July 24, 2008

Amazing Jimazing Memory

Posted in I wonder at 9:44 pm by jimazing

brokenbrain.gifToday on my way to lunch, I was carrying on a conversation with my friend, Will.  We opened a door to a small elevator waiting area where I saw someone who I had hadn’t seen for a few years.  We had a casual work relationship with a few years ago, so I wouldn’t say I ever knew him well.  Without missing a single beat, I said, “Hey, Drew.  It’s been a long time. How are you doing…” [insert 5 seconds of small talk here].  How did I know his name so quickly?  I marvel at the way my brain works so very efficiently sometimes.

I heard a podcast recently in which the speaker was describing how memory and creativity work.  In his comparison, he said that storing information in memory was like finding items and putting them on shelves.  Creativity happens when someone takes two or more items and sees something new in common between them.  In other words, no one really creates anything completely from scratch.  I digress.

Right after seeing Drew and remembering his name, I imagined the process my brain went through to pull off this amazing feat…  A few years ago, when I met Drew, I stored his name on a shelf somewhere in one of the great empty rooms that is my brain.  For a while I visited it regularly as I would see him in the hall and need to use his name.  Then I didn’t see Drew for a long time.  His name grew dustier as I forgot about it.  After all, I wasn’t using it.  When I stepped into the elevator lobby, instantly flashing lights went off inside my mind.  Sirens started screaming and the memory-librarians in my brain went rushing faster than the six million dollar man to get that name to the front of my mind.  Somehow they dusted it off and had it there fresh and solid right when and where I needed it.  To me on the outside, it was as if I had just been talking to him or about him.  Unbelievable!

A little later, while we were sitting down to lunch, Jeff walked up to me and said hello.  Now I don’t know Jeff very well.  He’s in a church men’s group that meets at the same time and place that my men’s group meets, but we haven’t spent a lot of time together.  I’m guessing that it has been four to six weeks since I last saw Jeff.  I looked up, shook his hand and said, “Hey Ken.” (Wrong name!)  Ken is another guy in Jeff’s group.  Ken and Jeff don’t even look much alike at all.  Why didn’t it work right that time.  I  said something silly to mask my mild embarrasment and went on with my lunch.  No big deal, right?  Why did my memory work so efficiently for Drew and so close but not quite for Jeff?  Who knows.  I still think it is fascinating.

Reminds me of a joke…

An elderly couple had dinner at another couple’s house. After dinner, the wives went into the kitchen and the gentlemen went into the parlor to smoke a cigar and talk.  One of them said to the other, “Last night we went out to a new restaurant and it was really great. The food was scrumptious and the service was impecable.  I would recommend it very highly.”

The other man said, “It sounds great!  I would like to take my wife there sometime.  What is the name of the restaurant?”

The first man thought for a moment and thought some more… Finally he asked his friend, “What is the name of that flower you give to someone you love? You know… The one that’s red and has thorns.”

Do you mean a rose?”

“Yes, that’s the one,” replied the man. He then turned towards the kitchen and yelled, “Rose, what’s the name of that restaurant we went to last night?”

 I can relate to the poor old guy.

July 10, 2008

Frontline: Jesus in China

Posted in church, tv at 9:24 am by jimazing

chinese-church.jpgI just watched a Frontline video report called Jesus in China, which was about the state of the Christian church in China.  The report was about how the Chinese government relates to the modern Christian church in China.  They address how the government has created a state sanctioned church and how the government is persecuting underground “house churches” and arresting their pastors.  However, it was something else altogether that stirred me.  In fact the thing that bothered me was never mentioned in the program.  I was bothered by how western the Chinese church looked.  If you ignored the obvious language difference, the state sanctioned church might have been any large traditional protestant church in the US, and the underground churches all looked very much like any of a number of more charismatic churches that I have been a part of.

chinese-house-church.jpgI hesitate to write about this for fear that others will take this as a critisism of how a particular group of people “does church”, but that is truly not what’s on my mind.  This not really about how to “do church”.  I just expected the Chinese church to seem more… well… Chinese.  I was excited by the title to think that I would get to see how the message of Jesus is being lived out by people from a different culture than mine.  What I saw was my own culture being lived out in a different group.  From the architecture of the church building to the clothing, the state church looked just like First Baptist of Smalltown America.  From the the bouncy dancing while singing repititious choruses to the few young folks with microphones leading the singing in a line on the stage… it could have been any one of a thousand trendy new evangelical or charismatic churches.  I don’t necessarily see anything wrong with “doing church” like that, I just wonder why church gatherings are not more expressive of the people who are gathered.

God created us as individuals with many varied talents, interests and experience, and I believe that everything we touch and create as Christians should naturally be a unique expression of who we are.  “…Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms…” I Peter 4:10.  It seems to me that using “whatever gift” would look differently for every believer.  Individual church gatherings ought to look very different for people from very different cultures. For me, it just doesn’t add up.

Again, I feel compelled to go overboard in saying that this blog entry is not about the Chinese Church.  I think it is wonderful that people who have been oppressed by their government are experiencing a newfound (or newly fought for) freedom to worship God.  If anything, I want to see them free to worship God as Chinese, not as westerners.  God is God and western society is western society and they aren’t the same thing.