Friday, June 18, 2010

where's bloggo?

Hello blog. I’ve been away for awhile. Okay, a long, long while.

I think I‘ve been going through one of my deconstruction phases where I question how valuable certain activities are. But instead of just questioning, I shut down for a while. Ditto for Facebook.

Back in the day when I actually used paper (I’ve been nearly paperless for years; my last holdout was books. After getting a Kindle 2 last year, I haven’t bought a tree-based book since; magazines are still an issue due to a graphic-geekness addiction I can’t shake off. Give me two more iterations of iPads, and I’ll be a good little consumer), I would periodically end up with neatly ordered piles of papers on my desk like mini-skyscrapers. I had a couple of filing cabinets, but they were filled. There was an intuitive methodology to my stacks, but it had one major flaw: I’m a neat-freak when it comes to workspace. Clutter distracts me. It paralyzes me. I can’t explain how it disrupts my mental feng shui. For me, it feels exactly like trying to sleep when I have a dozen issues swirling around in my head that have to be dealt with…and the only way I can sleep—and by the way, prayer doesn’t help me—is to actually get out of bed, flip my Macbook on, and exorcise them to my “to do” list. The insomnia mysteriously fades away.

Anyway, one day in utter frustration because of the piles on my desk, I retrieved a huge shopping bag, placed it on the floor at one end of my desk, and with a simple sweep of my arm, pushed everything over the edge into the bag and carried it to the trash. I felt liberated. Free.

Obviously there are some flaws to this system. Duh.

But my theory was, if no one screamed within the next week or so, it must not have been that important. I even had a scriptural basis for my action:

Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, (Jesus) stayed where he was two more days. . . . On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. (John 11:6, 17 NIV)

Okay, so it’s a different context…and there was a warrant out for Him in Jerusalem…plus He’s the Son of God and already said this was going to express the glory of God in the end. But gee, other than that, He seemed to take an unhurried, uncluttered approach to the whole thing. He didn’t seem frantic and overloaded. So maybe it’s a weak scriptural position, but it did make me feel better.

Anyway, no one screamed…and I developed a new way of regularly shaking the proverbial Etch-A-Sketch upside-down. It was the Workman Shopping Bag Office Management System®. Stephen Covey, step aside; a new sheriff’s in town: I discovered the eighth habit.

And I felt better.

That was many moons ago. But now we live in this fabulous world of zeroes-and-ones and laptops. After developing a simple but effective virtual filing system and demanding that I don’t want anything given or sent to me if it’s not digitized, I have achieved a Zen-like state of clutterlessness. And, of course, I regularly back up, both at home and at my office. And don’t even get me started on the beauty of various search functions.

Anyway, part of being away was a wonderment if I was a contributor to The Clutter…you know, that seemingly endless stream of information and chatter that batters us daily. So when I shut down my little blog, nary a scream was heard. Okay, one query…to which I embarrassingly didn’t respond. But I wondered if my little contribution to the blogosphere was just creating a pile on someone else’s virtual desktop or, even more inwardly-focused, if it was just adding another pile to mine.

I’m honestly not fishing for affirmation here. Really.

Here’s what I’m struggling with: it’s not just the clutter, it’s the dilemma of choosing what to look at. I think the most difficult thing we swim in daily without an awareness of the wetness is the innumerable little choices we make every hour. When my friend Emmanuel first came to America from Jos, Nigeria, he was paralyzed the first time he walked into a supermarket to simply buy some tea, facing shelf after shelf of selections and types of teas. He said it took him weeks to get the courage to go back. Simply listening to music on my iTunes requires effort to choose from the hundreds of artists there; and my collection is miniscule compared to my friends. I think there’s a reason why twenty-somethings are being stereotyped as non-committal—perhaps they have been enculturated, immersed and overwhelmed in a tsunami of choices and don’t even realize they’re keeping their options open simply because they can. It’s the water they swim in.

The hot new algorithmic engines are the software services that make choices for you based on your history of surfing and selections. Netflix recommends movies to me. Google advises me on news stories. Pandora chooses my radio listening. Amazon recommends products. Kindle offers books based on my likings. YouTube suggests videos. In The Art of Choosing, author Sheena Iyengar writes that fifteen years ago there were a half-million consumer goods for sale in America. Today, Amazon itself offers twenty-four million.

Think of a person in the first century. Heck, even one just a hundred years ago. The exponential increase in the amount of information that necessitates choice-making is bewildering. It’s been estimated that a single issue of the New York Times contains more information than a seventeenth-century Englishman would have in a lifetime. I think it hugely impacts our culture’s approach to choosing to follow Jesus; it’s obvious how critical the wooing of the Holy Spirit is in that process.

Anyway, if you’re still reading this, I’m actually a bit discombobulated that you would choose to do that. I’m still wrestling with whether I want to keep adding to the pile…and if I'm part of the solution or part of the problem.

How do you handle The Noise?


