31 December 2005

How Arnold Schwarzenegger Screwed Up My Life

“...are you gonna drop the bomb or not?” - Forever Young, Alphaville

I don’t know – I must have been like 14 years old or something. Damon’s parents were at a party and had rented the newest laser disc to keep us boys occupied. A giant naked man looks analytically at the three punkers and speaks in an accent I don’t recognize, “Your clothes. Give them to me. Now.” A terrible, unfeeling thing that looks human, but isn’t human, reaches back from the distant, radiation filled future to destroy a child – no, to prevent a child from ever being born.

One of the truly defining characteristics of my generation, Gen-X, is our inability to make decisions, our unwillingness to commit. We shun organizational structure and programs and we insist that we keep our options open until there is literally no option left but the one we take. Growing up with an unprecedented number of choices to make from which of 129 different coffee drinks to purchase today, to which ‘career’ we’ll pursue...until something better comes along...we see almost every choice not in terms of what a thing is, but instead in terms of what a given choice excludes.

I languished after high school because I was totally unable to pick a major. I lingered at junior college for two years because the idea of actually deciding ‘what I wanted to do with my life’ was terrifying! What if I got it wrong? What if I THOUGHT I wanted to be a writer but only because I’d never taken a fencing class – there could be a whole world out there that I shut out just by declaring a major.

And marriage – forget it! Sure, the idea of finding and marrying my soul mate – my lobster – was a great and heart warming idea...but what if I got it wrong. I couldn’t bear the thought of marrying the ‘wrong’ person only to find myself enduring a loveless marriage and ending up just another datum in the well publicised 50% divorce rate. Probably the only decision that scared me more than marriage was the thought of bearing children.

So instead I just waited. I stalled for several years in my mother’s nest. I avoided finishing school, resting instead on being “a career student.” I had a series of “serious” girlfriends. I wasn’t willing to appear fickle or promiscuous, so these relationships were always at least a year long, but while I think all of these women were in earnest about their willingness to marry, or at least consider marriage, I think I always knew that I was incapable of making that choice (in short I was an asshole). I remember once there was a pregnancy scare and the deepest cry of my heart at that moment was relief. Two of my greatest sources of anxiety, who to marry and when to have kids, had been made for me! It wasn’t like a new pressure suddenly appeared on my shoulders but rather that two huge ones had been removed. When if turned out to be a mistake, the period was just late, I was disappointed – and not because I had glimpsed my child’s eye and now saw that gaze fading away, but because I was back to that old uncomfortable ‘maybe.’ Wanting to BE married, but unwilling to GET married.

Hoping that something outside of myself would make my choices clear, sitting still, becalmed in the fog of my life was better than risking running aground on the rocks that might be ahead, and standing still was far, far better than actively approaching the apocalyptic future I knew to be inevitable.

I’m told that my parents used to have nuclear war drills in school, where the sirens would wail and all the Buster Brown wearing kids would duck under their desks. By the time I was in school, knowing that the missiles were coming meant walking out to the Rim and waiting for Norton Air Force base, a mile below us, to go up in a mushroom cloud. Hide under my desk? Attempt to survive? Fuck that noise! I wanted to be fuel for the first fireball and not fighting with mutants for the last dented can of creamed corn. Let me put it more succinctly.

There was no future worth having.

As I grew up, nuclear holocaust was a foregone conclusion. It wasn’t if, but when. And it really had nothing to do with what anybody did – it wasn’t anybody’s fault – it was just going to happen. Sooner or later somebody with a key and a death-wish would launch one little missile, it didn’t matter whether it was Soviet or American, and that would be that. Mutually Assured Destruction was the term – and it said all there was to say – my destruction was assured. Even if somehow the nukes didn’t get us, the pollution would. If it wasn’t the pollution, it was the ice age. If not the ice age, it was the fragging androids. Movies like Blade Runner and The Day After painted a sickeningly dark – but deeply believable picture of what I had to look forward to. And The Terminator, probably more than anything else, was the catalyst for my nightmares.

