“Making Culture” and the Slow Way

So maybe it was a mistake to revisit Making Culture as a way to return to sleep at 1:30 am –I don’t know. I randomly flipped to page 97 where Andy is talking about metaphorical gardeners, artists, cultivators, creators. This didn’t bring me any closer to my goal of sleep, because I think it’s very helpful for the project that ReGroup is working on. I’m writing now because I’m hoping this will help me stop going on and on about it in my mind. I always appreciated Andy’s use of “postures” in the book, and forgive me for not explaining it as he does. It’s closely related to attitude, outlook, and assumptions. Here’s the excerpt on gardeners and artists:
“And then, after careful contemplation, the artist and the gardener both adopt a posture of purposeful work. They bring their creativity and effort to their calling. The gardener tends what has gone before, making the most of what is beautiful and weeding out what is distracting or useless. The artist can be more daring: she starts with a blank canvas or a solid piece of stone and gradually brings something out of it that was never there before….”
He goes on to contrast this with the posture of constant complaining and criticism, which also leads to charges of hypocrisy (or contortions), not to mention a lack of positive change.
With the Slow Money conference coming up in a few days, the separation of the literal and figurative application is very small, and maybe that’s what making this so powerful to me. Also, I’m advocating a “culture making” approach to Slow Food, Slow Ag, and Slow Shelter for our area.
I’m thinking that there’s a conversation to be had about what type of artist is most appropriate. I’m not in the art world, but it seems there are artists who are skillful and passionate about depicting something commonly perceived as “beautiful and true”, and there are artists in the more abstract realm where I hear things like “challenges” and “I get it.” I suppose it’s a little heretical these days, but I think of how I prefer the more accessible expressions or depictions. Maybe it reminds me of an observation by Mathew Crawford in Shop Class as Soul Craft, where he explains the need for a servant’s attitude when repairing or restoring (what does the thing need?), as opposed to the attitude of independent creator (what do I want this thing to be?). That’s a little off topic maybe, but it might be part of a larger discussion for another post.
Slow Church thinkers will be at Louisville also, which was the deciding factor in my debate of whether or not to go. Great combination.

Posted in Christian, Slow Food, Slow Money, sustainability | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Slow Money Demonstration

I first read Woody Tasch’s “Slow Money” in 2009, after I had become familiar with E.F. Schumacher, Wendell Berry, Matthew Crawford (Shop Class as Soul Craft), Michael Pollan, and others. Andy Crouch’s “Making Culture” isn’t really in the same genre, but it’s related as far as I’m concerned. I realize that a lot of books are about “Why are we doing it this way when we could be doing it that way?” but these were connecting/feeding an emerging crowd -or an awareness that there was a much richer life/economy than the television ads were telling us about. There’s a definite spiritual side to this, as I mentioned in a previous post, but what I’m really focusing on right now is the economical/cultural side.
A small group of us, Re-Group, has organized to conduct a sort of pilot project. The project involves developing a youth enrichment program and economic redevelopment plan in which the themes of Slow Money are combined in one place. Part of the rationale for this is that it makes a great youth program (in this case, ages 13-24) and another part is the demonstration effect of what “Slowness” can do in a small community. The Slow Money conference will focus on food/ag entrepreneurs mainly, but I think another way to grow the movement is to showcase a more comprehensive development for profit (meaning evidence for sustainability). Really looking forward to attending the conference.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A More Vertical Perspective on the Horizon?

What I mean by Vertical Perspective is easiest to explain using the opposite –a horizontal perspective. Before I begin this, keep in mind that I’m not proposing an “everyone, always” alternative. It just seems like we’ve been encouraged to scan the horizon for new experiences or new things, and I’m sure there’s something primal in this, like most everything else. It tends to lead to a habit of pursuit, consumption, waste, and a definite lack of contemplation of bigger questions or self-awareness.  I use the term “vertical perspective” to express a deeper focus on what is immediately around us, below us, and above us. This includes the history of the place we’re in, changes, beauty, biology and other sciences, self-awareness, and on up to the sky and “beyond” –to the bigger questions about why and if there’s any reason to believe someone’s up there, and so forth. The vertical column is huge, not limiting. Of course some people seem to naturally spend more time with a horizontal perspective than a vertical perspective, but our culture has tended to push us toward the horizontal. Part of the focus of ReGroup is to encourage more time in the vertical perspective, especially with older youth. The Slow Movement is great for this, so I’m headed to the SlowMoney Conference in Louisville Nov. 10-12!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Redemptory Economy

A Redemptory Economy

I just decided that might be a good term for what’s been stirring in society. There is a theological meaning for this phrase, but I’m not referring to that (though it has been stirring too, of course). And it doesn’t just refer to making use of things that might be discarded or demolished or recycled. It refers to an attitude that through curiosity, resourcefulness, interest, imagination, and love for the Creation and Creator, we can not only redeem otherwise decaying/discarded objects and buildings, but also the rich connections and experiences, past and present, that their renewal provides. You might imagine a restored pick-up, a tractor, a barn, a downtown building, a house, a lamp, or even a craft. The satisfaction comes even if we’re not the ones doing the work, and the satisfaction is greatest when we’ve also been able to see the un-restored condition. Restoration, with so many meanings, seems to be a nearly universal joy.

