Opening the community chest

la vagabondeuse

I love that tweet @la_vagabondeuse and know the feeling of opening up a box of treasures. There are so many jewels out there. Of course, this has more to do with la_vagabondeuse’s willingness to open her ears and heart to others. Twitter is just the means to that end – one of many social media and other means.

I spent an hour and a half reading through my Twitter feed this morning. Call it a birthday indulgence if you like, but I know it is something I should be doing more of (listening, that is). There are whole boxes of treasure and so many jewels. Here’s some of what dazzled me this morning:

  • John Sutherland’s robust response @policecommander to Daily Mail’s lazy front page report on the nation being hooked on happy pills
  • the recall by Michelle Eyre @MichelleDEyre of the 9th day of Christmas, her true love’s gift of “nine ladies dancing” and her thanksgiving for the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit
  • some lines from Hafiz relayed by Ramblings @ramblingsloa: “Ever since happiness heard your name, it’s been running through the streets trying to find you.”
  • a beautiful image of Naomi and Ruth shared by Jacqueline Durban @radicalhoneybee together with a simply three word sentence: “Love made rock”
  • a 50 second video @HSBC_UK with hashtag #togetherwethrive shared by Michael Sadgrove @sadgrovem in praise of the word “together” in the spirit of Bonhoeffer

I do realise that Twitter is a preserve of the chattering classes, but it is one way of listening to others. We can choose our newsfeed and who we listen to. I choose the twitterati who have their ear to the ground, the ones who are sensitive to the rumblings of down to earth living (over, for example, the Daily Mail and its presumption of daily fail). And I discover, through that listening, the huge amount of treasure in the community chest – treasure graphically portrayed in another tweet from Paul Wright @LeanLeft_Wright this morning.ABCD

This shows the energy bubbling under the surface of community making the point that community develops through the appreciation of its members. You have to live there to know that. It is about opening our ears to hear the voices of others, and opening our hearts to the passion of others and celebrating the community bounty – the treasures and jewels of the community chest, just like la vagabondeuse is trying to do. This is loving the voice of our neighbour and discovering our commonwealth. Put technically this is “asset based community development”. But for those who live there, it is simply the love that makes the rock on which community builds (to paraphrase @radicalhoneybee).

This week’s clection: a community gathered round a hashtag

JobTo make some of us who say Morning Prayer on our own accountable, we gather our thoughts using Twitter #cLectio – some are now using Facebook too. It is a company I find helpful. I look forward to our daily posts, some of which are quite challenging. Hashtag cLectio was the brainchild of friend and colleague @theosoc Christopher Burkett. #cLectio stands for the (Revised) Common Lectionary – that’s the “c”, see? The lectionary lists readings for worship for each day of the year.  (There’s an app for daily prayer using the lectionary readings.)

Posts are often our first thoughts, sometimes our only thoughts, and other times they’re more thoughtful. Anyone can join in, either daily or occasional. At the moment we are reading through the book of Job. This is an amazing piece of ancient literature which is a sustained reflection on suffering, faith and friendship: questions which remain contemporary through the ages.

In this week’s clection we’ve been gobsmacked by Job’s friend, Eliphaz. Alan Jewell, @VicarAlan, scoffed: “With friends like Eliphaz ….” while Christopher complained “Eliphaz really gets to me, I so dislike what he says”. Eliphaz’s windy words and miserable comfort have made us reflect on what we say and how we respond to suffering and grief – thoughts made more urgent with events at Grenfell Tower and Finsbury Park.

We’re not meant to like Eliphaz and his words warn us off from being a friend like him. My “clection of the day” yesterday arose from some of Eliphaz’s words from the appointed reading, Job 15.

Your sin prompts your mouth;
you adopt the tongue of the crafty.
Your own mouth condemns you, not mine;
your own lips testify against you.

