I’m not sure what I think about the idea of “thin spaces”. I’m not sure what I think matters.
Either way, I love old churches. I love their ambiance, their sense of place, and even sometimes their ornateness and sublimity.
I guess I have to qualify old. I love cathedrals, mini-cathedrals, and micro-cathedrals. Not places in love with fabrics, gunmetal, and bright lights.
Give me dark wood and stained glass any day instead.
I used to do it. I used to try new technologies early and often. I watched them fail early and often.
I used Firefox before it was called Firefox. Before it was called Firebird, even. And even before it was called Phoenix, I used the Mozilla Suite. I bought first-run electronics, new products, pre-ordered books, music, and games… all that stuff.
I don’t do that anymore. Because it sucked.
There’s a thrill to living on the bleeding edge, a sort of adventurism without any real adventure. If you live connected to the internet and connected to the communities that grok this kind of stuff, you can really feel like part of an elite few that understand the zeitgeist before the normals really get it.
It’s a good feeling, to be part of that exclusive group. But it’s also hearbreaking and expensive.
If you’ve been there, you know what it’s like. The first run of anything is invariably rough, even for companies that are experienced in developing and releasing products. And you know how expensive it is. Buy a first-run Apple product and you’ll get the idea. It almost feels like a kind of sophisticated robbery. You want to be first to the gate? Well, we’ll take your money and we’ll take a little bit of your dignity.
The problem is that for every product that sucks, there’s a product that almost doesn’t suck, and for every five products that almost don’t suck, there’s that one jewel that absolutely blows your mind.
When you discover that jewel, it feels awesome.
The rest of the time it still sucks.
At least for me. I get it. There will always be a group of people that absolutely must have the latest and greatest. I get that. They are the beta testers of the world, who iron out the wrinkles for all those who follow. They are they advance guard of the techno-elite, the neophiles.
A market has sprung up to take advantage of these people, especially in the software market. Where we used to expect products to be released in some sort of state of semi-completion, now companies are rushing things to market that, frankly, should not be out on the market. And the neophiles pay the price.
I will give you an example. When I first got SimCity 4, I didn’t pre-order it, but I bought it on release day. No questions asked. I had no doubt, based on the pedigree of Maxis and the people involved, that it would be a great game. And it was. In fact, when it was released, it was a fully-formed, functional product. I played the crap out of it for years. I still do, in fact.
So you can understand how excited I was for the release of SimCity 5, which is actually just called SimCity (rather confusingly; people on the internet are calling it SC5 or SC2013 to distinguish it).
Except that a few things have changed since I bought SimCity 4 on release day. I have a life now. I have a wife, a house, a child, 2 dogs, competing interests on my time, lots of hobbies, and not a lot of disposable income. Or at least not as much as I had when I was a bachelor.
My outlook on purchases has changed. Whether this is because of my newfound obligations or because I’ve been burned too many times or because I’m older and wiser… I don’t know. But when it came time to pre-order the new SimCity, I took a long, hard look at what I was buying.
But I’m not the only thing that’s changed in 10 years. The release model for these new games has, at least for some developers, changed as well. I’m seeing more and more releases of games that are nowhere close to finished, and sometimes barely even playable, on release. They are shot out into the world and the people that pre-ordered, or the people that bought on release are, frankly, beta-testers. They go through the confusing and painful process of troubleshooting the game for developers, who then furiously as the case may be roll out patches. 6 months down the line, the game is in better shape, but in my opinion the damage is already done. Diablo 3 is a great example of a release done badly. But there are many, many more.
I was disturbed by what I saw when I did my research. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details of the decisions made by Maxis and EA, but since the release of The Sims, they’ve realised how much money is to be made selling downloadable content (DLC), not just the original game. Basically aftermarket parts for your game. That combined with the growing trend of social gaming, made Maxis and EA decide to adapt SimCity to these purposes.
Throw in the anti-pirating always-on internet connection, and you have a very different game from what you had in the past.
These were the warning signs that I saw. So I didn’t pre-order. I wanted to. But something inside me told me to hold back. And I did.
