Monday, January 25, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
- [Non-]Democratization: Democratization, often vaunted as a value of networked culture and mentioned as “leveling the playing field” for everyone including the person-on-the-ground in China or Africa, just doesn’t live up to its hype. Just because everyone has access to information doesn’t mean the information that is presented represents everyone. Sophistication in controlling the means of content delivery prevails.
- Stimulation: Content which is most attention grabbing is content that gets viewed and shared, giving it disproportionate weight as compared with content that might actually have value and be important. Think about the 6:00 o’clock news and the dominance of human interest stories or the celebrity gossip magazines, columns and online sites.
- Homophily: Homophily refers to the phenomenon, described in Bill Bishop’s book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart, of people’s tendency to be attracted to and congregate with like-minded people. Humans’ proclivity to being comfortable and fitting in means that we stick with whom we know, what we like and what makes us feel like “we’re okay."
- Power: The old adage “Information is Power” couldn’t be more true in the world of flow. However, the adage needs to be updated to say, “The ability to control the mechanisms of the delivery of information is power.” Think whistleblowers and how their information has no power until it makes it into the public eye.
Towards the end of the Guillard article, he writes about boyd’s experience while making her presentation at the Web 2.0 Expo that is worth noting, because it is scary for people like me who are frequent public speakers and presenters. As boyd made her presentation, a Twitter wall was projected behind her, which she could not see, of all the Tweets being posted live about her presentation as she was speaking. She could not help but notice this, because the body language, murmurs, snickering, and outright laughter from the audience was disruptive – an electronic form of heckling wrought large on stage.
What was being said about the speaker “behind her back” was literally projected on a screen behind her back. In a truly McLuhanesque manner, the medium had become the message, and it raises all sorts of epistemological questions of the objects becoming the subject, subject-object relationship, and the dual nature of communication.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
I was reading recently about Contemplative Prayer Praxis, which focuses on the Welcoming Prayer, through which one acknowledges one's own feelings and physical sensations and actively lets go of them to provide space for welcoming in the spiritual presence of the divine. That welcoming in is about tuning one's life into a consent process, to, in effect, saying "Yes" to the divine presence in one's entire being. Unfortunately for the prayer practitioner, intending to say "Yes" and even actually saying "Yes" don't necessarily make it so. There are no guarantees as to when one will experience the presence of the divine despite the certainty that the divine is always present and with us.
This morning I attended the annual ordination of transitional deacons to the priesthood, and the words of the ordination service and the message of the sermon dovetailed with my recent reflections on consenting to the presence of God. The vows taken by the ordinand are promises of obedience and of practice -- to obey the bishop and any others in authority over the priest, and to pray regularly, study scripture, lead by word and example, and pastor God's people, in church and in private out of the sight of the congregation and the bishop. The ordination vows are a rule of life.
For the particular priest ordained today, hers was a fifteen plus, years long process of getting to "Yes." She had to say "Yes" repeatedly, from the earliest inkling of a call to the priesthood, through the daily challenges of marriage and motherhood, the interruptions of careers and household moves, to changes in the ordination process that brought her back to square one on more than one occasion throughout those fifteen plus years. It must have felt like a test to her, to be within reach of the goal of ordination and yet having to get to "Yes" again and again. The truism that each one's walk is individual and unique holds true in the ordination process as it does in other arenas of our lives.
As a layperson who hasn't been called to ordination, I am amazed that so many people persevere and actually make it through the process. It is especially amazing when one weighs the cost-benefit ratios associated with education and potential earnings as a clergyperson, not that those are the only factors in answering a call to ordination.
I wonder what it is that we are expecting the ordinands to prove and to whom. Surely God knows the hearts and minds of those the Spirit has imbued with priestly gifts and inspired with a call to ordination. So, it can't be God to whom proof must be presented. Rather than go through the roll call of the discernment committees and different levels of churchpersons to whom the candidate must answer, let me just stipulate that the number is larger than a few and smaller than an army.
No doubt you have asked and been asked, "No, really, do you mean it," when you have answered "Yes, I can," or "Yes, I will," on numerous occasions for commitments as mundane as consenting to drive someone to the airport an hour away or agreeing to take someone else's work shift on a holiday weekend. There is something about "Yes" that gives us pause. We can't quite believe the intent behind the word, the commitment to see the task or promise through, whether it's someone else's promise or our own commitment.
When the question is a really big commitment, like "Will you marry me" or "Should we buy this house," the ways in which we communicate "No, really, do you mean it" get quite creative. There is a part of us that doesn't want to ruin the moment, to rain on the parade and create doubt in the other person who has just said "Yes" to such a life-changing query. And yet, deep down inside - now, be honest - there's a niggling doubt that wonders "Does he really want to marry me" or "What if we don't like our neighbors" that remains hidden and unspoken.
