Sunday, April 29, 2012

Humility: struggles with the two selves.


Sermon delivered at First UU Church of Austin on April 29, 2012.
Children’s story: green eggs and ham by Dr. Seuss
Reading: Every Riven Thing by Christian Wiman
Every Riven Thing
God goes, belonging to every riven thing he's made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why
God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he's made,
means a storm of peace.
Think of the atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
trying to will himself into the stillness where
God goes belonging. To every riven thing he's made
there is given one shade
shaped exactly to the thing itself:
under the tree a darker tree;
under the man the only man to see
God goes belonging to every riven thing. He's made
the things that bring him near,
made the mind that makes him go.
A part of what man knows,
apart from what man knows,
God goes belonging to every riven thing he's made.

Sermon - Humility: struggles with the two selves.
In the words of Christian Wiman, “Riven is kind of an old testament word that means broken, sundered, torn-apart.”  Riven is a weird place for me to begin a sermon, but the poem from Christian Wiman that we shared earlier resonated deeply with me as I was writing this sermon and I kept going back and listening to it over and over. 
God goes, belonging to every riven thing he's made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why

I find it paradoxical that I, who have railed from this very pulpit against the idea that we are born broken, would be so taken, so transfixed, so transformed by this poem.  But one of the things that seems to become more and more clear to me is the deep relationship between paradox and wisdom. So this morning, in search of a deeper relationship with humility, one of my most vexing challenges, I am going to embrace this paradox and talk about some of the ways in which I, and from what I gather, the vast majority of my human brothers and sisters feel broken. 
I couldn’t settle on a single approach to humility, so I will use several: first, the perspective of Green Eggs and Ham, second as a manager trying to practice what I preach, and third as an aspiring leader and public speaker.  I will break between these perspectives with parts of Every Riven Thing and the serenity prayer.  At each recitation of the serenity prayer, I would like us to treat it as a unison reading, I will signal each recitation with folded hands, for this first recitation I ask that you repeat after me.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss is what is on my son Simon’s nightstand right now, it is not the only thing on his nightstand, but it is seminal.  Green Eggs and Ham has become a method by which my wife and I can get Simon to try something new, sometimes.
The protagonist of Green Eggs and Ham has no name, which is bad for storytelling unless you are as talented as Dr. Seuss, which I am not, so I’ll call him I am Not Sam.
Now I am Not Sam does not like Sam I Am. Now perhaps this dislike comes from some experience.  Or perhaps it is because I am Not Sam dislikes introduction by signboard.  Or perhaps I am Not Sam doesn’t care for creatures who ride other creatures while carrying signboards.  Or perhaps I am Not Sam just doesn’t like being interrupted while he’s reading the newspaper.  Whatever the case we are unsurprised when I am Not Sam declines Sam I Am’s offer of Green Eggs and Ham.  Not only because of our own skepticism about green animal-based food products, but because we know, from our own experience, that we are disinclined to accept anything from people we don’t like.  As a matter of fact, the less we know about what is offered the more likely we are to substitute our opinion of the person making the offer for our evaluation of what is being offered.  What’s more, when we perform this cognitive trick we are generally unaware of what we have done.
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is what’s on my nightstand right now.  One of the lessons from the book is that we are amazing at inferring the general from the specific and lousy at deriving the specific from the general.  So here is a story:

I am Not Sam doesn’t like Sam I am.
Sam I Am offers Green Eggs and Ham.
I am Not Sam likes not Green Eggs and Ham.
Enter psychologist Kahneman.
Kahneman asks of I am Not Sam.
Where comes your opinion of Green Eggs and Ham?
Reasons abound from I am Not Sam,
For example, his mother’s allergic to ham,
And his brother’s misfortune while hunting wild Spam,
Plus, deviled eggs sicken poor I am Not Sam.
But among these reasons Not Sam has Given,
His dislike of Sam, he does fail to mention.
And this, my dear friends, is what makes him Riven.

