Rabbit Trails – February

§ Bluey

When the family watches tv, we’re trying to make it a practice of all watching together, laughing together, and enjoying each other’s company. Carly and I have been talking about a show that we found on Disney+ called Bluey, an Australian produced cartoon about a family of blue heelers: Mum, Dad, Bingo and Bluey.

Here’s the thing – the show is really good. The family laughs, plays, and treats each other with kindness, dignity, and respect—which are three foundational words in our home. The creators have said, “The main thing we want to do is not go for a cheap joke…there is definitely slapstick humor in the show, but never at the expensive of the characters. We are really trying to keep the integrity of ‘this is what your parents are like’ and ‘this is what you are really like.”

While making dinner recently I was trying to describe a scene that I watched with the kids, and my wife put her finger on what makes the show so distinct from other things we’ve seen—it’s the dad, Bandit. “Yes!” I said, “you nailed it. It’s the dad.”

He’s an incredibly loveable and loving presence, playful and serious, tender and teasing. In loads of shows with a minimal family plot line, or an absent/oaf/inept father – Bluey presents a dad that loves his girls, owns his mistakes, apologizes to his children, takes himself less seriously, and does it all with a great accent.

Below is the scene I was trying to describe to my wife, I felt like it was the perfect representation of the joy of being out in public with young kids and having to burn time you didn’t account for. They’re picking up takeaway, but the spring rolls aren’t ready. Dad calls Mum, says they’re going to wait for them, Mum asks if he just wants to come home and Dad confidently says, no, we’re fine. It’s just five minutes.

A lot can happen in five minutes.

Here is a compilation of scenes from the season:

 

§ Instagram, Augustine, and the Self. 

The last few weeks I have been following the instagram account of a public speaker named Collin Kartchner who enters into middle and high schools to teach students about the danger of social media. Collin consistently shares DM’s from students at the schools he speaks at, where he pulls back the curtain on the actual cost of these free accounts: the vying for attention, exposure to pornography, and the dehumanizing effects of these technologies on young minds who are trying to form their identities as persons. Here are a few of the posts:

 

These middle and high schoolers are dealing with figuring themselves out in the middle of an onslaught of access, a buffet of distraction that hacks their dopamine driven desires and robs them of a shot at real life. It’s the trojan gift of progress through technology that we are offering our children, whose frontal lobes have another decade before maturity: the ability to try and have their needs met through connection on a screen.

The issue here is identity and desire. I need to know that I am loved, and I want to know that someone loves me. The core of this desire is to know that I am loved by my Maker, and the frustration of this desire is that I look for this love from the made. This ambition to be loved, devolves into, as James K.A. Smith puts it, “that our goal is to be noticed or to win, or both-we are actually lowering our sights. We are aiming low. The arc of our ambition hugs the earth, and we expect to find fulfillment from people looking at us, from beating everybody else in this competition for attention. But what happens when their attention turns away, fleeting as it is? What happens after you get the grass garland, the medal, the scholarship, the promotion? How many “likes” is enough? How many followers will make you feel valued?

What if you’re wired not to be “liked” but to be loved, and not by many but by One?” (On the Road with Augustine, p.83)

Smith’s question is the correct one. When we let micro-bursts of affirmation enter our days through  followers, likes, approval, dopamine, refresh, scroll, post, click, comments and the like, this is an addictive stream of noise in what is meant to be a quiet space: your mind before God.

If your mind is never quiet, and your heart is ever-looking for affirmation in the wrong place, you cannot know yourself. How could you? All you know is the mediated you, because to have a self is to hold space internally to differentiate yourself from the glow and the noise beckoning at your thumbs.

