10 November, 2013

Human Nature, Darwin, and The Church

Thinking about human nature is interesting, especially when looking through the lens of Theology. I was just browsing Facebook when I noticed a friend who had posted a Christian comic strip about human nature. It depicted it as a green beast-like character that follows up around everywhere we go. Its personality traits are all that one would expect to be said about the bad side of human nature. These included our selfishness, pride, and desire to beat the survival-of-the-fittest game. This got me to think of where these sort of ideas could have possible come from.
Now, I have no problem with Darwin and the theory of evolution. But I think that, as odd as it may sound, Darwin actually was a huge influence on the Fundamentalist Christian view of human nature. Let me explain.
While Darwin’s theory, and his work The Descent of Man, spoke of natural selection and the works, which pictured life as a brutal game of survival, there was a gentler side spoken as well; one of cooperation and the positive things that set man apart from other animals. Unfortunately for Darwin, these are hardly spoken of. Instead, “Darwin’s Bulldog,” Thomas Huxley made himself busy coining phrases like survival of the fittest. Huxley had taken a much harsher stance on human nature.
This harsh, survival mentality trickled down through decades until it finally reached industrial America at the turn of the century.
This was an age of a new school of thought called Social Darwinism. Social Darwinism takes this idea of the survival of the fittest and projects it onto the socio-economic behavior of the early 1900’s. This makes sense when you think of the Roaring 20’s, Big Trusts, and Monopolies. These things were justified by Social Darwinism in that the rich and wealthy must have superior genes, and therefore are worthy of such success. Well, enter trust-busting Roosevelt and the Social Gospel Movement. Suddenly, Politics, Economics, and the Church, along with several other characters, are all in the same boxing rink at the same time. Each one scuffs up and rubs off onto the other, and each are forever changed by the brawl. Think about today, and how there are laws against monopolies, specific laws that make exceptions for churches, and the existence of a non-profit, charity-type company. These are all consequences whose origin can be traced back to these times. So, Social Darwinism put up a fight in the ring, and took beating from Anti-Trust Laws, but the ideas began to settle into American culture as time went on. It is all around us today, yet we hardly notice because it has become such the status-quo. Who is the stereotypical kid in an Ivy-League school? The one in on legacy. The one with top-of-the-pyramid genes. How are the titans of industry depicted nowadays? As individuals who must have stepped over others in order to obtain their success. Survival of the fittest, in black and white. It has penetrated so deep into our culture that the Church does not even realize it is infiltrated.
Take all of the harsh, savage, animalistic things out of Darwin’s theories, as promoted by Huxley and personify them. What emerges is a wretched individual bent on his own survival and his survival alone. Taking it a step farther, in order to guarantee their survival, the individual is one who reaches the top at all cost. Each move calculated in order to satisfy its own greed, while the world and others are made for them to use at a whim. This is what is preached against in a church. (Which is nuts when you think about how an affirmating sermon would draw many many many more people into church and produce better, loving Christians over a condemning one. But that is another story to be talked about later.) This is the disgusting human nature that everyone is warned against. And this theological movement is all thanks to Darwin (Actually, it is probably thanks to Huxley for screwing up the interpretation of Darwin’s work  ...jerk)

Typed as a pure train of thought :P



29 May, 2013

Want to live for a century? Listen to Gramps.

