Category Archives: Wisdom

Creation / Evolution?

“How do we correlate the data of science with the teaching of Scripture?” Read Tim Keller’s “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople” (PDF)


Go to the places that scare you

“Confess your hidden faults.

Approach what you find repulsive.

Help those you think you cannot help.

Anything you are attached to, let it go.

Go to the places that scare you.”

-Advice from her teacher to the Tibetan Yogini Machik Labdron

in ‘The Places that Scare You” By Pema Chodron

‘A Roadmap to a Life that Matters’ – Umair Haque

 by Umair Haque

So, are you psyched for the new Harry Potter movie? Like you, your kids, and approximately 99% of humanity, I confess: I too am captivated by the thought of a magical world where diligently memorized incantations can grant thunderous powers beyond the reach of mortals. “Accio, job growth!”

If only it were that easy. In our messy muggle world, there are no magic formulas. So, while many of you have been asking me for a roadmap to prosperity — and I’ve tried to offer a blueprint of a better kind of business — it might be that, despite what late-night infomercials and endless banner ads suggest, there’s probably no framework you can pick up off the shelf, pay a few bucks for, do a little dance around, and (voila!) prosper. The plain fact is that great achievement, deep fulfillment, lasting relationships, or any other aspects of an unquenchably, relentlessly well lived life aren’t formulaically executable or neatly quantifiable. First and foremost, they’re searingly, and deeply personally, meaningful. The inconvenient truth is: you’ll probably have to not just blaze your own trail — you’ll also probably have to plot your own map for own journey.

So while I can’t offer a roadmap, I can try and give you a pen and protractor instead to help you begin to create your own:

Put what, why, and who you love ahead of what, why, and who you don’t, and your roadmap will begin to write itself.

Now, my little principle might cause those with hand-made suits and beancounterly tendencies to leap out of their chairs and hit me with the tarantallegra jinx. But even the cynics might be willing to admit: given a mysteriously non-recovering “recovery” for a global economy perpetually poised on the brink of perma-crisis, the status quo’s out of ideas, out of options, and running out of time.

In an economy dedicated to the pursuit of more, bigger, faster, cheaper, nastier, the greatest hidden cost and unintended consequence is that something vital, enduring, resonant, and animating has gone missing from our lives — and it might just be the biggest thing: meaning in what we do, and why we’re here.

More, bigger, faster, cheaper, nastier has built an economy that might just be in furious pursuit of mediocrity. Five hundred channels and nothing on, corporations whose behavior plunges past merely unethical, or criminal, to sociopathic, big box stores larger than an airplane hangars, billions of dreary, me-too, not-so-great “goods” that fail to inspire, not enough McJobs to go around, financial markets that are more deft at blowing up scarce resources than at allocating them.

So what went wrong with our path to prosperity? I’d suggest: our economy might be in pursuit of mediocrity because too many of us put what, why, and who makes us want to go into a fetal crouch, plug our ears, and bang our foreheads against our knees above, beyond, and before what, why, and who we love.

There’s no magic formula for a life well lived, but my humble suggestion is that the above is probably the polar opposite: a surefire recipe for a life poorly lived, for intellectual, relational, social, ethical, and creative stagnation. Hence, what’s stagnating not just our economy — but our human potential. Too many of us (and some have argued, the best and brightest among us) are trained from birth to be — and rewarded with each bonus to remain — what economists call “rent-seekers,” experts at squabbling over (and winning) the last stale morsels of yesterday’s fading industrial age harvests, the mere mechanics and advocates of wealth extraction, instead of value creators, the architects and master builders, dreamers and doers, theorists and practitioners of the art of great human accomplishment.

Hence, I’d suggest: my tiny principle might not just a disposable epigram, but a diagnosis for dysfunction — and a challenge to all of you. The pursuit of more, bigger, faster, cheaper, nastier too often seems to demand putting what, why, and who we love at the end of the list, the underworld of the inbox, the bottom of the heap. That’s a recipe for stagnation, whether for people, communities, cities, countries, or the globe. But the converse might just hold, too: if nations and corporations want to punch past the glass ceiling of mere opulence, to what I calleudaimonic prosperity — lives that are meaningfully well lived — well, then people might just have to begin by making if not radically, then at least marginally more meaningful choices themselves.

