February 06, 2002

( 12:52 AM )
Dave Rogers at Connect & Empower says (in a response to a blog from David Weinberger, who has since responded to David Rogers, but I’m a slow reader), “The secret, the magical art is to find and know one’s soul and to speak and write from that wellspring. That holds true whether it’s an individual or a company.” I’m hypersensitive to connections between marketing and anything having to do with the church, but I find myself saying the same thing to my students with regard to their preaching. (Actually, I leave out the bit about “whether it’s an individual or a company” when I’m talking to my students).
Maybe the big answer (which perhaps applies to marketing, I don’t know and don’t want to think about it) but surely applies to preaching is that the deeper you reach into your soul, the more reason you’re giving someone to pay attention to you. Is it “deeper” or “more truly”? Is it a matter of self-knowledge or (pardon the upcoming barbarism) self-profundity (or both)?
I’m just an awful bear on writing precisely; it’s one reason I just read people’s blogs for a long time before I stuck my toe in the water. In what is a typically casual medium, I’m wearing a starched shirt and tie. But my rigor comes not (only) from latent obsessive tendencies, as anyone who has seen my office can attest — it comes at least to some extent out of respect for whoever might be listening, out of the sense that if I’m going to speak to someone who has other things to do, the very least I can do is speak carefully. And of course this applies all the more so when we preach. It’s so very easy for Jane or John Q. Citizen to not go to church, and such a bother to go, that if I’m going to ask them to listen to me rant for twenty minutes or so, I’d better jolly well have put every available bit of consideration and attention to what I say in their presence. It’s the least I, or we, can do.
And part of that painstaking preparation (here I get back to David Rogers–remember him?) involves not trivializing either the message or the listener’s effort by treating the enterprise as no-big-deal.
( 11:07 AM )
My family watched O Brother Where Art Thou again last weekend (imagine five inhabitants of the same house, from mid-forties to eight years old, whispering loudly, “We thought you was a toad“), and Nate (eldest son) was especially taken by George Clooney’s repetition of the line, “Dang! We’re in a tight spot!” Well, I should now say, “Dang! I should have known that Telford Work would be a blogger!” It’s some comfort to see that he only started relatively recently, too, but I’ve known Telford and his interest electronic media for a long time, and I shoulda reckoned that he’d be onto this blogging thang. (He’s also the one who set up the Ekklesia Project blog/zine; maybe I just thought he was too busy with the EP to make his own, but more likely I just wasn’t quick enough to put 2 and 2 together.) Anyway, now the web of theoblogs grows another iteration richer. Thanks to Joel Garver for finding Telford’s blog and pointing it out. (Will I have to link to people’s blogs every time I mention them? Soon I’ll have to quit work just to keep up with my HTML.)
( 12:13 PM )
Okay, Weinberger is pushing me too far. For the record, I’m very far from being the luminous presence that he describes me as being. I didn’t want to get my wife her pet dog; I make my Greek students tackle a new lesson almost every day; I make them parse and construe syntax; I’m fierce about students improving their writing; I make my early church history class memorize some names and dates. But it’s kind of David to take so generous a view of my stuff, anyway, and gosh, I like him too.
But now I have to devise some way of surpassing him in incipient assholism. Hmmm…..
( 12:52 PM )
While cruising Telford Work’s site, I noticed that he too inherited Duke University’s greatest legacy to its students (well, maybe after a terrific education and the opportunity to see your alumnal basketball team play for the National Championship almost every year): a relentless commitment to writing well. Thanks for keeping the flame alive, Telford. I appreciate all your observations, but am especially keen on number 5 (“Use the right words!”), as I said here a few days ago.
On the other hand, as a copyright skeptic, I was a little bemused by the intellectual-property claim at the top of the page. One of the interesting topics that will come to the fore in some blogathon or another will be the future of and alternatives to copyright, and I hope I’ll be there to take part in the brouhaha.
( 2:47 PM )
Did I used to have a life, or is that just a nostalgia-induced mirage? [Editorial Revision: I should have said, “Didn’t I already have a life, to which I didn’t precisely need additional exciting ideas added?”] So many people are shooting so many provocative ideas around here that I’m spending all my time just trying (in vain) to keep up.
Last episode, I was commenting on remarks about voice that Dave Rogers and David Weinberger had probably thought quiescent; after all, they had stopped blogging about the topic days ago. But I had to butt in, and now they’re both freewheeling through the ether with more on voice, communication, preaching, and so on. So:
To Dave R. (why are both these guys named “David”? Couldn’t one of my correspondents be named “Alonzo” or “Gertrude”?): Quite so, alhtough I’ve heard many fewer hokey, rambling sermons that came off than I’ve heard hokey, rambling sermons that some preacher would have defended by characterizing them as “friendly” and “not too academic” and “inclusive.” But yes, some do work that way.
I feel a little queasy, though, that my observations about preaching good news seem to lend themselves so readily to designing corporate web sites. Not that I can disagree, offhand, but that I’m a generally pretty anti-commercial character, so it’s a somewhat surreal experience. On the other hand, if you can get me some consulting gigs to help pay for my son’s conservatory tuition….
To David W. and Dave R.–I guess I have to read Rageboy’s book, now. The blogs at Gonzo Engaged sure sound interesting, though. Now I have to take Si to get his typhoid shot–so nobody say anything interesting till we get back.
( 7:02 PM )
Getting back to Telford and his copyrighted page of writing advice:
I don’t know whether I’m just so hiply post-copyright that I thought, “Anyone can use these ideas; they are free, like the birds,” or whether it never occurred to me that the stuff I wrote there was worth trying to protect, or whether I was just adapting stuff from classroom handouts, so I didn’t put copyright notices on my web stuff any more than I do on my Greek quizzes (now, wouldn’t that be an idea). But my composition pages don’t have no copyright notices, and the recent article in which I quote DW involves a shallow but ardent dismissal of the future of copyright.
(Digression: the article is in an academic journal, so I had to make it sound sober and reputable–but the presentation from which it arose, is still available on the web (don’t tell anyone: the publishers of the academic journal, to protect their copyright on what I wrote, made me sign a statement that their article wasn’t available on the web) (so it isn’t; this is the presentation I gave, which coincidentally has some thematic and verbatim overlaps with the article) and is much more casual and–hmm–vivid in expression (and less carefully copy-edited) than my academic writing, or even my web writing so far. I was nervous about this talk, which came at the end of a conference mostly dedicated to “How I used Powerpoint to transform my boring lectures into somewhat-less-boring lectures” and “I tried using a bulletin board for my Hebrew class, but it didn’t work very well.” So I had two separate presentations planned–one a more straightforward conventional lecture about biblical scholarship and media scholarship, which is closely related to an essay still in gestation for the American Bible Society, and this one. But I got so angry at having to sit through all the bilgewater other academics were pumping that I whipped together a much more flamboyant presentation with UPresent, a formerly-freeware Powerpoint knockoff for the Mac, while I was sitting through other people’s excruciatingly tedious presentations. That’s why some of the graphics are so crude. End of digression.)
I’m a copyright holder myself, and the Greek textbook I wrote could conceivably catch on and make what counts for big bucks among us nickel-and-dime academic types — the rest of the books barely make me minimum wage on the time spent writing them, if I’m lucky — but mercy sakes, I just don’t feel at all moved by prolonging the death-pangs of copyright. Coders need to earn a living, writers and musicians need to earn livings, and I respect that, but something else will happen, and clinging furiously to an outdated model won’t help prepare us for what’s around the corner.

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