Monday, September 1, 2008

Vesper Service Thoughts

The second of the two late summer Vesper Services conducted by the Rev. Richard Beal was held at the Norway UU church on August 31, 2008, at 7pm. The previous one, a week earlier, was at the West Paris UU church at 7pm. These were interesting services, the highlights being attendees reading quotes from little slips of paper passed around in a basket from person to person. The quotations were on any conceivable subject from a wide range of authors and all the quotes were thought-provoking. The idea was for the individual reader to give a reaction to the quotation and generate a little discussion. However, perhaps because there were so many of us, about 16 or 17, little actual discussion got generated beyond the reader's reaction. The basket circled the group twice, and I fear I was left in a state of information overload! One of my two readings was a small paragraph by Paul Tillich which alone had enough meat in it to create a full fledged discussion. The same could be said for many of the other quotations. But still, I think the idea of this exercise was an excellent one: people can carry away many different ideas and thoughts without getting bogged down too much on any one thing. So, is this information overload, or highly useful intellectual stimulation? Incidentally, there were fewer of us at the previous service in West Paris, and more discussion -- perhaps too much at times -- took place on a smaller range of topics. All in all, very interesting and I haven't even touched on the other aspects of the services, such as the feeling of community and togetherness generated.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Neil Postman Revisited

"You catch more flies with honey than vinegar."
In the foreward to his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman compares George Orwell's 1984 vision of the world with that of Aldous Huxley in Brave New World.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions". In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

~ Neil Postman
What do you think? Will what we love ruin us? Will too much information reduce us to passivity and egoism? What are the implications?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Silos, Echo Chambers, and Human Nature

There are two metaphors in currency out there relatively recently that I think we have to seriously consider: silos and echo chambers. As our communities across time and space have become larger, we are increasingly hearing only one side of the argument or point-of-view. This, of course, has some advantages in that it simplifies our lives and allows us to become more proficient in our little piece of the world than once was possible. Specialization has done wonders in many ways in our society and personal lives.

On the other hand, how easy it then becomes to demonize the Other. How easy it is to miss the big picture. How easy it is to become self-righteous and ego-centered. It is a human problem, no matter who we are or what we do.

In many ways, we need to limit our vision in order to get some work done, but at some point, in so doing, we limit the possibilities of true collaboration and compromise. At some point we are blinded by our narrow-mindedness.

Parochialism used to be thought of as something that happened in small communities or insular places. Now perhaps it is instead based on our position, interest and point of view, with place being an increasingly minor contributor.

What do you think? Do you see more echo chambers and silos now than prior to the rise of digital technology? Is there any need for beginning to re-emphasize the whole . . . the universal?

Photo Credit

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thanks for the invite!

Wow, things are popping here. Great to allow everyone to post.
I'll check back again later.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Jim Marshall's Solar Classes

Our own Jim Marshall (we need to convince him to sign the membership book) will be doing two classes about using the sun to heat and provide electricity.

"Free Heat From the Sun" Telstar High School, Monday Sept. 15 7:00 to 9:00
"Introduction to Solar Electricity" Telstar High School, Monday, Sept 22, 7:00 - 9:00.

Cost is $10 per class (such a deal) and you must register by Sept. 8 by contacting Jim at

Check out other classes available at the Goose-Eye Institute for Creative Economy Education in the insert in the latest Advertiser-Democrat.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

UU Blogs

Guide to Unitarian Universalist Blogs


"When the goldenrod is yellow,
And leaves are turning brown -

Reluctantly the summer goes
In a cloud of thistledown.

When squirrels are harvesting
And birds in flight appear -
By these autumn signs we know
September days are here."

- Beverly Ashour, September

Photo Credit

Quotations for Gardeners, Walkers, and Lovers of the Green Way

Thinkexist: September Quotes & Quotations