Kingdom Come 2-15-2018

Kingdom Come is a musical theater piece that is running from February 15 through February 18 at Concordia St Paul. It focuses on listening to different stories of people from what they remember of 9/11. The people recounting their stories range from a third grader to a lady who has her grocery routine down pat. Not only did the age range vary, but the emotional impact that 9/11 had on them varied too. Some were not effected, other than a slight change in their routine that day. Others lost loved ones in the attack. In the end, the musical conveyed a theme of listening to other people’s stories and working towards understanding.

This musical made me think about how different people process a crisis in their life. While 9/11 effected an entire nation, there are small crises that happen daily and effect a smaller number of people. When I encounter a crisis, I try and process it through logic, emotion, and revelation. However, everyone thinks in different ways and has different ways of knowing truth, which is a topic that we studied in the fall of 2016. Different people will rely more heavily on different ways of knowing, whether it is through observation, revelation, logic, emotion, or art. This musical focused on using art to process the different impacts that 9/11 had on people.

I found this musical to be very well done. The actors and actresses all portrayed their various characters wonderfully. This musical caused me to think more critically about how people process tragedies and the privilege it is to be able to process tragedy in a healthy way. People in areas of constant crisis do not have the opportunity to recover from a specific tragedy before the next one strikes. This thought makes me thankful for the opportunity we have in the U.S. to express our thoughts and emotions through art.

Callings 1 blog post

This section of readings focused on the monastic response to Christianity becoming the “in” thing. Monastic communities turned away from the cultural norms and gave up all worldly things. People who lived the monastic life style were considered the most committed to the faith and could almost be called the “extreme sport athletes” of Christianity. These extreme religious sports included intense asceticism, solitary lives, and complete devotion to prayers and studies.  While these monastic practices are not as popular now as they were in the the early church period, there are still ideas that Christians can work to integrate into their daily lives. Practices, such as scheduled prayer times, viewing death as not the end of life, and not remaining comfortable with where a person’s faith journey is at, may help a Christian grow in their relationship with God.

While on the surface monastic life is very extreme, looking into the reasons they do things can help inform how we live today. While many Christians today do not give up all worldly things, or die to the world, Christians do recognize that there is a death in Baptism. Romans 6:1-14 discusses this concept of dying to sin, but being raised to life with Christ daily. We are called to live a new life with Christ, but we are also called to share this life and good news with other people(Matthew 28:19-20). If we were to choose to isolate ourselves like the monastic communities that we read about did, we would not be able to share the Gospel with anyone. Through all of the lessons we have learned in the Honors Program, I think learning to share Christ with everyone, including the marginalized populations, is the most important one.

Through all of the weirdness of monastic life, I think learning about it is very interesting. I find it interesting how Christian practices have changed and adapted throughout history. I think seeing these changes reaffirms that Christianity will never truly die out. I have heard many people concerned about how the post-modern attitude may cause a loss of interest in faith, but I think that people will always be interested in faith. I think that especially in a post-modern era the Christian faith shines bright. It is a glimmer of truth and certainty in a world where truth doesn’t exist or is created arbitrarily.

Gnarled Heritage Art Opening

This evening the art exhibit Gnarled Heritage, by John Martin Bell was opened to the public. The exhibition is full of abstract art pieces made from various mediums. Some were paint on canvas, while others were “found objects” with plaster and paint on them. Some of these objects included shells and a lamp. The exhibit was created to express the vivacity of ever-changing life. The artist describes life in this way: “It constantly reinvents itself, bubbling over any container that we try to put around it.” Keeping this phrase in mind, the art truly captured this idea of life in a unique way.

The art I had the opportunity to view today made me think back to my first semester of the Honors Program. Everyone has a unique way of exploring life and finding truth in their experiences. Art is one of the ways some people use to interpret the world around them. I think that Gnarled Heritage allowed the artist to express his views along with allowing the art observers to form their own interpretations. The name plates included with each piece, “Filled Beyond Fulfillment,” “Like a Summer Thursday,” and “As Its Work Is, So Is Its End” to name a few, also pushed the interpretation and pondering processes to a new place. People who think in very logical terms may not gain very many insights into life from this exhibit. However, people who enjoy abstract, artistic thinking have the chance to explore how life shifts and changes in rapid, unexpected ways.