The movie is set not in the skull strewn future that the robot comes from, but in the sunny, bustling world of modern LA. When Reese explains who he is he says he’s from “one of many possible futures.” It’s not that Judgment Day is inevitable, but it is so powerful, so charged with emotion and blood and stainless steel, that it reaches back into the 80’s, my every day, and literally creates itself. Sarah’s raw, instinctual drive to do nothing more complicated than save her own life, is what actually dooms her and the world. One simple woman, doing only what she thinks is right, kills everybody.

The suggestion is that things might have been different. If she had only given in – not fought so hard – her death, her submission, would have prevented that particular future for ever coming to be. All options were bad options, but some were worse.

All futures were miserable futures. That was my childhood and adolescence. No wonder I grew up unwilling to make any sort of decision. Any choice heavier than what to have form breakfast meant having an eye on the future and I wretched at what I saw there. So instead I chose to do nothing – hoping against hope that some escape would open up. When the Berlin Wall came down I was more perplexed than excited. I can’t say that it seemed too good to be true, because it didn’t really seem ‘good’ to me at the time. Better than a poke in the eye – sure – but I really couldn’t understand what it meant.

It took no less than a decade for that event to bloom in my heart as hope. It was that long before dystopian visions of the future like The Matrix felt like warnings instead of prescriptions. It took those years to unlearn my anxiety, to look out ahead of myself and plan.

I look today at this war on terror and even the nuclear threat represented by Iran or North Korea, even China, and find myself wondering at the hand wringing. From my perspective, even the worst possible scenario – say a half-dozen nukes in major cities and 50 million people vaporized – is so much less, by a factor of 100, then what I grew up assuming to be inescapable. As grim as the possibilities are today I’m filled not with a sense of what WILL be, but rather what CAN be.

It’s sort of ironic that as my faith in Christ has grown, and with it my faith that the “real” apocalypse is coming in time, that my hope for the future – my future – grows ever brighter. And not for some morbid sense that I’ll be on the right side of that coming equation but because I’ve come to understand love – love that “hopeth all things” – even hope that there is joy and life and contentment in my future, and that of my children.

That hope allows me to choose, allows me to commit, allows me to move.

It was on Easter Sunday, the celebration of life’s victory over death, in the year 2000 that I proposed to my wife. The hysteria and subsequent non-event of the Millennium was the last nail in that coffin of wicked anticipation. Rebekah was the first woman that I felt like I had pursued as opposed to being pursued. I had just graduated from George Fox University – with a major in history, and with honors. I had recently begun my first ‘career’ as a web developer and less than a year later I would purchase my very first house.

I feel now that Hamlet was right. “To be, or not to be...that is the question.” Wandering in the world without purpose, without vision, without action we become like the vampires we seem so enamored with; neither alive nor dead, just there – sucking the life from everything we encounter. Not immortal, but a-mortal. And yet for most of us, life happens anyway. We fall in love despite ourselves. We bear children often on accident, jobs become careers by virtue of how long we stall there.

This change of heart has lead to some unexpected consequences in my life. Not only am I willing to seek things; love, success, my Lord, but it’s also made me willing to risk those same things – to take a loan against my home to start a business for instance. It’s not that I’m sure of my success, but rather I’m sure my ability to get up again if I fail. This is NOT my last chance, and even it it were so the hell what?

So if I’ve learned one thing – forget what lays behind. Strive toward what lays ahead. Press on.

30 December 2005

The Nature of Insurance

For some folks, this post will be a big “well, duh!” sort of thing but based on a conversation I had a while back, it seems that there are lots of other, plainly intelligent people who really need to hear this.

Imagine a woman who is thinking about leaving her job to pursue other things. But she’s someone who takes a prescription medication and is concerned about loosing the health benefits her work provides – she doesn’t think she can afford the pills on her own. For the record the pills would be about $100/mo and they are not “life-saving” but rather “comfort-enhancing.”

“It’s not fair!” she says, “Somebody ought to pick up the cost of those pills. I need them!”

