Are We Becoming Cyborgs?

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(Image photo shopped by me! because I did learn something from that challenging digital art course 🙂

I just finished working on my computer, taking an online art course, getting to know, and enjoy people who I have never met in person, and most likely never will. I am living in a house where I can lock and unlock the door from the phone that I carry with me everywhere because it keeps me connected to more than a 1000 people (LinkedIn) that I barely know, and more than 300 (FB) who have I have gotten to know pretty well simply by what they choose to show me.

And though I am not ancient, I am old enough that I clearly remember a time without computers in my home, a time when I carried a quarter in my shoe for an emergency phone call, a time when I wrote paper letters to people I loved who lived far away, a time when I went to a restaurant and ate and talked and never once looked up something on my phone, a time when sometimes people just sat still and thought about things, or lived in the present instead of frantically trying to take a photo to make sure they could share it with their “network” of friends.

And it is additive to be able to connect like that instantaneously, and it is fun, and there are some wonderful benefits from all the connection. I get it. I confess, I am addicted too. But like any addiction the pleasure is short-lived and the value relatively small. Like a wind-up toy that is unwound, when the screen is off so is the experience. There are no pink cheeks, or sticky salt water and sand left to wash off.

I believe that I have successfully made the transition from antiquity to the cyber world. Sometimes it takes a little time, but I can eventually figure out how to use whatever software I need to do a job, and then use it, with perhaps a few bobbles, but with at least a tiny bit of aplomb.

Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality are amazing and fun, but deceitful because as their names suggest they are still virtual and mixed, but NOT real. Y’all! There is no substitute for a hand on your shoulder, a real hug, someone’s breath on your neck, or feeling a heartbeat next to yours. And nature, oh my, what online is like a warm spring breeze? A rollicking ocean? Or a leaf illuminated by the evening sun? VR and MR offer “close”, perhaps even “very close”, but still not real.

The thing that frightens us most about the cyborg idea is loss of control. But, real control is a myth anyway. We can make choices that can make a difference, but we can’t really have control over anything.

And I do have a choice. Every time I have a free moment I can choose what I do with that time, at least until something that is out of my control interferes. Am I going to have a conversation with the server at the restaurant, or will she find me on my phone posting on FB? Am I going to read a book, write a poem, paint a picture, or play hide and seek with my granddaughter? Or am I going to binge watch my favorite show?

We do live in a technological world, and we do have to be a part of that if we are going to have jobs and function successfully. And that is not all bad, a lot of the connection and equalizing is really good. It is only bad when we lose everything else, or diminish it so much that we forget the realness of real.

I think we love the virtual world so much because we can forget about the real world so for at least a little bit we don’t have to hurt. But pain has a connection to deep joy, and by skipping the pain we miss the point.  In the real world, we don’t have control, but we do have a choice. We can choose to go see a friend instead of texting, or take a dip in the ocean. We can choose to do something real- or we can watch a movie.

The articles I read in my class inspired me to challenge myself to take one typical day and keep track of my screen time. I’m going to include it all, even those few minutes at a stop light when I am checking my work email.

Then I’m going to make a choice about how “real” I want to be.

Because it is my choice!

Excerpt below from my favorite children’s classic, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margory Williams

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side…”Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “it’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then your become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”…

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to carefully be kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.

The Pain in the World

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After my six year old daughter died of leukemia I thought I wasn’t going to be able to live through the pain. And I wrestled with God. I screamed at Him. But deep down I  knew that even if He had come Himself, and sat down beside me to explain to me why it had to happen, it wouldn’t have been enough. Not because God isn’t enough. He is everything. But instead, because there is no way my puny, human mind or my weak, broken heart would have been able to comprehend it.

“His ways are higher.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Eventually I had to find a way to make peace with the pain, and the following, an except from Devotions for the Brokenhearted, is what I came to understand:

Although our own pain is not always the result of our personal sin, sin, in a larger sense, is the reason pain and disease entered Eden. Sin entered the world and altered it so completely that struggle and suffering became a part of man’s everyday existence. (Genesis 3)

From Genesis 3 on, the Bible’s central message is redemption. It is about how God chose not to wipe us out. It is the story of how a holy God who cannot tolerate sin made a way for us to be sinless.

