Tag Archives: Apple

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How the comfort offered by companies is pig slop, and why the church should stop lying down with pigs

Once upon a time there was a boy. He believed the bright lights of the big city and the experiences on offer there would allow him to be truer to himself than the life he had been born into.

He was born to a farmer, all his life to this point he’d been playing out the role he was born into. He found that role stifling. Sure, it involved the promise of one day owning a share in the farm — its success was his success. Sure, it involved security, and family life, and knowing who he was… but the order the lack of choice. This life was oppressive and he had to get out. He had to be free to choose his own destiny. His own identity. So he cashed in his shares from the farm and followed the lure of the bright lights; the city lifestyle he’d seen in advertisements that offered him more than he could imagine. So much choice. The ability not just to experience pleasures previously denied; this wasn’t just about hedonism, but freedom. He could be his own man. He could make choices. He could buy what he wanted, spend time with who he wanted. He was an heroic individual escaping a tired regime, aided by the voices of those who would help him be free as he made his informed consumer decisions to express himself as he fulfilled his every desire.

But then, the money ran out. When that happened he found that the companies that had promised so much — promised to be there for him — were no longer interested. He was no longer in the thick of the action in the big city. And even if he had the money to satisfy his desires, that had all proved less lasting — less good — even, than he imagined. He’d found himself addicted to the fast life; addicted to expressing himself and experiencing momentary pleasure; and he’d ended up essentially giving his whole life, everything he’d worked for, in pursuit of this pleasure to these companies that had promised so much, but delivered nothing.

The fast food and fast women he’d enjoyed with his money didn’t just disappear. In hindsight, the choices he made and the disappointment he felt when they didn’t satisfy left this boy questioning whether they tasted that good at all; they certainly were insubstantial and the flavours had nothing on the flavours that came from a home cooked meal served for him by a family that loved him. The fast food from the big city had an emptiness about it; no nutritional value; nothing lasting. As the city rejected him the boy found himself at its margins; unable to be ‘truly human’ on its terms because he now no longer had power, the boy started tending to the animals that would one day be slaughtered to serve up with eggs. He was once the image of success; an image he projected for himself; now he was beastly. Feeding the pigs and desperate to eat of their food; to become beastly, only, he already had, as a piece in the machine that fattened up pigs for market he was already no longer a free person exercising choice. He was a slave. Robotic. A part of the system.

The boy wished he’d never bought into the hype. Those companies didn’t love him. Their success — and the success of those who owned them, with their big houses and lavish lifestyles, didn’t want him to succeed, they wanted him to be a consumer so that they could consume him. Suck the marrow from his bones, while he ate swill.

This, of course, is something like a parable Jesus told. But it’s a parable for modern times too.

Watch this.

Get the message. These companies have ‘always been there’ for you. On your side. It’s corporations that take care of people — families — as we consume our way to the good life. In times like these, these ‘uncertain times’ — this pandemic — it’s companies who are there for us. In our homes. We can consume even while social distancing. Because these companies are here for us. As they have been for decades… We can count on them to help us get through this. Apple’s ad was, I thought, particularly inspired, and kinda beautiful, even if a picture of how much technology has ingratiated itself into our modern lives.

It’s Apple’s products, of course, that promise to bring us together, much like Telstra suggests it does in its magic of technology ads.

These companies offer the lure of bright lights and pleasure and security and all the tools one needs to survive and thrive as we consume our way to pleasure and express the real us in the midst of this pandemic.

Alongside Arundhati Roy’s optimistic dreams that this pandemic might bring with it a ‘new creation’ where people are kinder and gentler to each other; the sort that requires significant disruption to the status quo (and a ‘probably impossible without a shared grand narrative’ end of the culture wars), I read this piece about those forces — the status quo — that don’t want disruption, and how the manipulation required to stop disruption happening is going to begin with ads just like these from companies who do not want your individual consumer behaviour to change; because they want to keep you desiring things and pursuing the fulfilment of those desires through consumption as they sell you pig swill dressed up as a banquet. The article, Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting, says:

Billions of dollars will be spent on advertising, messaging, and television and media content to make you feel comfortable again. It will come in the traditional forms — a billboard here, a hundred commercials there — and in new-media forms: a 2020–2021 generation of memes to remind you that what you want again is normalcy. In truth, you want the feeling of normalcy, and we all want it. We want desperately to feel good again, to get back to the routines of life, to not lie in bed at night wondering how we’re going to afford our rent and bills, to not wake to an endless scroll of human tragedy on our phones, to have a cup of perfectly brewed coffee and simply leave the house for work. The need for comfort will be real, and it will be strong. And every brand in America will come to your rescue, dear consumer, to help take away that darkness and get life back to the way it was before the crisis. I urge you to be well aware of what is coming.

For the last hundred years, the multibillion-dollar advertising business has operated based on this cardinal principle: Find the consumer’s problem and fix it with your product.

These ads are the precursor for this project. Peddling the idea that consumption of products — participating in ‘the economy’ — is going to fix our problems.

Look, here’s a disclaimer, I worked in a marketing adjacent role (public relations). I loved it. I believed in what I promoted. Not all marketing is bad. Some products and services are good for you and it is good for you to know about them; but, on the whole, advertising and marketing are the prophecy and evangelism arms of a greedy consumerism that is bad for your soul. It’s possible not to sell or destroy your soul in a capitalist world, it’s just really hard (camel through the eye of the needle hard). Marketing and advertising can be used for good, but as a Christian I want to note that there’s a hint of advertising in Genesis 1, where God declares things ‘good,’ and more than a hint of advertising in Genesis 3, where the serpent creates a desire and sells a product to Adam and Eve.

It’s interesting for me, as an employee in the institution that once occupied this place in the cultural landscape, or the collective psyche, the place that offered comfort and hope in a crisis; and the stability of having been around for a long time… to see companies now jostling for the position the church once occupied. This fits neatly with Charles Taylor’s ‘secular age thesis,’ as I’ll outline below. The nutshell of Taylor’s thesis is that one of the social changes that produced secularism is the explosion of options we have post what he calls ‘the nova’ — options we have to pursue our own authentic self, freed from traditional power structures (and being ‘born into’ a particular station) we now define who we are; we choose our own identity, and we often express this through consumption of the things that we believe are good and true to ourselves. Corporations then play the role of priest, and shops function as temples, advertising becomes prophetic.

There are three take homes for me from this ad.