The preacher this morning began his sermon with an autobiographical bit about scouting at the beginning of WWII and the preparation of our hearts as a place of homecoming for ourselves and for the indwelling of the divine spirit. The daily practice of living with hearts wide open prepares a place for "Yes" to be nurtured and to grow. Our hearts become the home field to which our doubts return - "No, really, do you mean it" - to rest and root and get owned and loved into a stronger "Yes, I can," "Yes, I will," and finally, at long last, "Yes, I'm sure."
Ultimately, our hearts are the practice field, to which we go to learn how to throw the ball, "Will you," catch the ball, "Yes, I can," and watch the game, "I'm so afraid," "Can he do it," "Will I want to." The heart is a muscle, always pumping and flexing, always working, never stopping, or we die. Our figurative hearts, the seat of our souls, must also be exercised, worked, never stopping, or we can't get to "Yes, I will." Because "Yes" is the hardest word.
Friday, January 8, 2010
It turns out that The Soloist is perhaps one of the most truthful films on mental illness made in Hollywood. It's based on the book, The Soloist: A Lost Dream, written by Downey's character, Steve Lopez of the L.A. Times. Lopez met Foxx's character, Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, in 2005, and wrote about him in his Times column, which led to the book.
The film does not gloss over the fact that Foxx's homeless musician is mentally ill with schizophrenia. Nor does it extol the Downey columnist's nobility in befriending a homeless man. Ultimately, the film delivers the message that sometimes, all that we can do, all that is asked, is that we are a friend and that we show up. That's not an easy to digest or even believable message for those of us who have do-gooder genes in our DNA. We have been inculturated to imagine that we are somehow capable of saving someone else if we just do enough to lead them back to the right way of living and being.
But mental illness is intractable, especially for those who refuse counseling and drugs. At six decades of living and counting, there have been a number of mentally ill people in my life, including very close family members. There were several who suffered from severe, clinical depression, which I didn't recognize until years later, in retrospect, and long after the emotional damage had ruined our relationships. One young daughter of a close friend killed herself at age 27. Others killed themselves more gradually through neglect and self-destructive behavior, which none of us knew how to interrupt, and about which some of us made value judgments, condemning the person for her or his mental illness.
Back in the '50s and '60s, we didn't address mental illness in ordinary discourse or polite company. The subject wasn't polite or genteel. The mentally ill were warehoused in state run and funded "hospitals," and the mantra was "Out of sight, out of mind." The mental image was of disheveled women and men with bad hair, drooling and barefoot in white gowns, with attendants nearby ready with a straitjacket or other restraints. In the '60s, the mentally ill who were cool enough to embrace some elements of hippie life were either cool or crazy, and both were acceptable modes of behavior. The recreational drugs of the '60s somewhat leveled the playing field, since it was difficult to tell what was mental illness and what was drug induced behavior.
In my teens and early twenties, I experienced very deep depression, feeling so bleak that I was suicidal. Later, as more research was done, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) was recognized as something that can cause the blackness that I experienced. Since my early twenties, I've lived in much friendlier places for those afflicted with SAD: California, Hawaii, Texas and Colorado, where the sun shines daily in great abundance. In the wintertime, I have a full spectrum light box sitting next to my computer that I turn on for long periods on dark mornings to dispel the darkness in my spirit.
If only it were so easy for those afflicted with far worst instances of mental conditions that rob them of their ability to have hope - merely to turn on a light box and feel better an hour or two later. It's up to the rest of us who have been blessed with many good days to show up and befriend those who don't have many good days. That might be as good as it gets for some who suffer from mental illness. It won't always be fun or rewarding for us, but it will be meaningful for everyone involved.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
So, it was somewhat of a surprise and perhaps even a shock to Cece to learn that I was not necessarily in the camp of those family members regarding photos that had me tagged in them. (Tagging in Facebook means that my name is associated with my image in a photo.) I was aware of the photos going up on Facebook, because I get Notifications when I am tagged, but I had not taken the time to look at each photo as it was being posted.
My initial impression when I first looked through all the photos posted by Cece was generally positive, because I was looking at them through her Facebook photo albums. Granted, some of the photographs of photographs are grainy, blurred or show the reflection of the camera's flash, but the quality of the photographs and whether or not the photographs were flattering to me were not what gave me pause. The fact is that I really did look like that when the photograph was taken, and I'm not into editing history or glossing over my physical appearance.
