Ideas and Elections

“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death.”

The preceding sentence was said by the late President John F. Kennedy and in many respects it’s the theme of this blog. My desire is to explore the power of ideas as well as the expression of those ideas. Why? Well, because I believe I am a work in progress (and maybe I am not alone) and that I live in a world that is trying to make progress. Undergirding all of this progressive optimism are ideas.

Many Christians call the systematic formulation of these ideas a ‘worldview’ and that’s not a bad phrase. But, some ideas, if we’re honest, aren’t always that clear in our head and so it’s difficult to organize them neatly and label them effectively.

Some Thoughts on Taste

Chicago pizza, where you truly have the option of either an uncut sausage patty or more commonly seen, sausage pieces, covering your pie, is something I can eat most days of the week. I have fond memories of sitting in Uno’s downtown or at Gino’s East a couple streets over or at Giordano’s. In our world of health conscious, obesity fighting, fitness crazed professionals, why then do I like it?

The answer is simple: it tastes really good.  Think then how incredibly powerful our sense of taste is and how incredibly influential our appetites are. If you’ve traveled at all, you’ve tasted different things and some agreed with you, while others did not. Mind you, taste is something very important to us and I dare say, it feeds our subconscious (pun intended) in ways we haven’t thought.

Fighting Indifference, pt. 2

“Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.”

“Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.”

Below is my effort at recording the world through a couple poems. Whether Aristotle or Plato would find them acceptable is for another day.

From my Hotel Room in Greenwich Village

Fighting Indifference, pt. 1

“The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them,”

George Bernard Shaw



The gunman stood at the window looking out over the crowded streets below. Bobby paused from typing and surveyed the situation. Could he make a break for the door? What happens if he refuses to type? Maybe, he would simply charge and tackle the man, sending him crashing through the window to the street below. Something akin to an action hero would certainly do the trick. Then again, there was that gun. Knives are considered rather personal, guns seems so cold and impersonal. A sniper can shoot a complete stranger from a great distance and still remain seated at that great distance. Stabbings, though, happen at close range amongst people who can know each other. Guns seem to prevent struggles. In that case, so do bombs, missiles, torpedoes, and nuclear weapons. When a rather large bomb is dropped, there is nothing really personal about it; it simply means that people will die. We have simply become too efficient at hurting each other.

“You want out of here, don’t you?” said the gunman.
“Yes, sir, I do.”
Neither man moved and to Bobby’s surprise, the gunman never even looked over at him.

A Small Town Perspective on City Growth

May 2007 article from the Economist still seems like one of the better surveys of urban growth that I have read.
With that said, let me give a bit of a personal perspective and see if this resonates with anyone. Until I was 17 years old, I lived in a town of less than 5000 people in Northern Illinois. No one asked what school I went to, there was only one option. The only major fast food chain was Hardee's and Main Street was truly the main street. Over the years, I have seen the exodus of people my age and younger leave to head to Chicago, the nearest big city or to the four cornes of the earth. Why? First, two major factories shut down. The General Electric and Ethan Allen factories, which used to employ about a third of the town, each closed.
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Do you have Cultural Intelligence?

Let me play my cards up front with you, there are a host of 'intelligence' quotients today. I have read books in the past year that deal with our relational intelligence, our right brain, left brain, and our central intelligence (agency that is), but I do believe that one of the more pressing concerns in our globalizing world is whether or not we are culturally intelligent. For some people, being culturally intelligent will be based more on information than experience. Others of you will have traveled widely and therefore, you will have your own perspective. All of us need to understand that neither our culture nor our view of culture is necessarily at the center of anything (other than our own minds).
Author and Scholar David Livermore introduces his book on the subject in this short clip.
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Show and Tell

I miss this part of school. What is the adult version of show and tell? At this point, I have no idea, but the word 'and' seems important to me. Since this is a blog and since the internet is loaded with people sounding off, we currently have no shortage of 'tell'. 

