Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Rest is A Radical Notion

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

onvacation

If making sure there’s spotty Internet service in my room here in Hawaii is God’s way of seeing to it that I rest from my labors, I am not impressed.

But how do I explain the fact that for the five days I’ve been here on the Big Island in a room overlooking mountains and beach, five time zones away from my normal routine, I haven’t been able to compose one intelligent paragraph? Evidently I write better when I’m pissed. Or feel passionate. Neither of which I feel here in Hawaii. Everything’s surreal to me here. I feel awful about what’s going on in Iran. I was sad to hear about the train derailing in DC.  And I had meant to write here on the blog about fatherhood and masculinity for Father’s Day.

Nothing.

But still I can’t say that I’ve entered that place of sabbath rest our biblical ancestors had in mind in (Gen. 2:4): “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it and abstained from all the work which God created to make.”

It’s taken me me three days to stop checking my email. Four days to stop checking my cell for texts. This morning a co-worker wrote asking for some information I promised to send while on vacation. The information he needs is sitting there on my desktop computer. Another one of God’s jokes, I suppose.

I’m lying around not doing much here in Hawaii, but it’s not like I’m resting. More like just not doing anything productive. Which, believe me, is not the same as resting. I go to the fitness center and work out every day which is no fun. Definitely not resting. More like “working” out.

The beach where we’re staying is beautiful — and baby I do mean beautiful– but, unlike the the many pale faces here with us at the resort,  laying out in the sun has never been my cup of tea. There’s a luau tonight which the young ones will enjoy, and snorkeling later in the week which my baby’s daddy looks forward to. But me? Nothing. It would help if I liked the book I’m reading (recommended by a reader). But I don’t. Heading back to Borders when I finish this post.

Resting is work, that’s for sure. It’s taken me five days to unwound from my normal routine. In this age of 24 hour Internet and 24 hour cable news and constantly charged cell phones, where the lines between work and home have become blurred, where it’s possible to always be on, available and accessible, it takes some time to shut off. Unplug. Chill.

I like 12th century Nachmanides interpretation of the Genesis 2:4 verse better which says:  “God ceased to perform all His creative work.”

But God I’m a blogger. Readers forget you if they click on and see that you haven’t written anything fresh in three days!

The notion of resting from one’s labor was a radical idea when it originated centuries ago. (So was the idea of tithing, mind you, but that’s another post.)  Demanding sabbath rest was the slaves’ way of saying to the Empire, to slavemasters, to landowners, to supervisors, “enough is enough.”  Slaves are not machines.  Even the poor deserve time to themselves, with their families, to breathe in God.

Rest is a radical notion because it says, “the world has already been created. There’s really nothing more that can be added. Everything else is tinkering.” Sit down, be still, and observe God’s creation.

Rest is a radical notion because it says to all,  employers and family alike, “you are not the boss of me.” While I have obligations to you I don’t belong to you. I belong to myself and to my Creator.

Here’s something to consider. The Hebrew word for rested, vyenafesh, can sometimes mean rest, ensouled, breath, to catch one’s breath, sweet fragrance, passion, and inner being. A living being is the more popular translation. Each of us has a nefesh — a soul. Meaning, we are not machines.  Rest is taking the time out to gather the bits and pieces of our self that we’ve given away to others– whether for money or out of  love– and to put our self/our soul back together.

I leave you for now with a story found in a book about renewal.

In the deep jungles of Africa, a traveler was making a long trek. Laborers were engaged from a tribe to carry the loads. The first day of the trip the tribesmen marched rapidly and went far. The traveler had high hopes of a speedy journey. But the second morning these jungle tribesmen refused to move. For some strange reason they just sat and rested. On inquiry as to the reason for this strange behavior, the traveler was informed that they had gone too fast the first day, and that they were now waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.

Baby, Baby, Baby…

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

octuplet babiesI admit. I am conflicted.

Despite all the heat I’ve taken on the blog for insisting that women aren’t beasts of burdens, that a woman should be able to determine how many children she wants to have and the spacing of those children, the Southern California mother who gave birth to octuplets the other week gives me pause. Whew!

