The question that drives all technological innovation is, “Will it work?” By contrast, contemplation is concerned with meaning, with relationship, and with community. A contemplative approach to technology will not ask, “Will it work?” but, “Is it good?” or “Is it just?” — Carl McColman

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carl-mccolman/would-thomas-merton-use-an-ipad-contemplation-technology-and-discernment_b_2376428.html

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Merton’s understanding of contemplation can be discerned in this line from his journal: “our technological society no longer has any place in it for wisdom that seeks truth for its own sake, that seeks the fullness of being.”

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Technology is fundamentally utilitarian: The question that drives all technological innovation is, “Will it work?” By contrast, contemplation is concerned with meaning, with relationship, and with community. A contemplative approach to technology will not ask, “Will it work?” but, “Is it good?” or “Is it just?”

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Merton was not a Luddite, and Thompson is careful to avoid portraying him as one: “While he would not eliminate technologies, Merton knew that they must be constrained within the goals and ideals of a fully human community.”

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As we continue to face persistent problems related to human violence, economic inequality and technologically created threats to the biosphere, we need to acknowledge that technology alone cannot solve our problems.

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In an essay called “The Angel and the Machine,” Merton envisions the task before us as involving a return to a contemplative way of discerning wisdom, as symbolized by a new appeal to angels — the mythic messengers of the divine who were, in effect, banished by the rise of modern technology — “not to replace our machines but to teach us how to live with them.”

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What would such celestial heralds teach us? Thompson offers a few ideas, all derived from Merton: the necessity of true contemplative discernment, which can only arise out of a commitment to Sabbath days and periods of retreat, regular time for silence and solitude, appreciation of nature and beauty, the restoration of civic and communal responsibility, and cultivation of a rich and meaningful inner life.

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These commitments would lead to further benefits, such as a revival of domestic and family life as a sign of divine love, and a reordering of both individual and collective economic interests where the unrestrained accumulation of wealth is subordinated below a modest commitment to the welfare of all.

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“Returning to Reality” demonstrates how the wisdom of a contemplative master from the past can remain surprisingly relevant to the concerns of the present. G. K. Chesterton playfully argued for a “democracy of the dead,” where efforts to solve the problems of today will rely, at least in part, on the insights of yesterday. Merton’s perspective on technology — that it must serve us, and not the other way around — echoes not only Thoreau, but even Christ’s assessment of the religious customs of his day. It is incumbent on us, of course, how we shall seek to apply such wisdom in our individual and collective lives.

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Live Life Backward in 2013, Yes!   The New Year’s Resolution:   Inspired by something/someone,  mission on, baby!!

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Live inspired each day.

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As Erwin McManus writes, “There are few things more powerful than a life lived with passionate clarity.”

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Lead With Your Heart, Not Just Your Head

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Feeling connected is intrinsically rewarding to the brain. That’s because our brains evolved to greatly value social attachment. Because human maturation takes so long compared to other species, social pain became a way to encourage us to stay socially attached to promote survival. If separation from a caregiver is a threat to survival, feeling hurt by separation may be an adaptation to prevent that.

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Isolating a person with authoritative demands and intimidation triggers a sense of isolation, threat, fear. Then the brain slams the brakes on the prefrontal cortex and makes it harder for people to think productively.

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Naomi’s research shows another positive side to developing secure attachments. Having support figures present during experiences of stress helps us stay more relaxed and reduces threat responses; strong bonds can help teams survive and thrive in crisis situations. Naomi’s experiments found that mild electric shocks gave far more discomfort to individuals if they had a stranger instead of a friend or partner present with them. Giving support is also psychologically rewarding to those who give it, generating a sense of reward and connection.

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It’s a cliché that the gruff commander deeply trusted by his soldiers has a better chance of leading his team to survive a high-risk attack. Or that the crew of a boat that intuitively trusts their captain and follows her orders will make it through the storm. But it’s more than a cliché; it’s a useful human response to stress. As a manager of any enterprise, your own storm will come someday. You and your team will be tested — and you won’t have time to get to know each other.

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-t-coleman-phd/consequences-of-our-games_b_2392695.html

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The Consequences of Our Games [technocracy]

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Seeing more and more aspects of our lives as games to win through maximization has a sort of self-perpetuating effect with perverse consequences, not the least of which is the impairment of what Diesing terms social rationality; the cherishing of unique relationships, personal connectedness, cooperative functioning, solidarity and sentiment. These niceties are in direct conflict with utilitarianism because they waste time and other scarce resources and muddy the logic of maximization. In addition, economic rationalizing encourages us to change the rules of the game. If winning efficiently is the goal, then the rules (ethical, moral, legal, and spiritual), are essentially obstacles to game. Changing them simply allows us to move to higher levels in the competition.

