Same “tension”, new direction

Since I’m still getting some regular traffic on this blog, I thought I’d highlight something new that I’m up to: music

Here’s a little blurb from my new site:

Some days, I’d be perfectly content to just enjoy all the amazing music that’s already out there.  There’s so much of it, what else could I possibly have to add, right?

But other days, it seems like if I don’t create my art, if I don’t make my music and get it out there, I’d be missing the boat on something really important.

So, here I am.  Making my music and sharing it with the world.  I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t care whether you like it or not…  I really do hope you like it, and that it strikes a chord, or a nerve, or something.

A little detail on the name, the Tension.

I’ve always been kind of an idealist.  Which you might think would mean that I am a pretty optimistic guy, but I’m actually not at all.  I’m pretty critical and pessimistic, actually.  That’s what seems to happen when the realities of life come crashing down into the hopes and dreams of an idealist.

I find myself constantly torn between the amazing things that we could do in this life, and the reality that the day to day can be a struggle for many of us.  The heights of human achievement, and the depths of our dysfunction.  Our unfathomable capacity for healing and love, coupled with our seemingly inescapable tendency to destroy and hate.

This is the tension we find ourselves in.  This is where our dreams and reality meet.

This is the Tension…  welcome.

So, thanks for stopping by my blog.  But I’d love it if you’d join me over at my new site as I continue to wade through the tension…

Email Woes

I’ve talked about him before, but this post is further confirmation that Merlin Mann is a genius.  He weighs in on some recent New York Times articles about (lack of) Productivity for the average white collar office worker in the US, he made some amazingly helpful comments towards the end of the post.

I would HIGHLY suggest heading over there and reading the whole thing, but here are some of his excellent comments in case you need some cold hard facts for why you should go read it (emphasis mine):

I think it’s important to clarify something here: there’s nothing fundamentally wrong or irreparable about email as a tool. Given my position on how email gets (ab)used, you could be forgiven for thinking I want everyone to write each other letters once a year and ride cows to work. No. Not at all.

My point has always been that, as with any tool, email can be used for good or ill depending on the problems you’ve decided it can solve. One trouble is that our use and widespread adoption of email hasn’t brought with it an equally widely-adopted understanding about how to use it, what content it’s appropriate for, and what expectations we accept regarding when it’s allowed to take us away from everything in our life that’s not email. There are very few shared rules of the road right now. And that’s making life hard for a lot of people.

I’m thrilled to hear that these ideas are bubbling up and getting the attention they deserve; email pain is usually a quiet, lonely, and shameful one, where people’s work and home life suffer from the silent understanding that “too much is never enough” — that trying to tamp down this always-on hysteria is a sign of weakness or sloth. That’s ironic, given the biggest reason we reason use email so much: it’s easy.

There’s no cashier, editor, or therapist through which your message must pass. You set your own rules for what’s appropriate to send, ask, or demand. You decide what it means when someone reacts (or doesn’t react) in a given manner or time frame. Email is still the Wild West, and companies are paying billions of dollars a year to supply the six-shooters and Stetsons. Yeehaw.

Do you feel like email, and other forms of online communication for that matter (chat, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are a net positive for you, or a net negative?  Have you ever actually contemplated what the negatives are in (over?) using these communication tools?  And have you ever considered that they are just that: TOOLS to help us communicate and relate to people.  They are not the point in and of themselves.

A hammer’s for banging nails, and building something you want/need.  If we’re banging a hammer around all the time just because we have it “in our tool box”, it’s kind of missing the point, no?

Brian McLaren weighs in on the Dobson vs. Obama debacle

Chances are you’ve heard about James Dobson‘s recent comments about a speech that Barack Obama made a little while back.

If you haven’t, then great, don’t bother looking into it.  It’s the same old, same old, stuff that people like Dobson have been saying for a long time.  Stop reading this post now and go do something else.

But, if you did already hear about, then you should read this blog post from Brian McLaren where he weighs in on some of the issues with what Dobson said, and (equally as important) how he said it.  Here are a few choice quotes:

This week’s “Beloved Christian Broadcaster Attacks Beloved Christian Presidential Candidate” headline reflects at least seven patterns of unhelpful discourse I frequently see among the religiously vocal, whatever their political persuasion.