After brainstorming on how she might come up with an additional $100/mo I realize that she really isn’t talking about insurance at all. What she’s looking for is a subsidy. What she really wants is for somebody, either the government or her employer, to pay for her medication regardless of the need, regardless of the cost, and regardless of whether she is paying her fair share of the cost either with cash or labor.

This is a particularly important distinction to make as our nation repeatedly argues over health insurance and how much of it should be picked up by the government. Regardless of the details of that debate, it seems to me that we need to be careful about the terms we’re using, and what I generally hear from the left isn’t really about insurance – it’s about a subsidy.

Insurance is supposed to work in this way:
  • Statistically (for example) 1 in every 10 adults will break a bone this year.
  • Fixing a broken bone will cost $100
  • Since nobody wants to pay $100, instead, 10 of us get together with an insurance company and each pitch in $11 a year.
  • Then when one of us breaks a bone – and statistically somebody will - the insurance company pays the $100 doctor bill and keeps the $10 left over.
  • Folks for whom $100 isn’t really a big deal might choose to keep their $11
  • Folks who figure they are significantly less likely than 1 in 10 to break bone might keep their money figuring they’ll just save $11 a year toward that broken bone and can pay for it themselves in just over 9 years.

So the point is to spread the financial risk out across a bunch of people so nobody gets hit with a huge bill when they are the unlucky one. Instead, they pay a small bill regularly toward the possibility (inevitability?) that something bad will happen to them.

Here’s where insurance starts to break down:
  • In an effort to attract more customers, insurance companies agree to cover more and more eventualities. The broken bone policy becomes a general “health care” policy.
  • Doctors, who know that virtually none of their patients actually pay the doctor bill themselves, have no motivation to moderate prices.
  • Patients, who never pay more than their $11 a year don’t know or care what any given procedure costs so they don’t shop. Similarly, they use their insurance policy to get things it was never intended to. Got a stuffy nose? Instead of the $8 Dayquil at Rite-Aid, they go get a prescription for Clarinex - $50.

In short, insurance only works when there are no more than the same numbers of dollars going into the pot as are being withdrawn. It only takes two people in the example above to break the system in any given year. Two broken bones means the insurance company lost money. They took in $110 and paid out $200.

It’s also important to look at on a purely individual basis. If I pay my $11 on my first year, then break my arm and back out of the deal – I’m screwing everyone in the plan. I paid in $11 and got out $100  - only to take my business elsewhere. You see this kind of thing all the time with folks who are uninsured but then find out they are pregnant. Suddenly The Baby family buys into a $100/mo policy against their $5000 baby in eight months and cancel the policy three months after the baby is born. It’s legal, but it’s exactly the kind of thing that drives insurance rates way, way up. This family has paid about $1000 for a $5000 procedure – you know who paid for the other $4000? You, me, and eventually that same family when they get their acts together. Because when Mr. Baby gets a good job, his company will pick up his insurance premium which is artificially high due to scads of folks like Mr. Baby, and his employer will directly deduct the cost of his health premium from the wage they offer him. In other words – Mr. and Mrs. Baby actually screw themselves – ironic isn’t it?

But that’s the subsidy mentality. At some level, conscious or unconscious, Mr. and Mrs. Baby believe that the money to pay for their baby is “out there” just waiting to be collected. They are willing to eat at this potluck, but not to contribute their fair share. But there is no money “out there” - tax money simply comes from your pocket and mine – we all eventually pay the piper.

So back to this woman who was leaving her job. Over time, she had stopped even noticing the deduction on her pay stub that covered her health benefits. She no longer was even aware that about $220 was taken every month – more than twice the cost of her medicine. Also, it was only when she started thinking about quitting that she asked what her pills cost, before it was a non-issue. And she had never even considered the generic brand pills that were $25/mo – because for her, the money was just ‘out there’ and she had come to think that she was entitled to it. Depending on who gets their way on this issue, she may be in time. But we have to call things what they are – this woman wanted somebody else to pay for her medicine, which is a subsidy. She had forgotten what insurance even was if in fact she ever knew.

