TED.comThanks to StumbleUpon, the most enjoyable social media/bookmarking site thus far (and the official choice of ADHD users everywhere), I was introduced to TED.com last month. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. TED began in 1984, bringing together the best and brightest from those three industries and thought groups. Since the '80s, TED has evolved into an annual invitation only conference where the most influential and/or innovative thinkers present the talk of their lives (limited to 18 minutes). TED.com makes the best of these talks available for free online.  

Once a year, 50 speakers share with more than 1,000 visitors in Monterey, California. Topics cover business, science, the arts, music, and global issues. The best TEDTalks are provided online via streaming video at TED.com.

Granted, the majority of speakers appear to be atheistic proponents of evolution. This is somewhat disappointing, though not entirely surprising. Past speakers have included the likes of Billy Graham, so it's fair to say that the organization is open to most ideas as long as they are presented in the proper fashion.

The recorded TEDTalks are worth watching. Some are more mentally stimulating than others (check out the talks on memes and, surprisingly, Tony Robbins). 137 presentations are currently available online. Additional talks will be released on an ongoing basis. 

TEDGlobal is a conference held every other year at various locations worldwide. The basic format is the same, but these conferences tend to focus more on development.

The TEDPrize is an annual prize awarded to three individuals who receive $100K and the granting of "One Wish to Change the World". The winners unveil their wishes at the annual conference, and the TED community comes together, pooling their resources, to grant each wish. Visit TED.com to learn more about past wishes granted. 

For those of you accustomed to the collegiate Pew / Paideia society or other philosophical and sociological communities, these talks will resonate along the lines of cultural examination of what is, what has been, and what could be.  

The only question remaining is, how does one get invited to TED? Send me an invitation. I'm in. 

Why do we do what we do? That’s one of those questions my peeps hate to ask. Aaron in particular. He wants the white picket fence, three kids, and the leave it to beaver lifestyle. So he’s been saying for the past three or four years. I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now.

He’ll read this a month from now and post some comment about how he pictures me in seclusion, lighting candles and writing poetry. Funny guy. I’m not quite that dramatic (shut it, Nathan – like how I mentioned your name and yet you get no link? Your mom).

Three thousand years ago, Solomon had it right when he said that everything is utterly meaningless and futile. He tried everything, and came up empty. Whether you work hard or not at all, whether you’re rich or poor, starving or overfed, ultimately it doesn’t matter.

There are a lot of underachievers who will read this and think, So what? I’ve always thought life was pointless. That’s why I don’t do anything. That’s not the same thing. Lazy ex-pot smokers aren’t exactly equal to good ol’ Sol.

I am notorious for my insistence upon meaning and purpose. I annoy the hell out of friends, family, and total strangers with my rants about pursuing purpose. I hate seeing people waste potential. I love watching people and guessing their deep purposes and callings. See, everyone has one, even the annoying people who hate hearing that and who feel the need to violently argue against the concept.

So how does a person like me believe in the simultaneously contradictory beliefs that life is utterly meaningless and that each person has a unique calling and purpose to fulfill? That’s an easy one. Logical or not, I’m simply disillusioned by how freakin’ hard life can be. I’m not very patient. I’ve been known to be a bit anxious. Picture someone spending an entire decade anxiously flittering to and fro like a speedfreak in an attempt to achieve his purpose, and you have a fairly accurate understanding of my life a few years ago.

My “meaningless” isn’t the same as Solomon’s. I think I actually know my calling – my God-given purpose for living. I believe that I have things to do before I die. I have ways to mature. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s a ridiculous notion. You’re bored and miserable sometimes as you go to sleep at night because you feel empty. You feel empty because you’ve yet to realize what that thing is that will make your life truly meaningful.

Yeah… It’s late, and I should be asleep. Consider yourself thoroughly scolded or chastised or whatever fits. I’m out.

Two months ago, I felt a strange burning sensation that I couldn’t quite place. I was compelled to search for the cure, and it came in the form of three Jacques: Jacques Derrida, Jacques Maritain, and Jacques Ellul. The jacques-itch seemed incurable. The lack of college level reading material in my life left me feeling somewhat dull. I can only handle so much exposure to uneducated authors.

Derrida left a few scars, so I’ve not turned to peer again in his direction as of yet. Ellul, on the other hand, has provided just the relief I was looking for. Of course, I had to use interlibrary loan to get ahold of Ellul’s book, The Meaning of the City, and then I had to return it before I had the chance to finish. Luckily for me, my mother-in-law ordered a copy of it for me through Amazon and it should be arriving in the next few days.

There are some radical and insightful ideas in Ellul’s book about the formation, meaning, and purpose of cities. More to come on the subject once my copy of the book arrives. I also received a copy of his meditations on Ecclesiastes for Christmas. I’m really looking forward to that one as soon as I finish the first.

Happy New Year! Remember, if you begin to feel that uncomfortable burning sensation known as jacques-itch, I can refer you to a specialist!

“You’re doing this all wrong,” he tells me.

“What am I supposed to do?” I ask. “How could I do it any better? It’s not like anyone is going to read this crap anyway!”

“Slow down for a second… take a deep breath… there you go. Now imagine each blog you write as a valuable part of your life. The precious time you spend writing a blog and thinking about blogs is time you will never live through again. Picture yourself looking back at today from your fifties. How will you feel then about the time you spend now? Will you wish you could go back and redo it all? Will you see that you spent too much time being fake? I wonder.”

“I’m not being fake! I might not share the deepest parts of my heart with complete strangers, but that doesn’t make me a fake! I’m selective.”

“Call it whatever you want. The truth is that you are still focused on the masses. You want to please the masses so you can make money, but what you keep ignoring is the simple truth: the masses will approve of your work when it stands on its own merit. And your work will stand on it’s own merit when you focus on finding the message within and sharing it rather than finding what topics people are interested in and limiting yourself to them.”