      So, this guy -----> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ff40YiMmVkU  Dan Buettner gave a TED talk about people who have lived to be a healthy 100 or more. One of his arguments for this active longevity is the fact that the cultures, where these 100-year-olds come from, respect their elders. He attributes the care and compassion given to the elderly by the youth as one of the reasons why they live to be so old. This seems to make sense. However, there may be another reason behind the length of life other than the fact that the young people take care of the old people. Let me explain. 
      My grandmother is almost 90 years old now. She also drives herself around town just fine, goes grocery shopping, tends to her garden, and climbs the stairs to her second story bedroom several times a day; AND she has had TWO knee replacements. She is stubborn, and is always barking in the sweetest tone possible that she can do it herself. When I ask how she is still getting so well, she gladly replies that it was making sure she had vegetables as a main part of every meal and that she make an effort to keep herself moving. 
      Now, If she keeps it up another ten years or so, she might not only make it to 100, but she might also get to meet her first great-great-grandchild. So, thinking about what Buettner said, I don't really think the fact that the youth take care of the elderly effects the healthy longevity of the elderly. My grandmother lives completely alone and takes care of herself with no help at all. So, think for a minute how it would be like in a culture where she was highly respected for her age. 
     When the great-grandchildren are gathered around asking how to live to be as long and happy as she has, will the youth in that culture listen better than some teen visiting his gramps in hospice? I would hope so. 
      This sets up an almost social natural selection for longevity behaviors. The child who follows the advice and lifestyle of elderly would seem to have a better chance of making to to that healthy age. On the other hand, the children who shrug off listening to the elderly and snack on a big mac might find themselves riddled with western-world health problems like diabetes and heart disease.
      So, wrapping all of this up, when it comes to long and healthy lives, it is not the fact that some youth may give a helping hand to the elderly, like Buettner suggests; it has more to do with the idea that the cultures that put a higher emphasis on respect for elders the older that they get are actually encouraging a social structure that naturally promotes long and healthy lives when the advice of the elderly is taken very seriously by the youth.

28 May, 2013

My Life Influences Mind Map

So, I made a mind map of my influences throughout my life. These are people, things, ideas, events. Things that have shaped my direction and my thinking as of right now. I made this about a year ago and found it buried in my files on my computer. I updated it and thought it would make a cool blog post. Made with Mind Node Lite.
Right click and open in new tab to see better.
Working on a clearer image also.

I'm A Success Guinea Pig...

So recently I was chosen as a subject for a case study... The study was to probe into the mind of a successful person and analyze what they thought of their own success. Why I was chosen, I have no idea. I am not wealthy, hold any kind of important position, or have power over anyone else. I just like to have fun and figure things out!
Anyway, I thought the transcript from the interview might make a kind of cool blog post.
(If anyone out there understands Myers-Briggs, I am an INTP by the way -- Just thought that might help explain my raw thought.)
So! Here it is; copied and pasted for everyone to pick at!

1.    What qualities developed as a child helped you become a highly successful person?
As a child? I guess I was Always curious. Yea, my curiosity plays a bug part in it. Tinkering and stuff like that. I would always have some little project going on that I saw in a book or heard of at school or something. Like this one time my cousin and I had become obsessed with learning survival techniques. You know, like building traps and stuff like that. We had gotten our hands on an old airforce survival training manual. So we went nuts. Our masterpiece was a trap where you trip a wire and it shoots an arrow in that direction. We only got it to work a few times, but it was still really exciting. Doing thins like this really helps you understand something a lot more basic. When you can see the gears turning you can better understand stuff. So, in my college dorm, I was the guy who knew how to do everything. Cook, skate, fix electronics, play whatever instrument; things like that. And it was all because I tinkered. All the time. We would look things up and scramble around our parents garage’s until we found the parts. The, smash all of the parts together, the suddenly we have a sail attached to a chair that was fitted onto a skateboard that was made with string, pipes, glue, broomsticks. So yea, ridiculous things like that.