This art exhibit pushed me to ponder how I view life. I appreciated that the style of the paintings left much of the interpretation up to the viewer. Some exhibits will have very clear cut pieces, which leave little to the imagination, but the paintings and sculptures paired with the thought-provoking names left very open-ended impressions. One piece that I liked in particular was one called “Wood Duck.” It was made of a piece of wood, preserved duck feet, and string. I found it to be a nice splash of humor along side the more philosophical pieces.

1/17/2018 Convocation

This week’s convocation invited a panel of contributors to the book A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota. This book features 16 authors who give their stories of living in Minnesota as a person of color. The convocation featured 4 of the anthology’s contributors, David Lawrence Grant, Venessa Fuentes, Shannon Gibney, and Sun Yung Shin. Each person had a chance to read a selection from their portion of the book and then a discussion on race was facilitated following the readings.

This convocation made me reflect on our lessons last semester, which  focused on human interactions and connections. Being able to hear the authors read their own essays gave an incredible amount of depth beyond just reading the words off the page. It made me think of the effect that my actions can have on other people, whether I am aware of it or not. This affirms the importance of being aware of how we interact with other people, because actions can hurt or help people beyond what we know.

This convocation has been one of the most enjoyable that I have attended. I really appreciated being able to hear from the authors themselves. Hearing the essays out loud created an emotional experience that I haven’t had at a convocation before. Both their readings of the essays and their responses to the audiences questions were insightful and full of wisdom that I hope never to forget. Growing up in a small Wisconsin town led to very few conversations about race and privilege. The awareness of the struggles of other people has given me new perspectives that have shaped my worldview, and I do not want to go back to a state of ignorance.

Martin Luther and the Called Life (1/12/2018)

Martin Luther and the Called Life was written by Mark D. Tranvik and explores a Lutheran understanding of vocation by drawing from both Martin Luther’s experiences and ideas. The largest part of the reading for this week focused on the foundations of Luther’s theology of vocation by looking at the customs of his context and Luther’s personal experiences that led him to dive more deeply into the concept of vocation. The later part of the reading begins to look at the modern applications of Luther’s theology of vocation. Vocation begins at baptism, when a Christian is saved by grace through the cleansing waters and enters into the community of believers. This means that Christians don’t have to do anything to save themselves. This eternal connection to Christ frees the Christian to live in service to others. This is vocation. Any position that a Christian fills in life to serve their neighbor is one of that person’s vocations.

This semester has already pushed me to think more deeply on what vocation means than ever before. In preparation for this semester, I had to ask why we were bothering to do a service learning project. In the beginning my reasoning was based solely on fulfilling the requirements of the project. However, through different readings and discussions, I have found a new reason for this project. The reason I am able to serve is because I don’t have to worry about anything. I am certain of salvation by grace through faith, and I am certain that Christ has forgiven me of all of my sins. Without having to worry about what I can do to save myself, this would lead to servant acts with selfish motivation, I am able to freely serve others. I am able to serve in difficult situations because I am certain that nothing will separate me from God. These revelations have been made especially apparent through reading The Freedom of a Christian and from studying Romans 8:38-39.

As I have reflected on vocation and what I have learned in the Honors program so far, I am amazed at how this class almost always ends up corresponding with other classes that I am taking. This semester I have already looked at Luther’s theology on vocation twice and it’s only been one week! Previously I have been able to tie Honors and psychology together and Honors and theology together. Being able to make the connections between classes has been beneficial for me because it has allowed me to see the same topic from multiple angles. Learning about vocation from two different classes with two different professors has allowed me to really dig deeply into it and make sense of vocation in my mind. It has given me time to reflect on how my gifts, talents, and passions can be used to serve others. Some of these gifts and passions that I look forward to using in my future vocation as a church worker include educating people, growing in my faith, and serving people in whatever ways I can. All of these traits will be utilized in my future vocations.

