Is Your Church Relevant?

Battlefield Farm in Knoxville, Tennessee is trying very hard to be.

“‘Generally, I’m here because I want two things out of church,’ says Kelly Sauskojus, a 27-year-old PhD candidate in English who says she’s a refugee from fundamentalist churches.

‘I want time to sit down, like we do on Sundays sometimes or around the fire, and, like, pray and re-center and figure out what we’re about in the world. Because the world is very noisy. And then I want a church to get s*** done with your community and for your community.’

Typically, Battle delivers a brief sermon on the teachings of Jesus. They talk about it. Then, instead of altar calls or holy communion, his congregation — such as it is — tends to the 50 raised beds of kale and eggplant, string beans and squash, tomatoes and greens, the chicken coop and the compost pile.”

Hurray, META’s Failing

I have good news. META Platforms, Inc., also known as Facebook, has lost 70% of its value in the last year. Zuckerberg’s gamble on creating on-line, virtual reality work places (and entertainment), is off to a terrible start. Zuckerberg, who seems convinced people want to spend more time on-line, is calling for patience and additional investment in the “metaverse”.

Zuckerberg is making a classic mistake, generalizing from his own experience. Because he wants to spend more or most of his time on-line, he thinks others do too. Surrounded by sycophant’s who depend upon him for their livelihoods, he doesn’t have anyone to tell him to snap out of his on-line fantasy world.

No one, two months from now, is going to say their 2023 resolution is “to spend more time on-line”.

Pre-pandemic, there were a lot of snake-oil salespeople promoting distance learning. All will be well, they proclaimed, if we just move school on-line.

Aspects of hybrid learning obviously make sense, but maybe with the exception of Zuckerberg himself, we are an intensely social species. We desire stronger social connections, involving all of our senses, in real life.

That is the lesson of the pandemic and Meta’s swan dive. Couldn’t be happening to a nicer corporation.

Postscript: Marques isn’t rooting for META either, but for a completely different reason (start at 9:00).

How To Embrace Doing Nothing

An Arthur C. Brooks tutorial.

“One can always take this defense of idleness too far and risk becoming like the lazy man who, when asked ‘What do you do?’ answers, ‘As little as possible.’ The trick is to avoid becoming either a workaholic or a layabout. It’s a question of finding balance between work and leisure, where neither is neglected or crowding the other out. Both should be on your to-do list, undertaken with purpose and seriousness in designated places and times.”

My friends who know me best worry I am a workaholic. My pledge to them, and the universe, is to try to strike a better balance from this point forward.

Related.

Letter To Ponder

I appreciated Tim Alberta’s clarity about what is really at stake with the rise of far-right evangelicals. The unholy alliance between radically conservative Christianity and radically conservative politics doesn’t seek the kingdom of God; instead, it wants to impose a theocracy on the United States of America. Such a theocracy would cheapen the foremost requirement of the Christian faith: humbly carrying one’s cross daily.

Early Christians believed that following Jesus Christ transforms a person into a well of compassion, humility, kindness, and generosity. They put the needs of others before their own.

Theocracy does not require such an inner transformation; the evangelical-right base and its prophets are quick to condemn cherry-picked sins. Jesus, by contrast, said that the important matters of God’s commands are “justice, mercy, and faith.” I don’t think Jesus himself would fit with today’s evangelical base.

Reverend Vanessa J. Falgoust
Natchitoches, La.

You’re Vacationing All Wrong

Opines Richard A. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.

“The truth is, when it comes to vacation, rest and relaxation aren’t just overrated. They might even work against the very things a trip is meant to cultivate: a mental reset, a sense of relaxation, happiness. A better vacation is one in which vigorous exercise features prominently. That way, you can take a break not just from work and routine life but also from the tyranny of self-absorption.”

Okay doc, what do you suggest then?

“Recently, a close friend and his wife invited my husband and me to join them on a cycling vacation. I was a bit nervous; I’m a serious swimmer but not an experienced cyclist. Riding 30 to 40 miles a day through Vancouver’s impressive hills for five days sounded like hard work, not pleasure. But by the end of our first day of riding, I was overtaken by euphoric calm.

