Leaving Too Soon

I’ve only ever had three times in my life where I wonder if I exited a situation too soon.

I’m a big believer in living free, and changing your situation if it doesn’t serve you. This has been an amazing orientation for my life, and benefited me in more ways than I can count.

But as I’ve gotten older, and especially with raising kids, I have had to expand my time horizon when it comes to how long to put up with sub-optimal situations. Sometimes sticking it out and making the most really are best.

I’m still trying to learn that.

I’m not fickle or disloyal, but a little too up for a big new adventure. A few times, that’s blinded me to ways I needed to stay the course.

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You’re Not Upset About the Right Things

One of the most popular types of social media post is the type that chastises people for being too outraged for one thing and not outraged enough for another.

This is a losing battle.

Outrage is exhausting. Fighting about outrage is equally exhausting. Trying to figure out whether and to what extent to be outraged about what is even more exhausting.

The reality is, everyone is correct.

We are always inappropriately outraged. I get too upset by my own small inconveniences, and not upset enough about the suffering of others. I never have enough information or empathy to properly order my outrage quotient. This is all true. And it always will be true.

Don’t worry about whether others are outraged at the right things. They aren’t. Neither are you.

Put down the opinions and pick up your cross.

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Between the Idol of Nature and the Idol of Technology

There is a lot of worry over the role of technology in our lives, where it comes from, and where it might lead.

I do not disagree that technology may be originally inspired by dark forces, or that we are unprepared to deal wisely with a high-tech world and it might lead to our spiritual or physical destruction.

I do not disagree that technology has a pull that can turn us into slaves of the great disembodied machine, and our behavior can begin to look like the worship of some dark deity.

I do not disagree that there are some who willfully seek to serve this deity, attempting to usher in “entities” that can think for us and run our lives in some panopticon dystopian mass-factory control grid.

But those who start on a narrative like the above usually forget the danger on the other side.

They go all-in for more touching grass, more sunshine, more time in the woods, more rural ideals. These are good practical antidotes to too much technocratic city life, but as spiritual ends, they have the same danger as technology.

The “return to nature” is no less a threat to humans fulfilling our unique human nature as the techno utopia. Technology is not a good god, but neither is nature. Both wish to have us in their grasp. Neither want us in our rightful place, free beings who wield them and master them, redeeming them and bending them to the will of He in whose image we were created.

One way to tell when you are in danger is whether your motivation is primarily reactionary. If the draw to nature is rooted more in anger at technology than love of creation, you are playing on the enemy’s terms. The warring demons of technology and nature each want you to take their side. The one whom they serve just wants you to take a side – any side.

Entering into an antagonistic relationship with nature or technology, and by extension with those who are fans of either, means you are in the devil’s territory.

Picking one as the ultimate goal means the same. Both are false idols.

The pursuit of technology above all else ends at brains in jars.

The rejection of tech and pursuit of nature above all else ends at howling naked in the woods.

One wholly rejects the animal part of human nature. The other embraces it at the expense of our divine nature.

Christians should have a different orientation to both. We needn’t get caught in the battle between two false gods. We needn’t feel the persistent tension between screen time and time in nature. We needn’t be driven by fear.

We are the ones given dominion over nature, and over the tools we can derive from it and use to help us master it.

Even if false gods inspired technology before we were ready to handle it, through Christ it is redeemed. (He redeemed even that vile technology of torture and death, the cross.)

We must reject the god of technology and its promise to make us gods. It is a false hope.

We must also reject the god of nature and its promise to free us from the machine and return us to the innocence of the animal.

We are something else. We are image bearers of God Himself. We are appointed to rule justly over this domain, bringing all things into His service.

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Advertising with Original Stories

I just watched a movie called “Missing” with the kids last night. It was the greatest ad for Apple products I’ve ever seen.

It was a unique, generally interesting and well-paced crime mystery story, where everything happens on the screen of a device. Security cameras, laptops, phones, watches; the entire thing unfolds through the (literal) lens of devices.

