cognitive dissonance

Family Fight

Dear Russell & Friends,

This won’t be long or profound.  There is no image I borrowed to entice you.  It is only a heartfelt response to the last week and the people I love – – my family.  My family is now nuclear after the passing of my mother this year preceded six years ago by my father’s death.  One wife and three sons.  My older brother and I are not close at all.  My sister and I love and respect each other, but are not entwined, let alone enmeshed.

This family is the family of Christ.

I call myself a follower of Christ rather than a Christian for reasons that are apparent to any who have tried to unpack the baggage of the latter term.  I want to follow the example of Christ as a man, and I acknowledge the divinity of Christ as the firstborn over creation.  Perhaps that is the litmus test for a Christian.  Is Christ divine?  ‘No’ or ‘I don’t know’ are legitimate answers held with integrity by those I consider friends.  But, for orientation, my answer is ‘yes’ and now is not the time to argue why.  It does, however, identify me as part of the family of Christianity in at least the primary color of its enormous spectrum.

If you’d like to read this post by Russell’s wife, it gets very close to my heart on this. If you choose not to read, I’ll summarize the thesis:  she is confused and disappointed by Christians who don’t welcome Syrian refugees or Muslim refugees in general.  Further:  those who don’t welcome Muslims, or [insert other human here] confuse and disappoint her.

Do I, a member of the family of Christ, share her disappointment?

I do.  Deeply so.  It is like the disappointment I felt when I first discovered why Southern Baptists were so named.  It was like the disappointment that stained my subconscious even after the apology twenty years ago for that evil stance on slavery and racism.  How could that be prospectively tolerated 170 years ago then willfully maintained for 150 years?  Didn’t my family read the scripture?  Didn’t my family think?  Didn’t we argue?  It was like the disappointment I felt after learning that Martin Luther was a rabid anti-Semite.  I thought Jesus was Jewish.  What did I miss?  How could such a brilliant theologian have such a hateful blind spot?

So, here’s the thing about a family.  We will confuse and disappoint each other.  We will hold diametrically opposing views at times ensuring that one of us is wrong.  I’ve certainly been on the wrong side of many arguments.  On this one, I’ll stick to an anchor of scripture:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8

Why would a follower of Christ cast out the refugee?  Why would the follower of Christ not welcome a fellow creature of God?  Why would the follower of Christ fear death from a bullet or a bomb?  I just don’t get it.  Isn’t this life to be lived to his glory with gratitude and the next life to be eagerly anticipated?

I love you family – – but you are wrong.  The brothers and sisters who want to love, want to accept, want to understand will need to disagree and even fight within the family to keep the family together.  Are we not light?  It doesn’t feel like it now.

Love,

Pascal — 1:16

Unwell

 

moon

I’m not crazy.  I’m just a little unwell.  I know, right now you can’t tell.   Matchbox 20

Dear Russell & Friends,

My oldest son and I joke that the best thing for writer’s block is to write about it.  Perhaps that’s why the musician strums and plunks, the sculptor abstracts, and the poet zooms into the mundane.  One week ago I took the first two pills of a z-pack, the five day course of needless antibiotic that I sometimes retreat to after several days of sore throat, low grade fevers, and general crumminess.  Whether it was placebo effect, anti-inflammatory property or response to a true bacterial bronchitis I do not know.  I do know that the rest of the week felt progressively better.  And that I was able to take two hour naps with vivid, forgotten dreams. Unwell.  Why can’t I be thankful in the interregnum?  Why must illness remind me of health?  I can’t be alone.

This season has been more of intake and thought than output.  I’ve read more, written more in my journal, and prayed more on long runs that I hadn’t been capable of in some time.  I lost two colleagues in sudden death.  In career, in family, in calling I’ve been asking that classic middle-age question:  what do I want to be, who do I want to be, when I grow up?

