About Facebook

About Facebook

The enormous success of Facebook shows that many of us want to connect with one another in a public way. It isn’t enough to just send private e-mails, make phone calls, and send zippy little text messages; we want to gather our friends in a semblance of a community and let them all know, all at once, how we’re feeling, what our children look like, what we look like, what games we’re playing online, what YouTube videos we like, what songs we like, what places we’re traveling to, what we think about recent political and other news events, what are our religious beliefs, and even what illnesses we’re going through.

Maybe you can argue that the Facebook stage is only semi-public, because all this communicating is only with people we choose to share info with—“friends,” “friends of friends,” and “everybody,” as we so choose. But it is a stage, of sorts, that draws attention to ourselves in a more public way than just a communication between individuals.

What is this need for public attention? I find it interesting. It’s a kind of narcissism, of course, but still—what is it? What compels us to have a publicly noticed voice?

As a person with my own narcissistic needs for attention, I admit I am a full participant. I joined Facebook after being invited to it by some classmates from an American high school I attended in Taiwan. It was a very interesting place to go to school, with students from a wide variety of cultures. I was curious to find out how going to that school may have affected life choices: Where did people live? What did they do for a living? What hobbies did they have? How might their lifestyle have been influenced by the opportunity to live in a non-U.S. country during some crucial, formative years? Maybe, through Facebook, they’d tell me.

I recently finally got around to posing these questions to my Facebook friends to see how they respond. It occurred to me that I had never seen anyone talk about it. There is surprisingly little discussion in my community about memories of the high school itself. There’s little reflection on what went on back then that maybe now we have more perspective on. It’s more like the high school community serves as a safe, convenient group to exchange thoughts and feelings with, leaning on the past without referring to it much.

My overall impression of public communications on my Facebook “Wall” is that most comments are friendly and positive. Photos get kudos. Vacation destinations are envied. Upbeat religious commentary gets plenty of play (along with some anti-religious commentary from me). Occasionally, there is an acerbic political statement. There are plenty of announcements about stages of play in various Facebook-related games, and there are some invitations to show support for a variety of causes by linking up to different groups via Facebook. Some people are happy to share their blow-by-blow of going through the day. Some (like me) are promoting their artistic creations.

One thing that strikes me as particularly interesting about Facebook is how most people, at least in my community, choose to include a photo of themselves. I haven’t participated in other public forums much, but my experience with Myspace.com and a few online music software-related forums has been that most people create a fanciful avatar to represent themselves, rather than show their true faces. So I was surprised to see otherwise on Facebook. For my community, I guess it is of great interest to see how people look now, as opposed to how they looked in high school. For myself, I stick with my fanciful avatar.

So what does participation in Facebook say about us as a culture? My thoughts:

• We want to be noticed.
• We want to be remembered.
• We want to brag, at least a little.
• We want to be liked.

We want an easy, convenient community: We want the easy freedom to opt in or opt out of our communications. It’s easy to make “friends,” with a click—and to disconnect from them, with another click. Communications can be had at any time of day or night. The “Wall” of community comments is there for reviewing at any time. And there’s instant messaging available with anyone who happens to be online at the time. And we can just disappear quite easily.

What do you think? If you participate in Facebook, what do you get out of it?

© Brother Greg 8/6/10

We communicate too much and too little


Posted in brother greg, brother greg's buffet, Humor, Philosophy, Psychology, Spiritual Experience, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Art Moron

Just got a silly flash fiction story of mine published on EveryDayFiction today. Hope you enjoy it!: http://www.everydayfiction.com/art-moron-by-brother-greg/

Posted in Art, brother greg, brother greg's buffet, Humor | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Friend Dies….

[For folks at TAS, this is a blog I wrote a year or so ago for an ex-Christian organization. It’s about our former classmate, Greg Davis. The story of his death was sad, and I have heard since then that he and/or his parents, because of religious beliefs, refused to get the medical care he needed until it was ‘way too late. I know I talked about him in a proselytizing way during the ’73 graduation ceremony, and I now apologize to all my classmates for doing that. His death was no martyrdom, and it certainly was no cause for a Christian rallying cry. Quite the opposite.]

This is something that happened during high school that I wish I had looked at more directly earlier in life – it might have helped me leave Christianity much sooner than I ultimately did. I should mention that this high school was an American school based in Taiwan. In Taiwan, when I lived there, there where there were a large number of white missionaries supposedly there to convert Chinese people to fundamentalist Christianity. I had a friend in the high school– let’s call him Mike.

Mike was a nice guy. He was also quite human. He was proud of his high SAT scores. He was in love with a girl at my high school, and the love was unrequited. He was very opinionated about music, about performing artists, songs, and lyrics. He was someone I could agree with or disagree with, but I respected his intelligence.

