Do you remember the old food pyramid that shows how a healthy body depends on a balanced diet, with the right proportions of food groups and nutrition vs. junk foods? In our current epistemological crisis, where we are bombarded by a glut of content and information but have so little wisdom, we need guidance on healthier habits of knowledge intake. We need a wisdom pyramid.
As utilitarian and burdensome as they sometimes feel, blogs become part of the blogger. For good and for ill, they are places to vent and process aloud, to praise and critique, to know and be known. My blog has allowed me to develop ideas that eventually became books, to engage and celebrate the many things that captivate me, and to make lots and lots of lists.
Recently, on one of those "too much time on social media" days, where my frustration and anger about all manner of things reached a Twitter-fueled boiling point, I took a break from technology and opened my (physical) Bible. I turned to the seven penitential psalms (Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143) and spent some time there.
I've been thinking about Personal Shopper a lot since I saw it last month. The film, the latest from talented French director Olivier Assayas (Summer Hours, The Clouds of Sils Maria), is haunting in multiple senses. It's haunting not primarily because it is a ghost story (literally... the opening scene is a haunted house sequence more chilling than anything in the Paranormal Activity films).
We live in a time in America when everything is politicized. Everything is viewed through an us vs. them lens of political partisanship. And it is tragic and toxic. Why is it such a politically partisan thing to state that one is "pro life," for example? Step back from the years of abortion debates along partisan lines and ask yourself that question. You'd think that people from all political parties, all backgrounds and walks of life could unite around the conviction that all human lives, from embryos to the elderly, are imbued with a God-given dignity that must be protected. You'd think we could unite around protecting precious lives against abortion, torture, sexual violence, war crimes, police brutality, gun violence and the like. All because we believe in the sanctity of life. But alas.
I believe in journalism. I'm thankful for its truth-telling, spot-lighting potential (see last year's Oscar-winning film Spotlight, for example). But I sometimes fear for its future. As the media landscape continues to morph, what role can real journalism play? Donald Trump becoming president is certainly huge "news," but it's a headline that signals something foreboding rather than electrifying about the state of the news industry. Here's my attempt to make sense of how we got here. 1960s:
This week Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted a photo of an ad that compared the “Syrian Refugee Problem” to a bowl of Skittles. The ad suggested that we can best understand the worst humanitarian crisis of our time by thinking about refugees not as embodied, suffering people but as poisonous rainbow-colored candy that could kill us. Let’s set aside for a minute the politics of this and the admitted complexity of immigration and national security.
The predominance of pop cultural narratives of confined spaces and solitary prisons has got me thinking: Why is our culture so anxious about being boxed in? Isn’t western culture today the freest it has ever been? Isn’t America in the 21st century the place where you can literally be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do, as long as it is an authentic expression of your true, autonomous self?
Every group, every movement, every family, every coalition or club or team of any kind requires some level of agreement/consensus in order to be meaningfully distinct in identity and remotely efficacious in purpose. And every one of these groups knows how elusive but essential consensus can be. But consensus seems to be more elusive than ever, at every stratum of society.
I wrote an article recently for Biola Magazine, the official publication of Biola University, about the challenges Christian universities are facing on "religious freedom" issues related to changing cultural norms--particularly around gender and sexual orientation--and their accompanying legal protections. What happens when an individual (student, staff or faculty member) decides they want to join a community like Biola but live in a manner that is inconsistent with the institution's convictions?
As part of the Biola Digital Ministry Conference, I gave a seminar entitled "Becoming Social Media Savvy Without Losing Your Soul," in which I discussed the etiquette of social media and some of the potentials and pitfalls in how we can use it as Christians. What does it mean to represent Christ in the social media space? To get at this question, my presentation included 12 "dos" of social media and 12 "don't." Here they are below, starting with the "don'ts."
In my younger days, L.A. was Bayside High, California Dreams, Encino Man, "Valley Girls," Beverly Hills 90210, Disneyland, Hollywood, the Oscars. Or it was a place of constant calamity: the Northridge earthquake, mudslides, fires, various car chases chronicled by the vulture news helicopters L.A. helped normalize. The point is: my understanding of L.A. was (and still is, to some extent) formed by media portrayals, mass-communicated narratives of "reality" packaged chiefly as entertainment. This is how we understand the world.
I'm troubled by the value we place on quickness in our culture. The rush to "join the conversation" doesn't necessarily help the conversation. Frequently it hurts it. Sometimes our quickness perpetuates the spread of misinformation. When the urge is to comment first, research later, the conversation becomes scattershot and unreliable.
It may be too soon for a "legacy" commentary on Steve Jobs. But part of Job's legacy is that he helped popularize the "having a mobile device that can do everything, from anywhere at anytime" quickness of contemporary communication. His devices helped facilitate the cultural shift toward on-the-go, real-time media consumption. Because of him (and others), we can now hear about news, process it with others and, yes, even write a blog post about it as quickly as we want to. That I'm writing this on my Apple MacBook Pro is not meta irony as much as it is an unavoidable reminder of this man's prodigious legacy and his brand's revolutionary reach. How many of you who are reading this now on an Apple product?
Moneyball is one of the smartest, most effective sports movies I've ever seen. It captures the "love of the game" spiritual gravitas of The Natural and Field of Dreams while also embodying the melancholy of nostalgia for the "glory days" (see Friday Night Lights). But Moneyball's most obvious antecedent and kindred spirit isn't a sports movie at all. It's The Social Network.
I suppose the idea is that in crowdfunding, as in anything Internet, the cream of the crop will eventually rise to the top. Projects that are worthy and compelling will in theory succeed, and everything else will flounder until mercifully abandoned.