Um. Again, because by doing those kinds of things, you get to see how they work, what is going on behind the scenes. Then you take what you know from that and apply it to something else. Like I’m building a telescope right now. I have to start thinking abut a frame to house it in, but I already know how to make it because one time I built several tree houses back in the woods. And from trial and – by the way, this stuff doesn’t just apply to building things. It is good for all sorts of stuff. Like I am finding French easy to learn because I already know Spanish. And programming was easy because I learned formal logic in school. – So, yea. Um. O yea so, from trial and error we figured out what kind of builds collapse and what kind hold up. By the time summer had come we had two houses connected by a bridge that were looking over this little stream. Then the ticks started getting really bad. So figuring out how things work is a big thing. Because if you know how something works, whether it is physical or um academic, you can figure out how to make it better. Make sense?
I guess another thing that my mom always used to praise me for was patience. All kinds of patience. I very rarely get upset because of it. And I try to wait for the right timing. Its like, you can’t catch a wave if the wave isn’t there, so why paddle your heart out?
So yea, qualities… natural curiosity and patience. Maybe I’ll think of something else in a bit.
Don’t focus yourself! It kind of goes along with the guy in the dorm who could do everything. I love to jump from project to project. Even if I don’t finish one, I still come out with knowing something about that topic. That kind of broad sweeping desire to do almost everything allows you to connect the dots better when you need to, like applying something from one are to another.

2.    Among these qualities, which did your parents help you develop? How? Please use stories or examples.
Curiosity and tinkering. Yea, those two were always encouraged. My mom loved how I always had a question whether it was about dinosaurs or light bulbs or whatever. She would always get me something to help me explore these things whenever she could. Two things I remember specifically was a computer game, I guess you would call it, called The Way Things Work. I even remember what the cd looked like and everything. This was when I was about 10 by the way and we got our first graphical interface pc. The cd had a wooly mammoth on the front with al these little scientists around it and all of these machines and gears and magnets and lightbulbs. It was what it sounded like; just a simple program that lets you explore the inner working of things like simple machines, magnets, lights, and stuff. I thought it was awesome. She also gave me this book that I wore ragged. I still have it too. It was called How Science Works. It took you through all these different elements of physics and chemistry at a level that I kid could understand, and then it designed experiments around that information for you to do with you parents at home or something. The book is almost in pieces now.
My dad was in this too. He had a shop in our back yard were he ran his framing, contracting, and concrete companies from. If there was anything I wanted to build or any scraps in the trash that I wanted to use, it was fair game. – by the way these things really are what I think have made me successful. After all, I never made the best grades and never really studied hard, to get straight A’s, but I was in all of the honors classes and made mostly B’s throughout highschool. I know most people may think that studying and working hard are the way to go, but that doesn’t work for everyone. And its not hard work to understand something if you are enjoying it like I did. The classroom was never for me. – Anyway. Um where was I. Oh yea. So my dad would teach me how to use any tools that he deemed safe for a kid my age and just let me have at it. Even if it was something ridiculous that took up a ton of room; like one time I built a go-cart out of old two by fours. Of course it didn’t run, or even roll for that matter.  The wheels were square pieces of wood. But even if I did something dumb like that, he let me go for it. It was so much fun.
So this encouragement to self-discover followed me up until the day I left home. Actually it was only the other day that my dad asked if I was still doing my experiments, as he likes to call them. I told him I was working on turning a washing machine motor into a generator for a wind turbine for power at his farm and a chip called an Arduino to help water his plants at when he is not there. I’ve hit a snag in the turbine though. But even though I have come to realize the significance of these things, he still had to let me know that it was important to do them. I thought that was cool.

