Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Millennials, Technology, and Compassion

I recently wrote a piece exploring technology, compassion, and the role each -- and could -- play in my generation, the Millennial generation. It was published this morning at Thin Difference, a leadership blog/website I follow. My article is a call to action to my generation, to use the technology we have to be compassionate. Please read!

My full, updated bibliography is here, or via the link at the top of every page on this blog (mobile users, please find it in the drop-down menu). Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

America Under Construction

Last week I took a vacation to Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia. I saw a number of friends (mostly from my Wheaton days), did a few touristy things (including a concert at the Kennedy Center, something that has been on my bucket list for a while), and relaxed at my parents' vacation timeshare resort in Alexandria.

One of my activities was a visit to the United States Capitol. The Capitol dome is currently surrounded by scaffolding, the most visible element of a major restoration project.

The United States Capitol, looking southeast from the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and 7th Street

The image of the Capitol dome under construction reminded me of a scene from my favorite TV show, The West Wing. Josh Lyman, the Deputy White House Chief of Staff, is meeting with a candidate for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, preparing for the Senate confirmation hearings. They are vigorously discussing race relations in the United States, and the candidate, Jeff, asks Josh to take out a dollar bill and look at the back. Josh does, and Jeff points out that the pyramid on the Great Seal is unfinished.

"The seal is meant to be unfinished," Jeff says, "because this country's meant to be unfinished. We're meant to keep doing better. We're meant to keep discussing and debating..."

What if we were to remember that more often? In these days of ideological battles, when our country seems so polarized, what if we were to remember that this grand idea called America, this grand experiment in freedom and in government by the people's representatives, is unfinished? If we did not expect it to be perfect (the word "perfect" means "complete"), would we find it all less frustrating, and perhaps double down on our efforts to work together as a nation?

Friday, January 30, 2015

On Arts Entrepreneurship

"Arts entrepreneurship" is a term that, besides being a mouthful, is probably unfamiliar to most. It is a newer concept and a newer discipline. So new, in fact, that it was not part of my liberal arts-influenced Conservatory undergraduate education, which I finished not quite four years ago. Essentially, it concerns the contemporary dynamic of being and working as a professional artist of any trade.

I do not consider myself a "practicing" artist, I consider myself anchored much more on the managerial/administrative side of things, but I certainly have more than a few friends who are "practicing" artists, and some of the concepts within arts entrepreneurship apply to me anyway given the day and age and society in which I live.

But enough from me. The reason I bring it up at all here is because I came across two pieces on the subject in my reading, and thought it was time I prove that this young professional is paying attention!

The first piece is from the current issue of The Atlantic, and traces the history of the professional artist's relationship to society at large and then analyzes the current relationship. It is a lengthy piece with quite a bit of substance on some major themes.

And the second is from the blog of the director of the arts entrepreneurship program at Arizona State University, Linda Essig. She offers a summary of the responses of her students to the prompt: "What does it mean to you to be an arts entrepreneur?" These students are just a few years younger than I, yet their thinking is different from the conversations on "life as an artist" I remember having in my undergraduate senior seminar. The field is continually changing, as I am able to see in my work for the Wheaton College Artist Series, in which I interact with a lot of younger, emerging artists, and also my conversations with current students at Wheaton College.

In any case, it is a topic I think I may need to start reading more about, as it will become continually more and more relevant to me personally and professionally.

Update January 31:
I found out that Linda Essig wrote a brief response to the essay in The Atlantic. She highlights the importance of the audience in the arts world. She writes: Artists "need to think of the audience for the arts as partners in an ongoing two-way relationship in which art is not consumed, but appreciated."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

On Waiting


Not quite a common theme for this season of Epiphany. The longing of Advent has since given way to the feasting of Christmas, that great turning point of redemptive history.

And yet, on the macroscopic level, waiting is the order of business for this time, these centuries between Christ's first Advent, the one celebrated every December, and the second, the one we are not yet able to celebrate because it is not yet here.

I came across two articles in my reading this week, this first full week after the Epiphany, on that theme, which I will highlight here along with my reflections after reading.

The first, by Jeff Strong for Christianity Today, focuses on an often-overlooked fact of the Christmas story (I confess I had never given it much thought), the fact that the shepherds and the Magi both returned, as far as we know, to the same lives they had had before. The next night the shepherds were back out with their sheep, and the Magi eventually made it back to their homeland and continued their scholarly pursuits. A little anticlimactic, when one actually considers that point.

And yet, it fits. After gathering for worship on Sunday mornings, a local congregation returns to their homes, and the next day to their places of work and study. But were the shepherds and Magi any different when they returned? Are we any different when we return from our weekly churchgoing?

The second article is more specifically about waiting. Amber Haines writes for The High Calling about a time in her life when she was very impatient for God to fulfill the promise to make all things new. But without waiting, without unmet desires, what use would there be for hope?

Are there times when we go through the motions of going to church and more often than not find ourselves bored with waiting for God to act? Or are we allowing this time of waiting, while in the midst of the everyday between Sunday and Sunday, between the first and second advents, to transform us?

Most people, being human, hate waiting. I hate waiting in traffic, in line, for the commercial break to end, for a response to that "urgent" email or text message I sent just thirty seconds ago, or for the brainwave that will allow me to finish this sentence. But I know that God is never behind schedule. If God has yet to act, it is because it is not yet time.

"It takes courage to return in a culture that continually invites us to move on," Strong writes. "We believe that Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith," Haines writes, "and waiting becomes an active engagement with hope at its core."

We cry, "Come, Lord Jesus," and rightfully so. But sometimes, the response is, "be still and know that I am God."