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Friday, August 30, 2013

My Heroes Have [Not] Always Been Cowboys - i

They have not always been my heroes
Video: They have not always been my heroes
Despite the title, this is not a post about country music.
There is however a reason why I have chosen to use the song famously interpreted by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, as it will be clear in subsequent deliveries.
Let me begin by telling you about a chat that I had with a friend of mine well over half a century ago.
At the time, both my childhood friend and I had finished 7th Grade, what’s now called Middle School. Not quite yet teenagers we were both somehow self-aggrandized — thinking of ourselves more as being young men rather than children longing to find out what the end of boyhood would mean to each.
 “So, have you already read the whole Bible?”, my friend inquired. There was a challenge implied in the way he had posed the question, but also a certain amount of cockiness. You [me, that is] kind of sensed that it was not just an idle query. “Because I have. From Genesis to Revelation. Every. Single. Verse.”, my friend added, without waiting for an answer.
That’s indeed quite a feat. For anybody you wanna think of, not just for a 12-year-old. Add his short age to the fact that I knew him to be much more inclined to arithmetic and numbers [in time, he became a civil engineer] than to other academic pursuits and you’ll see how I could not have been anything other than impressed.
“Excellent! Did you read it all at once, non-stop, or did you pause in-between books?”, was my reply.
“Of course not, not read all of it in one sitting! But it didn’t take me more than a few weeks,” my friend added, only to reiterate his original query. “And you? Have you already read the whole Bible? I would find it difficult to understand how you, attending a religious school, have not done the same as me already.”
Classmates for the whole of our elementary school years, we had both returned to the little town of our boyhood to be with family for the vacations.
We had been sent to different cities to undertake our secondary education. While he had been enrolled in a lay school, my parents opted for sending me to a Roman Catholic one — even though neither one was particularly religious and skirting the fact that, through my father’s paternal side, me and my two younger brothers were being raised as Baptists. [I am still a Baptist and, as those who may have read previous posts already know, obviously an Evangelical Christian, struggling more-often-than-not with questions of faith.]
In this retelling and self-evaluation of his reading prowess my friend, a Roman Catholic enrolled in a lay school, was both right and wrong — and yes, I know, you can’t be both, is the normal reaction to such assessment.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with reading the Bible from beginning to end, whether over a period of days, a few weeks or a whole year, or even a lifetime. It just seems to me [it did then and still does now] that to undertake such an effort, to go from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 as an exercise in reading, just because the verses are there, in a manner of speaking, will not necessarily make you grow in the Word of God.
It may have happened to my friend it may also happen with you. To me, it looks a lot like trekking all the world’s coastlines while wading ankle-deep into the seawater. And once you are done, claiming to know what the oceans are like.
There was, however, one thing where my friend was right — perhaps unknowingly and more than likely mistaken in his reasoning — : the wrong belief that attending a religious school and more specifically, a Roman Catholic one, was synonymous with knowledge of the Bible.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wishing Well

What a wonderful web we wish!  
We all do, I guess, but in this particular case I am talking about Mark Zuckerberg’s most recent initiative: making Internet access widely available. As in: anywhere, everywhere. To put it simply: make the world wide web watchable in the whole wide world.
Late Tuesday night, facebook and several other partners listed in this article announced the foundation of Internet.org, with the goal of making Internet access available to everybody on the planet.
The knowledge economy: not a zero sum
The knowledge economy: not a zero sum
 
As Zuckerberg and partners noted, some 2.7 billion people —most of them in the developed world— already have access to the Internet.    
That means, of course, the ability to share —or decry— the ideas of people like Glenn Beck or Al Sharpton, as well as the freedom to soothe your spirit with readings of the Bible or pursue some other kind of thought.
As explained in the press release, "There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy. Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it."    
Whether you call it the web or the Internet [they are different things, though in common usage they have become interchangeable], what Zuckerberg and partners are in fact talking about is what’s called “digital connectivity.”  
Somewhat hyperbolically, in a separate document posted on his facebook wall Zuckerberg asked, “Is connectivity a human right?” [A rhetorical question, in my opinion, whose answer is more likely, no.]  
He answers himself as follows:  
“There is no guarantee that most people will ever have access to the internet. It isn’t going to happen by itself. But I believe connectivity is a human right, and that if we work together we can make it a reality.”
Except for making connectivity a human right, for all the other parts of the quote he’s right.