One concept that came back to me was you.  This is only my second foray into digital life.  The first was a blog called The Breakfast Table that neither Russell nor I can find even with the internet wayback machine. I abandoned that blog as the cognitive load of corresponding with strangers was more than I could handle. What is different ten years later?  I have not Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.  There is just a friend who no longer believes, his family who may, and many people like him.  There is just my family and me who do believe, and a deep desire to find the intersection.  I need something that will last past fifty even though I am more aware than most that I may not.  You see, I’m an oncologist.  I have more experience than many with those who live with an awareness of the end.  And more recently with those who live life fully with no idea that today’s dawn is their last.

First rule of writer’s block rambling?  Keep it less than 500 513 words.  So, what?  I’m reading Francis Schaeffer, Thomas Paine, Isaiah and Leo Tolstoy.  I’m thinking of the 2,000 people who follow this blog and the 6 people who joined Charity Miles.  I’m thinking of why this effort matters to me and why it is okay to pause and grow and even to decay.  I’m thinking of fifty and how not to fail.  I’m thinking of a book called failure at fifty that I’ve been writing in my head.  All chapters start with an “f” word of more than four letters.  I need help with one for career.  More soon, I hope.  Just a little unwell.

Pascal – – 1:16

photo credit: Russell, his telescope & the 2015 blood moon

Russell Unplugged

2003_Faith_Saturn_electro-acoustic_guitar

 

Dear Russell & Friends,

Good morning.  I’ve been thinking about this post for nearly a week and the coffee is just right.  Perhaps this will serve as useful background for those new to our blog.  It will certainly serve as therapy for me.  Most of the activity on the blog lately has been on Russell’s post The Problem.  It is one of his most important posts.  He might (would) put iMultiverse in the short list too.  A few miles away from here, perhaps in his sleep, Russell just smiled.

The comments have multiplied on The Problem as Russell has found a new interlocutor, unkleE.  I am 43 years old.  Russell is 7 years younger.  unkleE is twice Russell’s age and is doing, I think, what I want to do when I grow up.  He is reading, writing, engaging those who do not share his perspective of belief.  However, he is doing it in a way that I can’t – – from the personality type of INFP (81%) or ISFP (76%).  If I take the former it is only 1 letter away from Russell – – INTP.  So, from the perspective of age and from the perspective of a similar engineering-type personality he can engage Russell in ways that I can’t.

So what happened?  They both went out of their way not to offend.  That’s what I’ve been thinking about.  I have Russell’s permission to share our text stream as some of the comments unfolded.  One thing you’ll notice is that these texts had something I’ve never seen before – – an arrow at the bottom designed to reveal the words incapable of display on the largest of iPhones.  For an introvert, Russell has a lot to say.  That belies one of the misconceptions about introverts.  We have plenty to say.  Its just more comfortable in writing or with people we know well.  Russell has posted some of this in his own reply, but I’d like to give you a flavor of the text stream and what it means to know someone.  Concluding at the beginning, it takes time.  Russell and I are 2 1/2 years into a friendship that I hope will last.  It has not been easy to listen well or to be heard.  But it has been worth it.

 

R:  The unkleE comment was focused on one thing… why I’m not highly convinced that fine-tuning is a problem. He things I haven’t read enough, don’t understand the science, don’t understand large numbers, and am too biased against the evidence. That didn’t seriously hurt my feelings. I responded with more details, that’s his punishment for being critical. Haha. Gotcha’ unkleE! 🙂

P:  you two are quite a pair

R:  Indeed. I think we should Skype and hang out. I bet we’d get along great! That reminds me, are you still interested in trying a podcast, hangout-on-air youtube video with just our logo up, or some other type of audio-only conversation sometime?

P:  I actually am.  I’m interested in more than i’m successfully executing right now which is a deep and constant frustration

R:  I ran it by Howie and he’s interested. He’d join us.

