Tag Archive: language


Author: Seth Godin

Don’t teach your students as if they are a monolithic population of learners. They learn differently, they have different goals, different skills, different backgrounds.

Don’t sell to your customers as if they are a fungible commodity, a walking ATM waiting for you to punch. Six of one are not like half a dozen of the other. They tell themselves different stories, have different needs and demand something different from you.

Different voters, different donors, different employees–we have the choice to treat them as individuals. Not only do they need different things, but they offer differing amounts of value to you and to your project. The moment your policy interferes with their uniqueness, the policy has cost you something.

We used to have no choice. There was only one set of data for the student body, one way to put things on the shelf of the local market, one opportunity to talk to the entire audience…

One of the biggest unfilled promises of the digital age is the opportunity to go beyond demographics and census data. Personalization wasn’t supposed to be a cleverly veiled way to chase prospects around the web, showing them the same spammy ad for the same lame stuff as everyone else sees. No, it is a chance to differentiate at a human scale, to use behavior as the most important clue about what people want and more important, what they need.

It’s a no-brainer to treat the quarterback of the football team differently from the head of the chess club. We treat our bank’s biggest investor with more care than someone who merely wants to trade in a bag of pennies. Instead of reserving this special treatment for a few outliers, though, we ought to consider what happens if we offer it to all of those we value.

The long tail of everything means that there’s something for everyone–a blog to read, a charity to donate to, a skill to learn. When you send everyone the same email, demand everyone learn from the same lesson plan or try to sell everyone the same service, you’ve missed it.

A very long time ago, shoe salespeople realized that shoes that don’t fit are difficult to sell, regardless of what you’ve got in stock. Today, the people you serve are coming to realize that like their shoe size, their needs are different, regardless of what your urgent agenda might be.

Originally posted on Seth’s blog

I am here, because God is.

I don’t always know what the latter means,

But I believe that, somehow,

It says that God is involved

With me

With my community

With the community at large

And ultimately with the community we call Earth.

Now, yesterday, and tomorrow.

 

I am here, because I belief that I can only know God because of God’s revelation

Especially in community

I confess that Jesus, the Christ

Is the pinnacle of this revelation

That in him God’s compassion,

Love,

And self-sacrifice is absolutely present.

 

I am here, because, even though Christ is not physically with us anymore,

His Spirit,

The absolute presence of God’s compassion,

Love,

And self-sacrifice is with us

Through the gift that is the Holy Spirit.

It seems that the one constant on internet forums, at least as far as religious dialogues go, is intolerance for the other opinion. Believers don’t gladly suffer non-believers and vice versa, Christians versus Atheists, Muslims and even other Christians, and again vice versa.

Christians so often take a type of spiritual high ground, claiming to know something or at least someone that the others don’t. Sometimes they even claim to know something of someone which other Christians don’t. A subjective understanding is mistaken for an absolute acquaintance and intimate knowledge of the ultimate mystery. It seems the humbleness of the Rabbi is forgotten.

Non-believers, on the other hand, often retreat into the bastion of reason. From here they lob high-handed pronouncements, often in the form of insults, to the so called dim-witted, superstitious believers who hold on, according to them, to worldviews and other opinions that was already thrown out with yesterday’s trash.

Why is it that these forums are so often riddled by an intolerant few? I would like to venture two reasons although I am certain there are many more that can be considered. Firstly, it seems that any chest-beating is accompanied by a certain sense of insecurity, that 0.0001% of doubt that creeps in during the quiet of the night. A sense that maybe, just maybe, we are not quite as right, quite as absolute as we would like to be; a nagging sense that there might be more to the universe, the world, and even transcended, at least other, realities to my own. With all the data we are bombarded with every day, it is almost impossible not to acknowledge that the model we build and the narratives we construct does not 100% reflect Reality nor Narrative. This begs the question, is there such a thing as Reality or Narrative and, if there is, can we have objective, maybe even subjective, access to it?

It does however seem that the more and louder the chest-beating seems to be, the louder and challenging our own insecurities is, at least as far as the way we build our models and narrate our stories.

