Reading the Times November 21, 2006: Reality. Faith & Science. Finishing Strong.

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In today’s combative culture war it is not uncommon for conservatives to make dismissive and derisive comments about the New York Times. To pass on such a bias to the next generation is simply irresponsible because should the next generation of young Christians heed this unenlightened counsel, they will miss a veritable feast of enriching opportunities. All I can say is that had I not read the N.Y.T. daily for years, I would have experienced a diminished human experience.

Three simple articles illustrate my point.

First, after reading a Chicago Tribune piece about the alternative virtual reality in “Second Life,” I came upon a little editorial by David Chu, founder of Nautica clothing, in which he describes how business travel “rekindles his imagination.” I’m old school. I believe we are supposed to make the world a better place–until we’ve addressed that reality, spending significant chunks of time in an alternative reality is bad stewardship of time and resource. We enter virtual worlds because we want to retreat from the real world. We find the real world overwhelming because we see the situation as hopeless, in which case we need to rediscover Jesus’ storyline of good news, or we find the real world uninteresting because we are unaware. David Chu tells us of visiting Florence, Italy:

“What I like the best about being a business traveler is that you can often see a place more clearly than people who live there. On a recent visit to Florence, Italy, I walked through the streets with a colleague, pointing out architectural features in the columns, arches and domes of the buildings.

My colleague chuckled.

“What is it?” I asked.

“I have lived here my entire life,” he said. “I walk past this building every day; and the things that you’re showing me, would you believe I’ve never noticed them?”

The message is simple. Wake up to reality. See it and do something about it.

Second, I believe the harmonization of religion and science is a great unfinished task and the immensity of the challenge is brilliantly described by George Johnson in his coverage of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies titled A Free-for-All on Science and Religion. From Richard Dawkin’s “God Delusion” to Francis Collin’s “The Language of God” and everything in between, this was a no-holds barred, honest, and at times inhospitable exchange of passionately held beliefs that reveals just how far apart religion and science are.

The question is a critically important one: Who in the next generation will bridge this gap?

Third, I saw myself more clearly in Allison Hope Weiner’s article about Sylvester Stallone’s soon-to-be-released film, “Rocky Balboa.” I confess. I saw a trailer for the film, groaned and leaned over and told my wife I was totally disinterested in seeing this tired old story make another round.

But Weiner’s piece helped me see this film as a thoughtful meditation on my generation’s reluctance to pass from the stage. Stallone unguardedly confesses:

“An artist dies twice, and the second death is the easiest one,” Mr. Stallone said in speaking of his long fall from Hollywood’s pinnacle. “The artistic death, the fact you are no longer pertinent or that you’re deemed someone whose message or talent has run its course is a very, very tough piece of information to swallow.”

Mr. Stallone, whose brightest spots lately have been a turn as the toymaker in “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over” and his appearances on the reality boxing show “The Contender,” acknowledges that there were very few real film projects for him before “Rocky Balboa.”

“But he was not yet ready to accept obsolescence, even if that meant risking ridicule by turning back to the past. “Every generation runs its course, and they are expected to step aside for the next generation,” Mr. Stallone said. “My peers are going through it right now, and they feel they have much to contribute, but the opportunity is no longer there. They’re considered obsolete, and it’s just not true. This film is about how we still have something more to say.”

How is this instructive for me? Here is my true confession. I believe I have something more to say, insight for the next generation to help them on their journey of faith. But finding a place to say it and saying it in a away they can hear it is a wearying task. Because at the age of 58 I am coming to realize that many people look at me and others in my generation as “someone whose message or talent has run its course.”

This is a very, very tough piece of information to swallow.

My challenge: Where to best invest the remaining years of my life in work that expresses my talents, fulfills my mission to “rekindle the holistic spiritual, intellectual, creative legacy of next generation Christians in culture,” while at the same time providing for the needs of my household?

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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