I can see it being huge benefit for me for at least two reasons. Communicating ideas will, once the kinks are worked out, hopefully be done more efficiently. And it’s helpful to communicate tone of voice which adds important inflection and other vital information to the topic being discussed. It’s not very search engine friendly, but most of our hits probably don’t come from that and we have plenty of other written content on the site. I’d really like to see a comment on the blog, hit a button, record a response and paste it as a link. Haha. It would also be great to take someone’s question or point and invite people to a round-table discussion via hangouts-on-air, etc. I’d rather not do it live until we polish up a bit, though. 😊

I think I’ve made a mess of things on The Problem. In my very rushed responses I’ve done a poor job of taking the time to be as gentle as I’d prefer to be while disagreeing. Sigh. This is a rough time for me for multiple reasons. I need to learn to deal with those who challenge and criticize my form of reasoning without helping me understand and improve it by explaining exactly where it’s wrong and why. When I feel criticized with nothing to back it up, apparently, I push to hard to delineate my steps and get them to explain, but the only thing that gets discussed are the irrelevant details that aren’t part of the reasoning. I write so much that it’s hard for anyone to focus and I usually make a mistake or two that gets us further off topic. Then I get behind on work and rush my comments even more and, without taking the time to polish them, they sound more confrontational than I’d like. I now have two people saying what you’ve said (I require too much evidence). It’s not lost on me that more than one should sound alarms. Evidently, this is a hot-button issue for me. Not being told that, but being told that without an example to help me learn from. When I list the steps in my reasoning and show where I doubt and why, those specifics are avoided as if I didn’t say them (at least so far). I’m really looking for the place, exactly where my folly resides, but nobody seems to be pointing to it. I’m really beginning to feel like I’m just a very poor communicator. Maybe I am just blind to it and they’ve been pointing all along. But that doesn’t help me. 😟 I fear this is the central issue of the blog. People in camp A think people in Camp B require too much evidence. People in Camp B think people in Camp A are failing to express that they been aware of and properly considered all the assumptions and counter-evidence (often, like you, they have considered it). I don’t think anyone is believing things that are unjustifiable to them, and very few are believing things that don’t make sense. It’s almost always a communication problem where we don’t see everyone else’s evidence. So when other people think my standards are too high rather than assuming, as I do, that I’ve just seen different evidence, I want to either see what they’re seeing and fix the holes in my reasoning or ask them to tone it down a bit. But getting to the point where they point out flaws that are actually there rather than ones they assume because I didn’t clearly state everything in my comment, or getting to the point where they are willing to say it’s just different evidence rather than a high bar for evidence – both seem equally unachievable. Thousands of words later I don’t feel much closer to a resolution and I’ve likely offended people, which is the opposite of what I want. I have learned how to better express my argument for why I don’t have high confidence in fine-tuning, but I don’t think it’s helped. I think I’ve learned a lot of things not to do. No argument or point is worth being anything less than gentle and respectful, even when I feel continually misrepresented and as though almost all my key arguments are ignored, and even when time is short. This was a great lesson. Sigh. Thanks for the advice here. This helped a lot! 😊

P:Talk to your wife and ask her opinion.  She knows your heart better than anyone and will have insight here.  I think you are right about the central issue.  I can’t process the cognitive burden of 5,000 word comments and I accept different evidence in addition to empiric evidence.  The Hume quote bothered me because it was simplistic.  How much of your text do I have permission quote in a post of my own?

R:  Good advice. You can quote anything. I feel misunderstood when people think I only accept empirical evidence. Another sigh. I read interpreted his quote differently, as proportioning the level of certainty we hold to the level of evidence (pro and con). Non-empirical evidence counts, but empirical often should count more, so it’s a balance thing. I think most people agree with this, but we all tend to interpret things, at least initially, the way we’re primed for. That’s why I think the real difference tends to be that some people are comfortable staying in their beliefs if they seem right and feel good. Others have more of a tendency to actively seek out other potential explanations that could also account for the evidence (all kinds) and then hold back certainty a bit in the hopes that they don’t confidently believe false things. That’s why I try to learn about the assumptions and biases and examine them all for most claims. I can see that it’s unusual. But that seems to be the real difference. I don’t require empirical evidence or more evidence for confidence. But if I see other potentially equal or better explanations after actively examining everything, I’ll withhold certainly that my favored or initial explanation is definitely the right one. Does any of that make sense?