29 December 2005

Blog on Gog and Magog

Note: This post will likely bore you to tears if you aren’t at least moderately interested in Christian end-times issues. Caveat emptor.

See: http://www.harpazo.net/magog.html

A just read this week’s K-House newsletter (www.khouse.org) and they have a section on the infamous Gog/Magog invasion, AKA The Ezekiel 38 battle. The link above is a pretty good overview of the generally accepted interpretation of this passage. But for those unfamiliar (or uninterested) in the eschatological community here’s the Cliff’s Notes:
Ezekiel 38, 39 describes a battle where the ‘nation’ of Magog, led by Gog, invades Jerusalem/Israel. It is particularly striking because it would appear that God intervenes directly and defeats the invading army with an earthquake and fire from the sky – pretty dramatic stuff. If you’re familiar with the Left Behind book or movie, the Russian invasion that precedes the rapture by several years is this same prophetic battle.

In every discussion of this passage that I can find, the assumption is that this event happens prior to the second coming. - I don’t think so.

The more extensive discussions of this topic (including the one on Harpazo) mention that Gog and Magog starting a fight is also mentioned in Revelation 20:7-9, but they conclude that this Gog fellow (beside living for at least 1000 years) is a real sucker for punishment – one divine kick in the teeth isn’t enough for him. They conclude that these are two separate events that just include he same major player and story line. - I submit that they are in fact a single event and that the Ezekiel 38 battle takes place at the end of the Millennium.

"Thus saith the Lord GOD; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought: And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, To take a spoil, and to take a prey..." Ezekiel 38:10-12

First of all, this does not describe Israel today or in the foreseeable future. Israel is NOT secure, they don’t FEEL secure and they are in the middle of building a giant wall around themselves. In fact, events in the last couple of years only make this description of Israel more inaccurate. Keep in mind that a central aspect of the Antichrist’s rise is that he brings peace (“...by peace that he will destroy many"  Dan 8:23-25) but if Israel is already secure...what’s the selling point?

Second, God’s weapon of choice in both passages is fire from heaven.
“...and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.” Rev 20:9b
“...and I shall rain on him...hailstones, fire, and brimstone. ” Ez 38:22b
It’s by no means impossible for God to use the same tactic twice, but it does generally contrary to His pattern. And with other similarities, Aukum’s Razor would seem to suggest the simplest explanation is that we’re simply seeing one event from two perspectives as opposed to some kind of divine de ja vu.

The truth is, I can’t find anything that explains why this event is presumed to happen prior to second coming. It’s like it’s this given in the prophecy community that nobody feels the need to restate. The only vague explanation I’ve stumbled across is that Ezekiel 38 directly follows Ezekiel 37, the valley of dry bones. So I guess the presumption is that the two events are closely related chronologically (the dry bones are generally thought to be a vision of Israel’s rebirth and the end of the Diaspora that started at the end of WWII. But Ez 38:1 is “And the word of the Lord came to me saying...” which indicates a new vision, not a continuation of the last one. There is no suggestion that the two visions are near one another in human time.

What about the nukes?
Ez 39:9-16 describes the way in which Israel will clean up after this big ruckus and most modern commentators see a nuclear clean-up operation. All the junk is buried downwind, there is fuel for the entire nation for seven years and civilians are to flag any bone they find in the valley so professionals can come clean it up. The suggestion is that a nuke armed enemy (presumably Russia) makes sense here and therefore we must be really close to this event.

I have to say “no deal” on this one. While the image of a CBR operation is a compelling parallel, that may just be our projection based on what we know today. 75 years ago (a blink in prophetic time) this passage was no doubt an enigma. What could it possibly be describing? But that didn’t make the prophecy any more or less true. In another 50 years, we may have developed some other weapon that more closely matches this description, will we be ‘closer?’ What’s more, there is really no reason to think that the men of the Millennium won’t be equally well armed. There is no scripture that says Christ’s thousand year reign will be characterized by technological simplicity. Gog may very well have nukes then and the best practices of CBR may not have changed much in that time. An alternate is the chance that some some modern nuclear weapon in existence today simply survives that long. I’m no expert, but the idea that some ultra hardened bunker could survive 1000 years, only to be found with an instruction manual right next to it doesn’t seem very hard to believe.