3.    Among these qualities, which did your teacher(s) help you develop? How? Please use stories or examples.
Teachers. Honestly, I never had good relationships until a few here and there after I was in to my sophomore year. The teachers when I was younger used to tell my mom that I daydreamed too much or that I had ADD or something like that. I’m glad my mom knew the difference though. She understood that when that when I get quiet and distant it is because I am thinking about something. So, this continued on until high school until I took a ceramics class. I could also say the same for an English class, but ceramics is a better illustration. So in the ceramics class – I loved art by the way and had always doodled – In the ceramics class, we had some objectives and things that the teacher wanted us to make, but after we were done, we could do whatever we wanted as long as we ha something productive to show for it. This was amazing. I had never been to a class at school where we played our own CD’s in a CD player that the teacher had, and then just created whatever we wanted. It was so cool. Well, this went on for a while and I took more of his classes, I ended up taking every single art class that the high school offered. Some even twice.  And every one was set up in the same, learn-it-for-yourself kind of way. You learned through creating. Well I more than prospered under these conditions, and even represented our school on a national level after willing count and regional art contests. It was so much fun, and this was my first taste of learning with a large degree of freedom. So, the art teacher was really a huge inspiration, guidance, whatever you call it.
Then a few years later, after I had done miserably in a precalculus class because I hated doing homework, I signed up for an AP Calculus class. I qualified for that because of a B I got in a Trig class or something like that. I was stubborn, and wanted to still look smart even though I wasn’t very prepared. The calc class was taught by the same teacher that taught the precalc class and I can still remember what he said when I walked in the first day. He said “Woah, are you sure you are gonna be ok in here?” I don’t remember what I said back, but I like the way he taught. Well, not really the way he taught, but just his attitude towards learning. He never stressed getting good grades. He stressed understanding the material. And there is a difference. Even if I would get a C on a test he would be sure to tell me good job, and that meant something, because for the first time, there was no pressure to perform to someone else’s standards. So it turned out that, even though I ended up doing mediocre in the class, mostly because I didn’t like doing the homework again, I still learned a ton.
This was a great exit into college. I had a pretty bad GPA and my class rank was nowhere near worthy of being mentioned. I had no extra curriculars, unless you count a pro/am surfing career. But I got in to the only college I applied for right off the bat because I had great SAT score. I had no direction though. Zero. So after a few years, and meeting a few more professors who combined this self discovery with an importance on understanding the information more than getting a good grade, I randomly found myself in a philosophy and religion department about to graduate in a year or so at a completely different university than where I started. This decision was hands down the best one I’ve made for my success. Philosophy and Theology. That is what I graduated with, and it was the professors in that department that had the biggest effect on my education by far. They never, and I mean never told me what to write about or what to study. Thee classes were set up as discussion classes, where we would read a book or something and have to write a paper on it. Then we would have discussions about the topic. They taught me how to think. All of this chaos in my mind as a kid was finally being organized. They were turning my mind into something so efficient. I learned to organize thoughts so well. And empathize. Putting myself into someone else’s shoes. Learning how they make decisions. They fostered this correction, I guess, a streamlining of how I think about things through their comments on my papers that I got back and the way they held class. This is what I think of when I hear the word education. They didn’t hand me knowledge, they handed me the ability to find it on my own. …that is probably a good stopping point.

4.    Are there other factors that helped foster these qualities? What are they and how? Please use stories or examples.
Um. Lets see. Well I guess I could maybe add a little more clarity to some things I’ve already said that I might have skimmed over. Ok so, you might think I’m crazy but have you ever seen a mind chart? Mind plot? Whatever they are called. Those things with lines connecting bubbles connecting other bubbles and lines and stuff. Well, I actually made one based on what has been going on in my head over my lifetime. I would take one interest and connect it to another and that would sprout this or that. Which would connect to another bubble and strengthen this bubble or start and interest in this or that. It’s really kind of cool. I’ll have to show it to you. Well anyway, this mind map is a great illustration of how learning one thing allows the ease of learning or being successful in another. Um, for example, when I was little my mom bought me roller skates because she wanted to teach me to skate. Well I fell in love with the sport. Years later I built a halfpipe and made some friends who taught me to skateboard. Skateboarding make it very easy to learn to surf, surfing led to me being a good swimmer. Now that I was a good swimmer, I made the lifeguard tryouts.  After a few of being a grunt, I got an EMT certification and have performed CPR and have dragged tons of people out of the water. It is kind of a super, runaway, slippery slope. But so many good things have come from taking advantage off opportunity to learn something new. Even if you are not good at something at first, it could make you awesome at something else. Like, I never learned to skate well enough to compete, but I picked up surfing, and within a few years I found myself signing autographs in a line with my team members up and down the Florida coast. I guess it is all about trying new things. Always. And nurturing that drive and curiosity.
I just had a thought. If we can go back to college. Well, sometimes I feel that I have to explain away why I studied Philosophy and Theology because people don’t understand. “Why didn’t you become and engineer or and architect or blah blah blah?” I didn’t want to. Not at that time at least. I had no idea what I wanted. So I just studied something that I though was interesting. But what I also gained from this was an appreciation for so many different things. Philosophy really puts into perspective where every area of study falls under. All of the pieces started fitting together for me because now I could finally see what I wanted to do and why it was important that I do what I want instead of what I am expected to do. I almost went to law school. That would have been a huge mistake. I would have been miserable, because law is boring and tedious and time consuming. You need thick skin to work in that are too, and I don’t think I’m up for that. So now I’m studying physics because I love it. And sources like youtube are awesome ways to quickly explore a topic in an interesting way if you are short on time and attention span. It keeps me excited about learning.
The formal logic classes helped too. Logic allows you to take statements, whether from a paragraph of text or from a computer language or from mathematics, and analyze them to see if the hold up. It trains your brain to think in an excellent, methodical way.  So, yea take a Logic course. And a programming course. It follows the same inner workings.