With the birth of her octuplets on January 26, 2009  Nadya Suleman finds herself now the mother of fourteen children, all under the age of eight. Having a large family is what she’s always wanted, it seems. She’s been obsessed with having children since she was a teenager, says her own mother.  Nadya, who according to her publicist is a college-educated professional, lives at home with her parents at present and all fourteen of her children were conceived through in vitro fertilization.

Now that all the excitement has died down medical ethicists and fertility experts have started weighing in about the medical risks of multiple births. High-order multiple births (defined as three or more babies born together) are dangerous for babies and the mother. Infants born prematurely face the risk of breathing problems and brain injuries that may cause permanent disability. Problems in premature babies, including learning disabilities or cognitive delays, are often not apparent until years after their births.

And then there’s public opinion. Women who give birth to six, seven or eight babies have been showered in the past with gifts from big corporations. Gifts like unlimited supplies of diapers, formula and baby wipes. Maybe even a free van. A brand-new house. But that’s not happening so far for Nadya Suleman.  News that she’s a single mother with six other children seems to have turned off many people and baby supply companies are not exactly rushing to get publicity by showering the mother with free baby supplies. In these harsh economic times there are those who resent that this mother is going to need a government bail out of her own to foot the bill for her brood of fourteen fatherless children.

Fox News is reporting that the mother wants to be paid $2 million dollars for any media interviews done with Oprah and Diane Sawyer, both of whom having expressed an interest in interviewing her on their shows.

I repeat. I’m conflicted about this one.

A woman’s right to choose. The ethics of high order births. A single mother of six, with now eight more mouths to feed, who lives with her parents. Fourteen children conceived through artificial insemination. Welfare for children born to single mothers who conceive through in vitro fertilization. Whew!

It’ll take King Solomon himself to untangle this one and rule on the ethics of it all.

Any takers?

Done Your Holiday Shopping Yet?

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Scores of emails show up in my mailbox daily from my favorite stores  promising holiday sales better than the ones they were offering yesterday.  Sur La Table. Nordstroms. Nieman Marcus. Peruvian Connections. Frontgate. Overstock.com. “Buy one get one free!” “Free Shipping! 30% off!” “Deepest Discounts ever!” ! I feel guilty about clicking the delete button.  But I can’t let myself talk myself into buying something I don’t need. (I know I’ll be sad come January when one or more of my favorite stores goes out of business, like several are rumored to do, because of projected bleak  4th quarter 2008 sales.)shopping

I’m one of the millions who have kept her wallet shut since the economic slide began last September.  Worries about the economy have folks like me  plan­ning this holiday to buy  fewer gifts and less ex­pensive, more practical items. Odd isn’t it: part of the reason the economy is in the tank is because Americans are in enormous debt; we spend more than we save. But part of the cure, says experts, is for Americans to open their wallets and show their confidence in the economy by shopping more and getting cash flowing again in the economy again. But with the jobless rate rising last month to highest we’ve seen in 15 years who can shop in December when you’re not sure if you’ll have a job in January to pay off your bills?

But the economy is only part of the reason why I haven’t started my holiday shopping.

Sheer laziness and grumpiness are the other reasons. If I didn’t have a child, I wouldn’t bother at all. But the teenager in my house won’t hear of it. “Don’t you just love Christmas” she asked gleefully the other day when we were in the car driving past homes decorated in festive lights. “Bah Humbug” I growled. Later that night she sat on the other side of the house in her room and emailed me her wish-list to the sound of Christmas music blasting from her computer.

The little shopping I’m going to do will all be done tonight. Online.This marks my fifth year doing most of my holiday shopping online. One good thing about shopping online, you don’t have to deal with standing in line for hours and shoppers trampling you to death for a few dollars off on a digital camera like they did a store clerk at a Long Island store this past November. I’ll venture out a little — to the cell phone store and my favorite perfumery– for my fix of Christmas cookies at the store door, holiday music blasting on the intercom, and shopkeeper well-wishes which can’t be duplicated on the computer.

Like millions of American my Christmas list is down to the barebones this year, so I expect it’ll only take an hour and I’ll be done shopping for everyone on my list. It’s a Christmas card for everyone else.