God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he's made,
means a storm of peace.
Think of the atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
trying to will himself into the stillness where

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

So, I had my team at work take the VIA Strengths Index Survey, which is a positive psychology assessment that tells you what your strongest virtues are.  Now, since it is all framed positively and your strengths are just ranked from top to bottom, it isn’t supposed to be a criticism and the default results only show you your top 5 strengths.  But, I’m human so I had to click on the link that showed the full listing of all the possible strengths so that I could see my weakest strengths.  Not weaknesses, just my strengths that are less strong than my other strengths.  I’m going to give you about 0.1 seconds to guess what my least strong strength was… (humility). 
So, I’m in the staff meeting with my team, a few full time people and a dozen graduate students, and we are sharing our top 5 strengths and graphing on a chart where the team is strongest and where we aren’t, and we are talking about how to leverage the strengths we have against the kinds of challenges we face… you get the idea.  So after this team exercise, I just can’t keep my mouth shut and I say, “We aren’t going to talk about this today, it isn’t for public discourse, but I want each of you to take a look at your bottom 5.  What I want you to think about is how you can use your top strengths to offset whatever your weakest areas are.”  In and of itself, this was not a big deal.  It is the kind of pedantic shenanigans that we all have to tolerate from our bosses from time to time.  Here’s the problem: I have a rule for myself as a manager.  The rule is that I have to be willing to do whatever I ask them to do, or else I can’t hold them to it.  So, that was three years ago and here I am still working on the problem of how to use my strengths to develop more humility. 
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

God goes belonging. To every riven thing he's made
there is given one shade
shaped exactly to the thing itself:
under the tree a darker tree;
under the man the only man to see

Manic-depression makes sense to me… it is so easy for me to see how little a change in the mind it would take for the tension between feelings of empowerment and feelings of powerlessness to just SNAP!  To live one’s life actively holding these two forces, these two facts of the human condition at bay, to keep them in tension with one another, to exist in that tension without surrendering to either force… To do this seems so much more profound and more amazing than wildly vacillating between the two polls or simply surrendering to either despair or megalomania.  Yet this is what most of us do.
In my struggle to find this balance, I have not found answers, but I continue to find value in the struggle. I have tended to frame my struggle as a search for a life course by which I can maximize the amount of change I can make.  I have found this approach mostly frustrating and recent revelations have caused me to suspect that this one-dimensional way of defining the problem might, itself, be problematic.
Several months ago my book club read ‘The Denial of Death’ by Ernest Becker, a celebrated psychoanalyst who completed this seminal work on the fear of death during the course of his own terminal struggle with cancer. The fear of death is a widely cited ‘root cause’ of many aspects of the human experience, both positive and negative.  But it was Becker’s concept of the immortality project that really struck me.  An immortality project is a thing that a person latches onto that mollifies or neutralizes their fear of death.  To give you an idea, here are some stereotypical immortality projects:
When parents try to live the life that they wanted through their children, they are making their children into their immortality project.
When architects sacrifice every human relationship to get a building or monument constructed, it is their immortality project.
When a poet places his life and his being on the altar of words, those words, those poems are his or her immortality project. 
There is a poem by Robert Bringhurst called “These Poems, She Said” that captures the spirit of pathology that I think immortality projects necessarily imbue on their objects:

These poems, these poems,
these poems, she said, are poems
with no love in them. These are the poems of a man   
who would leave his wife and child because   
they made noise in his study. These are the poems   
of a man who would murder his mother to claim   ­
the inheritance. These are the poems of a man   
like Plato, she said, meaning something I did not   
comprehend but which nevertheless
offended me. These are the poems of a man
who would rather sleep with himself than with women,   
she said. These are the poems of a man
with eyes like a drawknife, with hands like a pickpocket’s   
hands, woven of water and logic
and hunger, with no strand of love in them. These   
poems are as heartless as birdsong, as unmeant   
as elm leaves, which if they love love only   
the wide blue sky and the air and the idea
of elm leaves. Self-love is an ending, she said,   
­and not a beginning. Love means love
of the thing sung, not of the song or the singing.   
These poems, she said....
                                       You are, he said,
beautiful.
                That is not love, she said rightly.