Anyway, I guess that’s what I wanted to say – my take on a favorite prophecy topic.

If anybody can find me some info on why the Ez 38-39 battle is determined to happen prior to the second coming, please pass it on.

28 December 2005

Honor Isn't Corny

You know what I loved about The Lord of The Rings? I’m talking about the movies in particular.

It was the first movie in a long while that treated ‘manly’ virtues like honor, courage, duty, and loyalty in a serious manner. There was no shying away from Sam’s rock-solid devotion to Frodo. No blushing at Aragorn’s duty to the world of men and his struggle with the implications of that role. When Gandalf faces off with the Balrog and says “I am a servant of the Secret Fire” (read: Holy Spirit) he’s saying “I am vested with certain authority – not by my own power, but by someone higher than both of us, and I am exercising that authority now.” Evil is real, personified, and non-sexy – the choice for good people of Middle Earth is simple: fight the evil, and fight to win; or submit yourself to slavery, death, or worse. There is no middle ground.

It seems that there has been a generation of movies that treated all such virtues, all such choices as quaint at best, or corrupt at worst – but most often they just treated virtue as silly.

This is so important to what’s happening right now in the church, particularly with men. I had a new experience today – an unknown (random?) person stumbled across this blog and commented on two of the posts. One of the things he said was ‘A relevant Church is a dangerous church....” (Thanks Chris!) If men (and women) come to despise the virtues Christianity cherishes then we wither, and the world will wither with us for lack of our salt.

So much of my awakening in these last years has been about rediscovering a vivid, real root to these things I’ve been raised to mock. But it’s no sleigh ride. Recognizing the Truth of an ideal like steadfastness inevitably leads me to recognize my own fickleness. The warm but uncompromising light of courage casts the shadow of my cowardice. But as painful as this knowledge can be, it reveals itself to be a landscape worth living in, worth wrestling with, one in which I can feel like there is something for me to do – something to fight for! But for so long I’ve found myself in this realm where I have no clear direction on who I should be or what I should strive for. If my (arguably) deepest longing is to be respected, then a culture that makes my impulse toward honor seem corny is deeply disorienting. In a world where the choice is between honor and dishonor, at least a man can make a choice. But one in which my every lurch toward integrity is casually laughed at, dismissed, and scorned – what then?

There’s no question that this group of virtues is an ideal – not the stuff of everyday life and not a simple matter of reading a book or turning off the TV. But that too is so refreshing to me! So invigorating! You mean there is a way of living, a way of worshiping, a way of serving that actually ASKS something of me? Actually challenges me? Sign me up man!

Courage is hard! If it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be much point to it and it would be no virtue at all. A man might do a brave thing in a given moment, but to display courage as a character trait is something else entirely – and finally something worth doing – something worth being.

These ideals, these virtues, stand like pillars in the landscape of our lives. They act as landmarks to guide us from season to season. Mocking them, as so much of the last 30-40 years has done, doesn’t move them, it only drops a fog over the field that obscures our vision and cause us to get lost, wandering in circles. In time, we forget even what the pillars looked like, or if perhaps our ancestors just imagined them in their primitive minds. But sooner or later, in all the stumbling, somebody will bump into one of these monuments almost an accident. “What’s this? Hey everybody, come se what I found!” Climbing that pillar starts to get your head above the fog and you discern other pillars...

What’s happening in the church right now, and also in America in general, is that people are finding these virtues and the light they provide. People are climbing up above the haze and that in itself starts to clear the fog. Spending time with the rock-solid reality of Compassion reveals Nice to be nothing but an imitation made of marshmallow. Grace rises up and reveals Tolerance to be chicken wire and paper maché.

