Keep this in mind when you read any news

A would rarely repeat another post in intereity, but I think what Seth Godin is saying here is increasingly very relevant. In our internet information-crazy age, think about this whenever you read any news about anything. Little things get amplified. Things that really are big get lost in the noise. Not keeping this in mind can throw off your internal sense of discernment.

When you notice, it’s news.

I just read a post that said that some musicians were reporting that their perfect pitch (the ability to know exactly what a perfect A sounds like) is fading away. What could be causing this?

I don’t think anything is causing it.

Out of every 10,000 musicians, it’s not hard to imagine that throughout history, a few (2, 5, 10?) have had their pitch fade away. But in the old days, we never heard about it. Word didn’t spread. Perhaps you told your husband or the ensemble, but that was the end of it.

As word (about your product or your brand or your career or anything) is amplified and spread, it bumps into other news and becomes a trend.

This is a subtle but huge change in the way we think about the world. The connection of customers and employees and users and citizens and good guys and bad actors and everyone… it means that the way we see and understand information is changed forever.

I would take two things away from this:

1. Just because you heard about something happening for the first time doesn’t mean it’s the first time. It may just mean that it’s the first time it’s been widely reported. Sort of like what happens after you get a digital thermometer in your house–everyone suddenly gets a fever.

2. Be prepared for everything to be widely reported.

Excellent commentary on submission in marriage

This was posted by Philip Winn at the Boar’s Head Tavern about a year ago. It’s some of the best commentary on submission in marriage I’ve ever read. Marriage is to be modeled on the love of the holy Trinity. But people forget that the trinity is a mystery. How is the love of marriage supposed to be any less mysterious? As he mentions, it’s almost like part of the trick is to not think about it too much. I’m not an egalitarian, but the more we try to define or systematize what submission and headship looks like, the less it actually end up looking trinitarian, which is still mysterious. (emphasis mine below)

Submission post-fall is an interesting thing. Looking at the model of the Trinity tells us a lot of how things are likely to be at the end of time, but doesn’t seem to help much when it comes to the here and now

The thing about the mutual submission of the Trinity is that God is worthy of submission. That is, the Father could elevate Christ because Christ is worthy of elevation, Christ could undergo humiliation to point to the Father because the Father is entirely faithful and trustworthy, and so on. The thing that makes submission difficult in human relationships is that the husband (going with the gender roles at hand) is often completely unworthy of submission in any objective sense.

If I were perfect, I don’t think the question of submission would ever even have come up between us. If my wife were perfect, I’d have no problem submitting to her in everything. The problem is that neither of us are perfect!

I remember seeing this lived out when I was a young lad, and I saw families utterly destroyed by — from my admittedly youthful perspective — this submission issue. Take a couple I knew in which a money-savvy woman was married to a man with zero financial acumen; after being told she needed to submit all things to her husband, including the family budget, she turned it over to him. The same teacher convinced him he had to take care of it himself. The wife wasn’t allowed to pester or nag him, either. I guess the theory was that he would rise to the challenge, especially with the wife’s confident support. That isn’t what happened, of course; their finances were utterly destroyed by the husband’s bumbling, and when she finally resumed management, they both felt that they were somehow failing God. The whole thing seemed bizarre to me at the time, and still does. If she’s better with money, why on earth would he be required to manage the budget? Have these people never read Proverbs 31?

Of course, that’s a problem with application, not theory. But of course that’s the rub. It’s easy to say “submit” in theory, but what do you say to the woman whose husband is a complete loser? Or abusive? I’ve heard people say that submission should be complete and total regardless of the worthiness of the husband, and that bruises and scars and suffering will be somehow credited in heaven. This may be true, but it hardly seems to be what Jesus or Paul had in mind, and I don’t think it is related in any way to what we see in the Trinity.

It’s one thing to say that well, there are problems when the husband is an unbeliever. But we’re all unbelievers! We are all enemies of God, rescued despite ourselves, continually struggling to surrender to God and conform to His ways. The difference between that wife-beating drunk and me is one of degree, not substance. The degree is important (don’t stay with a wife-beater, ladies, please!), but sweeping the issues that are still present in my relationship under the rug isn’t kosher.

For the record, my wife and I have never particularly struggled with this. To external observers, I suppose it looks like she submits to me and I love her, in obedience to scripture. Just between you and me, that really isn’t our intention. I love her and she loves me. I consider her and she considers me. We agree on most things anyway, and the rest can easily go one way or the other on any given issue. She submits to me and I to her, but not because of any gender roles — at least not intentionally — but because the submission is a natural result of our mutual love.

And of course, we’re broken people, so it doesn’t always go so smoothly as I’ve just described.

I have to say that the majority of couples I know that talk about submission as an important biblical principle are semi-psycho. Not all, and not dangerously so (except maybe to their children), but it’s creepy and unhealthy. On the other hand, the majority of couples I know that seem to make life work well don’t ever talk about submission on their own, and when asked will generally say its unimportant.

(This is generally also my experience.)

I have ideas about what Paul is talking about, and why, and I think it all makes good sense, but I don’t think that most people writing about submission on the net are anywhere close to on-target on the issue. Life may work very well for them and their spouses, but it’s impossible to give any advice on the internet without it being taken too far by a large percentage of readers.

