Category: Generativity

A disarming chart

A January 23 article in The New York Times “The Morning” newsletter by German Lopez, “Mass Shooting in California,” was a brief, “just the facts, ma’am,” story about a 72-year-old male shooter who shot others, then took his own life. We search for a motive, but a more important issue is the weapon, a semi-automatic assault pistol:

This kind of mass shooting has become tragically common in the U.S.; what would be a rare horror in any other developed country is typical here. Yet the cause is no mystery. America has an enormous amount of guns, making it easier for someone to carry out a deadly shooting.

It is a point this newsletter has made before: All over the world, there are people who argue, fight over relationships, suffer from mental health issues or hold racist views. But in the U.S., those people can more easily obtain a gun and shoot someone.

Last night, word came of another shooting with multiple deaths, this time with a 67-year-old male in custody. To better cope with our gun insanity, I’m trying to set my newsfeed to give me a weekly summary of these events, rather than hearing about them immediately. It’s too much.

Chart by Ashley Wu, The New York Times (the US is almost “off the chart”)

“Let ’em go”

Years ago, an automobile dealership’s advertising punch line was, “The boss said, ‘Let ’em go.'” As in, “Should we give a big discount on these vehicles? The boss said, ‘Let ’em go.'”

I’ve thought about that line as United Methodists move deeper into the “disaffiliation” process. It has been personally painful to watch it unfold, but Phyllis Tickle’s wise observation has been helpful. She said this era of deep change in our culture and all religions will be like the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s–the faith and the planet will emerge stronger as various groups go their separate ways.

The Lester Memorial UMC in Oneonta has worked out a relatively amicable divorce, where a sizable contingent of those not desiring to disaffiliate are forming a new congregation. In a large city, those wishing to stay with the denomination, but find themselves in a group where the majority want to leave, can easily join another UMC that intends to remain. In a small community like Oneonta, it takes more creativity.

From “Oneonta United Methodist Community,” by Rachel Simmons, The Blount Countian, January 11, 2023 (via StayUMC Facebook page)

One more thought about King

The Roman Catholic Church takes sainthood seriously, even if a prospective saint didn’t. Dorothy Day (1897-1980), responded to the idea of her potential sainthood by saying, “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”

In spite of her resistance, the canonization process is underway. That she would vote “no” is the best evidence that her practice of faith should be recognized. A redemptive aspect of faith is that outcasts/non-conformists improve the neighborhood.

A federal holiday is somewhat akin to sainthood. I think Martin Luther King, Jr. would respond to MLK Day with something like, “That’s nice, but let’s pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”

The New York Times‘ opinion columnist Jamelle Bouie said one of King’s most powerful sermons was “A Christmas Sermon on Peace,” given at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1967. Bouie sees MLK as a “democratic theorist.” From the sermon:

Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone, and as long as we try, the more we are going to have war in this world.

(See also “8 powerful speeches from Martin Luther King, Jr. that aren’t ‘I Have a Dream.”)

Cesar Chavez, Coretta Scott King and Dorothy Day, St. John the Divine, New York City, February 20, 1973, Timeline photos, from the Dorothy Day Guild Facebook page

A memorable year

The LA Dodgers swept the NY Yankees in the 1963 World Series. Of 36 innings, Sandy Koufax pitched 18; Don Drysdale 9: Johnny Podres 8 1/3; and Ron Perronoski 2/3. 1963 was my last year of baseball cards. The sport moved down several notches in my consciousness due to adolescence and due to some major events in 1963.

On May 3, high pressure water from fire hoses and police dogs were unleashed on Civil Rights demonstrators in Birmingham. The children and youth began to stir the conscience of white America with their powerful witness.

On August 28, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. That was only peripheral for me then, but its significance has grown with time.

On September 15, Addie Mae Collins (14), Denise McNair (11), Carole Robertson (14) and Cynthia Wesley (14) were killed by a bomb while attending Sunday School at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church. “Infamy” is an appropriate word.

On November 22, news of President John Kennedy’s assassination was broadcast over our school intercom. My 7th grade science teacher wrote on the chalkboard “Lyndon Johnson,” and then “John McCormack” after reports of LBJ’s chest pains. This began several sad days and 60 years of wondering “what if” (regarding Vietnam, especially).

From “Rep. John Lewis’ Fight For Civil Rights Began With A Letter To Martin Luther King, Jr.,” by Kerrie Hillman, Aisha Turner and Emma Bowman, NPR, January 17, 2020

A Saturday tune-up

For a relaxing note on your Saturday, here’s a six minute music video of 7-year-old cellist Yo-Yo Ma and his 11-year-old sister, pianist Yeou-Cheng Ma in 1962. Both were born in France to Chinese parents who migrated to New York. You can listen along with Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.

