Sir Tim Berners-Lee

I ran across this profile of Sir Tim today after discussing the Olympic Opening Ceremony with some Americans who didn’t know who he is. He’s a hero, that’s who he is – not only for what he accomplished but for his intentions for it (concerning which, see also his Scientific American article).

Even those things he wished he’d done differently, he did for thoughtful reasons. Another favourite fact of mine: the article doesn’t mention it, but Apple’s HyperCard was one of the things that inspired him.

Can you imagine what it must feel like to have invented something so powerful and widely-used and -enjoyed? Hero.


Don’t Aim for Success

Quoted from an article by David Orr, called “What is Education For?”:

There is a myth that the purpose of education is that of giving you the means for upward mobility and success. Thomas Merton once identified this as the “mass production of people literally unfit for anything except to take part in an elaborate and completely artificial charade.”…

The plain fact is that the planet does not need more “successful” people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every shape and form. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these needs have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.

The Lesson of Job

Job’s friends weren’t right. He hadn’t done the wrong things, the judgments weren’t lessons that he should accept and repentingly learn from. Not in the way that they meant, anyway.

Job’s wife was wasn’t right. God isn’t a masochistic overlord; he isn’t uncaring of us, not in the way that she meant, anyway. He did right to not take her advice and unrepentingly curse God and die.

Job does the only thing he can do. Observe, evaluate honestly, and protest vehemently. We admit we don’t ‘get it’ and bring that to God with whatever honest emotions come with that, as a child should be able to do with a parent. His only explanation may well be that we’re not old enough to understand the explanation, but even when he can’t or won’t give an explanation, if he gives his presence, that’s enough.

Perhaps in any relationship among such unequal parties, it’s not the answer that is given that matters nearly as much as that he answers.

The Jesus Scandals

We’ve all been to galleries where the paintings or fossils or whatever are presented badly. Most of the time, we don’t really know what it is we’re looking at and there are explanatory blurbs but they’re long and detailed and make us wonder if there’s a tearoom in the building. But have you ever been to a good one? Where you get real exposure to the real paintings and real fossils but also crisp commentary that leaves you understanding clearly yet also wanting to learn more?

David Instone-Brewer’s The Jesus Scandals book is such a gallery. The chapters fly by and you can’t stop turning pages. And all along the way you learn amazing things.

The second thing you think will be “where can I learn more about this?” but your first thought will be “wow.” And if you’re like me, you might even find yourself saying it aloud, even sitting alone in the café.

Good book; highly recommended.

Instone-Brewer, David, The Jesus Scandals, Oxford: Monarch Books, 2012. ISBN 978-0-85721-023-4

Musings re Excellence

It’s like a three-ring circus in my brain at the moment. I’ve been thinking about excellence and how it applies to the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, to higher education and to writing stuff like theology or comedy dialogue. And I think I want to say three things:

1) Getting the details right is important, but not because of the details. When enough details accumulate, you lose sight of details and see instead a rich environment. That’s when you win big time.

2) The second one is like it: The best reason for complexity is to get to simple. And often a simplicity that comes from a place of complexity is the most satisfying / funny / beautiful of all.

3) The point of standing on the shoulders of giants is to look out at the vista not just to look at the giants. For my money, too much scholarship is scholarship aimed at understanding scholarship, and too many ‘ultrabooks’ are about being what the other ultrabooks are.

I doubt these are “three rules for excellence” or anything so grand. They’re just things I’ve been thinking of.

The Widow’s Mite (Mark 12:41-44)

If you’ve never studied the ministry and teaching of Jesus in today’s scholarly or evangelical climates, the message of the story in Mark 12:41-44 is very clear. But if you’ve been around those particular blocks a few times, it should strike you as a very peculiar story indeed.

We also know that Jesus hates the exploitation of the poor. And we are told that Jesus is in the process of judging the Jerusalem Temple. It’s evil and corrupt and exploits the people all the time. It’s time is almost over, it has failed. We are told that the moneychangers’ tables in chapter 11 were overturned not in order to cleanse but in order to enact a symbollic judgement upon the whole Temple system.

If this picture of Jesus is correct, how can he stand idly by while this poor woman is hood-winked into donating her final two pennies to the Temple treasury? How is it that his lesson from this event is that she did well? (vv. 43-44) How is it that the Lord was provoked to overturning the moneychangers’ tables, but not the collection boxes? How is it that merely watches as the Temple treasury rakes it in and gives nothing in return?