According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Walter Brueggemann – of Prophets and Poets


I've often wondered why the term poet has become so popular amongst bloggers and preachers this past year, especially since poetry seems so overlooked and little appreciated by Western civilization's need for making everything practical and utilitarian. You see this in the art expressed and in the music we listen to. It comes out in what we have time for and what we spend our time at (mostly shopping, I think). Everything must make money; must make us look or feel beautiful or energized; get us to a place of personal impowerment or importance; and generally, serve the purpose of a consumerist culture valuing things and money over people and life's deeper hiddenness.

Curiously, the term prophet has also been linked with the term poet which seems unusual, and again, I stop and ask "why." Was there something about a prophet that made him/her a great poet? Were they lyricists at heart or simply reactionaries who hated what they saw around them (or hated what they saw people were turning into because they were turning towards ideas and values less than godly? Less than what they thought humanity should be about?). Were they yesterday's vociferous voices startling society with words and perceptions largely unwanted and biting with acute observations? Or simply unpleasant types that didn't know how to be around with people and craving personal attention by saying and doing startling things?

Most poets I've read (because I can't say that I really know any poets personally, rare as they seem to be in today's society) appear to be placid types. Romantic, or cynical, but really not driven by a need for singular attention and fame. And the few angry poets I've read (whom always seem to be really good writers but not too healthy to constantly be reading... at least for me) strike me as writing for cathartic effect. That is, it is a way to find a kind of personal balance, health and growth, from the things that have angered them caused by earlier tragedies and severe losses and injustices done to them in this life. But I really don't think of a poet as a prophet, nor of a prophet as a poet, until you start linking the insight behind the poet's eyes and souls with the same insight that drives the prophet... each are passionate though one writes and the other proclaims. They are neither introverts or extroverts but both and none and all. So it kind of makes sense to place the categories together if only to tell society to listen again to the poets and prophets around us whom we ignore, whom we isolate with our biting sarcasm, or overlook because we don't really wish to hear what they have to say to us. To our lives. To our activities and enjoyments. To the way we think. And what we wish to believe or ignore. We prefer to shut them out, close the book, click to the next scintillating Internet page (or Facebook tidbit), and think about less upsetting things (or more amusing amusements).

And so, belatedly, I have stumbled upon the origin of the interrelation of the terms poet and prophet's revival through Walter Brueggemann's* book titles and discussions of the same from many years ago. It seems that he is the instigator for so much of this talk and discussion. We have him therefore to blame.... And being a writer of poetry myself (however humble my efforts and unappreciated its literary nature) I find my interest doubly peaked when hearing a theologian of Brueggemann's statue speaking of prophetic vision and poetry in the same vein. Or, of mixing the categories so that I begin to think of poetic prophets and prophetic poets (which isn't necessarily true of most poets I suppose with the kinds of contemporary poetry I've read; but then again, perhaps it is and my definitions should stretch a bit more to allow it, or my perceptions must re-attune themselves to see it). But I especially like a poet who gets to the discovery of life's divinity and holiness and begins to interweave its majesty - or hellish delves - into the fabric of our societal clothing and begins to rearrange the hems and styles so that it wears upon our fancy a bit longer. Perhaps pushes a button here, stitches a flash of colouring there, surprises with a rise, or a drop, of material, to help us see again what we have missed in the meaningless busyness of our days and nights, our mornings and evenings, breakfasts and dinner times. Pointing out in subtle ways - or loudly! - what we have missed, that might make us better men and women, fathers and mothers, administrators and helpers, servers and leaders. More loving, more kind, more tolerant. Less judgemental, less condemnatory, less harsh towards those different from ourselves. More at peace and less at war and strife with each other and our own pettiness and faults. More helpful and caring, compassionate and insightful. Poetry can do that... and so can a good prophet when we give them a chance.

And so, lest we miss God's blessings and contritions of heart to the unexamined word and life of obedience to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ I wish to again present W. Brueggemann's vision for the church and the life of its contrition to its Christian followers for our examination, edification, exhortation, and example. There never seems to have been a time in humanity when God has expelled His poets and prophets from service, and so we should not think that that godly task of the Holy Spirit is less in vogue today. I would rather argue that it is more needed now than ever before. And to those poets and/or prophets who are in our midst around us, do not give up. Speak out as only God has gifted you in the service of His word and by the power of His Spirit-filled ministry.

