Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Best Imitation of Myself

I stumbled across Creative Loafing today, where Chuck Bryan introduces himself by quoting Chariots of Fire:
"I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure." Eric Liddell

I thought it might be fun to solicit movie quotations related to personal identity. I know that Mr. Steve has a prodigious memory for movies, and I suspect that other readers have some films that triggered their self-consciousness. I'll get the ball rolling; feel free to post often and invite your friends to play along.

"You shovel better than any man I know. But that doesn't make you a superhero." Mystery Men

Friday, February 24, 2006

Meanwhile, over at Strangely Dim

If you like the show 24, check out Strangely Dim for an imagined devotional journey into the show. Also, my thanks to Mr. Steve for turning me on to 24 Facts About Jack Bauer. Have fun! Come back!

Thoughtful Activism?

I've been told in the past that I need to get out of my head and into my body, which is to say that I think too much and don't do enough. As a person who values thoughtfulness (see my previous post) and admires activism, I took the comment seriously. But how do I travel from brain to body? How does anyone? So here's the question I'm begging you to reflect on and address:

Which do you think is more likely to consistently lead to some kind of action: personal reflection during a time of solitude, or mutual reflection during a time of heartfelt conversation? Why? How can the two work together?

Friday, February 17, 2006

I Gotta Question

Hey, everybody, I've got a question. I'm so interested in this question that I'm going to post it here and at my corporate blog Strangely Dim (brought to you by InterVarsity Press, a division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, all rights reserved):

What would help American Christianity to be more thoughtful?

You can interpret thoughtful in whatever sense you prefer, and you may think about Christianity as one big collection of people or as a demographic of individuals or anywhere in between. My only stipulation, I suppose, is that I'd like you to at least think about how you would answer if "American Christianity" were replaced by "me" or "us." Spread the word, too; I'd like to get a good cross-section of people involved in this.

I don't know the answer, myself, so I choose not to respond but rather to make comments about your responses. So there.

Thanks! Have fun--play nice.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Misquoting Jesus

Misquotings, misspellings or otherwise missing the mark are pet peeves of mine. I know I'm likely the chief of these sinners, but it doesn't change the fact that my editorial hackles are raised when people make simple errors--unless, of course, their mistakes provide me with some sort of entertainment. A lot of those come from church through e-mails, bulletins or Power Point presentations. Here are a couple I've run across recently:

God promises a safe landing, not a clam passage.

What's a clam passage? I always thought clams were pretty sedentary.

The treasures of God are more precious than God.

I assume this person meant "more precious than gold," but you know what happens when we assume . . .

More subtle, perhaps, is when two incompatible activities are joined, such as

The sermon this morning: "Jesus Walks on the Water." The sermon tonight: "Searching for Jesus."

That's probably made up, but what isn't made up is that on multiple occasions I've been invited to speak at some event, and immediately before I start talking a band plays the song "Let My Words Be Few." Not cool, folks, not cool.

I'm an editor, so stuff like this is supposed to get my attention and raise my blood pressure. But I've also had the experience of people feeling self-conscious about how they talk in front of me, as though I'm secretly editing them as they speak, making notes about how I will incorporate their torturous English into a post such as this one. I feel bad for those folks and try to put them at ease, but ultimately it's just a professional hazard.

As unfortunate it is that people make embarrassing errors in how they communicate, it's perhaps more unfortunate that we allow our fear of embarrassment override our desire for meaningful community. I'm reminded of a scene from A Fish Called Wanda:

Wanda, do you have any idea what it's like being English? Being so correct all the time? Being so... stifled by this dread of doing the wrong thing?

Of saying to someone "Are you married?" and hearing "My wife left me today"?

Or saying..."Do you have children?" and being told they all burned
to death on Wednesday?

You see, Wanda, we're all...terrified of embarrassment. That's why we're so... dead.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Today's Challenge: Use "Morass" in a Sentence

Check out what N. T. Wright, bishop of Durham and genuine genius, had to say to the House of Lords last week:

Freedom of speech . . . is useless if it is only selectively enjoyed, and if it is not combined with appropriate responsibility. If "freedom of speech" is to be rehabilitiated as a useful concept, it needs to be set within a larger context of social and cultural wisdom. We have to find a way through the postmodern morass, not in order to go back to Enlightenment modernism, but in order to go through and out the other side into the construction of a new world of civility and mature public life. For this, freedom of speech has to be reciprocal; it needs the disciplines of interaction, of patient listening and attention.

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Lately I've had my head stuck in the Beatitudes, a series of blessings pronounced by Jesus at the beginning of his sermon on the mount. My pastor is preaching on them, our drama troupe is exploring them in two translations, and I'm reading a book on them (Unexpected Blessing by Fuller Seminary professor Cameron Lee. Right now--probably because I'm so naturally morose--I'm stuck on "Blessed are those who mourn." Here's a little piece of Cameron Lee's thoughts:

When we see evidence of human brokenness, does it affect us at all? If not, one thing we can do is to recognize how the culture we live in encourages a look-the-other-way attitude. In such a world, mourning can be subversive.

