Transcendentalist blog #4- Thoughts from the sky

image
Today, I was once again given a new and unique opportunity to observe nature. For my choir trip, I was able to spend some time in an airplane,
and though I wasn’t able experience the same silence as before, I was able to see an aspect of nature I had not seen before. As we flew along the countryside, we saw various crop patterns in the greenery and fluffy white clouds below our plane. As I aproached Los Angeles, California,  I was able to see the overlay of the large city through the darkness.  Our view from the plane window would be dark, until a new cluster of lights coming from a section of city came to view. It was breathtaking.

As I observed these sights, I was struck with how I viewed the ground below from the sky as opposed to how I viewed the it from the ground.  So often, my view from the ground is extremely self-centered. It is very hard to see the big picture of life from our small perspective from the ground.  Our perspective on nature ( our own human nature included) is so majorly changed based on our experiences.

For instance, from the ground,  a pattern in a field, such as a crop circle, can be nearly undiscernable. However,  from the sky, a clear and intentional pattern can be seen for these patterns. The lines match up and the purposes are shown. This relays a truth in the way our perspectives and God’s perspective relate. From our human perspectives,  each problem seems highly important,  and our focus is placed on ourselves.  However,  from God’s perspective,  each situation lines up in His perfect plan. His eternal perspective divinely discerns the best for His children.

Advertisements

Transcendentalist Blog #3 – At Night

da0369e241ff0579815e9969215d7808

Tonight, once again, I took an opportunity to spend some time in my yard at night. As I laid out my blanket on my front lawn to look at the stars, my dog came out to sit next to me. There are not many lights in my neighborhood, nor were there very many clouds, which came together to a be a beautiful, clear night. I could hear the frogs at the pond at the end of the street chirping, and every once in a while I could hear the low buzz of traffic and the sound of music from our neighboring community. As my dog and I sat under the stars, nearly alone, the light of the moon became brighter. However, there was still such a large amount of space that was invisible and unknowable to me.

During my time under the stars, I had a very difficult time focusing. I spent so much time trying to calm my paranoia of being outside alone in the dark, that I had little time to think about the beauty all around me. Then I was reminded of the vulnerability that I felt whenever I spent time alone in the dark, in any place. There are no walls protecting me, no people surrounding me, and my all-too chubby Beagle does little to put my nerves at ease.

While thinking about this vulnerability that I was confronted with, sitting alone in my neighborhood with a high crime-rate community on our border, I was faced with the absolute beauty of vulnerability in any situation. To be vulnerable is to be completely without protection. Though I had a little protection in being close to my house, being outside was outside of my comfort zone. As silly as it may sound, merely being willing to sit still in the dark with out rushing to the house to turn on lights took a great level of trust. Trust that the bad things that my mind had imagined to be hiding behind things or creeping out to snatch me were non-existent. Though I am fully aware that it is an issue I should probably overcome, (in all honesty probably when I was 7) it was difficult nonetheless. Through this experience, I was reminded that when we feel the most vulnerable before God is when we must cling to Him the most. Vulnerability can be seen in many areas, whether shame or fear, but it is a feeling we often avoid. It is very important to ask for God to bring us to the place of vulnerability so we can see again how much we must cling to Him always.

 

“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makes me dwell in safety. ” -Psalm 4:8

Transcendentalist Journal #2 -Rest in the Woods

Image

This past week, I was able to take some time with my family to hike in the Smoky Mountains. Originally I resented the idea; I had just come from the beach and was not looking forward to the time away from friends, even more time spent exercising. However, it didn’t take long for the mountain air to refresh me as my family and I hiked up to Laurel Falls. Due to the fact that the trail we were hiking was in a national park frequented by other spring-breakers, there were several other people on the trail. This left my family and I with the sounds of the wind in the trees and quiet conversations from the people around us. After we hiked for a certain distance, we reached the falls. I observed the beauty of the falls and the view from that area.

As I sat by the waterfalls and put my towns in the icy mountain water, I stopped and listened. The sound of the wind in the trees, the water flowing, and the sound of conversations far away. There is something so pure and refreshing about just spending time in the woods, it reminded me that there is a time and place to enjoy rest, in all different ways. Though the hike was not slow-paced, it was extremely restful and it gave me time to sort through my thoughts and spend time with my family.