R.E. Slater
May 31, 2012

My thanks to Mason Slater (yes, he is my cousin's oldest son) for his insight and appreciation for Brueggemann's words and vision for the Church in the related article below. I am comforted to see the younger generation take up the task of dispensing God's word to their day and generation. May the Holy Spirit continue to gift you and give you voice.

*Walter Brueggemann is the William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary. A past president of the Society of Biblical Literature, he is one of today's preeminent interpreters of Scripture.


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Walter Brueggemann – of Prophets and Poets
http://masonslater.com/2012/05/25/walter-brueggemann-of-prophets-and-poets/

Mason Slater
May 25, 2012

Earlier this week fellow blogger Carson T. Clark posted a link to an NPR Interview with Old Testament scholar Walter Bruggemann.

In it he speaks on the role of the Biblical prophets.
The people we later recognize as prophets, says Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann, are also poets. They reframe what is at stake in chaotic times.
It’s an excellent interview and an accessable introduction to the work of a brilliant scholar.

Brueggemann’s writing (along with scholars like Goldingay and Walton) has served to breath new life into my own reading of the Old Testament, much as N.T. Wright and others have re-shaped my reading of the New Testament.

If you are interesed in engaging with his work on the prophets and the theology of the Old Testament, I would recommend beging with the classic The Prophetic Imagination and then taking time to wrestle with the more contemporarily focused Out of Babylon.

Grace and peace.



THE PROPHETIC IMAGINATION

In this challenging and enlightening treatment, Brueggemann traces the lines from the radical vision of Moses to the solidification of royal power in Solomon to the prophetic critique of that power with a new vision of freedom in the prophets. Here he traces the broad sweep from Exodus to Kings to Jeremiah to Jesus. He highlights that the prophetic vision and not only embraces the pain of the people but creates an energy and amazement based on the new thing that God is doing. In this new edition, Brueggemann has completely revised the text, updated the notes, and added a new preface.

Publ. June 2001



OUT OF BABYLON

Explores the Old Testament's prophetic cry against materialism, consumerism, violence, and oppression.

Publ. Oct 2010









The people we later recognize as prophets, says Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann, are also poets. They reframe what is at stake in chaotic times. Hear a very special voice in conversation to address our changing lives and the deepest meaning of hope this Christmas season. (12.22.11)



Listen to NPR's Interview





Andrew Perriman, "What I think Romans is about"


What I think Romans is about

by Andrew Perriman
01 June 2012

I had a very enjoyable and encouraging couple of hours this evening teaching a class on Romans at Chelmsford Cathedral. Much of it was a discussion of the differences between Reformation readings that make justification by faith the organizing centre of the Letter and New Perspective readings that see Romans as Paul’s retelling of the story of Israel. I wasn’t there to present my own view of the text; but to help clarify my thoughts I prepared the following rough summary of how I see the argument in the Letter unfolding. We start with Paul’s only explicit statement of why he had written to the churches in Rome.

Paul wrote his Letter to the Romans because he was under obligation as an apostle to the nations to ensure that the Gentile churches constituted an acceptable “offering” in response to God’s demonstration of mercy towards his people, in accordance with the Old Testament pattern—that they were, therefore, fit to serve divine purpose at a time of eschatological crisis and transition. (15:8-21)

That purpose was ultimately that Israel’s God would judge the idolatrous nations, impartially, according to their works, and rule over them throughout the coming ages; he would judge and rule not directly but through Jesus, whom he had appointed by his resurrection from the dead. (1:1-4; 15:8-12; cf. Acts 17:31)

But God could not judge the nations without first holding his own people accountable, who should have been a light to the blind, etc., but had shown themselves to be as much enslaved to sin as the Gentiles. So wrath against the Greek would be preceded by wrath against the Jew. (1:18-3:20)

This created a fundamental theological dilemma. If Israel faced the wrath of God—that is, destruction—how would God stay true to his promise to Abraham that his descendants would inherit the world? Through the concrete way of radical trust pioneered by Jesus, whose death was an atonement for the sins of Israel. This shift from Law to faith opened the door to the direct participation of Gentiles in God’s purposes. (3:21-4:25)

This whole narrative—from the death of Jesus through to the defeat of pagan empire—would be the means by which the God of Israel, the one true creator God, would demonstrate his righteousness, his rightness, before the eyes of the nations. Those who had faith in this vindication of God would themselves be justified on the day of eschatological transformation.