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In governance, relationships with friends and colleagues become social and political capital to be spent, and one’s identification with social and religious institutions, like the VFW or the Catholic Church become political assets to play or deficits to avoid. Ultimately, governing, cooperating across the aisle, and heading off national catastrophes (see the fiscal cliff) are viewed in competition with winning and keeping office, which typically triumph.

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Personally, this trend leaves many of us feeling lost in the vast gamisphere. We can’t ever work enough. We multitask so we can never go too deep on a project. Our successes and accomplishments are fleeting. Our relationships are too costly so they become ever thinner and more dispensable. We become hyper-connected through technologies, boasting our number of “friends” on Facebook, and have less and less intimacy. We choose friends with benefits or Internet porn over romantic relationships as they are less messy, more efficient. We order in and eat out because who has time to cook, let alone garden. We have less time for everything and simply have no time for idle chat (i.e., conversation). Health problems are a costly nuisance to be treated symptomatically and efficiently. Life is a race and we are losing.

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Ultimately, the choice between economically-rational and socially-rational decisions, actions and societies is a false one. Healthy, functioning individuals and societies must manage both effectively (as well as technical, political, and legal). Diesing’s prophetic warning to us is that the economizing and gamification of our world is spreading into domains where the consequences are insidious and tragic. The antidote, of course, is to be mindful of the difference between economic and social, technical, political, and legal reasoning in our world, and to bolster the latter through alternative metaphors.

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One alternative is on display in this year’s somewhat less-celebrated film, Amour. It is a small, French film about an elderly couple at the end of their life together. It is a cinematic masterpiece and a meditation on basic things like life, love and death. It is a film bereft of games. It is slow, personal, painful, moving, and requires time — perhaps even multiple viewings — to take hold. I guarantee if you see it you will leave the theater with no measureable gains. It is a must.

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paula-davislaack/happiness-tips_b_2325700.html?utm_hp_ref=gps-for-the-soul&ir=GPS%20for%20the%20Soul

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10 Things Happy People Do Differently

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Happy people just flow with the groove of life in a unique way. Here is what they do differently:

1)  They build a strong social fabric. Happy people stay connected to their families, neighbors, places of worship, and communities. These strong connections act as a buffer to depression and create strong, meaningful connections. The rate of depression has increased dramatically in the last 50 to 75 years. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of mortality in the world, impacting nearly one-third of all adults. While several forces are likely behind this increase, one of the most important factors may be the disconnection from people and their families and communities.

2)  They engage in activities that fit their strengths, values and lifestyle. One size does not fit all when it comes to happiness strategies. You tailor your workout to your specific fitness goals — happy people do the same thing with their emotional goals. Some strategies that are known to promote happiness are just too corny for me, but the ones that work best allow me to practice acts of kindness, express gratitude, and become fully engaged. Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky offers a wonderful “Person-Activity Fit Diagnostic” in her book The How of Happiness.

3)  They practice gratitude. Gratitude does the body good. It helps you cope with trauma and stress, increases self-worth and self-esteem when you realize how much you’ve accomplished, and often helps dissolve negative emotions. Research also suggests that the character strength of gratitude is a fairly strong correlate with life satisfaction.

4)  They have an optimistic thinking style. Happy people reign in their pessimistic thinking in three ways. First, they focus their time and energy on where they have control. They know when to move on if certain strategies aren’t working or if they don’t have control in a specific area. Second, they know that “this too shall pass.” Happy people “embrace the suck” and understand that while the ride might be bumpy at times, it won’t last forever. Finally, happy people are good at compartmentalizing. They don’t let an adversity in one area of their life seep over into other areas of their life.

5)  They know it’s good to do good. Happy people help others by volunteering their time. Research shows a strong association between helping behavior and well-being, health, and longevity. Acts of kindness help you feel good about yourself and others, and the resulting positive emotions enhance your psychological and physical resilience. One study followed five women who had multiple sclerosis over a three-year period of time. These women volunteered as peer supporters for 67 other MS patients. The results showed that the five peer support volunteers experienced positive changes that were larger than the benefits shown by the patients they supported.