“Maybe you’re right… but it’s hard to know. I sit here and wonder if it’s all a waste of time. I wonder if I’m going to grow old and waste away because I’ve focused on the wrong things. I lose sleep at night wondering about that. But I don’t get any answers.”

“I wouldn’t think so. well, it’s for you to decide. Do what you will; just remember that you will never be 29 again. You will never see this day again. Each moment you breathe, it is a joyous and unprecedented moment and it is also a most grievous and unsettling realization. The finality of Time allows for no second chances. There are no ‘redos’. You can continue to write for AdSense if you want, but I think you will see that writing to express the beauty within is rich and satisfying enough.”

“You could be right… I’ll think about it.”

“You attract what you think about most, and you become what you attract most.” Focus. Mental discipline. The Secret, written by Rhonda Byrne, is located in the New Age section of your local bookstore. Before you decide to tune out, read on for at least another paragraph. CultureFeast has never been dedicated to New Age materials and has no intention of beginning to do so. CultureFeast was founded upon the Christian faith, though we are willing to seriously scrutinize that faith and all others in pursuit of truths which those who have gone before either missed or refused to accept. The purpose is to know the truth. It is the truth that shall set you free.

Picking up a book from the New Age section of Barnes & Noble was an unnerving experience for me. What mental traps might I be stepping into, I wondered. Reason prevailed, however. It is because of one idea that I will open my mind’s doors to something labeled as an enemy by people sharing a similar faith to mine. The idea is best explained in several parts. They are:

  1. All people are human, regardless of whether they live today or centuries ago
  2. All humans are limited, fallible and incapable of knowing everything
  3. Because of this, even the authors of our faith did not possess all knowledge or understanding
  4. Because of the Canonization of Scripture and subsequent traditional beliefs of Scripture, many people fear to believe that we could learn anything new and true outside of Scripture because of how that might affect the strength of Scripture’s primacy
  5. Because of this, the Christian community has failed to lead the way in pursuing knowledge and understanding of God’s universe. That task has been left largely to the secular community, which has done the best it knows how.
  6. The secular community can provide scientifically tested data which indicates the probability of certain truths
  7. Just because the scientific community can postulate certain truths (the what and where) does not mean that it can answer the ever valid and crucial questions of how or why (or even when)
  8. If Christian leaders are not going to answer my questions, I must seek the answers on my own.
  9. Since Christian leaders often fear to consider the possibility that nuggets of truth can be discovered by non-Christians, and since these leaders do not themselves search diligently for certain answers, they’re assumptions cannot be automatically trusted
  10. Since non-Christians can discover or understand (on some level) universal principles such as gravity, inertia, and harvest, they have the capacity to discover or understand other such universal principles which the Christian community has yet to understand or acknowledge
  11. Since non-Christians will not often explain why a universal principle is true in a manner that instantly corroborates Scripture, I am responsible to sift the gold from the dross and accept only what either agrees with Scripture or might agree with Scripture upon further reflection and consideration.
  12. Overt disagreements with Scripture must be discarded because we must have a solid starting point from which to work
  13. We must challenge ourselves to find truths which support Scripture, explain/clarify certain mysteries in Scripture, and strengthen the body of Christ by filling in the holes which have riddled our faith over the years

Having said that, it might seem that we have left the Bible behind and have chosen more “exciting” texts to focus upon. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are finding ourselves led to sources of truth that support Scripture and make Scripture make sense to us in ways that we never before imagined.

For example, it’s not enough to read the verse: “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Uh…what? For years, when I realized that my mind was constantly consumed with unhealthy thoughts, i’d rethink that verse and find myself at an absolute loss. I couldn’t come up with a single really “good” thought. Which thoughts are pure? What thoughts are just? What kind of thoughts are lovely? What is a thought of good report? Seriously!

I realized that I had not conditioned myself to know these things. I had spent my adult life fascinated with morbidity, death, dying, crime, suspense, intrigue, suspicion, slander, and on and on. I had become one of the “bent ones.” My thoughts were naturally bent towards selfish or less than holy issues.

Historians tell us that everyone once believed that the sun, stars, and planets revolved around the earth. It is referred to as the geocentric view. The heliocentric view (sun-centered) was suggested by some and considered heresy by the leaders of the time. As in many instances throughout history, scientific discovery has not been welcomed by religious or even political leaders. Men do express their own opinions throughout Scripture, as is obvious by David’s crying out for the death and obliteration of his enemies and Solomon’s declaration that everything is utterly futile and meaningless. Not necessarily views we should adopt. Then there was Peter’s snubbing of Gentiles until set straight by Paul. You get the picture. We’re all human.

It is the mature acceptance of these truths that enables us to allow something outside the realm of our comfort zone to challenge us and engage us. It is by setting and adhering to the tenets of our faith while simultaneously insisting on the pursuit of wisdom and understanding that we arrive at a rich and rewarding mode of existence.

The pursuit continues. For me, it continues with the reading and examination of The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne. This book contains possibilities which absolutely excite me. On the surface, it appears to elaborate on biblical statements such as, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he,” and “He who seeks, finds; to him who knocks, the door is opened,” and “think on these things,” and perhaps most importantly,

“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal (physical/earthly) but mighty in God for the pulling down of strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

What we see here that the weapons of a Christian are mighty to pull down strongholds, to cast down arguments and things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, to bring every thought captive. So the weapons of a Christian involve strongholds, arguments, knowledge, thoughts, and obedience.

We are being told that the weapons involve our minds. The language is dated, because of the period in which it was written, so we miss the point all too often.

More on this soon…