#DigiWriMo: Stranger Danger, Will Robinson

One of my goals for #DigiWriMo is to be more engaged in other people’s blogs and hopefully to have others more engaged in my blog. Years ago, I used to participate in various blog swaps and I work as a social media manager, so there is nothing really new about this for me.

One person who has been really good at this, at least in the early moments of #DigiWriMo is Sarah Honeychurch. She’s been commenting on my posts, thank you Sarah, and responded to Joanne Fuchs tweet about blogging once a week, “I find having a supportive audience in events like #DigiWriMo helps me.”

So, I went over to Joanne’s blog, where her most recent post was Yes, Virginia. You Can Ask Your Own Questions!. Joanne sounds like the sort of teacher I would want my inquisitive eighth grader to have. Joanne was talking about helping students form questions around “letters from service men from different wars”. It fit nicely with the story I heard Arnie Pritchard tell Friday night about This Business of Fighting based on his father’s letters.

Joanne also reminds me of Paul Bogush and I wonder if they’ve met. As an aside, another participant of #DigiWriMo this year is Geoffrey Gevalt. I read his bio and looked at the Young Writers Project. It made me wonder if Geoffrey knew Steve Collins and Youth Journalism International. I sent Steve a Facebook message to see if they knew each other. They should.

All of this is prologue to the key focus of this evening’s #DigiWriMo post. The other week, my daughter Fiona texted me, letting me know that there was some guy at her school teaching the kids about Internet Safety. Now I want the internet to be safe as much as the next guy, probably more so, since my job is social media manager for a health care organization, but I often find a lot of the internet safety talks, at best, misguided. They focus on online predators and stranger danger, and less on more important issues like cyberbullying or how you can help online friends in times of danger.

Stranger danger: I’ve never met Sarah, Joanne, or Geoffrey face to face. Yet if I ever get a chance to, I will jump at it. They sound like my kind of people. I have met lots of other people face to face after getting to know them first online, including my wife. Knowing how to judge and get to know people that you meet through the media, whether it be online, or any other form of media is an important skill. It applies equally to getting to know authors, musicians, journalists, politicians, and others.

Yes, online predators are a danger, but I believe a greater danger may be accepting uncritically what various media personalities are saying. Learning how to think critically about what we experience through various media can address both of these dangers.

Later this week, I will be speaking at Career Day at my daughter’s junior high school. I will be talking about being a social media manager, and what it takes to do that well. Perhaps key areas I’ll focus on include the value of meeting the right people online, collaborating with them, and how to better judge what we consume online.

#DigiWriMo Who are you? Rabbits, AltCVs and more

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit: the beginning of my first blog post of each month, to bring back a little bit of the childhood playful hopefulness. It seems especially apropos today at the start of #DigiWriMo. I expect to be staying with the metaphors of journey and narrative through much of #DigiWriMo and so I envision the narrative today to be about the start of a journey.

It is as if we are all standing around the starting line. We’ve introduced who we want to think we are, as opposed to how traditional CVs introduce ourselves. It feels a little bit like the kids dressed up for Halloween last night in their hopes and aspirations.

This week, I went to the funeral for the mother of a friend. She was 95 and loved music. In her final days, he heard his mother say, “Who, are you? Who? Who?” She was a Who fan and was singing one of her favorite songs. The minister at the funeral talked about that great question, “who are you?”

Last night, I thought a little bit more about who I am. Our town has “Truck or Treat”; Halloween at the local volunteer fire department. They started it the year of Hurricane Sandy, the year my mother died. I was running for State Representative and was supposed to be there campaigning. Instead, I was there mourning. I was there as members of my community helped one another out after the storm, and as much as I thank my neighbors and volunteer firemen, they may never know how important that first Truck or Treat was. This year, they were asking how my wife, who is recuperating from sinus surgery is doing.

So, as I thought of the kids dressed up in the hopes and aspirations, as I thought about my AltCV and #DigiWriMo, as I thought of Peg singing to herself, asking “Who are you?” part of the answer came to me. I am part of a community. I am part of the wonderful community of Woodbridge, with all its quirks and foibles. I am part of the wonderful community of Grace and St. Peter’s where I worship on Sunday mornings, and I am part of the #DigiWriMo community, which I’m just starting to get to know.

At Church today, All Saints Day, we will remember those who have died. We will sing great hymns about all the saints, and we will balance it with four baptisms and a community meal afterwards.

For #DigiWriMo, we will have the chatter that is exchanged at the start of a shared journey. I shared my quote from Christian Wiman, “existence is not a puzzle to be solved, but a narrative to be inherited and undergone and transformed person by person”. The same applies, I hope, to #DigiWriMo.

Another person shared a quote from Allen Ginsberg, “We are great writers on the same dreadful typewriter”. Yet another took the idea of the AltCV, and combined it with another. It makes me think, what is the combined AltCV of everyone in #DigiWriMo? We are greater than the sum of our parts as we type on the same dreadful internet.