Networked Book Review

Anna Reineke

Networked Book Review

 

Framing

The book Networked was written by Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman. Networked defends social networking and promotes the statistics that cast it in a good light. Rainie works with Pew Research Center, which is a center that collects facts on the various political and social issues. Wellman works at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, which specializes in information studies. The facts presented in the book represent both of the authors’ backgrounds in statistics analysis. This book is written in a style that the general public can understand, and is especially focused towards people interested in technology and current affairs.

 

Summary

Using statistics, Rainie and Wellman work to prove their thesis that “People are not hooked on gadgets – they are hooked on each other” (6). There are many people who believe that the internet is killing people’s ability to socialize and is isolating people. Rainie and Wellman are not a part of that group. Through looking at three revolutions, the social network revolution, the internet revolution, and the mobile revolution, it can be seen that people are more connected than ever, just in a different way. This is what they call a networked individual.

The networked individual is different from the older methods of connection. Those methods used to be door to door ( in reference to your network being with in the neighborhood) and place to place ( more industrial of a setting). The networked individual networks person to person and focuses more on the individual rather than a family unit or group. While it is highly criticized for being isolating Rainie and Wellman argue against that notion. The networked individual is loosely connected to many groups of people, with each group providing a unique service to the individual. The authors have an overall optimistic outlook on the increasing use of technology, but they do include some precautions.

With the increase in social networking comes an influx in information. People can access too much information  and can share too much information very easily over the internet. This leads into another problem area, which is the feeling of zero privacy. Putting information on the internet can be risky because of the amount of people that can access that information. This also includes advertisers receiving data on the searches a person does, which means that advertisements can continue to become more specialized. The last problem area addresses surveillance, coveillance, and sousveillance. People have more power to watch what others do on the internet.

Overall, this shift in networking that was caused by the three revolutions is leading to a more connected society. People can create and interact with a multitude of groups and can easily grow their social circle. This shift in networking has also led people to develop new literacies which allow them to easily and efficiently navigate the new connections technology is providing. This means that people are becoming more connected and less isolated.

Analysis

Rainie and Wellman use many statistics to work to prove their points. This is a much more convincing way to build an argument than a case study. A case study looks into one situation in depth, while statistics get the broad picture of the situation. However, even though the author’s build a good argument, some of their points are slightly too optimistic. It is good to see two sides to an argument, which in this case is the argument whether social technology is connecting or isolating. Both sides have good points, which leads to the conclusion that this is still a gray area. While the statistics point to technology creating a more networked populous, statistics cannot show the mentality of people. Another problem with getting a wide, sweeping view of an issue is that it becomes very easy to neglect the groups of people that are actually suffering mentally from the increase in social networking. This is why it is good to temper one side of an argument with the other and explore into the gray areas more.

 

Conclusion

Networked and its optimistic view of social networking is an interesting view to explore. Looking at the different revolutions and their effects is very interesting, but knowing that there are positives and negatives to them is very important. This book mostly skims over the negatives to show that the positives are present. While reading this book, it is important to keep the optimism in check, but not to smother it.

Glad Tidings of Great Joy

CSP’s annual Christmas concert is taking place this weekend, the 1, 2, and 3 of December. The theme for this year’s concert is “Glad Tidings of Great Joy.” It features performances from the Jubilate choir and Christus Chorus, an orchestra, and the hand bell ensemble. The pieces include “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” “From Heav’n Above,” and “What Child is This.” The concert runs approximately 90 minutes and has been well attended so far this weekend.

The Christmas concert is always an excellent show of how people connect with each other through music. For an hour and a half, the audience is brought into a world without electronics that the performers have the privilege of creating. Music is an integral part of the human experience and can be used to unite people to a specific cause. It can also be used to form a sense of community amongst people. This relates to the anthropology that we have studied throughout this semester. People were created to connect with other people, and this concert shows people taking advantage of the power of music to connect people.