The work of managing hills by bike has a special way of commanding your attention. I was so busy thinking about whether I could hold my pace for the next rise and how fast I could go downhill without wiping out that I had no time to think about myself. I started looking forward to getting up early and hitting the road. I took in the mountains and forests, dense with cedar and fir, but my focus was really on the bike and the road.”

But this entire Humble Blog is based on the need for more introspection. If everyone is just hammering up hills on two wheels, are we really better off?

“In fairness to the rest-and-relaxation lobby, some introspection is indeed good for you, and being able to tolerate idleness and boredom is a sign of psychological strength. I’m a clinical psychiatrist, and I know well that self-understanding is a cherished goal of therapy. But too much self-examination doesn’t make you happier or more enlightened. Besides, vacation is not the time to work on that skill. You can incorporate moments of idleness into your daily life if you want to get better at sitting with yourself, but vacation is a time for feeling good and escaping responsibilities, including the ones to yourself. Accordingly, you should do what makes you feel good, and that’s activity, not idleness.”

Got it.

As an endurance athlete, I’m keenly aware of how my brain waves fluctuate markedly during most workouts. If I’m going uphill and/or into the wind, my focus narrows a lot on the task at hand. If I’m descending and/or with the wind, my mind drifts to numerous other non-athletic things. I might even begin writing the next blog post.

All movement is good, but add some intensity in on occasion. Even on vacay.

To Get Out Of Your Head, Get Out Of Your House

Advises Arthur Brooks in the Atlantic.

“In one study from 2015, researchers assigned people to walk in either nature or an urban setting for 50 minutes. The nature walkers had lower anxiety, better mood, and better working memory. They were also much less likely to agree with statements such as ‘I often reflect on episodes of my life that I should no longer concern myself with.'”

This morning I went on a short run. I listened to Apple’s Barefoot Acoustic playlist and admired the light fog and dug the slightly cooler morning temp while realizing fall is coming. Still, by the end of the run, I worked up enough of a sweat to head down to the water, (mostly) disrobe, and slip into the Salish Sea. I sat perfectly still in the perfectly still water, up to my chin, admiring a couple birds. A few sculls materialized nearby. They no doubt were intimately familiar with the power of nature.

I felt lucky to be alive.

Half And Half

It’s come to my attention that half of humanity would benefit from being much more introspective. From pressing pause, stepping off the treadmill, turning off the screens, and carefully examining their life. Truly getting in touch with their feelings by breathing, journaling, talking to someone who is empathetic.

The other half, the “overthinkers” get more anxious the more they think about past problems and current challenges. Their thinking spirals. One anxious thought begetting another. They might benefit from doing more and thinking less. Such as being an empathetic listener for others, walking a dog, tending a garden, cycling*.

To flourish interpersonally and positively contribute to the common good one must routinely “work on” themself, but there’s a point of diminishing returns. Except for me, No one strikes the perfect balance, so extend grace to people in both buckets.

*extreme exercise can be a serious detriment to being introspective

Maybe I’m Buddhist

I’m listening to a personal finance podcast series geared towards the retirement set. It’s about how to think about your legacy or how others will remember your brief time on this planet.

I appreciate the fact that the host emphasizes positive, non-material contributions to people and places.

But in starting to think about my potential legacy, I get stuck on this question. Isn’t any consideration of legacy the byproduct of ego? Put differently, I suspect the better we manage our ego, the less concerned we’ll be with our legacy.

Again, I turn to my sissy who occasionally reminds me, “It’s not all about you.” But what if she’s only partially right. What if NONE of it is about me?

Odds are a few people will remember me for a little while. And then I’ll be forgotten. Probably like you.

It’s at this point that Dan, Dan The Transportation Man loses it and calls me a real downer. And I tell him I prefer the term “realist”.

Deciding I don’t know or care much about my legacy, I quit the podcast series midstream.