Through my hike, I was confronted with the importance of understanding rest. So often rest is viewed as a day spent watching television, or laying at the beach, or sleeping in, but rest is so much more than that. While thinking about this time, I am reminded of the story in Mark 2, when Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees for healing a paralyzed man on the Sabbath, a traditional day of rest. The Pharisees admonished Him for His work on the Sabbath day, which the Scriptures command to keep holy, but Jesus responded by revealing an important truth about the Sabbath, and likewise rest in general. ““The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28) Jesus explained that not only was He the God of the Sabbath and had full control over the use of the Sabbath, but that He had created the Sabbath in order to give His people the opportunity to rest: a gift for their good. This came to mind while thinking about my hiking trip. Though the hike required hard work, I was able to see great beauty in the falls and the surrounding view, and I was given a time to rest. God gives us opportunities to rest, times set apart from our time of working, time for us to appreciate the gifts He has given us in a different way than when we are busy with our everyday tasks. 

Picture Source: http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/0d/ba/0c/0dba0c4dc21427da6bdbdb35383137d7.jpg

Transcendentalist Journal #1- After the Storm Thoughts

Image

Tonight I experienced beauty in a very odd and unexpected way. Realizing that I needed to fulfill one more time for a blog post tonight, and dreading a time in the rain, I merely opened a window, turned off all the lights in the house, sat next to the window, and listened. I live in a neighborhood where my parents don’t usually condone spending large periods of time outside at night and, due to my own paranoia, the time I do spend outside, whether to take out the garbage, retrieve something from the yard or car, or just to look at the moon, is usually hastened. My yard is usually a frightening place at night, with large trees making looming shadows and faraway sirens worrying my ever-fearful mind. However, tonight I was able to sit, listen, feel, and observe. Today was a day with typical March weather: rain and snow. The snow had since melted away, leaving the yard with a peaceful breeze and a refreshing smell that comes after the rain. The lights from the neighborhood and surrounding city lit up the low clouds, and, because I had no lights coming from my house, they seemed even brighter than usual. Sounds from the nearby train track rumbled every now and then, and an airplane or two went overhead. I could hear my family talking from upstairs and laughing at me “meditating” in the living room with all the lights off and the window open.

Recently, I have been confronted by the business of my life. I often complain of a constant cycle of homework, sleeping, school, etc., and often wish that I could just remove myself from it all for a little while, and rest. This has always seemed rather unattainable for me; the times when I really feel refreshed are times like retreats or my yearly week at camp. However, tonight I was able to see that there was so much beauty, even in my backyard, that I had been ignoring. The light, for example, was a reflection of this beauty. When I have all the lights on in my house, the yard seems to be full of blackness and the shapes un-determinable. However, when all the lights were off and I was able to look out my window, I was able to see much of my yard and the beauty of the sky being lit up by the lights underneath it. I was able to see enough to see beauty from my window, but not enough to do things that I would need to do in the day.

When I thought about this further, I began to think of how it relates to the Christian life in so many ways. So often we are caught up in the big events of life, asking for big miracles, big changes, and big events to occur. We forget that God is working with us day-by-day, and, though He does provide in large ways as well, He also is working quietly in our lives, giving us enough grace for each day only. He is always working in our hearts and lives, even if we can’t see Him. If we only focus on big things, similar to the bright lights of my house, we loose the opportunity to thank God for the little things, similar to the lights at night in my yard.  Also, my time sitting by my window reminded me of a verse in Exodus, when the Israelites were approaching a large battle. “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14) The Lord calls us to trust in Him always, and we need only to be still and trust that He will bring about what we need most for each day. So often I try to make myself busy to fix my own problems, when the Lord calls me to be still and trust Him. This came to my mind as I was sitting at my window listening to the quiet. It was peaceful, and it was beautiful. This time also reminded me of a hymn by Charles A. Miles titled, In the Garden. It reads:

I come to the garden alone,

While the dew is still on the roses,

And the voice I hear falling on my ear

The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,

And He tells me I am His own;

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice

Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,

And the melody that He gave to me

Within my heart is ringing.

I’d stay in the garden with Him,

Though the night around me be falling,

But He bids me go; through the voice of woe

His voice to me is calling.

The time I spent by my window in the quiet reminded me of the beauty of spending time alone in the Word. Sometimes God calls us to action, but sometimes He calls us to trust, be still, and be thankful for the way He is quietly working in our lives.

Source for the Picture: http://indulgy.com/angelica/Favorite–Spaces–and–Places/from/81794473506

Hymn: In the Garden by Charles A. Miles

“America” by Imagine Dragons: Its Relationship to John Smith’s Account

“America”

Is this just an illusion
That I made inside my head to get me by?
20 years in debt
20 years in the government
20 years can never get me by

Then I feel you close
Feel you close like you wanted me to
Feel you close like you wanted me to
Believe in you

Rise to the top of the world, America
America, don’t you cry
Lift me up
Give me strength to press on
Rise to the top of the world, America
America, don’t you cry
Lift me up
Give me strength to press on

From farmers in the fields
To the tallest of the towers that fall and rise
1-7-7-6
The names upon the list
For all the ones that gave until they died
Don’t you hold back
I can see in your mind, and your mind will set you free