The way of radical trust, however, was bound to be a way of suffering. Believers had been set free from sin in order to participate actively, with eschatological intent and in the power of the Spirit, in the suffering and vindication of Jesus for the sake of the future life of the people of God. They had the absolute assurance that as they pursued this way of suffering—Jesus’ narrow and difficult path leading to life—nothing would separate them from the love of God. Not least for the churches in Nero’s Rome this would be an inescapable part of what it meant to offer themselves as an acceptable sacrifice. (5-8)

For Paul it was a matter of considerable anguish that Israel had for the most part rejected this way of trust. Did this mean that the word of God had failed? No, because a remnant would escape destruction, along with those Gentiles who had been grafted into the rich root of the patriarchs. But Paul remained hopeful that following judgment Israel as a nation would turn and be saved. Sadly, it didn’t happen. (9-11)

For the Gentile churches to play their part in this painful drama of judgment and restoration, they needed to present themselves as living sacrifices, an offering of the nations to the God of Israel. They were one body, mutually supportive under persecution; they were to love their enemies and not seek to avenge themselves; they should not provoke the governing authorities; they should be spiritually prepared for the coming day of persecution; and the strong in faith (Gentiles) should support the weak (Jews). (12-14)



Emerging Conversations with Searching Christians


Emerging Conversations
http://www.jrdkirk.com/2012/05/31/emerging-conversations/

by J.R. Daniel Kirk
May 31, 2012
Comments

This is how I assess interviews (whether they’re for a job or for some media outlet or for a book proposal or, well, basically anything): if in the course of the interview I find myself talking passionately about the things I care most about, it was a good interview.

And, if this happens, it’s usually because the person or people I’m speaking with are a natural “fit” with my work.

Though it wasn’t an interview, my conversation with the Charlotte Emerging Church Discussion Group was one of those moments. We had great conversation because there was a common well of experience. And this is what I’ve found, often, when I’ve been in emerging church conversations:
Often, the thing that holds us together is that we have all experienced that traditional church, traditional structure, traditional authority, do not work. We have all experienced that these traditions are upheld by traditional ways of handling the Bible and of handling people. And most of us are somewhere on the spectrum of putting things back together.
That spectrum is quite broad: from “I guess I still want to believe in some sort of God” to “I’m at a different kind of church now, and following Jesus, but at every step of the way trying to figure out how to put the pieces back in place.”

For those folks, the claim I’ve been developing over the past couple years resonated deeply:
As a people whose story is largely understood by reading a Book, how we read that book, how we understand our identity, and how we believe we are supposed to act are inseparable.
In other words, identity, hermeneutics, and ethics will be mutually reinforcing.

Here are a few highlights from the conversation that I continue to mull:

Embracing the Bible as narrative makes the Bible a much less controllable entity. People tell, read, and embrace stories differently from one another. And, the stories we have in the Bible are not all told the same way. Matthew had something to say, and he changed [the book of] Mark to make his point.

I’m not a fan of hierarchy, but I do believe that leadership is important. Something I’ve mulled quite a bit is what the impact of the biblical call to cruciformity means for church leadership. I don’t think that you can institutionalize cruciformity. But anyone in a position of leadership should see such self-giving service as their primary vocation.

I don’t have a great answer to the question of sexuality in the Kingdom of God. Steve Knight probed this question a bit in our conversation. The easy answer is that Jesus indicates in Mark 12 that in the coming Kingdom humans will be asexual (neither marrying nor given in marriage).

But what would it mean to claim this while we also say, “The Kingdom has come near?” What would it mean to make such a confession when we are, generally speaking, called to take hold of our eschatological future and bring it to bear on the present?

Great questions.

Finally, I was reminded how much of my theologizing happens from the luxurious place of privilege. It’s a luxury to talk about “surprise” in the Bible–a luxury that the African American church doesn’t have, because life may hold a grim “surprise” any time you walk out the door. The church has become a counter-cultural place by becoming a place of certainty. Upsetting that applecart has significant consequences that it might not have in a white church.