The crime gets solved using internet sleuthing and digital tools. A Facetime to a friend to have them find an Instagram photo leads to a Siri voice command to save the protagonist.

I have no idea if Apple had any hand in making this movie, but if they didn’t, they should have! It’s a fun story and doesn’t feel like forced product placement, because the entire plot is about using digital tools in unique ways in a high stakes environment to save the day.

A story built as an ad from the ground up actually works better than cramming a product into an existing story.

I’d love to see more of this. I can’t wait for the movie about saving the world with nothing but spreadsheets.

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Not Whether, but When

As a truth seeker, I bristle at the idea that there is any knowledge that’s dangerous to have. But there is.

Not in an absolute sense. I don’t believe there’s any knowledge that is always and forever dangerous. But I think almost all knowledge can be dangerous at the wrong time.

It’s easiest to see with children. There are plenty of facts and types of know-how that can damage a child if conveyed too early. No one would deny this.

It’s also hard to deny that all grown humans are still at various stages of maturity, always with room for more. Humanity as a whole is also very young in many ways.

Putting these things together, it logically follows that there is always knowledge that is dangerous to individuals and humanity as a whole.

Does this mean shadowy agencies and secret societies should censor and hide it, cloak and dagger style? No.

Really the only implications worth considering are personal. Recognizing that, on the individual level, there may be knowledge that does not help you but harms you if you are not yet ready for it can help you slow down a little. And remembering the same about others can take the edge off the urge to proselytize.

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When Someone Doesn’t Know What They’re Talking About

I sat there listening to someone confidently explain something completely wrong.

I don’t know a lot about a lot, but I just happened to know enough about this subject to know that this surface level pop take was not just off, but absolutely backwards; the opposite of the actual meaning.

It didn’t make me mad, it just made me tired.

I didn’t know this person well, and didn’t have much to lose or gain by them being correct or not. Should I say something? Should I argue in front of others? Or maybe later, privately share the info they are unaware of?

The thought of doing that made me more tired.

So I just let it pass.

This happens more often as I get older. Usually, it’s something trivial said by a younger person, about a date or pop-culture reference or the meaning of a word. The kind of thing you are prone to get wrong unless you lived through it. I rarely say anything, because the energy required to be “um, ackshually” guy exceeds the value of the correction.

But it also slowly alienates me from the world. My wife and I laugh about these little things privately. Not in a condescending way ( or at least we try not to condescend), but a sign of the absurdity of life and aging.

As I silently observe people confidently proclaiming incorrect information, a terrifying realization dawns. How often was I on the other end while some older person sat silently, letting me prattle on like a fool about things I didn’t know?

Then it hits harder. That can’t be something I did once upon a time. It must be something I’m still doing. No matter how much older and wiser I feel, there is someone else compared to whom I am a fool on just about every matter.

Whenever I open my mouth or hit my keyboard, I am spouting nonsense in someone else’s mind and they’re just too tired to let me know.

That’s a good reminder.

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Things Hidden

We assume the best stuff makes its way to us. Great books, great ideas, great songs, great inventions. They’ll rise to the top and be included in Best Of lists, popular collections, and history books, right?

Yet we all know from experience this is not true.

If you’re a consistent creator of any kind, you know that your best stuff is not your most well-known stuff.

There are things hidden in the thousands of posts I’ve written that I think are the best, deepest, and most important. I’d most like them remembered. Yet they are essentially unknown, even to the small number of people that read a lot of my stuff. And that’s in the internet age for a loud and public person.

Now compound that over every single mind in history, remove the ability to do any record keeping or distribution for most of it, and you start to realize that the majority of worthy things created have never been seen or have been forgotten.

This is exciting to me, not depressing.

The act of creation is about more than other eyeballs or ears enjoying it. It transforms the fabric of reality itself, even if never seen by another soul. We are living in a world partly shaped by acts of creation we’ll never know about.

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Never the Same Twice

I tend towards a jam band type of life.