How very dare he? In fact, it’s these windy, wounding words that condemns Eliphaz to the readers’ ridicule. But there is a truth in what Eliphaz says. Our “sin” does prompt our mouths and we do utter our attitudes. We have a proverb that says that eyes are the windows of the soul. But if we speak from the heart what we say is also a reflection of our heart and soul.

So I got to pray:

Job15

And I remembered the question raised by Malcolm Guite in a poem from his Singing Bowl:

What if every word we say
Never ends or fades away,
Gathers volume gathers weigh,
Drums and dins us with dismay
Surges on some dreadful day
When we cannot get away
Whelms us till we drown?

What if not a word is lost,
What if every word we cast
Cruel, cunning, cold, accurst,
Every word we cut and paste
Echoes to us from the past
Fares and finds us first and last
Haunts and hunts us down?

What if every murmuration,
Every otiose oration
Every oath and imprecation,
Insidious insinuation,
Every blogger’s aberration,
Every facebook fabrication
Every twittered titivation,
Unexamined asservation
Idiotic iteration,
Every facile explanation,
Drags us to the ground?

What if each polite evasion
Every word of defamation,
Insults made by implication,
Querulous prevarication,
Compromise in convocation,
Propaganda for the nation
False or flattering peruasion,
Blackmail and manipulation
Simulated desparation
Grows to such reverberation
That it shakes our own foundation,
Shakes and brings us down?

Better that some words be lost,
Better that they should not last,
Tongues of fire and violence.
O Word through whom the world is blessed,
Word in whom all words are graced,
Do not bring us to the test,
Give our clamant voices rest,
And the rest is silence.

I am so grateful for the #cLectio community.

All tweets great and small

bagels
“Best bagel ever this morning” (via Twitter).

That sums up a recent conversation thread I was involved with. There is a lot of chatter about the ratio of noise to significance in our social media.  The criticism behind the bagel reference was there being such little significance and too much noise in that sort of conversation. That was their excuse not to tweet. (Is it their excuse not to talk, as well?) It is strange how one tweet a winter of discontent makes.

Refuseniks are missing the party. Here are some of my (not by me) top tweets. @nancyWhite collected some from the Applied Improvisation Network Conference in a post that make me wish I had been there:

  • #AIN12 @brentdarnell Traditional training is a conspiracy create by sellers of 3 ring binders
  • #ain12 Matt Smith: “do what you can to get into a sense of gratitude before you perform” … or teach, or host, or lead, or ….
  • “You have to find people who are broken and help them heal. Laughter is my weapon of mass construction.” Genie Joseph #AIN12

Others are funny, like this from @theMiltonJones: Roman numerals to be phased out – not on my watch. (Retweeted 1467 times!)

Favourites showing when I wrote this:

  • From @alaindebotton: People who want to be famous generally had parents who took the media a bit too seriously
  • Again from@alaindebotton: How needlessly mean to buy only as many books as one actually has time to read

Without a tweet from @theosoc I would not have been alert to it being World Mental Health Day today, and there being a global crisis of depression affecting >350 million people. Without @first4LCFC I wouldn’t get score updates for my team.

Some tweets are profound and stimulating. They are clever. Other tweets are delivered without such pretension.

The taste of my bagel (in less than 140 characters) is not insignificant. It is a fact of life that some people do record their bagel consumption as a “status update” on Facebook. It is another fact of life that others give them their thumbs up because they care. Many do. They “like” it.

I wonder what it was like when there were other technological breakthroughs in social media. There have been famous letters. Some letters were kept, some thrown straight on the fire. But the triviality of some didn’t prevent people replying with “it was lovely to hear from you” and “please write back”.

We don’t always have something of earth shattering importance. I wonder, with the development of speech (early social media), whether Adam and Eve really did turn to each other and say “Just listen to you. All you go on about is your bagels. Can’t we talk about something more important? Just tell me, do I look big in this? And, how about this big apple?”