Secondly, it seems that we suffer from a good dose, maybe a severe overdose, of arrogance. We simply know. Contrary to the postulation that we might not have the free access to the Reality that we think we have, we construct from the perspective that we do not only have access to Reality but that we have unbridled, objective, and absolute access. It seems that we think that we can transcend ourselves in order to be completely objective and have the language ability to formulate the exactness of the Reality without limiting it. Of course only the I and those who agree exactly with the I has this ability. What is interesting is the assumption that we can transcend our own subjectivity at will, but that something Transcendent can’t exist.

Thus, maybe it is time we should all heed the call of the ancients and the contemporaries, from Confucius, The Buddha, Jesus Christ, Florence Nightingale, Dorothy Day, Karen Armstrong, and The Dalai Lama that the mark of an adult person who lives with happiness and contentment in his/her skin, one would be able to argue, in her/his own faith, is the ability to live with the Golden Rule, with compassion. And if you are wondering what this rule is, here it is in its positive form: Do onto others as you would like them do onto you, this might just lead to dialogues where we listen to others and really hear them, rather than construct what they are saying from our own preconceived ideas.

Geskryf deur Fourie Rossouw

 Jy moet regtig lief he.
Delete jou junkmail folder gereeld.
Opgradeer jou anit-virus program.
Hou jou besig met goeie goed.
Nooi jou buurman oor vir ‘n braai.
As jy die sypaadjie voor jou huis se gras sny, sny jou buurvrou s’n ook.
Moenie opgee nie. Byt vas. Doen wat God van jou vra.
Wees opgewonde oor al die nuwe moontlikhede.
As dinge rof gaan, staan sterk.
Praat gereeld met God.
Help waar jy kan.
Deel uit wat jy het.
As iemand iets lelik aan jou doen, moet dan nie dink jy het ‘n rede om te skinder te nie.
Sommige mense is hartseer, ander is gelukkig. Leef altyd met deernis en empatie.
Moenie so windgat wees nie.
Luister vir ‘n slag.
Moenie jou swembadwater in jou buurman se groente tuin laat afloop nie.
As jou buurman ‘n poepol is, moenie jy dan ook een wees nie.
As dit vir jou moontlik is, probeer om van almal te hou.
Laat God worry oor hulle wat jou te na kom. Laat jou woede staan.
Maak vrede. Vergewe.
Wees ‘n geniunely nice teenoor hulle wat nie van jou hou nie. Niks is meer irriterend as dit nie!
Moenie dat die donker jou baas word nie.

Wees die donker se baas deur in die lig te lewe.

A word of gratitude is owed to Mememan for an engaging series of postings on the relationship between Religion & Science. His first article was a short introduction and defining of the concepts faith, belief and understanding. The second article was a more detailed introduction to the definition of science and the way the Science Method should be understood. His third article is a continued exposition on the value of science opposed to the serious flaws of the religious paradigm. The articles are well written from the perspective of someone who values the Scientific Method and has a very specific understanding of religion, albeit a little one-sided. In order to further true and open dialogue between different perspectives, which is another of the pillars of the Scientific Method, I offer a few articles from another perspective, one of faith.

It is possible to accept the opening statements of the above mentioned articles as fact, that “people of faith gravitate to their worldview by faith alone” and that “the hierarchical ranking within a religious society is directly proportional to the individual’s ability to believe dogma in the face of evidence to the contrary”. However, both these statements are not so objective nor absolutely true. In fact, it paints all people of faith with a very stereotypical and simplistic brush.

Many people of faith, from the Christian and other religion (May I interrupt myself and say that I am writing from a Christian perspective and from now will not venture to speak for faith-people of other traditions. It also holds that I am not speaking for all Christians across the board, as I am sure will be evident from the Comments)., are very critical about the world and also their faith. For many Christians faith is an act of seeking, about being curious about the world and that which is beyond the world. St Anselm (1033-1109) already coined a phrase that described faith as seeking to understand, fides quaerens intellectum, and this long before the Scientific Method.