5.    What advice can you give parents regarding how to raise and educate children into highly successful people?
Wow, for parents. Well, I actually find myself thinking about things like this sometimes. Like, If I had kids, they would hear the phrase, well what do you think a lot. Read Angels and Demons and you can get an illustration within the first few chapters of that.  There is a scene where, in a flashback, the protagonist is asking her father a question about God. Then the Father replies, “What do you think.” I think this is great. I could teach my kids what they need to know to get good grads and stuff, but what if instead I encourage them to figure it out for themselves and make it exciting along the way? This is what I would recommend. It forces thinking at a much higher level than just memory storage.
I think I would also say that the kid should be allowed to follow their interest, as long as it is reasonable. I really don’t know. I still have a ton to learn about kids and such.
But I am very very grateful for my parent’s patience with me as a kid. Burning holes in the carpet, using way too many nails, taking apart something and then loosing the pieces. I hope I can provide an environment like that for my kids. Not only did they tolerate it, they encouraged it. I had a great childhood. So, patience parents. If your kid wants to bang on pots and pans, put some cotton in your ears and let the experiment with acoustics. If they want to smash their fingers with dad’s hammer trying to nail something together, let them. It will heal.
I would also make an effort to figure out how your kid learns. Everyone is different in that aspect and I was very fortunate that my parents understood that.
Just use your head, and read some peer-reviewed, developmental psych books. I’d try and stay away from the pop-culture, child-rearing books; and that pop-culture thing applies for all disciplines.

But hey, those were just suggestions and I’m not really going find any of this out until I have kids.

28 May, 2012

The Slowest Version of Twitter

Last year a threw a bottle in the ocean with my contact information in it after reading an article where a student in Florida did the same. After two years his bottle ended up washing up on the coast of Ireland. I thought maybe I could get my bottle to go a few miles, but I still haven't heard back yet. That is either a pretty cool thing (it is still on its way), or it is not so cool (it sank). Maybe I'll throw another for safe measure.