Conversations great and small build community and relationships. One of the reasons we go back to Patara for our holidays (maybe you’re not interested in that!) is the way everyone greets us with “gunaydin” (good morning). I would rather walk a street where people say “Hi” than walk a street where there is no expression because people think such apparently meaningless banter is beneath them. I am likely to go back to a cafe with waiting staff anxious to know whether I was pleased with their bagel.

a most inspiring award

Well, blow me down. I’ve received a nomination for  a Very Inspiring Blogger Award from Ivon from his Teacher as Transformer blog.

Isn’t that lovely? And isn’t the award a great way of building community? Now, I’ve got to nominate 15 other blogs and their authors as “Very Inspiring”, by which I mean that their blogs are inspirational to me. I know it’s not going to change their life, but it’s proof to them that they are making sense – to me, at least. (And it is reassuring to know that we are making sense to others).

And it’s going to get their oxytocin levels going! Dr Love – aka Paul Zak (can I change my name?) has researched the “moral molecule”, the chemical in the blood called oxytocin. It turns out that “being treated decently causes people’s oxytocin levels to go up, which in turn prompts them to behave more decently, while experimental subjects given an artificial oxytocin boost – by means of an inhaler – behave more generously and trustingly. And it’s not solely because of its effects on humans that oxytocin is known as “the cuddle hormone”: for example, male meadow voles, normally roguishly promiscuous in their interactions with female meadow voles, become passionately monogamous when their oxytocin levels are raised in the lab”.

So, let’s hear it for the male voles, and for social networking. Zak recommends, according to Oliver Burkeman writing in the Guardian

we should all be doing more to boost oxytocin in benign ways. He recommends a minimum of eight hugs a day (pets count, too); massage and even soppy movies seem to work: he has done the blood tests. Interactions on Twitter and Facebook seem to lead to oxytocin spikes, offering a powerful retort to the argument that social media is killing real human interaction: in hormonal terms, it appears, the body processes it as an entirely real kind of interaction

Get pressing that like button! William James claimed that “the deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated”, and a Harvard psychologist speaks of the importance of having a praise-criticism ratio of at least 5:1. Does anyone ever complain that they are praised too much?

Award ceremonies contain suspense, appreciation and thanks. Awards are prized and hard to come by – when we think of the Oscars, Olympics and such like. But there are everyday awards that are not so hard to come by, but are equally prized and create community. I had my own New Year ceremony which you can read about here. But there are awards to be made in our everyday world. These awards are not made with fanfares or fine words, but may consist of a “thank you” or simply a smile.

I’m not going to think too hard about the awards I am going to make today, but among them are my nominations for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award. (I am only including blogs which have recent posts).

And the nominations are (in no particular order and chosen from those who post regularly):

  1. Spirit 21 – Shelina Zahra Janmohamed
  2. Inspired Beeing – Cat Jaffee
  3. The Painted Prayerbook – jan Richardson
  4. Growing up with God – Rachael Elizabeth
  5. Simon Marsh
  6. shinystuff – Jan Dean
  7. Beyond the Edge – Viv McWaters
  8. Another Angle – Stephen Cherry
  9. Lost in the North – Dave Mock
  10. Plaza – Oliver Herbert
  11. People Reading
  12. Do not dance UK – Jose Campos
  13.  On the plus side – Lynn Walsh
  14. Christopher Burkett
  15. The Six Doyles – Katherine Doyle

The rules for accepting the nominations are:

  1. Link back to the person who nominated you
  2. Post the award image to your page
  3. Tell seven facts about yourself
  4. Nominate 15 other blogs
  5. Let them know they are nominated

So here’s the award

And here are seven facts about myself:

  1. I’m part of a lovely family – Jeanette, Adam, Oliver and Leo and their loved ones
  2. I was ordained in Sheffield in 1974
  3. I am still listening to Leonard Cohen and Paul Simon after all these years
  4. I love the beach – Patara and the beaches of Wirral and North Wales
  5. I’m intrigued by ideas of leadership and ministry (nominating here Dee Hock and Meg Wheatley for Very Inspiring Author awards).
  6. I follow the ups and downs of the Foxes – Leicester City – my home town team
  7. I recommended a book by Jay Griffiths to someone yesterday – A Sideways Look at Time