OK – I’ve gone all misty now, but my point can be seen in this: Men in particular have been lost for the last many years because the landmarks that are supposed to be the guideposts of our lives have been hidden from us. Our half of the Christian contribution to life has been diluted because we’ve been scattered and wandering. But that’s changing. Like it or not, movies are the cultural literacy of today, and seeing movies like Lord of The Rings take these guideposts not as relics of an outmoded way of thinking, but rather as relevant to today’s challenges is no small matter. Bid a bitter and overdue goodbye to the anti-hero and welcome again the hero. Celebrate most his flaws, because in them lay the seeds of his humanity and often his redemption.

21 December 2005

What if...

A few degrees off from my usual posts...

The way a massive body ‘creates’ gravity has often been compared to a bowling ball set on a taught membrane like a trampoline.

Imagine one of those 3 foot wide exercise trampolines with a marble near one edge – this marble is Earth. The marble doesn’t have enough weight to distort the trampoline at all, so it doesn’t move – it just sits there on the flat surface. Now add a bowling ball to the center of the trampoline. This is the Sun. The bowling ball sinks into the trampoline which causes the entire surface to curve around it, in order to support its weight. As a result, the little marble, our Earth, will now find itself on a slope and roll toward the bowling ball/Sun.

Everybody still with me?

So assuming this metaphor is reasonably true to life – what if we could find a way to alternately tighten or relax the springs that keep the trampoline taught? In other words, what if there was a way to increase or decrease the ‘surface tension’ in local space thereby either increasing or decreasing the gravity in that area.

If I find myself falling toward the Sun because it’s distorted the trampoline we share, tightening a few springs would make the Sun ‘rise’, decreasing the slope, decreasing my rate of falling...decreasing gravity.

And if space and time are really one thing I’m sure time is involved here somewhere, but I haven’t really thought about that at all.

Anyway – just thinking out loud...

17 December 2005

The Coming eRenaissance

I’m unqualified to tell anybody if this is accurate or not, but it was once explained to me that the Renaissance, you know – that fascinating period of intellectual and technological innovation from roughly 1450 to 1850, was made possible largely by the fact that the economic situation had created a class of people who were free to basically follow their interests and see where they lead. The creation of the middle class and the first hints of the industrial revolution had made several people marginally wealthy so they didn’t have to spend all day, every day making a living. Instead they could think about the scientific mysteries of the day like ‘What is energy?’ or paint portraits of women holding weasels.

Stand by for Renaissance 2.0.

I’ve been reading Wired magazine for the last couple of years (That is a great magazine by the way, if sometimes a little snarky). Over and over the stories revolve around some dot-com millionaire who has decide not to take his or her windfall and move to the Bahamas, but rather take that money and do something they really enjoy or believe in. Some are altruistic in their endeavors, others just quirky and driven to follow an impulse, but the story gets told time after time.

Right now we’re at this place where US technological progress hinges on the production of new technologies and techniques. The solution to any one of an innumerable list of small problems is worth a million dollars. Similarly, as countries like India and China (multiple billions of people!) race toward modern technology there is a gigantic market to facilitate that race. In short, there are lots and lots of opportunities for folks who only need to be moderately clever, or simply lucky, to find themselves suddenly transcending the rat race.

In Wired, just based on the medium, I’m really only reading about those folks who turn their first tech-million into some other tech project – going to the moon, melting bulldozers, turning lead into gold, that kind of thing. But in other publications I see the same kinds of stories, just not so obvious. Folks who start making toys, or writing that book they always dreamed about, or jump starting some kind of ministry.

What’s more, these kinds of projects thrive in a collaborative environment, where the Oregonian who has figured out Tab A can actually find the Scot who built Slot B. The now world of instant communication where distance really only effects shipping costs, plus computer systems that can search enormous amounts of data in moments – this is gonna be huge!