I have had the opportunity to play with the hand bell ensemble for this concert and it is wonderful. The ensemble has formed a great community from practicing every Tuesday night. It has been really neat to hear all of the positive feedback from people. I look forward to finishing out this series of concerts and continuing to learn more music with this group.

The Shallows Book Review

Framing

The Shallows is a book written by Nicholas Carr for the general population to begin exploring the effects of technology. Carr is a journalist who has written for The Guardian, The Atlantic, and The New York Times, to name a few. He uses his personal experiences as a foundation for writing this book after noticing a change in his behavior when using technology. The book is written in a style that is easy to read and is meant to be readable for everyone. The Shallows was published through W.W. Norton and Company publishing, which is an employee-owned American company.

Summary

The Shallows begins with Carr explaining his own experience with noticing a change in how he reads. He notices a loss of the ability to read more than 1-2 pages without losing focus. From there, he investigates how the brain works on a neural level and the plasticity/elasticity of the brain. He examines the shift from orality to literacy and uses this shift to show how the medium information is communicated through can change the brain. After establishing this principle of the brain changing in response to the medium, he explains how the development of the transistor and then computer technology has influenced people. The transistor allowed for radio frequencies to be sent further than they previously could have. This allowed for more one way technology to develop, like radios and TVs. The advancement of computer technology has allowed for more two-way interactions. This increase in two-way interactions has created a culture of distraction when using computers. Computer technology has also changed how people read. With various hyperlinks attached to words, it is very easy to get away from the original material you were reading. This means that people are doing less deep reading and are more skimming the surface of information. This skimming of information is amplified through the use of search engines. Google has become a sort of external memory for people to access whenever they choose. This mentality leads to a decrease in actual memorization in people because equating memory to technology devalues memory. This loss of memory also leads to less deep thinking, which in turn leads to a lack of empathy and compassion in people.

Analysis

Carr argues that technology, or the medium information is being delivered through, has changed people’s brains. He argues that people are losing the ability to deep read materials and are bouncing from topic to topic when reading online materials. This creates a very shallow type of reading, where less in depth information is gleaned from sources. However, he argues this in a very polarizing way, as in, a person can either deep read or not. This allows no space for a person to be able to have the ability to do both interchangeably. Carr makes it seem as though it’s an either/or situation instead of a both/and one. This is not the case though, at least for many college students. College students need to have both skills of reading developed. For quick, surface research, a student must be able to access information quickly. The various hyperlinks and other resources embedded in online resources allow people to find pertinent information quickly. This is much preferable compared to searching through multiple books for hours on end. However, professors also assign deep reading assignments. Being able to deep read a book for class allows the student to participate and be informed during the class discussions. It is clear that shallow reading and deep reading both have their places, but Carr portrays shallow reading in a negative light in his book.

This both/and view of deep reading and shallow reading does not contradict what Carr wrote about in the psychological portion of the book. Carr describes the brain as elastic and able to adapt. This does not mean that the brain forfeits the ability to deep read when learning how to shallow read. The only way that a person would be unable to deep read at all, is if they never learn how to, not that a person’s brain threw the deep reading out the window when learning shallow reading.

Conclusion

The Shallows is a book that originated because Nicholas Carr reflected on the change in his own behavior as he used technology. Carr describes a shift from deep reading to shallow reading because the brain has changed with the new technology. However, Carr writes rather negatively about this loss of deep reading. He also argues that a person can either shallow read or deep read, not both. This polarization is inaccurate and springs from his own experience, rather than a scientific study. The negative position he takes on technology should be reviewed, and the readers should create an opinion on technology for themselves.

 

Who’s in Charge? Book Review

Framing

Who’s in Charge?, a book written by Michael Gazzaniga, focuses on exploring free will and responsibility in the context of neuroscience. Gazzaniga, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, uses his scientific background to explore the questions that arise when looking at the brain and mind in relation to each other. His writing on psychology can be considered reliable because he is so advanced in the psychology field. The book is aimed towards audiences who have questions about looking into biology when making courtroom decisions.