At this point it might be appropriate to throw another term into the mix, namely experience. I think it might just be possible that all people of faith arrive at their belief based on experience. It is conceivable that at a primal level, before language and thought takes over, people have an experience that, in the long run, begs for articulation, that offers the very foundation of the individual’s existence. And articulate we do; every person in a different way, similar to some and completely dissimilar to others. The way we articulate, and therefore interpret this experience, depends on who we are, where we live, our education, income, sexual inclination, sex, race, age and a myriad of other factors. It might even be that a number of scientists are using the language of science to give expression to this experience, that it is this experience that fuels their drive and curiosity to learn more, to seek more and to understand more. One might even be tempted to argue that many scientists are motivated by the belief that what they are doing will yield a result, which might or might not exist, to solve some or other problem which will better the lives of people or the ecosystem as a whole.

In this opening article I would like to make two other, but very brief, comments.

Firstly, although most Christians believe in a Creator-God, it shows a certain lack of understanding to paint all Christians as Creationists. The term has a very specific use and refers to people with a very specific dogma. Although I believe that God created, I also admit that I have no idea how (S)He) did it; in my mind evolution is the best answer to the question of how we have till now.

Secondly, understanding smacks a little bit of the hubris mankind (sic!) is known for. Physicists are telling us that what they happily described as being the whole of existence is turning out to be approximately 5% of the whole and that they have a vague suspicion of another 10 or 15 percent but that beyond that, they are essentially clueless. Now if you write theories, hypothesize, correlate, deduce et cetera on 5% of the whole and make it applicable to whole; well it sounds a lot like belief, or, would some argue, it smacks of God-complex.

So in conclusion, to this part, I would argue that both faith and science seek to understand, that honest scientists (lay and trained) and honest theologians (lay and trained), do so with integrity and sincerity, but with different ways of articulating their experiences. That belief is to be found in the most sterile of laboratories and that critical though and a questioning dispensation can be found in the most sacred of worship spaces.

I’ll write on the concept “religion” in the next article in this series of responses.

We’ve got no fucking idea! My choice of words might upset you, somehow I don’t care. I am aware of the harshness of the language, maybe even the inappropriateness of it. And yes you are welcome to take me to task about it, but only if and when you seriously engage with the following. The invisible children of Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda. The stolen generation of Australia. Children in the global sweatshop. The starving in famine-struck Somalia. The people of Kiribati. The people who work and live in the Mine, Guatemala City. The oil sand exploitation of Athabasca and similar areas. The oil fields of the Niger delta. Any of the active genocides that are taking place in the world. And don’t just read about the above on the internet, run the search on Google Images with safe search off, the latter is a cop-out; even better, visit one or two of the places if you can.

But you don’t need to travel that far and “exotic” to see, hear and experience how really clueless and irrelevant we have become. Take a drive through the far flung reaches of the North-West and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa. Visit city centres and prominent harbours. Talk to the youth in South Africa and then to a few drug addicts, prostitutes, homeless, jobless and oppressed. Spend a day at an animal shelter or at any underground dog-fighting ring. Walk a day next to a workhorse in Khayelitsha. Open your eyes and ears to your own comfort and privilege. Open your eyes and ears to the very real suffering in the world. Open your eyes and ears to the call of Jesus. Really step out of your comfort zone for a moment and experience.

And whilst at it, remember the words of Jesus, and ponder it for a little while.

“Then he spoke: You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all. God’s kingdom is there for the finding.  You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry. Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal. You’re blessed when the tears flow freely. Joy comes with the morning. “Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens – skip like a lamb, if you like! – for even though they don’t like it, I do . . . and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this. Give Away Your Life But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made. What you have is all you’ll ever get. And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself. Your self will not satisfy you for long. And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games. There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it. “There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests – look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.” (Luke 6:20-26)

And once you have done that, then, but only then, you are welcome to challenge me on my choice of words at the beginning of this reflection.