Here are a few of my futurist predictions:
  • Books and paper will NOT go away any time soon. In fact they will thrive. Folks will have more time to read AND to write books. Sure shorter, disjointed writings will move more and more to the web – the new realm for the pamphleteer. But longer works still want and deserve a degree of permanence. But don’t get caught thinking of “books” as paper and leather. Think of a method to store ideas and plot lines. Case in point: the paperless office never happened. Instead, we print more things now then we ever have.
  • The flat world that Friedman talks about will be so natural to adapt to on the street level that barely anybody will notice. Only the snooty pants people who live in 32nd floor apartments will wonder at the newness of it all. The farmer in Bend wont think twice about popping up his laptop in his Chevy and asking a question of his irrigation engineer in Thailand. In fact, the biggest hindrance to this trend will be governmental and corporate opposition. As they seek to maintain control and get their nickel, they’ll screw things up. Case in point: Wi-Max in Philly.
  • The sciences will be re-democratized. Right now, there is such a barrier to being a scientist – education, funding, peer review, et.al. To the great chagrin of the existing establishment, more and more science will simply go around this structure and produce real results without the Ivory Tower’s blessing. That will be a mixed blessing – innovation? Sure. Quality? Think again. We will once again come to ponder the specter of some mad scientist creating a dark star in his garage that winds up swallowing Cheboygan. Case in point: fake stem cell research out of Korea.
  • Cultural spheres will fare the same as the sciences. With huge explosions of music, art, poetry, etc. The bright side is that lots of cool new stuff will be created and lots of people will be able to make a modest living with only a modest audience. The dark side – there will be a raft of absolute crap that needs to be sifted through. That said, this is where feedback tools make the sifting much easier and much harder to be hijacked by economic interests. Case in point: MySpace and other social networks that let widely dispersed networks of people gather to create a market for almost any product or service.
  • Universal education will either change into something we don’t recognize or go away entirely. This will dovetail with the home schooling trend and the availability of computerized learning tools. Homeschoolers didn’t set out to create a social trend, but it’s happening anyway. When I can teach my child up to the high school graduate baseline in a matter of eight years instead of twelve, that’s an edge that is more important than the religious impulse that got homeschooling started. Secular homeschooling is just starting to take off because people perceive it produces better results. What’s more, in a world where fresh thinking is the hottest commodity, kids excel in doing the out-of-box thing and will see that learning geography is a luxury, while understanding HTTP is valuable. It will become a valid (but always risky) career path to look for a problem that needs solving but isn’t getting the attention it needs, and devoting oneself to one to four years of hard work with a fat paycheck at the end. I can learn where Oslo is later. Picture kids dropping out of school to join startups instead of to play basketball. What’s more, there are SO many issues that have a potential million on the back end that being a career inventor is again a real job possibility. So that’s pretty cool. Case in point: huge growth in technical trade schools without concurrent growth in 4-year technical degree fields. Folks just want to learn what they need so they can get to it. I’m one of those folks. I already had my certificate in a technical field when I went to GFU to study history. History is a passion, not a job skill, and I absolutely freaking LOVED college because of it. I couldn’t care less about my grades because my future was not on the hook. I was just following something I dug.    

Isn’t the truism “Do something you love.” always confounded by “What’s for dinner?” The market economy we call the rat race tightens when we’re in that phase of the cycle where the last generation’s innovation is being consolidated and exploited. The Rat Race become the Renaissance when innovation can get out from under the market for a spell and think crazy thoughts. People with passion, and heart, and chutzpa can run around willy-nilly without caring if this thing will make them a dollar...because they already have that portion of their lives settled. It’s just that Mazlow hierarchy pyramid working its magic.

So if you have some burn in your belly. A story that you really WANT to write, a need that only you can address, a splinter in your mind that WILL NOT go away – don’t put your head down and trudge through life wishing things were different. Look around for one of these problems that the world is just waiting to solve and solve it – then sell it. You don’t need to make a million, you only need to make five year’s salary so your next five years are filled with life and passion and the freedom to do what you love. There is the stuff of happiness. There is the life of deep fulfillment.

12 December 2005

What's Good for the Goose...