Also, I think the more someone is aware of and understands other alternate explanations and is aware of and fearful of their own biases (fear they made lead them confidently away from truth), the more they tend to reserve certainty in more things.  If someone has a personality that isn’t interested in such things, or hasn’t been made aware of both the flaws in our reasoning and alternative explanations, they tend to see people like me as being too critical. They just don’t think the same way. So I completely get where they’re coming from, I just think that sometimes they assume I just require too much evidence so that science won’t even lead me to confidence. What I really do is balance my confidence against all the factors I see, which isn’t usually what everyone else sees, because more than wanting to be right, I really don’t want to be confidently wrong. I think you and unkleE are somewhere in the middle on that spectrum (believe what feels right vs actively search for better alternative explanations and the modifying weight of our own biases) and I’m just closer to one end. I don’t like being on the end. 😦 Making the bell curve taller is my goal in all of this.

Wait, there are some people who do require empirical evidence and hold strong beliefs against the supernatural, etc., so am a little closer to the middle than I feared. 🙂 I need to be emphasizing caution to them more. We don’t see many. Instead I spend my time taunting biases and other possible explanations to well behaving believers in faith. Anytime I mention bias or MR I cringe. I really don’t like my position. There are very few situations one can feel like they’re being accused of bias and not feel criticized and defensive. It’s like you’re position of discussing sin. It has to start with us. I am biased too, etc. Everything on your side rests on our sin and need for a savior. Everything on mine rests on the flaws in our reasoning and alternative explanations that should keep us cautious of too much certainty. At the same time, you seem to get by just fine without talking about the points that offend people (sin) nearly as much as I talk about my offensive points. Of course, that’s largely because much of your audience doesn’t believe in it. 🙂 Some don’t believe bias applies to them either. Still, I need to learn from you. I feel my position is the more critical. 😦

P:  Wow.  Just read the last comment exchange.  IMO it would not have hurt your position to wait before responding.  IYO there were compelling reasons to respond promptly and perhaps the processing was already complete.  Hmmm…

R:  Haha. I know. I would have liked to have waited. 😦 On the other hand, I’m with family this weekend and have to drive tonight and get an early start tomorrow. I’m so far behind on everything that I really need to not have this dragging out during the week. If I didn’t respond this week I fear I may never respond. Losing momentum would have made it much harder to get back into the process and I likely would choose that over a post or two. I know you think he thinks like me, and in some sense he does because he can be technical, but in many other major areas I can’t see it. He and I process things as differently as you and I do. I wanted him to continue a few posts ago by addressing my responses to the actual argument he had made about fine-tuning rather than his opinion of my reasoning, unless he was willing to provide specifics that were related to the arguments. That’s not what’s been happening. He says it will happen in a future post on his site, but not in these comments, so they’re aren’t very helpful. The current cycle or avoiding those assumptions about his argument has gone through too many loops without being addressed and it’s dragging me down. It’s cut into my workout time more than my work time and that’s eating away at me. I wanted to wait, but more than that I wanted to be done so I can refocus. I caved. 😦 I feel bad about it. There is a lot of pressure from various areas at the moment and it was a huge relief to see something resolve. I realized this morning that what I pasted into the response was not my final draft but my first draft, which wasn’t softened. 😦 I do feel bad that I ended it on that and it was too offensive. Thank you for your follow-up, that helped a lot. 🙂

I just listened to that comment from last night. I wish I could delete it or edited it. But that wouldn’t be right. I really should have waited. 😦

Or at least checked it over to make sure it was the final version I had in the clipboard before I posted it. 😦

I will learn from this. Have a great day, Pascal.
kant_spinoza

R:  The last two points on each seem quite relevant.

Out of the block quotes and back to the coffee musings.  The last two points didn’t move me as much as the third and fourth bullet of the second section.  When I read how Spinoza handled the work of his predecessors and logical contradictions it resonated.  Did Russell feel the same way about Kant’s views?

