Facilitating Connections

“technology must always work toward facilitating greater connection and communication between human beings.” [from the post cited below]

I find my friend Shane a very interesting guy: he likes the arts, spiritual disciplines and remembering the practical jokes of his youth leader days, amongst other things. I like chatting with him. So, it’s not suprising that I found his blogpost on Risen Magazine interesting. Check it out here if you are interested in thinking about technology, the mission of God on earth, hurrying and other things that you might not connect together. Or if that turns you off, have a read and be reminded how dependent we are on technology.

(Also, see my comment on his post!).

Facilitating connections,

JcJ

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The Paradox of Crowds

Well, the good (blog) intentions went by the wayside over the summer – sorry for months of cyber-silence. The summery lull is well and truly a fading memory. I am still in the student world these days, as I am a student again myself! For those of you who have been following my RELAY updates, I can confirm that I got into the course I applied for and I’m now taking part in a masters programme. Thanks be to God.

So, I can still appreciate the benefits of the student lifestyle – a flexible schedule, random chats around college, the good facilities, the discounts… – while maintaining the dignified position of a graduate! Only, I have to pay for it this time.

The engulfing hustle of seeing thousands of students daily – perhaps hourly – is a strange timeless continuum to find yourself in. Sitting on the ground floor of the library, looking out the window at all the people going to wherever they are going, it is a challenging thing to focus on whatever is at hand, rather than stare and wonder at the throbbing throngs outside. There is something addictive in watching other people, so many other people. And it’s not merely a voyeuristic pursuit. The busyness of the campus is captivating. As my eyes jump from one face to another, I feel like I should recognize its owner. Each new visage is another story and sometimes I wonder what that story is.

Yet, at the same time, the busyness is isolating. If you do not know many – or any – people that you normally see in your 9to5 window, these crowded places can be lonely places. Perhaps loneliness is that time when we are most aware of our need for others and when there are no others. This is the paradox of crowds: there are so many others but there may as well be no others. There are so many faces but they’re just faces. That sounds like a big cliche and it probably is but it still strikes me.

Now, I say these things not out of loneliness (well, not entirely) – but out of awareness. I am fortunate to know a good few people on the campus – a few faces in the crowd – and I’ve met a few more since the year began. But all around me there are other faces, other people who must be aware, even if subconsciously, of the paradox of crowds, who haven’t escaped the loneliness of crowds. So, the challenge then is to be more than a face in the crowd. It’s to be someone who opens a door, who picks up a fallen book, who starts a conversation, who chats in the queue. That doesn’t come easily to me though, it takes effort and confidence and risk and time and ultimately, well, you could call it having an interest in others or you could even call it love. But these are what make a relationship and when we are lonely, perhaps that’s when we are most aware that relationship is what we need.

Trying not to avoid you in a crowded place,

JcJ.

PS. India Knight – in the Sunday Times on 12/10/08 – wrote about how us westerners are so religiously consumeristic. She mentioned the carried-along-with-the-crowd effect – how we get carried along by the bouyancy of being in a crowd and are uplifted by it, especially when shopping. So, perhaps my thoughts on crowds aren’t so watertight.

Thoughts on God compared to my mind or maybe my brain

A big part of the RELAY Programme is a self-study module on theology – what Christian’s believe about God and everything, based on what the Bible says. A big part of The Doctrine of God – what we believe about God – is the belief in the Trinity. Now, if you like moulding your brain into different shapes by giving it hard things to think about then you might like this. If you don’t like doing that, then maybe you should – you might discover something worth discovering or see things from a different angle or even decide that you are someone who likes moulding your brain into different shapes by giving it hard things to think about!

Anyway, back to the “this” of about 3 lines up! I was thinking about the Trinity and well, trying to get my head around it. (Sorry.) Firstly, here is a typical statement of the Doctrine of the Trinity:

God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God. Ref 1

So, Christians are saying that, somehow, God is a single entity but it is a plurality of persons. I know – the instinct is to reject it because it doesn’t make sense. But then if God is God, then it would be a bit disappointing if we weren’t at a bit of a loss as to understand entirely who He is. Here are a few thoughts that struck me on the Trinity, when I was thinking about it a while back.

When my mind wanders, it creates its own soap opera or re-runs scenes from previous experiences: a film from last night, a conversation which never happened with that pretty girl, a whole scene as Batman, ahem, whatever, you get the gist. Wherever those thoughts, that stream of babbling consciousness, comes from – that’s another discussion – some observations can be made on the mind itself. The first observation has been mentioned – part of the mind is “running” or “showing” this exclusive soap. Secondly, another part, perhaps our mind’s eye, is watching the show. Maybe a third part is making next week’s show. The point is that I have one mind, yet within it, there are different parts with different roles, which relate to each other and which interplay. There is unity – one mind – and diversity – different parts with different roles.

Perhaps, this is a good analogy for the Trinity. The Father is the Head; He plans and speaks; the Son, the “Word”, creates and the Father observes. The Holy Spirit is there making it all happen, providing the power that runs the show. This is not a perfect analogy, for there is none and anyway, we are trying to describe the largely indescribable, here. Each part of the mind is different from the other parts – it is not one of the other parts. And each of the parts is not fully the whole mind. However, these descriptions of the mind relate more easily and understandably to the brain. We can understand that one part of the brain deals with sight, another with balance, etc., etc. The existence of the mind as something existing within or by the existence and workings of the brain, means that it is harder to separate the mind into parts than the brain. Hence, this blurring of lines, blurring of our understanding of the mind, gives it a higher merit as an analogy for the Trinity than I second thought.

In delving into the un-understood, we open up possibilities for understanding God and understanding that we cannot fully understand God. And it is no small-minded thing to acknowledge that He is beyond our comprehension.

Yet, there are things that we can understand about Him, and we can know Him. The Bible tells us about Him: He is loving (in fact He “is love”); He is just; He is powerful; He is omni-[all things good and worthwhile]. The created universe also tells us things about Him – if God made everything, then He’s more than a little creative.

So, we must seek God but not expect to find all of Him. But here is another “but”: because of the fact that Jesus, who was a man, was also God, we can expect to find some of Him, to get to know Him, we can relate to Him as a person.

Now, how Jesus could be a man and be God – that is a whole other days mind-wandering.

Wandering with an aim,

JcJ.


Ref 1: Grudem, W., Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, pp226, IVP, Nottingham, 2007.