18 May, 2012

Thoughts on the Finiteness of the Universe

Physics is something that really interest me, especially in the areas of astronomy and cosmology. An even deeper interest in studying space is in the things that are hard to see in the conventional sense. Things like black holes, dark energy, dark matter, and the origins of the universe.
Considering the origins of the universe, there are several indications of a beginning from a single point in space about 14 billion years ago. This is normally called the Big Bang. There are several points of evidence which support the Big Bang.
It was predicted in Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. Curiously enough, Einstein did not want this to be true at all. He was a man who loved simplicity and elegance. The thought that the Universe was not static and infinite really rubbed him the wrong way. This theory was later backed by Hubble's discovery of galaxies that were flying apart from each other. this pointed to an expanding universe. In addition to this, for lack of better terms and ease of explanation, radiation from the initial explosion was also discovered several years later. The list goes on, but my interest rests on a philosophical argument that I read several years ago for in favor of a beginning to our universe. (I wish I could remember where I heard it. Sorry guys)
The argument, in a nutshell, tells us that the universe could not possibly be infinite because it if were, then today would have never arrived. Imagine an infinite book shelf. The books on the shelf represent moments in time, whether those moments be days, seconds, or millions of years. You need to find the book that represents this present moment. However the only rule that you have to follow is that you have to start at the beginning of the bookshelf and work your way to the book you need. (This action represents how our view of time is linear and how certain events cannot happen after others) So, you pick a starting point, and are about to start your journey to your book, but then you notice one more book behind the one you started at. You correct your course and begin again only to find that there is yet another book behind you. This happens again and again until you realize that you cannot possibly start because there are an infinite amount of books behind you. There is no start. No beginning to the shelf. There is no possible way for you to reach your book; as there would be no possible way to ever arrive at this present moment if the universe were static and had no beginning.
However if the universe was not static, and had a real beginning in time, then we would be able to start at a set time in the past (a set spot at the beginning of the book shelf) and reach the present moment (our book).
With our linear time and its nature to be incremented, it creates an impossibility to ever perceive a universe that is static and has no beginning. If there were no beginning, it would be impossible to arrive at this present moment, since there would be an infinite amount of moments before this one and would be impossible to arrive at the beginning of those moments to start the long trek to right now.
Thanks for reading!

14 May, 2012

My First Post That Has No Point.

I guess it has a small point; to give you guys a glimpse into where I've been, what I've done.
Have you ever met a total stranger who you just happens to drive their way back into your memory for no apparent reason. "I wonder where they are now?" "Could they remember me also?" The guy's name was Tom.
I walked over to the international terminal of LAX with my bags packed but nowhere to go. Actually I wasn't even arriving also. I was 16 at the time, and had just finished a two week program called the National Youth Leadership Forum at UCLA for highschool kids who thought they might want to become doctors (I ended up not pursuing that profession). I was waiting for another friend to meet me at the airport because we had both been invited to compete in a national amateur surf contest called Surfing America that was scheduled to go off that following week. The wait was nine hours, and I decided to spend my time in the comfort of the international terminal instead of sitting right outside of security without a boarding pass. 
As I walked into the terminal I decided on settling at an empty table upstairs in front of a few restaurants. Thats when I first noticed this dreaded head of blond hair toting around a surfboard. He ordered something to eat and sat at the table beside me. As I tried to figure this guy out I had to ask if he was going to do the same contest (There might have been a slim chance he was). He took to the question and the opportunity for conversation very readily. 
After his first few words I detected a thick Aussie-sounding accent. He turned out to be from New Zealand in a six hour layover on his way to New York. Tom said that he was going to help his dad out in starting a new business for a few months, and that he brought his board along for the ride just in case he wanted to travel down the coast. 
For the next five hours we sat and talked. Mostly about surfing and American stereotypes. I had also bought one of those crossword puzzle books, and can even remember a word that he gave me. PEW as in church pews. Amazing the little details that we end up remembering isn't it?
After he left there was no contact. No emails exchanged. No addresses. Nothing. We just parted ways, and that was it. The contest I came for ended up getting cancelled, but we had fun anyway. Still to this day, some things go off in my mind and send me back to sitting in the international terminal over a plate of chinese with a complete stranger. 
These are the things that make me ask questions. Could there be a reason why we met, if there are reasons behind things like that at all? Does he remember our conversations in a similar way that I remember them? The whole thing sometimes upwells in my memory as a monkey on my back; not as an annoyance (because the monkey is not annoying, it is more an intrigue), but as a problem that I can't seem to solve. Why is the monkey on my back in the first place? Is there a reason for it? 
What are the Toms in your life?