While it was never my intention, I see that more than one post in this blog has been critical of women in one way or another. The thing is that what could loosely be called "gender issues" has been on my mind a lot lately; I'm not entirely sure why...but regardless of the why I want to set the record straight.
As I think about these issues, my most serious criticisms are directed at men, despite how previous entries might seem. In truth, many of my reflections on women are framed as I look at the manifold ways in which we men have failed our wives, our sisters, our daughters. What's more, in the last year or so I've had more than one opportunity to work with 'men's groups' as I see a movement inside the church where men are waking up to how badly we've botched things - usually through inaction. No small part of this rests on an evolving picture of what a genuine Christian male should be, what he should look like and how he should act. I've been trying to write this post now for about two weeks but find that I have so much to say that it gets unreadable. So instead, I'll focus this post on one thing - responsibility.

Gender roles are real.

Deeply real in fact. God-given even. As I say that I'm well aware of the hackles that kind of statement can raise. All the images of chest-beating, sloppy-joe eating "Men's Men" and the litany of evils that kind of man has foisted on the world through an abuse of power. But the fact that power can be misused is no excuse for neglecting to use it all. I'm talking about an honest look at what God says about men (and women) as well as what experience shows me. And I'm soundly convinced that it's no trivial detail that I am a male and not a female. That distinction is meaningful on many, many levels. Being a man, more particularly a husband (even more so for a father) includes a set of non-negotiable duties and responsibilities that we have mostly abandoned for the sake of avoiding conflict - all to the great harm of ourselves and our female counterparts.

We have let them down when they needed us most.

In the garden, Eve was sold a lie as Adam stood silent (Eve took the fruit, and gave some to Adam who was with her...). "Do this and you can be like God." was the pitch, which sounds pretty good. More recently, women were sold a far less interesting lie, "Do this and you can be like men." and for the most part we stood by again.

Guys - specifically Christian guys - it's become pretty "in" these days to say that a man is the head of his household (as if this were some fascinating new discovery), but what does that mean to you? Do you realize that according to God you are the head of your household whether you like it or not. You are leading your family whether you intend to or not, whether your wife is making all the decisions or not, whether you're any good at it or not. The role is granted not by merit, not by vote and not by committee. But solely by the fact that you are assigned those duties upon uttering “I do.”

Think about Strider (big LOTR metaphor ahead - reader beware) - here is a  man afraid of his legacy. Fearful that the same weakness that lead to Isuldur's fall was in his own veins. So he chooses a self-imposed exile where he may do a little good, but not risk doing great harm. The thing is - he is Aragorn, the heir to the throne of Gondor - and there is nothing he can do about it. Walking away from his role only leaves Gondor without any king and creates a power vacuum to be filled by far less noble pretenders. The stewards of Gondor were not power hungry usurpers, they only stepped in when there was no one to occupy to throne and the bills had to be paid.

Gentlemen, when you hear "A husband is the head of his household" does that strike you as a burden? An opportunity? A club to beat your wife with? Maybe it rolls off you back like so many other Biblical statements that are plainly anachronisms. As a husband, this is your job description - and you cannot quit.

I truly believe that one day I will stand before our Lord and I'll be held accountable for how I lead, or failed to lead, my family. I won't be able to say, "But Lord, Rebekah was better at doing the bills." "But Lord, I wasn't cut out to be a leader." "But Lord, those kids are so willful."

There is saying that there is no such thing as a bad student – only a bad teacher. It’s a statement about leadership and the burden of authority. We men have so deeply screwed up the job we were given that we barley even recognize the position exists any more. We’ve so completely abandoned our own authority that we routinely disparage all authority. We’ve so utterly forsaken power that we can barely even say the word without feeling a twinge of guilt. And with these have gone loyalty, honor, duty and pride. We’ve become the worst kinds of teachers – those that don’t even bother to show up – and we’re bitching about the students.

09 December 2005

Narnia Rocks

Just a quick post – I and several friends stayed up to see the midnight show of Narnia last night.
While I didn’t walk away from it with the sense of ‘Oh my God!” that I had from Lord of The Rings – this movie was really, really cool.
Aslan was voiced by Qi Gon Jin, I mean Herr Schindler, uh...I mean Ras Al Goul. Anyway – he does a great job.
One issue –didn’t Tumnus wear a waistcoat?