One of the insidious maladies that plagues middle age, is a fading memory. Not a serious medical condition, but a blurring of what was, with what might have been, with what really is. For some people, the older they get the better they think they used to be. For me, the older I get the more I think I could have been. Sadly in the process of growing up, in addition to learning who I am, I've learned a lot about who I am not. I'm not the brilliant individual my mother bragged about, but simply just who I am.
I am a humble man, who is finally coming to the point where I'm satisfied to live my whole life in obscurity. I get up, do my job, and I love my family, my community, my friends, and I know that God loves me. With that, I am satisfied. Sure I want to be better than I am. Despite the occasional vituperative utterances, I quietly live in the world I've created out of the broken spirits and dashed hopes. I'm older now, understanding the meaning of loyalty through betrayal, understanding honesty by being cheated, and understanding integrity through deception. Yet, I move on, not dwelling too long in a past that would otherwise bog me down.
There's still room for great changes in my life, but in middle age those dreams are tempered with the knowledge that my strength and weakness are as much a part of reaching my goals as is my enthusiasm.
(thanks to John Bingham - for the inspiration, apologies if I've plagiarized his writing)
But for all we talk about the clash of civilizations, we know that the most important global struggle is not between one religion and other, but between fanaticism and tolerance - the two principals that cut across all borders and run through every religion. In the long struggle between thoecracy and democracy, too many so called "Christians" have thrown their lot with the enemy.
If we are to stand for tolerance, it's more than a strategic error to say that my God is the true right and only way. It's a sacrilige to our civic religion.
Adapted from Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe 10/23/03
The man who dares throw the first stone emboldens the timid to pile on like the villagers in Shirley Jackson's story ''The Lottery.''
I read the obituaries the other day and there was the story of a firefighter, an anthropologist, and a rock musician. It's a question every career counselor asks, what would you want on your obituary? Hmm... I wonder why, older people record where they're from. Younger people, only where they died.
The firefighter of Brighton simply wanted to be working with his buddies. A soldier during WWII who, became a fireman. Of which he spent 33 years, then another seven as assistant to the chief. A forty year career, with a loving wife, three sons, retiring when he was sixty five, and then living another fifteen years, to die in a nursing home.
The anthropoligist from Cambridge, who did work in Africa, and gave us glimpses of the lives or women and children in developing countries. Possessing a distinguished academic career, tenured professor at Harvard, working until the end, publishing numerous papers about the world. Died in the hospital.
And lastly a rock musician, who died at 34. Described as a frail, wispy, haunting songcrafter, who lived a life tinged with drugs and alcohol. His music was described as bitter, twinkling, impressionistic, and driving. Died of an apparant suicide at his home in Los Angeles.
Who would I want to be like? And what would be on my obituary.
I keep coming back to the idea of Postmodernism, it's quite a popular way to desribe how to deal with young people. Postmodernism.
All this stuff about Generation X, the Generation Y, and the rest of all of how the world is changing. Aside from a Now we have another term for generation Y.
"The Mosaic Generation" (people born 1984-2002)
They're all things to everyone, a little bit of everything. In fact the most defining characteristic of these people is that they defy characterization.
George Barna writes about this generation:
Hmm... I'll re-codify this idea. It's kind of old hash, rehashed...
It’s an interesting group because they like some of the phraseology of faith, but they don’t necessarily invest themselves in the practices related to faith. We’ve got group of people who say that they know that faith is important, they want faith to be a part of their lives, yet they’re really not tuned in to the church.
They’re not necessarily tuned in to the God of the Bible. They believe that there’s some kind of deity or divinity that exists out there, but given that they don’t buy in to this notion of absolute moral truth, they’re not sure that the Bible is something that’s really trustworthy. They look at the Christians they know, and they’re not that impressed with what they’ve seen. They look at the church as an organization, and they’re not sure it’s worth their time and energy.
All of this leads them to the point of saying, “I know that faith is meaningful. But the way that I’m going to define and practice faith is going to be very much personalized and customized. It may be like nobody else’s faith, but it’s going to be important because it’s my faith.”
I think the church is in for a big shock as today’s young people - who we think are highly spiritual, who we think are really connected to the church - begin to leave.
The reason I point this out is we’ve found that today’s teenagers have a higher likelihood of participating in the life of a local church than adults do, yet we also found that they’re not coming to the church for a religious experience per se. They’re coming for a relational experience with their tribe - that’s the group of anywhere from a half dozen to a dozen people who are their closest friends.
The key thing in the lives of Mosaics is experiences, and they want to share those experiences with people they know and trust. So, if their tribe meets at the church, maybe they have a spiritual experience, maybe not. It doesn’t matter because ultimately they’re doing it for relational purposes.
Their core values are a result of a sort of cut-and-paste mosaic of feelings and facts and principles, then there is no objective truth. There is no understanding of - or acceptance of the fact - that there is an objective truth independent of themselves.
Teenagers are abundantly comfortable with contradictions. Even within God, and faith. The one statement that stands out for me the most was from a sermon from Tim Keller, that says that there is no paradox with God and our faith. We can believe both in predestination, and free will. That he was both fully man and fully divine. That science does not contradict creation. The loving God of grace and forgiveness described in the new testament, does not contradict the harsh, vengeful, punishing God of the old testament that let his chosen people be defeated, conquered and sent into exile forever.
I'm in the midst of reading DeSoto's treatise on capitalism. And it's a fascinating read, to know that the key to the whole world economy is not free trade, but capital that is allowing economies to transform themselves.
What exactly is "Title Insurance?" I refinanced my house and saw this fee on the closing, and then I thought it was kind of unnecessary, thinking "of course I have clear title to my house, I owned it before, and I still own it now, what's there to guarantee?"
But then I realized it was the probably the most important thing there. That's the insurance that ensures that you actually have title to the property. Somthing so assumed in the United States, that it's but a formality. Of course everyone assumes you can buy a house and have title to land
But I was mentioning it to a friend who's moving overseas, and it's not immediatley obvious how much it's ingrained into our rule of law. We take property rights for granted. For example, citizens from the United States can't own property in Mexico, yet extra-legally people do.
Purchasing a condominimum in Shanghai, doesn't seem to be a strange concept for me. Although I wonder about the established procedures for doing it, given that standard property titles for the middle class only existed five years ago.
Although I have a huge mortgage, I do have title to my house.
For those of you who absolutely need to see what's going on in my life, or just have a curiosity about how my trip went.
Here's a couple more sets of photos.
First from Beijing
Now from my trip back to Shanghai -