13 May, 2012

Are You Really Educated?

Been a while since I wrote anything. I have not really had anything to talk about until now. Until Graduation season.
It is assumed by way too many people that the point of higher education is, more or less, somewhat of a vocational training. "Engineering degree you say? I wonder what they are going to do with that?" "Law school? You are not thinking about being an attorney are you?" However, if one chooses a path such as this, or any other area of study, I would have to advise the individual not to loose sight of what it really means to be educated.
You see, there is a difference between being educated, and being trained for a job; or as I like to call, indoctrinated. I can go to a four-year school, vastly ignore my basic studies, and still graduate with a degree and a nice job in public relations; but I will only be indoctrinated into the profession if I ignore such.
Lets say that I went to school for elementary school education. I learned how to be a teacher. Great. But is that all that I took away from a four year experience at an educational institution? There has to be so much more. This is the point to the core curriculum (those required classes that everyone loathes because it takes away time from their major). But there is reason for them. "How will these essays for this lame Philosophy class ever help me in the real world?" "Why am I taking another Algebra again?" These classes can teach you more than you think and should not be brushed under the rug. Those philosophy papers are teaching you how to really write persuasively and organize good arguments. The meaningless math is keeping your rational and numerical gears well greased until you find good use for them. The things learned in college are not just to train you for the work place, but the enlighten your mind and have you operate as an efficient, clear-thinking individual.
Now, I am not saying that true education lies in your BIO 101 grade, or memorizing and recalling the dates of the crusades, or in how well you can find a derivative. It is not the information that defines one as educated, but rather what that individual is able to do with the information. That is the trademark of an educated person.
One who, after the four years of study and focus in Physics, can recall the lessons from a history class about Abraham Lincoln's use of the Railroad in the Civil War and apply it to their organizational skills in their new job. Or one who can remember their trig properties and use them in designing a set of shelves for their new home. Or one who can take away from the lectures of their economics course and use them to be a better informed voter. These are the educated; because while they still earned a certain specific degree, they more importantly gained the ability to use seemingly trivial information in their everyday lives for bettering themselves and humanity.
So if you are entering or are in college, do not shrug off things that do not seem important on the surface. There may very well be a good reason for them. If you have already graduated are will not be attending college, do not fret. It is a myth that education has to be achieved formally.
My advice for starters. Read. Find anything you like. It could be a comic book, internet articles, or a magazine for all I care; just read. Reading allows you to see how others argue, inspire, and persuade. Specialize in a certain area after a while and continue from there, wherever the pages lead you. You will be amazed at the thing you pick up and start using. Just as my cousin. He is a mechanic, but a living encyclopedia on historical weapons of war. Now He uses that information to design his own fishing gigs and his own tools for the shop he works in.
Go for it. Take advantage of college. Take advantage of books. Get a real education.

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.

