"I sought among them for a man that might set up a hedge, and stand in the gap before me in favor of the land." Ezekiel 22:30

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

God, the Ultimate Teacher, Has a Sense of Humor

If there's one thing I'm convinced of in this topsy-turvy, whacked-out world of ours, it's that God does have a sense of humor. The fact that he let me get married and have kids is perhaps His best practical joke. But I digress...

God is also the perfect teacher. As with a good comedian, His timing is impeccable.

Yesterday, the day before oral arguments began before the Supreme Court of the United States of America in cases which seek to presume to define marriage in this country (as if laws can re-write human nature), we find this Epistle reading in the good ol' traditional Latin Mass (the Extraordinary Form of the Mass for you TLM newbies):
2 Timothy 4:1-8Dearly beloved: I charge thee, before God and Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead, by his coming, and his kingdom: Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables [emphasis mine]. But be thou vigilant, labour in all things, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil thy ministry. Be sober. For I am even now ready to be sacrificed: and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord the just judge will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love his coming. Make haste to come to me quickly.
Up is down. Down is up. One and one does not equal two.

As an additional thought, I'll leave you with words from the beloved Pope Benedict XVI shortly before becoming pope:
We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires. 
This is the mantra of the day. The world does not endure sound doctrine in our modern age.

It would be even more comical if it weren't so sad.

Monday, April 27, 2015

I've Been Doing Social Media Wrong - Part 2: The Solution

If you haven't read "I've Been Doing Social Media Wrong Part 1: The Problem," you probably should before you read this.

Something I'm learning as I grow older, more mature, and (hopefully) wiser is that we human beings do things best when we do them with a strong sense of purpose and intention. As a parent, I realize that everything I do is now an example to my children. That literally means everything - from blowing my nose, to the language I use, to how I discipline them - is going to impact them. Doing things intentionally takes on a profound meaning. This idea of "purpose and intention" is especially true in the spiritual life.

One of my favorite prayers is the Prayer Before Communion of St. Thomas Aquinas, and in particular this one sentence: "May I thus receive the Bread of Angels, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, with such reverence and humility, contrition and devotion, purity and faith, purpose and intention, as shall aid my soul's salvation." 

So, when I say I've been doing social media wrong, what I really mean is that I have not been intentional enough when using it.

I'm going to change that.

My goal is to become more intentional in the way I use each of the social media platforms, the content I share, and how I interact with other people. If you've been paying attention to my posts over the past few months, you may have noticed this trend already. If not, here's a breakdown of what I plan to do:

Facebook

Facebook was created to be a place to share your life experiences with your friends - not just your political opinions. So, rather than posting every single anti-Hillary article I read, I'm going to make a concerted effort to instead share photos, anecdotes, and things that directly impact my life or those around me. This might include an invitation to an events, posing questions, or soliciting advice. Rather than get into long, protracted arguments in the comments on a shared article, I'm going to tell people we should talk about this subject in person next time we're together. Or, better yet, that we should make time in the near future to talk about this subject over a good lager.

Twitter

Ah, twitter. Those 140 characters can let us say so much, yet so little. I hated twitter when it first came around, but in the years since my feelings have evolved towards this medium to the point that I use it and appreciate it, but I still maintain a love/hate relationship with it.

That being said, you want to know what I think about something, or see what sorts of articles I'm sharing, go look at my twitter feed. That's where my more opinionated stream of consciousness will be lingering. Yet, as with my facebook strategy, I will also encourage those who wish to strike up an argument to meet me in the parking lot... of the local imbibing establishment.

Instagram


What will I be sharing on Instagram? Hmmm... I'm thinking pictures. Of my family. Of food. Of church(es). Pictures of random things I find interesting. Not too many postings though (I don't want to be "that guy"), but enough to keep it updated and fresh. Just like facebook will show my more "personal" side, so too will my instagram. What I won't be posting are pre-, post-, or during workout pictures of me. No #gymselfies. Sorry. And no half-naked, "look at my body and tell me how awesome I am because I have self-confidence issues" pictures. Plenty of people abuse Instagram - it's basically a narcissist's dream - but I'm not going to be one of them.

Blogging

This is, or will be, the real meat and potatoes of who I am. Just one or two steps removed from that face-to-face conversation over a finely brewed, frosty cold beverage, I want to make my blog the place where I can come to think things through, share my opinions, express concerns, let go of cares, and embrace struggles. Sound too sappy? Probably. But I think you get the picture. Facebook is just not the right medium to express everything I need to express. Neither is twitter. And instagram is even more limited. Blogs are a blank slate ready to be filled with a bared soul. You might be saying blogs are dead, after all, this isn't 2004. I would disagree. Terms, appearances, and even mediums will change, but as long as the internet is around, blogs will be around in some form.


