Posts Tagged ‘Creativity’

May I have your attention, please?

I’ve been reading The Attention Merchants for fun between classes, & as everyone is posting “New Years’ Thoughts/Resolutions”, I thought this was an important time to share the surprising insight from the author…

“If we think of attention as a resource or even a kind of currency, we must allow that it is always, necessarily, being ‘spent’. There is no saving it for later.” (pg.20)

“(speaking of developments in political advertising) With its combination of moral injunctions as well as daily and weekly rituals, organized religion had long taken human attention as its essential substrate.  This is especially true of monotheisms, whose demands for a strict adherence to the one true God naturally promote an ideal of undivided attention.  Among early Christians, for example, total attention to God implied ceaseless prayer.  The early Church father Clement of Alexandria wrote of the “Perfect Christian” as one who “prays throughout his entire life, endeavoring by prayer to have fellowship with God.” Likewise the desert monastics of the fourth century took as their aim “to maintain there as near as possible a ceaseless vigil of prayer, punctuated only by the minimal interruption for food and sleep.”

“Such an aspiration to monopolize the attention of believers was hardly abandoned after Christianity’s early days.  Some 1700 years later, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, prescribed various means for keeping the mind attuned to God, such as the practice of thinking of him immediately upon waking, right before falling asleep, for at least an hour during the day, and before taking any important action.  (This discipline shares some similarity with the Jewish practice of offering brachot, or blessings, at various routine moments, such as before eating or drinking, or more exceptional ones, as when thunder is heard, among other practices codified in the Mishnah in the third century CE.)”

“To be sure, it isn’t as if before the twentieth century everyone was walking around thinking of God all the time.  Nevertheless, the Church was the one institution whose mission depended on galvanizing attention; and through its daily and weekly offices, as well as its sometimes central role in education, that is exactly what it managed to do.  At the dawn of the attention industries, then, religion was still, in a very real sense, the incumbent operation, the only large-scale human endeavor designed to capture attention and use it.  But over the twentieth century, organized religion, which had weathered the doubts raised by the Enlightenment, would prove vulnerable to other claims on and uses for attention.  Despite the promise of eternal life, faith in the West declined and has continued to do so, never faster than in the twenty-first century.  Offering new consolations and strange gods of their own, the commercial rivals for human attention must surely figure into this decline.  Attention, after all, is ultimately a zero-sum game.” (Pgs.26-27, The Attention Merchants, Tim Wu)

Translation?  The things we purchase, and technology/apps we use may be affordable or even free, but there is always a cost involved.  When that cost involves our attention during moments previously available to contemplation, quiet, prayer, & offering ourselves to discover the needs/desires/joys/pains of God & others – we may benefit from asking if we can/should really afford the price.

Question for conversation: Is it more redemptive to abstain from creating/posting content – helping spread subversive critique on consumption of social media, or to sparingly & creatively post content that points those who consume toward the Love and Truths of God?   How have you seen either – done well?

In any case – may we be people who invite our children & young people to think about these things.  May this be a year where we realize there are always prices unlisted.  May we seek redemptive ways to interact, create, and live together.  May we not be defined purely as amused consumers, or anxious responders, but discover new ways to offer Faith, Hope & Love creatively as New Creations ourselves…


flex your creative. (a fun post)

She’d done it before, so I probably should have expected it.  But as I held her in my arms, her 4-year-old body curved to match the shape of my lap, her eyes melted my heart as always.  I was caught up in my own little Precious Moment world, savoring her tiny little self being held by me.  She’ll be 5 soon.  As I was enjoying a bit of parental bliss, she began to add to it – looking up at me as if she could offer the world…


“Yes, Ruby?”

“You…”  She stalled, and at this my mind raced with all the potential statements she could be about to offer me.  Something that would surely fill my parenting tank with love for the week.  I barely breathed, waiting for the words of love that were about to come.

“You have spider webs in your nose.”

Oh.  I smiled gently, tickled her a bit for being silly, and we moved on from the moment.  But it reminded me – my kids see the world imaginatively without any effort.  Our children see a world of infinite possibilities, believing so much of what they’re told, or what they can imagine in a given context.  We adults?  We see reality.  We dis-believe.  We ask questions.  We cynacize.  We look up into someones nostrils, and see his nosehairs.

But I’m confident, we can see spider webs, if we’re willing.  If we recognize our imaginative degeneration as the poo1problem it is, and work to keep those muscles functioning.  With that in mind, I’d like to offer you an exercise.  It even seems adult-ish.  As I showered the other day, I noticed a shampoo in our bathroom named “Pantene – Ultimate 10”.  I was curious what the “10” referred to, and as I turned it around I realized someone had been very (although limitedly as we’ll soon see) creative in their descriptions about what this poo can do.

