepts.  First of all, however, it is a spectacular movie to watch.  The world David Norris (Matt Damon) and Elise Sellars (Emily Blunt) occupy is a stark one.  It is the city, made of concrete, rigid pillars, highly structured politics, and plenty of police and authority figures.  Norris is a rising young politician who is being groomed for the Presidency but is currently running for Senate.  Elise is a dancer.  They meet in a bathroom after Norris is defeated, but the chaos of Elise Sellars and their mutual attraction, inspires him to give a candid rather than scripted speech.  Slowly, however, you find that even that random encounter is not random.  There are agents assigned to great people (the movie hints that they are a sort of angelic force who watches over humanity). When Norris’s watcher slips up and misses an opportunity to make him spill coffee and miss a bus – Norris meets Elise a second time, they flirt, and Damon begins to reorient his life.  The watchers look in their book of plans and see their characters off course.  That wasn’t supposed to happen. (The Predestined begin to make their own lives).

Next – a whole new world is opened.  Agents take Norris to a different dimensional warehouse for interrogation.  From this point on Norris is aware that he has to live rigidly according to plan, that his life and Elise’s will not reach their full potential unless he stays away from her, and that if he purposely defies or reveals the existence of the Agency, his mind will be erased and he will fall into obscurity and insanity.

This is where the movie gets into the kind of mind warping that the movie Inception brought about.  Doors are revealed that if opened using a certain hat, they warp the agents from spot to spot.  They are not omnipresent and they can’t control everything, however they have different degrees of skill in bringing about “The Plan”.  They are extremely hierarchical and they employ “riot police”.  They are also afraid of upsetting the top tier of The Agency, including the Top Dog who appears to be God himself.

To be honest, this is a scary version of the world. It presents the very basics of the concept of Predestination in theology.  That God has complete control and brings about His plans regardless of what we perceive to be choices.  In this case, the agency is the wall that keeps us in our tracks.

Then, the concept of Free Will is broached with Damon’s character begins to break the tracks.  God somehow loses control at times or gives up control to see if humanity can handle free will and make good happen.  The breakout of the two world wars were told to be a Time with God allowed humanity a chance to live freely.  We failed, and God took control back with the agency with this Gestapo like Angelic Super Squad with fashions stuck in the 50s.

In the end, Norris and Elise take the case all the way to the highest court – God Himself.  Though God isn’t actually present, he has been watching the whole thing and when the two main characters break through everything in their path to stay together, God gives a report to the agents and allows their Plans to be removed, or changed.  They win and God is pleased.  You will have to see the movie to see how this whole thing plays out.  I enjoyed it.

But it did make me uncomfortable in a lot of ways.  One, God continues the Hollywood streak of being a hands off kind of being.  The one who created everything allows an Agency to run the Created.  The allowance of a Holy Spirit interacting in human affairs and moving the hearts of people isn’t directly part of the script.

Also – the negative view of humanity is devoid of the great good that people do every day.  It just shows that we automatically assume that we are all sinful creatures with little hope of redemption.  Very Calvinist.  But theologically, Christ came to redeem creation and make it new and whole again.  Being an optimist, I don’t see the world like this film portrays it.  The world is full of hope because Christ came.  The World Wars happened, but great forces of good stood up and Pushed against Evil, and the Axis fell and fell hard.  The good folks who fought to bring freedom to the persecuted peoples of the world learned from the reconstruction mistakes in World War I and did things differently.  The world has lived in the shadow of our greatest darkness and the greatest light since then.  You can’t present the darkness of people’s hearts without recognizing that God originally created us for Good and His goodness in Christ transforms people from the inside out.  We still mess up, but we are getting better!

I would love to hear how the film struck you.  Do you feel the world is rigid like this?  Do you feel that the world is merely being maintained? Or is the will of humanity being transformed and moving towards a better Kingdom – The Kingdom of God?  I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Feel free to comment below.

 

Ministry in New England is Different than the rest of the country

I just read this article on how New England is the least churched area of the country now (at the expense of the also less religious Northwest).  Being from New Hampshire myself, I always think it is weird seeing people talk about my home state and region talked of as a missions field.  But mission is global, so I shouldn’t feel too weird.  Jesus sent his disciples to the ends of the earth – that includes the corners of the United States…yes, even cold places where snow ever falls (aka – the Great Northern Wilderness).

