Rinzai monk in Arashiyama, Kyoto

I'm going to be stringing a few different concepts together here, so bear with me...

My Dad works as an engineer, fixing complicated data storage sytems in mostly oil companies and government hush-hush black holes around the world. He's got a favorite saying: when resolving an issue depends much more on the natures of the people involved than the physical electron-routing problem itself, he likes to call this an "Electro-Political Issue."

Apt title, if you ask me. And I know that even if you work at McDonalds flipping burgers for a livin', you deal with politics to some degree. People want to get what they want, and sometimes that means that the right thing, the thing that needs to happen, doesn't. What's more, in order to do the thing you're being paid to do, sometimes you're going to have to bend over backward to get someone else what they want.

I've always been intrigued with the concept of Zen. It's become a very fashionable term: "That's so Zen," or "I just had to zen out," or even Everything Zen. If you take a look at the true meaning of the word, it comes from a form of Buddhism - a religion whose main goal is the end of suffering. Zen seeks to obtain insight into the end of suffering through long periods of meditation; specifically, a seated meditation called zazen. This is a moment of complete self-denial, in which one seeks to completely remove the mind of all thought, so that it may be opened to a new enlightenment. Again, this is the true key of Zen, whether practiced in meditation, archery or even motorcycle maintenance - complete denial of self-thought to focus on a task, even if that task is to clear the mind entirely.

If you work very long in a corporate setting, you'll find plenty of people who want very much to be successful. They put their whole heart and soul into a task to squeeze every last drop of gain, improvement or recognition. Workaholics, we may call them, because their exhaustive grip of passion is so engaged with their work that they can't take a moment to detach and nourish their personal lives. And through this process, could we call them truly successful? Even if they earn tons of money, can we call them a success if their personal lives are in such shambles they have nothing of true worth to spend it on?

Sometimes we get so caught up in playing the game: working the people, gaining the influence, putting my pedestal higher and higher, running after this dangling carrot of a goal. We run and run and run, and even if we finally reach what we want, we find it wasn't worth it in the first place.

What we need at work is a good dose of ZEN, and I think it's the completely Christian thing to do.

I'll show you: take a look at this verse:

"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." -- Colossians 3:17

You see, we get all entangled within the vain passions of work when we do it for US. When we put in those extra hours so that WE can get noticed or WE can produce more than the next guy. Our priorities get out of whack because WE think that we can sacrifice the personal to gain in the professional. And yet, when we follow that kind of path, it seems like both suffer in the long run.

Paul here advocates a Zen-like approach to work - a complete denial of self by doing EVERYTHING for God. We don't work to promote ourselves or our agenda, we work because that's what God has put in front of us, and we give it the attention and passion it deserves. BUT, when God puts something else in front of us, like a family that's expecting us home for dinner and kids that need a strong parental role model, we put down the one task to take up the other. There's no regret or hesitation in doing this, because we're completely focused on HIS agenda, not ours. Considering whether a task is worthy of our time takes on a higher meaning, because we've got a whole new paradigm to frame it in.

And, when the office gets political, when things get snippy and catty, when people promote themselves within the guise of a job, we don't take the bait. Why? Because we're only doing God's work on this Earth, and we don't NEED the recognition of a false sense of accomplishment. We don't need to hang our self-worth on an initiative or program, because God makes the call, and we are genuinely content with His answer.

There's a concept in sports called "pushing" or "forcing" your game. It happens when you're so driven to succeed, you start to make rash decisions in the hope of an ever diminishing return. You drive the ball instead of passing, because you want that next hoop so bad. You swing at a pitch that's outside the strike zone, because you want that RBI for your stats so much. You really try to smack the ball off the tee as hard as you can, because you want those extra few yards on your drive. Of course, the result of this phenomenon is that you actually end up getting LESS: more misses, more whiffs, less distance.

When we give up our own agenda in the workplace through a Zen-like medition on what's important to God, we protect ourselves from pushing our own game. When you're not forcing a task into place - trying to will a job to work the way YOU think it should - you're actually MORE productive. Denial of self actually makes your self work BETTER.

Perhaps the Psalmist says it best:

"Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass."
-- Psalms 37:5

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I AM HERE TO WASTE YOUR TIME PART II: They're gonna fire me for this...

The name of the game is Sling. YOU are a ball of goo, that somehow has a hand, but not much else. You must bodily (in a goo kinda way) throw yourself from handhold to handhold, while avoiding spikes, traps, walls, the bad guys and failure. You are timed. If you complete all the levels within the "gold" time limit, apparently something good will happen to ya.