Faking it is hard work

On the early group of American’s trying to travel and meet with coffee growers to find good coffee:

Back in 2001, Peter [Guiliano of Counter Culture Coffee], and Geoff [Watts of Intelligentsia], had not idea how all [of their travelling] would develop. In fact, they didn’t know much except that they were deperate to get their hands on great coffee. “We were bewildered by all we had to learn as coffee buyers, and we were making it up as we went along,” remembers Peter. “When you are faking it, you work extra hard. You don’t want to be exposed as a fraud. That drove a lot of us at this time.”

-God in a Cup, p.69

The best people though can make it up as they go along. I’m in a room full of people right now who are faking it, but that’s OK. Eventually they won’t be faking it anymore. This is why learning how to LEARN is worth a lot more than technical training in a specific field. This is why studying classic literature is maybe help you be a good welder more than taking a skills class on welding. The one will give the fish and the other will teach you how to go get your own fish. You have to work hard to fake it, but it’s not being dishonest unless you intend to just sit on your butt. How do you learn anything? By just jumping in and doing it.

I love the story about Walt Disney as a young man. It goes something like this: He was broke and looking for a job. A circus band he knew of needed a trombone player. Walt told asked the leader for the job, without telling him he’d never played a trombone before. After it became clear he didn’t know what he was doing, the band leader asked why he didn’t tell him he’d never played before. He said, “Hey, I didn’t know if I could play it or not. I’d never tried.”

Finding a different word

Today, a client who I built a video-on-demand server farm for said that we need to call our “video” service something else because every time he talks about it in meeting full of old school faculty and administrators, they keep thinking he is talking about VHS tapes, despite the whole context of his presentation being about education over the internet. There isn’t much I can do about this of course, but I told him I’d dust off my Roget’s Thesaurus.

Billy Collins wrote a poem about this odd sort of reference book.


It could be the name of a prehistoric beast
that roamed the Paleozoic earth, rising up
on its hind legs to show off its large vocabulary,
or some lover in a myth who is metamorphosed into a book.

It means treasury, but it is just a place
where words congregate with their relatives,
a big park where hundred of family reunions
are always being held,
house, home abode, dwelling, lodgings, and digs
all sharing the same picnic basket and thermos;
hairy, hirsute, woolly, furry, fleecy, and shaggy
all running a sack race or throwing horseshoes,
inert, static, motionless, fixed, and immobile
standing and kneeling in rows for a group photograph.

Here father is next to sire and brother close
to sibling, separated only by find shades of meaning.
And every group has its odd cousin, the one
who traveled the farthest to be here:
asterognosis, polydipsia, or some eleven
syllable, unpronounceable substitute for the word tool.
Even their own relatives have to squint at their name tags.

I can see my own copy up on a high shelf.
I rarely open it, because I know there is no
such thing as a synonym and because I get nervous
around people who always assemble wit their own kind,
forming clubs and nailing signs to closed front doors
while others huddle alone in the dark streets.

I would rather see words out on their own, away
from their families and the warehouse of Roget,
wandering the world where they sometimes fall
in love with a completely different word.
Surely, you have seen pairs of them standing forever
next to each other on the same line inside a poem,
a small chapel where weddings like these,
between perfect strangers, can take place.

Photo credit

A simple meditation

I think it must be tragic if one is very old before they are able to say this. Even worse to die fighting.

There must be a time of day when the man who makes plans forgets his plans, and acts as if he had no plans at all. There must be a time of day when the man who has to speak falls very silent. And his mind forms no more propositions, and he asks himself: Did they have a meaning? there must be a time when the man of prayer goes to pray as if it were the first time in his life he had ever prayed; when the man of resolutions puts his resolutions aside as if they had all been broken, and he learns a different wisdom: distinguishing the sun from the moon, the stars from the darkness, the sea from the dry land, and the night sky from the shoulder of a hill.

-Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island, Ch.16 Sec.11

On hating sinners

As fallen men, we are apt to love the law. Not in the Psalm 119 “Oh how I love your law” way, but in a way that just throws gas on the fire of our fallen nature. And so, it’s a curse. The nature of God is wrapped up in it, since it DOES describe what is truly right and wrong, but it only serves to condemn us. When we embrace it and hate others with it, we are embracing death, besides (obviously) hypocrisy.

Merton addresses the Pharisee’s here.

The Pharisee…practiced many virtues, but lied before God because he thought his piety made him better than other men. He despised sinners, and worshiped a false god who despised them like himself.

-Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island, Ch.3 Sec.12

The pharisee who splits hairs and rationalizes his way out of these chances for self-dedication [serving other people], although he may theorize and dogmatize about the will of God, never fully does that will for he never really abandons himself to the influence of divine charity.

-Ch.4 Sec.10

Tempering free will

Here, Merton rejects strict predestination theology on the basis that it is too philosophical and cannot be described adequately if you limit yourself to the kind of language found in the bible.

Our vocation is not a supernatural lottery but the interaction of two freedoms, and, therefore, of two loves. It is hopeless to try to settle the problem of vocation outside the context of friendship and of love. We speak of Providence: that is a philosophical term. The Bible speaks of our Father in Heaven. Providence is, consequently, more than an institution, it is a person.

-Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island, Ch.8 Sec.1

I add that an elemental part of the human soul is highly offended by the notion that our place in life (social, vocational, salvational, you name it, everything) is nothing more than the result of a cosmic lottery. At the moment of conception in the womb, the great roulette wheel in the sky in spun. Pray it doesn’t land on 00. Is it just our sinful nature that finds this offensive? Is it just our American independance folding it’s arms in front of the sovereign triune God? Don’t answer so fast. What if it is actually the imago dei reacting to this instead!?