Compositionality: the Editorial Board - The editors of this journal have an announcement: We are happy to announce the founding editorial board of Compositionality, featuring established research...
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|Cover of Transforming|
|John and Liane in the Ahwahnee Dining Room, May 2016|
|John and Liane in the Ahwahnee Dining Room, May 2016|
American households are drowning in "stuff". But why?
There's a ready answer that many preachers and people of faith would give. Materialism! Too much attention, too much attachment to physical objects; not enough to the realm of the spirit. Surely this is the ground for a culture of endless accumulation.
I don't think this is right; or, a least, I don't think it cuts deep enough. When you think of a greedy materialist, you might think of a miser returning every evening to gloat over the beautiful objects he has hoarded. But that kind of greed is not really characteristic of consumer society. When I've acquired the IPhone 4, I may gloat for a while; but only until my neighbor gets an IPhone 5. Perpetual dissatisfaction, rather than gloating satisfaction, is what I feel about my stuff.
William Cavanaugh writes, "What really characterizes consumer culture is not attachment to things but detachment. People do not hoard money; they spend it. People do not cling to things; they discard them and buy other things...Consumerism is not so much about having more as it is about having something else; that's why it is not simply buying but shopping that is the heart of consumerism."
What if our unsatisfying overconsumption is a symptom, not of materialism, but of a restless and misguided spiritual quest? What if we're not materialistic enough?
|Moses and Joshua Bow Before the Ark, by James Tissot|
|Alan Jacobs (via amazon.com)|
In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our wealth; in the hour of death; and in the day of judgment - Good Lord, deliver usAnyhow, here is my attempt at a Creation Care Litany - definitely shorter and more manageable. Like most liturgical prayers this is not "all my own work". I was particularly inspired by two of the litanies on the Earth Ministry website and took over several of the petitions with little adaptation.
|Snippet of the book's preface (click for full size)|
|Trans people welcome!|
What “the jobs problem” is depends on how far into the future you’re looking. Near-term, macroeconomic policy should suffice to create enough jobs. But long-term, employing everyone may be unrealistic, and a basic income program might be necessary. That will be such a change in our social psychology that we need to start preparing for it now.The argument is that artificial intelligence will eventually take over everything that we currently think of as a "job", or at least near enough everything that it makes no difference. I don't know whether "social psychology" is strong enough a concept to cover the adjustment neeeded if this should ever become reality, but Doug makes a case that it does:
Adjusting to that new reality will require not just economic and political change, but social and psychological change as well. Somehow, we will need to make meaningful lives for ourselves in a work-free technological Garden of Eden. When I put it that way, it sounds easy, but when you picture it in detail, it’s not. We will all need to attach our self-respect and self-esteem to something other than pulling our weight economically.I'm not fully convinced by this, either by the idea that endless growth in AI and its supporting technologies is inevitable (given the constraints on overall growth that I've written about many times on this blog), or that, if such an AI upheaval fully comes to pass, the resources of "social psychology" will be enough to reorient our lives and sense of purpose. But it is a wonderful article, worrying about all the right questions IMO. Here again is the link.
In the middle-term, there are things we can do to adjust: We should be on the lookout for other roles like student and retiree, that give people a socially acceptable story to tell about themselves even if they’re not earning a paycheck. Maybe the academic idea of a sabbatical needs to expand to the larger economy: Whatever you do, you should take a year or so off every decade. “I’m on sabbatical” might become a story more widely acceptable than “I’m unemployed.” College professors and ministers are expected to take sabbaticals; it’s the ones who don’t who have something to explain.
Already-existing trends that lower the workforce, like retraining mid-career or retiring early, need to be celebrated rather than worried about. In the long run the workforce is going to go down; that can be either a source of suffering or a cause for rejoicing, depending on how we construct it.
Most of all, we need to re-examine the stereotypes we attach to the unemployed: They are lazy, undeserving, and useless. These stereotypes become self-fulfilling prophecies: If no one is willing to pay me, why shouldn’t I be useless?
Social roles are what we make them. The Bible does not report Adam and Eve feeling useless and purposeless in the Garden of Eden, and I suspect hunter-gatherer tribes that happened onto lands of plentiful game and endless forest handled that bounty relatively well. We could do the same. Or not.
A cancer-stricken believer was dying. I was in his room as his family gathered around him. One by one he spoke to his children, to their spouses, and to his young grand children. He gave each a loving, tender blessing. Even his warnings were spoken with gentleness. He reminded them to keep the Lord in the center of their lives. We wept together, knowing that soon he would no longer be with us. A few days later he was gone.As a "cancer-stricken believer" myself, I can hear and acknowledge the aspirations that this story represents. When my time comes I, too, want to leave my family with a parting blessing. I am encouraged when I hear that people are inspired by my "perseverance", or that somehow I am a "role model" to them.
I am your servant, God. When there is chaos around me, help me stay centered. When those around me argue and fight, let me be your peacemaker. Show me and help me remember what’s truly important. Help me keep an open mind. Help me soothe the anger of others. Help me resolve the conflicts in my life, so that I may find peace. Stay with me God. Enter into the hearts of all those with whom I cannot find common ground. Fill their hearts and fill mine. I am your servant, God.Rest in peace and rise in power, dear child. We will never stop loving you.
|Pieta by El Greco|
Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.
When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour is not yet come." (John 2:3,4)Mary lost her child, and she knew that loss was coming.
So what is Points of Inflection about, anyhow?