I don’t like to do a lot of practice or memorization or perfecting or repeating. I like to do it live, making it up as I go.

This is not always good, but I chaff against other approaches. So instead of fighting it, I try to roll with it.

What’s required to make this successful isn’t memorizing exactly what I’m supposed to do, but instead knowing the foundation in an out without even thinking. When I really know the core of something, I can jump in and plot a path across its crust on the fly.

I don’t want to live the same day twice, sing the same song twice, or write the same thing twice.

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Unbundling Education

Innovation is a series of bundlings and unbundlings.

Entrepreneurial individuals see a bunch of disparate resources and pull them together into a whole more valuable than the sum of the parts.

Then things change. The next set of entrepreneurial individuals see value left on the table, and break the whole into parts, tweak them, and serve people a la carte in a way that creates more value than the whole.

These things are happening in both directions all the time, across all industries.

Education is in the early stages of a massive unbundling, which will inevitably be followed by rebundling in new ways.

First, everything got put into ever bigger bundles. School became the giant blob that absorbed all facets of the life of anyone under 18.

Then, more and more people began breaking away from that bundle and trying different bundles – private schools, alternative schools, homeschool programs.

Now, not just one bundle, but all the bundles are getting unbundled. The walls are breaking down. The lines blurred.

Education is beginning to open.

Kids can pick and choose items from any of the bundles. Music at the public school, two days a week at a private school, a homeschool co-op, a teacher, a little unschooling or worldschooling sprinkled in.

Each kid can have their own personal bundle, different each semester and season of life, comprised of the pieces they pick from these other big bundles.

No longer do you have to choose Mainstream Ed bundle or Alt Ed bundle – both made by others and intended to serve masses.

You can create your own bundle.

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Having People vs Finding People

I’ve got my people. A collection of good friends who are my guys. The fellas. And we are almost all separated by several states, spanning thousands of miles.

Modern technology allows me to feel just as close to them as when we’ve lived in the same city (or even the same house in some cases). Since this tech came into being while I was already in my adulthood, I have mostly experienced it as a way to keep connected with those I already know, not a primary means of meeting people.

I have definitely met new people online, and even become friends with some. But I wouldn’t say those are my people. They are the second circle, not the core group. The core is people I’ve had lots of experiences with in person.

I don’t think it has to be this way. In fact, I hope it doesn’t for my kids sake. We have moved several times, and my kids of made some friends at each place. It’s early to know whether they have any lifelong friends among them.

The thing I’ve noticed about moving to a new city is you don’t know how easy it will be to find your people. Sometimes it’s really hard. I’d love to think that tech allows the whole world to be your city, but I can’t imagine a healthy way for my kids to really meet their people purely online. They’d have to spend so much time on platforms full of low-frequency attention harvesting just to bump into them. And never know for sure who they are, filtered through a crafted persona.

So far, tech seems great for staying connected to your people, but not so much for finding them. And kids are losing the skills needed to find people in real life. Even when together, they are posting and scrolling, attention diverted from each other.

I don’t want to be an old man shaking his cane at the clouds, but I feel for my kids and their generation. Making friends seems more complicated than it was for me, and my context was so different that I have little relevant advice or wisdom to offer. Simply staying off social media or limiting screen time can prevent some negative stuff, but it doesn’t by itself create the positive connections.

Making friends seems to require a lot of deliberate effort these days, something that I did not experience.

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Be Yourself or Change Yourself?

There’s plenty of inspirational pablum about “be yourself”. Being charitable, it’s all good and fine and hard to disagree with. But there might not be enough reminders to sometimes change yourself too.

I don’t mean simply allowing yourself to be molded and shaped by your environment while you passively float downstream, avoiding pain and conflict and becoming an amalgam of all the normies around you. I mean seeing tendencies or traits you have that aren’t great, and consciously choosing to change them, or model them after those who are better in those ways.

