Long and short reads for your next weekend. Fall 2014 edition.
On Work that Works for Us
“Research by the US military has shown that losing just one hour of sleep per night for a week will cause a level of cognitive degradation equivalent to a .10 blood alcohol level. Worse: most people who’ve fallen into this state typically have no idea of just how impaired they are… ‘If [workers] came to work that drunk, we’d fire them… But we don’t think twice about making an equivalent level of sleep deprivation a condition of continued employment.'”
Curious about the 8-hour day (physical labor), the 6-hour day (knowledge work), and the labor market that doesn’t respect either? This is the article for you. The author credits Silicon Valley and the twin fetishes of “passion” and “excellence” for the drive toward excessive hours.
Heroism, Hospitality, and Leadership
Leadership In The Age Of Complexity: From Hero To Host (Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze)
I’ve recently shared the work of Dr. Margaret J. Wheatley‘s Berkana Institute. Wheatley and Deborah Frieze collaborate on helping stuck systems to get unstuck—and they use change modeling, community building, and new forms of leadership to do it.
In Leadership In The Age Of Complexity: From Hero To Host, Wheatley and Frieze describe how complex problems highlight the limitations of linear reasoning and the Great Man view of leadership. Discouraging our usual focus on “the hero,” they propose regarding leaders as those who, instead of promoting themselves, host inclusive conversations and decision-making processes about issues that affect stakeholders and trust enough to invite their entire group to share. In so doing, they say, the leader can model how to learn new insights from unexpected parts of the old org chart:
Heroic leadership rests on the illusion that someone can be in control. Yet we live in a world of complex systems whose very existence means they are inherently uncontrollable. No one is in charge of our food systems. No one is in charge of our schools. No one is in charge of the environment. No one is in charge of national security. No one is in charge! These systems are emergent phenomena—the result of thousands of small, local actions that converged to create powerful systems with properties that may bear little or no resemblance to the smaller actions that gave rise to them. These are the systems that now dominate our lives; they cannot be changed by working backwards, focusing on only a few simple causes. And certainly they cannot be changed by the boldest visions of our most heroic leaders.
If we want to be able to get these complex systems to work better, we need to abandon our reliance on the leader-as-hero and invite in the leader-as-host. We need to support those leaders who know that problems are complex, who know that in order to understand the full complexity of any issue, all parts of the system need to be invited in to participate and contribute. We, as followers, need to give our leaders time, patience, forgiveness; and we need to be willing to step up and contribute… [Leaders-as-host] know that other people, no matter where they are in the organizational hierarchy, can be as motivated, diligent and creative as the leader, given the right invitation.
Stories from the End of Life
My family operates a small assisted living facility and so walking alongside residents and their relatives during their last years, days, and moments is a major part of what we do every day.
The Divine Art of Dying: How to Live Well While Dying is a collection of reflections on what the end of life looks like from the perspective of someone who has a terminal diagnosis. What decisions need to be made? What insights or comforts might come from spirituality? How can relatives and caregivers support? The first author, Karen Speerstra, died in 2013, and this book represents her journey away from the denial of mortality and toward “consciously dying.”
Heard about this one through my friend Heather Isaacs, a hospice chaplain based in California. Thanks Heather!
On Adventist Theology and the Limits of Concern
An Adventist biologist reflects on working and worshiping in a denominational climate that remains hostile to evolutionary sciences, integrated theology, and honest questions about both.
In recent years, a number of conservative Christians have made the attempt to integrate their faith with current science. These have included John Walton, Francis Collins, Richard Colling, Denis Lamoureux, and many others. These authors have presented ways of connecting the dots, of possibly coming to some peace with the information both in the Bible and in science. I am personally thankful that I have found them. I certainly would not have found them in my church. But they have presented possibilities that have kept me in my church.
As much as some Adventist church administrators discourage church members from reading material from non-Adventist authors, this is a heartbreaking statement.
Citing Ron Osborn’s book on theistic evolution, literalism, and animal suffering, the anonymous writer offers 10 brief theses that represent his current views. I was most interested by points 4 and 5:
4. Does Genesis require that there was no death in the beginning? No. It is implied that life was maintained by the Tree of Life, and that upon the fall of Adam and Eve, access to this tree was prohibited. It also seems likely that plants, or at least plant cells, died in the Garden of Eden – Adam and Eve ate fruit, right? Did all animals and plants require eating of the Tree of Life as well? This seems unlikely, especially since I’m not sure how plants could physically do this. While the possibility remains that humans were unique in the necessity to eat from the Tree of Life, and other organisms could live forever without eating of this Tree, the vast similarities between life forms as we know them today suggests that our physiology is really not that different from that of animals.
5. Did Jesus come to save the animals? There is no evidence for this. Most assume that our cat will not meet us in heaven. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest that animals are able to “sin.” They are likely amoral beings – neither a heaven nor a hell for them.
How, I’m wondering, do these two points resolve?
If “our physiology is really not that different from that of animals”—something we know thanks to genomic mapping—don’t Adventists have to establish what makes one manifestation of the common genetic blueprint (the human) worth God’s special salvation, and another (the chimp or pig) not? Each of these species is more than 99% similar. But according to the author’s point 5, one gets “heaven” or “hell,” and the other gets non-existence.
See also part of the author’s final claim: “[humanity] needs help in restoring that relationship with God, as well as with fellow [humans] and with all the organisms we share this globe with” (emphasis added). What’s the theological basis for that claim if only one species has moral value?
Outside of this doctrinal circuit, we know it’s wise to be just as engaged with the health of the planet’s entire ecosystem as we are focused on our own species’ health: our present and future are already entangled with the future of every other species, and we suffer when we don’t consider them. Every other part of the ecosystem will continue to be important… unless there’s a spectacularly anthropocentric rapture and we are plucked out of context.
That is not an Adventist expectation, not exactly. Yet Adventist soteriology, even the modified version offered in Anonymous’s article, is anthropocentric and not biocentric. “For God so loved the world” is practically collapsed into “For God so loved the humans,” and except for three statements voted in the early- to mid-1990s, that’s the end of the Adventist story.
We have a lot of work to do to establish an environmental responsibility imperative that’s both coherent and meaningful to members across the denomination.
Bonus: This is Where You Live
Thanks to the scientists and science writers at Nature, I’ve been thoroughly distracted this weekend by depictions of Laniakea, the super-cluster of which our Milky Way is a part. Take a look at Nature’s video, and tell me it’s not cool to be at home.