Posted: August 6th, 2009 | Author:matt | Filed under:Uncategorized | Comments Off on the easiest side of the easy
I am revisiting, after too long a separation, Ranier Maria Rilke’s slim volume Letters to a Young Poet. This passage, penned just over 100 years ago, brings into tighter focus how we have, with little discernible controversy, allowed the value of ease to take its relatively secure place among the core values of our age:
And you should not let yourself be confused in your solitude by the fact that there is something in you that wants to move out of it. This very wish, if you use it calmly and prudently and like a tool, will help you spread out your solitude over a great distance. Most people have (with the help of conventions) turned their solutions toward what is easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must trust in what is difficult; everything alive trusts in it, everything in Nature grows and defends itself any way it can and is spontaneously itself, tries to be itself at all costs and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must trust in what is difficult is a certainty that will never abandon us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it.
Bold ideas are typically incompletely formed when first conceived and easily shot down by criticism. Hence, they emerge more readily in communities in which individuals work mostly in small and relatively isolated groups, giving their ideas time and space to mature.
One might add that there is a level of trust that can only be achieved and, in some cases, maintained within a relatively small group of people. The computations one must perform before conferring authentic trust (rather than merely engaging in reckless exhibitionism or exchanging well-scripted pleasantries) prove much more difficult in the absence of physical proximity. One cannot solve for the same number of variables.
One can, quite reasonably, experience paralysis at the prospect of being a content provider amongst millions of content providers, reckoned–as another commodity–in the glazed eye of the jaded consumer.
How might new media stifle all of us in pursuing our big ideas?
Posted: July 20th, 2009 | Author:matt | Filed under:Uncategorized | Comments Off on indulging in the illusion of activism
A recent Washington Postarticle explores whether the appearance of activism on social media sites links to any reality. A few apt excerpts:
“Click-through activism” is the term used by Chris Csikszentmihályi, the co-director of MIT’s Center for Future Civic Media to describe the participants who might excitedly flit into an online group and then flutter away to something else. In some ways, he says, the ease of the medium “reminds me of dispensations the Catholic Church used to give.” Worst-case scenario: If people feel they are doing good just by joining something — or clicking on one of those become a fan of Audi and the company will offset your carbon emissions campaigns, “to what extent are you removing just enough pressure that they’re not going to carry on the spark” in real life?
“Just like we need stuff to furnish our homes to show who we are,” says Colding-Jorgensen, “on Facebook we need cultural objects that put together a version of me that I would like to present to the public.”
Posted: July 20th, 2009 | Author:matt | Filed under:Uncategorized | Comments Off on what’s in it for me
A blog entry over at The Center for Future Civic Media speaks to the phenomenon of token activism in the online environment and offers these thoughts from Matthew Zachary, founder and CEO of I’m Too Young for This!, an online community and non-profit for young adult cancer survivors:
The youth culture is an overly skeptical and narcissistic population. I should know, I am one of them. We are much more socially conscious but much less likely to contribute unless there’s a ‘what’s in it for me’ clause. Volunteerism is much lower than in previous generations.
This inability to perform something so basic to being human reshapes what we value in the online world. Instead of presense [sic], we tend to value words in posts, links, and replies. Being present in the real world doesn’t require anything new or novel, but posting online always requires something new or interesting. While being present is a selfless act for another, posting and linking is often more about ourselves than the other.
Posted: July 8th, 2009 | Author:matt | Filed under:Uncategorized | Comments Off on celebrity worship service
Challies offers a sobering analysis of the memorial service of Michael Jackson, including this observation:
Words and phrases invoked God and used the Christian lexicon but without any reference to the gospel, the true gospel, the gospel that saves. Lost men declared to other lost men untruths about the god they wish for, not the God who is.
Posted: July 6th, 2009 | Author:matt | Filed under:Uncategorized | Comments Off on NYT on tweeting in church
The New York Times gets around to reporting on the tweeting in church phenomenon. Not surprisingly, it does so–like the rest–with little in the way of nuance. Those critical of the use of Twitter in the liturgical setting are portrayed as motivated by fear or desire to maintain control. Little consideration is given to the nature of collective religious experience or the limitations of Twitter and other new media.
Posted: July 4th, 2009 | Author:matt | Filed under:Uncategorized | Comments Off on faster down the wrong path
A telling bit of data offered in a recent post concerning the use of new media for marketing purposes:
Twitter and Facebook broke the news about the death of Michael Jackson, while the mainstream media was still scrambling and the mainstream search engines were oblivious.
In other words, new media leapt into action to provide real time updates with respect to….the same despicable trivia spoon fed to the masses by the old media. Meanwhile, thousands of individuals whose lives matter as much or, in my estimation, more than that of media-creation Michael Jackson, passed away with not a peep. The new media, just as the old media, is designed to sell, to entertain, to exalt the famous, to flatter the consumer, to project power.
It is difficult to discern how exactly the Gospel, something infinitely more worthy of our (and the World’s) attention, should be shoveled into a medium that traffics primarily in ephemera filtered by the World’s values. Might it be time to study again the media for which God has–for generations and in His Word–shown a marked preference: the humble, obedient lives of a broken people He has redeemed to Himself?
Posted: July 3rd, 2009 | Author:matt | Filed under:Uncategorized | Comments Off on alienating people critical of the status quo
In an interview published in byFaith Magazine, Ken Meyers, former NPR commentator and long time voice and mind of Mars Hill Audio Journal speaks to one common consequence of Christians uncritically pursuing relevance to the surrounding culture:
So when, in the interest of evangelism, Christians give the status quo the benefit of the doubt, they alienate people who are critical of the status quo. Many nonbelievers who are already counter-cultural think, “Ah yes, evangelicalism—that’s just the way American commercial culture gets religion.” Read the rest of this entry »