More posts are available in the Tensegrities Archive

I find myself trying to sustain a lot of “tensegrity,” and decided that one way to live creatively in the midst of that is to try and journal regularly about the various paradoxes I find myself within. “Tensegrity” is a word Buckminster Fuller once coined — “tension” + “integrity” = “tensegrity.” He used it to describe the incredibly stable nature of the structures he could build by holding competing forces together while respecting their integrities. I like to use it to describe what it is to be a person of faith living in a global media culture.

Gaiman's poem for the earth

/ 17 February 2019

Neil Gaiman has written a poem in tribute to Rachel Carson. His wife Amanda Palmer reads it in this video. I weep, and pray, and hope that art can move us when science does not seem able to…

Contemplating Hope

/ 12 January 2019

I wonder how to stay hope-filled and hopeful in the midst of all that is going on right now in national political settings? Lately I’ve been finding Richard Rohr’s daily meditations a crucial help, as well as the weekly email for action that comes from Jen Hoffman and the Americans of Conscience website.

Seeking peace in the middle of anguish

/ 29 September 2018

This week has been very hard for me. I cannot watch the Kavanaugh hearing without remembering DKE at Yale, without remembering the ways in which entitled white boys from wealthy families waltzed through the halls of Yale with not only no respect for women, but very little respect for anyone at all.

I am flummoxed and stunned by the latest. Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony felt very credible to me, and the legal analysis I’ve read and listened to since has affirmed that feeling. Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony, on the other hand, made me worried about him being  a judge in any venue, let alone on the Supreme Court.

I am tired, angry, desolate… nearing despair.

And into the space comes music. Comes friends with hugs. Comes the stories of many, many women.

Here is one piece of music which reminds me of the power of collective hope and love.

Resisting anonymity

/ 6 September 2018

This morning the news I woke up to was that someone in the Trump White House has written an anonymous op-ed piece which the NYTimes has now published. There is all sorts of outrage from the Right about this, but I want to note that I — from the Left — am concerned also.

I think the piece tries to reassure people that there are “adults” in the White House who are curbing the President’s worst impulses. But I am not interested in being reassured, and I think this piece really only helps those who are on the edge of leaving the Trump coalition. Please note, as the writer her/himself says: “To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.”

Frankly, if what the letter writer says is true, s/he would be much more effective saying it out loud and being fired. But of course, such an action would more likely lead to the administration losing some of its ability to succeed with its policies. So again, note that this is a piece aimed at reassuring the edges of President Trump’s base.

I am generally not a big fan of anonymity, except in some specific instances. I use Stephen Brookfield’s critical incident questionnaire in most of my classes, which is a process that is “anonymous and public.” I use it because I’m very conscious of the power I hold as a professor in a degree-granting course. I use it because I want to create multiple channels of communication for my students. But everything that is written on that CIQ is shared at the next class session, in pure transcript form. And we do it over and over through time, which helps students to trust the process.

An anonymous Op-Ed in the NYTimes is definitely public, but there is no ongoing relationship being tended. There is only the sense that the piece has to be anonymous for fear the person will be fired. Well I think that person should stand up and risk being fired.

AlterGuild and 13 Reasons Why

/ 11 July 2018

I love the AlterGuild podcast! I know I’ve written about it before, but that group of intrepid younger clergy continues to create provocative, interesting, and compelling discussions of current topics.

One of their most recent episodes (season 2, ep. 7) focuses on the promises we do, or do not, make to young people. I was riveted by their discussion, not the least because it was a real life example — that is, it is taking place in my community in real time — of the kinds of story lines in season 2 of the Netflix drama 13 Reasons Why.

The first season of that show was all over social media, with parents and school officials voicing alarm over its depiction of teen suicide. What I think many people missed in the general uproar over the show — and that may be because few of the alarmists actually watched it — was that it was a compelling portrayal of many of the social dynamics and challenges teens are facing today.

The show does not shy away from sexuality, from drugs and alcohol, from poverty, but it is also a fictional, constructed set of narratives.

The AlterGuild podcast, on the other hand, is four local pastoral leaders in conversation with parents of young kids, with people whose loved ones have faced addiction, with young people making promises in marriage.

This AlterGuild episode I’ve been so engaged by considers the many ways in which our young people are broken — broken by bullying, broken by peer pressures, broken by systemic racism, broken by awful schools — and yet are also resilient young people who are trying to make a real difference in the world. The pastoral leaders on this podcast explore what it means to be wearied but tenacious in the midst of these challenges. They offer hope simply by telling the truth of what is going on.

I think perhaps one reason why the second season of 13 Reasons Why hasn’t gotten the same social alarm, or even attention, as did its first season, is that it delves into the messy, complicated, systemic reasons why our young people are floundering. Much of the pain in these young people’s stories in this fictional drama stems from their isolation, from their fear of telling their truth to anyone because they don’t think they’ll be believed. Much of what is difficult about the show’s narratives invites adults to see our own complicity with these broken systems. That’s not a truth that is palatable — or one which easily lends itself to social outrage.

In this AlterGuild episode one of the moms on the show shares a story of how her 11 year old son came to her to tell her about something going on at school, and how she then tried to get the school to deal with it, and still nothing happened.

That’s the crux of many of the stories unfolding on 13 Reasons Why.

I love, love, love that the young clergy of AlterGuild — and the many thoughtful people they interview — are refusing to be silent. I love that these leaders are bringing their full selves to the challenges around us, and that they are inviting all of us to step up as well.

In the midst of the craziness and polarization we are immersed in, finding ways to speak our messy truths, to comfort each other through deep listening, and to remember we are not alone, is at the heart of what I believe we need to do. I’m so grateful to both AlterGuild, and 13 Reasons Why, for venturing into the messiness.

Books I’ve been reading

/ 8 June 2018

I should be working on my current research/writing tasks, but I’ve found myself diverted into reading two really interesting books, courtesy of Ezra Klein’s podcast. The first is called Lost Connections, by Johann Hari, and I think every pastoral leader ought to be reading it. He’s a journalist who’s interested in the epidemics of depression and anxiety, but I was surprised by what he found. The second is called How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan. Again, a really surprising (to me at least) description of what science is learning about the impact of psychedelics on our minds — among other things, under the right conditions they can mimic some of what we experience through deep contemplation.

AlterGuild podcasts

/ 18 May 2018

I can’t say enough about how much I love this podcast! It’s done by a local group of fairly young pastoral leaders, and they are all deeply grounded in good biblical interpretation, but also have a lively and irreverent approach to life. I think this is a wonderful way to learn something more about the heart of Christian faith, in a friendly, approachable, and open way.

Economics for the common good

/ 22 December 2017

I’ve never felt more in need of economic smarts than this week, as the GOP tax bill passed. The last time I felt so ignorant was around the financial crisis in 2008, and it wasn’t until two years later, when the documentary Inside Job came out, that I finally started to understand what a “credit default swap” was, not to mention many other problematic moves that sparked that crisis.

Today I listened to a podcast by Ezra Klein (via The Weeds, at Vox), that actually helped me understand more of what is in this tax bill, and more of why it is so problematic. It’s the first clear description I’ve found, and I highly commend it to you — even if, given how long it is, you need to listen while you’re driving or cooking or doing something else.

Do take the time, this is important stuff, and it’s very clearly explained.

Tweets of the week

/ 12 November 2017

Tweets of the week

/ 5 November 2017

More posts are available in the Tensegrities Archive