Now, for those of you who tried the dot game, I know you had fun and probably wasted some time. But let's face it, the dot was neither cute nor interesting, just maddeningly simplistic in its goal and efficient in its obstacles. This game actually has characters, sound effects, and a sense of humor, so you oughta like it.

Can't write anymore, I've got to get past this level!


P.S. - the game automatically sets a cookie on your computer, so you won't lose your progress if you have to close the browser window.

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I got the chance to read this article from Salon (you'll have to watch a brief ad to view the whole article) about the Mars Hill Church in Seattle, written by someone who's probably not a Christian but is very interested in this new movement. He labels it the "Disciple Generation," and I can't tell if I'm heartened by seeing a community of believers that bring an honest version of themselves - music, culture, tattoos and all - to worship God, or if I'm concerned about a religion trying to make itself so insular that its members hold tighter to the group than to God.

For example, here's a quote from one of their founding ministers, Mark Driscoll:

"They know there's more to life than waking up, eating what's in the fridge, watching what's on TV, and then going back to bed, than the rest of their porn-addicted, video-game-playing, loser friends," he tells me. "That's what I give them through the Bible. I say, let me give you some rules, not to be a jerk, but to help you out. And when was the last time that anyone in their busted-up family did that?"

I love that concept. But then I read this quote and editorial after the writer describes the church blessing babies on Father's Day:

In a husky voice, the 35-year-old pastor prays for the continuous fertility of his congregation. "We are in a city with less children per capita than any city but San Francisco," he declares, "and we consider it our personal mission to turn that around."

The way Driscoll sees it, the more babies his conservative Christian congregation can produce in this child-poor city, the more they can redirect local politics, public education, and culture in one of the liberal capitals of the world. To complete his trifecta of indoctrinating, voting, and breeding, Driscoll has developed a community that dwarfs any living experiment of the '60s.

Maybe the writer's just being paranoid, or maybe there's something more domineering at work here - I don't know yet. But it's an interesting read, nonetheless.

NOTE: I found out after reading that this is not the same as the Mars Hill Bible Church, home of the incredible speaker Rob Bell. I've actually listened to some of his podcasts, and I really like what he has to say. As far as I know, their beliefs are different than those of the Mars Hill (no Bible) Church.

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IT'S ALIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!: "We All Use Math Every Day" now online

There's a lot of reasons I haven't updated my blog as often or as quickly I'd like, but now there's definitely one big one off my plate. For the past month, I've been working on the official site for "We All Use Math Every Day," an educational program created by Texas Instruments and NCTM (the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) based on the hit CBS primetime series, NUMB3RS.

Yep, pulled that description right off the press release.

But seriously, this has been a HUGE undertaking for me, and a lot of trust placed in me by TI. I also had the incredible chance to work with a great graphic designer on the images and the look, a talent by the name of Rondo Estrello. Huge props to ya, man - it turned out great.

SO, with that kind of hype, you've got no excuse now. Click on the poster up there, get over to www.weallusematheveryday.com! Tear the code apart, analyze the copy, whatever - let me know what you think!


I AM HERE TO WASTE YOUR TIME: Drag the Dot (which is kinda like a period)

Punctuation by Penny-Arcade

Hee hee - you're not going to get ANYTHING done today. How do I know? Simple. You're going to spend your time playing this game, because you're going to tell yourself "Drag a dot? I can do that! I drag things around on this computer every day!" But see, that's where you're wrong. And I'm not going to tell you you're wrong, I'm going to let you find out for yourself. Because I'm cruel like that. But this builds character...or something.

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Any of ya'll have a random, extremely long hair that just seems to always get in the way? I've got this one under my right arm that sometimes tickles me just enough to think there's a bug trying to bite me in that very unlikely spot. And what's worse, I don't know why the heck it's there! It's like one of my follicles just decided to say "Screw you guys, I'm going to have some fun! WHEEEEEEEE!!!"

Stupid follicles. Except the ones on my head. They're keeping production at a high level, and I'm extremely proud of them.

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Yes, I haven't updated for an eternity, and yes, that's a bad thing.

See, my only excuse is that I've had a custom template I built that never worked exactly right. And I kept telling myself that I wanted to fix the template before I posted again, which is also a good thing. The only problem is - I never did it.

So I'm here in Houston with my in-laws, and I've finally had some time to create a new template. It's not exactly what I set out to do, but it's close enough. This is a work in progress, so I'd love to hear what you think!

And, if you've been reading my post about writing things down, you'd know that I've got more than a couple ideas stored up. So, look forward to some actual POSTS now!

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