Then came launch day, and the severs were overwhelmed. People literally couldn’t play the game they had paid their $60 for. Then when the servers were back up, it turned out the game has all kinds of problems. Town-sized cities. Abysmal pathfinding. Graphical glitches. Region limitations. Functions disabled. No local game play. No mods.
There has been an outpouring of both rage and grief over this game on the internet. The people that bought it expecting it to exist in the grand tradition of SimCity are understandably upset. The people who bought it to play a cool game are also understandably upset.
And I’m upset because I wanted to buy this game, but now I never will. But I’m not as upset as I would be if I had bought the game on faith.
I have another example. I purchased a Nexus 7 out of the gate last year. I’m not sure why I was sucker for this one, but I was. There were a lot of problems with the first run of these devices. Squishiness on the frame, flickering on low light levels, and when it came to update time, and update that bogged the system down and made it run like an overloaded donkey.
I’m sure all these things have been fixed on the second and third generations of these devices. But they have been fixed on the backs of others, like me, who were first to the gate.
This is why I no longer live on the bleeding edge. I have an interconnected network of computers full of people more than willing to beta-test all these things for me. I’m not going to buy the new device, the new game, the new album, until someone else has heard it, played it, or used it, and not for a few days. More like six months.
There’s an endemic problem with review sites, especially for games and devices. The reviewers don’t generally have enough time to learn the tics and bad habits of what they’re reviewing. They drive-by review and move on.
The people that really understand how something works and whether or not they want to continue using it are the people who have lived with it for some time.
But I don’t want to be one of those people anymore. I want to learn from my experiences, and learn from their experiences.
No more bleeding edge for me.
It makes sense that I care about the Android ecosystem. I own several Android devices (3 at the moment). I have bought media from the Play Store (books and apps).
It’s good for me if Android does well. I don’t want to see the platform go the way of Blackberry or Nortel.
But it’s not good for me to start cheerleading. It’s not good to see Apple or Microsoft as the enemy. It’s not good to develop a me-vs-them complex.
It’s not good because these are just things, just companies, and they will, like everything, pass away. They are not my ticket to a better future. They are, in that sense, not my hope.
This is what geek sports is all about, isn’t it? We don’t have football teams or hockey teams, but we have platforms and programming styles and on and on. Things are are, in the grand scheme of things, little more important than sports.
In my recent readings of the Bible I keep butting up against these two questions:
- How should I act?
- What should I believe?
If I ask the first question, almost every passage has some advice (sometimes conflicting, but that’s wisdom for you). If I ask the second question, I sometimes get something, and most of the time I get nothing.
This isn’t new, either. The Old Testament is full of commands about how to live and not much about what to believe.
I’m not saying there isn’t anything that the Bible says I need to believe. There is much of that. I’m not drifting into some sort of formless post-Christian heresy here.
If I go to scripture and ask, How do I love God? There’s an answer for that. How do I love his people? Answer for that. How do I live in a world full of corruption and evil? Answered.
If I go to scripture and ask, Should I be into infant baptism? No answer. Should I believe in a rapture? No answer. What interpretive framework should I use to accurately interpret Revelation? No answer. All these points of data that we would love to have… no answer. Why is that?
I think what I’m saying is that the Bible’s theological framework is very sparse compared to ours. Where we tend to build theological walls, the Bible only really gives us a theological framework centred on Jesus.
He fulfils the Old and brings in the New. This is true for testaments and people.
* * *
As a postscript (I added this after publishing the initial post), yes, I am worried that I’m making a distinction without a difference here. The problem I’ve always had with orthodoxy and orthopraxy is I’ve always been told and assumed that they are different sides of the same coin. But when I looked at it again later I had to ask… how? How does being a paedobaptist or a preterist or any of those other Ps really affect your life? I mean, at that doctrinal granularity, it there really a difference one way or the other?
I mean, I know some people (obviously people who have a stake in the Tiny Doctrine game) will try to say these things do make a difference, and maybe on some indefinite macro level they do, but I’ve never seen it. On the ground, at congregational level, Reformed and Presbyterian and Baptist and Pentacostal and Anglican and Catholic are pretty similar. There are the faithful, there are the faithless; there are givers and receivers; there are blessers, there are cursers; there are consumers, there are producers.
