This summer, students and teachers at Amity High School in Woodbridge, CT read the book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope. The Facebook Cliff Notes version of this says:
A Malawian teenage, William Kamkwamba, taught himself how to build a windmill out of junk and bring power to his village. He then went on to build a second, larger windmill to power irrigation pumps. He did this all from books he read in the library.
A slightly longer version can be found in this Ted Talk.
This could be a great starting point for a discussion of colonial and post-colonial literature, perhaps starting with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, followed by Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”. This could then be followed by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Half of a Yellow Sun”. Those looking for other forms of accessing some of this might want to watch the movie, “Half of a Yellow Sun”, or Adichie’s TED talk, The danger of a single story . Yes, I realize that Conrad’s Congo, Achebe and Adichie’s Nigeria and Kamkwamba’s Malawi are very different places, but I’m guessing some important things could be discovered.
Perhaps part of that lesson is that what we make matters, and how we make it happens matters. The bigger question is why. Perhaps it could lead to discussions of business ethics, or even deeper into existential questions.
I might start with Matthew 22:37-40
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
To me, this is what it all boils down to. The problem is, that in our post-modern secular world, if you start talking about the Bible, God, Prophets, and commandments, you are likely to lose a lot of people. What might this be like in today’s post-modern secular world?
If you were to choose a few videos that grappled with these bigger questions, that go to the core of your existence, what would they be? What would you want people to watch? Would it be some of these TED talks? Talks about creativity?
There are a couple that I would suggest. I might start off with the abridged version of David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech, This is Water. This challenges us to think about who are neighbor really is. Yes, it starts off with the privileged white college graduate as a neighbor and doesn’t get to issues of racism and post colonialism, but it is an important start.
Once you have started thinking about having a little more empathy for those around you, the next video I would watch might be Validation. We need to find out how the people around us need validation and start there.
Without really thinking about those around us, about loving God and neighbor, we may end up just building bankrupt casinos ruining the lives of customers and vendors as we try to make American great again.
What videos would you recommend? What do you make? How do you make it happen? Why?
According to CNBC’s article, Mylan can lower EpiPen price today, Express Scripts says, Express Scripts’ Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Steve Miller told CNBC, “"If she [Mylan CEO Heather Bresch] wants to lower the price [of the EpiPen] she can lower the price today…We'd pass the savings that we take from the marketplace back to our plans." That is fine, as far as it goes, however, if Express Scripts really wants to help reign in pharmaceutical prices, they could give consumers more say in their medications.
As an example, I take valsartan to control my hypertension. Every three months, I receive a new supply from Express Scripts. Express Scripts puts on the label who manufactures it. In my case, the aalsartan comes from Mylan. Given the behavior of the current CEO of Mylan, I would prefer that none of my medications come from Mylan. Drugs.com lists a dozen generic manufacturers of V]valsartan.
Likewise, I take fenofibrate for high cholesterol. Like with the valsartan, Express Scripts has sent me fenofibrate manufactured by Mylan. I can’t find the list of other manufactures of fenofibrate, but I’m guessing there are choices there as well.
If Express Scripts would start shipping me medications not manufactured by Mylan, it would be a great start. If lots of patients started requesting the medication not be provided by Mylan, if at all possible, it would help return Adam Smith’s invisible hand to the pharmaceutical marketplace and prevent predatory pricing from companies like Mylan.
This morning I read an article, Why I Refuse To Register To Vote and various comments about it. I have many different reactions to this, which I’m trying to put into the Guidelines for Mutuality (developed by VISIONS, Inc) that is frequently used in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut.
The teaser for the article says, “I refuse to register because direct action is the only way to make our city better.” To me, this sounds very much like either/or thinking. The guidelines urge us to practice “Practice ‘both/and’ thinking”. Voting is a direct action. It does not preclude other forms of direct action. In fact, it can lead to and facilitate other forms of direct action.
Many of the responses include things like, “This author is white, right?... Total privilege here in this article….” As an older straight white cis guy who feels called by God to vote, these comments capture a big part of my reaction as well. However, going back to the Guidelines for Mutuality, we find “It's okay to disagree. It is not okay to blame, shame, or attack, self or others.” Some of the comments, while raising important points, feels a little too much like an attack on the author for my comfort. I disagree with the author, but I hope we can all learn from him and from one another.
Towards the end of the article, the author asserts, “To vote is to do nothing.” This is a place where I fundamentally disagree. I currently work in health care. Every day, I run into people whose lives have been significantly impacted by voting, people who would not have had the access to health care that they have if it weren’t for people who voted in officials that expanded access to health care and community services.
Before you say voting does nothing, spend some time with those for whom every day is a difficult struggle. Spend time with a young black Muslim woman who suffered from domestic violence, lost her son to brain cancer, and has faced many other difficult struggles, supported by her neighbors, including those neighbors who helped elect people who would pass laws to protect her. Spend time with old black men who had been injured in their workplaces and are now fighting chronic pain and mental health issues as the live on the streets whose lives would be even worse if it weren’t for parts of the safety net. Yes, if you’re a young white man living in Brooklyn who knows where your next meal is coming from and where you are sleeping tonight, if you’ve never been pulled over or harassed because of your race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, maybe voting doesn’t have a big effect on your life, but it does have a big effect on the lives of your neighbors, and we, as Christians are called to love our neighbors.