I am tempted to head off in a postmodern poet philosopher Christian mystic direction and start talking about the relationship between The Body of Christ and the #DigiWriMo group AltCV. Yet before I do that, I return to the quotes of the day and find Scott Johnson’s “Even paradise needs work” and John Spencer asking, “How do we create a sense of place online?”

I’ve often criticized my friends interested in “church social media” on a related thought, “How do we share a sense of the mystical, the divine online?” How do we do it as an inclusive shared experience for the atheist, agnostic, wiccan, Buddhist, Muslim, so many flavors of Christian, and so many other experiences of the divine?
And so, I set out on the first steps of #DigiWriMo, surrounded by a great cloud of believes, to use the older language, or a bunch of really interesting people I look forward to traveling with virtually and learning more about, to translate some of it into the twenty first century digital vernacular.

Slowly, I’m learning more about who I am, as it changes along this journey, and I look forward to more quotes, and more answers to “Who are you?” as we journey together.

The Roads to #DigiWriMo

For the past several years during the month of November, I’ve often participated in National Novel Writing Month. #NaNoWriMo. Over the years I’ve completed two first drafts of novels, and worked on several others. I’ve written the 1,666 words a day to get to 50,000 words for the month. I’ve had friends act as readers of draft, and gotten feedback from them.

It has been a valuable writing exercise, and I enjoyed meeting some of the other #NaNoWri participants and write-ins and dinners, but I’ve never gone back and edited the novels, sought to publish them, or shared them with a wider audience.

In January of this year, I participated in a couple of MOOCs. One was on the poetry of Walt Whitman. It was part of a series, and I later participated in one on Emily Dickinson. They would good courses, but I felt even more disconnected from the participants than I did with #NaNoWriMo.

I also took a course on using Moodles to set up a MOOC. It was very helpful on the technology side; how to configure and administer a MOOC. The community was much more vibrant, and while it wasn’t a focus of the course, we did drift into discussions of pedagogy. It was there that I learned about connectivism, which led me to participate in another MOOC, a different sort of MOOC, a connectivistic MOOC called #Rhizo15.

It was great, and I remain connected with the people I met through that event. There was talk about wandering in that course and I brought in my poetry to it. This brings me to the title of this post, The Roads to #DigiWriMo. It isn’t one path. It is a bunch of paths intertwined.

So let me return to the poetry path for a moment. I decided to make writing a poem a day my 2015 Lenten discipline. It went well, and some of the poems aren’t all that bad. I joined up with a group of Episcopalian poets and met with them from time to time. Through them, I learned that Yale Divinity School was having a conference on poetry and I attended.

It was a deep religious experience for me that has brought back into my consideration a path I had looked at years ago, but not wandered down, the path to possible ordination as a priest. I have met with my priest. We have met with my bishop, and my priest is setting up a discernment committee to explore this path more fully with me. I’ve thought it would be interesting to have a parallel, online discernment group. I set up one part of it on Facebook, and I expect this will intertwine with my #DigiWriMo explorations.

One of the speakers at the Yale Conference was Christian Wiman. I’ve been reading his book, My Bright Abyss. In it, I found a wonderful quote, “existence is not a puzzle to be solved, but a narrative to be inherited and undergone and transformed person by person”. Mixing the ‘journey’ metaphor with the ‘narrative’ metaphor, it seems like this quote is the starting point, the first mile marker on my #DigiWriMo journey.

I am looking forward to mixing a bit of poetry, novel writing, technology, and explorations into pedagogy and my spiritual journey together with what others are posting in #DigiWriMo. I hope you’ll join me and hang on for the ride!

Searching for Sunday: Hymns

In the Searching for Sunday book study group blog at St. James West Hartford, Jackie Keen reflects on the confirmation section of the book. She talked about the music that traveled with her, so I’ve reflected on this a little. In my spiritual autobiography, I wrote a bit about different hymns that have touched me.

I thought about this, today, on the third anniversary of my mother’s death as I drove up to the funeral for the mother of a friend.

The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

We sang this hymn at the vespers service at the poetry conference at Yale Divinity School last spring. The singing of this hymn, the vespers service, and the whole conference, were important parts of me entering the latest phase of my spiritual journey.

The hymn is often thought of as an evening hymn, a vespers hymn. It was has a missionary context harkening to a day when the sun never set on the British Empire.

As o’er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.

It struck me, that this is a great hymn for memorial services as well. The day, the life, the Lord gave has ended. There is darkness. Yet there is also hope of a new day, or resurrection, or eternity.

The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren ’neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.

So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.

As I think of this, the words of Abide With Me come to mind.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

On top of this, my wife had surgery on Wednesday. I’ve been trying to care for her, deal with food, and cleaning the house, as I’ve dealt with work and a funeral. Besides eternal rest, there is also the daily rest, and I think of that this evening as I head off to bed. There are other hymns that are on the peripheries of my mind about God giving rest to the weary, but I cannot grasp them right now.

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To an Oversized Stuffed Bear

There was nothing joyful
the oversized
stuffed bear
from the aisle
next to
the children’s pain relievers
at the local drug store.

It brought the mother
and child
brief happiness
being placed
in a memorial
to a child
who died
way too early.

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