Aldon Hynes's blog
This weekend, I put together a bookcase. Some friends had purchased it a while ago, and then decided not to use it, so they gave it to us. It sat in the garage waiting for a weekend to be put together.
As I start bringing artifacts from my mother's house, from my childhood, down to Woodbridge, we needed more shelves, so I put the bookcase together. It was fairly quick and easy to do, and it now stands next to the kitchen.
On the top of the bookcase is a large old wooden bowl. The bowl is big enough to wash a baby in. At the bottom of the bookcase is an old pressure cooker. When I was a kid, we lived on a small farm. In the spring, my brothers, sister and I would join our parents in planting rows and rows of corn. When summer rolled around we would pick bags of corn, which we would sit around outside shucking. We would carry in trays of fresh picked, fresh shucked corn, which my mother would cook in the pressure cooker. You could cook a lot of corn quickly in a pressure cooker.
When the corn was done, my mother would slice the kernels off of the ears of corn in the large old wooden bowl, and then we would spoon it into pint sized freezer containers and fill up the freezer in the basement with frozen homegrown corn.
These old implements from my childhood of putting food by for the winter now serve as decorations, ready to be put into back service when the time calls. Yet unlike the antiques that I've seen in so many houses, these are artifacts of my childhood, ladened with stories and memories.
There is something about the trip from Woodbridge back to Stamford on the Merritt Parkway that brings about a certain level of reflection for me, and today was no different. During my normal commute, I drive a 1997 Nissan Altima. It gets decent mileage, but if I'm traveling some distance and my wife Kim isn't, I take the Prius which gets much better mileage.
The Prius has a display which indicates which engines are supplying power to the wheels and I like to pay attention to it. Can I safely adjust my driving to get the best mileage, keeping traffic conditions and speed limits in consideration?
For longer trips, I like to just put the car on cruise control, so the question becomes more complicated in terms of when to let cruise control manage the acceleration and when to take over myself. I also find cruise control adds to a contemplative aspect of driving, going with the flow.
So, I had crossed the Housatonic River by the Sikorsky Aircraft headquarters over the bridge that replaced the old singing bridge. I was climbing up the hill towards Trumbull as traffic slowed down more than expected. I pulled into the passing lane, and saw a car with fire pouring out beneath the engine. It was driving along, slowly, as if nothing drastic was going on. I looked over in horror but the driver did not see my reaction. I'm just not sure how you signal to a driver that their car is on fire.
A little while later, a red-tailed hawk swooped out in front of my car and circled back. Was it an omen, was he trying to tell me something? I saw a state trooper come flying the other direction with lights flashing. I hoped he was on his way to assist the driver.
I don't get back to Stamford very often. Mostly, I am pulled back by some memory manifesting itself into the present. Today was no exception. I was on my way to the funeral of a remarkable woman I had met when Kim was running for State Representative.
I wasn't exactly sure of the best way to get to the funeral so I had the GPS on. It took me past many old memories, reminding me of the turns I used to take; past a school one of my daughters attended, past a church where a friend was active, past the house of a former co-worker. I passed one construction site which I believe used to be the chinese restaurant I would sometimes go to with Kim and whichever daughters were around. Fiona, in particular, loved to look at the fish swimming in the aquarium as we waited for our meal.
So, I made it to the funeral, full of the concern for the driver I had passed, memories of my time in Stamford, all of it balanced with the effort to drive mindfully, to maximize mileage while driving safely and taking in all the experiences around me, including the flight of the red tailed hawk.
Yesterday, I stumbled across an interesting article, A Brain-to-Brain Interface for Real-Time Sharing of Sensorimotor Information. It goes into detail about how a sensor was connected to one rat's brain, and the experiences were transmitted, over the internet, to another rat who learned from the experiences of the first rat.
My science fiction enthusiastic brain went wild thinking about the possibilities. While the starting point is with sensorimotor information, I wondered what else could be transmitted. While the starting point was rats, I wondered what could be done with humans, or even, interspecies communications. What would it be like to experience the sensorimotor feelings of a horse galloping? Could this information be stored and played at a later time, perhaps as an educational tool? Could I become a better pianist or guitarist by playing back sensorimotor recordings of great performers? Could this be added to albums, so I could not only listen to a great performance, but experience the sensory feelings of the performer during the performance?
And what about the use in dealing with conditions like Parkinson's disease or Essential Tremors: Could a researcher gain insight by playing back the sensorimotor recording of a person with these conditions? Could playing back the sensorimotor recordings of healthy people provide some sort of therapy for people with these conditions?
All of this, of course, is precursor to The Borg. What happens as people become more connected to a collective mind? The borg is portrayed negatively in terms of force assimilation, yet our society has always been based on collective experiences and action. The struggle between individual experience and collective experience is an age old struggle.
Last night, I went to see The Indigo Girls in concert in Northampton with my daughter who started her college career in Virginia. It was striking to think about the collective experience of young women around Northampton and how it compared with the collective experience of some of my daughter's classmates from the south. I wondered how many of my daughter's classmates sought to flee their southern collectives, not for more individuality, per se, but to join a collective that was more tolerant, more embracing of their individual experiences.
