Knowing me, knowing you. A-ha! (Part 1)

alan_partridge_stance

I’m sure some of you are familiar with the alter persona of Steven Coogan, Alan Partridge.

The character’s obviousness to his own flaws is hilarious and is a rich vein of comedy for Steven to mine.

However when it comes to the real world our lack of is anything but funny, it may appear to be a tragicomedy but in reality is simply tragic.

lone cowboy

It is critical for us to know ourselves. We need to know and understand ourselves and each other (humanity). Culture may celebrate the lone ranger or lonesome cowboy but the reality is unless you are a hermit, we all live in and depend on social groups.

We may not need to be experts or academics on the subject but we should know some basic information on the subject. Basic psychology of individuals and groups should be taught at school.

neuromarketing

One of the reasons for this is that we are under siege. If you know anything about modern marketing you know that they study, sometimes with the aid of MRI machines – called neuromarketing, how consumers make purchasing decisions.

How your supermarket is laid out, the colour of the product, associating emotions and feelings in advertisements instead of merely selling the product itself.

There is a vast machine whose sole goal is to part you from your money.

We need to know and understand ourselves. Understand yourself at least as well as, if not better, than these big corporations

Otherwise we won’t necessarily be aware of the ploys being used to coral us into making one useless purchase after another. Otherwise sporting teams will be able to manipulate us using human tribal tendencies. Otherwise we will fall prey to demagoguery. Politicians will be able to appeal to our racist tendencies to keep us hating each other instead of hating corrupt politicians.

Be smart about smartphones

Well today is a Sunday so I thought I’d share with you all something I’m going through instead of expounding spiritual things.

cell_phone_evolution

In my most recent stage in a long-time obsession with smartphones, I have downgraded to a Blackberry.

Motorola-StarTAC-75-01

Let’s talk about when this obsession started. It all began when I joined the workforce. Initially I had gotten myself a run-of-the-mill phone but then the Motorola StarTac came out. Soon I was caught up in the mobile phone crazy, always desiring the latest and greatest. Perhaps I didn’t always buy it, but I did lust after it.

I remember a phone I had in Japan that had like 3 different backlight colors (this was when having a colored backlight was a modern feature)! My wife’s phone had the ability to use email! It also had WAP which was the equivalent of mobile internet in those days. So amazing!

RIM-history1

Into that arena, you can understand why Blackberry was considered innovative. They had email, and calendering and contacts sync with Outlook!

They didn’t realise that people were becoming addicted to the internet on their desktops and that offering the internet (and later on specialised applications designed for mobile phones and utilising the touch interface) would be an irresistible combination.

Anyway, back to my obsession.

Razr

Even though I had a Blackberry I also bought a Motorola Razr after seeing a colleague use it as a speakerphone during a meeting. I was just blown away by the slimness, as well as the audio and build quality.

white 3gs

I remember how I lusted after the iPhone but waited until my contract was up and signed up for a 3GS.

inq mini

I tried to kick the habit by purchasing a cheap smartphone (an INQ) but it was just too slow and crappy. You get what you pay for I reasoned. I then spent several hundred dollars on a Google Nexus S. That was a great phone.

iphone4s

The romance didn’t last long. The company offered to get me the latest iPhone and I jumped at the opportunity and ditched the Google phone.

HTC One X

Later on, my aging eyes meant that I had to ditch the iPhone and move back to Android for the larger screen (4.7 vs 3.5).

But HTC had implemented an aggressive memory management technique that meant that programs were often killed instead of suspending properly. This was a fatal flaw in the phone for someone who likes to write something, switch apps, and then come back to writing – in the case of the HTC, it loses all your draft work!

I was going upgrade from the HTC to, again, the latest and greatest. “Should I get the Samsung? Or the Sony?”, I wondered to myself “Would the 5 inch screen be too large for me to use the phone one-handed?”.

But somehow God put the idea into my head that I should maybe not get a smartphone. “Ok” I grumbled, “I won’t get a smartphone for now, I’ll wait awhile maybe a month”.

BlackBerry-Bold-9700

So in the meantime I’m back to using a Blackberry. Yeah, it’s not the latest and the greatest and the screen’s a bit puny.

