Sunday, August 4, 2013

Implicit Associations?

Readers are encouraged to take a demo Implicit Association Test.* See what you find out about yourself, at least as revealed by the instruments. Do you have biases? Are they revealed by associational judgments? Are they illuminated by the IAT?

All of us are called to increased self-awareness and to overcome biases--in ourselves, others, and society. The tests show some of the levels of challenge that entails. Our societies and workplaces are increasingly diverse--and better because of it. But the project of according access and full participation to all continues. What do we fail to understand or see when perspectives that dominate are limited to this or that group? This or that way of engaging topics? This or that interest?

The diversity of my workplace is one of its most compelling features, a core strength upon which we hope to build. Is that true of yours? True in general? Clearly, we have work to do. I will be posting a brief reflection over at RITN, on the question of terrorism and profiling. Some of the themes intersect with association and bias.

*The researchers who developed the IAT are Brian Nosek, Makzarin Banaji, and Tony Greenwald. Hats off!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Learning from Kevin Foley

Prescripts recommends Kevin Foley's blog, written as part of his way of experiencing and dealing with a diagnosis of Epithelioid Sarcoma.

See also wife and fellow author journalist Lee Ann Cox's 'What he said before he died,' over at Salon. Powerful. Beware.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Accidents and treasure everlasting

A key part of evolutionary theory is that 'accidents' underlie the evolutionary prospect, most especially as these interact with environments to increase (or reduce) the likelihood of successful reproduction: this is natural selection.

Tonight I'm listening to classical music. These deep works call to us from the depths and have power to bring glory to hell. We still know too little about creativity to understand how such works are produced, from whence they come. But they arise in our minds and resonate in the spirits of creatures whose bodies, minds, and souls are--at least at one level--not the result of a plan, divine or otherwise.

But the treasures we produce, the glories we discover, are everlasting.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

God's Internet Browser

Does God surf the Internet?
Which browser does s/he use?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Marilyn Nelson

Marilyn Nelson read some of her poetry tonight at the University of Bridgeport. As she described circumstances in which the poems were written and engaged in q/a, theological meanings and images were surfaced. I was especially intrigued by the interplay of themes around issues related to 'momma' (simultaneously girl, her mom, and God), body (we are not 'only' body but timelessly ensouled), and freedom and courage that exceeds the bounds with which others may try to yoke us.

Check out her bio and get to know her work.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Insights from Irene

Irene rolled into Connecticut by night. By morning (8:00 a.m. on my street), the lights were out. It would not be restored for days; some parts of the northeast had it far worse.

We had been waiting for the storm because contemporary metereology identifies the path of hurricanes early in their development. As we waited, I noted the following:

People vacillate between worrying for the worst and scoffing at the claims of danger. Maintaining a reasoned, balanced assessment of risk is difficult for most and impossible for many.

People don't want to go without water and bread. These were the two items that sold out at the grocery store in tbe days before Irene. Other food sold well, but bread and water sold out.

Some people like icecream so much that the threat of a power outage means nothing. In tbe grocery store, as I waited to check out with my $200 worth of crackers and other dry foods, a young couple ahead of me was paying for three half gallons of cookies and cream. It was so far removed from the coming storm that it seemed an almost perfect NT parable of the Kingdom of Heaven. I looked around for Jesus, but he was nowhere to be found. He was probably combing the store looking for water.

Speaking of the Kingdom and groceries: there were two types of end-timers. Those who refused to budge an inch, and those who yielded perfectly and completely to Irene. The non-budgers were buying items that go bad with a few hours loss of refrigeration. Sushi! Good anytime, assuming it's been kept cold. The yielders were not more anxious, I think. Many took delight in sharing dark stories of flood and peril. If this group was on Noah's ark, they'd have brought jars of peanuts.

After the storm struck, I noted a few other things:

Power is important to people. Electricity, digital connections, washers, dryers, stoves, refrigerators--it's hard to do without these things once expectations and assumptions are framed with their availability.

Warm food is healing. Whoever invented the use of fire to cook food, I propose, should be named Adam. (I am assuming that the first cooking was outside, and so fell to men. Only later, with intensified civilization, was it moved inside and remanded to women.) After a few days without warm food, a heated pop tart is tastier and more to be desired than salmon seviche.

Hot coffee is holy.

Our reliance on digital media has led to our ignoring of neighbors. Each night after work, we neighbors stood in our front yards and compared notes, worries, and complaints. These acts resonated deeply; they followed patterns that are hundreds of thousands of years old. But in the last decade, we have set much of that aside, because our attentions are drawn to the worlds of digital media. Something important has been lost.

Remembering lessons is hard; acting upon them is nigh impossible. The storm is gone. The power is back. What was all the fuss about?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Let us reason together

"Come now, let us reason together saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

Isa. 1:18, KJV

The first book of Isaiah contains some of the Hebrew Bible's most beautiful passages. There are worrisomely dark clouds of judgments and calls to repentance--a promise of redemption. At once threatening and consoling, the portrayal of God is remarkably textured and subtle.
Michelangelo's Isaiah
image courtesy of wikimedia

The texts are not primarily aimed to individuals, but to the people as a whole--to the nation.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."

Isa. 9:6, KJV

Christians (for them, quite correctly) see this latter passage as prophecy of the Christ (Messiah), but the original sense was about God's redemption of Israel. The terms are striking and wonderful. "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light..." (9:2).

Apart from the original meanings (whatever they were) and from those Christianity found in these passages, these texts reverberate with 'divine' energy. They combine starker judgment than we modern liberals like to express, but they situate judgment in compassion and care that exceeds our imaginations.

Much current discussion about God is more certain--more strident--than can be supported by Isaiah's claims. These texts call us to a less certain and more dynamic sense of the divine.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Reality?

Thinkers and sages as various as Immanuel Kant, the Buddha, St. Paul, Sigmund Freud--and countless others--have argued or shown that we have a limited grasp of reality. Not only is reality cognitively mediated, it is reordered and construed by our interests, needs, desires, and fears. Much of the mind's power is dedicated to preventing our grasp of reality.

Then we also scrimp around and find substances, practices, or beliefs that further inhibit the mind's powers and clarity.

So what lies beneath the haze? That would be an interesting thing to know.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Prayer

A prayer is.
Doubt that.

What is the sound of one prayer praying
of one brick layer laying
of one child playing?
Hear that?

Either every dot is connected in the universe
or someone is (or many are) still seeking pencil-in-hand for the next number
and a prayer is, ahem, prodding him or her or them right-left-back-and/or-fro.

When all the dots are connected
one suspects the picture will be a tad underwhelming
but it will neither be a frown
nor evoke one from those holding pencils.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Abiding

Whether we find acceptance in grace--just as I am without one plea--or by encountering immanent sanctity in aging, each day we move closer to our last day and breath. We don't often ponder that.

The wall here reflects the glory of an unseen (and unseeable) divinity; it also is the work of men and women. Perhaps it is primarily for that reason it mirrors a divine presence. The mortality of our actions and life is a work in the face of an eternal tomorrow.

Once this structure was a drawing or an idea. Then it was produced, first in its individual elements (bricks, mortal, windows). After a period of energetic activity, it was a newly completed structure.

The story of this structure is unknown to me, but at some point (it appears) to have been decommissioned. Now it simply abides.

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