What is also interesting is how there is always guilt about failure in New England.  I actually have a friend that came up to Boston to help plant a church.  I know many others from the South and other regions that came up to New England to start something up.  Problem is – many become self-isolated real fast.

New England is not just one culture – it is a mash-up of many cultures all interacting at a very high intellectual level in some spheres and then in a more folksy hard worker way in others.  In order to minister you need to know how the cities developed historically, the hardness of pioneering in the area, the survival and hard nature of the fisherman, and the history of independent thinkers who see themselves as trailblazers.

Things southerners probably don’t like about northerners.  (1) Blunt and to the point conversations.  Plain speaking is expected up north.  Polite people are probably hiding something.  (2) Arguments are normal.  If you don’t like a good debate that gets the blood boiling you might want to go home.  Debate is good conversation and keeps people sharp when they’re cold.  (3) History goes way back, families have histories in the communities, and you need to listen to the stories.  You will not become part of that history in the first generation.  Start a family, start a church, raise up your kids and through your family minister to those in your sphere.  You may not be a New Englander, but your kids might be.  The best stories of growing churches in New England are started out of prayer groups.  A bunch of ladies getting together, praying together, then calling a pastor to lead their growing flock.  Make sure that you’re not using a method that doesn’t match how New Englander’s do things.  Personal faith is big and the ladies have a lot of power.   (4) Friends don’t come easy.  I don’t know if it is the weather, or the pioneering distrust of others – but it is work making a friend in the North.  You have to be free enough to laugh at yourself if you are mocked when you try to reach out to others – but guaranteed – if you make a friend in New England, you will likely remain friends forever.  Why is that?  I don’t know – just know that it may take years to build  a few good supportive relationships.

Ultimately, the deliberation on why New England is unchurched belongs to the people of New England.  There are movements in our area that are strong and vigorous.  Having graduated from Gordon Conwell and ministered at Grace Chapel in Lexington, I know that ministry can flourish.  The problem is that New Englanders need to own the problem themselves.  Call it indigenous missions or whatever you like.

If we see New England church like the Church of Acts, spreading the Gospel again to people who literally have not heard how God loves them – that’s still powerful and that is a lifelong committment, not a 10 year gig.

Being Human: Foolishness and Rahoboam, Solomon’s Son

This morning I was invited by the Associate Pastor of our church to speak to a men’s small group out in Bluffton, SC.  He asked me to talk about the youth ministry and provide some sort of devotion for the men and that the format would be an hour long breakfast.  Thinking that an hour would be a long time, I did my usual over-preparation for speaking and had several points of conversation.

What I actually got to:

(A)  Where our Youth Ministry has come from. 

(B) Where our youth ministry is now. 

(C) The scriptural foundation for Incarnational (Jesus Centered) ministry among youth.

(D) How others can help out – get to know one of our families and show them that you care about their wellbeing.

We had some great question and answers and I am so thankful for the support of so many from our church.  It was so affirming to have so many concerned men from our conversation surround me.

But there was one thing I didn’t get to that was really going to be a Meat and Potatoes kind of message.  It is something that I’ve ruminated over ever since the first time I read through the entirety of scripture because I hardly ever hear anyone talk about it.  I noticed it simply because I have studied the sociological histories of the different American Generations since we developed as a nation, and I saw a similar pattern of generations in the forming of, maintenance, and then later deterioration of the nation of Israel.

The point I didn’t have time for was the story of Rahoboam, the son of Solomon. 

In 2 Chronicles 10 in the Old Testament of scripture, Solomon – Israel’s wisest and most powerful King is now out of the picture.  It is time for a son of Solomon to become King and there is a tricky political situation that occurs as the young leadership tries to take hold.  The elders of the nation gather from the different tribes and there is a conversation between the one to be annointed, Rahoboam, who is Solomon’s son, and the people.  It is obvious that the nation has had some momentum for quite some time.  As their identity has unfolded as a people, they have gone from wandering Semitic people in the desert to slaves, to wanderers, to a military caravan of tribes, to land owners and Justice dealers, to Magistrates of towns and cities and ultimately to being a people over a land with Kings and a history.  God brought them to this point because he promised it to Abraham way back in the generations.  God said, “I will bless the nations through you.”  Kings Saul, then David, and then the greatest – Solomon, had gone through terrible times and great wars to provide security for the people.  It wasn’t until the reign of Solomon that they had such respect and security that they could build God’s temple to God’s specifications and the people could see the results of generations of hardship and determination.