6)  They know that material wealth is only a very small part of the equation. Happy people have a healthy perspective about how much joy material possessions will bring. In The How of Happiness, Lyubomirsky explains that in 1940, Americans reported being “very happy” with an average score of 7.5 out of 10.  Fast forward to today, and with all of our iPods, color TVs, computers, fast cars, and an income that has more than doubled, what do you think our average happiness score is today? It’s 7.2. Not only does materialism not bring happiness, it’s a strong predictor of unhappiness. One study examined the attitudes of 12,000 freshman when they were eighteen, then measured their life satisfaction at age 37. Those who had expressed materialistic aspirations as freshmen were less satisfied with their lives two decades later.

7)  They develop healthy coping strategies.. Happy people encounter stressful life adversities, but they have developed successful coping strategies. Post-traumatic growth is the positive personal changes that result from an individual’s struggle to deal with highly challenging life events, and it occurs in a wide range of people facing a wide variety of challenging circumstances. According to researchers Tedeschi and Calhoun, there are five factors or areas of growth after a challenging event: renewed appreciation for life, recognizing new paths for your life, enhanced personal strength, improved relationships with others, and spiritual growth. Happy people become skilled at seeing the good that might come from challenging times.

8)  They focus on health. Happy people take care of their mind and body and manage their stress. Focusing on your health, though, doesn’t just mean exercising. Happy people actually act like happy people. They smile, are engaged, and bring an optimal level of energy and enthusiasm to what they do.

9)  They cultivate spiritual emotions. According to Lyubomirsky, there is a growing body of science suggesting that religious people are happier, healthier, and recover more quickly from trauma than nonreligious people. In addition, authors Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener explain in their book Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth that spiritual emotions are essential to psychological wealth and happiness because they help us connect to something larger than ourselves.

10)  They have direction. Working toward meaningful life goals is one of the most important strategies happy people utilize. I downplayed the importance of meaning during my law practice, but it became evident how much meaning mattered in my life when I burned out. Happy people have values that they care about and outcomes that are worth working for, according to Diener and Biswas-Diener.

The late, great Dr. Chris Peterson talked about his own journey with happiness as follows: “I spent my young adult years postponing many of the small things that I knew would make me happy … I was fortunate enough to realize that I would never have the time unless I made the time. And then the rest of my life began.”

Happy people have developed a specific set of strategies over time that causes them to see life differently — a balanced portfolio of skills and emotions.

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http://www.edstetzer.com/2013/01/four-things-christians-can-lea.html

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Four Things Christians Can Learn from the Lance Armstrong Debacle

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In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong admitted to cheating as he won his seven Tour de France titles after battling back from a fight with testicular cancer. Armstrong was “stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from the sport for life by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in October 2012, after allegations that he benefited from years of systematic doping, using banned substances and receiving illicit blood transfusions.”

The rise and fall of Lance Armstrong should serve as a reminder for us all as to how easy it is for us to allow sin to destroy all that we have. We are all, but by the grace of God, Lance– and we should look at the reality in the light of our own fallenness. The patterns evident in this story are not new and it is worth remembering the biblical truths that undergird. As a matter of fact, scripture points to the fall of great people and calls us to learn humbly in such moments– not rejoicing in their downfall, but learning to guard out own hearts.

As such, I offer four biblical considerations we might ponder after one of the greatest cheating scandals in sports history.

1. Internal desires are the root of our external sins.

James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, writes in the book bearing his name, “Each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires” (1:14, HCSB). The desire to succeed, to win, to be the best can manifest itself in many ways. While the desire to excel is not wrong, if it becomes the focus of our lives it can lead to external behaviors that do not honor God.

2. To fulfill our selfish desires, we often look for shortcuts.

Armstrong is not the first athlete to use performance enhancing drugs. Americans have watched congressional hearings and read expose after expose on the use of banned substances. Armstrong is definitely not the first cyclist to be banned for blood doping. From all accounts, cycling has a long history of illegal activity and blood doping. For many the shortcut to the top is often too enticing to pass up. When a desire to excel becomes all consuming, shortcutting the rules or laws becomes the norm.

Secret sin can become its own satisfaction.

The Bible says, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten secretly is tasty!” There are times when the desired goal actually takes second place to thrill of keeping the secret. When this happens the secrecy becomes a self-perpetuating activity. Externally the goal of winning or being the best is still evident, but the internal driver is affected by the stolen water and secret bread.

3. The threat of being uncovered often causes us to dig a deeper hole.

In the Old Testament King David provides us with one of the well known historical examples of a person with a secret who went to extreme measures to try and keep a secret. After impregnating the wife of a man off in battle, David manufactured a complex scenario he hoped would cover over his own involvement with the woman, Bathsheba. He even went so far as to arrange her husband’s death to keep his actions secret.