By Listener

(Dan Smith)

 

We’re all born to broken people on their most honest day of living

and since that first breath… We’ll need grace that we’ve never given

I’ve been haunted by standard red devils and white ghosts

and it’s not only when these eyes are closed

these lies are ropes that I tie down in my stomach,

but they hold this ship together tossed like leaves in this weather

and my dreams are sails that I point towards my true north,

stretched thin over my rib bones, and pray that it gets better

but it won’t won’t, at least I don’t believe it will…

so I’ve built a wooden heart inside this iron ship,

to sail these blood red seas and find your coasts.

don’t let these waves wash away your hopes

this war-ship is sinking, and I still believe in anchors

pulling fist fulls of rotten wood from my heart, I still believe in saviors

but I know that we are all made out of shipwrecks, every single board

washed and bound like crooked teeth on these rocky shores

so come on and let’s wash each other with tears of joy and tears of grief

and fold our lives like crashing waves and run up on this beach

come on and sew us together, tattered rags stained forever

we only have what we remember

 

I am the barely living son of a woman and man who barely made it

but we’re making it taped together on borrowed crutches and new starts

we all have the same holes in our hearts…

everything falls apart at the exact same time

that it all comes together perfectly for the next step

but my fear is this prison… that I keep locked below the main deck

I keep a key under my pillow, it’s quiet and it’s hidden

and my hopes are weapons that I’m still learning how to use right

but they’re heavy and I’m awkward…always running out of fight

so I’ve carved a wooden heart, put it in this sinking ship

hoping it would help me float for just a few more weeks

because I am made out of shipwrecks, every twisted beam

lost and found like you and me scattered out on the sea

so come on let’s wash each other with tears of joy and tears of grief

and fold our lives like crashing waves and run up on this beach

come on and sew us together, just some tattered rags stained forever

we only have what we remember

 

My throat it still tastes like house fire and salt water

I wear this tide like loose skin, rock me to sea

if we hold on tight we’ll hold each other together

and not just be some fools rushing to die in our sleep

all these machines will rust I promise, but we’ll still be electric

shocking each other back to life

Your hand in mine, my fingers in your veins connected

our bones grown together inside

our hands entwined, your fingers in my veins braided

our spines grown stronger in time

because are church is made out of shipwrecks

from every hull these rocks have claimed

but we pick ourselves up, and try and grow better through the change

so come on yall and let’s wash each other with tears of joy and tears of grief

and fold our lives like crashing waves and run up on this beach

come on and sew us together, were just tattered rags stained forever

we only have what we remember

 

from Wooden Heart Poems, released 06 July 2010

Music Video

We live in an age, somewhere post modernism, after the demise of meta-narratives, somehow knowing where we are not and desperately trying to figure out where exactly we are. This short sketch is an attempt to struggle with the “exactly where we are”. I propose three common denominators for the age we live in, Digital, Networked, and Anthropocene.

Without a doubt two of the most significant developments during the late 20th century was the personal computer, which Taleb signifies as a Black Swan Event, and the web, another of those Black Swans. The Web made it’s debut during 1989 and it spread to offices and homes by 1994. Digital cameras arrived on the scene in 1990, cellphones during 1977, cellphones with cameras during 1999, chatrooms opened it’s doors during 1980, Facebook launched 2004, Twitter 2006 and an ever increasing list of portals where digital data is created and stored. The mere act of using the internet during 2011 will create more digital data about an user than the user him-/herself can generate. The dawn of the digital age broke over the earth during 2002 when more digital data was generated than analogue data. 2011 will see another 1.8 zettabytes of data created, 33% more than 2010, or in other words, the equivalent of 57.5 billion 32GB Apple iPads filled with data. Enough to build a technological wall of China, as long and as wide, but twice as high. We truly live in a digital world.

One of the mainstays of the digital era is the hubs, nodes, linking datacables, and wifi signals that create a vast Network of 1’s and 0’s. The network(s) that underlie the digital world is not merely a bunch of microchips and optic fibre, but creates an environment which allows not only digital communication and data creation, but for interactions in the “real” world with very “real” implications. We use networks to order our lives, from buying food to organizing social get togethers, from insiting revolution on the one side of the planet to exploiting the planet on the other side, from building community with family and friends vast distances away to destroying communities close by. Today more than ever before do we realize that we are part of a vast network, both digitally and naturally, where technology matters but networks far exceed the virtual world. It seems there might be truth in the saying that when a butterfly flaps it’s wings in America, it creates a tropical storm in the Orient, a truly networked society.

Last, but not least, is the realization that we live in a day an age, a biosphere where the activities of man(!)kind is shaping the very space we live in. It’s been suggested that a case can be made that we are living in the Anthropocene, a new geological age or even a new geological epoch alltogether. If the suggested Anthropocene is an age it falls under the epoch Holocene. If not and it is recognize as an epoch in its own right, it follows on the Holocene that started approximately 10 000 years ago after the end of the Pleistocene and falls under the period Quaternary, which started an estimated 2.6 million years ago. The term was coined by ecologist Eugene Stoermer and widely popularized by the atmospheric chemist, Paul Crutzen. The Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London deemed the proposal, to formally accept the Anthropocene as part of the Geological Time Scale, as having merit and thus the proposed addition of the Anthropocene is currently being studied. Accepted or not, we are living in an age where (wo)mankind has an ever increasing impact on the world around us.

The age we are experiencing at the moment often leaves us gasping for air, scrambling for descriptive words. There might be many such word and concepts out there, however, I want to welcome you to… the Digital Networked Anthropocen (DNA).

What a meeting! Arriving at the airport well in advance of my travelling fellows, getting the SARS export/import form stamped and grabbing the first few places in the check in queue for the group, I get ready to wait. The third person to arrive is an Egyptian and we soon strike up a conversation. This was prompted by me sharing information about the free wrapping service offered by EgyptAir just around the corner. He is amazed, this he tells me, does not happens in Egypt, there you pay for getting your bag wrapped.

At the first the conversation whirls around the relevant topics of our worlds, what we do, where we live, the differences between South Africa and Egypt and his take on the revolution in Egypt, surprising and thought provoking, so much different to what I experienced from the comfort of my sitting room passively partaking in it.

During the conversation, on and off as members of my travelling group arrives, he gets a name, Ramy Samir. He is a Protestant, the son of a Coptic Christian and married to a Catholic believer, an ecumenical household to say the very least. Just as we say good bye, for now, Ramy invites me to contact him when I am in Cairo on Good Friday with the promise to take me to church with his family. What a priviledge!

I am privilege that a recent blog entry, God is dead! Or is (S)He)?, was duplicated on www.news24.com. This entry was fairly popular and solicited an active debate. To be expected there were pundits who claimed that God was dead indeed, or, that God cannot be dead as (s)he) never existed to start with. On the other hand there were those who vigorously defended their belief, based on personal experience, faith and Scriptures.

Evolution, the tension between religion and science, Pascal’s wager and a number of other arguments surfaced amongst the, probably to be expected, stereotyping from both sides. The one argument, against the existence of God, which I would like to address, is that of causality.

The argument goes something like this. Nature is governed by the law of causality; nothing can exist without something else causing it. It is within the context of a causal world that the faithful confesses a Creator-God, which is the origin or source of all that exists, including the laws that orders our natural world. The critique that is levelled at the identification of this first cause with a personal deity is that of the continuity of causality; who or what created the Creator? Why stop at Creation, the Big Bang or the Big Bang as creation event as the start of the causal chain?

In my mind the assumption that everything is governed by the law of causality is based on our extended experiences of the natural world. In order for something to happen, it must be caused by another event. From here it is a small jump to conclude that this is the only way that anything is possible and, as such, if there is no cause, then the resulting reaction cannot exist. The fruit that grows on this tree is the question that, if God exists, who caused or created him, it or her and if no such a cause can be identified, God obviously does not exist.

Into the debate, enters the Black Swan Theory, popularized by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book The Black Swan. This theory postulates that certain events falls so far outside the scope of personal experience that it cannot be predicted in any way. The theory is named after the falsification of an old world presumption. In 16th century London the statement “black swan” referred to something that was impossible. The current and historical experience at the time was that all swans had white feathers and therefore the popular conclusion was that the occurrence of a black swan was indeed impossible. It was only when a Dutch expedition in 1697 discovered black swans in Western Australia, that the presumption was falsified.

What does this have to do with the law of causality and the question to who or what created (or caused) the Creator.  Simple; why do we contend that we know everything and that the law of causality is an absolute truth. It might just be that there is a black swan waiting on the causal horizon and that this horizon is closer than we care to imagine, that is, if relativity and quantum mechanics are to be believed.