Okay, how many of you anal types are finished with your holiday shopping? Even got your gifts wrapped and under the tree already, you say?

Raise you hand if you’re like me and haven’t even started shopping? That’s more like it.

Now about that 10 feet Christmas tree standing naked  in my front hall since Saturday night. I guess it’s time to drag out the boxes of bulbs and lights and get started decorating it.

One thing I know for sure that will get me in the mood for decorating the tree and for shopping is a new Christmas music cd. Anyone has  a recommendation for great Chrismas cd that will make me climb the ladder and hang that first bulb on my tree?

Joshua ‘em

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

From time to time God has to remind me.

Especially on days when I’m fretting about what’s gonna happen to the next generation when my generation is gone. It seems that a week doesn’t go by when I don’t stomp around and complain about young people. Lazy, self-absorbed, demanding, loud, pierced, half-clad, tattooed, and overstimulated. Loyal to no one and nothing: not to jobs, family, community, church, country, not even race. Individuals, is what they insist they are. Hmmmph.

In the pulpit I refer to them as the “Joshua Generation” (those born roughly between 1977-1995). When I’m out of the pulpit I call them something else. But never mind that.

If they are the “Joshua Generation,” then I suppose that makes me and their parents, godparents, and aunts and uncles, the “Moses Generation.” We’ve carried them as far as we can on our backs. It’s time for them to stand on their feet and walk the rest of the way on their own. They’ve got to figure out on their own how to cross the Jordan. We, the Moses generation, are probably gonna die in the wilderness before things improve.

The Joshua Generation doesn’t know much about struggle and sacrifice. They grow weary of hearing about slavery and desegregation. Try to make them feel guilty about their privileges and you’ll fail. Whatever. For them accessories are not ties, watches, necklaces, or scarves. Accessories are iPods, iPhones, BlackBerrys, laptops–and these expensive accessories are like extra limbs. Relationships are what you create over Facebook. But don’t be fooled. Joshua’em are a “needy” bunch. You gotta tell them over and over how great they are, or they’ll fall apart. They feel entitled to be happy, successful, rich, taken care of, and to have everything they want –in a hurry. Commitment? Forget it. There are two kinds of friends in this world: friends with benefits and friends without benefits.

But I did say earlier that from time to time God has to remind me.

Imagine the humility and joy I felt the other night as I stayed up visiting the websites of young women like Gina McCauley and Faye Anderson to name just two women, who know how to use the power of the Internet to promote social change. They are tough, smart, and ambitious. Did I mention that they are tireless? This month they have taken on a behemoth corporate giant like BET/Viacom (and its advertisers) to protest its images of black people. (It worked with Imus, didn’t it?)

Using the power of citizen journalism, these young women (in tandemn with some righteous young men) are protesting BET/Viacom’s decision to shoot “Hot Ghetto Mess,” an upcoming show (based on a populare website of the same name) that captures black people in degrading poses and acting socially out-rageous.

Black women and children are the easiest targets of a show like “Hot Ghetto Mess”, especially poor, uneducated women and children (not exclusively, but most often). As horrified as others by some of the behavior depicted on the show, these women argue, however, that the show encourages black people to turn their videocameras against other black people they look down upon and view as contemptible. (Visit their blogs, Moses ‘em, to see what the fuss over “How Ghetto Mess” is all about.)

No charismatic leaders standing up and telling Joshua ‘em how to get to the Promised Land. No marching. No sit-ins. No freedom songs. Their movement is fueled by the power of technology and virtual relationships. And fire in the belly. Freedom fighters take on a whole different meaning when you apply it to the Joshua Generation.
They’ve certainly managed to convince me, from the Moses generation, to take my medication and tune in to the show’s premier tonight– God help me– to see what advertisers are backing the show so that I can join them in their march…excuse me, their fight.)

Women like Gina and Faye expect to be listened to. They expect results. They won’t be ignored. They will figure things out for themselves. It’s our fault. We created them. We told them that they have the power to be and do anything they want. And, bless their hearts, they believed us.

All of which reminds me of God’s promise, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with Joshua.”