That six-minute interlude may be all you need from this post today. If you’d like a bit more, you can read about an autobiography of Carlton (Sam) Young, 96, Professor Emeritus of Church Music at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. He was editor of the 1966 and 1989 Methodist hymnals.

When I was a student at Candler (1973-1976), Young taught at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology. Young brought a Perkins choir large enough to completely encircle Candler’s chapel. In 1975, he moved from Perkins to Scarritt College, then to Candler.

Young’s new book is I’ll Sing On: My First 96 Years.

From Yo-Yo Ma Official Website

This digital age

The underlying theme for Tuesday’s meeting about how to deal with rapid technological change was this: It’s a great time to be alive! Just as the industrial revolution brought greater complexity, this digital age brings a similar thoroughgoing change, with pluses and minuses of technical specialization. Some jobs disappear while others are created.

My friend Ernie named seven ethical issues for us to consider. Here are two: (1) workers displaced by smart machines; and (2) growing inequality. These require creativity regarding education, work and income. How do we educate for breadth and depth, while adapting to rapid change? How does our system of work adapt when machines generate much of the world’s wealth?

One change I’ve noticed is the increasing number of people in university teaching roles who are Professors of Practice, including Joyce Vance (University of Alabama School of Law), Ben Jealous (University of Pennsylvania School of Communication) and Andrew Weissmann (New York University School of Law).

From Never Forget Our People Were Always Free, by Ben Jealous, 2022

The more you know…

I think it was my mother, but I can’t be sure. It’s a version of a thought attributed to Aristotle: “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” The version I internalized in my childhood was: “The more you know, the more there is to know.”

Aristotle’s version implies some humility, which is a virtue, but the version I learned opens the Universe to further exploration. It implies that knowledge is cumulative, that one data point leads to perhaps numerous other data points. The Universe is expansive.

Today, I’ll be part of a meeting where my friend Ernie will lead part two of a discussion about recent rapid advances in science and technology, specifically the impact these advances have had on our ability to adapt to changes they’ve brought about.

A few weeks ago another friend, Burton Flanagan, shared with me his book, The White Rose, about a resistance group in Nazi Germany in the 1940s. The group was unknown to me, but on Saturday I read about the group in a Minnesota newspaper article.

The more you know…

From “‘The More You Know’: There’s More to Know,” by Megan Garber, The Atlantic, December 16, 2014

A squeaker in the House

Yesterday morning was my bi-weekly road trip to see my aunt. She was clear, content and delightful. Last night, she had a fall, injured her head and took an ambulance ride to the ER. On my second road trip, I found her alert, aware and ready to go home. So, I drove her back to her memory care unit, then headed home.

Nearing home after midnight, I heard Hakeem Jeffries’ speech of transition as he handed the gavel of the Speaker of the House to Kevin McCarthy. Then, at home, I watched the new Speaker’s acceptance speech following his election on ballot 15. The speeches were dramatically different in substance, tone and style.

I hope you had, or will find, an opportunity to listen to both speeches and their visions for the future. The past two years saw a remarkable amount of significant legislation passed by a very divided Congress. The new Speaker has a hard act to follow. The new Congress has made a raucous beginning. Bless their hearts.

The new Speaker, greasing a squeaking wheel, from “GOP leader McCarthy elected House Speaker on 15th vote in historic run,” by Christina Wilkie, Chelsea Cox, Dawn Kopecki, CNBC, January 7, 2023

Hazardous duty

During her military career (1986-2018), Rear Admiral Margaret Kibben served in several strategic leadership positions, including Chaplain of the US Naval Academy and Chief of Chaplains of the US Navy. She was the first woman to hold those positions. After retirement from the Navy, Kibben taught Leadership and Ethics at the School of Engineering of the Catholic University of America. She’s a Presbyterian.

On December 31, 2020, Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed Kibben Chaplain of the US House of Representatives. If you watch the House proceedings this week, you can see her in action as she opens the sessions with prayer. The C-Span cameras pan the House as she prays–capturing a scene a bit more relaxed than an assembly of Annapolis midshipmen or the crew of an aircraft carrier.

Kibben’s third day as House Chaplain was January 6, 2021–marked by the US Electoral College vote count and the accompanying insurrection. Many Christians observe January 6 as Epiphany Day, which follows “the twelve days of Christmas.” January 6, 2021 may have been the most hazardous duty, thus far, of Kibben’s distinguished career. May this January 6 be more peaceful at the US Capitol.

From Wikipedia