Even the issues we care about highlight our privilege. Why does the Twitter feed and Facebook timeline overflow with cries about the injustice and/or necessity of forbidding same-sex marriage, while it is entirely silent about the African American high school graduation rate that sits below 50%?
It’s a perpetual challenge for even the postmodern church to embrace multiple perspectives that transcend our own ethnic, racial, and class distinctions.

Finally, it was pointed out that normal church people are not only capable of having robust theological conversations, but that the church’s attempt to “protect” people from difficult questions has, itself, led to theological anemia and dying congregations.

That’s, perhaps, the shared perspective that lay behind everything and enabled the fruitful dialogue:
Implicit in the critiques of where many had come from was simply this: stop trying to handle your congregations with kid gloves; stop trying to hide difficult issues; you are killing us with your “kindness.”

MissioLife: Scripture Reads You






by Scot McKnight
May 29, 2012
Comments

One of the best ideas I ever encountered was when I read a book that explained the difference between reading the Bible informationally vs. reading the Bible formationally. The book was by Robert Mulholland and it was a great blessing to me — I’ve not taught again the same way. Yes, we need to know what the Bible says. But we also need to know why the Bible tells us what it does and one of its main whys is this: it wants us to be addressed by God.

This means we have to adopt the most biblical approach there is to the Bible: to listen. God speaks, we listen. Just in case you haven’t seen this, the word “hear” or “listen” is found all over the Bible, and it is often translated with the word “obey.”

When we become listeners of God when we read God’s Word, we become people who are read by Scripture. MissioLife is a whole church approach, or resource, for us to become people who are addressed by Scripture because it “reads us.” What will we hear? Here is a list of the modules — six of them — and what themes will be found:


Breathe: Module 1
The God Who Gives Life: Stories of Life and Death and Life from Death
In this module you will consider the ways God created in order to share God’s life with humanity and the world in shalom.
Details and Pricing…

Breathe: Module 2
The God Who Gives Life: Stories of Life and Death and Life from Death
Module 2 continues the theme of God’s story began in Module 1.
Shalom as God’s Way of Life: Stories of Wholeness in the Midst of Brokenness
Throughout this module you will explore how God has been at work to bring about wholeness and life in the midst of brokenness and death.
Details and Pricing…

Breathe: Module 4
Coming Alive by Being Human: Jesus Stories on What it Means to be Human and Fully Alive
Throughout this module you will examine stories from Jesus’ life in which we are called into the fullness of life as his disciples.
Details and Pricing…

Breathe: Module 5
Practicing Life: Practices that Lead to Deeper Shalom
Throughout this module you will look at stories that describe different practices that we are called to embody in order to shape our way of life together as a people of shalom.
Details and Pricing…

Breathe: Module 6
Life Together: Stories of Communities Living Into God’s Shalom Together
In this module you will explore stories of various communities in God’s story to help you understand what it means to live into God’s mission together.



How the Genius Thinks


I thought this article important because it encourages me and many others who seek creative solutions to their area of interest and passion. I have many areas of interest but whether I'm creative or not I don't know. But what I do know is that I look at things very differently from what most people do whom I listen to or read. And according to Michalko a person doesn't have to be smart or a genius to be effective in his or her field of contribution. Why? Because apparently being smart or a genius doesn't necessary mean that your creative. A creative person has skills others do not. However, what creative people do have to do is to share their ideas and opinions with others so that they might understand what you are trying to say and recognize its value as being helpful within that area of your concern and insight. The value of community lies in its give-and-take in the sharing of information and ideas. Some of which may be helpful. Some of which may not be... or may be too far ahead to be readily understood or grasped by those around you.

So to anyone who might need a little encouragement and may feel that they are not "smart enough" my prayer for you is to keep at what you are doing and don't give up. Stay with it and continue applying your talent for creative thinking in those areas that you think you have answers. And learn to listen and to present you ideas to those who might appreciate them. (By the way, Richard Feynman was a quantum physicist who came up with all kinds of unique solutions and ways to think about particle physics. He was also a very effective communicator.)

