I couldn’t sleep after I woke up close to 1:30 am (I think—I can’t remember exactly). I don’t know if insomnia is something that just happens more when you get older, but I think I’ve always had problems with insomnia for as long as I can remember. Thankfully, it is intermittent. If I’m awake one night, I am so tired by the next night that it is not a problem getting to sleep.

This morning, I got up just after 3:00 am. I grabbed my iPad and headed down to the basement, which is where our family relaxes. Last year, we thought we might be moving to Vancouver. We put our house up for sale and we were looking around for somewhere closer to Downtown Vancouver to move to. Our realtor provided a service that included staging the home to increase the chance of a sale. We decided that this would be a good opportunity to buy some new furniture that we would take with us to the new home. And, since we would very likely be downsizing, we would get rid of furniture that we did not intend to take with us and use the some of the remaining furniture to stage the rest of the rooms. In this way, we finally made our basement into a much more usable and comfortable space.

As it turned out, the house didn’t sell and our plans to move fell through. This was a good thing, since our daughter’s plans to go to the University of Victoria also fell through, and she has been living at home this year while attending Trinity Western University, which is about a half hour drive from our house.

So, here I am, in the basement, in the dark of the night, waiting for the light of the morning, looking for things to read.

Al Gore: The Future

As it turns out, today is the day that Al Gore released his new book, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change, in the iBooks store. It promises to be an assessment of the world in its current state and the trends and momentum that are propelling the world forward into the future, with all its dangers, challenges and uncertainties.

Al Gore surveys our planet’s beclouded horizon and offers a sober, learned and ultimately hopeful forecast in the visionary tradition of Alvin Tofler’s Future Shock and John Naisbitt’s Megatrends.

According to the video trailer that accompanies the book, the six drivers of global change are:

  • global economy
  • instant communication
  • shifts in power
  • growth
  • genetic manipulation
  • humans & the ecosystem

The video trailer ends with Al Gore’s hopeful challenge:

No matter where in the world we live, we face a choice: either to be swept along by the powerful currents of technological change and economic determinism into a future that may threaten our deepest values, or shape the world in ways that protect human dignity and reflect the aspirations of people and nations throughout the world. Mapping the future is a risky undertaking. Perhaps the only thing riskier is doing nothing.

A Sustainable Life

I was actually looking for a couple other books. I am trying to solve the problem of how to get things done without taking on too much. I know myself pretty well. I know I have a tendency to take on too many things and to lose focus to such an extent that I find myself looking back and wondering what happened to all the time. How do I strike a balance between making the most of my time and preserving my health and sanity? How do I live a good life?

Being Wrong

Another book I came across while looking for Margin, and not finding it in iBooks, was Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz. The book looks like a very interesting investigation into what keeps us holding onto ideas and beliefs in the face of information and evidence that challenges and undermines these convictions.

To err is human. Yet most of us go through life assuming (and sometimes insisting) that we are right about nearly everything, from the origin of the universe to how to load the dishwasher.

Choices and Habits

All of these things that I am thinking through involve the habits that I have formed, whether they are thought patterns, assumptions, ways of working, or general approaches to life. Perhaps these are the things that keep me awake at night. It’s not so much a sense of guilt, that maybe I should have done things differently, but perhaps the thought that I have an opportunity to do so many amazing things, but I might miss out on those things if I make the wrong choices. This can be a paralyzing thought.

I am in this mode of trying to figure out what the right choices are. I think that I can learn from the wisdom of others. That is one of the major reasons I love to read. But this literate life has a way of pulling oneself into a world of abstraction so much that the world of ideas becomes more real than the concrete, physical world of people and geography, time and matter, actions and reactions.

In some ways, the life of the mind can be an escape from a life of choices, risk, courage and action. Fear of failure becomes an excuse to put things off just a little longer. Sometimes, you just have to decide that you know enough.