I have come to recognize that the pathological intensity with which I frequently desire to change the world is my immortality project and a source of much of my hubris.
Another piece of the puzzle came through my experience at the Dwight Brown Leadership Experience. One of the themes of the curriculum is family systems theory.  Through my exposure, I found out how normal it is for a first-born child of overly-young parents to develop a need to fix-the-world.  This got me thinking about how my desire to fix the world isn’t actually because the world is so broken, but it is because MY relationship with the world is so broken.  This is a perspective that I learned during my most formative years, and that I am still struggling to unlearn.
A third aspect of this puzzle came to my attention through my experience in the Leadership Austin Essential program.  A neighbor and classmate shared with me her sense of how I present myself as smarter and better than others and how condescending this often felt to her and others with whom she had spoken.  While I had come to recognize that how I am is a ‘turn off’ for a significant portion of any given group or audience, I had learned to rationalize away that problem so that it was about others and not about me.  This friend’s willingness, as a member of this group, to openly and honestly share her feelings, thoughts and impressions with me was invaluable.  What I have come to realize is that this sense of condescension that comes through in my personality is not about what I believe when I am thinking, praying or meditating.  It is about how I AM in the world, it is about my attitude about fixing the world.  An attitude which holds that I am THE ONE who should and CAN fix the world, an attitude which holds that the REST OF YOU are part of that world, and that I WILL FIX YOU in the process, whether you like it or not!  I may not believe it, but I have to learn to stop pretending that I don’t ACT like I do.
God goes belonging to every riven thing. He's made
the things that bring him near,
made the mind that makes him go.
A part of what man knows,
apart from what man knows,

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

I value humility.  Through my struggles and my reflection I have come to honestly and sincerely believe in the value of what each of us has to offer, to believe that regardless of the way we write history books, we all make up the human story every single day. 
But that is just about what I think, when I am thinking.  It is what I believe when I am focused on believing.  It says nothing of whether or not I am humble in my being, in my way of being.  Just as I am sure that there are tremendously humble beings out there in the world who have never spent much time thinking of humility, I am sure that despite all of my thinking about humility, I am not yet humble. 
This, to me, is the crux of the two selves.  I come from a culture of orthodoxy and have too often and too easily believed that once I had come to believe the right thing I had accomplished my aim.  But the self that thinks and reflects and conjures the story of my identity, this self is only one part of me.  It is the conscious and reflective part, it is not the automated subconscious part of myself which sets the tone and acts based on the preconceptions formed by my own experience.  It is my remembering self and not my being. 
My other self, my acting self, my in-the-moment self, my being, can be retrained, is, hopefully, being retrained. This retraining requires me to be mindful, to be evaluative of who and how I am and skeptical of how I would prefer to think of myself. This retraining shifts my emphasis from orthodoxy to orthopraxy: increasing my emphasis on right behavior.  My spiritual practice, of which standing here before you today is a large part, is about finding these balances between what I think and what I do, between orthodoxy and orthopraxy, between empowerment and powerlessness, but not between hubris and humility!
Hubris is to live ignorant of my Riven-ness, to live blind to my blindness and callous to my callousness.
Hubris is to live in a state of perpetual self-righteousness.
Hubris is a childish thing that I struggle to put away.
Humility is to live like I am not the center of the universe.
Humility is to live like we are all in this together.
Humility is an aspiration that I struggle to live up to.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

God goes belonging to every riven thing he's made.

Amen

Benediction
We Riven Things go, belonging to God and to Each Other.
May we go in serenity and with courage
And, with a little humility,
may we be fortunate enough to pick up some wisdom on the way.

video or audio version available at: 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

the experiment in naturalism ends

A ten month experiment in naturalism - specifically in exploring my genetic hair growth patterns unimpeded by social convention or personal intervention - ended today...

before the end of the experiment:


after the end of the experiment:

I have opted for reasons of time and resource consumption to return to my practice of periodic self-intervention with a pair of clippers.  The experiment was interesting and resulted in a practical appreciation for the potential value (never tested) of mustache wax for keeping one's mustache out of one's food and mouth...  The use of baking soda solution and apple cider vinegar for hair care worked very well, but with my natural oil levels and the daily run-commute the treatments needed to become more frequent as the mass of hair continued to increase.  The experiment did not culminate in the 'growth plateau' that I had aspired to when I began the experiment, but I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what I would like if I were genetically me, but born tens of thousands of years ago before we made a cultural habit of interventionist hair styling.  From earlier periods in my life, the late undergraduate epoch to be precise, I can share that the head-hair plateau happens at about shoulder length... the beard remains a mystery... would it have grown to the nipples or the belly button or beyond.... we may never know, and I suspect we will never find out.

Now it's time to go deal with the psychological repercussions of feeling like I no longer have a chin.

Eric

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sermon: So Let It Be Written...