But there was an issue in Rahoboam’s generation that would play itself out with massive consequences.  The children of Solomon’s generation had never wandered, they hadn’t fought the terrible wars, they didn’t build the buildings or the towns they inhabited, and the systems of food distribution, diplomacy and general well being were not of their experience.  They were inheriting a blessed nation with no realization or appreciation for how they had gotten there.  They expected greatness. They expected power.  They were entitled to everything they had always had.

Does this sound familiar?  In America there was a time of pioneering and wandering across the land.  We fought revolution, civil war, and world wars – all which set our place in this world as determined people respected and revered for what we can do.  We fixed problems, built cities, dreamed big and got results.  We produced more and consumed more and more all within the boundaries of the safety we built on our North American continent.  The blessings have flowed from generation to generation.  But something has happened as our hand became dominant.  Since World War II, something has changed.

In the book “Me, Myspace, and I” by Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D, the generations are spread out and their main characteristics laid bare.  The Greatest Generation of World War II are a largely silent generation who worked hard and did what they had to to make our nation safe and to make it work.  Then the Baby Boomer Generation, characterized by their ability to work hard and almost worship their ability to provide for their families, made our nation prosper and brought wealth and new ideas that changed the whole world.  Next came Generation X, which was a generation that worked to have fun.  They love recreation and the ability to experience life and all it has to offer by doing more and pushing harder.  And now, we have developed the Internet Generation – a generation that wants to play and work at the same time.  The world is a playground where we can create and mold our visions to our will.

This video that was just released by celebrity Will Smith’s daughter Willow demonstrates the Ethos of Generation Y/Internet Generation:

If you watched the whole film you will see that the exuberance of the youth today is like an electric ball of energy.  “21st Century Girl. I do what I want.” They will create new orders and penetrate institutions like no institutions because they want to be in control.  When they grow older, everything is set to change even faster than it has.

But there is a problem with this.  They don’t have the experience that has anchored previous generations.  We live in an America with no surviving World War I veterans still living.  The last died recently at age 110.  The youth culture has so quickly progressed that many adults who have been charged with raising this generation have been more like buddies than parents molding the character and formation of children.  In a world where kids have access to anything they want and have no understanding of ultimate sacrifice other than a few words on a paper – it is hard for this generation to understand true pain and what it feels like to live in material, relational, or situational poverty.   Even when out on missions trips in youth groups or on service projects, the experiences take some time to take hold.  It is hard for them to realize that the problems of the world are big.  That there is still more to work on and that we as Americans have not arrived.

Okay, so editorial aside, what does this have to do with Rahoboam, the son of Solomon?  His generation had everything at his finger tips like this upcoming generation today does.  He had the wisdom of the remaining elders, he had the vigor of youth, and the wealth and security of a military and a trained populace.  His situation looks a lot like ours does today or very soon from today.  What happened when he was to become King over the land?

He consulted the elders and they asked for a period of rest for the people after the great projects of Solomon.  He consulted his youthful advisors and they told him to tell the people that they will feel his whip and they will do greater things than in the days of his father.  He chose the youthful mode of power, and announced he would be a scourge to them.  He chose the mantle of power and misunderstood where his power came from.  Even an Israelite king governed by the consent of the people under the anointing of God.  When the northern tribes heard there would be no rest they replied, the House of Judah can do its own work (Judah was the tribe of King David, Solomon, and now Rahoboam).  Their nation split into two, and the decline of Israel followed.  The north would later be conquered by the Assyrians, and the south would later be conquered by Nebuchadnezzar and the people of Babylon.  Dire consequences for youthful pride.