  1. Handle the noise? Sit on my big swing on the lower deck with tea or coffee in hand, looking at the beautiful trees all around me, listening to the birds, the sounds of nature, and TRY to turn off all the clutter in my head. It's a glorious retreat and much needed.
    BRAVO for your retreat from all the clutter, electronic and others, but I always look forward to your insight!

  2. Yes, so true! I go through Google Reader from time to time to weed out blogs that are particularly "noisy" but not adding much. I'm planning on cancelling my Rolling Stone subscription (I find a lot of the articles interesting, and I have a cheap, discounted rate, but I just don't actually read it enough to justify it). And not everyone I'm friends with on Facebook makes it to my news feed (sad but true). You do, of course. :) Life is still pretty noisy and cluttered, but I try what I can...

  3. To quote Rick Warren, I try to, "Divert Daily(whatever relaxes) Withdraw Weekly(a sabbath) Abandon Annually(disconnect completely)Ps.127:2" I also find that I have to empty my brain in order for everything to slow down and get quiet. The hardest part about it is making the decision to do it. I love that you blog, but you have to ask yourself if it is helping you to accomplish the vision that you are trying to live out for God in your life.

  4. Welcome, back, friend. There are certain voices I want to hear and I make sure they feed through to what I experience. Yours is one of them. You blog differently than you speak, so it has value to me. You provoke me to think differently by offering insight that's thoughtful and reflective. I therefore don't experience it as clutter. Problem solved!

  5. Thank you, Dave...I have been contemplating the "Throw it all in the trash and be done" method of organizing myself lately...And you have given me the courage to DO IT...And I am right now...Liberation!

    I LOVE your voice here on the web and I vote that you do not leave. Just write whenever. No need to pressure yourself or give in to pressure to do anymore than that. But your journals are always a blessing.



  6. Blogging does take a side seat during the summer because of all of the activities with the kids.
    It's funny, I was just thinking about the "information overload" that we live with in today's society just the other day. I was thinking about two things: one, the availablity just to check the weather radar and how addicitive watching it can be (we only had a newspaper forecast when I was growing up), & two, how many channels my kids have available to watch on the t.v. In my day, we had 4, CBS, ABC, NBC, & PBS. It's no wonder why our generation got outside and played more!
    To handle the noise - I just like to go to the gym, or anywhere for that matter, and just watch people.

  7. I read your blog because it makes me think about issue from a different angle than my own. The frequency of the blog doesn't matter as much as the content. In the blogs I follow I look for confirmation of my own beliefs, direction to those I hadn't discovered and a challenge to do something new. Thank you for all of it is not clutter for me.

  8. I once heard of a man who had been saved as far back as he could remember and had brought many souls to CHRIST. He worked with a man who was, well lets just say he was a pretty rough man. Bar fights, skirt chasing and three day drunks were just a few things he was know to do. So the Christian man decided he would bring this sinner to CHRIST and he tried for years. The man was as far from CHRIST as he had ever been. After five years the Christian had given up and decided that the sinner was a soul doomed for hell. A short time later the Christian was telling to a few men about CHRIST in front of the local bar and they were making jokes and mocking him, but as always the Christian never backed down and always asking if he could pray with them, but they laughed him off and walked into the bar. Unknowingly to the Christian the men sat with the lost soul that the Christian had tried so hard to save. They began telling him about the crazy bible thumper out front who wanted to save his soul. They repeated the things that the Christian had said and made jokes. The lost soul never laughed he stood up and walked out. That night the lost soul sat by the phone for a while and then dialed the Christian and wanted to be saved. The Christian was shocked "I'm so glad you called and i would love to pray with you, but I'm wondering what made you change your mind about GOD?" The lost soul simply replied "I heard some people talking about it at the bar." So I guess what I'm trying to say is "Even when no one is listening, what you say might be repeated to some who need it. Blog on, Dave!! We are listening

  9. Sometimes I think only God can decide what's clutter or not, after a certain point. There's so much gray area, and we never know where the Butterfly Effect will lead, whose life will be affected by these random God-thoughts sent into the cyberverse. I'm as guilty as the next person of wasting waaaaayyyyy too much time online so no easy answers. Maybe the willingness is more important than the actual decision?

  10. I can't believe I was the only one who was wondering where the blog went! I value your insights and the way you get me thinking differently in the middle of my lunch hour at work. I am certainly not as "plugged in" as most, but I can say that I have missed the jumpstart to my week. Thanks for touching base again.

  11. I sleep - that's the only time I seem to be able to turn off the noise.

  12. dont blog online, seems like a waste of time along with facebook, tweets, and other nonsense.

  13. Blogs I read...Not many consistently,

    Dave Workman Blog. Yep I like what you write and report. I pop in and look for a new post, that has a thought, or an inspirational comment, a challenge, or Dave just being Dave. To be honest... When there is not a new post in a while I understand you are a busy man, but I think Rats.