Consuming – Musing

This is the kind of question people love to debate, so let me tap the collective strong opinions of the web. If — and I emphasize the word “if,” because tax refunds and financial aid decisions and medical bills and so on will make a big difference — if I were to look into buying a camera so that I could hand down to Pippa the camera I’ve been using for two or three years, now, what recommendations would my visitors make?

Myself, I don’t make vast enlargements, so I don’t need to impress anyone with the size of my megapixels; on the other hand, there’s no point to skimping, either, so I’d guess that 4 megapixels would be a fair compromise. I don’t typically take the pictures that require extreme wide-angle capacity, but I do like being able to zoom tighter on a composition (though I don’t envision needing the extreme high end of a zoom range; back in my 35mm days, when I was continually proving that great equipment can be used to produce mediocre photographs, I relied on a 135mm lens, mostly, occasionally reaching for a 200mm lens, which I loved but didn’t use that much).

I’m a wobbly sort of person, so the camera itself should produce images as sharp as possible. I end up taking a fair proportion of photos in low-ish light, so flash and image-stabilization require consideration — but I really hate most built-in flash units (it’s the one most irksome feature of the Nikon 2200 that I now use); it would be spectacular if a digital unit permitted some sort of bouncing. I like using the rechargeable Li-ion battery in my present camera more than the multiple-rechargeable NiMH AA-battery option in its predecessor, but I’m open to persuasion. I have an irrational attachment to Compact Flash memory cards, because those are what I’ve used all along, and I like being able to use the cards that worked in the camera I used years ago (even if it would only hold four images from a new multi-megapixel camera). OK, I’d have to let go of that, but I needed to confess my groundless predilection. And while I’m admitting to irrationality, I have to admit that I have been a long-term Nikon loyalist, so if my advisors strongly suggest a different manufacturer, they’ll have to soothe me with sweet blandishments.

And then there’s price.

The A K M Adam, tailor-made ideal camera would thus be something like a 4 megapixel camera with a zoom roughly equivalent to 35-200mm, possibly with stabilization (though at 200mm, would it be necessary?), a humane flash (not placed too close to the lens, bounceable?), very sharp lens to make up for my instability, Li Ion rechargeable battery, Compact Flash memory. . . and a firm recommendation from my friends about reliability and quality, for between $200 and $300. I know I’ll need to compromise on some of that — what compromise would you recommend?

Well Begun

This morning as I was bicycling along the three-mile stretch of imagined highway that constitutes my morning exercycle routine, I realized that the “it is finished” sermon I was trying to force out for tomorrow wasn’t going to fly, but I had what I hope turns out to be a better idea. It involves the extent to which our formalizing Good Friday enmeshes us in an antinomy of penitence, to which grace is the only answer.

We’ll see how it turns out, but I desperately want to avoid both tedious, disingenuous self-flagellation and minatory scolding, the kind of “ you bettermake yourselves appropriately miserable ’cos this is Good Friday” shtick that gets so tiresome and amounts to liturgical-emotional blackmail. Having said that, I’m sure to stumble into both pitfalls.

Plagues, Houses

I’m getting mightily sick of both the intolerance of ambiguity and the celebration of ambiguity. Ambiguity pertains to our human condition. Repudiate it, and it will show you a presumptuous braggart; revel in it, and it will demonstrate your fatuousness.

Our job is to discern how to make affirmations in a world of ambiguity, how to deal with uncertainty in an uncertain world. That involves reliance on God, not because God resolves our ambiguities into clear-cut iron-clad certainties that circumvent our travails, but because in turning to God we enter a Way that promises forgiveness for the missteps we make in earnestly endeavoring to draw nearer to God. We follow in that Way, — we don’t determine it ourselves. We offer forgiveness as a condition of our presuming to ask forgiveness. We commit ourselves to pursuing a truth we don’t control, a truth that may lead us to conclusions we don’t like, may oblige us to change our minds. We enter a network of communion with one another, with ourselves, with our forebears and children, and above all with God, in which winning falls out of the vocabulary of our relationships. If anyone “wins” we all lose. God handles the “winning” department; if we share in it at all, we share in it by participating in a humble, partial way in the utter loss on Good Friday, by being baptized into the death of Christ, and it comes not to those who are right, or to those who are the most loving, but to those who receive it as a gift.

Among the simplest, least ambiguous things Jesus said was, “if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.” I don’t read the part where he says, “Except if they really provoke you,” or “except if they’re too conservative (or ‘liberal’).” If we made some headway on that one, maybe we’d be in a position to advance our understanding of more complicated issues.


I know they don’t rely on analogies in the new SAT, so maybe there’ something retro about my wondering, but — is David to Israel as Arthur to Britain?

Term Time

Yesterday I blogged out a week’s worth of notions, which is sort of a shame, since today classes resumed at Seabury. I’m both weary and dazed, which is hardly justifiable since I didn’t have any classes today. But Margaret left yesterday, and Duke won, and I could prolong my sense of denial that classes would ever meet again.

When Margaret is home, I eat more and exercise less, with predictable consequences.