I did not realize, however, until I looked at my own Photos tab on Facebook that all photos with me tagged in them, posted by any of my Facebook friends, show up in "Photos of Lelanda." When I scrolled through "Photos of Lelanda," I recognized that I did not want all of those photos on my Facebook pages. Unlike the random one or two photos that friends and colleagues post from activities we've shared together, the photos posted by Cece were a sizable collection spanning my entire life, from my toddler years through my childhood and teens till the current day.
I have very carefully and deliberately culled, selected and edited the photos that I have posted in my Facebook albums. Each of my albums tells a story of a particular event or grouping of photographs such as "Our Family," "Herb and Lee Through the Years," and "Devons." I approach the assembling and posting of each album in the same way that I approach crafting a blog post or writing a poem: it is a creative process that tells a story with a particular point of view and purpose in mind. It matters to me as the creator and storyteller which photograph is chosen, how it is cropped, and its placement in the sequence of photos just as much as it matters to me which words are chosen, the punctuation and line spacing when I write a poem.
I have no objections to the photographs with me in them being in Cece's Facebook albums. I have no interest in censoring them, although I did ask that a photograph of me nursing her as a newborn be removed, because it felt too intimate to be shared so publicly - so, call me old-fashioned. Cece's Facebook albums tell her story. I just want to be the one who tells my story on my Facebook pages. That seems like a reasonable parsing of rights to me. Our compromise is that Cece told me that I could untag myself in photos on Facebook, and she retagged them with "Mom" instead of "Lelanda Lee" so that they only show up in her Facebook albums.
I've had occasion to discuss this with a few people, because I was curious to know whether I was behaving like a dinosaur in today's online consciousness or if my concerns have validity. I pointed out that I am willing to own all that I have done in my life, including the things that I'm not proud of, that I don't believe in rewriting history, even our personal histories. My 40-year old son said, "It's one thing to own your stuff. It's another thing to be outed." I think that sums it up very aptly. I'd be curious to know what you think.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
What a gracious gift - to have one's argumentative behavior viewed as just "crabbing," the sort of thing that happens in relationships, like saying "Good morning," or "Would you like a cup of tea?" in everyday life. It felt like a blanket forgiveness for the intransigence and selfishness that I'm feeling when I'm "crabbing." It was my husband telling me that I'm okay and he still loves me.
Today at church, Fr. Max Bailey preached an inspiring sermon on the importance of seeking connection with the mysteries of life and creation. He challenged each of us to wonder and to become enveloped by the mysteries that aren't quantifiable by science and math or definable by words, but just might be hinted at by poets, artists and musicians. I am reminded not only to stop and smell the roses when I pass by roses, but to mark out time on my calendar to seek out rose gardens intentionally amidst all the meetings and confabs that clog not only my calendar but perhaps also my heart.
Between Christmas and New Year's Day I attended a gathering to brainstorm how to support two Hispanic lay pastoral ministers from Chile, who are transitioning from positions lost to changes in clergy staff at a local mission. Over lunch in the midst of running errands, Ximena told me about their call to do ministry among the Latinos in Denver. She is passionate about how much she and Arturo feel called to this work, because, as she pointed out, otherwise, why would anyone choose to leave their children and grandchildren, their familial home, their friends and livelihood in Chile, in order to live at the margins in downtown Denver. Ximena said that they can help people who have even less than they have, who have fewer skills and fewer opportunities than she and Arturo. Their faithfulness humbles and inspires me. So, Herb and I have become co-sponsors of their ministry.
When I returned from church this morning, my mother took me aside for a chat. I have to admit that my initial reaction to Mom's wanting to chat is often "Oh, oh, what now." Mom surprised me with an offer to move into an apartment to give Herb and me more privacy upon his retirement when he will presumably spend more time at home in Colorado. What a generous offer from Mom!
Of course, I told Mom it would not be necessary, because our house has been home to all of us since 2000, and at one time, also housed Cece before she left for college 6-1/2 years ago. There is more than enough physical and psychic space for all of us to live here together for many more years. We have been truly blessed to have Mom with us, because she is a housemate who does an awesome amount of work and showers an abundance of loving attention on Herb and me, as well as our children and grandchildren.
Too often I have my eyes tuned to the computer screen and my attention turned inward to planning what I want to do and say, and I miss the cottontail that scampers across the front yard or the owl hooting in the very early morning in the neighbor's cottonwood tree. I often miss the piece of fruit just at its ripest and the last sigh of the rose before its petals drift downward. Dwelling in the mystery requires a stillness that one must do more than aspire to. One must truly stop in order to be still. I'm working on it, no doubt, a contradiction in terms. "Working on it" must become a full stop - grace in us.