One, it reveals not a lack of imagination on behalf of the advertising industry; it’s a sign that the corporate world is on message. And its message stinks because it is selling slops not really fit for pigs, let alone humans, designed to fatten you up, so this little piggy can go to market. They’re trying to convince you, in essence, that the little piggy goes to market to buy stuff, which is a naive reading of that nursery rhyme, rather than to be slaughtered and turned into ham. The whole enterprise of finding meaning through consumption of products aided by corporations is hollow and rotten. People have turned from the church in the west for good and understandable reasons; but to turn to consumption and the pursuit of individual authenticity and freedom through consumer choice — that’s made a bit ridiculous when we see what looks like a smorgasbord of options is just the same swill served up in different packaging. There is nothing truly satisfying on offer from the ‘big city’ with its bright lights, desire creation, and consumption.

Second, these companies are part of an economic status quo that will do its best not to be disrupted by this pandemic; they’ll be pouring resources into advertisements and lobbying to get us consuming once again. Because the way the world was set up pre-pandemic relies on these companies occupying a particular place in the landscape. They’ll keep dressing up pig swill as a gourmet meal (the same one over and over again), but it will still be pig swill, and this is an opportunity for disruption.

Third, it’s a mistake for us in the church to think that the way back to relevance for the church is to play the consumer game; to offer ourselves as another option in the pig pen. Our job is to disrupt by playing an entirely different game; not the game where we’re pigs fattened for market to be killed, but children loved so much the father sacrifices a lamb to welcome us home. This comes with an entirely different pattern and pace of living and a different framework for understanding goodness and satisfaction.

Consumer life in the Secular City

Taylor describes the basis for the secular age we now live in as the ‘immanent frame’ — that is, a view of reality that excludes the transcendent (the realm of gods or spirits or non material reality). This is a relatively new thing (which is why it’s interesting to hear companies in the video proclaiming how long they’ve been serving the community, and the oldest you get is ‘over a hundred years.’

In this immanent frame, the previous social and religious ordering that gave rise to meaning, especially the sort of meaning that might help you through a crisis (whether superstitious, or pagan, or Christian, or a combo of all three), are gone and we are left to make meaning for ourselves. We’re cut off from God or gods, freed(ish) from inherited social obligations, free to make our own choices and choose our own adventure. Basically, the immanent frame makes us all like the boy in our story, cashed up with an inheritance from a previous social order, and able to decide what to do next to make meaning for ourselves without dad (or God) telling us what we have to do now. Taylor calls the individual in this situation ‘the buffered self’ — the self shielded from external, coercive, forces.

This isn’t just about individual selfishness. Taylor suggests that for a society wide change in belief and behaviour to take place it has to be motivated by a shifting shared sense of what is good for people; and the shift is a shift against oppressive structures. Some of this is legit. I don’t want to live, for example, in a Feudal society where my station and my professional options are pre-determined by the family I am born into, or a caste system (which isn’t to say our society isn’t structured in similar ways within the rules of the game as the companies we’re talking about want us to play it; enslaved, rather than freed, by personal choice and consumption and only allowed to succeed if we play the game by rules determined by some other).

Taylor suggests our society has turned to authenticity and expressing our true self as the cardinal virtues, and that we use consumer decisions to both discover who we really are, and then to perform and project that identity into the world in order to be recognised.

The post-war era (the time frame that most of those companies in the ad launched) brought with it an ‘affluence’ and a concentration on “private space” where we had the means to fill our own spaces; our castles and our lives; with “the ever-growing gamut of new goods and services on offer, from washing machines to packaged holidays.” Taylor says “the pursuit of happiness” became linked to consumer lifestyles expressing one’s “own needs and affinities, as only the rich had been able to do in previous eras.” Children born after this period became a new youth market, targetted by advertisers as ‘natives’ to this consumer culture; those who would, by default, express ourselves by expressive consumer choice.

The ‘good’ of authenticity was mashed up with a culture of expressive individualism in a framework provided where consumption was the way to discover and reveal your true self. Taylor sees this particularly playing out in the realm of fashion; particularly when an individual makes a consumer choice to express themselves and their identity as belonging to some thing or other that is greater than themselves (a bit like social media likes and posts also work as the performance of one’s authentic self). This effect of shared expression through shared fashion — be it a hat, or Nike shoes (or an Apple product) — is amplified in public places like concerts (band t-shirts) and sporting events (jerseys) which provide additional meaning for our actions and expression, these expressions of solidarity in public spaces are important in the secular world; because they are essentially religious experiences. Where once we might have conducted such meaning making activities in pilgrimages or religious festivals, now we do so in an immanent frame, and it’s our shared consumer decisions (buying the same shirt, for example) that produce this impact. Such moments ‘wrench us out of the everyday, and seem to put us in touch with something exceptional, beyond ourselves,’ such that our consumer choices can sometimes in replacing what the transcendent once did for us (in terms of meaning making and connection) give us a haunting sense of what has been lost.

Experiencing this haunting, this sense of connection, those glimpses of the transcendent, may also be what fuels our consumption — and it’s kinda no surprise when those responsible for driving our consumption — advertisers — tap into that, with imagery (or iconography) and the sort of language and purpose you might once have reserved for religious organisations. Taylor says the result of all this is that:

Commodities become vehicles of individual expression, even the self-definition of identity. But however this may be ideologically presented, this doesn’t amount to some declaration of real individual autonomy. The language of self-definition is defined in the spaces of mutual display, which have now gone meta-topical; they relate us to prestigious centres of style-creation, usually in rich and powerful nations and milieux. And this language is the object of constant attempted manipulation by large corporations.

So we’ll either consume as an expression of tribalism where we can mutually display our belonging (like wearing a band shirt to their concert, or the shirt of our local football team), or with an eye to the life we wish we were living (like wearing a luxury brand, or a shirt bearing the logo of a company whose values and prestige we aspire to… and companies will fuel this dissatisfaction in us by seeking to create desires that only their product can fulfill (which is marketing 101).

Tech in the City

You can stack Taylor’s observations against the behaviour of companies a decade after he wrote A Secular Age (so, now). And start to bring in some observations here from other thinkers, especially about the role technology companies play in facilitating modern life. We can now perform our identities online, not just in the public square; which is what telcos are offering us (especially in a time of social distancing), what social media companies facilitate (via your ‘profile’ and your ‘feed,’ and what tech companies (like Apple) provide us with tools for (like phones with cameras). These companies, as much or more than bricks and mortar stores in public places, and large scale public gatherings (especially right now) are providing the ‘social imaginary’ for us, as well as providing the space for us to ‘be ourselves.’ Which is a problem if part of the ‘corporate status quo’ that is making a stack of money off helping us ‘express our true selves’ (and so enslaving us to their own oppressive system) is a sort of ‘Babylonian’ technocracy. I mentioned the ‘technocracy’ idea in yesterday’s post, where I linked to Alan Jacob’s piece about the over-promising made by the technocratic regime about the satisfaction technology might bring us. Neil Postman actually (I think) coined the term in Technopoly, where he described the way tools work in connection to our symbolic performance of things that give meaning. Postman said:

“In a technocracy, tools play a central role in the thought-world of the culture. Everything must give way, in some degree, to their development. The social and symbolic worlds become increasingly subject to the requirements of that development. Tools are not integrated into the culture; they attack the culture. They bid to become the culture. As a consequence, tradition, social mores, myth, politics, ritual, and religion have to fight for their lives.”