So there it is – – a text exchange long enough for a post.  Why?  Because I sit across the breakfast table from this friend of mine and want to understand him better.  I like the way his mind works and want to discuss things on his terms, but I get in my own way.  I’m more like Spinoza (not a theist if I recall).

I do think that unkleE and Russell need to take a break.  I honestly agree more with unkleE in his way of processing.  But I won’t be able to communicate that well in writing.  I’ll need to communicate that in person with body language and tone of voice included.  That should happen Thursday night and in the many breakfast tacos that will follow.

If you have ever had the feeling of talking past someone or being talked past (Russell and I have both done that to each other then reconciled in person) how do you proceed?

Pascal – – 1:16

*photo credit:  By Tim Walker from United Kingdom (2003 Faith Saturn electro-acoustic guitar) [CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Wealth and Power

640px-Biltmore_Estate_14-2

Dear Friend,

I begin most of my letters here with a derivative of that salutation.  Dear Russell and Friends . . .  But the letter on my table is not from Russell.  It is from Steve Forbes, or rather it appears, from his desk.  I don’t know Steve Forbes but he asks me to join him by buying a magazine.  It is three and a half pages long, but a quick read due to capacious spacing and outsized font.  The first words that receive the inflation denote the thesis of the letter.  Mr. Forbes offers me something that he thinks I want:  wealth and power.

Is he right?  Before I discount advertising, I must assess its success.  It often works.  Very often.  And those who can afford Forbes magazine and even its peddled luxury wares are not less vulnerable. Perhaps they are even more so.

Mr. Forbes thinks that I want to read about the lives of billionaires.  In his words the magazine that bears his name is not all about business.

It’s also about enjoying the rewards of success.  Exotic supercars. Yachts to die for.  Hideaways that you can’t get to from here.  The private plane circuit, where wealthy flyers never see the inside of a terminal.  Plus, you’ll get ForbesLife, our guide to living the good life.

Is he right?  Is wealth and power a worthy goal?  Mr. Forbes is no fool, but I’ve been one.  I’ve been sorely tempted to mistake my gifts for entitlement.  I’ve been sorely tempted to direct my capacity toward temporary things that will not survive even my brief life.  I’ve been sorely tempted to seek approval, influence, and regard.  In truth – – I find power more tempting than wealth and view the latter as only the currency of the former.  I have been tempted and I have fallen.

One reason I follow Christ is so that I can answer Mr. Forbes with honesty.  Yes – – you’re right sir.  I do want wealth and power.  But, deep within me I know it is not enough.  Deep within me I know that it will not survive me.  Vanderbilt barely lived in America’s largest home.  So what can replace wealth and power as my desire? Following Christ has given me that answer.

Mr. Forbes and his team are no fools.  I’m not in the top 0.1% of income, but honesty compels me to acknowledge that I am in the top 1%.  I’m not in the top 0.01% of intellect, but honesty compels me to acknowledge that I am in the top 0.1%.  Honesty is not what I need.  I need humility.  By following Christ I see someone so much greater than me that I have no metric of comparison.  Yet he came to serve and to suffer with us (compassion defined).  Mr. Forbes may not be a fool, but I want to be.  I want to foolishly reject the call to wealth and power although I know that I could realistically attain a measure of it.  I want to foolishly love those who are poor and powerless.

Oh Mr. Forbes, you knew I would be tempted.  I am constantly tempted by goals that honor myself and not my savior.  Oh God – – please let me be wise and pursue your compassion.  Let me live differently as a steward of the capabilities that are only a gift from you.

Dear readers – –

1)  Does Mr. Forbes’ offer tempt you?

2)  Atheist friends:  how have you mitigated this siren call?

3)  Christ followers and those of other faiths:  same question.

4)  Any:  am I wrong to recoil from this letter?  I welcome your criticism.

