Capitalism and art
October 31, 2006, 7:09 am
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One of the books I’ve read recently for school has this to say:

“. . . as American culture remains openly and pervasively religious, its devotion to the Gross National Product is clear; witness the relentless spread of consumer goods; the obsession with self-image, wealth, and comfort; and especially the use of things sacred – sexuality, beauty, and language – to promote sales.  Indeed, the blessings of an Infinite God and the infinitely expanding availability of nice things are considered proofs of one another in American culture.  The artist-as-prophet cannot help but prophesy.  But it does no good.  The astonishing ability of capitalism’s market strategies to defuse, aestheticize, and then enlist even the most critical extremes of avant-garde or prophetic critiques into the market’s ambitions has become clear by now.  Both the avant-garde and the prophet are passe.”

I’ve hung out recently with college students of a socialist persuasion, which has helped me break out of taking capitalism for granted.  It isn’t so obvious all the time just how pervasively we (especially in the church of North America) have been sucked into a market mindset.

The Kingdom of God operates on a different economy, though, and I find myself hungry to find ways to re-order my life around it.


My way of being active in local politics
October 30, 2006, 7:26 pm
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This past weekend, Michelle and I got a knock on our front door. It was a casually dressed guy wearing a baseball cap. He introduced himself as our incumbent State Representative, and asked if we had any questions about the upcoming election, etc. He also made an off-hand remark about how he and his colleagues were filling our mailbox with advertisements each day during this time of year. He left us by encouraging us to e-mail him with any questions we might have, and he would respond within a day.

He was successful in getting us to think about the amount of junk mail we receive every year during election season. Now, we faithfully recycle as much as we can, including these ads, but still, we think it creates tons and tons of waste.

So, I took this kind gentleman up on his offer. Here’s what I just e-mailed him:

Dear ___________________,

Thank you for being kind enough to stop by our home this past weekend. I appreciate the efforts.

While we spoke, you made reference to the amount of advertisement that you and your colleagues are filling our mailboxes with these days. While I understand that you have a campaign to run, and advertising is an important part of your strategy, my wife and I are concerned about the amount of wasted paper generated during each and every election cycle. For example, in addition to three pieces of mail for other candidates, we received TWO mailers for your campaign today. This does not seem environmentally healthy. I’d be curious to know what the negative environmental impact of each year’s elections makes.

Again, I appreciate your efforts, and your encouragement for people to e-mail you with questions and concerns. I just thought this might be worth your consideration.


Steve Lewis

October 30, 2006, 6:58 am
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I sat in a coffee shop this past Friday morning, waiting for an appointment.  I had a few minutes to kill, so I pulled out a book I’m reading for school.  I literally could not get through a sentence because of the chaos going on in my head.  I don’t know how many times I directed my eyes back to the same sentence.  Every time I tried, a different distraction, a different item on my task list, a different situation that I need to deal with jumped to my attention.  For a couple minutes there, I couldn’t even focus on my distractions because I would get distracted by other distractions.

I found myself just saying the words to myself, “I need a Sabbath.”

I don’t need to bore myself or you, dear reader, with the particulars of what’s going on.  I only know a handful of people who wouldn’t describe themselves as busy, so I won’t go complaining.  But I do need Sabbath.

The paradox, of course, is that in order to really engage Sabbath, I have to take all these overdue tasks and put them off even further.  I know one thing I don’t want, and that’s to wreck the concept and value of it by putting Sabbath on my task list.

There’s a lot of really good stuff going on – stuff I eagerly anticipate.  But, oh yes, it’s got me running.

So to those few of you who check in on me here for updates, I ask for a little grace for not having posted much of late.  I won’t say that I’ll try harder.  I’ll just say that Sabbath needs to take priority. 

A weekend away, and a confession
October 16, 2006, 8:31 am
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On Friday I completed a 20 year process . . . mostly a trivial one, but hey, that’s the kind of guy I am.  The result?  I have now driven every mile of Interstate 5, from the US/Mexico border to the US/Canada border.  I went to Vancouver, B.C. for a college student conference, which was a lot of fun.  Vancouver’s a great city – super international and compelling.  It’s also a fabulous city for coffee, so you know I checked out that whole scene.  Twice I found myself enjoying Caffe Artigiano.  Mmmmmm.  Unfortunately, Michelle wasn’t able to join me for the trip, so I’ll have to bring her along some time soon.

Speaking of Michelle, after I posted about my ambivalence regarding the whole (RED) campaign the other day, I got an e-mail from her (while I was in Vancouver).  Here’s a direct quote:

Are you close to shopping?  You should go to The Gap and buy us some new (RED) T-shirts- I actually want a red one.  You’ve heard of this right?  Bono is brilliant . . .

Clearly she hadn’t read my post.  Pretty funny. 

So, to come clean, I did, in fact, find myself near a GAP store, and I did go in, and I did buy a (RED) t-shirt for Michelle.  There you go – I’m still a big bundle of contradictions.

What’s in a name? How ’bout a URL?
October 13, 2006, 5:35 am
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Pretty funny – Universal Tube & Rollform Equipment Corp. has had their website overwhelmed and crashed by new visitors.  Why would millions of people be flocking to a manufacturing company’s site?  Well, since Google announced Monday that they’ve acquired YouTube, people have been trying to check it out – where?  www.utube.com .  So close, and yet so far, eh?

Not so sure about this one
October 13, 2006, 5:08 am
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Wow, so Oprah and Bono have teamed up to promote consumerism shopping with a cause. [read more here] New clothing lines, and a special version of the iPod are going on sale to benefit HIV/AIDS work in Africa. While I admire the marketing savvy and desire to engage people where they are, pumping up consumerism in order to do has me feeling ambivalent.

Kinda makes me want to pass along the notice I got yesterday from Adbusters about this yea’rs Buy Nothing Day – on November 23.

The strange energy of the truth
October 12, 2006, 10:56 am
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While I will say that this doesn’t happen nearly as often as would be healthy, I recently got my bell rung. Someone very close to me said a one or two sentence piece of truth – not something hugely profound or anything, but spot on and serious. My reaction to that (so far) has been several hours worth of depression and soul searching, eerily mixed with an energy and drive to do something about it. I can’t say where things will end up, but it’s just very interesting to me how the wound of a well-placed, well-delivered statement of truth can both devastate and empower at the same time.