Sunday, October 25, 2009


This, from John Freeman's The Tyranny of Email is similar to other notes I’ve observed from RAPT.

E-mail is addictive, it has been shown, in the same way that slot machines are addictive. You press the send/receive button just as a gambler pulls down a slot machine lever, because you know that yo will receive a reward (mail/a payout) some of the time. The best way to increase the chance of a reward is to press "Send" a lot. In one study, participants manually checked their e-mail thirty to forty times an hour.

Working at the speed of e-mail is like trying to gain a topographic understanding of our daily landscape from a speeding train--and the consequences for us as workers are profound. Interrupted every thirty seconds or so, our attention spans are fractured into a thousand tiny fragments. The mind is denied the experience of deep flow, when creative ideas flourish and complicated thinking occurs. We become task-oriented, tetchy, terrible at listening as we try to keep up with the computer. The e-mail inbox turns our mental to-do list into a palimpsest--there's always something new and even more urgent reasing what we originally thought was the day's priority.

Supplemental notes from RAPT

Based on an exhaustive study of 9,211 employees and managers:

Analysis showed that a worker's tendency toward perfectionism, manifested by a persistent focus on small, inconsequential details and errors, correlated with an inability to distinguish between what is or isn't doable and with being unsuited for risky tasks. Because they consistently pay too much attention to the wrong things, these hardworking but anxious zealots end up reducing their productivity.

(page 60)

Some more reading

One thing I enjoy about traveling is the fact that it gives me opportunity to read books I would not otherwise take the time to read while I’m “working” at home.
Over the past few days I took the time to read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodson). I suppose I should have read these classics years ago when I was a child or teen – but I never did. I enjoyed them. I think, as much as anything, I enjoyed reading the foreword to the stories – explaining how this story – now a classic in English literature, evolved out of a story told on a boat to keep three girls occupied as the math teacher created this wonderfully fabricated underworld series of events just to keep the girls occupied. How curious that an expansive imagination on an afternoon boat-ride could lead to this! Ah, for that kind of imagination! I enjoyed how the characters in the story satirize education and learning – particularly the conversation with the Gryphon and Turtle! Oh, and I loved how the King had a simple maxim for starting at the beginning and proceeding until you get to the end!

I read Animal Farm, too. This one by George Orwell of course. Again, another classic that I should have read years ago – and about which I had equal familiarity with Alice In Wonderland – but which I had not read. Isn’t it always like leaders (the pigs) to set up rules and then, willingly hope that people become illiterate to their meaning – while ever so slightly editing and changing the rules to accommodate new understandings and new perceptions. It reminded me of a text I read last year – whose title I cannot recall – but the argument of which is that the Constitution of the U.S. has been re-interpreted into a function-less document. The argument of the authors of this other text do not state that the Constitution does not exist, of course it exists. They simply document how other events and changes, over time, have contributed to a changing of the rules of the foundational ideas that created the constitution.

I read This Perfect Mess by Robert McKinley. A pastor of the Imago Dei community in Portland Oregon. One of the issues with his book that I took away was the idea of having “learning labs” for adults and children at church. While a nice set of stories is documented in the text –and certainly all key points to live by – there were no “aha” moments in this text. Another example for me of the fact that many books “on the market” – say the same thing and yet people keep publishing and people keep buying. I wonder what this means for me. If I publish a book sometime, I want it to be new and have value. But, perhaps I need to say the same thing – like everybody else – the same thing in new ways.

I listened to a series of lectures on leadership, produced by John Ortberg called Masterful Leadership. Several good take-away stories – but nothing individually transformational. I will edit and borrow stories from the series for a speaking engagement I have coming up soon. In the speeches of the leaders, I was reminded of how Rick Warren’s Book, The Purpose Driven Life. It was a good book, but I don’t “get” what makes it such a “hit” and a New York Times Best-seller. (?) I mean, it was good. But, great? Or, for that matter, the even less spectacular and less well articulate The Shack. What makes a book get “viral” status? I suppose I will have to reflect back on the other books I’ve read that give some suggestion to this phenomena in The Tipping Point and SWAY: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational behavior.

Also on this trip I have read two texts by Greg Paul, one entitled Twenty Piece Shuffle and the other God in the Alley. Both a collection of stories from his ministry in downtown Toronto, Canada at his church called The Sanctuary. All good stories. Particularly nice for reading a chapter or two between metro stops while in NYC. Good stories. He does an excellent job of narrating the events in the person’s life, while also recreating the likely scenarios as to what happened or what might have been going on in the minds of his characters. He paints a picture of the persons he works with and allows his audience to “see” and “hear” and even understand why persons in his community may act the way they do. Nice reads. It seems to me people like these kind of stories, the sort of plausible fiction connected to a real-historical event. I may need to learn to write like this myself.

All good reading for a few days.


I have re-read several other books in the past few weeks – connected to work I am doing with a class I am teaching this Fall. I do not have time to re-articulate the central arguments here. I simply do not have the time! Sheez. But, I have re-read and come back into awareness of Walter Winks Trilogy. Naming the Powers, Unmasking the Powers, and then Engaging the Powers. I had not remembered how profoundly these books and their understanding had shaped my understanding and imagination. Very important texts.

I have read Peter Craigie’s The Problem of War in the Old Testament – which does a nice job of dealing with some of the ethical issues of OT understanding of war in the Old Testament. I have re-read Millard Lind’s God is a Warrior which is a great document that narrates how the conception of God as a awarrior who delivers Israel is ancient and early – and testifies to their need to not fight, because God fought for them. A great text.

I read for the first time, thoroughly – though I had previewed it – Patricia McDonald, God and Violence. A good text. Somewhat more introductory and not deeply exegetical – but she explores things and nuances issues in the narratives of the Old Testament that I had missed in previous readings. Several of her imaginative reconstructions are, just that, imaginative, but, nevertheless plausible and curious for consideration. For example, her characterization of Isaac as a man of peace because he moves away from wells that cause dissensions – and God gives him finally a well where others come to him – seeking benevolence.

Finally, on another subject, last week I read Shopclass as Soulcraft. It suggests that we have lost our connection to construction and making things a – and in the process, we have lost connection to ourselves. There is meaning and value in working with and on things – I will agree. I know I miss it - and when I do “create” something – I like the feeling I get of accomplishment and tangible connection. It happens so infrequently for me, though – too busy reading.