I’ve been thrown my first curve ball. Look to see a link to it soon(-ish).
It could be I am simply overworked and weary right now, but I find that I have little more than an apathetic interest in the broad view of the world right now. It is a fine line that one must walk, an acrobatic tightrope of sorts. On the one hand, the broad view is necessary for forward motion to occur – on anything, in any issue. On the other, too much focus on the broad view causes one to lose sight of important trivial details. So a balance must be struck with one eye on the broad view, with the end goal in sight, but with the other eye focused on the details that must be considered and put in place so that one may ultimately arrive at said goal.
Sometimes the balance can be found by looking at both the broad and the narrow views simulatanously, skillfully juggling the two to manage one’s state of affairs with grace and poise. Sometimes, though, one must place one’s total and complete concentration on one or the other view (never forgetting about the forsaken view, merely pushing it aside for a spell) in order to deal with the issues at hand. Generally, one must look away from the broad view for a while and focus on the narrow. The little details of life, the pebbles of minutiae, pile up such that there is a gargantuan pile of rubble in your path, and the general must be forgotten for a time in favor of handling the very specific.
These past few weeks, whenever I attempt to look at the broad view, to focus on the issues and their corollaries, I am blinded and overwhelmed. All I see are conflicts and divisions, strivings and contentions. It’s not that these battles were not there before; they certainly were. The issues and the folks involved in them have not changed. It is simply that I have become more burdened by matters closer to home and so do not have the personal resources available to invest into solving the world’s problems. ((A bit of tongue-in-cheek there, for those who missed it.)) What I know is that I see folks everywhere who claim to be striving toward unity yet who seem not to notice the ‘us-versus-them’ mentality in their own thinking. I also see folks who know they have such divisions in their thoughts and who simply don’t care, nay, who even foster such strife and animosity.
This is, of course, the way of men, the way of a fallen world, and ever will it be so until God completes His work of redemption. For now I must pull back from the fight and tend to matters at home. I may stick a sword in here and there, but it is swung only halfheartedly. It is simply too much for me when those under my charge more immediately require my attention. I have not completely disengaged from the fray; I can still hear the battle sounds of my comrades in the heat of the fight. They hold my place on the line, knowing I shall soon return and lend my strength once again to the greater good of the whole.
I’m “trying”:http://www.cocomment.com/comments/stitzelj something new. Ever heard of “CoComment”:http://www.cocomment.com? I hadn’t until recently, and then when I _did_ hear about it, I thought, “Great. Just what I need. Yet _another_ service to log into on a regular basis just so I can keep track of all things blog-related.” Of course, now I’m actually trying out the service for a little while to see if it will actually prove convenient for tracking those sites where I leave comments. No guarantees, and CoComment doesn’t work on every blog.
Two things I already don’t like about CoComment – I had to turn Ajax commenting off in order to get comments to be logged at CoComment, and CoComment only tracks other CoComment members – it will not automatically log comments left in a particular conversation unless that comment was left by another CoComment member. But, CoComment _does_ allow me to easily keep track of all the places I have left comments so I can more efficiently check back periodically to see how the dialogue is developing. We’ll see whether it is the pros or the cons of this service that win out. Right now, I’m merely dubious.
I often grow weary of too many voices with too little new or useful information to add to a discussion. One of the great things about the rise of the blog is the ability to almost effortlessly enter into a conversation with countless others. Look hard enough and it’s assured that you will find a discussion going on somewhere about just about any topic. In fact, Google makes this so much easier with their powerful search engine – enter any criteria you wish, and within seconds you have tons of valuable results, even if your original search criteria were only loosely related to the topic of interest. ((Google seems to do a pretty good job of sorting out the chaff and leaving you with results that are actually pretty close to what you were looking for.))
The downside to all this is that you also get to hear many of the same arguments – over and over and over – from many different voices. ((Sometimes I do wonder just how many of these voices are actually listening to one another.)) Ecclesiastes states, quite correctly, that there is nothing new under the sun. In this case, that means that there are no new arguments for any subject that can be discussed. The issues are still the same today as they were yesterday, thus the arguments, from all sides, are still the same today as they were yesterday. But people do still have to learn things for themselves, and so all these discussions must take place over and over again until we feel like we are beating a dead horse (or possibly a whole herd of dead horses).
I think what ends up happening to avid bloggers like myself is a case of overexposure – I become immersed in the realm of all things blog, and even though I cannot hope to take in every single blog out there, I do interact with a large enough sample that trends, ideologies, and schools of thought begin to become readily apparent. I find, then, that there really are relatively few viewpoints out there. Even though every single individual may have a slightly unique factoid or viewpoint to add to the overall conversation, the broad worldview that is projected still fits rather nicely beneath one or another particular banner of philosophy.
As such it also becomes quite evident that there aren’t as many original thinkers out there as one might think. So many of the voices end up blending together because they sound so much alike. Instead of a cacophany of sound, you end up with a single, albeit slightly muzzy, voice espousing this viewpoint and another single, muzzy voice espousing that viewpoint. ((The muzziness originates from all those subtly different facts and viewpoints.)) After a while it becomes boring to listen to, like the drone of a motor lulling you toward drowsiness. It’s there, and you hear it, but you begin to not care as much, and it gets pushed to the background as being unimportant.
Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that many of these conversations _are_ important. The dialogue is necessary for people to grow in their philosophies, to hone their critical thinking skills. ((Sadly, so few people actually engage their brains to think through their worldviews that one wonders if these discussions ever actually do any good.)) After all, how can one determine if they are in error unless they talk about their beliefs with others and sift them through a pool of relevant information? Of course the task of determining what is both relevant and useful is no small chore, hence the requirement of critical thinking skills, but it is, I believe, a worthwhile pursuit. ((Fortunately, the Word of God does provide a solid, firm foundation for stable, unchanging truth that may serve as an ample and adequate starting point for the search for truth.))
Many times I refrain from adding my voice to a discussion. Often it is because I lack the appropriate level of knowledge to be able to discuss intelligently. But perhaps just as frequently it is because I already hear all the voices out there (or at least enough to _feel_ I’m hearing all the voices) and determine that adding my own voice to the discussion will add nothing new or useful, that mine will just be one more level of muzziness to the cacophany of sound already present in the room. Of course, I _am_ just humble enough to think that I can learn from others (hence, I read) and just _arrogant_ enough to think that I might actually have something new to add. Hence, I continue to write as I feel led with the hopes that, though I may add no new information to the conversation, perhaps I will not-add it in such a way that someone will see truth from a fresh perspective and learn something they did not know before and might otherwise not have learned. That is my hope, that is my prayer, that is my dream.
The Curve Ball Conspiracy – I’ve put in my request to be added to the list of contributors.
I’ve finished up this version of my website’s restructure. I’m always hacking around with it, though, so I figure that eventually something else will get added and changed, but hopefully it will all still be able to fall under the navigation system I’ve set up. Perhaps the most noticeable change to my site is the replacement of the portal on my “front page”:http://www.open-dialogue.com with a simply splash page that easily lets users navigate to any of my main five (so far) projects – three blogs, a wiki, and a discussion forum (which itself may get overhauled a bit in the near future, depending on what I end up deciding to do with it).
Each project itself – with the exclusion of the forum – has been altered slightly to include a navigation menu back to the front page and to each of the other projects on the site. Essentially, I want my readers to be able to partake fully in each of my projects, if they so wish, without having to always navigate back out to the front page to get around. I expect I’ll be adding a photo gallery eventually, as well, but that generally requires that I actually _have_ photos to share, so that project has been tabled for the time being. Feel free to surf around all the projects if you wish – join a discussion on the forum, subscribe to any (or all) of my blog feeds, comment on one of my stories, add some info to the wiki, whatever you want. And I’m always open to suggestions for new things to try out, so don’t hesitate to offer some feedback.
I don’t mind talking with Christians who are going through the process of questioning their faith. I believe that questions are a very natural, normal, and healthy part of the process of drawing closer to God. The problem that I see, however, is that some Christians never get _past_ that process of questioning their faith. They are caught in a perpetual cycle of self-doubt and self-critique.
There’s something to be said for calling all our beliefs into question periodically. We are, after all, finite beings, prone to errors in logic and judgment. As such, it’s often a good idea to just say, “But what if I’m wrong,” and follow that line of thinking to its logical conclusion, studying all the relevant data and evidence that we have available. If we don’t ever arrive at a final conclusion, however, then what exactly is the point of the questioning process? Isn’t this process of asking questions supposed to be done with the end goal of finding actual answers?
It’s pretty standard practice in our culture today to doubt everything – our beliefs, our assumptions, our actions, even reality itself. It’s postmodernism at its best – we can’t know everything exhaustively; therefore, we must assume that in all things we are at least a little bit wrong and we must assume that ultimately we cannot truly know anything.
The first part of that philosophy – we cannot know everything exhaustively – is essentially true. Our finite minds simply cannot wrap themselves around every bit of knowledge that there is to know. I would even generally agree that in all things (or at least most things) there is a good possibility that we are a little bit wrong, simply because we _can’t_ know everything. ((Though, we may actually be completely correct without fully knowing or understanding all the details that go into said belief. Just because we don’t know all the factors that go into a decision or belief does not necessarily mean that said belief is necessarily wrong or incorrect, but when new information _does_ come to light, then we should take the time the re-evaluate our beliefs and see if anything has changed.)) Where I beg to differ is the statement that we must assume that ultimately we cannot truly know anything.
It’s discouraging to see this philosophy creeping into Christian thinking. The Bible claims to have all that we need for righteous living and all that we need to know God and have relationship with Him. ((The validity of biblical truth is called into question exactly because postmodernism asserts that we cannot know anything conclusively due to our limited ability to know and understand. Postmodernism casts a pall of grey over everything, making the exhaustive pursuit of any knowledge a vain and futile pursuit.)) The Bible has even been demonstrated to do exactly that, when its principles are accurately and consistently applied. Yet, we see a greater number of Christians who do not believe that the Bible can be trusted, that the only thing that can be known and taken as real in our Christian walk is the _experience_ that we have, the way that our faith and our walk with God make us _feel_. That, I think, is a very dangerous formula, leading both to embracing heresy unintentionally and to the immersion of oneself into a false understanding of who God truly is that is based solely on our subjective, and often erroneous, feelings and understandings of the experiences of life.
Questions are good, to a point. They are meant to help us find the answers to the important questions and to help us learn the _how_ of defending our faith in a world that is increasingly skeptical to the existence of God and hostile to His followers. We are called to have faith, yes, but perhaps more importantly we are called to test our faith. In so doing we find that our faith is solid, that it is consistent, that it is exactly what the Bible claims it to be. We are then able to go boldly and confidently into the world, practicing those things that bring us closer to God and make us His ministers of truth and peace to a world that is lost in its own soup of lies, confusion, and conflict.
So, go ahead and ask your questions. Just make sure that you are really seeking, and open to, the answers.
I can’t figure out how changing the colors of our paper currency is supposed to make it harder to counterfeit.
It figures – life gets exceptionally busy, yet my mind finds that it is exceptionally quiet as of late. Well, mostly quiet. One of the hazards of the chaos that goes with being a new homeowner is that it leaves me very little time with which to stay in touch with current events. As a result there hasn’t been much for me to think and ponder on the last couple of weeks, hence the dearth of writing here lately. Of course, that doesn’t mean that my brain is actually inactive. It just means that I’m focusing on a number of _other_ things right now.
I recently read a book called For Women Only at my wife’s request. The book had been loaned to her by one of our friends, and it became a great conversation point for us in clarifying some areas of miscommunication in our relationship. ((You know, a lot of the usual male/female misunderstandings with which we are all familiar.)) Well, I’ve been working on the counterpart to that book, For Men Only and finding quite a lot of useful information there, as well. Once I’m done reading it, then my wife will read it, and we will sit down and compare notes. I also have the opportunity to read through Stephen Lawhead’s Pendragon cycle, so what little free time I have will probably go toward that.
As always, there are _lots_ of stories percolating in my brain demanding my attention. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to do anything more than scribble some quick notes about each, just so I don’t forget the basic storyline, and hope that I will be able to get back to them at some point in the near future and put them down on paper.
I’m also doing a little bit of a restructure on my website. I’ve added a wiki in order to catalogue some hard-to-find bits of information, and I am eventually going to replace the portal on my “main page”:http://www.open-dialogue.com with something else that will make it much easier to access my forum, wiki, and blogs. This all takes time to set up, of course, and what little free time I get at work has been going toward that endeavor.
Google Notebook – Awesome extension for your web browser that allows you to take and organize notes while you surf the web. An invaluable resource!