So maybe, just maybe, if these doctrinal things don’t make that much of a difference… maybe they’re not so important after all? This isn’t science. Maybe it’s just not important that we define all the things.
I have a Drobo in my basement. It’s their NAS model, which is attached to my home computer via gigabit ethernet, not Firewire or USB. I’ve had a few months to use it now (or has it been more than that? I can’t quite remember). Let me make a few points:
- The plug-and-play nature of the Drobo is fantastic. Just plug in your drives, install the software and go.
- That you can use different size disks is also great. You can plug in SSDs, spinning metal, large, small, etc.
- The hardware seems rocks solid. It only goes down when power goes down. Any other CIFS/SMB/Linux devices never fail to connect. The lights on the front and the industrial design in general is really pleasing.
That’s the good. Now for the bad:
- The Drobo is slooooow. The read-write (especially with redundancy) is painfully, horribly slow. I understand that there’s some overhead, especially when dealing with discs of different types and sizes, but I’ve literally never used a RAID so slow. And I’ve used a lot of RAIDs. Besides, I have 8 of the same HD inside mine.
- The software blows. Absolutely ridiculous. It takes a massive amount of time to load on my relatively modern iron, and the window itself seems mired in molasses. The network drive connector does not seem to be able to connect half the time (even when the Drobo is detected and all okay), and every action performed on the Drobo takes forever. Polished-looking but absolutely horribly performing software.
Now at work (having learned from my home life), we purchased a Buffalo TeraStation. Pros:
- Comes with the HDDs pre-installed. You don’t have to worry about different sized drives and whatnot when the HDDs are pre-installed.
- Is blazingly fast. This is also a NAS on gigabit ethernet, nothing fancy, but the read/writes are insane on this thing.
- Much more configurable. For instance I have mine set up as a RAID 1+0. It has access restrictions, user accounts, all that jazz.
- Cheaper than a Drobo, once you consider that you’re getting the drives with the enclosure.
Now for some cons:
- Much more configurable. I can imagine a beginner absolutely glazing over at some of the functionality.
- Not particularly attractive. No nice green lights. Industrial design from the grey-printer phase of the 80s.
- The software blows. I mean, if you think Drobo’s management software is bad, wait until you see Buffalo’s. Again, the software matches their functional aesthetic without actually functioning. Some user studies would help here. I honestly have no idea what half the software is supposed to do. Also, the management console opens in a browser, so why have the management software at all?
That said, I’d buy the TeraStation over the Drobo in a heartbeat for home use. It’s a much better solution, much faster, and frankly it doesn’t matter how it looks when it’s sitting in my basement.
I’ve written at length about scripture before, especially the ways we can do violence to the text.
Still, I don’t think my previous post goes far enough. I’m coming to wonder if one of the primary ways we do violence to the text is with cultural and (this is hard to write, but couldn’t it be true?) theological imperialism.
That is to say… can we ask more of the text than it is prepared or was intended to convey?
Take for instance the doctrine of Sola Scriptura and verbal plenary inspiration in a bundle. Not simply the classic sola scriptura, that scripture is the final authority on doctrine and salvation (that’s not something I wish to argue with), but the sort of hyper-sola scriptura that I find all too common these days, that says, in the words of that great oracle, Wikipedia, “it is self-authenticating, clear to the rational reader, its own interpreter, and sufficient of itself to be the final authority of Christian doctrine.”
This almost certainly can’t be the case. The first and most troubling problem with this statement is that scripture itself does not demand it. You would think, if the Bible was to be a self-authenticating, self-interpreting book, someone, somewhere in the Bible itself would demand that scripture do either of those things. Same thing with verbal plenary inspiration: It’s an invention, by humans, to hold scripture to a higher standard that scripture holds itself. Again, if the Bible is supposedly inspired this way, should it not insist at some point, that this is the case?
I think we tend towards this self-interpretation especially by imposing doctrines on Old Testament narrative texts, especially in Genesis. We find it uncomfortable to say that God changed his mind (multiple times with Moses and threatening to wipe out Israel), or didn’t know something until it happened (when he tested Abraham with the sacrifice of his son), or even when he presents himself as the most powerful God of many gods (right at the beginning of the Ten Commandments and in many other places).
We have to somehow reconcile this account of Yahweh’s seemingly capricious nature, where Moses has to argue God down from the ledge, so as not to see his reputation destroyed, with our more sophisticated and nuanced understand of God as revealed later in scripture. We can do this by viewing this whole production as sort of a stage play that God plays out with Moses (rather unfairly to Moses, it would seem: Who would want to have to bargain with a God that just decimated the land of Egypt?) while the real God is behind the scenes as omniscient and omnipresent and omnipotent as always. But that seems a lot of trouble for no real reward.
Maybe it’s easier to say that God reveals himself this way for a reason, and that he chose to do so in a particular polytheistic context and culture is more important than trying to square away all the theologies. That is to say, God is telling a story, and that story is not about our modern theology of God. Instead it’s about conveying something to the children of Israel. Perhaps that something is that God is more powerful that whatever gods may be, regardless of whether those gods actually exist. Or something else to that effect. What if God’s intent in telling the story is more important to them (and to us!) than obsessive-compulsively reciting doctrinal propositions?
I’d hold that this reading of scripture is more faithful to the text than a reading that tries to shoehorn something in there that doesn’t really belong.
Then we have to wrestle with more of Genesis that seems terribly quaint, now that we have science and a view of natural processes that seems designed to exclude a creator altogether. A seven day creation? A world-wide flood?
This is where cultural imperialism comes in: We seem to forget that the scripture were not written to us though they may have been written for us.
I know that we have doctrines (creationism; so-called “literal” interpretations of Genesis) that seem to be the most faithful understanding of scripture possible–after all, if scripture interprets scripture, and if scripture is self-authenticating, there’s nowhere else we can turn to understand these passages–but I’m inclined to believe these doctrines are modern inventions by modern humans with modern worldviews. In that way we have done violence to the text, by imposing our own scientific and material worldview on a passage that clearly asks for no such thing and in fact demands otherwise.
I’m not going to go into a deep discussion about how I think about the creation and the flood and so on (let me just say that I do believe in a literal six day creation period, but I also believe the earth is very old, and that our current scientific paradigm of evolution seems a good way to explain life on earth). But I think it’s important to know how the ancient Israelites would have understood this text, especially when it comes to the idea of “creation”. After all, when God reveals himself to a particular culture, he sets out to reveal himself, not correct their science. Or even give the a concept of science in a culture that would have none. God isn’t trying to be incomprehensible.
The ancient Israelites would have understood the idea of “creation” very differently from us. We seem mostly preoccupied with material origins (our ontology is primarily material), while the ancient Israelites lived in a pre-scientific world that was concerned with functional origins. That isn’t to say that God isn’t involved in material origins, how the universe came to be and such. Scripture is clear that anything that exists exists because God caused it to exist.
However Genesis 1 & 2 give a very structured account of how God sets up a system that functions with mankind as his vice-regent and then on the seventh day enters his temple, the cosmos, to assume control of normal operations. This plays very much into the Israelites’ (and other ancient near east cultures’) cosmology, or their concept of the cosmos.
The point isn’t that the Big Bang did or did not happen. Presumably it did (or so we think, currently). That’s an entirely different discussion from Genesis 1 & 2 and would not have seemed entirely important to ancient Israel. They really did think the earth rested on pillars, that there was a great sea above the dome of the sky, which was hold back by an entirely solid firmament, etc. God didn’t see fit to correct that idea. He instead used that idea, that cosmology, to illustrate a point that Israel would have found much more salient: God is in control, he makes the world function, and he does it all for the benefit of mankind.
Ancient Israelites wouldn’t have cared (or wouldn’t have understood) how old the earth was. They wouldn’t have been interested in whether or not God created light in transit, created the earth to look frighteningly old for some reason, whether fossils and strata were created during the flood or not, etc, etc. That’s not the point at all.
If God were to write us a Genesis 1 & 2 today, I can almost guarantee he would write it a different way. After all, we understand science, and we care very much more about the physical, material origin of the universe than we do about the functioning of it (which we, rather oddly, call the “natural” world, apply laws to, edge God out of, and live our lives as practical deists). But he didn’t, and I’m pretty sure he won’t.
That said, the point of Genesis 1 & 2 is still valid. The universe that we see, functioning the way we see it, has purpose. It exists for a reason, it had a beginning, and it will have an end.
That reason, we find out, is God’s glory. And isn’t that, after all this talk, the most important thing?
Just a quick note: When you talk about the things you do and the person you are, you’re talking about the same thing.
You are not two things. You are not an abstract person made up of a bunch of perfect ideals (i.e. the things you “are”) in conflict with the concrete, real, tangible, imperfect physical you that can’t reach those ideals.
The abstract and the concrete are the same thing. You are not divisible. You are one person.
Listen to what people say they believe, and then watch what they do. What is more true, the belief or the action? If they do not match up, they’re not being honest. They may not realise it, living with this delusion that they can somehow be incompatible with themselves, living as if they can believe one thing and do another. They may not realise it, but they are still being dishonest.
You are what you do. You do what you are. These things can’t be separated. You are a whole person. You are not 6 of this and half a dozen of another. You don’t get to abstract your beliefs and then ignore your actions.
Fiat currency is called that because it doesn’t have any intrinsic value. It’s backed by confidence alone. The solution usually seems to be “invest in precious metals”.
But it seems to me that precious metals suffer the same problem. It’s simply buried a little further into the woodwork.
Gold has no real function other than decoration, and trading for real goods such as cows and grain.
In that case, backing up fiat currency with another, even more abstract fiat currency seems like a bit of a bad plan. The American dollar should be backed by cows and grain.
Music doesn’t have to be lyrical to express its intentions. Some of the best music (in my always-humble opinion) uses a lack of lyrics to its advantage.
Post-rock can be that kind of music. It can be at once violent, celebratory, peaceful, overwhelming, and subtle.
I’d like to see some of that in our church music. I mean, not every week. But sometimes. Let the music speak in its own voice, instead of simply as a vehicle for those singing in the congregation.
Playing post-rock and listening to it are very similar experiences. It’s easy to get lost in the sound, even when you’re the one making the sound.
There’s something meditative and exploratory about certain bits of post-rock. In Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s “Static”, there’s a wonderful swell out of static into a minor-key 3/3/2 pattern on the guitar and violin (if I recall correctly, that is). It sounds to me like observing the universe being created. Suddenly from nothing there is something. The random becomes purposeful.
It’s almost monastic. In a church context it would be like practising purposeful silence. Shutting up, suddenly. Instead of always talking about how we want to worship, how we’re here to worship, how we will worship… we could just worship.
I know, it sounds like something ripped from the pages of our latest bugaboo, the
liberals emergent church, but bear with me.
We could perhaps discover some of the artistry we’ve lost in transitioning out of the Roman Catholic Church. We could maybe, every once in a while, do something different and new and unusual.
It might be nice. Or it might not be, depending.
I keep hearing from people in my circles (lay-people, pastors, mentors, bosses, friends, etc) that our justice system doesn’t work.
More to the point, they don’t like that we’ve started rehabilitating criminals instead of punishing them.
I’ve heard time and time again that a massive surge in crime has accompanied our new, soft, bleeding-heart liberal justice system.
You could maybe make that case in the 80s. You’d have to ignore that correlation does not equal causation, but you could make that case. Crime was rising rapidly. Things looked bleak.
But crime has fallen precipitously. It’s at its lowest rates in, what, 50 years? We haven’t changed the justice system. We’re still trying to rehabilitate offenders. We’re still not bringing down the wrath of God on guilty heads.
So what now? Are you going to be honest and just admit that your view must have been wrong (I mean, logic and everything)? Or is it the justice system’s doing when crime goes up, but not when it goes down?
Look at it from another direction. Perhaps rehabilitation’s fruits are finally being reaped. Maybe all the hard work of trying to help people be better people paid off after a while.
It’s just as plausible, right?