Thursday, March 30, 2006

Whoa there!

Grace & Peace

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Death of a Marriage

"A friend of mine who has been divorced said, "I don't think you ever really get over it." We wondered why that was; we wondered why the world reacts so differently when someone physically dies. When someone dies, friends and family bring casseroles; they travel from afar to attend funeral services. They send cards and notes of encouragement and make phone calls. They join you at the cemetery and mourn. Their very presence brings healing.

So why is it that when a marriage dies, people do nothing?

When my marriage died, I was left on a ledge with little to no support. Friends and family didn't know what to say, so they often said nothing. No one visited; no one sent cards.

But when someone dies, there is comfort for those who feel the loss. There is a tangible, physical reminder of the loss. There is a body. There is a tombstone. There are ashes, rituals, prayers, community. It's obvious that I will never get these things; it's obvious I will never have the same comfort that widows receive.

But what about community? What about the group of people who sat at my wedding, the people who agreed to support my marriage? Where are they now? I still see their faces, smiling and laughing. I see them with glasses of champagne. I see them handing me wrapped gifts - pots and pans, pillows, other things that are now shoved to the back of cupboards and closets. Things that I would gladly trade for a hug or a phone call.

Today, these wedding guests are only a memory. Today, they are like passengers on the Titanic, celebrating while a disaster that they know nothing about is on its way. I wish my wedding guests were around to support my marriage, but communities have become fragmented. The people who attended my wedding live in dozens of cities around the country, and most of them never knew there were problems in my marriage until they heard about my divorce.

Most of them probably know now, but what should they say? What should they do? I don't know. They don't know."

Grace & Peace

(excerpted from "With or Without You," by Cameron Conant)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A New Type of Typo

Ah, the era of misspellings and miscommunication grows ever more complex! In an evolutionary twist on the old-fashioned typo, brought about by the latest form of digital communication, the 'text message,' readers no longer have to sort through the occasional misspellings or typos produced by pen or keyboard. The new 'text message typos' are, in fact, entirely misplaced words in the context of an otherwise normal sentence.

This strange phenomena occurs because new telephone software, designed to aid readers in inputting text messages (never an easy feat with clumsy thumbs and tiny cell phone key pads) anticipates possible word choices based on the number combination entered on the phone. For example, rather than typing the entire word "awesome," my telephone recognizes the key combination 1-9-3, and automatically suggests "awesome" as the likely word choice. When used correctly, this saves an enormous amount of time and makes text messaging a more viable means of communication, albeit in short staccato bursts.

Unfortunately, the speed of text message entry often means that the suggested words used in the message are not the right words at all! This is especially common with certain key combinations like 4-6, which in my phone is both "in" and "go." The suggested word is determined by the cell phone's software based solely on the last word that I chose when entering that particular number combination. Similarly, 4-6-6-3 represents the keystrokes for both "home" and "good," two very common words in text messages. The problem occurs when, in a desire to dash off a quick text message response, the text messenger fails to notice that his telephone has selected the wrong word corresponding to his keystrokes and inserted it into the message.

This results in strange text messages. I recently text-messaged a friend a short communication, "Hey, how are you doing today? What are you up to this afternoon?" To which I received the following response, "I'm doing home! I'm just about to in run some errands." Huh?! The apparent perceived gibberish was really the result of my friend's phone selecting the word "home" instead of "good," and "in" instead of "go."

This type of communication quirk is leading to a whole new way of understanding miscommunication. In the days of pen and paper, the most common form of miscommunication was simple spelling error. The letter writer misspelled a word, and the reader often needed only to "sound out" the word to determine what was intended by the misspelled word. By the time typewriters and computers became widely available, a new form of miscommunication was in full swing. This was the era of "missed keystroke," where the writer often failed to notice that he had struck a nearby key instead of the intended key in composing his work. Because the resulting word was not the result of misspelling but mis-typing, sounding out the word no longer worked. It was up to the reader to recognize the typo and determine the intended word. The more acquainted the reader was with the keyboard, the more likely he was to correctly interpret the misspelled word. In today's world of high powered word processors, most typos are corrected by the omnipresent Spell Checker, whose constant Big Brother-esque monitoring of all of our communication nourishes an entire generation of poor spellers (myself included), but mitigates the all-to-common problem of miscommunication.