I remember, many years ago, gathering around a campfire, to sing songs. Singing around campfires is one of the earliest ways in which experiences were shared, in which the collective spread its common ideas. Yet even two decades ago, around the campfire, different modes of collective engagement were creeping in. Many of the songs we knew, we had learned on the radio, and not around previous campfires. The campfire itself, was most likely started using the remains of another way of sharing collective information, used newspapers. We shared our experiences from around the campfire when we returned to our homes and spoke with friends.
Last night, the individuals who had this shared experience had gained collective information other ways. They had listened to music online, perhaps sharing it online. The newspapers were largely replaced by sharing of news online. Perhaps the most striking change was the way the collective experience of the concert was shared. During the concert, people texted their friends. They called friends from their cellphones so their friends could listen in, or to leave a brief recording of the experience on their friends voicemail. Photographs and videos were taken, and I imagine, shared via social media.
As far as I know, no one had implements allowing them to have the same sensorimotor experiences as Amy Ray or Emily Saliers, yet this omission did not seem to lesson the very strong bond between the audience and the performers.
Progress marches onward and some day, perhaps, we will look back at how we have shared common experiences via pictures, sound recordings or the written word, as being as quaint as the gathering around the campfire many generations before. Yet we would do well to remember the words of John Donne, "No man is an island" and that each one of us should say, "For I am involved in mankind".
Another month starts and I hear a lot of people saying, I’m glad February’s over. And so it is March. Coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb, or is it the other way around?
The Pope has retired, the Federal Budget is about to be sequestered and it’s a warm sunny day outside.
One friend posted on Facebook today, “’He gave back his ring, his cape, and his red papal shoes...’ This line on the news made me think of a Maurice Sendak book.” To that, I’ll add “Fla. man swallowed by a sinkhole is feared dead”, “Michigan governor clears way for state takeover of Detroit “, and “Chocolate covered marshmallow eggs recalled over salmonella concerns”.
Tonight, I will probably make a last minute trip to see the Inidigo Girls in Concert, go home and try to catch up on sleep tomorrow, and then head off to a funeral on Sunday. The fun just never stops.
For years, I've been trying to get church leaders to adopt social media with mixed success. I've spent a lot of time thinking about the responses and recently got into another discussion about churches and social media. One person asked, "What will help you make the case to leadership who doesn't think social media is necessary at all?"
As I thought about it, I had to ask myself, is social media really necessary for a church? Whenever I speak with people about their desire to use social media, I try to get people to focus on how it relates to their mission. Too often, in the business or nonprofit world, people want to use social media because other people are using it.
This attitude was reflected in some of the responses, "Everyone does it why not us!!", "Social Media is Everywhere!" One person went so far as to jokingly (I assume), suggest a coup to replace leaders that don't embrace social media, and others echoed the suggestion.
I responded, "Perhaps, if a case needs to be made for a church to use social media, it isn't the right time for the church to use it." This was not well received by these social media evangelists.
A response I got was, "Congregation has to want to grow, reach out, spread the gospel." I noted that congregations have grown for two millennia without the use of online social media. I'm not sure that the desire to grow requires a desire to use social media, and I recognize that there are ways besides reaching out and spreading the Gospel that churches may find as more important missions.
I followed up with the question, "Should a Church feel *called* to use social media?" When you think about a church's mission, its calling, some seem to be called more towards worship, towards fellowship, towards outreach, towards caring for the needy. The decision about if and how to use social media needs to be tied to the specific goals of a church. Using social media as outreach is very different from using it as a form of worship, education, or ministry to the needy.
One person responded, "Does a church feel called to use a telephone? Or does it just do it? " To the extent that social media is simply another method of one person casually contacting another person, then that response might make sense, but if it is part of a larger mission, part of a ministry, it might require a little more thought.
Following the casual approach to social media, another person responded, "Social media is just another tool for evangelization and other forms of ministry". If that is all that it is to these people, perhaps they should just stay with using it themselves and not try to pressure people less comfortable with the specific tools of social media to use them. Each person should use the tool they are most comfortable with. Are all members tweeters? Are all members phone bankers? There are many gifts, yet one body. Yet I think there is something more to social media than just that.
I tried to reflect this in my comment about how "Churches need to discern which tools will work best for them." It ties back to mission. Using social media may be very useful in reaching certain audiences, but if you're really focusing on prisoners or people in nursing homes, it might not prove all that useful.
I write all of this as I prepare to head off to choir. I need to determine how my time will best be used. Will it be on Twitter or will it be in the choir loft? What is the right mix?
It leads me back to a favorite psalm of mine, Psalm 127. Paraphrasing it for the discussion, "Unless the LORD builds the website, the builders labor in vain…. In vain you rise early and stay up late, tweeting, for HE grants sleep to those HE loves sleep"
Folks in the discussion acknowledged that social media is time consuming, and suggested not mentioning that to church leaders, but I do believe we need to be good stewards of the time that the LORD has given us.
So, I offer this up to others as they think about if and how their church should use social media, or if there church really does have a social media calling.