Had God chosen simply to remove all the pain, He would have had to remove all the sin and therefore obliterate all the sinners. He loves us too much to give us a painless world. Instead, for now, He allows sin and pain to exist to give us time to receive the sinless nature of His Son.

He promises us that if we receive the forgiveness He has provided through Christ we will someday know a sinless, painless world. That promise gives us hope as we muddle through the darkness, suffering and grief that comes with living. This life is not all there is. It is not “it”. This is just the journey. The journey to our home, a home without pain.

When Something’s not quite

When I finished Gasparilla’s Treasure. I could tell that something wasn’t just right. I knew there was more to the story so I decided to do in depth character studies. Just yesterday I found my research notebook. I had written several pages about each character, things like their favorite color, their fears, their most embarrassing moment…..anything that could give me insight into who these kids were. Most of what is in that notebook is not written in the book but taking the time really think about these kids made them come alive and once they did they began to tell me what would happen next instead of the other way around. “Gasparilla’s Treasure” became “Silent Glades” and writing became an adventure.

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You Decide

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From the moment we wake up till the very second we lay our heads on our pillows at night, our days are made up of a string of decisions, one after another. From simple ones, like what to wear that day, to deeper more meaningful choices like how we to respond to the people we love. That string of decisions weaves a tapestry that one day will form the picture of our lives.

Just about a week after 9/11 my brother, Frank, and his wife boarded a plane for China. The terror alert was high, the security at the airports stringent and more than one person asked him why in the world he would get on a plane at such a time. Frank’s answer was simple, not swaggering or defiant. “I don’t make decisions out of fear.” And that made me wonder, do I?

So I prayerfully went to scripture, and I was amazed at God’s firm response to decisions made in fear. Here are just a few.

Numbers 14:9-11 The Israelites are afraid to enter the promise land because of the large people reported there. God’s response, “How long will these people treat me with such contempt?…”

Exodus 4:10 God promising to give Moses the words, calls him to free the Israelites, but Moses is afraid to speak. God’s response, “Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses…”

Matthew 25: 25-26 The servant who was given only one talent was afraid he’d lose it, so instead of investing it he buried it in the ground. The Master’s response, “You wicked, lazy servant…”

With wars raging, an economy sagging and the threat of terror hanging over us each day, it can be easy to fall into a habit of making choices out of fear. God wants us to be wise (James 1:5). He doesn’t want us to take foolish risks to test ourselves or His love for us (Matthew 4:5-6). But scripture makes one thing clear, we are to make our daily choices in trust, not fear.

Two thousand years ago, when God sent His tiny son to earth, the angel of the Lord appeared to a group of sleepy but attentive shepherds. We can only imagine the bright light, the bleating sheep, and that group of working men huddled together trembling. They were terrified. But the angel reassured them with these precious words, “Do not be afraid…”. They could have fled, I’m very sure they thought of it, but instead they made the decision to go to Bethlehem and experience one of the most joyful events in human history.

Listen in your heart. I can hear that angel, can you? He is saying, ‘Do not be afraid’, trust God, and don’t miss His best for you!

By Robin Prince Monroe copyright 2012

Where is joy?

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Where is Joy, Mama?
She is dancing in the wind.
She is sparkling in the sunshine.
She is laughing in your friend.
She is playing in your smile and
Splashing on the shore.
She is singing with the birds and
Opening up a door.
And on the grayer days she is 
napping quietly 
under blankets of thick clouds, or beneath an old oak tree. 
Sometimes it will be harder to hear her tinkling voice. 
When the brambles and the mud make it harder to rejoice.
When that happens child,
Remember from the start,
Joy is always with you,
Because Joy lives in your heart.

