The Most Dangerous Metaphors

The most dangerous metaphors for us are the ones that cease to be recognizable as metaphors. For many people the analogy between brain and computer has reached that point: the brain isn’t like a computer, they think, it is a computer. (“A computer made of meat,” some say.) When that happens to us, we are in a bad way, because those screens become permanently implanted, and we lose the ability to redirect our attention toward those elements of reality we have ignored.

~Alan Jacobs, How to Thinkp. 104

Does Satire Work?

Tony Reinke’s work at Desiring God has steadily drawn my attention over the last year. Here is an excerpt of his recent article on sarcasm, where he draws fruitfully from the late novelist David Foster Wallace:

Satire’s most potent work is in exposing phony facades. But it cannot accomplish anything more important, and there’s the problem, as Wallace explained in a 1997 radio interview: “Irony and sarcasm are fantastic for exploding hypocrisy and exposing what’s wrong in extant values. They are notably less good in erecting replacement values or coming close to the truth.”

Sarcasm is a free-swinging wrecking ball. It cannot construct.

So what happens when mocking sarcasm lives past its use and becomes the tone of a generation? Wallace explains. “What’s been passed down from the postmodern heyday is sarcasm, cynicism, a manic ennui, suspicion of all authority, suspicion of all constraints on conduct, and a terrible penchant for ironic diagnosis of unpleasantness, instead of an ambition not just to diagnose and ridicule but to redeem. You’ve got to understand that this stuff has permeated the culture. It’s become our language; we’re so in it we don’t even see that it’s one perspective, one among many possible ways of seeing. Postmodern irony’s become our environment.”

Did the Simpsons Ruin a Generation?

So you might say satire works on one level, in its proper season. A sarcastic word fitly spoken is a delight to me. Reinke, however, (channeling Wallace) prophetically points to the moral possibilities of an entire generation steeped in parody, irony and sarcasm. There is also a time for earnestness and sincerity.

Growing

Like my thinking, this blog has undergone a bit of restructuring since I first began it in 2015. For some time, I’ve wanted to find ways to make this blog a unique space for Christian interaction over the most important things in our lives.

Dear reader, while I admit that I have not always fostered the kind of interaction that might make this space more helpful to you, I have managed to bring on another writing voice that can help.

I’ve been hounding Matt Bulman to contribute regularly here for a while now. Matt has written a few guest posts here and has agreed to do so more regularly. Matt’s experience, creativity, and style will do much to expand the purview of this blog. I asked him to provide a brief bio for you and I’ve included it below.

Our hope is that The Life of Things will grow into a space where we can hear from multiple perspectives within evangelicalism. I’m always refreshed to find common places where, united by our bond in Christ, we have the platform to speak and to listen together in our diversity. Your questions, comments, and concerns are always welcome.

About Matt

My name is Matt Bulman. I have a wife, Hannah, and three sons, Levi, Nolan, and Jacob. I work construction during the week and sometimes remodel my house on the weekends. I go to Harvest bible Chapel in Winston Salem and am a member of a decent small group there. Here is how I got to here.

When I was nineteen I left the university of my choice to go to Bible College. I was convinced that this was what God wanted me to do and that I would be pleasing God by going. Halfway through school I got married and a few months before graduation my oldest son was born. And then somehow I fell through the cracks and got lost.

I had offered my life up to God with the best of intentions. He took my gift, put it up on a shelf and as far as I could tell, forgot about me. When my classmates left to go to other churches as youth or assistant pastors I was left sitting and waiting. I sat and waited and slowly twisted into something else.

God had disliked me, tricked me into volunteering for his army and then forgot where he had placed me. I was the kid he didn’t want to have. He had to save me because I believed in him but he didn’t have to love me. A couple of years into that I began to see that maybe he was right. He didn’t use me because I wasn’t useful, didn’t like me because I wasn’t the kind of guy he likes. Those were six years of spiritual fun times.

I was still going to church, still teaching a sixth grade boys class and serving in other ways but only because it was easier than doing the work to get out. But as far as God was concerned I quit. He left me alone and I left him alone.

A Bible College reject, too frustrated to keep going and not man enough to tell anybody I quit.

“For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.”

Then, in 2012, Jesus jumped in, slapped me awake using youtube videos of Mark Driscoll, and won’t let me go. It took six years for me to learn that I didn’t have anything to offer God for his approval, and five minutes to realize that he wanted me anyway. When he should have really turned away he didn’t.

I write to remind myself that I am seen, not forgotten, and that I am not sitting in God’s garage waiting for bulk item pickup day.

Ink- The Great Cure for All Human Ills?

“Whenever you are fed up with life, start writing: ink is the great cure for all human ills, as I have found out long ago.” C.S. Lewis

Perhaps this is an overstatement on Lewis’ part, but I think we all need to be writing, some of the time. Many of you already know this intuitively, writing things down is like a therapeutic exercise that brings peace and clarity. This post is for the reader who struggles to see the value of journaling, even if only periodically.

Power of Words

Journaling? Me? 

Maybe journaling is suitable for only certain types of morose and bookish types, but I don’t think so. Here are three ways I think pen and paper can aid us:

Journaling can assist us in cataloging our thinking and holding ourselves accountable

Journaling periodically can help us keep tabs on a variety items. Whether it’s monitoring our progress (or lack thereof) in an endeavor or tracking the development in our thinking on a topic, journaling can be a tool that helps us build the discipline of accountability into our own lives.

Journaling can promote introspection and… quiet. 

On a simple level, being able to tolerate quiet is a necessary skill for human flourishing. As Matthew Crawford said: “Just as air makes respiration possible, silence, in this broader sense, is what makes it possible to think.” While it’s true that we’re all skilled multi-taskers in this age of the smartphone, how can we practice our thinking and praying without being intentional about seeking solitude and silence? Praying and thinking are activities that require practice and that can be aided by our periodic discipline of writing and journaling.

Journaling can bring clarity to our thinking

When we speak about ideas or events, we normally give ourselves the benefit of the doubt that we understand what we’re talking about. Then there’s those awkward moments when we’re asked to clarify what we mean. Or when we’re asked to explain a position fairly fundamental to our thinking and we respond like any sentient being would: “Well, I… Um…”

Writing can aid us here. When we approach a blank piece of paper, we must begin to write something in order to begin thinking. How will I vote? Remodel my home? Interpret this section of Romans? Why did I enjoy this book so much? We can say that we know how to explain this decision or describe that experience. Tell that to a blank sheet of paper. Pen and paper force you to tackle those awkward moments now, rather than later.

When we bring up writing/journaling, loads of other topics come to mind- diaries, list-making, etc. Has writing aided you in any of the areas discussed in this post? Feel free to share your story or contribute additional thoughts not included in this post. Journal skeptics- let me know how it goes!