Postman, Technopoly

He sees tools — our technology — pushing into the vacuum Taylor observes in A Secular Age, the search for meaning in an ‘immanent frame,’ to become ‘the culture.’

That quote is startling to read alongside the Apple ad above, given what it depicts and what it promises, but unsurprising… because commentators have long observed the religious function of Apple and its mythmaking engine. Marshall McLuhan (writing before Apple was a thing) suggested technology, especially communication technology that embeds itself in our ecosystems and our individual lives, functions religiously, that is, in a technopoly our technologies become idols. And these idols end up enslaving us.

“The concept of “idol” for the Hebrew Psalmist is much like that of Narcissus for the Greek mythmaker. And the Psalmist insists that the beholding of idols, or the use of technology, conforms men to them. “They that make them shall be like unto them… By continuously embracing technologies, we relate ourselves to them as servomechanisms. That is why we must, to use them at all, serve these objects, these extensions of ourselves, as gods or minor religions… Physiologically, man in the normal use of technology (or his variously extended body) is perpetually modified by it and in turn finds ever new ways of modifying his technology.”    

McLuhan, Understanding Media

McLuhan also believed escaping this status quo will prove very difficult because of how embedded technology and consumption is in our modern life — and how much they reinforce one another until we become these robotic ‘servomechanisms’ — thoughtless consumers who can’t escape, and probably don’t want to…

“For people carried about in mechanical vehicles, earning their lives by waiting on machines, listening to much of the waking day to canned music, watching packaged movie entertainment and capsulated news, for such people it would require an exceptional degree of awareness and an especial heroism of effort to be anything but supine consumers of processed goods.”

McLuhan, Mechanical Bride

Scott Galloway, a tech pioneer, entrepreneur, and business academic wrote a book titled The Four, examining the big four tech companies that dominate our ecosystem: Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Google. He viewed them all through a religious prism, and (following some stuff a while back by Martin Lindstrom around the brain activity of Apple users while interacting with its products mirroring the brain activity of religious people while practicing their religions), Galloway said:

“[Apple] mimics religion with its own belief system, objects of veneration, cult following, and Christ figure,” … “Objects are often considered holy or sacred if they are used for spiritual purposes, such as the worship of gods. Steve Jobs became the innovation economy’s Jesus—and his shining achievement, the iPhone, became the conduit for his worship, elevated above other material items or technologies.“

Scott Galloway, The Four

A call to (secular) worship

These ads aren’t just neutral. They aren’t just designed to keep the economy afloat and people in jobs. They are a call to worship. A call to not be disrupted. To keep eating the pigswill dreaming of a time when you might be at the centre of the city, not its margins, and telling you that it’s consumption that’s going to get you there as a consumer.

David Foster Wallace talks about this status quo in his famous speech This Is Water. He said this pattern of consumption; of worship; is the ‘so-called real world’ — our default settings. He said:

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. 

It was this siren call, the idea that he was missing out on the good life, that pulled the boy in our story from his father’s garden-farm to the bright lights of the big city. The call to fast food, fast women, and parties was an invitation to worship at a different sort of temple (and, you know, those activities were actually stock in trade for first century pagan temples). The boy in our story is invited to worship other gods, and they end up treating him the way the gods of other pagan nations, especially Babylon, treat people; as a slave.

Disrupting hollow gods

Our boy found himself feeding the pigs, on the outskirts of the big city.

One day, as he looked at the muck around him, as he noticed the slop looked a lot like the leftovers of the meals he came to the city to eat… he realised he’d been sold a lie. All it took was a momentary break; that moment where he pictured himself on his knees tucking in with the pigs. He new. He knew the city was turning him into an animal. In that moment, the emperor had no clothes. The bright lights of the city were flashy and distracting — just the right amount of visual noise and trickery to keep you from seeing the city’s ugly underbelly. He began to daydream; imagining himself back at home on the farm. The clean air. The clean living. The clean eating. Feasting with his family. Better to be a servant there, in a life giving system, than a slave here, on the path to being chewed up and spit out, he thought. So he hit the road. On his way out the billboards by the road started crowding out his vision; promising fast food; fast women; fast money; fast satisfaction. Doing all it could to claw him back. To gobble him up. He ran.

All he needed was a little disruption. And he was gone.

The city promised our boy freedom, only it didn’t offer real freedom, but a certain sort of slavery. This is the same deal our advertisers offer us now; it’s the same city. The same world.

This is a world that doesn’t want disruption.

This is a world whose gods are hollow; a world that tries to dress pig slop up on a big white plate as a gourmet meal. It’s a bit like Ephesus in the book of Acts — a world that pursues wealth and flourishing from making, marketing, and selling, silver idol statues; that feels very threatened when the hollowness of those gods is revealed by a God that actually offers satisfaction.

My favourite part of This Is Water is not the bit about how ‘everybody worships’ or the diagnosis of what flows from the worship of false gods (dissatisfaction). It’s that all these false forms of worship of things from within what Taylor calls ‘the immanent frame’ — the decision to, as Paul puts it in Romans, worship created things rather than the creator — leave us with a ‘gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing,’ but also, that anything immanent we worship, and worshipping anything not transcendent will, in Wallace’s words “eat you alive.” Take that piggy.

Taylor describes this too; he says the turn to expressive individualism — to performing our ‘authentic self’ via consumption actually leaves us hungry. The promises of advertisers and their corporate masters do not satisfy our hunger; they are hollow. This is what the ad compilation reveals. The utter hollowness of the promises of the corporate world; the hollowness of the idea that companies and their products can be ‘there for us’ in a pandemic when we are fearing for our health and our lives, the emptiness of meaning that this turn from the transcendent to the immanent can provide… Taylor says this leaves us haunted and with a sense of lack; not just in those times were previously we’d have turned to religion to help us make meaning (key markers like births, marriages, and death) but “in the everyday” — and actually, it’s in the everyday where we might notice it most. It’s the idea that we feel the lack not just when we’re feeding the pigs from the margins; but right there with the bright lights, in the big city. The emptiness of what we’ve replaced God with bites just as hard as the hunger pangs in the pig pen. Taylor says:

But we can also just feel the lack in the everyday. This can be where it most hurts. This seems to be felt particularly by people of some leisure and culture. For instance, some people sense a terrible flatness in the everyday, and this experience has been identified particularly with commercial, industrial, or consumer society. They feel emptiness of the repeated, accelerating cycle of desire and fulfillment in consumer culture; the cardboard quality of bright supermarkets, or neat row housing in a clean suburb; the ugliness of slag heaps, or an aging industrial townscape.