Good Medicine- Our Sadie Dog

 

When Sadie, our Golden Retriever, came to live with us it was because we had tried everything else. Despite our efforts and that of medical science our ten-year-old son, Daniel, hadn’t been able to gain any weight since he was three. In fact, he was so medically fragile that he couldn’t attend school. Daniel has Downs Syndrome and is profoundly retarded but his “failure to thrive” was not a result of the Downs. The inability to gain in spite of a healthy appetite was a mystery. Though he seemed perfectly happy at home, we couldn’t help but think he had to be lonely. When we learned, through a program called Pet Partners, that there are dogs trained specifically for children like Daniel we had to give it a try. Imagine our delight to find that one of the best trainers in the country, Connie Cleveland* , lived only a few miles away. Connie invited us to come to her training facility. She wanted to meet Daniel, and the rest of our family to see if we might be viable candidates for a specially trained dog. Connie concluded that a companion dog could be a good thing for Daniel—well, at least it was worth a try—but she cautioned that we may have a long wait ahead of us. Finding the right dog for a special child sometimes takes years. It was only eight months later when Sadie came to stay. Though an affectionate child at times, Daniel often lives in a world of his own, watching his hands move or experimenting with new motor-boat sounds. The challenge would be to get him to pay attention to Sadie—to get them to bond. So we carefully followed Connie’s instructions. Sadie slept in Daniel’s room. When I fed Sadie I put Daniel nearby so they could “visit” at mealtime. I made her lay by him while the other kids were at school, she rode right beside Daniel in our van as I taxied his siblings to their activities. In spite of all our efforts, however, it was hard to see any progress. The evidence was scant that any bonding was occurring. But one afternoon as I drove to pick my daughter up from school I glanced in my rearview mirror and was surprised to find Daniel’s arm around Sadie. Her head rested on his chest, and his head rested on hers. Daniel had a friend. A few months after Sadie came to live with us Daniel had a check up. He had gained three pounds. Sadie was good medicine for all of us, but for Daniel she was a miracle.   *Connie no longer trains service dogs.

 

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For My Writing and Artist friends….

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Madeleine L’Engle is my writing hero. In honor of her I am going to post here a few quotes from her book, “Walking On Water”, the most incredible book I have ever read on art and writing.

From pg. 18, Walking on Water:     Obedience is an unpopular word nowadays, but the artist must be obedient to the work, whether it be a symphony, a painting, or a story for a small child. I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, “Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.” And the artist either becomes the bearer of the work, or refuses; but the obedient response is not necessarily a conscious one, and not everyone has the humble, courageous obedience of Mary.

From pg. 55 “Walking on Water”:        An aritist at work is in a condition of complete and total faith.

From pg. 60:         I have to try but that doesn’t mean I have to succeed. Following Christ has nothing to do with success as the world sees success. It has to do with love.

From pg. 67:         I am grateful that I started writing at such an early age, before I realized what a daring thing it is to do…We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are…

From pg. 70:     The discipline of creation, be it to paint, compose, write, is an effort toward wholeness.

From pg. 89:     But unless we are creators, we are not fully alive.

From pg. 105:    Despite our inability to control circumstances, we are given the gift of being free to respond to them in our own way, creatively or destructively.

From pg. 118:    If I have to believe all this limiting of God, then I cannot be a Christian.

From pg. 151: I have a point of view. You have a point of view. But God has VIEW.

From pg. 176:     The refusal to love is the only unbearable thing.

And from pg. 193:    Art is an affirmation of life, a rebuttal of death.

We miss you, Madeleine.

Something’s Missing

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If you look closely at this picture, right there with her little head on my foot, is my pug  Lucy when she was a tiny puppy. I remember that day. It was a writing day, the one day that I had set aside each week to work furiously on whatever writing project was before me. My family knew that on writing day they were on their own. I didn’t cook, clean or referee and they weren’t supposed to interrupt me unless someone was bleeding or something was on fire. I was passionate, determined, persistant and worked hard at learning my craft. I believed that God called me to write and He blessed my efforts with the publication of several books and articles.

Except for the occasional blog, it has been several years since I have done any writing. Life has thrown challenge after challenge at me and frankly, I got tired. Passion, determination and joy require energy. I set down my writing to pick up a fire hose and put out the fires of urgency because I didn’t know what else to do. I was okay with that for a time. But there has remained a deep ache in my heart….a feeling that something was missing. 

I am still weary. I don’t feel passion, determination or joy. But I know, as sure as I know anything, that I am called to write. God doesn’t need me to have energy, passion, determination or joy. He just wants me to obey, one step at a time. Today is my writing day. I will finish this blog and then I will work on my favorite manuscript…..unless someone is bleeding or something is on fire.

So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord. I remember my affliction and my wandering , the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness!

—-Lamentations 3:18-23