This “Redemptory Economy” idea is going to be tricky for me to explain. First, I need to make clear that this is an observation and a sort of proposal about what to call the common thread in the general interest. It’s not about suggesting a plan of action, although I do think it’s a very positive development, because it’s already been happening. As a believer, the words redemption, restoration, renewal, etc. all have deep spiritual meanings. While I obviously acknowledge that the spiritual meanings are the most important, I hesitate to dwell on that parallel here –though I don’t know that I should really. Maybe I just want to avoid attaching a common goal to this idea so people won’t jump to common metaphors along the way. There’s something new going on in our society, since the early 2000’s, and it has to do with repair, restoration, reclaiming, etc. The food movement and general slow movement seem to be a part of the same appetite. Many young and old small-scale farmers are doing “restorative agriculture”. It’s a growing subset of the larger economy, and I believe it’s a very positive development in terms of local economies, stewardship, and even spiritual health (a later post).

While appreciation for technological advances hasn’t changed, there’s this growing crowd learning and loving all kinds of low-tech crafts and joys. It’s that observation that makes me extend the idea beyond various forms of repair and restoration to include skills and knowledge that had fallen out of common usage. I won’t dwell on the probable origins here, except to say that it’s ironic that the “information age” seems to have brought so many people back to some old ways and crafts. That’s not to say that we’re returning to the past in some way, and I wouldn’t suggest that we should. The next post will be about a place I’d like to create, with the help of some like-minded believers, which could be called a Redemptory Development. I think we have a very good start : ).

Posted in Christian, redemptive, sustainability, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Packaging the Project (Part II)

I’m pondering all this because I’m trying to “name and frame” an outreach effort that’s in the building stage.  It combines perspectives from authors/experts like Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, Matthew Crawford, E.F. Schumacher, Aldo Leopold, and John Leeke.  I guess where Jesus comes in is that these writers have been, for me, key influences in the questioning of Post-war cultural imperatives:  more, bigger, faster, cheaper.  By releasing us from the urgency of this concept of “progress”, they allow us to question our assumptions.  There are a lot of bad ideas that can be accepted in the name of a vague concept like progress.  Holding the concept and goals of “progress” at arms length opens up some new perspectives.  There’s an implication in the writings of each that there’s a better alternative that does not require the machinery of more, bigger, faster, cheaper.  It’s one thing to innovate and solve problems, but it’s another to think that those innovations define progress or generate fulfillment.  They will generate a temporary sense of fulfillment actually, if we listen to the explicit and implicit supporting messages, and that’s the problem.  There’s something about buying into that kind of fulfillment that keeps people from staying or getting connected with God.  It seems that the further we are from God’s provisions, or the more we focus on man’s capabilities or innovations, the less we connect with the Creator.

The ironic good news is that it seems like we live more sustainably, with better stewardship, as we learn to enjoy food and the existing beauty (natural and man-made) more; and at the same time we are drawn closer to God.  Win, win, win.  But I think we could have more Christians offering this to society so that the connection to God is clearer.  In the earlier post “There’s Gold in this God Thing”, I made the point that the demand seems to be strong enough to financially support this effort on the part of more Christians.

From my daily scolding by Oswald Chambers (he’s my favorite, but some of you know what I mean) we’re supposed to be about much more than meeting the physical needs of people.  We’re to be looking for obstacles to the Gospel message.  Times have changed since the New Testament was written.  Mention the usual Christianese, and not only do most not understand, they are turned off because of other societal issues.  So, we can’t just feed the hungry, and we can’t even feed the hungry plus “share the Gospel” in the usual way, at least in my mind.  But we do need to make disciples.  How do we cut through the obstacles or undo the damage?  We’re not seen as “good” because we don’t have the right political views.  “How can they be good if they believe that…”  Hmm.  I’m not really frustrated by this, and I know that we’re not alone in the battle : ).   I’m just thinking.  I realize I haven’t answered my question from Part I yet, but I’m getting close.

Posted in Christian, outreach, sustainability | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Packaging the Project (Part I)

I’ve been intrigued by the implications for saner living ever since the food movement started. It’s not that all fans of the food movement want simpler, less materialistic living, but it has shown the potential for providing temporal fulfillment in a simpler way.   And it’s not that I’m suggesting that it’s a “make the world a better place” revolution, I just think it has important spiritual benefits for many people, along with stewardship benefits.  It’s not just the food movement, and it’s not just the intentional “voluntary simplicity” crowd.  Preservation, repair, farm stays, the beer movement, general entrepreneurship, etc. -all seem to be related.   In my mind, it’s a trend that’s been growing for the last five years or so.  It’s not for everybody, but it’s a stable trend it seems, and it provides opportunities for Christians I think.
By this I mean:

1.  The alternative, too much focus on market offerings, keeping up with the Jones’, etc., steals time and focus from more important things -in our minds and in our physical actions.  A common sermon topic, I know.