R.E. Slater
May 31, 2012



How the Genius Thinks
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/05/31/how-the-genius-thinks/#more-27919

by Scot McKnight
May 31, 2012
Comments

From Michael Michalko:

How do geniuses come up with ideas? What is common to the thinking style that produced “Mona Lisa,” as well as the one that spawned the theory of relativity? What characterizes the thinking strategies of the Einsteins, Edisons, daVincis, Darwins, Picassos, Michelangelos, Galileos, Freuds, and Mozarts of history? What can we learn from them?

For years, scholars and researchers have tried to study genius by giving its vital statistics, as if piles of data somehow illuminated genius. In his 1904 study of genius, Havelock Ellis noted that most geniuses are fathered by men older than 30; had mothers younger than 25 and were usually sickly as children. Other scholars reported that many were celibate (Descartes), others were fatherless (Dickens) or motherless (Darwin). In the end, the piles of data illuminated nothing.

Academics also tried to measure the links between intelligence and genius. But intelligence is not enough. Marilyn vos Savant, whose IQ of 228 is the highest ever recorded, has not exactly contributed much to science or art. She is, instead, a question-and-answer columnist for Parade magazine. Run-of-the-mill physicists have IQs much higher than Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman, who many acknowledge to be the last great American genius (his IQ was a merely respectable 122).

Genius is not about scoring 1600 on the SATs, mastering fourteen languages at the age of seven, finishing Mensa exercises in record time, having an extraordinarily high I.Q., or even about being smart. After considerable debate initiated by J. P. Guilford, a leading psychologist who called for a scientific focus on creativity in the sixties, psychologists reached the conclusion that creativity is not the same as intelligence. An individual can be far more creative than he or she is intelligent, or far more intelligent than creative….


1. They look at problems in many different ways.

2. They make their thoughts visible.

3. Geniuses produce.

4. They make novel combinations.

5. They force relationships of things.

6. They think in opposites.

7. They think metaphorically.

8. They prepare themselves for chance.



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"Without creativity we are not just condemned to a life of repetition,
but to a life that slips backwards."


The following is an excerpt from the book...

By Tina Seelig
inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity
Tina Seelig
216 pages, HarperOne, 2012

Provocative. Just one word . . . provocative.

Until recently, prospective students at All Soul’s College, at Oxford University, took a “one-word exam.” The Essay, as it was called, was both anticipated and feared by applicants. They each flipped over a piece of paper at the same time to reveal a single word. The word might have been “innocence” or “miracles” or “water” or “provocative.” Their challenge was to craft an essay in three hours inspired by that single word.

There were no right answers to this exam. However, each applicant’s response provided insights into the student’s wealth of knowledge and ability to generate creative connections. The New York Times quotes one Oxford professor as saying, “The unveiling of the word was once an event of such excitement that even nonapplicants reportedly gathered outside the college each year, waiting for news to waft out.” This challenge reinforces the fact that everything—every single word—provides an opportunity to leverage what you know to stretch your imagination.

For so many of us, this type of creativity hasn’t been fostered. We don’t look at everything in our environment as an opportunity for ingenuity. In fact, creativity should be an imperative. Creativity allows you to thrive in an ever changing world and unlocks a universe of possibilities. With enhanced creativity, instead of problems you see potential, instead of obstacles you see opportunities, and instead of challenges you see a chance to create breakthrough solutions. Look around and it becomes clear that the innovators among us are the ones succeeding in every arena, from science and technology to education and the arts. Nevertheless, creative problem solving is rarely taught in school, or even considered a skill you can learn.

Sadly, there is also a common and often-repeated saying, “Ideas are cheap.” This statement discounts the value of creativity and is utterly wrong. Ideas aren’t cheap at all—they’re free. And they’re amazingly valuable. Ideas lead to innovations that fuel the economies of the world, and they prevent our lives from becoming repetitive and stagnant. They are the cranes that pull us out of well-worn ruts and put us on a path toward progress. Without creativity we are not just condemned to a life of repetition, but to a life that slips backward. In fact, the biggest failures of our lives are not those of execution, but failures of imagination. As the renowned American inventor Alan Kay famously said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” We are all inventors of our own future. And creativity is at the heart of invention.