But it does messaging well. It’s not that slow that I want to throw it out the window when I use it.

534767-smartphones

And I noticed something scary on the train. Almost every one was hunched over looking that their tablet or smartphone. Consuming and consuming at the fire hydrant of infotainment.

I don’t want to be only a consumer, I want to produce. And I think that using a less capable smartphone is actually helping me to do that, by making it very unpleasant to consume media whilst on the move, giving me time to think, ponder and perhaps blog.

Sex vs Intimacy

Seven sins

We probably live today in one of the most sex-saturated times throughout history.

Sex with prostitutes might not be a common past-time in America but in parts of Asia, fuel by sex tourism, it much more common.

And, think about it, perhaps you aren’t having sex but you’re watching people doing it (this also includes nudity) on television. Does indulging in voyeurism mean that our present day culture is any less hedonistic than cultures of yore?

Articles tell us about how to measure our “performance” using physical metrics. Size, frequency, duration and number of partners.

They might even allude to the spiritual and/or emotional aspects of the act, the benefits to a relationship, etc, etc. But the world ultimately view it as an “act”.

But it is so much more. I believe a better way to view it is through a Biblical perspective.

The concept I’m talking about here is intimacy. In my mind, I see a link between intimacy and exclusivity. And exclusivity is a common thread that runs throughout the Bible. (A related concept is being chosen)

God demands our exclusive devotion. He will not share us with other gods.

Holiness is being set apart for God, exclusively.

Related to that is the concept of something being devoted to God, to be exclusively used for/by God.

Noah and his family were chosen, exclusively, to survive the flood.

Out of all the nations, Abraham and his descendants were chosen, to exclusively be called God’s people.

Christ is to be our head, our bridegroom. No-one else is to take His place, the relationship is exclusive.

The marriage analogy is used to describe the relationship between Christ and His church. And marriage itself is also exclusive.

Exclusivity can be liken to being first. There can only be “one” first. Only one “most” favourite. If someone asks you what’s your favourite ice-cream and you roll off a list of several flavours then you don’t have a (clear) favourite. You have lots of likes.

I would define intimacy as an outcome, a result of exclusivity. When you are in an exclusive relationship, intimacy develops. You have someone you share you thoughts and feelings with, more so than with any other person. And when you decide to commit to that person, to say that you wish that relationship to continue for as long as you live, you get married. (In my opinion not wanting to get married is saying you don’t want to spent the rest of your life with someone, because that’s what marriage is – wanting to be with someone for the rest of your life and making that statement publicly).

And I believe that sex is the physical manifestation of that exclusive intimate relationship. Which should occur after the commitment and not before. That’s why we should avoid pre-marital sex.

And we should also avoid extra-marital sex. Because if you do the “act” outside of marriage, then it demotes and demeans sex within marriage.

You basically become a liar, because what you have done is – though you have publicly committed to being exclusive with someone – you have broken that exclusivity, you have been unfaithful. And worse, you have taken the ultimate expression of that exclusivity and intimacy and made it non-exclusive.

Sex is more than an act, it is much much more than that. But if you only view it as an “act” (be it purely physical, or also mental / spiritual) that can be done with more than one person then that will be all that it can be for you.

The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom

22089seven-deadly-sins

One of the seven deadly sins is pride.

But how do you cure pride? How do you cultivate humility?

Can the journey to humility be self-initiate? I don’t think so.

But you can cultivate aspects that are associated with humility. Such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

But humility itself? I don’t think so.

HumptyDumpty_Alice in Wonderland

I think it has to be initiated from the outside. After pride comes the fall. And no-one intends to fall. At least not consciously.

Pride is intimately linked to fear. Because pride on many levels is the absence of fear. The thought that I am the master of my destiny, of my situation, of my relationship, etc etc.

king canute on the beach

But humans deceive themselves when they think that. As King Canute found out, what do we really control apart from ourselves? We might control others but that control is tenuous at best (despite appearances). We might create machines to control nature, but ultimately
those machines (unless maintained and upgraded) will rot and decay away. We are mortal and nothing that we do is eternal.