Of course, all of this doesn't even touch the subject of poor grammar, or even worse, the semi-grammar of e-mails and instant messages for whom punctuation, capitalization, complete sentences and traditional spelling are optional, or even arbitrary. Some people become seriously apoplectic when encountering this de-evolved communication, with content like, "lol...i dunno...i might go 2 her house b4 work 2nite." While this lax grammar does not much bother me (I've even been known to partake a little myself under the usual circumstances), I am fascinated by text messaging typos. No longer do we have to sound out misspellings or recognize missed key strokes. Now we have to recognize entire words, sometimes key grammatical words, as representative of certain telephone key combinations and then supply for ourselves the correct substitute when it has been incorrectly entered. Our ability to identify the correct word indicates a remarkable degree of abstract critical thinking, revealing just how hard our brains will work to communicate effectively. While this next phase in the evolution of the typo is likely more complex than its earlier iterations, communication is not lost. In an interconnected world increasingly dependent upon our ability to communicate both critical and mundane thoughts, that's almost certainly a "home" thing.

Grace & Peace

Monday, March 20, 2006

A Tentative Position on War

After some reading and reflection, I have stumbled upon the clearest articulation of my own (evolving) beliefs on war. I remain open to criticism, thoughtful engagement and continued reflection on this matter...

"War is evil, but there are times when it is the lesser of two evils...the Christian church exists in a world which is essentially, "between the times", between the Incarnation and the realization of the Kingdom of God. During this time war, as ethically controlled as possible, may be seen to be necessary to relieve the suffering of the weak and to limit the oppression of the powerful."
(Giles Legood, "Chaplaincy." Pg. 63)

Grace & Peace

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Warmongers in the pews

According to a Gallup Poll taken early this year, "the more frequently an American attends church, the less likely he or she is to say the war was a mistake." (italics added)

While these statistics are nothing new, I never cease to find them incredible. Part of this stems from the overwhelmingly liberal/pacifist bent of students and faculty at Yale Divinity School, where I spend most of my time. Here, support for the war is tantamount to heresy (if they believe in heresy at all - which most don't). I seem to know precious few of this supposed myriad of Christians supporting the war. I'm also willing to admit my own misgivings about the war - and I stand to the right-of-center on a good number of political issues.

Are all these Christians wrong? It's easy from an intellectual standpoint to argue that they are products of their time/place - and either way, churches do a poor job of instilling a Christian worldview in most of their parishioners. Just look at the statistics. However, my heart believes that God is working in these people, transforming and changing their lives. It is not easy to simply dismiss them all as wrongheaded. In my dismissal I recognize my own elitism. When a high percentage of engaged Christians support something against secular society, I'm likely to err on the side of the faithful.

So which is more revealing: That the Americans most supportive of the Iraq war are also the Americans who most frequently go to church? Or that the Americans least supportive of the Iraq war are also the Americans who never go to church? Why does churchgoing seemingly make you more of a warmonger? Maybe Quakers and Mennonites just need to start more mid-week services...

Grace & Peace

analysis taken from The Washington Times here, and a summary by Christianity Today here.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Stupid Quizzes?

I don't like most of the online "quizzes" out there. 75% of them are just plain lame. Another 15% are obvious and can be easily manipulated. There are maybe 10% that are actually useful - either for others to get to know you, or (more importantly) for you to get to know yourself.

I took the Myers-Briggs a few years ago, and it really helped me reflect on my own personality, and specifically to look for ways to improve my (many, many) weaknesses.

The following quiz was among the 15% of relatively obvious/lame quizzes. Interestingly enough, however, after answering honestly, I was surprised how "liberal" I was ranked. What do you think? Is it possible that I'm really a closet moderate?!

NOTE:If you're interested in following up on the question format, you can following the link to find out How Liberal / Conservative you are. Be warned, however, it's not the most "subtle" of exams.

Grace & Peace

Jason's Political Profile

Overall: 65% Conservative, 35% Liberal

Social Issues: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Fiscal Issues: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

Ethics: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Defense and Crime: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


"Si Dieu nous a fait à son image, nous le lui avons bien rendu."

--Voltaire. "Notebooks" (c.1735-c.1750)

Grace & Peace

Currently Reading
"On the Genealogy of Morals"(Cambridge)
By: Friedrich Nietzsche