Since I am part of this generation I feel like I have a voice to speak about these things.  God loves to bless his people, but when a generation assumes that they are inherently powerful and dominant, they also begin to rely less on God.  They become Imperialistic and Lord their power over others in the name of God, but the only God they recognize is themselves.

Why was I going to speak about this to the men’s breakfast in Bluffton?  It is a heavy message after all.  I believe that the older generation needs to hear that the young people who are slowly coming up into the ranks are in dire need of the Wisdom of previous generations.  I believe that our idealists need the temperment of your experience and the stories that you hold within your hearts and mind.  I believe that your faith and your courage and your ideas are still necessary as a temporary rudder for my own Generation as we begin to take over the course.  We need to respect and revere the people who have done so much, but even if our generation comes off as arrogant and does not provide that respect – we still need all of you.

I know I didn’t get to that part of the message, but it will be a theme that runs through everything I do in our ministry.  All Generations need to come together to show the Body of Christ as full an whole.  We cannot afford to take our gifts and talents and retire to our corners of culture.  Youth culture may seem interesting and dominant but it lacks vision beyond its raw energy.  I know God is in control, but I sometimes worry about the times to come.  We have a few different paths we can take – but all good paths include a strong foundation and staying in relationship with America’s and the World’s youth.

Arcade Fire: The Suburbs Presents A Short Film “Scenes From the Suburbs” by Spike Jonze

Since seeing Arcade Fire perform “Wake Up” with David Bowie a few years back, they have continued to be my favorite band.  Their EP “Funeral” is one of the best composed albums I have ever heard for many reasons.  They recently released “The Suburbs” which won a Grammy this year – so I picked it up at Best Buy (old school, I know).  Actually have been listening to it in my car for the last week and a half now.

(1) Listening through once it was a beautiful album with a lot of energy in explosive points.  Track 15 blew me away.

(2) I listened to track 15 and 1 over and over again.

(3) I realized I was going to kill 15 (The Sprawl 2, Mountains Beyond Mountains) so I relistened to whole album.  Amazing.

(4) Tracks 1-4 Rehaunt me. Absolutely poetic and the second round of listening through is better now that I’ve started looking through the lyrics.

This video from youtube is actually a Preview for a 30 minute short film based on the album “The Suburbs”.  I just watched it and found myself realizing how real the images feel.  The suburbs they show look just like my neighborhood in South Carolina (though the shots are from California probably).  The crisis at the end with the police, sirens, and disturbed tranquility happened right in my neighborhood recently and I remember kids on their bikes just watching.

There is a reason this album won a Grammy.  Make sure to read the lyrics.  I will be watching this short film when I can.  Blew me away.

“Scenes from the Suburbs” Info:

CREDITS:
ARCADE FIRE PRESENTS A MJZ PRODUCTION OF
A SHORT FILM BY SPIKE JONZE “SCENES FROM ‘THE SUBURBS’”
BASED ON THE ALBUM ”THE SUBURBS” BY ARCADE FIRE
STARRING SIENNA BLAW, SAM DILLON, ZOE GRAHAM, ZEKE JARMON, PAUL PLUYMEN & ASHLIN WILLIAMSON
MUSIC BY ARCADE FIRE
CONCEPT ARTIST MARCEL DZAMA
COSTUMES BY RENATA MORALES & CAROLINE KARLEN
CASTING BY VICKY BOONE
PRODUCTION DESIGNER ELLIOTT HOSTETTER
EDITOR JEFF BUCHANAN
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY GREIG FRASER
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS ARCADE FIRE  &  SCOTT RODGER
PRODUCED BY VINCENT LANDAY
WRITTEN BY SPIKE JONZE, WILL BUTLER & WIN BUTLER
DIRECTED BY SPIKE JONZE

TOTAL RUNNING TIME: 30 MINUTES, COLOR

Diane Lane Picked to Play Martha Kent in Superman Franchise Reboot

Superman Returns was faithful to the film version of Superman in many ways, but it just didn’t pull contemporary viewers into the experience the way Batman Begins or The Dark Knight have.  Even the new Star Trek reboot comes to mind.  A little more rock and roll and a bit more faithfulness to the original comics would have been nice.