And how do you know yourself? Klyne Snodgrass tells us that, “you are the result of your mind, your internal self-interpreting, self-directing memory. Something internal gathers all other factors, filters them, interprets them, and uses them to direct life. Humans are the only self-interpreting animal, and identity is very much about memory. Without memory there would be no identity. But it is not just memory; identity is an internal ordering and synthesizing process framed by memory, and this internal ordering even chooses in part what will be remembered. Identity is not comprised just of all the boundaries, relations, and commitments; it is the result of our ability to think about ourselves, to be self-aware and to analyze our own thoughts and actions. At bottom identity is the internal me censoring, filtering, valuing, synthesizing, and interpreting how I stand with regard to all the realities of my life. What gets in, what gets valued as good, what is given importance and attached to, what receives commitment, what gets rejected or denied-even if true-and what has such force it cannot be ignored? What do I really care about, like, and dislike, and why? Identity is the result of the thinking me that interprets and concentrates my life and character.” (Who God Says You Are, p.19)

I find Collin’s work so interesting because these teens are all asking the same questions you and I have been trying to figure out, and we think we are doing better with it than they are because we are older. We’re not. Can you remember the strong emotions you felt during middle and high school? The sense of self that wasn’t fully formed, and that looked for meaning and acceptance in whatever you were good at or who would accept you? Can you imagine having the added social pressure of a smartphone added to that? How do you ever have the space to develop your self-interpreting, self-reflecting memory that helps makes sense of the world if you are making sense of the world through the responses of others to trivial things and you can’t sit still for five minutes without finding your phone your hand again? Endless exploration of meaningless content is idling the mind at the expense of settling the heart.

Technology is not neutral, and it offers a false story as the answer to your deepest need, which is to be loved by your Maker. Is there space in your life to be “the thinking me that interprets and concentrates my life and character”?

Later in his book, Smith says, “Late capitalism is the age in which everyone has a computer in their pocket and a gaping hole where a father should be.” (p.195)

This comes from his chapter on fatherhood, but we can easily recognize the true gaping hole is where our union with God should be, through friendship with God in Christ. Smith describes the ambition of friendship with God (which we were all made for) as “the only ambition that comes with security, with a rest from the anxiety of every other ambition. Because all other ambitions are fragile, fraught. The attention of others is fickle. Domination of others is always temporary; you can’t win forever (just ask Rocky) Attainment is a goddess who quickly turns a cold shoulder. To aspire to friendship with God, however, is an ambition for something you could never lose. It is to get attention from someone who sees you and knows you and will never stop loving you. In short, it’s the opposite of fickle human attention, which is temporal and temperamental. God’s attention is not predicated on your performance. You don’t have to catch God’s notice with your display. He’s not a father you have to shock in order to jar his attention away from the game, crying out, ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ God’s attention is a place where you can find rest and where, ‘in the father’s lap,’ as Augustine later puts it, you don’t have to be worried about getting attention from anyone else. You can rest.” (p.88-89)

It may seem trite to say it, but you can put your phone down. Technology is not neutral, and it tells a persuasive false story. Social media is in big business to monetize your attention through the deception of meaningful connection. You live with more ambient and available noise than any point in history, and it is vital that you reclaim your self before God. You can’t keep fire in your pocket and not get burned. Affirmation won’t answer the deeper question, and it takes quiet to hear the still, small voice of God.

§ Currents

  • I really enjoyed this piece from Alan Jacobs on Reading Paul
  • My dear friend, Lore Ferguson Wilbert, just released her first book and I am so proud of her!
    Handle With Care: How Jesus Redeems the Power of Touch in Life and Ministry, made its way into the world this month. I read a portion during the writing process, and am eager to read the entire finished product. From following the release and chatter since, you should buy the book now.
  • If you follow me on instagram, you might have noticed that I have a reoccuring story series entitled, Sunday Night Proverbs with (George) Herbert. It’s my way of spreading really old english proverbs into the ether of social media. Here’s a little FYI that I am starting a new series of Life Lessons from (John) Hannah, one of my favorite DTS Professors. You can look for those sometime mid to late week each week if things are manageable. Below are two examples of each.

 

 

 

Thanks for reading! If these are helpful, or there are topics you’d like to hear more about, head to the contact page and drop me a line.

Rabbit Trails – February
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