First, this Christian leader didn’t restrict himself to making judgments on Barack Obama’s statements; he inferred the candidate’s motives and judged them as well. Consider his use of the word “deliberately” in this sentence:
“I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology.”

The Evangelical leader in question – whose attempts at persuasion I would judge as average or slightly above average in the world of religious broadcasting – displays the common religious tendency to lapse into name-calling, which has predictable and unhelpful results. For example, he referred to Obama’s approach as “a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution.” This tendency to mock the opposition might be deemed excusable if it were a rhetorical icing on the cake of solid analysis, but lacking that analysis, it can hardly be called an improvement over the thoughtful speech by Senator Obama, given at an event at which I was present in 2006, which was being criticized by the respected Evangelical speaker.

Unless this leader and his political and religious allies can lift their level of discourse, their shared good ideas will be discredited along with their bad ones. The same goes for all of us. And unless more of us become more scrupulous regarding how arguments are made – even if we agree with the point they’re trying to prove – we will become less able to tell the bad ideas from the good ones.

Read the whole thing here.

Thoughts?  Is Brian off base in his critique?  Was Dobson off-base?  Do you agree that HOW something is said is equally as important as WHAT is said?

UPDATE 7/2/08:

Scot McKnight weighed in on this as well. It’s a lot more concise than McLaren’s, however, he does come to some of the same conclusions.  For those people who have a tough time hearing from McLaren, maybe this other take on it would be beneficial to check out?  Just a thought…  (HT: David Swanson)

UPDATE 7/3/08:

In the comments, John pointed us to a site with more info on what went down.  It’s clearly Pro-Obama, but I still think it’s worth checking out because it doesn’t inject much opinion, it merely compares their statements side by side.  The fact that, when presented in this way, Obama comes out “on top” should say something to us…

Oh very cool. Take a look at this website: http://www.jamesdobsondoesntspeakforme.com/

It does a good side-by-side comparison of Dobson’s skewed characterizations and Obama’s actual words.

NT Wright on dropping African debt

Interesting piece by NT Wright (as usual), defending his opinion that the massive debts that many African countires owe to Western countries and banks should be canceled.  Here’s a few quotes to whet your appetite:

In the 1970s, for example, Western financial institutions loaned the best part of a billion dollars to Idi Amin of Uganda – a vicious psychopath and known to be such. By doing so, they not only saddled that impoverished country with a millstone of debt, but financed the dictator’s reign of terror. These actions were both financially irresponsible and morally reprehensible. After Amin’s fall, the debts were inflated by massive rates of compound interest (up to 20% p.a.!) resulting mainly from economic policies pursued by the developed world, not least as long-term results of the Bretton Woods agreement. At the same time, the bottom fell out of the market for Uganda’s main exports.

Here in North East England, Christian Aid received an unsolicited email from Dr Simon Challand, when he was working in southern Uganda with the Church Mission Society. He wrote that: “Debt relief means money stays in the country instead of pouring out to Europe and the US and there have been huge improvements in health and education… The Ministry of Health has just increased the grant to all the health centres by 85%… four years ago they got nothing. Many health centres are able to provide immunisation, growth monitoring, health education and antenatal care to remote rural areas… Everywhere you go you can see new classrooms going up to support the Universal Primary Education programme which gives every child 7 years of free schooling.” [Uganda used its first tranche of debt relief to improve basic medical provision and to abolish fees for primary school.]

Read the whole thing here.

(HT: Emergent Village blog)

Free Range Kids

I found out about a really interesting blog from a post on 43Folders.com.  It’s called:

Free Range Kids: Let’s give our children the freedom we had!

If you’re a parent, or would like to be one some day, I think it’s worth reading a bit.  Here’s a blurb about the site:

Do you ever: let your kid ride a bike to the library? Walk alone to school? Take a bus, solo? Or are you thinking about it? If so, you are raising a Free Range Kid! At Free Range, we believe in safe kids. We believe in helmets, car seats and safety belts. We do NOT believe that every time school age children go outside, they need a security detail. Most of us grew up Free Range and lived to tell the tale. Our kids deserve no less. This site dedicated to sane parenting. Share your stories, tell your tips and maybe one day I will try to collect them in a book. Meantime, let’s try to help our kids embrace life! (And maybe even clear the table.)

Crazy?  Maybe.  Maybe not…

One thing’s for sure, I’m adding this one to Google Reader to find out for myself.

(HT: 43folders)