 

Pascal  1:16

photo credit:  “Biltmore Estate 14-2” by Biltmore_Estate_14.jpg: Doug Coldwellderivative work: Entheta (talk) – Biltmore_Estate_14.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Apologies (accepted) & Napkins (used well)

Napkin

Greetings Russell and Friends,

Much of my reading and writing this week has been in the comments concerning my last post on God’s goodness or lack thereof.  That is a new and exciting way to interact with our new friends – – something that we’ve seen modeled on several of their blogs.  Much of the content in these blogs is in the comments.  So we’re slowly addressing your reasons for doubt and unfolding the map to your intellect and heart.  I find your mind to be fascinating, likely because it is very different from mine.  I also find it fascinating when you and your wife J (aka CC) write each other from the same room.  Fascinating, and completely valid.  She said the following after you apologized for the length of your comments.

Your napkin drawing (that happened on paper, but same idea) was far more effective. Even if you has said the same thing in many thousands of words, I think fatigue would have prevented me (and perhaps others) from getting it. Are there readers who skip your comments altogether because of the length (knowing that they don’t have time in the Subway line)? You have so much to offer that I don’t want it to be missed for that reason.

I need to accept your apology and resist my impulse to reassure you that apologies are never needed.  That impulse does not honor the reality of friendship.  When I apologize I would rather have that apology accepted than deferred.  Why do I accept your apology?  Because I recently found myself in a Subway line trying to engage the blog content and I couldn’t attend to your very good comment, primarily because of length.  I read and scrolled, scrolled and read, gave up, then ordered a six-inch wheat black forest ham toasted with pepper jack cheese, green peppers, red onions, black olives, banana peppers, spicy mustard and a little bit of sriracha sauce.  I woke at four this morning intending to read every single one of your comments.  I’m actually a slow, plodding reader – – speed reading is anathema to me.  And I did, but it took two hours to do so thoughtfully.  Smaller bites and clarifying questions is good advice from your bride.

What about napkins?  That is a favorite strategy of ours when we meet for breakfast.  Back of the envelope analogies fail because the only envelopes I seem to have contain junk mail and I rarely have them at breakfast.  Likewise, we have never eaten together at a restaurant with cloth napkins.  I’m not saying that we couldn’t write on those napkins, just that it could get a little strange or tense.  In the napkin above I’ve illustrated a general taxonomy which may or may not be correct.  The horizontal axis represents a way of thinking – – like you or me.  The vertical axis represents a skeptical or theistic belief.  I’ve taken the liberty of asserting that you think the most like you and I think the most like me.  We serve as paradigmatic members of the quadrants:  you the Russell-like skeptic, me the Pascal-like theist.  Then I’ve assigned several of our more active writers to the quadrants as I see them.  I chose Madalyn for my way of thinking, albeit with very different beliefs, primarily because I find her writing style very easy to read.  I chose Howie for your way of thinking because when he first came by I thought you had adopted another pseudonym.  And so forth – – it’s a bit like picking teams for dodgeball.  It would be better for people to assign themselves – – then I could redraw the napkin, although I did find the creative effort to be draining.

Why a tangential discussion about napkins?  Because I’ve taken so many tangents this week trying to see how we see things differently.  Did you know that Bertrand Russell was an opponent of coherentism as an epistemic strategy?  I did not.  Did you know that Soren Kierkegaard requires too many special characters in the correct spelling of his name to be my favorite philosopher?  That was a joke (although true).  He’s not my favorite philosopher because I don’t have one yet.  Kierkegaard valued the subjective in his understanding of truth.  I didn’t know that, but I’ve encountered him before in many readings and it is probably time to go to the source.  My tangential responses to your comments and your linearity help me to learn and also to respect that I many not ever be able to reply to you in kind.  I understand your objections, I just don’t process the world that way.  And that is okay.  I’ll do my best.  Let’s have breakfast this week.

For our friends — which napkin quadrant would you place yourself in?  Any takers for the lonely square?  If you are one of the 8-in-ink and consider yourself misdrawn I am prepared to revise.

Pascal

–1:16

photo credit:  the napkin on the table, Pascal, my own work Creative Commons share and share alike

Another Year?