In the immediate future, I’ll start the Biblical Theology class tomorrow and the Gospels survey on Wednesday morning. I’m saying Mass on Wednesday, and preaching on Good Friday (my present starting-point involves the last words from the cross according to John, “It is finished” — but who knows whether that starting-point will stick). The week after, I’m headed to Washington to tell David Isenberg and other Freedom to Connect participants why theologians [should] think that the Net should be a World of Ends, not a confederation of fiefdoms in the middle.

But now, I’m mostly weary and worn. Did I mention that Margaret went back to Durham? I miss her.

Speaking of Change

Church should be the place we learn how to change.

Not, “avoid change” — that’s a futile striving for a timelessness that characterizes only God. Neither, therefore, does it mean “we need to learn the capacity to change,” since we’re always already changing anyway.

Not, “celebrate change” — that’s pointless. The canard about “change” manifesting life ignores the fact that we don’t stop changing when we die. “Changing” doesn’t prove anything about how lively or moribund we are, about how imaginative or how faithful we are.

Church should be the place we learn how to change, for we don’t simply know the ways we need to change on our own. Our life shared with God and the saints should shape our wisdom to recognize appropriate and inappropriate change. Life in church should help us let go of mere nostalgia, and should protect us from novelty-mongering. Church should help us understand that what we like isn’t the measure of all things, nor is passive subjection to strictly extrinsic autocracy. If we live the gospel, then the gospel will always be characterized by change (at the same time that it remains recognizably the same gospel, not “another gospel”). In order to avoid our running aimlessly or beating the air, and to avoid our disguising our stubbornness as piety, church should be a place where we learn how to change. And how to disagree about how we should change.

A Toast

I was going to let the boy tell you himself, but since he’s humbly kept quiet about his news, I’ll boast on his behalf: the one institution of higher education that has admitted him so far (none have rejected him) just offered Si a merit scholarship based on his prospects as a leader in academic and community life — so we’ll almost certainly be able to send him away to college next year, even if none of the other schools to which he applied sees fit to invite him.

And hey, you others: you’ll have to increase your offers, now.

Growing Up

Reminiscence has been the coin of the realm around the neighborhood lately. People have remembered UBlog fondly (I’d still like to consolidate all that with a dedicated web page, downloadable diploma, and so on); people have recalled the old conversations we used to have, batting ideas around like party balloons; people have reminded everyone how silly and how profound we could be, back then. “Those who didn’t blog during the years before the revolution, don’t know the pleasure of blogging” (thank you so much, Jonathon).

This morning, Margaret and I were talking (in the immediate, occupy-the-same-geographic-space sense of the word, which I must say will never be replaced by digitally-mediated interaction) about getting paid for blogging. We look around and see Chris writing as Highbeam’s Chief Blogging Officer; Jeneane’s hot new firm, the Content Factor, has a blog for which she writes, and Mitch just started a web-services company; Halley and David blog for Worthwhile; several boatloads of bloggers have written for Corante, another assortment received subsidies from Marcqui (Liz worked with both of them). How would you separate Joi, Joey, Elliott and Ross as “bloggers” from their business interests (and who would want to)? And about three years ago, Ben and Mena actually visited Seabury as a couple of code-writers with a cool blogging program — rather than as multinational blogopreneurs.

(I don’t make a red cent from blogging, and although I always check with my tech-business friends, it doesn’t seem likely that anyone’s hiring a digital theologian.) (But if you change your mind, you know where to find me.)

And things have changed — no question about that. I miss a lot of what we used to do. I miss some of the conversations that used to flow wild and free. I miss the days when I just didn’t know so many people whose blogs I can’t possibly keep up with any more. It’s all changed, and I miss it.

But y’all didn’t start blogging just for my entertainment. If blogging is putting bread on a few tables, buying toys for a few kids, putting together the down payment for a newlywed’s house, then I’m the last one in line to bemoan times past. It’s all changed, but do you know what? It was going to change anyway. It was going to change anyway, and while it’s changing, there are no people I would rather have those changes benefit than the wonderful friends I met back when none of us was making a cent off blogging.

This afternoon, first thing after I turned my attention from the Duke game, I read that Yahoo! has bought Flickr. Two reactions battled to win my disposition: first, that the community-building, image-sharing fountain of wit and snappiness would surely be transformed into another pop-up-spewing, LOL!!ing wading pool of used band-aids and adolescents chicken-fighting; and second, Caterina and Stewart and Eric and the whole Ludicorp team made a decision informed by the same sensibilities that I so admire in their construction of Flickr (and especially GNE — remember GNE?) in the first place. And if Yahoo offered to buy out the Disseminary, I’d be all over it.

Congratulations, everyone who’s made another dime from blogging. Bless you, everyone who’s in it for love of words and images and links. And peace be with us all.

Basketball Report

My Chicago and Albuquerque brackets are a total mess (in part because I was relying on Wake Forest — ahem, Ryan — and Georgia Tech to hold up the ACC’s pride). I can’t blame anyone else for my Chicago bracket; I picked BC to go all the way to the finals.

But in the single most important aspect of the NCAA Championships, Duke made the round of 16 with two lackluster wins, and there’s a decent chance that if they can sneak past Michigan State and Kentucky, they’ll have the opportunity to face off against an ACC rival in the Final Four. That would be a great, great game.