17 April, 2012

What the Da Vinci Code Can Teach Christians

Ok ok. I've gotten the hazing from my friends by the truck load. I already know that I am about five years late to reading the Da Vinci Code, so chill out. In short, I think the book is pretty cool. I love controversy and an intelligent read, so this ended up being right up my alley. The controversy is especially juicy. The entire premise of the book rests on a fact that flies directly in the face of the beliefs of the Church. However, despite its apparent heresies, the book could teach Christians a lot more about their faith than they realize.
Dan Brown, whether he did so on purpose or not, injected the most satisfying thought into his book in the midst of all the chaos. The plot assumes the idea that Jesus was not divine, and instead he was just a regular guy who happened to be very influential on the religious playing field. This was evidenced by the references to the Council of Nicaea, Mary Magdalene's supposed pregnancy, and other gospels that were not included in the New Testament. These things took away Jesus' divinity and made him more human. Here lies the controversy and the outrage from the Church. But the single satisfying thought to the Christian that should have been caught by the reader (that is if the Christian reader was not on tilt at the time) was found in chapter 55.
After the initial meeting with Teabing, Sophie and Langdon engaged Teabing in conversation. Teabing was explaining the real meaning of the Grail to Sophie when he said, "The vast majority of educated Christians know the history of their faith. Jesus was indeed a great and powerful man. Constantine's underhanded political maneuvers don't diminish the majesty of Christ's life. Nobody is saying that Christ was a fraud, or denying that He walked the earth and inspired millions to better lives." This is the brilliant sense of Dan Brown showing. Here, if the Christian paid attention, Dan Brown completely venerated all of the controversy surrounding the Grail story.
I say this because of my own personal theological ideals. I do not believe that any sort of scripture should always be taken completely literally all of the time. There are parables, myths, and stories found in the bible that actually might not be 100% accurate. However, despite how degrading this might seem, the inaccuracy does not take away the transformative power that the stories embody.
We use things like fairy tales to teach our children lesson on life and moral responsibility all of the time. The stories of the Bible, the Torah, the Quran, or any other religious text serves a similar purpose. There is a common campaign against inerrancy in the bible waged by the institutional churches. The perfect version of the bible is supposed to tell us what to do in church, how to act, and what to believe, no matter how farfetched it sounds. However, it is my strong belief that the power of scriptures are not found in the words themselves, but rather in what the words represent.
Instead of wondering how many days it took for the world to flood and dry up again, Christians should instead take the flood story as an account of how God delivers the righteous. Instead of debating about how God stopped Abraham from killing his son Isaac, Christians should admire the faith of the stories. Instead of arguing over how perfect or divine Christ was, Christians should accept the transformative power that lies in what Christ taught and inspired.
There is hardly ever any reason for Christians to get upset at controversy. Allow the controversy to sharpen instead of fighting against it. Who cares if the universe is about 14 billion years old? So what if we evolved from primates? Does that make what Jesus taught any less reputable?

Recommended reads:
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
The Fidelity of Betrayal by Peter Rollins

28 March, 2012

About Tacit Knowledge

The following is a really interesting bit on different types of knowledge. It shows what writers, teachers, speaker, and preachers the world over are really trying to communicate. One can print out a sheet of information full of data, charts, numbers, and records; but that is information in the raw. Whether you are reading a novel, a history book, an essay on logical positivism, or listening to a lecture on microbiology; there is a communicator who is trying to pass information onto you through a filter that includes much more than just the data. They are trying to communicate their reason, their vendetta, their experience. This is called Tacit Knowledge. The best speakers and writers are great at manipulating this bit. They make you think, sway your mood, and change your mind.
I have never been moved by someone stating facts (Explicit Knowledge). However if one tells a story with those facts, if one interprets those facts, if one demonstrates their competence and ethos through those facts; then you have an excellent communicator. But it still goes so far beyond that!
This is an interesting look at the type of information that they use to do so. These mind clips were found on floating around on Google+. 

Tacit Knowledge

Deeply personal experience, aptitudes, perceptions, insights, and know-how that are implied or indicated but not actually expressed - it resides in individuals & teams. http://bit.ly/H0cCOu

Tacit knowledge (as opposed to formal or explicit knowledge) is knowledge that is difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalising it. http://bit.ly/HgZ2YB

Unwritten, unspoken, and hidden vast storehouse of knowledge held by practically every normal human being, based on his or her emotions, experiences, insights, intuition, observations and internalized information. Tacit knowledge is integral to the entirety of a person's consciousness, is acquired largely through association with other people, and requires joint or shared activities to be imparted from on to another. Like the submerged part of an iceberg it constitutes the bulk of what one knows, and forms the underlying framework that makes explicit knowledge possible. Concept of tacit knowledge was introduced by the Hungarian philosopher-chemist Michael Polanyi (1891-1976) in his 1966 book 'The Tacit Dimension.' Also called informal knowledge. http://bit.ly/GVLyli
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