You know me, I love to be subversive.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Prayer About Time, Part Three

I'm long past due posting the final stanzas of Robert Banks's prayer from his book The Tyranny of Time. Ironic, don't you think?

As I think about the purpose of Loud Time, I'm realizing that it demands a lot more self-discipline than I can muster up on my own. I'm purportedly writing about "all things loud and timely," which should give me plenty of ground to cover, but then I fall into navel-gazing and trolling for compliments. (Thanks to Pete, by the way, for stepping up to the mike.) Then again, loud time as a sacred practice--which is where I hope to get--is the negotiation of several I's following one big Thou. Or something like that. That's one reason I like comments--it's accountability and virtual mutual affirmation all in one. I am not the center of the universe in Loud Time, but I certainly am one occupant.

Soon to join the party, incidentally, is the as yet un-named and formally ungendered offspring of my sister and brother-in-law; check out the ultrasound and cast your gender vote here.

Anyway, here's the prayer from Banks, who remains a genius and one of my heroes. He's lucky he lives on another continent or I might very well stalk him. See the earlier posts in my December and January archives. And I promise more manly, loud and timely posts in the coming weeks.

Guard us against attempting too much because of
a false sense of our indispensability,
a false sense of ambition,
a false sense of rivalry,
a false sense of guilt,
or a false sense of inferiority:
yet do not let us mistake our responsibilities,
underestimate ourselves,
fail to be stimulated by others,
overlook our weaknesses,
or know our proper limits.

Enable us also to realise
that important though this life is, it is not all,
that we should view what we do in the light of eternity,
not just our limited horizons,
that we ourselves have eternal life now.

God our Father,
you are not so much timeless as timeful,
you do not live above time so much as hold
"all times . . . in your hand",
you have prepared for us a time when we will have leisure
to enjoy each other and you to the full,
and we thank you, appreciate you and applaud you for it.


Monday, February 06, 2006

"I don't understand your post."
--unnamed friend and rare Loud Time reader


"Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy."
--Proverbs 27:6

I think it's fair to say I have a higher opinion of my writing than is merited. An article I published last year (it was edited and everything!) elicited one comment from a reader: "You make no sense." I think about that comment a lot. The differences between it and the one from my unnamed friend (above), however, are manifold.

My friend approached me in private, not in an anonymous comment in front of dozens of readers.

My friend asked me to explain myself, rather than telling me I'm an idiot and disappearing into the Internet.

My friend is nice; whoever wrote that other comment is a weasel.

In theory I'd rather hear constructive criticism than vain praise, but really, who am I kidding? In reality, I'm so vain I think this post is about me.

So feel free to rip me up and down here at Loud Time, because I need a little humility in my life. But in the immortal words of Jewel, "Please be careful with me; I'm sensitive and I'd like to stay that way."

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Seeing My Shadow

Happy groundhog's day. Be nice to your groundhog.

I feel a bit groundhoggy myself today. My department at work takes a break together once a week to gnosh over popcorn, but because I fear routine, I look for ways to mix it up. Lately three of us have been subtly acting different during the meeting: week one was talking in sports metaphors, week two was speaking just barely above a whisper. So far nobody's noticed, but I've noticed some quirks about how I conduct myself in conversations.

I don't want to be the center of attention, per se. I just want to be a vital part of moving the conversation forward. Not being much for sports, I panicked during week one, because I was injecting myself into the conversation so often that I ran out of jockstuff to say. Week two was worse: in order to be heard while speaking so softly, I had to either (a) limit my comments to an audience of one or two rather than the table of ten or (b) wait until everyone else quieted down to make my statement. So I wound up being the center of attention everytime the conversation came to a halt. It was uncomfortable, it was awkward, it was crosscultural.

I got a sense of the push and pull of loud time: for noise to have meaning requires a give and take, each person attending to the experience as their true self while making space for others to be at home as themselves. It's awkward, uncomfortable, crosscultural, even, but loud time in the best sense.


By the way, don't forget to tell me what you want in the post below!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What a Boy Wants

I recently heard a talk by Tony Jones, author of Postmodern Youth Ministry, that described five realities of postmodern culture. Two that linger for me are the dynamics of power in relationships and the hermeneutic of suspicion. They seem to me to be related: we are conscious of the role power plays in how we engage one another, and so we tread carefully through our days out of self-protection. It only makes sense, then, to have our antennae up about subtext and hidden agendas. No wonder I'm so paranoid.

Anyway, one way to subvert the hermeneutic of suspicion and circumvent the power dynamics that keep us from embracing one another as true friends is to declare what we want right up front. We want a range of things--many of them are noble, many are self-serving, but we want them nonetheless. So I thought I'd get the ball rolling.

I want a world where there's plenty of room at the inn. (There, now, wasn't that noble?)

I want season four of 24 on DVD.

I want to be left alone until I crave human contact.

I want another book contract.

I want to want less.

What do you want?

Both Inspiration and Cautionary Tale: Excerpts from Middling

What follows is an excerpt from the Winter 2021 edition of Middling, my quarterly newsletter on music, books, work, and getting older. I'...