So my exercise today is simple, help Pantene out.  They’ve given 10 decent adjectives, but I’m fairly confident we can do better.   That someday, Pantene could sell “Ultimate 100” using the same formula.  No limits!!!  Here are the current adjectives they’ve given:

1. Repair for rough hair                  5. Smoothing                             8. Gentle Cleaning
2. Strength against Damage          6. Moisture                                 9. Manageability
3. Silky Softness                                7. Frizz Control                      10. Detangling
4. Brilliant Shine

I know there are more descriptions that they’ve not captured.  No matter what your poo preference, I’m asking us to join together as parents and grown-ups who want to keep up with the imaginations of the next generation!  Here are just a few of my own:

11. Crazy awesomeness                  12.  Flowery Smelling                    13. Magically Noticeable

What might you add??

Or are you the kind of person who’s okay seeing nose-hairs?

Katy and the Content Creators

Recently I heard an interview on NPR with an artist whose words drew me in.  I’d missed them announcing who it was, so I tried to figure it out as I listened.  She joked innocently about how over-protective her childhood was, saying they even had to call the deviled eggs “Angel Eggs”.  She appreciated much of that upbringing though, even as the interviewer asked if she now created the kind of music she wasn’t allowed to listen to growing up.  I assumed that simply meant “pop-music”.  She sounded very creative, and even scorned the over-sexualization of most pop-artists these days.  She said she also had the “sex card”, but didn’t feel like it needed to be played.  As the interview closed, they said her name….Katy Perry.  Hmm, I thought to myself.  I’d heard her name before, but never really paid attention to what music she’s made.  Maybe I’ll check her out.

So the next day as I’m checking out youth ministry trends/updates, I get a link to a review of Katy Perry’s most recent album, “Prism”.  The review was not very kind, pointing out how over-sexed and under-faithful this album was.  prismHighlighting the carnal aspects, and the vague notions of Eastern spirituality she flaunts…there didn’t seem to be much redeemable content on the album.

I found myself wanting to pray that the artist I heard on NPR might someday come full circle, seeing the emptiness of a pleasure-seeking lifestyle, and create great art that had depth and wisdom.  As I check out the lyrics myself, I do have a bit more hope than the above review.  The song “ROAR” expresses frustrations with experiences of being “bound/held back/controlled” by someone else.  The song “Unconditionally” reveals a tender heart that wants to love and be loved in ways God has expressed His love for us.  Unfortunately through most of her songs, she tries to dull the pain through sex and party-life….but it’s obviously not fixing things.  The realities of a divorce come through loud in “Love Me“, and “By the Grace of God“.  She’s been hurt and broken by life, and is processing her pain loud, publicly, and through music.  In time, hopefully she’ll stop using pleasure as a band-aid and shed the songs that make her album hazardous.  Just Googling her name leads to plenty more interviews/appearances in pop culture that prove she’s not someone our young women can look up to just yet.

Now imagine that same “pop-star” problem, multiplied by the amount of people we have today creating content for the internet.

This problem used to be reserved for the influences of pop-culture.  A young star comes out, and creates music/content that praises sexuality and indulging “self” in pleasure.  We try to filter it, waiting to see if that artist ever “grows up”.

But today, the content creators are not just pop-stars.  They’re everyone.  Sharing on Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Facebook, Tumblr, Blogs, and more as new programs come out regularly.  Content is being created and shared at a rate no one can keep up with.  There is no filter big enough to keep out all the garbage flooding our feeds, except perhaps a power outage.  In the midst of it all, our youngest “content creators” are attaching huge personal value to the general public’s response to what they’re creating and sharing.  Expressing what they feel to be their deepest identities, frustrations, and being impacted to the point of suicide….it’s almost like every young person now faces the same issues that used to be reserved for child-stars in Hollywood.

We can pray, someday, that many of them come “full circle” to create content that is God-honoring, and contains wisdom and depth that contributes something beautiful.

Or we can do more.  We can help our children/young people to have their identity solidly grounded in Christ.  We can call our children to think critically about the “content” they’re creating/sharing, and pull the plug when necessary.  We can model for our young people what it looks like when someone uses their technology for a purpose larger than “self”.  We can have conversations about popular content, and help our young people to ask questions about why something might be “trending”, and if it’s worth it.

Because it’s not just artists like Katy Perry that are influencing and shaping the world of content any longer.  It’s everyone with an internet connection.  We cannot simply educate/guide our children to be good & faithful consumers….we must raise them to be faith-centered content-creators as well…

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