Summary

The book begins by looking at the science of the brain. Gazzaniga does this through exploring how the brain forms connections between neurons. Neural connections develop through repetition or activity dependent processes. There are many decisions made within the brain that are conscious and unconscious, all happening at the same time. Gazzaniga also presents the concept of “post-hoc consciousness,” which means that the brain interprets events that happen with a slight delay. Through all of these many things happening in the brain at once, the mind emerges. The mind cannot be defined by the same rules of the brain, because it is a complex system that cannot be predicted through bottom up reasoning.

After looking at the science of what happens within a single mind, Gazzaniga begins to explore human interactions and the implications those have. Humans copy other humans to learn about different behaviors and what is or isn’t appropriate in a situation. There are mirror neurons in the brain, which are dedicated to creating an experience in the brain that is similar to the one a person is watching. Morals also emerge from interactions with others. These interactions are where laws, responsibilities, and free will come from.

Through looking at these various facets of psychology, Gazzaniga was able to come to the conclusion that people should be held responsible for their actions. Responsibility comes from being in a society and interacting with other people. However, courts cannot tell if a person is competent or not through looking at their brain. This is from the mind emerging from the brain and not conforming to the same rules as the brain. Determinism cannot be applied to the brain and mind.

Analysis

Gazzaniga uses his background in psychology to produce a very strong argument for how responsibility is formed. He builds his argument incrementally, through looking at one brain, then the space between brains, and then by tying the two together to form the conclusion. He builds the argument in a way that people who aren’t psychology majors can also understand. This makes the knowledge accessible to more people, so that they can form educated opinions on how the court system is working.

His reasoning is especially compelling when looking at theological anthropology. God has created humans to be in community with each other. He created man and woman, so that the man would not be alone. Gazzaniga argues that social interactions are the basis from which responsibility comes from. The interactions between two people is where free will comes from – people have choices for how they respond in the situations – and it naturally follows that responsibility also springs from this. Without choices for how to react, and someone to impact with those choices, a person cannot be considered responsible for what they do. Once those choices are introduced, responsibility is also introduced.

Conclusion

Gazzaniga neatly argues for an emergent mind and responsibilities from social interactions in his book Who’s in Charge?. He structures his argument by starting with how one brain works and then how two brains will interact. These interactions leave space for choices to be made and responsibility follows those choices. Who’s in Charge? allows people to explore how biology, philosophy, and theology meet in the brain and mind conundrum.

 

2017 Bartling Lecture

This year marks the 7th annual Bartling lecture in the series of historical lectures. The speaker was John Bouman, a well-known public benefits advocate.  Bouman is currently the president at The Shriver Center, where he works to give people opportunities and hope through creating policies and systems to help them succeed. Bouman discussed the war on poverty, but before he did that, he gave the audience some of his familial background. He comes from a family full of pastors and that is where his passion for serving other people originated. After giving some of his personal background, he discussed his involvement with the war on poverty and then he gave some information on the war on poverty from a national view point. He made the point that reducing poverty levels was not about hand-outs, but rather it was about bringing hope to people who have been neglected. Bouman showed how the policies and programs that have been created as a part of the war on poverty have helped reduce poverty rates in America. The point of sharing the statistics that he did was to show that the war on poverty should be continued and that the government should increase its efforts, but in a smart way. This means not spending excesses of money on the programs, but making sure that opportunities are created for the people that need them.

One of the points he made to show the effects that poverty can have on a family was how stress affects people. He explained that a child born into deep poverty can experience stress because their parent’s are stressed about their financial and housing stability. This stress releases hormones that can affect brain development. He called it a type of “birth lottery.” This point made me think of the various psychological and anatomical lessons we have learned this semester and how the brain effects the mind. We have talked about how the mind emerges from the brain processes, but we haven’t talked about how chemical imbalances affect the brain and how that, in turn, affects the mind. This would be an interesting facet of psychology to look into if given the time.

I found the Bartling lecture to be very interesting. However, I did struggle with understanding some of the points that were made because I am not familiar with the terminology used. This did not take away from his main points and his goal of creating opportunities for people, but it did create a disconnect for me at times. Overall, the Bouman presented facts that I did not know before and established his points about the war on poverty very well.