Why Things Don’t Change

The sun is nearly 900,000 miles wide. It is a huge ball of gas with nuclear fission going on at the centre, producing a temperature of 15.5 million degrees Celsius at the core.

A human being can blot it out of the sky by holding up the palm of their hand.

No matter how great or how true a thing or an idea, no human being will see what they choose not to see.

Text Blades by Waytools

I’m part of the pre-release test group for a new kind of keyboard, called Text Blades. Each of your fingers has its own key, and as well as going up and down like a real key on a real keyboard, each key is also a mini-touchpad — the key knows which part of it you’re pressing, allowing each single key to mimic all the keys that its finger would normally control.

Imagine how much better your life would be if your home was a little bit larger and all your commutes were a lot shorter. That’s what typing with the Text Blades is like. Your fingers have all the room that they need while sitting on the home row, but they have much less distance to travel when they need to move.

More room, less reach.

Unfortunately, this means that for the first few days, when you’re driving, as well as saying, “Wow! We’re here already!” you’ve also got too many occasions when the kids in the back seat are complaining, “Dad! You went past it again!”

Videos at the waytools website.

Yoann Bourgeois “La mécanique de l’histoire”

Wordless yet eloquent statement about human history & “progress.”

Life More Abundantly?

“God wants you to be rich” is a statement that, to me, seems almost indistinguishable from an assertion like “God wants to stuff you with a table full of cappucino-flavoured ganache.” Before accepting Jesus’ offer of “life to the full” (John 10:10), you need to understand his concept of what a full life is. That is unlikely to be the same as the assumptions of 21st century western culture.

Facebook & Trump: Social-Engineering Manipulation used as Propaganda

“We don’t know everything about Facebook’s role in [Donald Trump’s] campaign. What we do know — or certainly ought to know by now — is to not take Facebook at its word.”

— from Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

“Facebook sold ads during the campaign to a Russian ‘troll farm,’ targeting American voters with ‘divisive social and political messages’ that fit right in with Donald Trump’s campaign strategy… Truth was not a requirement.”

— from Sullivan, “Facebook’s Role in Trump’s Win,” Washington Post

For a more complete and fascinating article, see Lancaster, “You Are the Product,” in the London Review of Books. (note: ironically, you have to sign up to receive email from LRB, but you can easily unsubscribe to these by clicking at the bottom of the first one.)

The Alien Logic of Both/And

My former colleaugue, Lish Eves taught that our western/Greek logic is based on “either/or” — we deduce things with the default that one thing will exclude the other thing. This has been a useful shortcut in, for instance, Newtonian physics, but turns out to be a real drawback in our attempts to understand quantum mechanics.

But, she said, many other non-western cultures, notably the ancient Hebrews, have a default logic that is “both/and” — this makes them appear to us illogical and incapable of reasoning when in fact it’s merely a different kind of reasoning and the only way of dealing with some truths. Einstein rejected quantum physics because he was “either/or.” But light IS both wave and particle; there are occasions where the photon/electron or whatever IS in superposition — both here and there. Jesus IS fully human and fully divine. etc. For ancient Jews, my comical example is “Your god does not exist, AND our God could beat him up with one hand tied behind his back, AND he doesn’t have hands anyway.” To us, this is funny; I’m not sure St Paul would understand why we think so.

In our lives, relationships are easier to see as both/and … most westerners can conceive of a love/hate relationship when it comes to themselves. But the extreme modernist frequently complains “How can you say God is a God of love when X Y and Z?” EITHER he is this and not that OR he is … etc.

You and I are culturally conditioned, I think, to lump things into either/or categories. Other cultures would find this arbitrary.

What I never got around to asking Lish is why it is that she thinks cultures need to be either one or the other….

Mac Malware Alert! Or not.

There was a rash of articles earlier this month in various newsites about a new report warning that 2017 would be a ‘banner year’ for cyber-security breaches on Macintosh computers. The report said that “Apple’s current strategies may not be enough to stop the rising tide.” (Wagenseil, “Mac Malware Reaches New Heights, Report Finds”) Did you get that? “may not be enough”!

Oddly enough, the information-security firm that released the report highlighting the many threats that were ‘likely’ to come is precisely the same information-security firm that has just introduced a new antivirus product for sale called Malwarebytes for Mac.  I wonder if they had any idea when they started working on the product that the month of its release would be the most dangerous time in all of Macintosh history! Pretty amazing.

Instruction and Counsel (Ps. 32:8-11)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. (Psalm 32:8-9)

Good theological education leads to independent thought and judgement. Even for the Old Testament writers, it wasn’t about mindless obedience to detailed regulations. Do NOT be like a broken horse being led here and there! This is what Paul is yammering about in Galatians and Romans. Judaism itself isn’t simply about obedience. As the passage goes on to say, it is about trust; it is about heart:

Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.
Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart! (32:10-11)

There Was No King (Judges 17:6 and //s)

Four times in the book of Judges, we run across this formula: “In those days Israel had no king” (17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25). The first and the last time, the author adds the phrase “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”

Now, make no mistake, Judges is in scripture as a negative example: do not act like this. It has become common then, to read this repeating formula as if it were saying that the bad morality displayed in this period is because there wasn’t a king — that is, if they’d had a king, they’d have been better. There is a glaring problem with this: it’s clear from the book of 1 Samuel, which follows Judges, that having a king is itself part of the bad thinking, and not what God or Samuel want.

Mary Evans, in her new commentary on Judges, suggests a nuanced interpretation, one which doesn’t occur to us because we’re not living in the kind of monarchy that the biblical writers would have been writing in. If we lived under a dictatorial monarchy that we knew God didn’t really want, when things went badly, we would be tempted to blame everything bad on the monarch.

Into such a situation, Judges could be telling you about the old days, which were not good old days, and using our repeating phrase to say: yeah, but things were awful even before the kings; the problem is not the form of government, it’s deeper and wider than that. The problem is the unfaithfulness of the people.

Imperfect Followers (Mt 28:16-20)

Bart Tarman preached on the Sunday morning, the final session of SimplyJesus 2017. His text was from the end of Matthew’s gospel. And he said something simple, but true and reassuring. He read this about the Jesus, who was back from the grave, and his first followers: “then the eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him…” there Bart paused before reading the end of the sentence… “but some doubted.”

Bart looked at us and said, “I don’t know about you. But that makes me feel a whole lot better about my doubts and fears.” They saw him, they worshiped him, and still there could be doubts.

And these are the people — we are the people — Jesus sends and promises to be with. “Surely I am with you always.” To which we might add, “but some doubted.”

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