Taylor, A Secular Age

Taylor says this is one of the things that keeps us from defaulting to unbelief in the immanent frame; there’s a contest, and it’s both the haunting — the sense there might be something more — and the hollowness — the “nagging dissatisfactions” and the rapid wearing out of the utopian visions the prophets of the immanent frame cast. It’s precisely moments like this ad montage that pull back the curtain and throw some of us towards faith in something other than consumption.

Stopping to see the cost of the status quo — the price it makes us pay as little piggies — has the capacity to disrupt us. That’s the point of the gaslighting article linked above, and the quick pivot to advertisements announcing that companies are “here to help.” To keep us blind.

Big business is going to want us to forget the almost immediate impact on our natural environment that our scaling back consumption has had. And it’s not just the environment that has felt some of that oppression lift. I’m seeing lots of appreciation for the way this crisis has pushed us towards local relationships. Kids playing on the street. A return of the neighbourhood or village. Taylor saw the ‘nova’ — this explosion of possible choices — produced by technology and cultural changes that allowed us to escape the village. “The village community disintegrates,” first through the “age of mobilisation” and then the “nova” as people are able work and live in different locations, or as people uproot for sea-changes or to pursue employment wherever they choose (again, not all of what he calls the ‘age of mobilisation’ or the ‘nova’ is negative, but our ability to ‘choose’ previously unthinkable options does produce change to village life).

They’re going to want to keep us from finding meaning in village and communal life, so that we’re back stocking up our private castles. Apple can’t make money from me talking to my neighbours. They’re going to want us to slip back into the pursuit of meaning and desire-fulfilment that their machinery creates in order to satisfy its own hunger. It’s not relationships that satisfy, but relationships-completed-by-products that satisfy…

The ‘status quo’ that makes money and gains power from the system staying the same is under threat; disrupted by a pandemic. The cracks are showing, so they’re returning to what they and we know. Inviting us to consume our way to comfort. Reminding us that “they” are there for us (I mean, Lexus has a TV ad inviting me to call them if I want a chat — although this is probably just for people who own a Lexus)… And we shouldn’t let them get away with it.

And more than that, we, the church, should not participate in this system as another product to be consumed, but as disruptors. Like Paul in Ephesus.

Lots of the stuff I’ve been trying to articulate in my last few posts about our need to resist the siren call of technology has been a call to be disrupted by Covid-19 so that we can become disruptors in this manner.

We can’t be like the advertisers offering up Christianity as just another form of pig food, or fodder from a food truck in the big city the prodigal ran to (prodigal means ‘wasteful’ not ‘runaway’ by the way).

We can’t think the way to be an ambassador for home style farm life is to become card carrying citizens of the system; not from home. We’re the farmers coming to town for a farmer’s market, in our farm gear, with our country pace — not salespeople trying to compete ‘like for like’ with McDonalds. We’re trying to pull people out of the immanent frame, not playing in it as though that’s where satisfaction and the good life is to be found.

We must be people who take the opportunity to expose the hollowness of false gods and their noisy prophets. Prophets who without getting together to plan, all produced messages from the same boring song book. These ads are a stark reminder of the emptiness of what expressive individualism based on consumption offers. A haunting moment.

We must be people who point to the redemptive power and value of a home cooked meal with the God who loves us; people who point beyond the immanent frame our neighbours want to live in to the transcendent reality; that there is a God who is not just our creator, but our loving father who wants us to share in his task of cultivating life and goodness in the world.

The problem is, for much of the period the companies in the ad above have been operating (so not for very long — that is, in the post-war period) the church has positioned itself as just another consumer choice in a world where our identity is chosen and performed, rather than as an entirely different way of being. Church has been treated by just one other consumer option, and we’ve jumped in to play that game.

We’ve served church up on the buffet next to other consumer decisions, and so cultivate the idea that we’re just another attraction alongside the bright lights in the big city, and so have become a slightly more nutritious form of pig food; more fodder that just reaffirms that the good life is found in expressive individualism performed by consumer decisions.

Taylor describes this step that kicks in once religious life is approached in these terms:

“The expressivist outlook takes this a stage farther. The religious life or practice that I become part of must not only be my choice, but it must speak to me, it must make sense in terms of my spiritual development as I understand this. This takes us farther. The choice of denomination was understood to take place within a fixed cadre, say that of the apostles’ creed, the faith of the broader “church”. Within this framework of belief, I choose the church in which I feel most comfortable.”

We treat church like a product, culturally, and so churches start acting like products — or like corporations. Imagine what happens there when church starts to be advertised like every other product. Imagine if you were presenting your online church services in much the same way that products are selling themselves during Covid-19.

Our church has been around for x years. In good times and in bad. We’ve always been here for you and your family. Now more than ever. We might be socially distanced, but you can enjoy God, and our live streamed services, from the safety and comfort of your home… press like to come home. God will see you through these hard times, and will be there still when we get back to normal… we’re here to help…

Applause

Pig slop.

Or at least indistinguishable from pig slop; even it it’s all true. It’s certainly not disruptive; it buys into the idea that church is a consumer decision that will allow you to be your true self. And I reckon I’ve seen a bunch of variations of this theme. People seeing Covid-19 as an opportunity to reproduce the status quo; just digitally.

This is especially true for those churches that have bought into the “technocracy” and the age of expressive individualism and so gone to market to shape church as a desirable big city option, rather than a taste of home on the farm with the father.

The church growth movement and the sort of toxic churchianity that it produces, which then leads us, in a time of crisis, to turn our services into shows that can be consumed using the same technology we use to binge entertainment, buy stuff, and satisfy all sorts of other desires at the click of a link is disrupted church rather than a disrupting church. A church shaped by the ‘nova’ and playing in the immanent frame trying to win consumers. Taylor says this approach produces a spirituality that is individualised, superficial, undemanding, self-indulgent and flaccid.