Thank you Ivon for nominating me and for inspiring me to today’s awards and community building. You would have been on that list.

chitter-chatter

>

This diagram describes the ratio of noise to wisdom and the descending volume and value from noise to wisdom. According to Dee Hock “Noise becomes data when it transcends the purely sensual and has cognititve pattern.
Data becomes information when it can be related to other information in a way that adds meaning.
Information becomes knowledge when it is integrated with other information in a form useful for deciding, acting or composing new knowledge.
Knowledge becomes understanding when related to tother knowledge in a manner useful in conceiving, anticipating, evaluating and judging.
Understanding becomes wisdom when informed by purpose, ethics, principle, memory of the past, and projection into the future.” 

At one end of the spectrum, data is increasingly abundant, whereas wisdom (which is “holistic, subjective, spiritual, conceptual, creative”) seems to becoming scarcer.
 
We watched Lark Rise to Candleford last night. Based on life in bygone Buckingham (Candleford) and Juniper Hill (Lark Rise) the series reflects a time when there seems to have been a far higher ratio of understanding and wisdom to data and information. Wise counsel seems to have been part of being in settled communities slowly facing up to change. The wisdom is captured in the winning entry to last night’s poetry competition:
 
     As I went on my way,
     Gossamer threads span from bush to bush like barricades,
     As I broke through one after another
     I was taken by a childish fear
     They are trying to bind and keep me here
     But as I grew from girl to woman, I knew
     The threads that bind me were more enduring than gossamer.
     They were spun of kinship and love
     Given so freely that it could never be taken away from me. 
 
They were the days before the coming of the railway – a back story of Lark Rise. The coming of the railway meant increased communication, which meant more noise, which meant more data, which meant more information – and before we know it, we are too tired and overwhelmed to process it any further. Now we contemplate rail journeys of  only two hours from London to Glasgow – though wisdom may have gone out the window.
 
I am in the process of exploring the world of Facebook and Twitter. I now have the knowhow – now I am looking for the understanding and the wisdom to discern how to use it. Though there is a lot of noise and chatter going on I think I can now see a point to Twitter – I travel slowly! So I have changed my profile to “Cascading Insight – a dealership in second hand views” – and I am thankful for the tweets of others which have pointed me in the direction of understanding and wisdom. I will not be tweeting about my moods, where I am, and what time I’ve gone to bed. That is definitely too much information and just adds to the volume of noise we haven’t got a hope in hell of managing.

Image rich

>I think it takes a particular mindset to respond to opportunities of the new media. I was pleased to read that Liverpool Diocese is “working to engage with the online community” and has a twitter account to prove it. My own mindset seems to make me hang back awhile till the case is proved.

I delayed getting my first PC – I couldn’t see the point until friend Richard Todd persuaded me and guided me so that ministry in Tarvin became revolutionised through the new media we could use. I too have now been dragged into Facebook and Twitter. I don’t know how it’s going to work, but I am getting a kick out of getting messages from John Sentamu and Ed Milliband!

I used to search for images for hours when I was a young curate in Sheffield Manor. I wanted to make things presentable to youngsters who were preparing for Confirmation. There were no images in books. Books were text-books. All that was possible was using a stylus pen to create line drawings on a stencil for the old Roneo copier. The drawings had to be so simple because otherwise you ripped the skin of the stencil and it was back to square 1. (I spent many a Saturday night with duplicator ink up to my elbows!) It was a major technological breakthrough when electric duplicators were introduced – a lot easier on the arm, though jamming became the new issue.

Now we are image rich – particularly with digital cameras. We no longer count the cost of taking photos. The challenge now is how to manage them all. One person using images to amazing effect is Dave Perry through his Visual Theology blog. He is creating some stunning images to go with the lectionary. This is a real gift for preachers – and a wonderful new way for people to “read” and “hear” the sermon.