And I feel you close
Feel you close like you wanted me to
Feel you close like you wanted me to
Believe in you

Rise to the top of the world, America
America, don’t you cry
Lift me up
Give me strength to press on
Rise to the top of the world, America
America, don’t you cry
Lift me up
Give me strength to press on

Rise to the top of the world, America
America, don’t you cry
Lift me up
Give me strength to press on
Rise to the top of the world, America
America, don’t you cry
Lift me up
Give me strength to press on

 
    This song has very similar themes to John Smith’s account of and beliefs concerning the “American Dream”. Both Smith and the artists talk about rising from adversity to conquer and rise to prosperity. In addition, this song relates to John Smith’s account in the way that it describes the sense of community and support that should be found in America. Just as Smith believed that communities needed to come together and support each other, this song asserts that, as a nation, America should come together to support each member. Similarly, “America” and John Smith’s account share the themes of individual strength and integrity, as well as emphasizing the necessity of the individual to community. 

Individuality and Nationality

                Throughout history, national identity has been emphasized more than individual identity due to the power of monarchies that determined the identity and beliefs of a nation. However, with the growth of democracy has come a rise in the appreciation and emphasis on individuality. Individuality holds a greater value than nationality, though both often work together, due to its ability to provide more room for inquiry and an understanding and betterment of your surroundings.

                The greatest benefit of individuality is the freedom it brings to determine personal beliefs through inquiry in all fields. In Freire’s writings on education, he emphasizes the importance of a person’s ability to be in an environment where they can learn by inquiry, constantly asking questions throughout their lives in order to gain a better understanding of their surroundings and how they can make it better. In nations with overpowering authorities, such as monarchies or dictatorships, all too often individuality was frowned upon or punished if it was incompatible with the beliefs of the leaders. When Galileo formulated his beliefs on the orbit of the earth around the sun, the Catholic Church, which was the governing authority of the time, forced him to renounce his beliefs and punished him severely. The nationality, or national identity of the nation was to follow the teachings of the Catholic church, however, this limited their ability to seek truth in science as the church had determined rigid guidelines of acceptability. In democratic societies such as the U.S., individuality is emphasized and citizens are giving the freedom, and are even encouraged, to seek truth. Living in a country that encourages individuality, I am able to determine my own beliefs and act upon them to better myself, and to help those around me. Individuality provides a freedom that is limited by nationality.

                Though individuality holds the greatest importance, nationality provides an irreplaceable identity that carries on through generations and works closely with individuality in providing an opportunity for self-discovery and societal effectiveness. Both my mother’s and my father’s families come from the Netherlands. When my great grandparents immigrated to the United States, they carried with them the national pride, customs, and faith that the Netherlands held. Though they came to the U.S. for new opportunities, the nationality that they carried with them from the Netherlands affected the way in which they acted in their new environment, such as following the Dutch Christian reformed church and going into industry. Nationality, while often prohibitive to inquiry, often influences the way that people go about formulating their individual identities.

                Individuality and nationality often go hand in hand. However, individuality will eventually be the determinant of a person’s ability to inquire and gather information about their surroundings.  The use of individuality will determine a person’s ability to be effective in their nations. 

English Assignment: Freire’s “Banking” Education

1. When education is described as an act of banking, it is because it demonstrates teachers depositing information into their students without the students fully grasping or understanding the idea, but merely receiving knowledge. 

2. The consequences of a banking relationship between students and teachers is that the students grow to believe that they have no knowledge in one area, causing them to have less inquiry or a desire to educate their teacher, and teachers grow to believe that they are ultimately knowledgeable in one area and their students cannot educate them further. 

3. Teachers are not often aware of the harm they cause. Though well-intentioned, Freire proposes that “the teacher confuses the authority of knowledge with his or her own professional authority, which she and he sets in opposition to the freedom of the students,” (Freire). 

4. According to the essay, the educator benefits the most, seeing as, “…tranquility rests on how well people fit the world the oppressors have created and how little they question it,” (Freire). This doesn’t mean that all teachers are seeking to oppress their students, but it means that the foundations they set create the standards of success, giving them the most benefit. 

5. “Problem-posing” education creates a conversation in education between teacher and student which allows both parties to experience inquiry in a topic and learn from each other, with a teacher posing ideas and leading the student in inquiry.

6. In the phrase, “Problem-posing education affirms men and women as beings in the process of becoming”, the author asserts that allowing students and teachers to participate in the act of understanding a topic through the exploration of its meaning allows them to attain knowledge and grow in person-hood.

7. In certain classes, information is provided without a full explanation of what the steps were to reach that information. The lack of space given for inquiry, and the over-abundance of instruction without discovery led to confusion. 