This is not who we are; at least it’s not who we are meant to be. The whole expressive individualism via consumption enterprise is not who we were meant to be; and that’s part of what we’re experiencing now. The best application of Taylor’s A Secular Age to today’s technocracy that I’ve read is Alan Noble’s Disruptive Witness. It’s a call to a thicker, non-consumer oriented, practice of Christian witness in an age where the good life is thought to be caught up in ‘authenticity’ and expressive individualism through consumer choice, and where the church has too often pandered to that framework. He suggests a series of disruptive practices we might adopt, but one of his main points is to stop playing the game of approaching our witness like marketers selling a product. He thinks at the very least a deliberate stepping away from the methodologies of the church will protect our witness so we might disrupt some lives. He said:

“As the church has taken more and more of its cues from a secular, market-driven culture, we’ve picked up some bad habits and flawed thinking about branding, marketing, and promotion. We’ve tried to communicate the gospel with cultural tools that are used to promote preferences, not transcendent, exclusive truths.”

What I found interesting when digging back into the book today, was that his criteria for widespread disruption might just be being met (and this might be why the gaslighting article is worth heeding).

“If history is any indication, the distracted, secular age can only be uprooted by a tremendous historical event that reorders society, technology, and our entire conception of ourselves as individuals: something like the invention of the printing press, the protestant Reformation, or a global war — a paradigm shifting event. But trying to correct the effects of secularism and distraction through some massive event is quixotic at best and mad scientist-is at worst. This leaves us in a difficult position. There is no reasonable, society wide, solution. Which is not to say that we can’t ameliorate the problem through policies and community practices.”

Alan Noble, Disruptive Witness

There is an opportunity here for us to be disruptors rather than disrupted.

If your church’s response to Covid-19 is to produce anything that looks like these ads, or that plays in the same frame that they do, then you’re doing it wrong.

Our response to Covid-19 can’t be to think ‘how will I turn this into an opportunity to sell my product to people who are scared,’ our response isn’t to get people to add Christianity to their array of consumer choices in the city, a city that wants to fatten them up as piggies going to market, but to invite them to run back to their heavenly father, who loves them, who waits with open arms, who’ll kill the fattened calf (or the lamb) to bring them home.

The boy had been walking for some time. Finally the landscapes around him were familiar. It was getting dark; but that was ok, darkness actually meant the bright lights of ‘sin city’ were a long way behind him. He already felt human again. He found he had no desire to eat pig food. Progress, he thought. His speech for when he came face to face with the father he’d abandoned was running through his head. To take his inheritance and squander it, ‘the prodigal,’ was to say to his dad ‘I wish you were dead,’ he was sorry. He set the bar low; “I’d rather be a servant than a pig being fattened for slaughter” he thought.

The father had been sitting on his front step each day since his son left. Waiting for his son to return; hoping that the light and life and love of home would be enough to bring his son home; knowing that the city talked a good game but that it only offered emptiness; hoping his son had not been destroyed by the endless pursuit of more. He looked up, and saw a figure on the horizon. It’s my son, he thought. The city hasn’t been kind to him. He called to a servant to butcher a calf in the field, and to start preparing a feast. Then ran to his son. Embracing him before he could speak a word.

The boy was home.

The Gospel is not pig slop. We should stop treating it like it is.

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Apple product launch punditry bingo

Everyone loves predicting the death of Apple. Especially when they launch a new product. They’re no longer the underdog, they’re top dog – and the clattering chattering android masses and tech journalism establishment are longing for a fall.

Apple products may have lost their luster – being ahead of the pack and revolutionary has a law of diminishing returns if you’re just updating your current pack of products. But they still sell truckloads. And controlling both the ecosystem and the distribution of media to your millions of products is a nice long term move. Anyway. Here’s a bingo card that you can keep with you as you read stories about the iPad mini – or whatever Apple product has been launched the day you arrive here… the commentary will no doubt be the same. It pretty much always is.

Apple Bingo

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Two fallacies I really like: judging by company and tone

The more conversations I take part in with strangers on the Internet, the more sure I am of two things – I’d rather agree with the people who are nice and balanced, humble and winsome in their responses to criticism than with those who fire up, and I’m more convinced by a gentle and loving word than a robust and spiteful word – even if I naturally sit with the positions advocated by the angry mob.

It’s a bit of a fallacy to judge the strength of an argument on the basis of its supporters – it’s a modified argument from popularity, or authority – so I could say I prefer the people who are relaxed about owning a “too cool for school” iPhone than the people who have chips on their shoulders about their Android phones that don’t quite work. The gloating of an Android user whenever Apple stuffs something up is enough to reinforce my views about both Apple and Android.

There are other more serious issues where this is true – I tend to find most liberal (not Liberal) politics pretty despair inducing, but I’d rather talk to people who hold such positions than to people who angrily argue against them. Much of the backlash against the “new atheists,” who are pushing a pretty serious philosophical position in an important debate – perhaps the most important debate – has been on these issues – the tone of debate, and who the New Atheists look to to champion their cause. This is why Peter Jensen won Q&A – according to both impartial judges, and even according to many atheists who were disappointed with the tone Catherine Deveny employed. There’s also a push-back, somewhat rightly, on this sort of decision making because caring about a speaker or their tone is essentially a fallacy. The problem is – people aren’t running around looking for fallacies, or judging every argument on merit – these things create biases, or colour people’s judgment.

It’s particularly true when it comes to theological issues – the first group to make a non-crucial issue into a salvation issue in a debate almost immediately loses my vocal support. I’d rather hang out with the group who are being charitable to the people who disagree, than the people who think that disagreement is apostasy. But that would put me in cahoots with a lot of heretics – because judging sides based on the niceness of the people who take them is logically, and theologically, flawed. It’s also why most forms of fanboyism, when they come at the expense of some other category of product, person, or group, is pretty dumb. Unless, like in the case of Apple, the product is clearly superior.

The cringeworthy response Guy Sebastian and his fans have displayed in the hubbub about the coverage of his move away from Christianity, and the gracious response (see Guy’s interactions with another open letter writer here), are enough to bias me towards those who are asking Guy to reconsider his words and position (admittedly a position I already hold).

It’s a fallacy though – that people you like hold a position doesn’t make it true, it’s possible to be lovely and well-intentioned, and gentle, and wrong.

This means I have to read carefully when people who don’t seem all that nice criticise something I agree with, or worse, have written myself. Because I’m automatically biased against them (plus, I’m not great at taking criticism, so I’m already on the defensive).

