For Your Consideration (03/29/17)


Happy Wednesday! Here are some things for you to check out!


Netflix is really on a streak of late. “Stranger Things” was the icing on the cake of Summer 2016. “The Crown” has carried us through the Winter. (I’ll get to our Fall bonanza below.) Apart from the overall meh of “The Get Down” (which I was pretty excited about), I’ve rarely been let down by Netflix original content.

So when I happened up “Abstract: The Art of Design” a few weeks ago I was optimistic. It does not disappoint! Watch one episode and you’ll probably be hooked! (Unless a designer ran over your dog once  or something. If that happened. I’m sorry. This should have had a trigger warning.)

Firstly, it profiles pretty fascinating figures. Secondly, it is produced beautifully—wonderfully. It is itself a well-designed docu-series, as it should (must!) be.

A quote from wunderkind Danish architect Bjarke Ingels (founder of the Bjarke Ingels Group, or BIG) summarizes the message of this series nicely:

I like this idea about architecture being a way to manifest your dreams into the real world; almost like a shaman with brick and mortar.

That is the true power that we as humans have. We have such a massive impact on our environment, so, now that we have this power, we can either use it to create a nightmare  or we can use it to realize our dreams.

And of course the latter is much more interesting.

What a great picture of imago Dei and of the notion that imagination is indeed the most human of capacities (see my reference to this and niche construction from last week.)

Go watch it. It’s probably better than whatever your watching right now, and it’s only  8 episodes.


On November 2, 2016 I tweeted the following:

The Chicago Cubs had just won their first World Series since 1908. (Maybe you heard?) I was imagining a chariot swooping down from the sky to pluck Cubs GM Theo Epstein out of the trophy presentation Elijah-esque (I mean, he is Jewish).

Even most casual baseball fans know that as GM of the Red Sox and Cubs, Epstein helped break the two most infamous curses in baseball lore: the Bambino and the Billy Goat, respectively. I live on the Southside of Chicago, but after the Cubs won my hood immediately became an all-out-party (complete with fireworks).

And now Fortune Magazine has named Epstein “The World’s Greatest Leader”. (Please tell me it comes with a coffee mug!)

Tom Verducci author of The Cubs Way provides a nice accompanying piece on what makes Epstein special. At the start of his Cubs tenure, scouting reports began to delve deep into the mettle of every player they were considering—even asking how they treat those whom they can afford to treat poorly!

Verducci writes:

Cubs scouting reports would never look the same again. Epstein wanted reports that went on for pages, like the Russian novels his father had him read as a boy. The scouts who didn’t take to the long-form scouting reports didn’t last. Epstein ran them off.

It wasn’t hard, measurable data. But it was information nonetheless, and if Epstein was going to build a team around high-character, high-impact position players, he wanted as much of it as possible.

Epstein conveys his sentiments the following way:

When people do things they weren’t even sure they were capable of, I think it comes back to connection. Connection with teammates. Connection with organization. Feeling like they belong in the environment. I think it’s a human need—the need to feel connected. We don’t live in isolation. Most people don’t like working in isolation—some do, but they typically don’t end up playing Major League Baseball.

And so Epstein applied the rigorous data-based Sabermetrics approach that made him successful in Boston (as profiled in the book and movie Moneyball), but added the soft data of character in the hopes that, in his words, “our environment will be the best in the game”. And his aim is that this would make their success last! Cheers to that!

How did Epstein react to the news? As you’d expect from any truly great leader:

Um, I can’t even get my dog to stop peeing in the house…

And I’m not even the best leader in our organization; our players are.

As I read this I can’t help but think, “Yet, I have gotten my dog to stop peeing in the house.”


Speaking of Fortune’s list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.

Though he didn’t top this list, Bryan Stevenson (Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of Just Mercy ) did land at #16!

This is very heartening to me. I mentioned Stevenson a few weeks back and commended his appearance with Tim Keller during Redeemer Presbyterian’s Center for Faith and Work series.

It seemed like a good time to share his electrifying TED talk. You rarely hear TED audiences break into applause, but they did so multiple times during Stevenson’s message. (Watch it!)


Speaking of Tim Keller…


Princeton Theological Seminary intended to honor Tim Keller with their Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness, but reversed course—they un-awarded it to him—on the basis that the award could “imply an endorsement”.

Jonathan Merritt of Religion New Service wrote his objection to the decision, saying:

To be clear, PTS has the right to honor whomever they wish. They are not obligated to let Keller speak, much less grant him this award. Setting this aside, we must ask, “How does marginalizing Tim Keller make the world a better place?” And since we’re talking about a seminary, we might add, “How does it promote unity among disparate churches?” The answer to these questions is the same: It doesn’t.

The OpEd is well put. And it introduces the critical question of how we give space to those with whom we disagree (even on important stuff). This seems like an issue our nation needs to confront at present.

As seen during the recent protests at Middlebury College and even the University of Chicago’s decision to push (shove?) back on the ideas of “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings”, we don’t seem to know what to do with ideas that are divergent from our own. We don’t know how to separate ideas from those who hold them—”love the sinner, hate the sin.” And we aren’t differentiating between ideas that are uncomfortable versus dangerous or harmful.

Does interface with ideas equate to “endorsement” or “legitimizing” of them? This tugs at the fabric of what makes any civil society function, doesn’t it?

How does our society find a way forward, when we cannot find a way to interact with any ideas that make us uncomfortable?

Obviously, this presents many challenging questions for us, and there are no silver bullets. But I wonder what can be done? I’d welcome your thoughts!

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