by whitneyrice

There Is No Law Against Such Things

By now we have had about 48 hours to absorb the news that Roe vs. Wade has been overturned by the Supreme Court, effectively stripping women of the right to abortion in America.  This is very, very big news, even though after the leak from the court in early May, we knew it was probably coming. 

I had a rector who used to say about deaths, “even when it’s not a surprise, it’s still a shock,” and I think that applies here too.

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Think Inside the Box: Discipleship as Creativity By Constraint

In 2019, Harvard Business Review did a comprehensive survey and compilation of 145 empirical studies from academic journals on the conditions that support creativity and innovation.  And they discovered something very counterintuitive.

It turns out that we do our best inventive thinking when we think inside the box. 

The box itself spurs us on to come up with solutions we never would have considered if we had the complete freedom we think we want.  This is the phenomenon of “creative constraints,” and scientists have been finding very consistent results on the positive effects of creative constraints on human innovation.

Why do they work? 

Creative constraints take the focus of our thinking from wide to narrow, and the creative challenge increases our motivation to innovate.  Having endless options both increases our decision fatigue and makes us want to default to the most obvious, path-of-least-resistance answer. 

(Side note: the psychological peril of endless options doesn’t only refer to overwhelm when looking at 5000 Amazon choices for a can opener.  It’s also why online dating can increase alienation.  We do better with fewer choices in a lot of arenas in life.)

Creative constraints drive people to become remix artists, pulling in multiple unexpected sources, methods, and ideas to create solutions that remain within the confined boundaries. 

Now this isn’t an infinite phenomenon–too many or too harsh constraints start to limit creativity.  Companies such as Google and Apple deliberately orchestrate and carefully calibrate constraints to stimulate innovation. 

Think about the famous scene in the movie Apollo 13 where the NASA ground crew literally has to make a square peg fit into a round hole to create a carbon dioxide scrubber using only non-essential equipment already onboard the imperiled spaceship.  They thought they couldn’t do it, but knowing that their colleagues’ lives depended on it, they used those very strict constraints to spur their creativity, using what seemed like a few extra pieces of junk on the rocket to make a life-saving device.

People are more willing to accept and even enjoy working within constraints if they feel supported and feel like they have others to lean on and collaborate with.  There’s a lesson for Christian community in that last point that we probably want to keep in our back pocket as we explore this further.

For us post-modern thinkers, it can be difficult sometimes to understand the value of some if not many of the texts of the Bible. Why do we keep anchoring ourselves in this ancient, outdated text?

Because God has used it to spark creativity within restriction.

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It’s Week 2021 and I’m Running Out of Time

Do you know what week it is? For me it’s 2021.

“No,” you may say, “the year is 2021, not the week. It’s the 2nd week in August. But it’s okay, we’re all stressed out, I’m not surprised you misspoke.”

But I didn’t misspeak. The week is 2021. For me. Today is August 15, 2021, and I was born on November 15, 1982. In a very strange non-coincidence, today marks literally the 2021st week of my life. On August 15, 2021, I have officially been alive for 2021 weeks.

The reason this catches my attention is because of a fascinating new book I’ve just read. It’s called Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman. He points out if that if you live to be 80 years old, you will have lived 4000 weeks. 4000 weeks—that seems terrifyingly short! Having moved past 2000, I’m already over halfway through!

Most people’s first thought on thinking of their lives as 4000 weeks give or take, is, “Am I making the most of it?”

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The Terrifying and Short-Lived Providence of God

There’s not much I can say at this point that I would be confident in attributing to all Americans.

Most generalizations are pretty dicey right now.

We are such a divided country with such widely divergent experiences that it’s hard to speak for everyone.

It feels most days like the political divide has us living in completely different realities from one another.

But here is a generalization that I feel 100% confident in attributing to pretty much all Americans: we are really, really tired of not knowing what’s going to happen next.

If you’re like me, you let yourself be lulled into a false sense of optimism coming into 2021. It’s like we all thought that if we could escape the literal numerical reality of being in 2020, the Year of Doom, things would look up.

Everyone knew 2020 was a wash, but 2021! Things are going to be different!

We earned a fresh start.

We stuck it out and didn’t go (completely) crazy through a pandemic that restricted our movements and took away friends and family too soon, massive racial justice work on the streets and in our hearts, lost jobs among soaring income inequality, and rounding it out with murder hornets of all ungodly things.

We made it. We were all so ready for a new year with a fresh start.

And then on day 6 of the new year, right wing militants led an insurrection that invaded and desecrated the United States capitol.

After thinking for so long, “Things can’t possibly get worse,” they did. In spades.

If you’re like me, you’re exhausted, afraid, disappointed, embarrassed, and losing faith that this dream called America is even real anymore, if it ever was—and we know it wasn’t for generations of oppressed people.

White violence was tolerated and apparently even welcomed in the halls of Congress, as capitol police put up a pitiful defense against the insurrectionists and in some cases ushered them directly in.

White supremacy ran amuck in the House and Senate for five hours—or rather, it did so in flag-waving openness rather than just in the polite, buttoned down, suit-clad form in which it usually manifests there.

I can’t take any more crises. I just can’t.

The constant swerve between adrenaline-fueled panic and apathetic exhaustion has worn me to a paper-thin facsimile of myself.

I need to have something to lean on. I need something to count on. I need to know that tomorrow is going to be okay.

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The Red and Blue Bridesmaids

“Keep awake, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

How many of us have been keeping that commandment of Jesus from our gospel today all too literally this week as we waited for election results?

I’m usually asleep at a deeply unfashionable 10 p.m., but on Tuesday night, actually Wednesday morning, I was up at 1:30 a.m. waiting for returns. I did that even though I knew full well it would be very unlikely for us to have a final result on day one, two, or even three of this election week.

We spent all week knowing neither the day nor the hour of a conclusive election result, and honestly it’s been one more exhausting ordeal in a year full of them.

It was a little 2020-ish in our story from the Gospel of Matthew as Jesus tells it.

This is not a happy group of women waiting in the house for the result.

You might say they were divided.

You might say they were polarized.

You might say they were unable to find common ground.

I feel like maybe half of the room was painted blue and the other half red.

The interesting thing was they all had lamps. But only half of them had oil.

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