It has implications for how one writes, and who one promotes or supports, because making yourself, or the people you agree with, an obstacle is doing your argument a disservice. We need to be careful about the company we keep, or are seen to keep. I don’t think it’s enough to say that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” Christians are far too guilty of this. We hear someone trumpeting a position we like – and jump on board with them, or worse, give them a platform, straight away. And that’s dangerous. Bad company corrupts (1 Cor 15:33), especially when it’s within the church (1 Cor 6)…

The company you keep is important. It’s why it’s important to speak against extremists from your own camp, rather than letting them create collateral damage by lobbing rhetorical grenades at your opponents (see the Alan Jones fiasco).

The second, and related, fallacy, is a matter of tone. I find it hard to read arguments that are nasty, personal, and malicious. I want to dismiss them straight away. I find it easier to stomach something that is written with grace, charity, and a bit of epistemic humility. But this is equally fallacious.

Sometimes this nastiness itself can be fallacious – it can caricature your opponent’s views, or their motivations, or it can raise questions about the nature of their argument on the basis of who they are, or who you paint them to be. But again – these arguments can be true.

The same principles that applied to the company we keep also apply with tone.

Interestingly – both these factors come together when it comes to arguments or conversations on Facebook – a statement with a disagreeable tone gives a pretty quick opportunity for assessing the company one keeps – based on the number of likes it gets. Have a look, for example, at the vitriol that gets launched at anybody who dares to disagree with Guy Sebastian’s approach to Christianity on his wall post, by his fans, and the likes the harshest criticisms of minority voices accumulate. The company side of things kicks in when you start censoring out those minority voices, or calling for them to be silenced simply because they disagree with you. Interestingly, a couple of posts I made on that thread, one containing a link to my open letter, and another explaining that I believed it was important to contact people I write about, because that has integrity, have been deleted. The first sat between the first two comments in this picture.

Screen Shot 2012 10 23 at 9.57.01 PM

 

 

I’m not necessarily suggesting Guy was censoring disagreement – he probably has someone else moderate this page, and my post did contain a link – so there are good reasons it may have happened, but not deleting the comments about that comment seems an odd decision. Especially when I would like to think that comments with the more gracious tone have been replaced with comments that label people (in this case, me) as “rude””so-called Christians” writing “judgmental garbage.”

Anyway. This didn’t actually start out as a continuation of the Guy Sebastian conversation, it was an observation of disagreements I’ve been part of, or read, online – and that was one. And all this seems rather obvious – but it helps me if I can articulate why I’m struggling to agree with people I agree with, and disagree with people I don’t, and it makes me want to work harder at being agreeable in my tone, and clear when the people who agree with me are agreeing with me in a harmful way.

How Apple’s Geniuses work, and how it might help with welcoming people at church

This piece from Gizmodo is fascinating. Gizmodo got hold of one of Apple’s training manuals. It’s the kind of thing that church welcoming programs should be built on – if not a little bit artificial… I’d say add some humanity to this stuff and you go a long way towards making the people who come through your doors feel at home.

” Page 39 gives a rundown of Selling Gadget Joy, by way of the “Genius Skills, Behaviors, and Values Checklist.” Selling is a science, summed up with five cute letters: (A)pproach, (P)robe, (P)resent, (L)isten, (E)nd. In other words: Go up to someone and get them to open up to you about their computing desires, insecurities, and needs; offer them choices (of things to buy); hear them out; then seal the day in a way that makes it feel like the customer has come to this decision on their own. The manual condemns pushiness—that’s a good thing—but it also preaches a form of salesmanship that’s slightly creepy: every Apple customer should feel empowered, when it’s really the Genius pulling strings.”

Part of the problem with applying this stuff to real relationships is that real relationships don’t come with a manual… and if you think the relationship you’re entering is coming by the manual, it’s really off putting…

It’s interesting that the Genius training relies on role playing, and constant feedback from fellow team members (though such feedback probably suffers from the same authenticity issue as knowing that a conversation is happening by the book).

From Gizmodo…

On page 58, it’s described as an “open dialogue every day,” with “positive intent.” It’s most certainly not “telling someone they are wrong.” Except that it is—just prevented in a quintessentially Genius mode of masterful empathy and supercharged positivity aura.

On page 60, the following dialogue is presented as a realistic sample conversation between two Apple employees:

“Hi, fellow Genius. I overheard your conversation with your customer during the last interaction and I have some feedback if you have a moment. Is this a good time?”
“Yes, this is a good time.”
“You did a great job resolving the customer’s iPhone issue. I was concerned with how quickly you spoke to the customer. It seemed like you were rushing through the interaction, and the customer had additional questions.”

A few minutes later:

“Thanks for listening to the feedback. In the future, please make sure to signal me if you need help rather than work too quickly with a customer.
“Thanks for giving it!”

The bit that definitely doesn’t translate to the welcoming lounge, or cup of coffee after the service, is the “never apologise for a problem” rule that staff have to obey…

“The term “empathy” is repeated ad nauseum in the Genius manual. It is the salesman sine qua non at the Apple Store, encouraging Geniuses to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes,” assuming that mile ends at a credit card swipe machine. It is not, the book insists in bold type, “Sympathy, which is the ability to feel sorry for someone.” Geniuses are directly told not to apologize in a manner anyone would call direct. If someone walks in sobbing because their hard drive is fried, you’ll receive no immediate consolation. “Do not apologize for the business [or] the technology,” the manual commands. Instead, express regret that the person is expressing emotions. A little mind roundabout: “I’m sorry you’re feeling frustrated,” or “too bad about your soda-spill accident,” the book suggests.”

The blacklist of no go words or topics is potentially worth thinking about – nothing kills the buzz of a good experience of a service like a negative conversation, or a jargony conversation, or a conversation where a person plays down the impact of the gospel or what being part of a church community means to them, straight after the service. While we love a bit of self-deprecation I’m not sure a conversation with a new person, where you roll out dirty laundry and skeletons, is a winning move (a bit like featuring your proud “brony” status on an online dating profile)

“Negativity is the mortal sin of the Genius. Disagreement is prohibited, as are a litany of normal human tendencies outlined on page 80, which contradict the virtue of empathy: consoling, commiserating, sympathizing, and taking blame are all verboten. Correcting a mistaken or confused customer should be accomplished using the phrase “turns out,” which Apple says “takes you out of the middle of an issue,” and also makes the truth seem like something that just arrived serendipitously. For example, on page 82:

Customer: The OS isn’t supported.
Genius: You’d think not, wouldn’t you. Turns out it is supported in this version.”

I’d love to read the whole thing, and I guess these are my take homes as I think about welcoming people at our church…

1. It’s important to be clear about what we’re aiming to do with welcoming. The list of “we do x” lines above essentially function like plumb lines and are a really helpful set of commitments. We want people to meet Jesus when they come to our church, and ultimately to connect with him, and us.