In a great move, the part of Martha Kent, the adoptive mother of Kal El aka Clark Kent, will be played by Diane Lane.  Initially my reaction is that she is beautiful, and really conveys the smile of Martha that Annette O’Toole originally portrayed in the WB series Smallville.  I am looking forward to seeing how they portray the woman of deep conviction whose story is essential for the development of Superman being Human in all the good ways and not the bad.

In many early comics, the Kent family is associated with the Methodist faith, which is a Christian group that puts a high value on Social Justice and taking Jesus serious when he tells us to care for the poor and needy.  This certainly is in line with Superman’s need to bring Justice to the people of Earth but also his ability to step back when he is offered praise and adoration towards deification.

Looking forward to the developments of this film. The writing and character development will be crucial.  Crosses fingers.

See People Article Here.

Two Greeks: A Conversation on Ultimate Freedom

An ancient conversation between Anthropos and Bios, two friends who like to have conversations over a good meal.

ANTHROPOS:  This lamb is wonderful.

BIOS: I’m so glad you like it.

ANTHROPOS: Yes, now you were saying – something about your life.

BIOS: Of course, I was wondering about how you live yours.  What is your philosophy of life.

ANTHROPOS: I try to live as best I can.  I try not to hurt other people as much as possible, I enjoy myself.  I believe in ultimate freedom.

BIOS: What do you mean by ultimate freedom?

ANTHROPOS: Ultimate Freedom, of course.  I feel that everyone has a right to be exactly as they wish to be.  We are all made a certain way and no other person has the right to impose any sort of unchosen life on us.

BIOS: So each person is a free agent, of sovereign will, who should be whatever they wish to be.

ANTHROPOS: Exactly – the destiny of the individual belongs to the individual.  We are who we are.

BIOS: I see.  I have a nephew who is now 6 years old.  Would you allow me to apply your wonderful idea to his life?

ANTHROPOS: Certainly.  How odd though.

BIOS: Indulge me like with your wonderful lamb.

ANTHROPOS: Of course. (Laughs)

BIOS: My nephew is a wonderful child.  He just began being tutored and has shown a great desire to learn.  His curiosity for machinery and anything that moves such as elephants and horses, well, they fascinate him.

ANTHROPOS: He should be encouraged to become an engineer!

BIOS: Of course he should.  But then there are times when he becomes quite impossible.  His mood can change even while playing with him when he suddenly becomes a grump.  He will no longer play, he will no longer answer questions, and his attitude towards his mother becomes rude and antagonistic.

ANTHROPOS: Well, a quick pat on the…

BIOS: (interrupting) But – you did say that humans should have Ultimate Freedom. No?

ANTHROPOS: It seems a bit silly when applied to a child.

BIOS: Then perhaps you could add an amendment to this, giving room for the wily nature of childhood.

ANTHROPOS: Yes, children are different than older people.

BIOS: Why is that?

ANTHROPOS: Well, they are still developing.  Becoming…people.

BIOS: So they are exempt from the Ultimate Freedom principle.

ANTHROPOS: Children would have to be.  But I hate to make that concession.  Romantically I want to believe that we are all born to be who we are born to be.  It feels wrong to say otherwise.

BIOS: But being true to our nature, there is a time of molding that occurs. When we look at a child, even physically, we see that we are not born complete into adulthood.  Muscles have to grow, bones have to lengthen, vocal chords have to be tried for a time and the brain itself becomes larger.  Certainly, there is a time of growth and molding.  We are not completely born to be what we are meant to be physically.

ANTHROPOS: That is true.

BIOS: And consider the education we give our children.  They do not automatically know how to do math.  Nor can they automatically read.  And only in the nurture of adults guiding them do we learn what they are good and not good in proficiency at.  Even then we have to tell them their strengths and weaknesses, helping them to shore up and work on the weak points and to encourage them in their strengths for the purposes of self esteem.

ANTHROPOS: You are right.  Up until a point, we are growing.

BIOS: And – we are not completely free.  Imagine a child wandering wherever they would like.  How often have you seen a child nearly hit by a wild horse in the broadways of our metropolis.  If our caretakers did not enforce a simple rule, to hold an adult’s hand when standing near the streets, our news would often be much more tragic.