Here’s what my little principle doesn’t mean: immediate, lowest-common-denominator self-gratification. That, for example, since you “love” Jersey Shore, you should spend all day, every day GTLing harder than the last. Sorry,lotus eaters. Instead, what it suggests is that if you “love” GTL that much, then, well, your roadmap might be clear. Whatever the method to your madness, whether inventing a better tanning bed, perfecting a better workout, or devising less water-intensive laundry, the authenticity principle says: don’t just mutely “consume” it — live it. Better it, reimagine it, blow the doors off it, and don’t stop until you’re within shouting distance of the point that it matters to the future of humanity.

The roadmap you need to follow is deeply, resonantly, profoundly, and irrevocably your own — the one that calls to you in every dreary meeting, every missed birthday, and every misplaced-but-not-quite-forgotten dream. It’s the one that leads you to your better self. It says: “Follow my lead. Let’s go somewhere that matters — not just somewhere that glitters.”

From here

The Great Courses – ongoing education!

So I’ve just started to read The Bourgeois Virtues by Deidre McCloskey and in her acknowledgements at the beginning of the book she mentions ‘The Great Courses‘ and something about her listening to it while walking on a treadmill or some nonsense. So I thought to myself ‘I’ve never heard of this thing before?!’ So I quickly moved from bed to desk and in five seconds Google was telling me that there was a massive learning resource of which I was completely oblivious. Basically, it’s a for-profit site that sells different courses (i.e. a series of lectures) that are presented by exceptional (think ivy-league) lecturers. There’s a massive variety of topics and lecturers. They seem brilliant. Importantly (and unfortunately) they aren’t cheap. Depending on the course they range from $100 to $1000+  which is pretty damn expensive if you’re paying in Rands! No 3rd-world-country, boo-hoo, give-me-discount here! BUT, they are currently having a sale and it’s 70% off!!! Which is fantastic news. According to the website, the sale is ending ‘soon‘, but the term ‘soon‘ coming from a money-hungry, morally-starved organisation is a rather loose concept I’m guessing. Nevertheless, I thought I must take advantage of this opportunity (exactly what they want me to think- good little consumer-drone that I am). So I bought the course The Story of the Bible which had rave reviews and looked really interesting (and was only $30 due to the sale! Usually $130!). So I downloaded the first 5 episodes (there are 24 30min lectures in this series) and started listening to them, and they are great. Wunderbar! The professor is interesting, impartial, well-read and enthusiastic. But the story doesn’t end there…unfortunately for my credit card.

So I thought to myself I should really take advantage of this 70% off thing because paying full price will be so irritating when there was just a sale with such a large percentage off (the hook had sunk deep into my consumer-drone consciousness). I was mainly thinking about another course that Prof Johnson lectures called Jesus and the Gospels which is a 36 lectures series (30min each) and only $49.95 (originally $200!). So I bought that one…but then I also saw RAVE reviews for Classical Mythology (24 lectures $35) and History of Ancient Egypt (48 lectures $65) so I got those too 🙂 great stuff!!

I definitely think it was money well spent and I most definitely intend to listen to them at some stage this year. In my budgeting spreadsheet  I will record this under ‘Educational expenditures’ which is an investment (not a consumption) good. I also chalk up my UCT metrics course fees in that category. Too often we think that buying educational books (read: ‘all books that aren’t Mills & Boon’) is a luxury or we are spoiling ourselves. What CRAP! Utter nonsense. How is it that spending R40 000+ on your formal higher education is classified as a legitimate investment in your future, but buying things like downloadable lectures isn’t? For those familiar with the economics of education literature, I am aware that one can use the Signal-theory argument here to shoot me down (with downloadable lectures sending no credible signal), but for me personally I don’t give two hoots about signals – I’m not planning on going into the real world anytime soon (I’m still thinking of a better, more derogatory word for the ‘real’ world). I intend to inhabit academia as long as she will have me.

So I implore you (whoever you are) to do something about your ongoing education. It doesn’t have to be buying a course online (although that really would be a great start – just be sure to read the reviews first), it could be buying and reading a book about history or linguistics or cooking or whatever –  it doesn’t matter…just learn. When we stop actively learning, we start actively dying. Sad, but true.

Onward and upward…

Do not covet your ideas…

Let me begin this obedience…

‘Engaging in the process of setting a foundation under the lives we’re living is worth attempting. I don’t mean that we should try to do everything all at once; we cannot go from immaturity to maturity in one bound. But we can faithfully say, ‘ Lord, let me practice what I’ve heard in just one area today. Let me begin this obedience. And I will trust You to open the doors to further hearing and obedience to make my life like Christ.’ – Steve Zeisler

This is a great quote from a machine lifegroup leader – the original Mandominal. It fits in well with my understanding of how to tackle this year. Consistency, discipline, delayed gratification…the ingredients for victorious living.