If you read Part One, and you're still reading, chances are you probably think I'm over-thinking this whole social media thing. You might be right. But I firmly believe in what I said in part one: social media is too rote, too ingrained, and too cheap. Maybe I am over-thinking and over-analyzing this phenomenon. Maybe my solutions fall flat. Maybe I'll give up this little "experiment" in six months.

What I do know is social media is a tool. Just like a hammer or a power saw, social media can be used or abused. However, unlike that power saw, social media doesn't come with a user's guide. It's up to us to figure out how to use it, and how to make our interactions positive rather than negative. Unfortunately, there is a lot of social media abuse out there. How can one person make a difference?

At the very least, if you've read this, maybe it's sparked an idea in you. Maybe you already do some of these things, but now you want to do more. Maybe you are already intentional about what you post, but now you want to go to another level. Social media has a very prominent role in our society right now. What we can all do is reflect on how it impacts our own lives, for better or worse. I firmly believe that the proper place for social media is as an augmentation of our real social interactions. If social media replaces our real interactions, we've lost the proper perspective.

In summary, I've been doing social media wrong by being less than intentional about using the various platforms. Going forward, I'm going to be very conscientious about what I post on which platform. By doing so I hope to make my own interpersonal communications more intentional, more personal, and hopefully more meaningful.

What do you think?

Friday, April 24, 2015

I've Been Doing Social Media Wrong - Part 1: The Problem


I came to a realization recently; a realization as jarring as it was refreshing.

Was it a life-changing realization? Probably not. Earth-shattering? No. Did it change my social media paradigm a little bit? Absolutely.

When it comes to social media, I, along with millions of other 20- and 30- somethings, have grown up in a world dominated by constant interaction with our peers, friends, not-quite-friends friends, acquaintances, and family. We remember the days of chat rooms, AOL and MSN messenger, and sadly, many of us had MySpace profiles (don't be afraid to admit it). Those forums may be distant memories, thankfully. But now we have facebook, twitter, instagram, snapchat, Yik Yak, blogs, websites with free-flowing comboxes, Words With Friends, other social apps, etc. All these applications have one thing in common: they make our interaction with one another easier.

This interaction is not altogether bad, but it has led to one undeniable truth: our interactions on social media have become in many ways essentially a rote habit, a mechanism, an ingrained response. Sharing a picture, link, or quote on social media is something we do without thinking, even need to, in very real cases of social media addiction.

Beyond that, I would argue, our interactions have become - in a word - cheapened. It's so easy now to communicate with a few dozen or your friends all at once, or even hundreds or thousands of people in your networks with a few keystrokes or swipes that we take it for granted. Rather than being valued, I believe, so much of our communication today is cheapened because it lacks the same degree of purpose and intention that makes communication so precious.

I for one, realize that I've been doing social media wrong.

Here's just an example: when I read something I really like - an article, blog, op-ed, etc. - my knee-jerk reaction is essentially: "I've gotta post this on facebook/twitter for everyone to see and I have to tell them how much I like it!" Most of the time, the same holds true for those articles that draw my ire:"I've gotta post this so everyone knows how outraged I am about this!"

Both of those thoughts are instant reactions, a kind of learned response from years of social media use, coupled with more-or-less genuine emotions swelling up inside.

Facebook, which is so often the main go-to social media site, can accurately be described, as one of my friends once put it, as "a near occassion of sin." (My "traddie Catholic" friends will definitely understand what I mean.) Never mind the potentially scandalous ads and the borderline-lewd pictures (yes, even from my friends in some cases). Let's not get started on the hours upon hours spent mindlessly scrolling through newsfeeds. Forget about the temptation towards narcissism. Sometimes the most tempting and sinful part can simply be the commentary on posts; commentary which begins when someone shares an opinionated, "stir-the-pot" kind of post.

My response at one point in life was to take these sorts of posts head-on. I had to comment to share my opinion. These are my friends after all. The friendly thing to do is to correct their error, right? Admit it. We've all been there. The reasoning is something along the lines of: "My poor, misguided friend needs my help... I'm just being a good friend by sharing the truth."  On the other side of the coin, while I may have claimed to post with the intent to simply "inform" those who disagreed, those posts of mine that were knowingly controversial were probably really posted with at least some intent to "stir the pot."

This was part of the problem with how I've been doing social media wrong. I intend to correct it.

In part two, I'll explain how I'm going to change.

Click here to read :I've Been Doing Social Media Wrong - Part 2: The Solution