2. It’s important to understand people, where they’re coming from, what they’re thinking and feeling. Without thinking that you know what they need before hand. This seems kind of obvious – but Apple spends a fair bit of time talking about physical cues, and the “Approach, Probe, Present, Listen” thing is a nice proactive way of engaging with a new person.

3. We want to free people to be real people – but this means choosing the right people to be welcomers. I am repulsed by doing interpersonal relating “by the book.” It seems fake because it is. If you need a book to stop people being off-putting, or negative, or wrecking your product – then you’re putting the wrong people in the front line.

4. Constant, robust (not passive aggressive) feedback in a team is really helpful for getting better. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed being part of the Connect Team at Creek Road is a weekly get together I have with leaders of our connect teams at other services. We come up with ideas, share stories about people who have come to our Connect Lounge. And think about how we can be more helpful to new people and people who aren’t feeling connected to our church. We’re certainly better at connecting with people as a result of these sessions.

What do you reckon? Can we plunder gold from the Egypt of Apple? Or is their approach to customer service too corporate and too focused on the “end” point of the cash register?
 

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Get that new Apple smell

I was once really fascinated by scent branding/marketing. I think it’s a relatively untapped goldmine. I say relatively untapped because things are starting to happen – like this. An art exhibition from an Australian group called Greatest Hits is pumping out a specially designed “New Mac” fragrance.

“A distinctive scent can be observed when unwrapping a newly purchased Apple product from its packaging. Apple fans will certainly recognize this smell. The scent created for Greatest Hits encompasses the smell of the plastic wrap covering the box, printed ink on the cardboard, the smell of paper and plastic components within the box and of course the aluminum laptop which has come straight from the factory where it was assembled in China…

Air Aroma fragrance designers then used these samples as ingredients to create a range of signature blend fragrances. The blends, each with unique recipes were then tested in the Air Aroma laboratory until a final fragrance was ultimately selected.

To replicate the smell a brand new unopened Apple was sent to our fragrance lab in France. From there, professional perfume makers used the scents they observed unboxing the new Apple computer to source fragrance samples. On completion the laptop was sent back to Australia, travelling nearly 50,000kms and returned to our clients together with scent of an Apple Macbook Pro.”

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Reviewing Steve Jobs: Not the Messiah, just a naughty boy

I did a little bit of flying during the last weekend – and I’m rubbish at writing at airports and on planes, so I chose to do some reading. My book of choice was Walter Isaacson’s fascinating biography of Steve Jobs.

It was an interesting read, the carefully cultivated messianic myth came up against an access all areas account of Steve’s life. He was, as it turns out, a nasty and deliberate man. He had an incredible knack for understanding people and culture and using that to his advantage. This worked in his favour in business, he was constantly ahead of the curve – able to anticipate desires before we knew we had them. That was one of his significant mantras – people don’t know what they want until you give it to them. But this same ability meant that he was able to crush people, and did, just for kicks. He had poisonous relationships with lots of people who used to be his friends, and with members of his family, because he believed the myth. Essentially. He believed he was different, that he was special, and that his vision would change the world. And while he fostered a culture of robust discussion, and could have his mind changed, he’d immediately take the ideas of others and claim them as his own.

This is a fascinating exercise in anti-hagiography. It’s not a victor’s history. It’s a picture of a deeply flawed man who embraced his flaws to change the world. Like him, or hate him, and it’s hard to love him after reading this book… Jobs changed many industries, designed products that are being copied by all sorts of other people, and brought a new approach to business, especially the computer business, where everything was managed by one company (ie hardware design, manufacture (to an extent), software, retail, post retail (by providing a closed system). The open systems v closed systems thread that ran through the book, and Jobs’ interactions with Bill Gates provided an interesting picture into Silicon Valley and the technology we use. I enjoyed that. I learned lots. There are things Jobs did that are definitely not things I’d want to implement in my home life, or in my church life, but his pursuit of excellence, and his unrelenting confidence in the “truth” even in the face of opposition and rejection were in a sense, inspiring.

The great thing about the book was that it totally humanised Jobs. He was flawed. He wasn’t Nietzsche’s Übermensch, even if that was his self perception for a while. He wasn’t particularly smart – outside of his industry (and even within it) he did some really dumb stuff, that wasn’t skirted around in the book, it was a no-holds-barred treatment of his life. An example of his less than optimal decisions included not treating his cancer because he believed he could get rid of it just by drinking juice and applying some internet remedies. While he wasn’t particularly likeable, he had some redeeming features, and he was passionate. He was human. He was vulnerable. He wasn’t the messiah, just a naughty boy.

It was kind of sad that the tone of the book, and the editorialising at the end, seemed to excuse some of Steve’s behaviour on the basis of his achievements, as though the ends justified the means. It’d be interesting to hear from Steve’s neglected children, and from the friends and colleagues he left scattered in his wake, in twenty years – to see if they agree. There was a very real human cost to his decision to build a life around himself and his vision.

He told his biographer, in the months before he died, that he was “50-50” on the question of God. He wanted there to be something else. He seemed to think his achievements would be works that God might judge him on. Apparently his last words were “oh wow, oh wow, oh wow” at least according to his sister’s more hagiographic eulogy (but who doesn’t say nice things at that point).

Here are some of the snippets from the book that I thought were particularly interesting insights from a man gifted with the ability to make particularly interesting insights…

On God…

“Reflecting years later on his spiritual feelings, he said that religion was at its best when it emphasized spiritual experiences rather than received dogma. “The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it,” he told me. “I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t. It’s the great mystery.””

And later…

“I’m about fifty-fifty on believing in God,” he said. “For most of my life, I’ve felt that there must be more to our existence than meets the eye.” He admitted that, as he faced death, he might be overestimating the odds out of a desire to believe in an afterlife. “I like to think that something survives after you die,” he said. “It’s strange to think that you accumulate all this experience, and maybe a little wisdom, and it just goes away. So I really want to believe that something survives, that maybe your consciousness endures.””

On designing with the end user(s) in mind…

““If it could save a person’s life, would you find a way to shave ten seconds off the boot time?” he asked. Kenyon allowed that he probably could. Jobs went to a whiteboard and showed that if there were five million people using the Mac, and it took ten seconds extra to turn it on every day, that added up to three hundred million or so hours per year that people would save, which was the equivalent of at least one hundred lifetimes saved per year. “Larry was suitably impressed, and a few weeks later he came back and it booted up twenty-eight seconds faster,” Atkinson recalled. “Steve had a way of motivating by looking at the bigger picture.””