As demonstrated so beautifully by the “one-word exam,” every utterance, every object, every decision, and every action is an opportunity for creativity. This challenge, one of many tests given over several days at All Soul’s College, has been called the hardest exam in the world. It required both a breadth of knowledge and a healthy dose of imagination. Matthew Edward Harris, who took the exam in 2007, was assigned the word “harmony.” He wrote in the Daily Telegraph that he felt “like a chef rummaging through the recesses of his refrigerator for unlikely soup ingredients.” This homey simile is a wonderful reminder that these are skills that we have an opportunity to call upon every day as we face challenges as simple as making soup and as monumental as solving the massive problems that face the world.

I teach a course on creativity and innovation at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, affectionately called the “d.school,” at Stanford University. This complements my full-time job as Executive Director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP), in the Stanford School of Engineering. At STVP our mission is to provide students in all fields with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to seize opportunities and creatively solve major world problems.

On the first day of class, we start with a very simple challenge: redesigning a name tag. I tell the students that I don’t like name tags at all. The text is too small to read. They don’t include the information I want to know. And they’re often hanging around the wearer’s belt buckle, which is really awkward. The students laugh when they realize that they too have been frustrated by the same problems.

Within fifteen minutes the class has replaced the name tags hanging around their necks with beautifully decorated pieces of paper with their names in large text. And the new name tags are pinned neatly to their shirts. They’re pleased they have successfully solved the problem and are ready to go on to the next one. But I have something else in mind. . . . I collect all of the new name tags and put them in the shredder. The students look at me as though I’ve gone nuts!

I then ask, “Why do we use name tags at all?” At first, the students think that this is a preposterous question. Isn’t the answer obvious? Of course, we use name tags so that others can see our name. They quickly realize, however, that they’ve never thought about this question. After a short discussion, the students acknowledge that name tags serve a sophisticated set of functions, including stimulating conversations between people who don’t know each other, helping to avoid the embarrassment of forgetting someone’s name, and allowing you to quickly learn about the person with whom you are talking.

With this expanded appreciation for the role of a name tag, students interview one another to learn how they want to engage with new people and how they want others to engage with them. These interviews provide fresh insights that lead them to create inventive new solutions that push beyond the limitations of a traditional name tag.

One team broke free from the size constraints of a tiny name tag and designed custom T-shirts with a mix of information about the wearer in both words and pictures. Featured were the places they had lived, the sports they played, their favorite music, and members of their families. They vastly expanded the concept of a “name tag.” Instead of wearing a tiny tag on their shirts, each shirt literally became a name tag, offering lots of topics to explore.

Another team realized that when you meet someone new, it would be helpful to have relevant information about that person fed to you on an as-needed basis to help keep the conversation going and to avoid embarrassing silences. They mocked up an earpiece that whispers information about the person with whom you are talking. It discreetly reveals helpful facts, such as how to pronounce the person’s name, his or her place of employment, and the names of mutual friends.

Yet another team realized that in order to facilitate meaningful connections between people, it is often more important to know how the other person is feeling than it is to know a collection of facts about them. They designed a set of colored bracelets, each of which denotes a different mood. For example, a green ribbon means that you feel cheerful, a blue ribbon that you are melancholy, a red ribbon that you’re stressed, and a purple ribbon that you feel fortunate. By combining the different colored ribbons, a wide range of emotions can be quickly communicated to others, facilitating a more meaningful first connection.

This assignment is designed to demonstrate an important point: there are opportunities for creative problem solving everywhere. Anything in the world can inspire ingenious ideas—even a simple name tag. Take a look around your office, your classroom, your bedroom, or your backyard. Everything you see is ripe for innovation.

Adapted from INGENIUS by Tina Seelig, Ph.D. Copyright © 2012 by Tina L. Seelig. Used with permission of HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.



Index to past articles on "Particle Physics, Quantum Science, and the Universe"



Particle Physics, Quantum Science, and the Universe


What we see is not Nature in itself,
but Nature exposed to our method of questioning.

- W. C. Heisenberg

It is not enough that you should understand about applied science in order that
your work may increase man’s blessings. Concern for the man himself and his fate
must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors; concern for the
great unsolved problems of the organization of labor and the distribution of goods
in order that the creations of our mind shall be a blessing and not a curse
to mankind. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations.

- Albert Einstein
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