A humanist with spirit

This week, writer John Scalzi is blogging his answers to questions submitted by readers of his blog. Yesterday’s question was, in essence: What is the meaning of life?
Mr. Scalzi suggests that he devised his answer to this question via humanist (non-religious) means:

What I’m leaving out here, for the space of relative brevity, is a detailed examination of processes by which I came to this intellectual methodology, generated through years of self-examination and self-realization via intentional and unintentional experiential phenomena, to produce the robust heuristic structure through which I filter data.

Here’s the heart of his reply:

Finally, in the larger sense — the one in which I am a citizen of the world, that I like no man am an island, blah blah blah blah blah, it becomes a matter of asking one’s self first whether one wants to be engaged in the world, and then if so, how best to be of utility. I do enough things that I feel engaged in my world and I feel like I’m trying to do beneficial things (or at least I’m doing as little harm as possible). I think it’s my responsibility to try to make the world a better place than it was before I got here; I don’t feel obliged to be heart-rent at every thing that’s wrong with the planet. One person can make a difference in the world, so long as that one person realizes that one person can not do every thing or be actively concerned with every damn thing. I pick and choose; everyone does. I focus on what I think I do well, and where I think I can do good. (emphasis added)

I find his answer to the BIG QUESTION quite similar to my own, which I formed in the context of being a Christian. I guess it all comes down to the source of the responsibility, and his answer shows what I believe: that there are many ways to realize your obligation to ‘love your neighbor’.

Tech Bubble 2.0

A couple of weeks ago, Rafe Colburn pondered whether we’re in ‘Boom 2.0’. I now have conclusive evidence that we are indeed in a boom, in the form of a short article from the Austin Business Journal:

NaturallyCurly.com Inc. has raised $600,000 from angel investors.
The company will use the funding for marketing and technical development. NaturallyCurly.com is a Web site devoted to curly hair. Board members include entrepreneur Tim Wall, Dr. Philip Sanger and NEA Venture Partner James Treybig, who founded Tandem Computers.
“Companies like NaturallyCurly have been able to see opportunities that have gone unnoticed by high-tech nerds like me,” Treybig says. “The movement to communities like NaturallyCurly is the foundation for the future of advertising.”
NaturallyCurly.com was founded nine years ago. The Web site provides articles, product information, salon recommendations and tips for curly-haired people. The site has registered members from around the world and nearly 10,000 visitors daily, according to the company. Last year, founders Michelle Breyer and Gretchen Heber also launched CurlyKids.com for children with curls.
NaturallyCurly.com has been nominated this year for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in Austin.

I just wish I could figure out a way to cash in on the insanity. I’d create a site for bald guys, but we just don’t use very many hair products. No retail or ad profit there.

What is a ‘liberal Christian’?

I frequently describe myself as a liberal or progressive Christian. Twice in the past couple of weeks, I have been asked exactly what that means. While I have some general statements, it bothered me that I didn’t have a concise, easy-to understand answer. In response to this frustration, I started reading Brian D. McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy (which Rick Diamond, who I recently met, recommends on his blog.
I haven’t yet gotten too far into the book, and I don’t yet have an answer to my question, but I found the first chapter of the book to be an informative brief theological primer. In this chapter, Mr. McLaren describes “the seven Jesuses I have known;” he writes a short summary of the unique characteristics of seven ‘branches’ of Christianity. At the end of the seven characterizations, Mr. McLaren writes:

I am a Christian because I believe the real Jesus is all that these sketches reveal and more. Saying that, a question comes to mind…
Why not celebrate them all? . . . I’m recommending that we acknowledge that Christians of each tradition bring their distinctive and wonderful gifts to the table, so we can all enjoy the feast of generous orthodoxy–and spread that same feast for the whole world.

I definitely identify with this viewpoint, so I think I’m looking in the right place to help me voice my views. Stay tuned…
By the way, ‘the Liberal Protestant Jesus’ is one of flavors that Mr. McLaren describes. Since I identify much more with Mr. McLaren’s viewpoint than this one particular flavor, I see why I’ve had trouble describing my own theology. I have a feeling I’ll end up abandoning the word ‘liberal’ as soon as I find a more accurate and less charged description.


magnet-slap.jpg This fridge magnet, and several other equally awesome ones, apparently adorn Rick Diamond’s refrigerator (photos taken by Gordon Atkinson). Seeing the magnets and visiting his church‘s web site, I dropped by his office and had a nice chat with him. I’m really intrigued by the approach to their faith that Rick and his fellow ‘journeyers’ take, and I plan to visit their worship service soon.

Feeling old again

Yesterday I went to lunch with a guy our company just hired. He’s in his early to mid 20s. We were talking about traveling to Europe, and he mentioned someone he knows who lives in Germany, in Bonn. By the tentative way in which he pronounced ‘Bonn’, it was clear that he was unfamiliar with it. I immediately started to remind him, “You know, Bonn, the capital of former West Germany.” Then it hit me that Germany has been reunited for the part of his life in which he’s been aware of foreign affairs. For him, Bonn is just some small German city.

Sen. Kerry vs. Swift Boat Benefactor Weasel

President Bush has nominated Sam Fox, who donated $50,000 to the Swift Boat Veterans in 2004, for an ambassador post, and of course, he has to be approved by the senate. John Kerry questions him about his donation. A summary:
Fox starts off by stating that 527 organizations are wrong:

[L]et me just say this: I’m against 527s, I’ve always been against 527s. I think, again, they’re mean and destructive, I think they’ve hurt a lot of good, decent people.

He knows what’s coming, because he immediately, and without specific prompting, tries to butter up Kerry:

And, Senator Kerry, I very much respect your dedicated service to this country. I know that you were not drafted — you volunteered. You went to Vietnam. You were wounded. Highly decorated. Senator, you’re a hero. And there isn’t anybody or anything that’s going to take that away from you.

So, Kerry asks him why the hell he donated $50,000 to one of the meanest 527 organizations of the time. He expounds at length on two weasel reasons.
Excuse #1: He gives to so many organizations, he can’t keep track of them all:

I do not know who asked me. If you were to take my 1,000 contributions and go right down the list, I bet you I couldn’t give you five percent of them… Of who asked me.

Senator, if I had reason to believe and if I were convinced that the money was going to be used to, in any untruthful or false way, knowingly, I would not give.

Excuse #2: This is my favorite. Since the other side was funding smear campaigns via 527s, his side could not afford not to:

All of the 527s were smearing lies…I think if one side is giving then the other side almost has to and I think that the real responsibility should rest with the Congress to either ban 527s or to certainly curtail and regulate them. That’s the problem.

Kerry goes on to justifiably rip Fox a new one. Remember, someone with these kinds of morals is being appointed as representative of our country.