One day, Mike invited a friend, Steve, and me to a Christian weekend retreat for high school students, run by missionaries, and, out of curiosity, we agreed to go. There, during that weekend, Steve and I both had spiritual experiences. Given the context of our experiences, surrounded by all the missionaries and fellow high school students who were deeply invested in Christianity, we became Christians. We were told to read the Bible, pray, go to church, and clean up our lifestyles, etc. I was stunned by my personal spiritual experience and overwhelmed by the earnestness of all the people so quick to tell me how to interpret my own experience.

Days after that, while hanging out at a local coffeehouse that was set up for Christian teenagers, Mike commented on how he was so happy to have participated in a “miracle”—the conversion of Steve and me. It was a comment that haunted me for years afterward.

About a week later, Mike was diagnosed with hepatitis. He stopped attending school and retired to his home. At the time, it seemed to me to be one of those diseases from which people usually recover. I don’t think, in those days, much was known about the different forms of hepatitis—that some forms are more harmful than others. I didn’t think anything of it. My father had once had hepatitis from eating shellfish, and he recovered. But Mike was getting worse, not better.

I went out to visit Mike at his home one Saturday afternoon. At that time, as he lay in bed, we talked briefly. He told me it was hard for him to have a conversation, because he felt so tired. Even just listening to people was an effort. He indicated that it was hard for him to have visitors, and I got the sense he’d rather not have any. So I let him be.

The next time I saw him, he was in the hospital. Another person and I visited him in the early evening, and he was sleeping. An orderly shook him, telling him he had visitors. Mike woke up, startled, looked at us, and promptly got sick. He was really out of it, and we soon left. That was the last time I saw him.

A strange event that happened after that. It was early on Easter morning, and I had been invited to join with a group of adult, male missionaries for a prayer meeting. During this meeting, we started doing what was called “speaking in tongues” – believing we were praying in another language that we did not otherwise know. Then there was some prayer, in English, about the health of Mike. In this middle of this prayer meeting, someone started speaking, as if channeling a message from God, that we should rise up, go to the hospital where Mike was, lay hands on him, and expect a miraculous healing. Another person added urgency to this message – that we should go now. We all got pretty excited about this, and the prayer meeting came to an end. We got up to leave, with plans to get in cars and go to the hospital, when we were interrupted by a phone call. Someone answered the phone, conversed slowly, and then hung up. This person then announced to us that he had just been told that Mike had died at about 3 o’clock that morning.

We were surprised and perplexed. Mike had died before the time of the prayer meeting. So what were those directions from God all about? Had we misheard? We sat down and started praying again, and soon a new message emerged, that we should still go to the hospital and do as we had been told. In short, Mike would be raised from the dead! We emerged from the meeting, convinced this would happen…. We got in cars and drove to the hospital.

While we were still outside the hospital, as I recall, someone in the group pointed out that we had to get permission from Mike’s dad to see the body, so that we could “lay hands” on him. Others agreed. Someone called Mike’s father, made the request, and was turned down. We felt stymied. We stood around hoping something would happen to make our prophecy come true…. But, of course, nothing happened. We finally left, individually, to go to different Easter morning church services.

I think some of us met later that day or at night at the Christian coffeehouse, where one of the leaders of the coffeehouse expressed his belief that some miracle was still going to happen.

But, as we all could see, nothing had happened.

And as it became clear over the next several days that nothing was going to happen, we stopped talking about it.

Over the years, since then, I’ve reflected on how a group of apparently grown men and a high school student (yours truly) managed to dupe ourselves like that. We earnestly hoped Mike would live, of course, and so there was the motivation. But in the days that followed, no one seemed willing to talk about how childish we had all been – and how wrong we had been, about some so-called “prophecies” from God. I was shocked to realize how these apparently grown-up men, obviously devoted to their faith – men that I looked up to at the time, couldn’t acknowledge we had been absolutely wrong about everything we thought we had heard from God at that prayer meeting. I think, in the long run, it was an experience that eventually made it easier for me to step away from Christian fundamentalism, first, and then Christianity as a whole, later.

© Brother Greg 7/29/10

Posted in brother greg, brother greg's buffet, Psychology, Religion, Spiritual Experience, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Are You Secretly a New Ager?

Are You Secretly a New Ager?

You may not think you are a New Ager, but take this test to find out if you actually are one!