Armstrong and others keeping secrets from the public have lashed out at accusers, attempting to vilify or ruin them. This while keeping the lid on their own lies. That’s what we often do.

4. Exposure is inevitable– now or in eternity.

In the case of King David it was a prophet, Nathan, who appeared in the throne room one day to expose the king’s secret. In Armstrong’s case it is former teammates, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and other public and private detractors. But perhaps no more harsh words than these: “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling,” said Pat McQuaid, the president of the International Cycling Union.

It’s been said that what we cover, God will uncover. Our sins will– and do– find us out. Armstrong finds himself in the middle of this. Everything he has denied has been found true. The same will be said of our sins. Whether in this life or in judgement, God will expose us all.

But for those in Christ there is good news. For what we uncover, God will cover.

As you watch the Lance Armstrong debacle unfold, consider your own life, the danger of sin, and the forgiveness that comes through Christ. Remember what some long lost preacher once said, “Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you want to pay.”

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I’m not going to argue whether or not you should forgive Lance Armstrong or not for taking steroids and lying about it. To me, it’s a farce of the age of celebrity that we would even be asking ourselves that question anyway. It’s comical to read the online comments from people who are angry enough to use ALL-CAPS at some guy they will never know for doing things that had nothing to do with them. Because I’m a pastor, I am going to take this opportunity to say something about grace because Armstrong’s apology and the cynical reaction to it in the media really do illustrate why we need a human community that is grounded in forgiveness.

I’m not sure what I would have done if I were Lance Armstrong. It sounds like almost everyone in cycling was doing what he was doing. We have such a vested interest in our fable of meritocracy as Americans that the most infuriating thing that can possibly happen is to find out that the best really wasn’t the best. Of course, all of us try to game the system when it’s our kid who’s supposed to be the best soccer player or community service volunteer or standardized test-taker. We use whatever wealth advantage we have to buy Kaplan classes or top-notch summer sports camps or whatever else. But we draw a line at anything that involves needles. Needles are unclean to the bourgeois ethos. If you use needles, then you’re not just doing what everyone else is doing to get ahead; you’re cheating (not that I dispute this; it’s just interesting where we draw the line between advantages due to privilege and all-out cheating).

I am very resistant to the the idea our media has created that one major sin delegitimizes not only everything that a particular person has ever done but also everything that person has ever touched. I guess the argument is that if you’re dishonest about one thing, you were probably dishonest about a lot of other things. I can somewhat understand that logic. But Lance Armstrong’s lies don’t mean that everything he has ever done was evil. We are all complicated human beings who show many different sides of ourselves to different people.

Even though Armstrong was insistent on maintaining a big lie as part of his public persona, that doesn’t mean that everything he said when shaking hands with somebody was a lie. It doesn’t erase whatever gold medals kids were inspired to win after they heard Armstrong give a speech about beating cancer. Those kids shouldn’t have to give their medals back too. A lot of people in the cancer community resent Lance Armstrong for tarnishing the ability of the Livestrong foundation to fulfill its mission. I resent the mentality that would black-ball an organization not on its own merits, but for the actions of a celebrity figurehead over which it had no control.

In the cynical mindset of the information age, you cannot apologize for your actions without it being an “image rehabilitation strategy.” I’m just glad that Jesus doesn’t operate that way. When we cry out to Him, He doesn’t say, “Oh, so now you’re going to ask me for forgiveness. Let me count how many ulterior motives you have for doing that.” Jesus just wants us to be liberated from our sin and move forward. He was definitely a hard-ass with people who were trying to make excuses for their behavior. But He had nothing but encouragement for people who took the first tentative step into repentance.

On the day that Jesus had lunch with Zacchaeus the scoundrel tax-collector, we don’t know how genuine Zacchaeus was being when he said he would make it right with all the people he had ripped off. He was probably trying to impress Jesus. Maybe he said it after he’d had a fair amount of wine. Maybe he didn’t follow through with as extravagant a grandiosity as he promised. But Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house.” And Jesus’ powerful affirmation of Zacchaeus’ first steps toward an honest life probably helped to seal the deal.

I hope that Armstrong has some people in his life who will stand by him no matter what. Being a pastor, of course I want him to meet Jesus. I’m sure that if he has some kind of conversion experience, then the pundits will say that’s just another part of the image rehabilitation strategy. I just hope he’s able to make peace and find a community where he can start over and share his gifts in a meaningful way. That’s really what we all need, and even though you might consider this to be a shamelessly opportunistic exploitation of a public event for me to say, it is what the church has to offer.

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