ANTHROPOS: Of course it would.  I do see your point Bios.  Children need rules and guidance to grow correctly.  So I would like to amend my original statement.  It was too broad.

BIOS: I see.  So if I may, you would like to say something like, “If one has completely become an adult, they deserve Ultimate Freedom to be whatever and however they choose to be.”

ANTHROPOS: If, they do not harm another!

BIOS: Yes! I remember you bringing that up earlier.  But like the child who needs guidance from an adult hand, isn’t that also a rule? I appreciate your desire to simplify the entire lawcode to one simple phrase, but imagine how complicated that one phrase can become.  “Don’t harm another” becomes, once violated, “Do not hit your spouse in anger,” and “Do not burn your neighbor’s house down.”

ANTHROPOS: But if no one did any wrong, there would not need to be any law at all!

BIOS: But do people do wrong to one another?

ANTHROPOS: Yes they do, but it is not necessary.

BIOS: No evil is.  It just exists when we do it.  And laws are made as we violate what we did not previously know would harm another.

ANTHROPOS: Bios, I am stirred so much that I don’t know what to think right now.  I only know that I wish to hold onto this ideal.

BIOS: Ultimate Freedom! I too desire this ideal my friend.  I wish what is wrong is not to be done.  But so long as people do wrong to others, there will be laws and the desire to make things right again.

ANTHROPOS: Justice in other words.

BIOS: Yes.  Justice, or the seeking to make things right again.  A balancing.

ANTHROPOS: True, we are always in need of better Justice.

BIOS: Let us leave it there there, and continue to enjoy this lamb while it is still warm.

ANTHROPOS: (Laughs) It really isn’t as good as you have praised it.

BIOS: But is is better than nothing at all, and I am hungry.

ANTHROPOS: Then let us eat.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

After reading The Hunger Games and Mockingjay, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find a good Sci-Fi book that I would enjoy anytime soon.  But my book club changed that.  This month we are reading Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.  I went into it with a bad attitude, but it has blown up in my face.

What makes this book stand out is that it follows two kids alternating style.  One one is a guy named Alek, who is the heir to kingship in Austria, but his father is murdered and war breaks out in the time of WWII.  The other is a girl named Deryn, who is a daughter of a balloonist who has passed away.  She pretends she is a boy to get into the Royal Air Force and makes a name for herself.

Not only that, but this novel has some neat innovations.  It is set historically around WWI, but the world is completely different.  Germany builds massive machines like Land Destroyers that move on legs but have the basic designs of a Naval destroyer.  Their engineering know how has made a robotic military real.  Then there are the Darwinists, like Britain and France, who have used the DNA of the animal kingdom to make creatures that serve mankind.  One such vessal is a giant whale like creature filled with Hydrogen like a Zepplin, but made up of so many animal species to maintain an ecosystem that it is barely recognizable.  It has everything humans need rigged to it and strapped on so there are bridges, quarters, storage, and of course guns.

The battles between beasts and machines are blazing and action packed.  I’m about half way through this book and I’ll do a full review once I am finished.  Check it out.  Kudos Scot Westerfeld.

Being Human: Making a Decision (Do it!)

In Bluffton, SC there is a large downtown intersection with four stop signs and four entrances.  It is a four-way intersection.  There are some interesting observations about 4-ways that came up as I drove through it the other day.  I noted how they can be extremely dangerous and quite a few things have to happen for them to work properly.  First, someone has to care for the public welfare and actually stop at the stop sign.  Next, the drivers have to look around and assess the situation.  There may be many different cars around.  They also have to remember that the first person to the 4-way gets to go first.  Then, if two come at the same time, the person on the right gets dibs.  But there is one crucial step that often does not happen that slows down these intersections.

Someone has to get beyond assessment and make a decision. I have the feeling some people never stop assessing the situation and just don’t like to leap.

We all tend to know how the intersection works, but if someone does not decide to go – then everyone stalls.  I get infuriated when the person that is supposed to go decides to wait.  They ruin the system and then there are suddenly multitudes of options available.  Essentially – if the first person who should go does not go, then the rules no longer apply. Someone has to decide to go first.  But if everyone decides to go first – everyone has to stop to avoid collision.

So the trick is to decide to do the best possible action.

