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William Bridges wrote “Transitions"” years ago which helped me think about the difference between “change” and “transition”. It did not seem like much at the time but the distinction is important. Change happens all the time and it doesn’t matter if it is small (change banks) or large (death of a spouse or loss of a career). What matters is making a transition from one thing to another. Change is situational and constant. Transition is psychological and is a process where people gradually accept the details of the new situation and the changes that come with it. Every transition has three stages: The ending, the wilderness (or neutral zone) and the new beginning. To make a genuine new beginning requires closure for the past and a time of “wandering” before we take hold of the next chapter in our lives.
A friend gave me an article from a recent issue of ”Fast Company” that is titled “The Lost Steve Jobs Tapes” by Brent Schlender. As everyone knows, Jobs was forced out of Apple and spent part of the next several years angry and vengeful about that. “Steve Jobs did not wander aimlessly into the wilderness after being ousted from Apple. No happy camper, he was loaded for bear; burning to wreak revenge upon those who had spuriously shoved him into exile, and obsessed with proving to the world that he was no one-trick pony.” Not a good ending! And then the “wilderness” begins – first with the failure of NeXT and then with the purchase of Pixar’s assets for $5 million from George Lucas. But it was in that wilderness where Jobs learned new skills out of necessity. It was the most pivotal time of his life – and the happiest. “Most important, his work with the two companies he led during that time…turned him into the kind of man, and leader, who would spur Apple to unimaginable heights upon his return.”
The application is obvious. I know people who need this story right now. They need to know that the wilderness is not permanent and, more importantly, it is productive. It’s what John Lasseter at Pixar says is the key to all their success. “It’s gotta be about how the main character changes for the better.”Comments
A couple of years ago Carol’s friends gave her a satellite radio receiver for her car. It’s a source of amusement to me because, like cable television, there are hundreds of choices – especially if you like sports, heavy metal music, talk shows, country western, country/country, western/western, and more sports. The only time I use it is when we travel and I can find something closer to my taste – CSPAN book reviews, PBS and Joni Mitchell. As you probably know, you just set your regular radio dial on 88.3 and the satellite does the rest. Instant (and increasingly strange) variety.
Here’s what bothers me. In Houston and a couple of other major cities local Christian radio stations have such a strong signal on 88.3 that the satellite signal cannot break through. So, you either resign yourself to Christian fare for about 75 miles or you dial in regular radio – with virtually no variety. That irritates me. Why do they need a signal so strong that nothing else can compete? The last time this happened it started me thinking about our Christian friends who would like to do the same with our American culture. They would like to have a signal that is so strong and overwhelming that all the variety of the culture (increasingly strange) would be drowned out and all we would have is Christian choices and values. While I may not like all the choices I have in a world driven by Satellite XM, I much prefer that to a single option. I hope we never “take back” the culture.Comments
I have a friend who told me he read book reviews instead of books because it was more important to know about a new book than to have read it. He called it “fake smart”. It’s a good phrase. I do the same. I don’t want to be caught not having at least some knowledge about the latest book so I snack on the reviews and, unfortunately, lose my appetite for reading.
I was at a conference a couple of years ago and realized we were doing the same thing with speakers. We were “speed dating” with content. We were curious about what they had to say but not really interested. At home we have a bird house outside our kitchen window and I was watching the mother swallow her food and then belch it up into the babies beaks. They do that because the enzyme mechanism is not fully developed in the babies and they don’t yet have the bacteria that allows them to break food down themselves. It felt similar. The speaker was chewing it up for us because we didn’t have the enzymes needed.
It feels like ideas have become entertainment instead of an opportunity to think and respond.
Today I read an interview with Eugene Peterson by Owen Strachan that once more emphasized the importance of words, thought and discipline. “Good writing does not come easy; it takes a lot of discipline, a lot of self-criticism. A lot of people in my position want to know how to write, and after talking to them for a while I realize, "You don't want to write, you want to get published; you're not willing to go through the disciplines…” That’s the heart of it, I think.