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Dear Russell & Friends,

Another year.  Another year?  I remember us sitting at this table the Friday night before our first post setting up the parameters of the blog.  It leaked into Saturday morning.  We had picked our pseudonyms a week before.  No one has mentioned the connection to Ender’s Game.  Perhaps we have forgotten too – – am I Demosthenes or Locke?  I can’t remember.  I do remember the hesitation I had in titling my first post Why I am Not a Christian.  Would anyone get the irony?  It felt like an opening move in chess.  Then two weeks later, your post Why I am Not a Christian.  43 reasons.  Damn.  At least drop one and claim to have the answer to life, the universe, and everything.  Have I understood at least one of those reasons better?  The question has significance.  I used to argue. In honest truth, I enjoyed it – – probably still do.  What changed? Maybe years have added maturity.  I’m 42 now.  I do have the answer to life, the universe, and everything, so why flaunt it?  But I don’t think maturity is the answer – – maybe part of it, but not the answer.

You are the answer.  After two years of meeting we are becoming friends.  It takes time and we’re spending it. The more I know you, the harder it is for me to be irritated when I disagree.  You have no idea how much I disagree.  That’s not true – – I think you know very well.  But I see your motives, see your family, see you (African sense) and I’m not offended anymore.

What of our others – – those who join to read and write?  Where did they come from?  Our first other is your first other – – CC.  I hate that name, but love her.  She is an authentic doubter, not a Counterfeit Christian.  CC writes and thinks like me but with a woman’s perspective and with more talent.  She wanted me to befriend you, hoping I would change your mind.  That may never have been the goal – – we’ll have to ask her.  She loves you and wanted you to have another friend besides her.  I hope you know now that she’ll never leave you even if you never come back to faith – – and neither will I.

Why have others joined?  She brought some.  In the longest tail called the internet we have found an eclectic micro-niche of people who may wish to understand each other and build bridges.  We have called for and tried to model humility from both skeptical and believing perspectives.  Others just came.  You thought it was my posts on Romans.  Good gracious.  You could paper the walls of Grand Central Station with commentaries on Romans – – it was written almost two thousand years ago.  You may be right – – I’m just not sure.

Regardless of the reason, I have to balance my unattractive tendency to rejoice in growing statistics with a deeper and more noble desire to share what we’re building here.  I look forward to your post today.  It may be (insert sardonic smile) longer than mine.  It will be you – – someone I have grown to love.

Your brother,

Pascal

–1:16

 

photo credit:  old calendar, wikimedia commons, public domain

Two Way Street – – my heart for believers

The_two_bridges

 

Dear Russell & Friends,

We’re less than a week away from the first anniversary of our writing adventure.  We shall reclaim Friday the 13th for something useful.  As confessed before, I find myself reflective – – almost in a New Year’s Eve-y kind of mood.  Why are we here?  Does it matter?  Recent comments have reminded me.  We are here to form friendships that can ask hard questions in the dining room.  I used to think the family room, but Mrs. Pascal won’t routinely let me eat in there.  Something else has struck me as I better read and understand my friend CC (Russell’s wife).  My call is forming to the skeptical – – I honestly find so many to be so likeable and interesting.  My call is also forming to revise the hearts of people like me who ignored, reviled, or discounted them for so long.  I actually do love the church – – not a building, but a community of Christ followers.  And because I love the church, I am willing to humbly criticize it – – realizing that the first to be criticized is me.

What did I need to hear?  Avoiding the skeptic and painting her with a thin haired brush is too pious by half. She does care about justice and mercy because she was made in the image of God – – whether she has acknowledged that God or not.  She does things that are:  true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.  Think on those things.

What did I need to hear?  Is there anything in my life or theology that is attractive or worthy of imitation?  Has it become about social acceptability and one-off platitudes for me?  Should I defend a broken American church or work to reform her?  I’m landing more on the side of the latter.  Love reforms.  Love criticizes his own heart, his own family, his own motives.