There are likely a few core things that you should never change about yourself. A few things that are part of your identity, and required for you to fulfill your calling and contribute what you were uniquely created to contribute to the world. But there’s a lot of other stuff that’s up for grabs, and you can choose what to do with it.

“Be yourself” can be an excuse to not work on any of these other things, but instead pretend they are core to your identity. For example, it’s doubtful being unreliable is a core part of your identity and worth preserving. But I have met people who seem to think, “Yeah, I’d stop being lazy and late to everything, but it’s kinda my thing to be unpredictable and show up late, and darnit I want to be myself!”

They bind the tardiness up with a good trait – say their creativity – and pretend like they can’t change one without losing the other.

Bollocks.

Be yourself on the core things that really matter. Don’t bend. Don’t cow to others. Don’t be shaped by forces outside your control.

But also take control of all your other traits and tendencies and choose which ones you want to change and shape and make them better.

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The Reason for the Drought

We’ve been in a bit of a drought. It has a way of creating tension, stress, and even desperation.

Even though I’m not farming and suffer no major ill from the lack of rain, there’s something deep inside that feels a growing need for it. The land is parched, and it somehow feels like my soul is too.

The Israelites had a far more serious drought. It got so bad that they turned from the God of all gods and started entreating Ba’al, the storm god, for a quick fix. They tried everything, his prophets cutting themselves and chanting wildly. Nothing happened.

It didn’t rain until Elijah, the prophet of God, had humiliated the prophets of Ba’al and their god. It didn’t come until every other option had been exhausted; all the magic and spells and chanting and attempts to make nature and gods bargain with them ran out. They were broken, embarrassed, and without hope. The people had nowhere to turn except God himself, surrendering to his power over creation.

Then “a cloud no bigger than a man’s fist” appeared on the horizon, followed shortly by dark skies and a deluge.

This is the pattern of God’s creation in the natural world. The seasons and cycles push to the breaking point. When it appears the earth can’t take another day without rain, or another day without sun, or another day of freezing cold and snow, it breaks. Some things die off during the harsh season. They make way for fresh blooms and strong new growth.

This is no mistake. Our spiritual life is not separate from the created order. Creation is a teacher, a guide, and a companion. During the abundant season, we stray from Truth and seek folly. The early part of the drought doesn’t brings us back either. Instead, we seek to bargain with lesser gods, or go on our own strength. The drought persists and persists until we run out of options and are fully broken. Only then does that precious rain cloud appear.

One more detail from the story of Elijah. In the showdown with Ba’al, the final stretch of the drought needed to kill off what was corrupting, Elijah did something crazy. He setup and altar for sacrifice, but did not light the fire, saying God would do it and thus demonstrate his power. But he also dug a trench around the altar and called for many large barrels of water to drench the entire thing and fill the trench.

In the middle of a drought, where even the horses could hardly find a creek to water in, Elijah poured out large stores of water on the altar before God. A final act of complete surrender to His power and possibility.

God sent fire to consume everything. The meat, the wood, and even all the precious water on and around the altar.

Only after that did the tiny cloud come, just on time.

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Writing and Ghostwriting

I’ve published over 2,200 articles under my own name, and over 700 as a co-author, editor, or ghostwriter.

The biggest difference is that ghostwriting takes more creativity.

Sounds counterintuitive, but to formulate concepts in a way that specific others would, rather than what comes naturally to you, requires a great deal of ingenuity.

The writing has to be sincere and real to be good. So how can you be sincere and real and also capture someone else’s voice – when they themselves aren’t sure how to capture their own voice?

Now that is a puzzle.

It takes more work. It’s sometimes annoying and constraining, but there’s a different kind of reward.

Writing for myself, the reward is mostly the feeling of having made something, produced something, said something I want to say. Writing with or for others, the reward is mostly the feeling of having solved a riddle or brain-teaser. It’s a playful pride in cracking the code.

I prefer writing under my own name, but writing with or for the right person(s) can be a great experience, and keeps my skills sharp, preventing me from falling too far into the chasm of idiosyncrasy.

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