All You Need

The Beatles sang, “All you need is love.” If love is enough, what is it? Can it really be considered the foundation for every good choice? Love is a very confusing term. It means so many different things to so many different people. People sing many different songs about love. You might say that it is the topic that receives the greatest amount of attention in art, music and drama.

The canonical Christian literature goes as far as saying, “the greatest of these is love” and “God is love.” In philosophy, it is important to define your terms. It is the best way to ensure that your ideas will be understood properly. Of course, that opens up an entire debate about the relativity of truth and meaning, in which some might argue that there is no basis for a shared understanding. Individuals differ so widely in temperament, experience and knowledge, which may be formed by an infinite number of variables involving biological, chronological, geographical and cultural contexts. Given these differences, how can there possibly be enough shared meaning between anyone to assume that a person can understand or be understood?

I came up with a definition for love that is probably a little too abstract or philosophical to really do the word justice. But I think that there may be enough shared meaning in these terms to make it intelligible.

Love is truth in action.

I like it because it combines abstract ideas with physical reality. Some would say that the opposite of love is hate. But it’s funny how hatred can often be the emotion that becomes a forerunner to love. Hate has a subject and an object. Hate has an intensity of feeling that cannot be ignored. The friction will spark emotions and actions that are difficult to quell. No more intensity could be attributed to any conflict in this world than the Arab-Isreali conflict. But the actions of one graphic designer, Ronny Edry, have led to a campaign that has flipped the conflict on its head: Israel loves Iran.

I believe the opposite of love is apathy and indifference. Nothing says that you don’t care more than neglect. To be ignored, not even acknowledged can be more painful than outright hatred. Perhaps that is why the name Israel means, “he struggles with God.” As U2 sang, “Jacob wrestled the angel, and the angel was overcome” in their song, Bullet the Blue Sky. Struggle, whether it represents love or hate, is the opposite of indifference. Struggling through the night, Jacob earned his new name, Israel, when daylight broke through. And just to make sure he or any in his family never forgot about his struggle, he would walk with a limp from that day forward. He was on his way to meet his brother. Now, somehow, the whole world has become involved in this family squabble, a disagreement between two brothers over who should have inherited the birthright.

My parents owned a Christian bookstore. The bibles, books and music have left a legacy in my mind that I can never shake. The power of the written word has left an indelible mark on me, like the mark of Cain that served as a warning to all who might have had cause to harm him. As all roads lead to Rome, every sentence I read—it doesn’t matter whether the literature is sacred or profane—every word, every character, every symbol, every jot and tittle, every mark leads back to the creator.

To most moderns (or should I say postmoderns), the Bible is a fairytale; Genesis is a myth. The postmodern world has dismissed the metanarrative as the decorative embellishment of the past, an archaic reminder of the fickle mind of the ancients, who lacked the technology and depth of insight to know any better.

But, what if, in that ancient story of creation, God was merely defining his terms and giving people some context to understand their shared experiences. He spoke in simple terms of the physical world, of light, water and land—three elements that are essential to sustain every form of life on earth. Yet he hid in those words the understanding of abstract truths that pointed to the world of the spiritual and the eternal, to the things that would last beyond the collapse of the universe, of gravity, of the bonding of atoms, of the polarity of protons and electrons, of the existence of waves and particles.

  • Day 1: light
  • Day 2: water
  • Day 3: land
  • Day 4: light
  • Day 5: water
  • Day 6: land

What are the eternal elements?

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.

If faith is a light to the world, and hope waters the land, the land is the nutrient-rich soil where the creator plants the seeds of life. Then, we are the fruit of that seed, the carriers of the truth hidden in our DNA, information that reveals the mark of our maker, data that could not exist apart from the existence of a creator, an innovator, a designer, a coder.

Perhaps we bear the image of our creator as pixels of light with such hue, luminosity and saturation that we either illuminate his presence or distort, obscure and darken it. Then, we reflect or distort the image of our creator depending on whether we choose to act in love or out of indifference.

Perhaps now is not the time to sleep. Now is the time to act.