(delivered to First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin on Sunday July 31, 2011)

Prayer:

Somewhere out there
On a dusty shelf
Or a spinning disk
On parchment aged
Or in pixels bright
There are words waiting for you
These words were written for you
And when you find them
They will touch your heart
And change your life.

Somewhere in there
Between the synapses
Of your frontal lobe
Or floating around
In the recesses of you consciousness
Are words destined for another
Words that will touch their heart
And change their life
It is your duty to record them
So that they may be found.

Somewhere out there
Is a better world
waiting to be described
We spend our days and our nights
Imagining this world

When we are wise,
We record these imaginings
For each other
To bring this dream one step
Closer to reality.

When we are unwise,
We think that
all of these imaginings
are just stories.

We pray this in the name of everything that is holy, and that is, precisely, everything.



Sermon: “So let it be written…”

“So let it be written, so let it be done.”

I have to start this morning with an amusing admission, I chose the title of today’s sermon off the cuff after being approached by Vicki and Dwayne who hoped that I would tie the sermon into the end of our Hogwarts Summer Camp and our Bookspring summer social action project. 

I thought it was from the bible.  I thought it was from Moses or one of the other Old Testament prophets… But, as I was doing research for the sermon I found out that the quote was actually from Cecil B. DeMille’s epic film The Ten Commandments.  Furthermore, it was not one of God’s noble representatives, but the Pharaoh who utters this famous line.  Here is the quote in context:

The Egyptian Master Builder Baka asks Pharaoh, ”Will you lose a throne because Moses builds a city?”  Pharaoh Rameses answers, ”The city that he builds shall bear my name, the woman that he loves shall bear my child. So let it be written, so let it be done.” 

Well, you can thank Vicki and Dwayne for saving you from the torturous sermon on self-righteousness that I was planning.  And you can thank me for drawing the title of a sermon on the sacredness of all texts from a movie line that exemplifies the petty vengefulness of tyrants.

Being unfortunately trained in the contemporary American academic tradition, my first thought when I decided to write a sermon about the sacredness of all texts was to be critical of its weakest point, which, to my mind is more or less, the Harlequin Romance Novel.  Can I make the case that even the schmaltz-iest novel is a sacred text?  Now I want to clarify that I don’t believe that the success or failure of the proposition that all texts are sacred rests on whether or not I prove the holiness of the romance novel.  However, I would like to challenge you to think about whatever genre or type of writing that you find most banal and least likely to be sacred.  Must not the author of this dubious work, by necessity, confront the human condition?  Does not this topic, this domain of inquiry speak to some pertinent aspect of our shared reality and thus derive its readership?  What else is there?  We are all at different points in our journey, and so it ought not be too surprising that we find a wide variety of different material insightful in different ways and at different times in our lives.

I think that the more important differentiation, in terms of sacredness, or to echo our prayer closing from Jack Harris-Bonham, holiness, is not what we read but how we read it.  It is not which book we select, but why.  It is not the level of enlightenment or spiritual power of the author, but how well the book resonates with our own spiritual journey that matters.  Ultimately, the sacredness of any particular text to us is about whether or not, and to what extent, we allow the text to change us…

From this perspective, we can come to recognize the transformative potential of essentially all human writings.  To be sure, some texts will have objectively greater transformative breadth and depth, but this describes a continuum of sacredness, not an either-or proposition.  For the sexually repressed, salvation might just come in the form of a Harlequin.

In the spirit of this revelation, I would like to share with you some of the writings that have changed me.

I want to frame these writings using Ursula Le Guin’s introduction to her novel The Left Hand of Darkness.  I started reading science fiction and fantasy when I was twelve, but it wasn’t until I read this introduction in my thirties that I understood why it had always had such a hold on me.

(quoting) “Science fiction is often described, and even defined, as extrapolative… This book is not extrapolative.  If you like you can read it, and a lot of other science fiction, as a thought-experiment.  Let’s say (says Mary Shelley) that a young doctor creates a human being in his laboratory; let’s say (says Philip K. Dick) that the Allies lost the second world war; let’s say this or that is such and so, and see what happens… In a story so conceived, the moral complexity proper to the modern novel need not be sacrificed, nor is there a built-in dead end; thought and intuition can move freely within bounds set only by the terms of the experiment, which may be very large indeed.” (end quote)

I remember concretely the moment when I first read this paragraph.  I was lying in bed reading, excited to start a new book by an author I was just discovering. I remember feeling a bit breathless, I remember laying the book down on my stomach.  I remember closing my eyes and flashing through twenty years of my favorite books.  I remember realizing that my favorites were the ones where this counterfactual universe, this imagined world, produced in me a type or degree of moral complexity, sometimes even moral clarity, beyond what I had ever experienced in reading traditional literary fiction.

For example, in his series that begins with Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card takes on the themes of xenophobia and just war theory in a fictional war with aliens.  Ultimately, the reader finds a way to identify with and find compassion for the aliens, while becoming self-critical of the might-makes-right and win-at-all-costs mentality of humanity.  I can think of no finer gift for a loved one preparing to enlist in the military than a box-set of Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind.  Not that these books would dissuade their service, Card’s work is steeped in the value of civil service and self-sacrifice.  What these books would do is encourage them to struggle with questions that are particularly relevant to anyone preparing him or herself to enter a profession with regular access to weapons of mass destruction.

To continue from Le Guin; “The purpose of a thought-experiment, as the term was used by Schrodinger and other physicists, is not to predict the future – indeed Schrodinger’s most famous thought-experiment goes to show that the “future,” on the quantum level, cannot be predicted – but to describe reality, the present world…  Science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive.” (end-quote)

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings famously describes the struggle between those who wish to live in harmony with nature and those who seek to control it.  Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials describes the struggle between free inquiry and powerfully institutionalized dogma.  While Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land describes the perverse oddity of culture, any culture, when viewed critically by an outsider.

(quoting again from Le Guin) “Prediction is the business of prophets, clairvoyants, and futurologists.  It is not the business of novelists. A novelist’s business is lying.  …Certainly.  Fiction writers, at least in their braver moments, do desire the truth: to know it, speak it, serve it.  But they go about it in a peculiar and devious way, which consists in inventing persons, places, and events which never did and never will exist or occur, and telling about these fictions in detail and at length and with a great deal of emotion, and then when they are done writing this pack of lies, the say, There! That’s the Truth! 
…In fact, while we read a novel, we are insane – bonkers. We believe in the existence of people who aren’t there, we hear their voices, we watch the battle of Borodino with them, we may even become Napoleon.  Sanity returns (in most cases) when the book is closed. (end quote)

What has struck me about some of my favorite works of alternative histories and futures, many by Kim Stanley Robinson, such as his Mars and California trilogies and his compelling The Years of Rice and Salt, is that these thoughtfully constructed alternative worlds have often felt far more sane than the world we live in.  Not a Pollyanna-ish sanity that denies our darker angels, but a cooler-heads-have-prevailed sanity where our social energy is focused on living good lives together and not at each other’s expense.

Returning to Le Guin’s words: “…I do not say that artists cannot be seers, inspired: that the awen cannot come upon them.  Who would be an artist if they did not believe that that happens? if they did not know it happens, because they have felt the god within them use their tongue, their hands?  Maybe only once, once in their lives.  But once is enough.
I talk about the gods, I am an atheist.  But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar.  Distrust everything I say.  I am telling the truth.
The only truth I can understand or express is, logically defined, a lie.  Psychologically defined, a symbol.  Aesthetically defined, a metaphor.
In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it.  Finally, when we’re done with it, we may find – if it’s a good novel – that we’re a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have been changed a little… But it’s very hard to say just what we learned, how we were changed.
The artist deals with what cannot be said in words.
The artist whose medium is fiction does this in words.  The novelist says in words what cannot be said in words.
Words can thus be used paradoxically because they have, along with a semiotic usage, a symbolic or metaphoric usage…” (end quote)

Ah, paradox; such fodder for reflection; such a treasure trove of possibility for the mystically inclined.  My first serious introduction to the power of paradox probably came through the robot novels of Isaac Asimov, most famously I Robot.  In these books Asimov deconstructs the power of both logic and rules by forcing his sentient robotic protagonists through sequence after sequence of moral crisis brought on by situational conflicts with and between the immutable laws of robotics.  Asimov deals similarly with the paradoxes of time and prediction in his famous foundation series.  If I can claim today to have the insight that logic, in and of itself, is inadequate to solve the problems of humanity or to answer our biggest questions, the seed of that insight was planted by Asimov in my thirteen year old brain many years ago.

And now, Ursula Le Guin’s finale, “All fiction is metaphor.  Science fiction is a metaphor.  What sets it apart from older forms of fiction seems to be its use of new metaphors, drawn from certain great dominants of our contemporary life – science, …and technology, and the relativistic and the historical outlook, among them.  Space travel is one of these metaphors; so is an alternative society, an alternative biology; the future is another.  The future, in fiction, is a metaphor.
A metaphor for what?
If I could have said it non-metaphorically, I would not have written all these words, this novel; and Genly Ai would never have sat down at my desk and used up my ink and typewriter ribbon in informing me, and you, rather solemnly, that the truth is a matter of the imagination.” (end quote)

That is how the six page introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness ends.  I have tried to pull out the most succulent language and ideas from those six pages… my wife insisted that reading all six pages aloud to you was a bad idea, one that would end in, at best, a half-glazed congregation.  After reflecting, I couldn’t disagree.  When I read this introduction the first time, which was followed immediately by rereading it a second time, and then a third time, I put the book on my nightstand, turned out the light, and spent the next few hours in quiet contemplation until sleep finally overtook me.  On subsequent nights, I went on to finish the book, diving deeply into the world of Gethen, where the native intelligent species is much like mankind, except for its being without gender.  I’m not exactly sure what a planet full of androgynous hermaphrodites is a metaphor for, but I can tell you that it is a great book.  I can tell you that it challenges you to think, and to feel, beyond gender to what lies at the heart of our shared humanity.

I have stood in this pulpit many times.  I have shared with this community my reflections on growing up as an evangelical Christian, I have laid out for you my obsession with barefoot running, I have pondered with you the concepts of karma and natural law, and I have read to you the words of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., and Tenzin Gyatso the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, and Mohandas K. Gandhi, these ones who seem to me the prophets of our modern age.  But what I have not told you, not until today, is where my faith comes from.  I have not told you… why.  Why I stand up here, why I care so much about trying.  I have not told you WHY I believe.

My faith comes from science fiction.  I do not have to guess whether or not we can imagine a better world.  I do not suffer from doubt on this count.  We can, and we have, and we do… We actually know EXACTLY what kind of world we want, and we need, and we deserve.  I see this knowledge reflected back to me from every single person I meet… in their desire for justice, for compassion, for community, for truth and for beauty, for goodness and for peace.  But nowhere do I see these desires mirrored more faithfully and more clearly, than in the thousands of worlds and cultures and peoples that we, ourselves, have projected out there, onto the great metaphorical unknowns of space and time. 

And so, we have already let it be written
What remains, is to let it be done.

Monday, August 29, 2011

the beard

I used to shave off my mane.
Because I was in denial of being a lion.
Hear me roar!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

google plus, bing, new cloud apps and the achievement of balance

I think that this is my first blog post that has any significant intersection with my professional life, but after listening to a couple of Podcasts on Google Plus and hearing the incessant plugging for Bing on the Slate Gabfests (it is, IMHO, a little over the top... just let them run their ads, don't become their mouthpiece) I felt compelled to throw in my two cents about balance in the cloud-o-sphere out there...

As a human being out there in the technosphere, it is in your best interest to preclude the emergence of a Goliath from the fields of competitors.  In no market since the discovery of fossil fuel has this been easier than it is with the internet in this age.  In the evolution of modern computing, anti-trust regulation against Microsoft and ongoing similar actions (mostly in and by the EU) works to thwart some of the most abusive practices that are trending toward monopoly.  But, the most important thing is user behavior, where you click and for what is the main determinant of the balance of power between the players.  So my advice is simple: spread the wealth.  If you are intentional about spreading the wealth of your clicks, you will become the most powerful force against web hegemony.

If you use Google for search, use someone else for social networking. If you use Microsoft for your operating system, use someone else for your web browser.  This sounds easy, but keep in mind that every one of the large companies in this fray is constantly attempting to leverage the one or two services that you use with them to entice you into using them for all of your online services.

In case you don't know this:
THE LAST THING THAT YOU WANT IS FOR THERE TO BE A SINGLE CORPORATE PROVIDER FOR EMAIL, SEARCH, SOCIAL NETWORKING, CLOUD APPLICATIONS, ETC.
(& This is exactly the opposite of what Microsoft, Google, Facebook, et. al. want.)