What did I need to hear?  Will I tolerate the continued scandal of the evangelical mind, or join the heritage of the Jesuits and engage my mind, culture, and tribe of humanity?

What did I need to hear?  The health and wealth gospel that I was raised with was a false gospel.  Joel Osteen is a false prophet.  The authentic gospel (discovered in my twenties) changed my whole life.  The authentic gospel saved the greatest wrath for the pharisee, not the sinner.  I have been both.  Remember the mercy you were given Pascal – – how dare you not offer it freely to another?

I am grateful for our friends and readers who follow Christ.  You may be the silent majority.  I hope that reading here will change the inclination of your heart just as writing here has done for me.  If we take Jesus seriously, how can we not weep for the pain caused in his name?  How can we not stand for something different in our generation?  St. Augustine saw the Visigoths sack Rome in 410 AD and died with the Vandals at the gate in North Africa.  He stood in a time of transition and was called to speak truth to his generation – – remember that he wrote to the church.  Now we stand in the post-modern, pre-future chasm.  Can’t we just call it the present?  What will we do?  We will care about our generation and reclaim the authentic gospel that deeply cares about people and profoundly transforms lives.  If we present an authentic gospel, it can rise or fall on its own merits.  I will no longer defend or tolerate the false.

 

Blessings,

Pascal

–1:16

photo credit:  © Frank Schulenburg / CC-BY-SA-3.0, via wikimedia commons

Cognitive Load and the New Phone

attention-economics

 

Dear Russell & Friends,

I mentioned my weekend adventure to the Apple store in the last post.  The day before I had gone to fix the battery problem on the iPhone 5.  If your phone powers down suddenly with apparent battery life left, check this link as we’re close to the end of the recall window.  They were efficient and repaired the phone.  I left with a great hand-me-down for P3 and . . . and iPhone 6.  Mrs. Pascal is groaning in the other room.  I really can not be trusted in an Apple store.

I used the store’s super-fast wi-fi to restore my data to the new phone through iCloud.  It worked really well and as far as I know there is little missing.  My wordpress e-mail populated correctly as did our home account.  Where was the work e-mail?  Hmm…  It did not import well.  No worries.  We have a tech desk at work with friendly people who would be able to re-establish the connection.  Family, blog community, work contact in my pocket all the time.

The weekend went on.  I knew when we had new followers here or when a comment deserved a read or reply and I knew when our home schedule needed to be revisited, revised or refreshed.  But why did the volume seem less?  Why did I feel like I had extra breathing room?  I checked the work e-mail once on Saturday, once on Monday morning as I wrote here.  In aggregate perhaps 20 messages — things slow down on the weekends.  Then I parked in my Star Wars space at work (far, far away) and walked in thinking.

Do I really want e-mail back on the phone?  I have a desktop computer and check e-mail several times during the day.  I am accessible to my closest colleagues and bosses by text message.  Do I want the cavalcade of 5, 17, 23 superscripts advancing through the day and demanding my attention?  I asked my closest colleagues – – so, what effect would it have on you if I no longer had e-mail available while I was away from the desk?  You could still text.  They smiled and shrugged – – “honestly Pascal, we don’t need you as much as you think we do” – – I’m liberalizing the response, but that was the gist.

So. I. Didn’t.  My whole life has not changed.  My walks up the stairs have.  I think and pray and don’t risk life and limb to watch the e-mail ticker rise.  My attention is not commanded.  There is cognitive margin. Cognitive load theory comes to us from education literature and is fairly simple:  your amazing computer has limited working memory.  You can’t multitask nearly as well as you think.

Family stay on the phone.  You here stay on the phone (I still risk life and limb reading on the stairs – – writing, not so much).  I don’t consider these streams to be a load or a burden, but a joy and a calling.  Work will wait for me to get back to the desk when I can focus and answer well.  Sigh.  Smile.  Panic attack?

Pascal

–1:16

photo credit:  Russell’s screenshot (actual) – – let us take a moment of silence for Russell & hope that he knows to read this.