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!
Today was Social Media Sunday, yet I didn’t get a chance to post from church. It was St. Crispin’s Day, and I shared about that from Facebook in the afternoon. It was our turn to host participate in Chapel on the Green, and between services I helped make sandwiches. It was also my turn to speak to the church as part of the stewardship drive. Below are my comments as I prepared them.
We believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Most merciful Lord, we confess that we have sinned against you, in thought, word and deed. All things come of thee oh Lord and of thine own, with gratitude, have we given thee. These words wash over us on Sundays and I want to take a moment to think about some of them.
All things come of thee oh Lord, and of thine own, with gratitude, have we given thee.
I think of this during those long vestry meetings when we struggle over the budget. All things, the pledges and the expenses come ultimately from God. I often mention Psalm 127 at these times, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” The Lord is building something special here at Grace and St. Peter’s.
Years ago, I served on the vestry of a church that had no endowment, or rather, as our Priest would say, our endowment was the members of the Church. Coming up with a workable budget was hard, but we did it.
I was an IT executive on Wall Street at the time, making a lot of money and pledging generously, I thought, to the church. My wife of the time ran the Sunday School program. We had two daughters, as beautiful as Job’s.
All things come of thee oh Lord….
If I were preaching a prosperity gospel, I would stop right here, but that’s not how the story really goes. My wife told me she wanted a divorce. I suffered greatly and was hospitalized. I met Kim as I tried to put my life back together, but it was still difficult. Kim’s mother died. I lost my job. We lost our house and went bankrupt. Kim got Lyme disease and we drifted from church to church. There was a lot of brokenness.
All things come of thee oh Lord…
I can’t pretend to make sense out of what happened. If I was stuck with a prosperity gospel, I would have ended up stuck with a crisis of faith, or worse. Where did the prosperity go? But that’s not how the story goes either. People from church, from the various churches I’ve attended along the way were there to help. Maybe a meal, or a place to stay, or sometimes just a smile, always showing God’s Love.
All things come of thee oh Lord …
When I think of giving back to the church, I also sometimes think of Matthew 25: "And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'
… and of thine own, with gratitude, have we given thee.
To each of you who have given so much to me, and to our family, a word of encouragement, a smile, a hug, a meal: thank you.
There have been times, when the money was tight, that we couldn’t make a financial pledge. There were times that it was a struggle even to sing, or to smile, but ultimately what I can give back, what has been given to all of us, by God, is love, and the financial pledges, all the other stuff we give back is but a manifestation of God’s love.
So, I ask you, as you fill out your pledge forms, pledge your prosperity, pledge your brokenness, but most importantly, pledge the Love God has given you.
All things come of thee oh lord, and of thine own, with gratitude, have we given thee.
Today, I spent the day at the Connecticut Health Foundation’s All Fellows Retreat. As always, it was a source of plenty food for thought. At a previous fellow gathering, I learned about the conscious competency learning model. In this model, we start off as being unconscious of our incompetence in a particular area. The first part of learning is discovering our incompetence, becoming consciously incompetent. We then develop competence becoming consciously competent. We continue using the skill until it becomes second nature. At this point, we cease being conscious of using the skill, and we become unconsciously competent.
The original context I learned this in was in being culturally competent. When dealing with people from a different background, how often do we end up saying something unhelpful or unkind, without even knowing it? We might be offended or defensive when someone brings it to our attention, but hopefully, we start working on becoming more competent in our cultural communications.
I thought about this today, as I drove up to the All Fellow Retreat in another context: How does the competency model apply to social media? How many of us have gotten to the point where using social media is second nature to us? Do we remember when we struggled over whether or not to post certain things?
Today, we talked about three aspects of the actions of individuals, teams, and organizations: Robust, Relevant, and Relations. Many organizations get stuck with robust activities. They may be really good at doing something, but how relevant is that to the organization? From a social media perspective, this is like looking at how many followers you have, or how many hits your webpage gets. (Remember the old definition of HITS? How Idiots Track Success). This gets to the relevant part. If you have a lot of followers, a lot of traffic to your website, even a lot of likes or comments, if it isn’t helping you achieve your organizations mission, if it isn’t relevant, does it really matter?
The sweet spot comes when you add in relationships. During the discussion today, one person mentioned a coworker who always showed pictures of her kids. The person at the retreat spoke about learning that if she wanted to motivate and engage that worker, starting the discussion around kids seemed most effective. I think this captures some of my frequent comments about tweeting about breakfast. It is part of building the relationship that gets other people engaged.
I hesitate posting this, for fear of sounding too much like too many ‘social media experts’ posting their thoughts about how to do social media. Yet I’ve decided to share it, hoping it will resonate with some people and perhaps generate further thought.
In the middle of what I described yesterday as a week that I expect to be very long, I received an email today about another step in my spiritual journey. The Diocesan Dean of Formation sent me an email saying that she had invited my parish priest to form a discernment group for me.
For those not acquainted with the language or the process it describes, people seeking a greater understand of how they can best serve God, including the possibility of becoming a priest, enter a discernment process. In Connecticut, a parish will organize a discernment group for a person in this process. It is a small group that meets around nine times to help the person get a better sense of what God is calling the person to.
As a blogger, living much of my life out loud, online, I am looking for the best ways to connect this process with my online writing. It is challenging because the face to face group is confidential. So, instead of writing about that group I hope to write about the questions being posed and the insights I gain from the group and invite a larger online community to share, in a more public manner, their thoughts which might also help me in my discernment process.
This online process, might take the form akin to a connectivist MOOC. I hope to learn more about my journey both in a private confidential small face to face group as well as in a large public online group. I hope that others, participating in the online group, might learn more about their journey as well, and that we might all learn more about how learning and spiritual growth can take place online in the twenty-first century.
I expect it will still be a few weeks before my face to face discernment group starts, and I’m thinking that the Discernment MOOC should parallel that, so I won’t dive into the core of the discernment MOOC for a few weeks. Until then, I am just floating this idea. What are your thoughts? Are you interested in participating? Do you know others that might be interested? Are there things I should consider or avoid?
In her blog post, Rewilding the rhizome. Angela Brown writes about leaving a note in a library copy of Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus asking,
“What if you could find a shared exploration … “
She points to #rhizo15 and the shared exploration of A Thousand Plateaus.
Concurrent with this, Autumm Caines, in her blog post, The Living Artifact: An Open Letter/Invitation/Call for Help to the #rhizo15 Community to an open, connected, rhizomatic discussion of Jose Antonio Bowen’s Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom will Improve Student Learning.
Meanwhile, I’m reading Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss and Janet Ruffings’s Spiritual Direction: Beyond the Beginnings. Both are thought provoking books, and I wonder about the hashtag for the ongoing discussion of these books.
Is there a website to connect with others that are currently reading, and wanting to discuss, certain thought provoking books? Are there easy ways to find hashtags, Facebook groups, Google Groups, or other online fora to discuss these books? If not, what would it take to start such a site?