In my case, most people decide not act as the system completely breaks down – I almost always decide to go.  I make eye contact with everyone – I note the ambivalence of the crowd – and then I book it.  The decision has been made – it has been made by me.  I am gone.

I wasn’t always a decision maker.  Growing up I remember the comfort of group consensus in a large family, but there are times when no one is stepping up.  I have come to believe that Making a Decisions is the beginning of true leadership.  A leader is someone who can make a decision and accept all the possible rewards or consequences associated with that decision.  A leader makes or breaks a project or a goal or an action based on how well they assess a situation, make a plan, and execute with the hopes of desired results meet or exceed expectations.

I experienced different types of leadership under two High School Youth Pastors I worked with at Grace Chapel in Lexington, MA.  I worked with them and I was fascinated by their ability to assess a situation (which means real processed thought based on experience and research, not just knee jerks), allocate resources and personnel to the issue,  and work towards the resolution of any problem by continuing to troubleshoot until the desired results were achieved.  Creating small groups, meeting with parents, making teaching schedules, allocating interns to projects, retreats, finances, whatever – the leader is like the engine of a greased up machine and I admire that.

Sometimes the world is padded and buffered so that no decisions or expertise is needed, but when you get down to it, you really want to be in a group with a person that can make a decision. We make buttons to cover up complex processes, in order to allow easy access – but if something in that process breaks down you need someone who understands what is behind the button. At the very least you need someone who can make a decision to fix or replace what is causing the issue with the button.

Sometimes that decision maker is you.  So sit down and think about the actual mechanism of the decision.  Can you do it?  Are you willing to take up that responsibility?  Where can you make the best decisions and in what way can your plans be carried out the greatest?

Expertise + Resources + Decisions = An executable Plan.  Without a Plan, we are all doomed to mediocrity and crashing our cars.

Being Human: Advancing Humanity by Paying Attention

When Boeing was planning their new 787 Dreamliner, they  planned big and embraced the global market.  Rather than keeping their blueprints and components in house, they outsourced 30% of the components of the plane (compared to 5% on other craft).  They were seeking efficiency (by giving other companies a lot of the work designing components) and they were seeking savings (by taking bids for the cheaper parts in other countries across the globe).  What happened?  They are now behind schedule and it is costing them a furtune.  Other companies made parts that didn’t fit.  Some were unable to “meet quotas” (LATimes – link above), meaning manufacturing would cease until parts could come in.  And all of this because Boeing stopped doing one thing for its own planes – they stopped Paying Attention to the details.

Good work and good products are not as hard to produce as some people think.  If someone has a passion to do something, communicates the vision, and is able to pull together the resources to start its production – something is going to happen.  But success or failure still depends on the ability of that person or a group of people to hold those making the product accountable to Pay Attention to making something of Quality.  Whether it is an engine or a Big Mac – standards need to be thought out, rules brokered, guidelines made – all so that you reduce the issues of bad quality products that have to be scrapped.

I remember working and building a team for the sound booth at my last youth group.  You could teach a student to use a computer, how to use Mediashout, and how to make a script of videos and scripture for the talk. You could teach them to edit film, and how to que the stage when there was a problem.  But time and time again, with every student I taught – the hardest thing to teach was how to Pay Attention.  Every new tech member had a terrifying moment when they realized that they had not been paying attention and there was now a problem.  A log jam of issues now presented themselves and the stress mounted.  The student either kept a cool head and improvised and got things back on track – or they freaked out and yelled something out and the speaker had to make due for a while.  But if attention had been kept, the show would have gone on, and no one would have noticed.  Quality is a direct result of paying attention.

There are so many things we can daydream about.  And we could die doing nothing but daydreaming and producing nothing worthwhile.  We are all taught to dream, but eventually you have to write down what you see in your head.  You have to make a plan.  You have to tell others.  And then at that point, you have to implement the plan with as much careful and detailed attention as you possibly can.  Even if that product fails, if you put your blood, sweat, and tears into the project – it is worthwhile.  A million failures and one win is still a win.  So pay attention to what you are doing.  Don’t let others who are be the only ones who make the world change for the better.  Do something well.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,351 other followers

%d bloggers like this: