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Virtual Life; Real Life

Virtual Life; Real Life

Click here to listen to our latest daily podcast of “The Kindlings Muse”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

Virtual Life; Real Life

I am gazing out the window at a ten-foot high, five-feet wide metallic sculpture on the lawn in front of the Bellevue, WA public library.

The statue is the profile of a man’s head, in which a circle of glass insets signify what is contained there: images of a wolf, a bird, a shovel, a dolphin, a turtle, a violin, a key, a hammer, gardening spade, leaves, a magnet, a gear, a horn and more. How much stuff can be crammed into one head?

Back in the 1990’s I interviewed Swarthmore psychology professor Kenneth Gergen about his book titled, “The Saturated Self, Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life.” Over a decade ago he was predicting dire consequences for ordinary people, who when bombarded by electronic messages would be overwhelmed by both sensory and information overload.

When our head is filled with multiple inputs of virtual stories, how does the self nurture and develop its own story? Is it possible that we are spending more time absorbing virtual stories, than living a life that produces our own personal stories?

In an age where film, music, games, books and blogs each compete to draw us into their stories, how can you strike the balance between living your story and absorbing electronically transmitted stories?

This is fresh on my mind because I just watched twenty films at Sundance Film Festival. Through film I ventured voyeuristically into the worlds of: lottery winners (Lucky), children trying to make their way through a failing public school system (Waiting For Superman), a ten-year-old Iraqi searching for his missing father (Son of Babylon) and many others.

Last night I hosted our annual Kindlings Muse podcast in which film critics explored the “Theology of the Ten Academy Award nominees for best film. (Avatar, An Education, Up in the Air, Inglorious Basterds, A Serious Man, Hurt Locker, Up, District 9, Precious and The Blind Side.) Ten more stories are stored in my brain’s database.

After the show I talked with my friend Marty O’Donnell, one of the makers of the game Halo, about the power of games as a new storytelling, story-making vehicle. Oddly, the discussion veered off into my views of Protagonist, a documentary I saw at Sundance a few years ago, about the story-telling paradigm of the ancient philosopher Euripides. Now I’m referencing a film about story as a way of evaluating the power of game as a storytelling medium!

What happens when a disproportionate amount of time is invested in virtual stories instead of living our own story? Life 2.0 is a sobering documentary that explores the dangers of complete immersion in virtual reality in Second Life, the largest user-created, 3D virtual online world community. Life 2.0 follows one man and woman who leave their real life spouses for the idyllic matches made online. We get a glimpse into the mind of a thirty-year old man who masquerades as a teenage girl, creating a fictional story online that displaces his real life identity. Forced with the choice between his exasperated fiancé and the online teen he chooses virtual life over real life.

The great dreamer of dreams and advocate for perpetual childlikeness, James Matthew Barrie said, “the life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another.” Can we devote limitless time to absorbing other stories to the detriment of discovering and living our own story?

One of the reasons I moved to a small island was to separate myself from the clutter and clamor of modern virtual life. Seventy-year old Don Tompkins rode into town on his bike the other day to tell me his sheep had birthed some new lambs. My friend Dan Brown is dying of pancreatic cancer, so I drove out to see him. High winds blew large chunks of driftwood onto Crescent Beach the other day, so I stopped to watch the turbulent tide come in. Molly rode her horse yesterday and wife Kathy did her knitting while we chatted amiably.

In days gone by, mediated stories were told through the interface of the printed page; today they are transmitted via digital bits. These stories have the power to shape us and enrich our lives, to break us out of our comfort zones in our known world. Mediated stories have their place, but they should never displace human encounters with real people in daily life.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Kindlings/CFC (The Center for Faith and Culture), PO Box 729, Eastsound, Washington 98245

    ‚©CRS Communications 2010

    Posted in Staublog in February 20, 2010 by | No Comments »

    Sundance Epiphanies

    Sundance Epiphanies

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    Sundance Epiphanies

    PARK CITY, Utah (RNS)
    The Sundance Film Festival facilitates epiphanies.

    I know because I’ve been here only one day and I can already feel, in the words of Carole King, the earth move under my feet and the sky
    tumbling down, all because of four simple little student films.

    An epiphany is a sort of hit-you-over-the-head moment, a “sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning
    of something,” is how the dictionary puts it. Usually it’s “initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.” In each of these low-budget films, the central character faces a life-changing situation that triggers an epiphany.

    “On the Road to Tel-Aviv,” by Israeli Khen Shalem, tells the true story of passengers boarding a bus to Tel-Aviv who balk at sharing the
    ride with a Palestinian woman they believe may be a terrorist. If you were an Israeli Jew, would you board a bus with an Arab woman carrying a gym bag?

    “Kavi,” by Gregg Helvey, tells the story of an Indian boy forced to work as a modern-day slave in a brick kiln. He must choose to either
    accept what he’s always been told, or fight for a different life.

    “Desert Wedding,” by Alexandra Fisher, tells the story of a pampered bride who is inconvenienced by tragedy on her perfectly planned wedding day. If you’ve ever been disturbed by the superficiality of reality TV shows featuring brides planning the perfect, extravagant, expensive wedding, this one’s for you.

    Oscar Bucher’s “Waiting for a Train: The Toshio Hirano Story” is the engaging and heartfelt true story of Japanese emigrant, Toshio Hirano,
    whose young life was transformed when he heard Jimmy Rodgers singing “Waiting for a Train.” He buys a guitar, travels to America, rides a bike through Appalachia and spends the rest of his life singing country music.

    These may be low-budget student films, but they’re grabbing attention. If these four are any indications, it seems that many young
    filmmakers are being pushed to focus their efforts on meaningful films with big themes of redemption, dignity, tolerance, equality, diversity,
    hope and triumph of the human spirit.

    All four films won laurels at the Angelus Film Festival, a student film festival that honors budding filmmakers who explore and respect the
    dignity of the human person. The festival is part of Family Theater Productions led by Father Willy Raymond and is directed by Monika Moreno.

    The Angelus awards are sponsored by Family Theater Productions in Hollywood an organization that knows talent when they see it: FTP gave James Dean his first acting credit (in 1951’s “Hill Number One”) and George Lucas his first crew job, in a 1963 film (“The Soldier”) that also starred a very young William Shatner.

    Their more than 800 radio programs and 83 TV specials have featured the likes of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Lucille
    Ball, Henry Fonda, Rosalind Russell, Jack Benny, Barbara Stanwyck, Helen Hayes, Ronald Reagan and Shirley Temple.

    Which Hollywood media mogul founded Family Theater Productions? It was actually a poor Irish Catholic priest, the Rev. Patrick Peyton, who came to the U.S. in 1928 and was ordained a Holy Cross priest in 1941. Even without any experience in show business, Peyton became a media pioneer by his vision — and by recruiting the best writers and actors in Hollywood to entertain, inspire and inform families with alternative, yet mainstream, programming.

    The four films were shown this year at an “off-Sundance” (think “off-Broadway”) mini-festival called The Windrider Forum that brings together theology students and aspiring filmmakers. Windrider is sponsored by the The Priddy Brothers, who share the Angelus vision of creating artistically excellent films aimed at helping humans finding our common ground.

    The four films all have something in common, but so do their viewers: they want to see films that inspire epiphanies. The appeal is
    simple. They’re the kind of movies the world hungers for, because they encourage the human decency we so desperately need.

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends for the benefit of the world, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    Order one of Dick’s books from amazon: Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters
    OR
    The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite

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    Posted in Staublog in January 27, 2010 by | No Comments »

    Singing Songs of The Lord In A Foreign Land

    Singing Songs of The Lord In A Foreign Land

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    Singing Songs of The Lord In A Foreign Land

    How do I sing songs of the Lord in the land of Pat Robertson and Conan O’Brien?

    The whole world has been transfixed on footage from the devastated country of Haiti decimated by A massive, 7.0 magnitude earthquake near the capital of Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, January 12th. The damage is extensive and the number of injured or dead is not yet calculated, but is catastrophic. I urge all people of goodwill to please pray for, and donate if possible to, relief efforts in Haiti.

    Pat Robertson seized the moment to declare God’s wrath and judgment on Haiti. His exact words? “Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.’ True story. And so, the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’

    “And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other. Desperately poor. That island of Hispaniola is one island. It’s cut down the middle. On the one side is Haiti; on the other side is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, et cetera. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. They need to have — and we need to pray for them — a great turning to God. And out of this tragedy, I’m optimistic something good may come. But right now, we’re helping the suffering people, and the suffering is unimaginable.”

    The reaction was swift from theologians, Christian leaders and even comedian Jon Stewart who quoted scripture at length as he riffed on Robertson (Stewart used verses from Isaiah 51 and 54 and Psalms 34 and 71 to make his point). “Out of all the things you could draw on from your religion to bring comfort to a devastated people and region? Look how big your book is! ‘The Lord is close to the broken hearted. He rescues those who are crushed in spirit. Fear thou not, for I am with thee. Be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee. From the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord who has compassion on you.’ “That almost sounds like it’s about a f**** earthquake!”

    Lisa Miller of Newsweek said, Robertson’s comments were “unkind and self-righteous and deaf, dumb, and blind to centuries of theological discourse on suffering by thinkers from Augustine to Elie Wiesel that one might easily call it backward. Every Western religious tradition teaches that mortals have no way of counting or weighing another’s sin.”

    Lest we think televangelists are the only clueless ones, Conan O’Brien, obsessed as he is with his loss of the 11:30 slot for the Tonight Show, decided to get back at NBC by vindictively wasting their money on a 1.5 million dollar comedy bit that lasted 1 minute. He bought a Bugatti and played the Rolling Stones (resulting in expensive royalty fees). And added, “Let me ask you a question,” he said, standing in front of a Bugatti Veyron dressed as a mouse. “Is this appropriate music for a car that looks like a mouse? No! Does it add anything at all to this comedy bit? No, it doesn’t! Is it crazy expensive to play on the air — not to mention the rights to re-air this clip on the Internet?” Yep. “

    To wastefully spend 1.5 million dollars for personal vengeance while Haiti languishes is as despicable to me as Pat Robertson’s reckless invocation of God’s name in his misguided ramblings.

    TIME magazine polled children to ask what they wish for and no surprise money came in #1 (27%) and possessions # 2 (15%) Health: 7%, Happiness: 7%, Travel: 6%, Fame: 5%, Long life: 5%, Money: 27%, Possessions: 15%, Better World: 8%, Other: 20%)

    Jesus warned influencers to show care in the messages they send through their words and deeds, “things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves.”

    You and I live in a “foreign land” where religion and culture offer foolish guides for our behavior. This my question, “How do I sing songs of the Lord in the land of Pat Robertson and Conan O’Brien?”

    Know the Lord. Pray “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” each day. Obey the Lord. Think on these things, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, excellent or praiseworthy,” then measure the voices of religion and culture against them. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
    Don’t just criticize Robertson and Conan in words, but let your daily life and deeds be your critique.

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends for the benefit of the world,

    Dick Staub

    Order one of Dick’s books from amazon: Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters
    OR
    The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite

    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

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  • This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: CFC (The Center for Faith and Culture), PO Box 729, Eastsound, WA 98245

    ‚©CRS Communications 2010

    Posted in Staublog in January 21, 2010 by | No Comments »

    The Reader

    The Reader

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    Order one of Dick’s books from amazon: Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters
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    The Reader

    The fact that you’re reading this column, likely means you are a reader.

    I don’t mean a reader, as in you are capable of reading, I mean someone who loves to read and reads a lot each day.

    My father was a clergyman who started his career in Bly, a rough and tumble, logging town in Southern Oregon. I remember as a four-year old sitting in a clearing in the woods and watching a deer at a salt lick, while dad sat on a tree stump reading. By the time I was a teen we had moved to Fullerton, California and dad went back to school part time to get an M.A. in English Literature. Books were piled everywhere.

    I don’t remember a day when my parents weren’t sitting in adjacent chairs reading books and stopping occasionally to share some pithy excerpt. I read eagerly in school and remember how delicious it was to learn a new word like “fiddlesticks.” It was a long word, the longest I knew until I encountered Mississippi, and it sounded vaguely illicit, which is the kind of word a pastor’s son is sure to treasure.

    In my senior year of high school I was to write a paper on Robert Burns and I put off the research and writing to the day before it was due. On that memorable day, when I was supposed to be in the public library, I was across the street at the gym, having been easily seduced into a long basketball game that ended after the library closed.

    Bookless, I returned home to inform my dad that I was dropping out of school.

    Dad hauled me into his library and pulled a stack of Robert Burns books off the shelves and introduced me to the concept of an all-nighter, which sounded more appealing than unemployment, another concept he explained with some conviction and passion that night.

    My first year of college I took a lit class from Elizabeth Hough, who required us to read a novel each week. She also assigned a term paper involving literary interpretation. I chose to research and write about the significance of the birdcage in Frank Norris’s McTeague. I didn’t put it off to the last minute.

    While in college and then again after graduate school, I attended Berkeley Presbyterian church, where a dynamic, intellectually curious young pastor named Earl Palmer preached. Not a week went by without him mentioning some book that went immediately to my “must read list”: Dostoevsky, Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth, C.S Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Charles Williams, G.K Chesterton and J.R.R. Tolkien are but a few of the names he introduced to me.

    I got into broadcasting almost by accident, my interest piqued when I learned I could receive free review copies of newly published books, and that better yet, I could interview the authors! This was back in the days before hostile political talk radio, back in a kinder, gentler more erudite time when broadcasters were expected to read books and conduct intelligent long-form interviews with authors. It was back in a time when America still nurtured a “middlebrow culture” of individuals interested in thinking through ideas and issues and equally turned off by highbrow academic pretensions and lowbrow bottom-shelf mindlessness. Middlebrow culture is a reading, thinking culture.

    All this is on my mind because last year Earl Palmer retired and asked if I would host a live The Kindlings Muse podcast event featuring him. The concept is simple. Earl makes a list of books thoughtful Christians ought to read. We all read one book a month and gather at the Burke Museum Café at the University of Washington for a discussion. Last night we were talking about Mark Twain’s spiritual quest. As always, Earl brought a pile of books from home and read selected excerpts. Each book has his name on the inside cover and the date when he bought it. Each is dog-eared and worn, underlined and highlighted and has been read and reread.

    I asked Earl how in his busy schedule he has had time to read all these years. He talked about reading on planes, reading before bed, always carrying a book wherever he goes and fervently advised severely limiting television viewing.

    After the show his wife Shirley said she could have answered my question more succinctly. “When does Earl read?” she asked, then answered. “Always.”

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

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    This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Kindlings/CFC (The Center for Faith and Culture), PO Box 729, Eastsound, Washington 98245

    ‚©CRS Communications 2010

    Posted in Staublog in January 5, 2010 by | No Comments »

    Staublogs 2009

    Staublog Summer to December 2009

    Christmas Columns: Past and Present

    Wood He Be Well?

    Are You a Brain or Do You Have A Brain?

    Parable of the Rich Man and the Artist: A Fictional Story and Communion Meditation

    A Staub Thanksgiving 2009

    A Chance to do my Very Best

    Love On Vacation

    Angels and Demons: You Are What You Read: Fiction, Fact, and Not Sure

    Staublog January to March 2009
    Good Friday: Ruin Is In Place Here

    Creativity and Goya’s Hat

    Small Is Beautiful

    STAUBLOG: Words Matter to Me

    Theology of Academy Award Best Picture Nominees: (The Curious Case of Benjamin STAUBLOG: Theology of Academy Award Best Picture Nominees: (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Frost/Nixon. Milk. The Reader. Slumdog Millionaire)

    Fellowship of the God Smitten

    John Updike Quotes By and About

    Transcendent Joy In a Cold Tragic Christmas

    Posted in Staublog in December 31, 2009 by | No Comments »

    Christmas 2009

    Christmas 2009

    ¢â‚¬¢ Read Christmas Staublogs Past and Present
    ¢â‚¬¢¢â‚¬¢ Click here to listen to our “Christmas Kindling’s Muse podcast”.
    ¢â‚¬¢¢â‚¬¢¢â‚¬¢ Order one of Dick’s books from amazon for Christmas! Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters
    OR
    The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite

    Christmas 2009

    Dear Friend of Staublog & The Kindlings

    In a poem every word must pull its own weight,” so said Irish poet Micheal O’Siadhail, as he and I talked over coffee about the cheapening of words in today’s culture.

    It strikes me that the words that matter most, the Christmas words, are being robbed of their rich meaning in our casual gift card use these days.

    Peace. Joy. Love. Thanksgiving. For these words to carry their own weight in the Holiday Season and year around, this is my prayer. The spiritual substance of these hoped for not yet fully seen gifts from God are ours when we allow God’s spirit to carry the weight of our lives, the burdens of our souls and all our heartaches and fears.

    The lush lyrics of Christmas warm me this winter. “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” “Oh come to my heart Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for you.” “Jesus did come for to die for orn’ry people like you and like I.” “Son of God, loves pure light.” “Long lay the world in sin and error pining.” “Word of the Father now in flesh appearing.” These are words that carry their own weight.

    But the need for a spiritual, creative intellectual renaissance has never been clearer. Poet T.S Eliot observed, “No culture has appeared or developed except together with a religion: according to the point of view of the observer, the culture will appear to be the product of the religion, or the religion the product of the culture.”American’s cultural and spiritual lives are spiraling downward together precisely because our religious and cultural lives reflect a symbiotic superficiality.

    How do culture’s lose their way? In his later years Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” Since then I have spend well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

    Weighing heavy on my heart this Season are the financial challenges we are all facing in America, and The Kindlings is affected like everybody else. I share our situation with you so you might pray for us and please make a generous year-end-donation to help us if you can.

    The unraveling economy has hit many of our donors and it is showing in a 40% drop in giving this year. We’ve trimmed back an already bare bones budget and are trusting God for guidance as this fiscal year comes to a close and the new year begins.

    The 2010 plans for Staublog, The Kindlings Muse shows, Kindlings Hearth Retreats and Kindlings Fest are directly tied to donations friends like you send us this month. In that sense your giving will determine whether or not we can proceed with our 2010 plans. We really need a huge boost this December ~ it will take 50,000 dollars this month to allow us to continue full steam in the first quarter of 2010.

    The Kindlings are working to fan a small glowing spark; to illuminate the path back to God in whose image we are created; to enrich the culture through our enriched and transformed lives, and to do it together, each of us doing our part to the glory of God.

    With peace, joy, love and thanksgiving for your friendship and support, yours fort the pursuit of God in the company of friends,
    For the benefit of the world,

    Dick Staub

    Please send as generous a donation as you can, if you can. All donations are tax deductible: CFC TAX ID=EIN 94-3329592

    TO DONATE:
    1) PAYPAL: Click the “make a donation” button on the upper left column of our home page
    2) WRITE A CHECK TO: CFC/The Kindlings and mail it to:
    The Kindlings
    PO Box 729
    Eastsound, WA 98245

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends for the benefit of the world, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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  • PS 3.

    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

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  • This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Kindlings/CFC (The Center for Faith and Culture), PO Box 729, Eastsound, Washington 98245

    ‚©CRS Communications 2009

    Posted in Staublog in December 18, 2009 by | No Comments »

    Christmas Columns: Past and Present

    Christmas Columns: Past and Present

    During this season feel free to peruse Staublog columns of Christmas past and present.
    The Incarnation and the near, here.

    A Danger at Christmas

    Prepare Him Room

    Full of Grace & Truth

    Poems for Reflection at Christmas

    A Celebrity Christmas

    Staub: Scrooge or Saint?

    Redeeming Your Time & Hollywood’s Blessed Christmas Season 2004.

    ADVENT & The Improbability of Life’s Successes

    Calvin Miller: The Christ of Christmas: Readings for Advent

    To Be Understood

    The Least of These.

    Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus: The Rest of the Story

    Regrets: A Funeral at Christmas

    The Joy of Downward Mobility

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

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    ‚©CRS Communications 2004

    Posted in Staublog in December 18, 2009 by | No Comments »

    Wood He Be Well?

    Wood He Be Well?

    Click here to listen to our latest daily podcast of “The Kindlings Muse”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

    Order one of Dick’s books from amazon: Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters
    OR
    The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite

    Wood He Be Well?

    “What the hell were you thinking?” Jay Leno asked Hugh Grant when he was caught in an embarrassing sex scandal. The same could be asked of Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton and anyone else who risks losing a successful career for a sexual dalliance.

    Wood’s press release in the aftermath of his public humiliation was remorseful, “I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart,” but he also registered a complaint, “personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn’t have to mean public confessions.”

    I agree with this to a point, but it is time we seize this teachable moment to remember what it means to be a well person and then to aim higher.

    The Hebrews aimed for shalom, generally translated in English as “peace.” But shalom actually refers less to the cessation of war than to wholeness and wellbeing. To achieve shalom means to arrive at a balanced, healthy and whole life.

    Unfortunately, our society has decided that a compartmentalized life is acceptable. Most of us know little about Tiger Wood other than his extraordinary golf game, which was the product of a determined father and Tiger’s single-mindedness. When Michael Phelps swam his way to sports history at the Beijing Olympics we learned that for years he’d lived a monastic life consisting of swimming, eating, swimming, sleeping, swimming, listening to music, swimming and watching TV and then swimming some more. One might say that though Phelps is a wildly successful athlete, he actually lives a partial life not a fully human life

    Accepting a compartmentalized life doesn’t make it healthy because to be a whole person requires the development of body, soul, mind and spirit. The ancient Greeks called this complete life “arƒªte,” a word used to describe the person who has reached their fullest potential in every area of life. Fame, wealth, awards, career success, aren’t the exclusive measure of such a life, because achieving arƒªte means becoming a well rounded, fully developed person in every way physically, mentally, morally and spiritually.

    Drive by the gym and you’ll see people attentive to their bodies. Attend a typical worship service and you’ll see folks attending to their spiritual life. Visit a library and you’ll see people attending to their intellectual life. How many of these people think they should be attentive to their whole person spiritually, intellectually, physically, morally and relationally?

    When President Clinton admitted his indiscretion with Monica Lewinski his defenders made the case that his personal life was unrelated to his professional life. We grant fame and positions of responsibility to people known to be living an immoral life. We fast track academically challenged athletes through college and into professional careers without requiring them to meet normal standards because they excel at their sport. As a result a high performing millionaire might also be illiterate.

    The Greeks and Hebrews assumed that achieving less than a full, complete and balanced life leaves one with a sense of incompleteness. Does this not describe most contemporary humans? The businessperson who achieves a successful career but loses a marriage, the artist who reaches fame but is inattentive to spirit and soul, the academic researcher whose scientific breakthrough will save multiple lives, but who has no friends or relationships, all these are examples of partial lives, outstanding in one aspect of life, totally deficient in others.

    During this Christmas season I’m reminded of a provocative statement by art historian Hans Rookmaaker who said, “Jesus didn’t come to make us Christian; Jesus came to make us fully human.”

    Christians are as guilty of compartmentalization as anyone else. Jesus has been portrayed as primarily interested in our souls, when in fact Jesus offered an abundant (whole) life that he said would transform his follower’s minds, souls, spirits, relationships and morality. Tiger Woods and anybody else for that matter can ask and receive forgiveness from God, but God also expects such a life to be under new management. This is what Jesus meant when he said, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” When put in charge, God will move into every area of our lives and change us. God’s aim is to make fallen humans, fully human.

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in December 17, 2009 by | No Comments »

    Are you a brain or do you have a brain?

    Are you a brain or do you have a brain?

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    Are you a brain or do you have a brain?

    This clever question was asked of our panel on a Kindlings Muse show where we were discussing NPR religion correspondent Barbara Bradley Haggerty’s book Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality

    Haggerty offers a travelogue through the world of research into the reality of the unseen. She is neither a scientist nor a theologian but a journalist who makes observations at the intersection of the two.

    The “are you a brain or do you have a brain” question nicely summarizes one of the central inquiries of the book namely, can everything you are, including your spiritual capacity, be explained materialistically?

    There is a breed of scientists who eliminate the importance of that which cannot be observed, measured and quantified. Francis Crick, one of the co-discoverers of the molecular structure of the genetic molecule, DNA is among them. He famously said, “You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”

    Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality is in ambitious project that combines interviews with leading neurologists, physicists, psychologists with conversations with individuals whose lives have been permanently transformed by experiences that appear to transcend the physical.

    We meet Sophie who had a numinous encounter at the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu that she maintains changed her at a cellular level, to people with near death experiences, to contemplative monks in Tibet, to wild eyed Pentecostals in Toronto. Haggerty layers story upon story to illustrate why the materialist position seems to ignore a major component of human reality.

    Materialist neurologists offer alternative explanations for these experiences theorizing that the Apostle Paul’s Damascus Road experience, Joan of Arc’s visions and Theresa of Avila’s ecstatic breakthroughs are likely nothing more or less than minor epileptic seizures. Other scientists explain that our quest for spiritual experiences actually originate in a God gene imbedded in our DNA.

    Spiritual experience is actually just a function of our DNA code, anomalies in our brain or neurological misfirings? These seem too reductionist so Haggerty identifies and interviews a renegade merry band of contrarian scientists who find the fingerprints of God in these human spiritual encounters.

    The rising body of work done by scientists whose findings suggest a spiritual component to human existence raises the fascinating possibility that science may soon reach tipping point where it can no longer ignore a human dimension beyond what is physically measurable.

    In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn shows that scientific process has always involved a series of “peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions.” He observes that normal science often “suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive of its basic commitments.” A historic example is Ptolemy’s theory that the sun revolves around the earth, which was overthrown by Copernicus but not without resistance from both the scientific community and the church.

    Some like Mario Beauregard of University of Montreal believe we are approaching a paradigm shift in which science will take our spiritual nature more seriously. “There are too many data coming from parapsychology, transpersonal psychology, now spiritual neuroscience, quantum physics and various lines of evidence, all pointing to major failures in the old materialistic paradigm. So for me, it’s only a matter of time before there will be a major paradigm shift.”

    Interestingly if Haggerty’s personal journey is any indication, religion will experience a paradigm shift as well. Most people who experience mystical encounters with “the other” or the light, emerge from such experiences less interested in religion and its exclusivity and more interested in the connectivity of all things. Their view of God is changed.

    I confess, when I heard the question “are you a brain or do you have a brain?” I was reminded of the theological statement of writer George MacDonald in the early 1800’s, “You do not have a soul, you are a soul.”

    Haggerty is teasing out the notion that both science and religion are about to experience a paradigm shift that will require both to reexamine reality where it is subversive to our basic commitments.

    Only then will we be able to understand what we mean when we proclaim, I have a brain and I am a soul.

     

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    ‚©CRS Communications 2009

    Posted in Staublog in November 29, 2009 by | No Comments »

    A Staub Thanksgiving 2009

    A Staub Thanksgiving 2009

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    A Staub Thanksgiving 2009

    Literally every morning I think of Bill and Imbi Kinnon (Wedding Photo Right – In much, much earlier days). The reason I think of them is quite simple. They introduced me to my AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker.

    This is going to take some explaining.

    Bill and Imbi are multi-talented folks who own a video production company in Toronto. We met at the Sundance Film Festival/Windrider Forum where they were producing videos and I was producing The KindlingsMuse@Sundance.

    We took an instant liking to each other. What’s not to like about a wild-eyed missional guy with an Estonian wife whose interests are wide reaching, eclectic and whose ADD keeps the conversation careening spontaneously and erratically like the ball in a pinball machine. But this is not why I think about Bill and Imbi every morning.

    Bill and Imbi introduced me to one of my favorite gadgets, the AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker. This simple little device, they claimed, when combined with high quality, fresh-ground coffee beans, makes the best cup of coffee you will ever experience.

    As you would expect from erudite Canadians, they produced scholarly verification by way of an endorsement from New Testament Scholar Scott McKnight, whose love of coffee led him in search of the best coffee press on the planet. His search ended at the AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker and he proclaimed the AeroPress gospel to Bill and Imbi, who like all good little disciplemakers, entrusted this gospel to me, a faithful man who is qualified to teach others.

    Each morning I measure and grind the coffee, place it in my AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker, add water that is precisely 165‚º, slowly and then patiently press my little AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker plunger producing the finest Americano you will ever experience, all the while, truly, thinking of Bill and Imbi who brought those most pleasurable experience into my obsessive compulsive daily routine.

    During this Thanksgiving Season the fact is not lost on me that the waking thoughts of those more spiritual than I are on loftier matters. “Early in the morning my song shall rise to thee” was not written in praise of Bill and Imbi.” “One thing have I desired and that will I seek after” is not a Davidic reference to an early prototype of the AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker. The spiritually aware recognize that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.”

    I’ve been thinking about Jesus parable of the ten lepers, only one of whom came back and thanked God for his healing. All had been healed and only 10% gave thanks. It occurs to me that were I more aware I would be thankful to God for the AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker. Who invented the coffee bean, or taste buds or the olfactory sensory cells that allow me to smell the enticing aroma of coffee beans? Who is the maker of the maker of the AeroPress and the maker of the Kinnon’s, who revealed its wonders unto me?

    This Thanksgiving I will continue to give thanks for the Kinnons for they are fine and worthy friends. I will think of them each day as I prepare my world’s best Americano. But I will also be attentive to the true giver of this and every other good gift, the beneficent God from whom all blessings flow.

    Speaking of gifts. AeroPress would make a great one, especially at Christmas! Here’s the link to Amazon where I bought mine! AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker

    Happy Thanksgiving and Press On!

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

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    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

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  • This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Center for Faith and Culture, PO Box 77385, Seattle, Washington 98177

     

    ‚©CRS Communications 2009

    Posted in Staublog in November 21, 2009 by | No Comments »