Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dave Brooks on models of response

A quick note: David Brooks: awfully intelligent for a “conservative”! JK—he really can write some thoughtful and fair pieces and I think that he sees the big picture very well. In NYT today his piece on the swine flu epidemic reflects on the advantages and disadvantages of centralized vs. decentralized responses. He thinks that decentralized responses offer the best course, but I don’t see it as an either/or choice. Perhaps a “networked response” is more accurate, a 21st century update of federalism. That is, intense knowledge-sharing and local experimentation without command-and-control. I can’t sight any sources, but I can’t believe that the military hasn’t thought and considered this problem a great deal. Suggestions?

Nicoll on Metanoia

In the The Mark (see prior post), Nicoll discusses the term metanoia, a crucial term in the NT. Its most common translation, rooted in the KJV, is “repentance’. However, as Nicoll points out, “repentance”, which has connotations more in the nature of regret or remorse, does not accurately reflect the Greek term metanoia. Instead, “change of mind” would prove more accurate. I have read some who suggest “change of heart”, but as Nicoll argues throughout this work, the key to understanding Jesus’ message lies in gaining a whole new outlook, not gaining an emotional feel. Nicoll riffs on a passage from Luke to show that a whole different understanding of what must motivate us. For instance, he argues that God’s will, however we may understand “God”, is not done on earth (thus the supplication on the Lord’s Prayer), and that earthly calamities do not reflect God’s judgments or actions, as so many presumptuous persons are quick to suggest (e.g., Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson after the 9/11 attacks). Citing Luke 13:4-5, he notes that Jesus does not assume—indeed contradicts—the suggestions that those who lost their lives in a natural disaster somehow “deserved it”. Instead, Jesus seems to suggest that we should instead be concerned about changing ourselves (metanoia) and not trying to discern on earth what we cannot know or seek what cannot be found here (ultimate meaning). A very thoughtful chapter, to which I cannot give full appreciation here. More to come!

E. J. Dionne on Obama & Steven Johnson on the Future of the Book

E.J. Dionne is one of my favorite political commentators, and not just because he had the smarts to interview my daughter and her friend during the 2000 political campaign. He’s an insightful and sensible “liberal” (I generally don’t care for or trust such labels, but I bow here to popular prejudices). In his column today in the Washington Post, he argues that Obama has both “intellect” (vision, a sense of the whole) and “intelligence” (an ability to get things done). Dionne credits this distinction to Richard Hofstadter, the great American historian, from his Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1966). Worthwhile.

Steven Johnson wrote in the Wall Street Journal about the future of the book. For all bibliophiles, an interesting and challenging piece. Johnson is generally upbeat; I remain cautious. As much a blogs, and magazines and newspapers offer, nothing matches the extended argument and consideration of a book. Can it withstand all the potential for jumping and hoping? Johnson recognizes the problem, but he glosses over it. Otherwise, the Kindle 2 would certainly be a big temptation. Time will tell.