In fact, that's part of my concern. I have read in recent weeks some articles and blogs from Christians about Christians and the tone is, well, unloving at best, hateful at worst. For many readers, this will be nothing new, but the language tells me something about the 'show' part. The other day, my daughter caught me singing one of my new favorite songs and burst out laughing. 

"Daddy what are you doing?"

"Singing this cool song," I replied. 

And then, the fun part came that was a bit unexpected. My daughter wanted to join in and learn the song. So, my little fantasy rock and roll stint turned into an impromptu show and tell. We danced around the room belting out the chorus (I only taught her the chorus as it was easier than the entire song) and something interesting happened. I actually learned more of the song by trying to teach her the song. Now, this isn't a new idea or brain surgery and some would remind me of how elementary such an idea is (to which I say, duh, my daughter's in elementary school), but the thought remains the same for anyone claiming to be a Christian in an interconnected and globalizing world. It is often only when you try to teach another person that you find out what you truly understand or truly know.

In some small way, maybe that's one of the great benefits of the information age; we now know, in part, that we don't know much. But, as we process life together, as we attempt to teach new ideas, we'll be the better for it. A life changing moment for me in my own Christian walk came in the early 90's when I was teaching in China, the summer before my senior year in college. A devout Buddhist student sat down with me one afternoon and asked me to explain the Christian faith. I told him I would do so on one condition: he would explain the Buddhist faith to me. So, for several hours we talked about Jesus, Buddha, and life. We walked in and out of Buddhist temples nearby and looked at Bible passages together. In short, we played 'show and tell' and I remember that day very well. Let this simply be an encouragement to return to something many schools have dropped and many schools of thought are missing: let's show AND tell.

By the way, in case you'd like to join in on the little exercise with my daughter, here's the music video to the song we sang. Be sure to twirl around when you sing 'that planet earth moves slowly'.... we even found that twirling around in slow motion with our arms stretched out worked really well....

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When Good News and Bad News Lingers

On Christmas Eve, I received a note from a friend in Nigeria. The subject line of his email was this: bombs for Christmas. In this note, he describes in detail how he and his family are dealing with the violence all around them. Today, I received another note from a colleague in Asia who is living on a very low salary and cannot see how he will make ends meet. And yet another note from a couple in the Southern United States outlined how the sale of their house fell through and they weren't sure what to do next.

My inbox took the wind out of me.
I recall a section of 'The Stranger' by Albert Camus where we read these words:
The Stranger by CamusThe chaplain knew the game well too, I could tell right away: his gaze never faltered. And his voice didn't falter, either, when he said, 'Have you no hope at all? And do you really live with the thought that when you die, you die, and nothing remains?'

'Yes,' I said.
(Part 2, Chapter 5, pg. 117)
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Renewing the Christmas Mind

It' s worth some time, during this annual season of stress, tradition, gifts, and holiday songs to think and renew not only one's sense of charity toward others, but of one's focus on higher things. Take the following as exercises for your mind and heart in a season where both charitable giving, clinical depression, and consumer spending are all running at their annual peak:

JIPackerKnowingGodWe talk glibly of the ‘Christmas spirit,’ rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis. But what we have said makes it clear that the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning. It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas." “The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor – spending and being spent – to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others – and not just to their own friends – in whatever way there seems need.

- J.I. Packer, Knowing God
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Forget the Enlightenment, Be Enlightened

The plight of public education has been a topic of debate worldwide for quite some time. Who has access? Who has the capacity? Are the teachers teaching properly? Are students growing?
Maybe we need a paradigm shift and that's what this video shows.
it's worth a look:
After you watch the video, I would be curious if you think this works in the West or if it's wishful thinking. Are there any paradigms like it that you know of being practised aroudn the world?
Like it or not, public education and the future of the next generation is linked and whether you home school, private school, Christian school, charter school, magnet school, public school, or skip school, this will effect all of us.
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As a University director of study abroad in Central Texas, ideas and stories matter. These reflections are for pilgrims making progress.