Check off all the following that apply to you:

1. I believe meditation is good for you. __
2. I believe crystals have healing powers. __
3. I believe I am in control of my own destiny. __
4. I consult psychics and/or read horoscopes. __
5. I think greater self-awareness can help create a better world. __
6. I think Eastern and/or pagan religions have a lot to say to us. __
7. I own a yoga mat and/or practice yoga. __
8. I buy and/or listen to meditative music. __
9. I believe we are all spiritual beings. __
10. I hug trees. __
11. I support the U.S. war in Afghanistan. __
12. I support Americans’ right to own a gun. __
13. I am pro-life. __
14. I believe Jesus died for my sins. __
15. I think George W. Bush was a good president. __
16. I believe bears should be able to wander freely in my neighborhood. __
17. I believe peace is possible soon in the Middle East. __
18. I think all religions believe essentially the same thing. __
19. I still believe in Santa Claus. __
20. I believe we are all one big global community seeking higher consciousness. __

If you checked at least 5 of the first 10, you’re at least a closet New Ager.
If you checked at least 3 of 11-15, you’re a Christian fundamentalist.
If you checked at least 3 of 15-20, you’re a moron.
If you checked at least 17 of all 20, you’re insane.

© Brother Greg 7/28/10

Posted in brother greg, brother greg's buffet, Humor, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, Spiritual Experience, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ten Reasons Why TV is Your Best Friend

1. It likes everything you like.
2. It’s always happy to be right here.
3. It always has something to say.
4. You can ignore it.
5. You can always change the channels.
6. You can say whatever you want to it.
7. You can turn it on any time you want.
8. It doesn’t care if you get naked in front of it.
9. It doesn’t remember last night.
10. You can turn it off.

© Brother Greg 7/24/10


Posted in brother greg, brother greg's buffet, Humor, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, Spiritual Experience, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Complicated Molecules

Quarks, atoms, molecules, amino acids, cells, tissues, critters, human critters. What is a human being, anyway?

What do you think?

© Brother Greg 7/21/10

Oregon Yellow Pages
Oregon Yellow Pages
Spirituality blogs

Posted in brother greg, brother greg's buffet, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, Spiritual Experience, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Beer and a Guilt Trip, Please!

How do you feel about getting personally solicited for donations in a restaurant?

My wife and I went to a local brewpub late Friday afternoon. We were sitting at the bar, drinking our beers and quietly talking, when up bounced a middle-aged woman behind us, who loudly said, “Hi! I’m a breast cancer survivor, and I’m collecting donations for the American Cancer Society!”

I looked at her and told her, “I don’t think your coming into a bar like this to solicit funds is very cool. I feel like a sitting duck getting guilt-tripped into a making a donation.”

She replied that she had gotten permission from the brewpub’s manager to do this. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be doing this. Then she walked away.

I asked the manager about this, and she confirmed that she had given this woman permission to solicit donations, “because I thought it was for a good cause.”

My wife and I told her we thought it was inappropriate and that we felt intruded upon and guilt-tripped to donate money at a time when we just wanted to relax and have a couple of beers.

The manager unapologetically replied that she “agreed to disagree with us.” End of conversation.

We finished our beers, paid up, and left.

Afterward, we continued to feel angry about it. In all our travels around the U.S. and in other nations, we had never been hit up personally for donations in a bar or restaurant before. It seemed like a violation of a social contract between ourselves and an establishment whose business is to give customers an opportunity to relax and enjoy some food and drinks outside the home.

The brewpub, I should explain, is located on Hawthorne Blvd., in Portland, OR, a street that is a lot like San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. It’s a street where young adults representing a variety of social causes frequently approach passersby to sign petitions and make donations. It’s a public thoroughfare, and they have a right to do this. I applaud that. To walk along this street is to expect to be approached by any number of people with good causes—and maybe some bullshit ones, as well. It’s a public place, and that’s fine. You can engage with these people or not engage, as you choose.

And I should also explain that my wife and I aren’t ungenerous. We give a good chunk of money every year to a small organization that does wonderful things for homeless children.

My objection in this case was getting hit up personally for donations in a restaurant/bar without warning. I can understand when a bar announces with a sign that a portion of the night’s revenues will go to some charitable cause. Or that there’s a box with a slot on the top to collect donations at one end of the bar. Then I know what I’m walking into. But the intrusion my wife and I encountered seemed inappropriate. I think the brewpub manager abused her power. Among other things, she had decided for us what was a worthy cause and had forced us to make a quick, pressured decision to support it. Think about it:

The American Cancer Society is a well-funded, large, corporate-like organization that supports cancer research. Sounds like a worthy cause, doesn’t it?

If a homeless person comes up to your restaurant table and asks for some money, isn’t that a worthy cause?

If someone from a church interrupts your bar conversation to solicit money for a kids’ Bible camp, is that OK?

If someone who represents a Native American reservation catches you biting into a mouthful of French fries at a restaurant table and asks you to sign a petition to put a voting measure on the next election ballot to allow for construction of a casino—some funds from which may help pay for kids’ education—is that OK?

How would you feel if a long line of these people took turns accosting you at the bar for all these different causes?

What do you think?

© Brother Greg 7/19/10

Oregon Yellow Pages
Oregon Yellow Pages
Spirituality blogs

Posted in brother greg, brother greg's buffet, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment