Dance Like No One’s Watching

Tonight we went to see a dance group from South Africa at a venue just down the street from our house. It was beautiful and fun, and our daughter danced and clapped and babbled right along to the music.

It was a great concert, energetic and loud, but it was in an auditorium and the majority of people simply sat and observed. I was no exception, besides moving around a little in my seat for my daughters entertainment, I basically sat through the concert. I needed inspiration, and I found it in a elderly woman a few rows in front of us.

Every so often the woman would get out of her seat and walk to the back of the small auditorium. About the third time it struck me to look back, and I saw her dancing along to the music. She wasn’t trying to make a spectacle or perform for any reason, she simply felt like dancing.

There is something powerful about being able to inspire people to dance, and there is power in being able to throw off our social hindrances and truly let ourselves enjoy and move to music. I hope my daughter saw that woman dancing and that it will reminder her she doesn’t have to stop enjoying the rhythm and feeling the freedom of the movement.

If I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution!
-Emma Goldman

Going Green: Is It For You or The Earth? Really?

So, we all know “Being Green” is the in thing these days. Seems like every business under the sun is doing some marketing to let consumers know that they’re ‘green.’ And we individually are jumping on board as well, in ways we can prove our greeness. Honda had a hybrid car out for a while that didn’t sell well at all, the reason, it didn’t look distinct (like a Prius). You see, people who drive hybrid’s want you to know they are driving a hybrid. A lot of what we do, quite honestly, is to bolster our own image. Going Green is often more about me, then the earth.

And because it’s more about me and my image, consumerism continues to thrive. Everyone who wants to be ‘green’ goes out and by reusable grocery bags. We find out plastic is bad so everyone buys stainless steal water bottles. We buy organic, new t-shirts with catchy slogans on them. And sometimes we make drastic changes and change the location we buy coffee at to the local organic shop rather then the big box. But, in all of this, we are continuing to buy, buy and buy some more. We are buying new things that still need to be manufactured, shipped, packaged and sold, when we might not have needed to buy anything at all. We have not changed our consumption habits, simply tailored them to a specific style, a ‘green’ style (which doesn’t seem any better at times then someone whose style is that they enjoy the color pink).

I’m not trying to be overly critical (Though maybe I am), I just think we need a challenge to the ‘green’ trends we are seeing everywhere. And here is my challenge. If your desire to Go Green is really about the earth and not about you, then band your altruism and energy conservation together and help your neighbor at the same time as you help the planet. Instead of spending thousands on a hybrid, which is better for the environment, but not necessarily ton’s better (for the cost) then your current car (unless it’s an SUV, then maybe), try this experiment.

From what I’ve heard, CFL bulbs are pretty much the most cost-efficient, energy-saving switch a person can make. They not only save you money in the short run (electric bills) and the long-run (bulb replacement), but I think per dollar spent they have one of the biggest energy savings/conservations (sorry I don’t have a stat to link to), and everyone needs light bulbs. So, buy a bunch of CFL bulbs in bulk (ebay is good for this). Put them all in a little red wagon and go walking down your street. Knock on your neighbors door and offer to trade them three cfl’s for three of their incandescent bulbs (You can use them for the few places you can’t switch to cfl, or let them keep them, or try these). If that seems like too much work, you can send me some money via paypal and I’ll do it in my own neighborhood. It’s a much better use of your ‘green’ dollars then some of the more consumeristic trendy ‘green’ decisions.

(photo credit)

Print Made Us More Individualistic

A quote from The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture:

In a predominantly oral culture, one in which communication is based on face-to-face oral speech, there is no means for storing information or knowledge outside of the mind. As a result, once knowledge is obtained, the culture depends upon the community to both retain and repeat that knowledge. With the introduction of writing, people are affordedthe  luxury to learn and think in isolation without the threat of losing those thoughts. As writing becomes the dominant communication system, people no longer need the community to retain teachings, traditions, or identity. As a result, they spend greater amounts of time reflecting in private. This increased isolation creates a newempahsis on individualism. Prior to the written word, a person’s identity was completely bound to the tribe; the notion of the individual didn’t exist. Because writing introduced the notion of the autonomous self, printing obliterated tribal bonds and profoundly amplified individualism. -p.53

First of all I think that brief paragraph is brilliant insight into our culture as a whole. I don’t know all the implications it has for us but it does, at the least, make us aware of some of the steps that have created the individualism that exist within our society.

Now that we know where we are, and we are aware of how print has brought us there, I’m curious about how we can return to building tribal and communal bonds. Do they exist in any capacity in our current society? Is technology further separating us?

Book Review: God For President, By Lisa Venable

by Lisa Venable

This might be cheating but I’ll do it anyways. I read God For President (not to be confused with Jesus For President), by Lisa Venable. I was actually assigned it for the Twin Cities Daily Planet, which I’ve been writing for recently, and Lisa is a local author. So, I read it and reviewed it here: Pious parable parses presidential politics (long title, I didn’t think up). I’ll even give you the intro here:

Recent political events have shown us that Americans are open to more than just the status quo. Minnesota elected the first Muslim to Congress, the Democratic primaries saw a woman and an African-American competing to be the presidential nominee, and environmental concerns have shown up on the political and corporate radar. With all this progress, the storyline in Minneapolis author Lisa Venable’s new book might not be all that far-fetched. The title? God For President: A Parable About the Power of Love.

In Venable’s novel, God becomes incarnate as Mary Love, a mysterious woman who shows up out of nowhere and makes a run for the Oval Office. The story follows Sarah Rose, a young but disillusioned activist who’s all but given up on the political system until Love shows up and reignites Rose’s passion.

Now, your already halfway through the review, so you might as well go and finish reading at the Daily Planet.

That’s pretty much my book review, but I’ll give you a couple further thoughts on the book. It is not at all an exclusively Christian book, or any other religious subscription (besides thiest). However, as someone who believes in the God of the Bible and Jesus as God in the flesh, I thought this book was a pretty radical modern day parable of what a more modern contextualized Jesus might look like to some degree. What’s unfortunate is that stories like these have to be fictional parables rather then common real-life examples.

Two Things I Do That Are Right For All

Here was the writing prompt:

what’s right for some, is not right for all. I’d love to hear your thoughtful analysis of

2 things you do in your life because of your relationship with jesus that you think is right for all

Monday I mentioned two things I do that are right for me, but not necessarily something I think everyone has to follow. Today, I’m going to try and mention, without offending, two things I do that I think everyone should do.

1) I eat only ‘fair-trade’ chocolate. Unlike coffee, tea and other products where people advocate fair-trade (and I agree you should support fair-trade, though it’s not perfect), chocolate is one of the few goods that uses in large part children in forced labor to harvest. My ‘free market’ friends might argue that rigging the market so that ‘fair-trade’ farmers get an artificially high price for coffee beans, but it’s different with chocolate. Fair-trade chocolate is primarily an attempt to keep children from being enslaved to harvest the beans for your Hershey’s kiss or fudge chunk sundae. I think everyone should eat only fair-trade chocolate so that 284,000 children who are forced to harvest cocoa beans will be freed because there will be no demand (and that’s the ‘free market’ at work).

2) I think everyone should meet their neighbors. Seriously, if you don’t know your neighbors, the ones the next door down (or up) from you, then stop what your doing, walk out the door and go knock on their door, now, I’ll wait… Ask if you can borrow an egg. In our techonolgy and consumer driven society, not only are we building fewer relationships, but we tend to form relationships with people just like us. We meet and hang out and spend time with people that attend the same social events or clubs that we do, church, soccer, gardening, college major, etc. We met and connect with people from all over and we are all constantly driving all over the map to hangout with people that are just like us. Less and less do we form relationships simply because we are in proximity to people (like your neighbor). And who knows, you might have a lot in common, or you might be nothing alike. But meeting and getting to know your neighbor is an opportunity to form a relationship on the basis of nothing but proximity. And the benefits are huge.

Honestly, I probably could make a longer list, but who wants to read about me pushing my values on you (that’s probably what the majority of this blog tends to be anyways isn’t it?). The two things above are things I think are right for everybody, and each and every one of you will be better for it if you choose to do those things.

(photo credit)

Two Things I Do That Are Right For Me

Here was the writing prompt:

what’s right for some, is not right for all. I’d love to hear your thoughtful analysis of

2 things you do in your life because of your relationship with jesus that you think is right for all


2 things you do in your life because of your relationship with Jesus that is right for you, but not right for all.

I’m starting with the second question because it’s easier to address, I hope I understood the prompt right. These are two things that I do in life that are Right for me, but not necessarily right for all. This is not an attempt to make anyone feel guilt for not choosing the same for themselves.