So given the insignificance of man, it of critical importance that we answer this question correctly: who do you fear?

Because what you fear is ultimately what you appease and end up living for. The thing that you would do anything for because it ultimately is your master.

Perhaps you have lots of little fears instead of one big fear. It doesn’t matter.

And if you think you have nothing to fear, my friend you are in the very real and strong vice-like grip of pride.

ghostbusters_large_staypuft

And there is going to be a fall coming. And when that happens, who ya goin’
call?

When we fall, we sometimes rant and rave against God but He is the One we need to turn to. He is the ultimate Ghostbuster. He can turn everything that we fear and seeks to harm us, and turn it into something that benefits us.

Yes, I believe that God even uses trials and tribulations for our benefit, to bring us to repentance.

Because true repentance required confession and how can we bring ourselves to confess our sins when we are proud? We, in a sense, need to be humbled – for our own good. Have our irrational or rational fears replaced by the fear (and respect) of the One True God.

For only He is truly worthy of our respect (and fear).

Buying a stairway to heaven

Figures_Jacobs_Ladder

In the past people were enslaved. Some, literally through the threat of violence or death.

Others were enslaved through economic means. This can been seen in the feudal system and also when factories were first started up. The former was in a rural setting where the lord held the majority of the means of production, ie lands. The latter was in an urban setting where the capitalist held the means of production.

We like to think that in this day and age that we are free. Yes, on the surface, most of us in developed and developing countries appear to be free. But that’s only because there are more insidious means of enslavement nowadays.

What are the things that enslave us today? What are we in the thrall of? Entertainment is a case in point. Yes, entertainment…err.. entertains. But is it useful? Is it necessary or essential? Yet how many people do you know who have FoxTel installed? How many hours of television do they watch? You are literally earning money to pay for the priviledge of wasting your time.

Your telly becomes a master, demanding tribute, requiring you to go out and work. Of course, the amount might not be that significant, depending on how much you are earning.

But still you are devoting yourself to the idiot box. Worshiping it in a sense. It is an addition and people even “binge” on it.

I’m using the television as an example but my point applies to all forms of entertainment. Yes, it may be permissible, even good. But there is a saying, “I will not be mastered by anything.”

Is entertainment something that you can give up? Something that you hold lightly? Or is it something that has a grip on you, that you hold so tightly (and it you) that you can’t let go.

It’s not just limited to entertainment, it also includes (for me) gadgets, laptops, smartphones, etc. What is it for you?

So, are you a free man?

Or are you like a zombie shuffling through life. Driven by urges you can’t control, drifting through life in a haze induced by the lack of sleep because you are stuffing your life full of the “good stuff”, full to the brim?

One step at a time

steps-start-up

Men are terrible multitaskers in my opinion. Which makes them badly suited to the modern times that we live in?

There are a multitude of things we need to do, in a variety of arenas.

And the pressure is on to do well in all of them.

To top it off, what needs to be done, and how, is constantly changing.

We tend to think about modern business as all about the pursuit of money.

But when you think about it money is just a medium of exchange.

What are really being fought over are resources. The ability to command people’s time and priorities. (Because in the pursuit of money defines our time and hence our priorities, at least to some extent.)

What we give our time to, what we prioritise over others, what we are DEVOTED to. Doesn’t that sound like worship?

As has been mentioned we fight against powers and principalities, why should we be surprised that in our modern era where the supernatural is poo-pooed (unless it is in fiction, on screen or in books) that they should disguise themselves as modern corporations, institutions and entities.

Against this backdrop of indecision and indecisiveness, as modern emasculated men, fighting against powers and things beyond our understanding, what chance do we have?

If we were on our own, or bandied with other mere mortals, the chances are slim.

But praise be to God that we are not alone. We have One who fights on our side. Constantly interceding on our behalf against the evil one. And not only is He a perfect role model for humanity, He is the Perfect Man and perfector of our faith.

Do not be discouraged. Remember that salvation happens in an instant but that sanctification takes a lifetime. Let’s take it step by step. And let us not walk alone; He is always there, waiting to walk alongside.

And let us also walk with each other, and encourage one another – praying without ceasing that His Will be done and for one another.