The author quotes Thoreau, “A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority.” Yet not voting is part of leaving the right to the mercy of chance and allowing what is not right to prevail through the power of the majority.
The author also talks about the idea of being “an ambassador from another country as we read in Jeremiah 29“. Yes, we are called to be in the world but not of the world. We are admonished not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Most importantly, we are called to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves. What is the best way to love our neighbors? We need to listen to our neighbors, talk with them, help make sure their needs are met, advocate for them. To me, this means voting, and doing much more.
Normally, when asked what I make, I would say blog posts, in addition to other poems like poems, or hard cider. Yet this is only my fourth blog post of the week, behind my average of a post a day, and it does little to catch up with a full week with no blog posts while I was out on Cape Cod, and an expected dearth of blog posts while I am at Falcon Ridge.
On our way out to Cape Cod, we stopped at the 2nd BIG Tiny House Festival in Concord, MA, that my middle daughter helped organize with her friends from Miranda’s Hearth. At one of the tables there were #WhatIMake cards and colored pencils. Take a blank card, draw what you make. Leave it in the box of completed cards and take a different card. Connect with other makers.
This week has been #BreakWeek in the #CLMOOC I’m somewhat participating in. Being offline at the Cape left me less connected or involved that I would have liked to have been and I was hoping to use #BreakWeek to catch up. There’s been a lot of talk about postcards in #CLMOOC, very much like the #WhatIMake cards from Miranda’s Hearth. At some point, when I feel like things are better under control, I hope to join the postcard project. I hope some of my friends at Miranda’s Hearth will too.
Some of the stuff in #CLMOOC has been about ‘Animator’ and various other tools for creating animated GIFs. People have talked about Paper by Fiftythree. Unfortunately that is iPhone only. Someone else mentioned Sketch on Android. I looked briefly at Sketch and similar sketching and animation tools for Android and for laptops. Sketch has the ability to collaboratively sketch, and I think it may have timelines as well. Seems like a nice digital parallel to the postcard and #WhatIMake projects.
Another project that has caught my eye is #CLMOOC #DAILYCONNECT: THE CONNECTED POEM. I would love to spend some time in the connected poem, or perhaps set up a few connected poems myself. It uses Titanpad which appears to be based on Etherpad. Both are worth exploring.
I typically leave pages I’ve been browsing up to come back to them later and perhaps write about them a little. Often I try to connect them to different themes. I’ve been trying to avoid getting too drawn into the political fray, but I have been wondering if “You have sacrificed nothing and no one” will be the “Have you no sense of decency left” line from the 2016 election. Various people have been writing about it. Ezra Klein wrote, Donald Trump’s slander of Captain Humayun Khan’s family is horrifying, even for Trump. The Washington Post had Backlash for Trump after he lashes out at the Muslim parents of a dead U.S. soldier.
I’ve been getting into some discussions about Trump and religion. On Facebook I shared Opinion: Denying the Imago Dei: The triumph of Donald Trump. It was written by Ian Markham, Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary.
We should always recognize that when we talk about human lives we are talking about men and women who are made in the image of God. People are of infinite value. This debased and coarse language is totally inappropriate; in fact, it is wrong; it is sinful; indeed it is evil.
I often also point people to 7 conservative Christians who are not supporting Trump. There are lots of good comments there. Another window I had open was TRUMP ANNOUNCES HIS DEBATE ESCAPE PLAN. Not a lot of content there but it voices something people are talking about. Also, If Politicians Had Man Buns has some funny pictures.
It is getting late, and I won’t make it through all the open windows, but I thought I’d highlight two last articles I have up. I was talking with my eldest daughter whose classmates are now hearing “weird dad” stories. I pointed her to Impression Formation in Cyberspace: Online Expectations and Offline Experiences in Text-based Virtual Communities in which I am a case study. There is also an article which I believe I originally found from my middle daughter, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett And Oprah All Use The 5-Hour Rule :
Top business leaders often spend five hours per week doing deliberate learning.
While I’m not keen on the business focus, I think it has an interesting point which expands upon nicely.
More continuous connected learning later…
I pause from my studies
of the Dark Night of the Soul
and find a friend
“Sorry I’m not on Facebook
much right now,
I need to do things
that don’t fill me
with anger and despair.”
So I shared with her
a picture of a bobolink
and a poem
of how the prairie smells
after a summer rain
and thought about
this week’s lesson.
“One's life does not consist
in the abundance of possessions”
despite what the commercials say.
The politicians’ promise
“anger, wrath, malice, slander,
and abusive language“
For them, there are still
“slave and free”,
those who help them gain riches
and others who obstruct them.
My friend writes,
“Sorry I’m not on Facebook
much right now,
I need to do things
that don’t fill me
with anger and despair.”
“But you are needed”,
I tell her
to remind all of us
“The Moon Cannot be Stolen”.