1) I don’t drink alcohol at all. Besides a sip or two from my parents glass before I entered high school (and maybe at a communion were they tricked me with real wine), I’ve never consumed alcohol. There are a couple reason I can recall for this, none of them really being all that noble. I went to an Fellowship of Christian Atheletes soccer camp the summer before my freshman year of high school and I signed a pledge that I would be alcohol and drug free. That pledge, and the fact that I wasn’t cool enough for anyone to want to pressure me into drinking, kept me from ever even really having the temptation to drink before I turned 21.  The reasons I’ve continued not to drink are multiple, and again, none is some ‘holier-than-thou’ vow of soberness. I’ve never really had any desire to drink alcohol (nor coffee for that matter). Not ever having had alcohol, I don’t know how susceptible I would be to over-indulging or alcoholism, and I don’t want to find out. I already have enough vices, I’d hate to add one. Alcohol is expensive and is not a need (which means I’d have to use my fun money, and I don’t want to). Finally, people I know and care about have been hurt because of the misuse of alcohol, and so it is a small sacrifice on my part to simply avoid it all together. Maybe when I’m 50 I’ll try a glass of wine, but for now, this is right for me.

2) We own a house (actually the bank owns it). In a number of ways I’m an advocate of not being in debt, I think there is a Biblical precedent for it, I believe it’s a viable option for many people in the USA (instead we choose credit driven consumption), and I think it will makes us happier freer people. However, my wife and I chose to buy a house last year and with the mortgage and our student loans will be in debt for about ten years. I don’t think buying a house is for everyone. Even if you can buy a house with cash it will tie you down and will continue to require your time and energy. I don’t think going into debt for a house or school is for everyone. Many people can and will work their way through school, and have no chains to Aunt Sallie when they graduate. However, I believe it was the best financial stewardship decision for my wife and I to buy a house last November, and though there were things I did not expect, I’m still satisfied with our decision. Going into debt to ‘own’ a house is not for everyone, but I believe it was right for us.

I think I’ll get around to the other question eventually, about what is “is right for all”, but I’ll leave this part open for discussion first.

(photo credit)

Contest: New Day Revolution Book Giveaway!

New Day Revolution

After posting a review of New Day Revolution, Sam contacted me and suggested I hold a little contest on the site. Being a fan of Sam, the book, and CoolPeopleCare, I eagerly agreed. Here are the details…

The Prize: An Autographed Copy of New Day Revolution!

The Contest: Leave a comment on this post with your idea for making a difference with small choices. Sam and Stephen (the authors) will choose the best idea and you’ll receive a copy of the book. It’s that easy.

Contest Deadline: Friday (July 25th) around noon

Go ahead and start sharing your brilliance with the world. Go ahead and give as many ideas as you want, but be creative, Sam and Stephen have already come up with a lot.

My Idea for Making a Difference With Small Choices is…

Book Review: New Day Revolution, by Sam Davidson

I had the pleasure of getting to know Sam briefly while living in Nashville. He and a friend, Stephen Mosley, co-founded a website/organization called CoolPeopleCare, and together they co-authored this book, New Day Revolution: How to Save the World in 24 Hours. My other good friend in Nashville, Daniel, bought me a copy and I finally sat down and read it.

If you’ve been to the site, CoolPeopleCare then you’ll get a basic idea of what the book is about, tons of simple lifestyle changes you can make to better the world. They include everything from drinking fair-trade coffee to reusing wrapping paper, all organized into nice little categories through out your day (Commute, 9-5, The Weekend).

What I really liked about this book is it was a simple reminder that our lives our made up of a million choices every day. We often go through the motions, not recognizing that each decision, each step, is often a choice, and for the betterment of the world, it’s a good thing to reconsider some of the choices we make. Something as simple as the toothpaste we buy is a choice that we make. Choosing organic toothpaste is a small change that can fall more inline with the convictions and values that we have. Same goes for stopping junk mail, or using your morning commute to learn something new.

New Day Revolution is a quick and easy read, and choosing to put into practice some of the things you learn in those pages is well worth your time.

Update!: Sam contacted me and gave me permission to do a giveaway on the site. I’m going to create a new post about it, but the prize will be an autographed copy of the book. The Contest will being on Monday, so stay tuned.

(p.s. I know I skipped a couple weekly book reviews, but I’ve still been reading. We are at week 28 of the year and I’ve already read 30 books!)