Quote of the Day: The Brain Rules

“Most of us have no idea how our brain works. This has strange consequences. We try to talk on our cell phones and drive at the same time, even though it is literally impossible for our brains to multitask when it comes to paying attention. We have created high-stress office environments, even though a stressed brain is significantly less productive. Our schools are designed so that most real learning occurs at home. This would be funny if it weren’t so harmful.”

John Medina, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School (p.2)

I have been thinking a lot about how I can improve my thinking, learning, and doing, with the hopes of improving my academic, professional, and creative endeavors. I’ve only read about 20 pages of Brain Rules but so far I’d highly recommend it. Not only is it full of helpful information on how to improve our thinking and doing, it’s an incredibly interesting read. You can also check out the 12 Brain Rules here.

New Position and New Reading Material

On January 1st, I am starting as the Executive Director of CHARM Prison Ministry.

 
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The ministry was started by my good friends, David and Kaye Trickett, and God has blessed the ministry by growing it to the point of needing a full-time director. (For those familiar with CHARM David is not going anywhere, I am only stepping in to run the day-to-day operations so he can be freed up to do the ministry God has called him to do.)

I will share more about CHARM and the prison system in the coming days and weeks, but as I prepare for my first week in full-time prison ministry I did what most academics do…I ordered a few books relevant to the subject.

1. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – I am only a couple chapters into this book, but it has already begun to open my eyes. Transition homes is the area CHARM has grown the most in the past few years, and her thoughts on the prison label clearly identified an issue I knew was there but couldn’t explain. She writes, “So long as large numbers of African Americans continue to be arrested and labeled drug criminals, they will continue to be relegated to a permanent second-class status upon their release, no matter how much (or how little) time they spend behind bars. The system of mass incarceration is based on the prison label, not prison time.” I look forward to reading the rest of the book.

2. Beyond Prisons: A New Interfaith Paradigm for Our Failed Prison System – This book lays out a 12 points for changing the current prison system.

3. The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race – Dr. Jennings’ book has been on my radar for a while now, excited to read it in conversation with these other books.

4. The Cross and the Lynching Tree – I am not sure what to expect of this book. I admire James Cone’s works (and usually enjoy reading them because he is a gifted communicator) but never been able to jump on board with his theology. Wanted to save this book to read with other voices like those above.

I am really looking forward to 2015 and all the new beginnings (also part of another new project – projectCURATE). And hopefully at least one happy ending (I am scheduled to complete and defend my PhD dissertation this summer).

We’re Not Cold-blooded Thinking Machines

I’ve just started reading Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning. Since my husband Jimmy has absolutely devoured a ton of linguist books over the past year I asked him to suggest one for me to read. Louder Than Words by Benjamin K. Bergen was the book he chose so off I go.

Though my interests are not specifically linguistic at this point I am still very interested in how our brains work, how it is we learn and think, and especially how it is we make meaning. So far I’ve only read the epilogue but the following quotes from George Lakoff give you a hint of what the book is about:

They [Merleau-Ponty and Dewey] argued that—quite to the contrary of the traditional view—our bodies have absolutely everything to do with our minds. Our brains evolved to allow our bodies to function in the world, and it is that embodied engagement with the world, the physical, social, and intellectual world, that makes our concepts and language meaningful. (ix)

 
The Embodiment Revolution has shown that our essential humanness, our ability to think and use language, is wholly a product of our physical bodies and brains. The way our mind works, from the nature of our thoughts to the way we understand meaning in language, is inextricably tied to our bodies—how we perceive and feel and act in the world. We’re not cold-blooded thinking machines. Our physiology provides the concepts for our philosophy. (x)

Meaning is a slippery concept… how do we actually make meaning? And how does the making of meaning affect how we understand texts? Ancient texts?? Inspired texts???

And what does having bodies have to do with it all?

Michael F. Bird on the Fourfold Gospel

“The four Gospels exhibit a plurality and unity that both encourages and restricts christological reflection. As a plurality, they demonstrate that no single Gospel, no one narration, and no solo story possesses a monopoly on describing who Jesus is. It takes the richness and diversity of four different accounts to come close to penetrating into the mystery of the man and his mission. In fact, the plurality of the Gospels stimulates us to write, preach, teach, paint, and sing about Jesus in ways that are far from monolithic but celebrate the diverse ways that Jesus Christ quickens our hearts, fills us with joy, drives us to Godward devotion, and inspires us to love others. At the same time, as a unity the four Gospels are in a sense constricting, setting the boundaries as they do for all christological discourse. They mark out the theological zone in which our discussion and devotion to Christ takes place. This proves that certain images of Jesus are out of bounds. The purely human Jesus, the phantasm Jesus, or the Jesus as an angel view, or the neo-liberal California Jesus, or the ultra-conservative ant-big government Jesus, or the Nazi Aryan Jesus, or the armed communist liberator Jesus – all these are moving beyond the playing field.”

– Michael F. Bird, The Gospel of the Lord, 326.

The Theologian’s Task?

“Theologians attempt to give voice to reality by speaking in tune with the event of God’s own self-introduction in Jesus Christ. It is gospel-shaped speech, and it is no easy task. The difficulty of the task must not become an excuse, however. Christian theologians must attempt to speak with God and their neighbours on the basis of the gospel.”

Lincoln Harvey – A Brief Theology of Sport   

Theology

I wasn’t really sure what this book was going to be about (people approach the idea of sports in all kinds of ways), but after reading the introduction I am excited about the direction it is taking. As someone who played competitive sports through college (not always in a Christian way), still plays recreationally and follows sport closely (not always in a Christian way), and is raising three sons who play and watch sports all day, everyday (most the time not in a Christian way), the idea of celebrating sports in a Christian way sounds fascinating and liberating.

On another front, I’m also a little mad I didn’t think of this first. Maybe I can follow up with A Less Brief Theology of Sport?

There will be more updates as I continue reading.