8. In one classroom, our teacher allowed us to explore topics through discussion in class. Though in other classes, allowing students to talk can lead to off-topic discussions, our teacher provided us with questions that intruiged us and caused us to search for meaning and understanding through explorations of things we understood. Through discussions we were able to share our information with our teacher, and he was able to share his information and discoveries with us, and we could come up with theses and ideas together. The problem-posing format of the classroom allowed the students to delve into the information presented and grow to want to understand it better. 

9. I have found that the “banking” and “problem-posing” environments are also seen in parenting techniques. Many parents choose to raise their children with a certain set of rules and do not see the need to explain them, but merely require their children to follow them without question under the pretense that it is their duty as a child to respect parental authority. Others allow their children to have more freedom, setting standards, yet allowing them to discover many of life’s lessons on their own. They discuss the lessons learned with their children, but allow them to do much moral inquiry freely. Yet others combine the two, setting a strong set of unquestionable standards and rules, yet allowing their children to learn some life lessons through discovery, inquiry, and exploration. None of these techniques are inherently bad, but a combination of these two environments creates a strong foundation while providing room for self-discovery and understanding on other issues. 

Research Log #4

    As I have researched the proposed benefits and detriments of social media and video conferencing, I have come to the conclusion that, properly handled, the growing technology found in these two areas have great potential for a positive impact on today’s culture. They key, I’ve found, to unlocking the potential of social media and “telepresence” is to understand how to use it properly as a means of conversation (Curtis). 

   What does it mean to use social media and video conferencing as a tool for conversation? In video conferencing, the answer is apparent. Video conferencing can be used in international and domestic connections, bringing families together and making otherwise distant business meetings a quick click away. However, many propose issues with use of video conferencing as a means of communication. “Video conferencing can be less personal than meeting face to face, yes, and it can be possible to miss out on vital body language when you’re struggling with a pixelated image or stuttering video. However, the latest HD video conferencing technology delivers an image so clear that even the subtleties of facial expressions can be seen easily, making video conferencing the next best thing to face to face meetings,” (Smarter Interactive). The growth of technology allows video conferencing to become a means of true conversation, with multiple parties engaging in an interaction that isn’t impersonal, growing relationships. Similarly, social media is used by businesses to advertise. However, researchers have determined that it is best used in business by creating dialogue with customers in order to observe trends and responses to products. Similarly, when social media is used in relationships as a conversation, it provides an extra means of communication that is not merely founded in impersonal observation through social media. When used as a means of conversation, the advanced technology in social media and video conferencing has great potential for beneficial effects on relationships and business interactions. 

http://blogs.ca.com/greenit/2012/03/05/the-sustainability-and-economic-benefits-of-video-conferencing/

Research Blog #3

    As I’ve researched video conferencing, I’ve found that many of the articles on the benefits of video conferencing were produced by companies who sell equipment to companies for further use of video technology. One of these articles was produced by CA Technologies. Though it slightly took away from the ethos of the article that they profit from the sale of video conference technology, the benefits that were presented are true, and the solutions to the problems found in video conferencing were logical and not merely applicable to the services provided by CA Technologies. 

   Among the many benefits presented by the company, travel time and environmental effect were the most prominent. “Reducing air travel, improving productivity, better work-life balance all drive telepresence use,” (Curtis). This is applicable to all forms of video conferencing as it allows international companies to hold meetings that normally would require extensive travel time and funding by merely using a laptop and a webcam to make a call. Due to this lack of travel, companies also would reduce their negative environmental effect. “Telepresence can avoid millions of metric tons of CO2,” (Curtis). Though this is not as prominent as the business effects, it is significant. Video conferencing truly has a large positive effect on business. 

CA Technologies Article: http://blogs.ca.com/greenit/2012/03/05/the-sustainability-and-economic-benefits-of-video-conferencing/

Research Blog #2

      Through further research I was able to look further into the idea of how exactly social media could be used properly in both business and relationships. The problems that were presented in both areas of social media use are very accurate, but both of them have clear and relevant solutions. In both instances, the problem can be resolved by turning social media interaction in to a conversation, not merely an observation, or a advertisement, in business instances. Also, in family cases, social media has been blamed for the wide-spread contentment with less personal relationships. However, growth in technology allows these relationships to continue to be a conversation while still reducing the distance gap. 

    In business, social media conversations take a medium that was originally used just for advertising into an area of observation, as businesses can observe consumers’ reactions and opinions. These interactions allow companies to work more effectively in production and alteration. In family connections, social media formerly allowed family members to observe the activities in which their family members were involved. However, with the growth of technology, social media has provided and opportunity for face-to-face interaction. The key to effectively using technology, I have found, is in using it as a tool for conversation.