On Apple’s Design philosophy…

“Apple’s design mantra would remain the one featured on its first brochure: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Jobs felt that design simplicity should be linked to making products easy to use. Those goals do not always go together. Sometimes a design can be so sleek and simple that a user finds it intimidating or unfriendly to navigate. “The main thing in our design is that we have to make things intuitively obvious,” Jobs told the crowd of design mavens. For example, he extolled the desktop metaphor he was creating for the Macintosh. “People know how to deal with a desktop intuitively. If you walk into an office, there are papers on the desk. The one on the top is the most important. People know how to switch priority. Part of the reason we model our computers on metaphors like the desktop is that we can leverage this experience people already have.””

On Marketing…

““The Apple Marketing Philosophy” that stressed three points. The first was empathy, an intimate connection with the feelings of the customer: “We will truly understand their needs better than any other company.” The second was focus: “In order to do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities.” The third and equally important principle, awkwardly named, was impute. It emphasized that people form an opinion about a company or product based on the signals that it conveys.”

On applying this philosophy even to the smallest of things…

“People do judge a book by its cover, so for the box of the Macintosh, Jobs chose a full-color design and kept trying to make it look better. “He got the guys to redo it fifty times,” recalled Alain Rossmann, a member of the Mac team who married Joanna Hoffman. “It was going to be thrown in the trash as soon as the consumer opened it, but he was obsessed by how it looked.” To Rossmann, this showed a lack of balance; money was being spent on expensive packaging while they were trying to save money on the memory chips. But for Jobs, each detail was essential to making the Macintosh amazing.”

A Twitter tribute to Steve Jobs

People are saying that Steve Jobs is our John Lennon. Or something. I can sort of see it. But cancer isn’t a gunpoint assassination. And technology isn’t music. Anyway. Watching the outpouring of grief on social networks surrounding the death of this admittedly pretty amazing guy has been pretty culturally revealing. Christians fall into a few camps – some have expressed hope that Jobs found Jesus, some have pointed out that a life lived for success on this earth is hollow, I did both. Some have thanked Jobs for the impact his products had on their ability to do ministry. I don’t think the Westboro Baptists are Christians. But they announced via iPhone on Twitter, that they’d be protesting Jobs’ funeral because he had a man made platform and didn’t acknowledge God, and he promoted immorality. Or some rubbish like that, pretty much ignoring any positive moral contribution Jobs may have been responsible for with his long term opposition to pornography.

Anyway. Those reactions are neither here nor there, so far as this post is concerned. Apparently more people tweeted about Jobs than about any other celebrity who has died in the Internet age. The tweets came faster, and lasted longer… Twitter made this graphic, posted on Flickr, using tweets about Jobs from yesterday, as their tribute. And I think it’s an interesting use of data.

#thankyousteve

If you check it out in its original size you can read the tweets.

Stopmotion animation (GIF) of stop motion puppetry…

This is amazing. I’m going to have to post about ten more things so it’s not giving those of you reading on the homepage a motion enduced fit. But wow.

Boing Boing posted this but appear to have deleted the post (also check out the old skool Apple themed design they’re rocking).

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To 4S or not to 4S…

I’m an Apple fanboy. I don’t know how it happened, but it did. I like iThings. But I’m a little underwhelmed about the new iPhone. Both Robyn and I are off contract, and lugging around a semi-bricked iPhone 3G, and a semi-bricked iPhone 3GS. We’ve been holding off on upgrading to the iPhone 4 believing the hype about an iPhone 5. But where is it?

So now the question – given that our phones barely receive or make calls anymore, and given that we actually do need phones (we don’t have a landline, and the phone provides internet when we’re on the road) – should we stump up the extra for a 4GS? And what provider should we use – we’ve been with Vodathree for ages, and while their customer service is adequate their network is not very good…

I’m not going to go to android – so shut your yaps you insidious open source google nerds… I like iTunes. I like my phone, iPad, and MacBook being essentially tied to the same mothership. But a flashy camera and a slightly faster processor? Seriously Apple. No wonder your share price dipped this morning… What do you reckon?

Reflections on John Piper and Steve Jobs

So yesterday was a big day for two American guys I admire. They even kind of look the same, but they’ve got some antithetical stuff going on – Jobs is all hip with his black turtlenecks and sneakers, while Piper, well, he wore a black shirt last night – but it appeared his top button was done up. He’s a little daggy. But otherwise they’re more or less exactly the same.

Their binary opposition goes a little further. They essentially have the same outlook on life, but for Jobs this outlook meant making fun toys for people to play with, and computers that make people more efficient at making money. It also meant making a lot of money.

For Piper, his outlook on life is well summed up by my liveblog of his Don’t Waste Your Life session in Brisbane last night.

Anyway. With Jobs resigning the internet is full of buzz about his life and times. Lifehacker featured this quote that reminded me a lot of Piper last night:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Here’s the video of the speech that quote came from…

Lifehacker, in a post featuring that quote, summed up his message as:

“There are many diverse opinions about Steve Jobs, and that’s the kind of result that generally follows a person who goes after what he or she wants and finds success. Regardless of how you feel about what he’s created, he had a vision, set out to achieve it, and did. As he notes in this quote and many others, this is your one chance at life. Don’t waste it.”

Here’s a few snippets from Piper last night:

Our lives go fast. The older you get the faster it rushes by. Our lives don’t consist in the abundance of our possessions. No one gets comfort from their bank balance as they lie dying. It’s really not about what we own and what we strive to own.

The pursuit of possessions ends in frustration because of the impending reality of death. Laying up treasure for ourselves, without being rich towards God, is foolishness. You’re a fool if you treasure up the world and don’t count God as your riches, as your treasures. A life devoted to amassing stuff is a life wasted.

Bizarrely similar. I guess the question for me is do I want to spend my life excited by the products of Steve Job’s approach to the dilemma of death, or standing beside Piper and magnifying Jesus. Hopefully it’s the latter.

Apple stock v Apple Stock

Where would you be at financially if you’d stocked up on Apple shares rather than Apple products over the last 15 years? Rich. That’s where.

This is quite an amazing little comparitive study that almost has me convinced to fork out as much for my iPad 2 in Apple stock as it costs to buy it (this, people, is why I got my summer job).

“Now imagine that instead of buying the Apple PowerBook in 1997, you decided to spend $5,700 on Apple stock. You would have done a little better. Indeed, today your Apple stock would be worth $330,563. Probably makes you think twice buying about that laptop.

Kyle Conroy, a computer science student at University of California, Berkeley, has hundreds of other examples on his personal Web site that show what would have happened if you had decided to purchase Apple stock, which is at around $350 a share Thursday, instead of buying the company’s products when they were announced.”

Via the NY Times.