2.  It also, thanks to social intuition and marketing, makes us distort our sense of well-being to the world’s tastes.

3.  “The world’s tastes” at the moment (slow movement/food movement), are actually helping many people pare down.  Some hipper types are even “keeping down with the Jones'” it seems.  This crowd includes hipsters to yuppies, at least.  This is why I think there’s an opportunity for Christians.  It’s a little like the opportunity/goodness I see in yupsters’ embracing folk music.  Even this hipster-folk has an acknowledgement of a need and search for meaning.  That’s not usually a strong element in popular music, and I’m glad to see it.  I don’t have the post right now, but I also read an essay on marketing trends a year or so ago relating to people’s growing desire for “things that matter” in the way of decorating.  The trend is toward things that have meaning through historical connections, family, method of manufacture, etc.  “Stuff that means stuff” I would joke -but it’s true.

4.  The opportunity is partly just that it’s popular to look for something to do that “matters”, but it’s not the doing that strikes me, it’s the fact that more people think they should -and this leads to “why” and “what is our purpose” type conversations and thoughts, which is great.  This is a two-edged sword though.  On one hand, these thoughts can lead to God (as opposed to being distracted by keeping up all the time).  On the other hand, “believers of atheism” are happy to prove that they can be wonderful and nice and meaningful without the baggage of the Christian faith, i.e. constraints and unpopular political positions.

So, I see this period as an opportunity but also an obligation.  Yupsters see a hurting world and they see that they can do something positive.  They sense or buy that rampant materialism has had negative consequences on people and the environment, and that the “philosophy” of wealth accumulation via Ayn Rand is not as satisfying as it’s been touted to be -that there must be more to philosophy.

So for a distinctive Christian mission/outreach, it’s not just feeding the hungry, although that’s a fine cause.  It’s not any one or combination of feeding/clothing/sustainable living/educating children/etc. partly because all those things are done by nice and responsible atheists.    My point is that it would be nice if this desire to “make the world a better place” led people to Christianity, and it used to for many.  But as the desire to help has become popularized, so have the opportunities to fulfill that desire become more secular. An updated “Screwtape Letters” might include this phenomenon.  It would be easier if a serious consideration of the Gospel message and need was brought on by a sensed need to serve the needy.  The two are completely separated now it seems.  And for youth with media-assimilated sensibilities, why choose to serve through a “backward” Christendom when one can serve through a “more tolerant, more enlightened”, organization?

Posted in Christian, outreach, sustainability | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“There’s Gold in this God Thing”

Sort of a Homer Simpsonian way of expressing the opportunity I referred to in the first post.  The point of it is that it seems like this window of opportunity is perceptible even from an unspiritual point of view –implying that there’s an even more compelling pull, or duty even, to the spiritually minded.  I hesitate to use the word duty, but that’s the way it strikes me, for me, and not necessarily for others

The opportunity I referred to in the first post has to do with the larger culture’s growing interest in creation oriented enjoyment.  Examples of this range from the increasing popularity of farm stays, to hiking, to the food movement.  So many of these new appreciations represent a turning away from the more/newer-is-better compulsion in favor of a “deeper” experience.  Sure, some of it is simply trend following, but I think there’s been a genuine healthy shift in our collective subconscious for several yearsAnd the “gold” is that, I think, believers interested in a sort of ministry (intentional or casual) that caters to this can now make a sustainable living.  We can now earn a living while promoting the beauty and health and wholeness (along with some God-given human creativity) of the agrarian life -integrated with a thoughtful, compelling faith.  A large crowd is interested in both.  Faith has often come from the meeting of perceived need(s) and appetites, and there’s a helpful one out there today.

I refer to the shift as healthy from a few different perspectives, but I’d better get into what I think our opportunity is, and that is hospitality-oriented endeavors connected to creation-oriented “leisure” or enjoyment.  Full service God-honoring restaurants, B&B’s, campgrounds of various themes, farm camps, etc.  In the past, the demand for these establishments wasn’t strong enough to justify the economic risk, but I think that has changed.  Some will see the trend as dependent on what the larger economy provides in the way of disposable income, but I don’t think that’s the case, because there’s a deeper, less-is-more sentiment that’s weakening our 80+ year old paradigms about progress and need.

I should add that I have an aversion to the politicized and standardized Christianity and its “platforms” in the culture war, which I do believe exists (although Andy Crouch’s Culture Making uses a much better approach and metaphor).  This is relevant because the greatest opportunity doesn’t seem to be in a down-home, good-enough-for-Grandpa attitude, which is what I sense in politicized Christianity at times.  That’s a whole other topic, and while it is related to this post, I’m not going to develop the thoughts on that this time.  Let me just leave it at the observation that while simple faith is fine and healthy at some point and for many people, St. Paul among others, seemed to sense the need for a more thought-provoking appeal.  The days of spreading the Gospel by quoting Bible verses and repeating Christian jargon are over, if they ever existed –again, IMHO.  Boy, I’ve gotten into it now –maybe more on that later.  Thanks for reading.

Posted in Christian, outreach | Leave a comment