We have slow cooking and slow church movements. Maybe I need to work on a slow conference for The Gathering.Comments
David Brooks is so right about so many things - and his opinion piece last week on the "wonderful young people who are doing good" (Link) is on the mark as well. His conclusion that their idealism is ultimately not enough because it does not address the harsh realities of politics, systems, corruption and the extent of "disorder" in those very places they are working is accurate. Their ambivalence about the place of rough political process and their preference for cleaner and more virtuous nonprofit solutions will at some point bump up against the evils of the world. The complexities, trade-offs and deals that are inevitable will rear up in time and the question is how they will face those when they come.
I also wonder how they will deal with disillusionment, easy cynicism and finding a smoother path for personal fulfillment. Some will fade away. Some will accommodate themselves to the common wisdom of "doing what it takes" and others will themselves be corrupted and "lose their souls" in the process. I don't think there is any way to predict that just yet.
All this is relatively new for a movement that for so long was focused on evangelism and uncomfortable - even distrustful of - the social side of the gospel. Yes, there were a few heroes that are now being honored instead of marginalized - Dorothy Day, Ron Sider, Tony Campolo and others. There are even some who are working on a credible theology that will support this new way and give it the energy and urgency that worked so well for a dispensational view of history and the eschatology that drove the growth of the parachurch movement of the last century.
Still, given the nature of movements and trends there will be many who will move on or drop out.
At the same time, I think part of the popularity of Eric Metaxas' book "Bonhoeffer" can be chalked up to this same generation's search not just for courage in the face of overwhelming evil but the tenacity to wrestle with the tangible and complicated evil of systems - political, economic and, yes, religious. I think there will be a few who will accept the responsibility and discomfort of being fully in the world. Bonhoeffer wrote, "God wants to see human beings, not ghosts who shun the world. In the whole of world history there is always only one significant hour - the present...If you want to find eternity, you must serve the times." There will be those few who do not persist in their disdain for politics and will face the facts Brooks writes about so well: "In short, there's only so much good you can do unless you are willing to confront corruption, venality and disorder head-on."
Let me close this with this from Bonhoeffer because I believe he more than most understood this conundrum. "Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God - the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God."Comments
I pray none of my college teachers read this. I went to school in a time that valued citations and footnotes – not so much original thought. I learned this the hard way but over time figured out how to game the system. Here’s the part I hope they don’t read. If I had something to say for which I did not have another source, I would make up a source and create a footnote. I knew the professor was far more likely to give credence to a “published” source than a student. I also knew the teaching assistant was not likely to check the source. I was very creative at inventing authorities. Sort of a reverse plagiarism.
I’ve been following hashtags from a few conferences and am interested in the ideas that have currency with participants. Now and then I read something and recognize it as having been said by another speaker years ago or a modified version of a whole passage from an author long dead. Of course, some authors or speakers are so connected to particular expressions that it would be impossible to separate them. For instance, imagine using “Ask not what your country can do for you” without attributing it to John F. Kennedy or attempting to make it your own. While you could not get away with that you could rephrase G.K. Chesterton, Ovid or George MacDonald and feel certain very few people would know.
I think I am seeing a reversal of what I experienced in college. Audiences want to believe the speaker is the original source and, to quote St. Matthew, “he taught as one who had authority and not as their scribes.” My professors wanted scribes and this generation wants authorities. They do not value quotes and footnotes as much as they do someone speaking with the authority of an insight or new idea – even if it is a paraphrase. We had to prove our sources and the speakers today are encouraged to be the source. Some speakers I have heard actually improve the original and make it even more memorable.
Of course, there is an obvious downside to this. It can be dishonest or become outright theft. It is one step beyond doing a “cover album” or reinterpreting an artist. Still, I know these participants are scribbling and texting these ideas as if they have been spoken for the very first time and, more important, perhaps they are listening in a way they would not to the original.Comments