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Issue 020

Mad Mondays Issue 017
Pagan Moontide of Maia 18, Anno Domini 2020

Easter 6:  "42"

"God has surely listened and has heard my prayer." Psalm  66

Betelgeuse Travel Corp. (Endless Book) by dinabelenko

Precisely one Mad Monday ago, I turned 42.

No, I’ve never read the book. But I did watch the movie. It was terrible beyond imagination.

Regardless of where you might throw in your four score and 2 cents on towel-awareness in an era of social distancing, I am certain now that 42 is special. 

It is the precise ritual-of-existent-awareness at the bare crux of a one-or-two-year radius in which the likely mid-moment of your fallen-life-expectancy (give or take) is probable to come and go. 

Debate me on the nuances of the algorithms, but let’s not quibble: all things considered, at 42(ish) you stand in dire proximity to the existential epicenter of your own life’s relation to the mean! 

We probably call it “the mid-life crisis” because our best math teacher (God-bless her heart), was still never able to dictate into us "the mean” having much of any meaning. I think the most that I picked up is that "the mean” as a statistic is a very poor estimation of real life. Perhaps that was the reason 97% of us immediately discarded the concept too weird to bother understanding in the face of a competitor for truth like the (apparently) sensible “average.”

But that’s the point. The mean is outside the normal (often dead-wrong) “common” sense. That, correct me if I am wrong, is a big part of what the mean is for. It’s a place to gain a unique, but reliably accurate alt perspective. 

Not unlike a global pandemic. 

Or having your “Mean-Day” fall the day after Mother’s Day in the middle of a global pandemic....

And, while we’re at it, after I’ve had an “off” day, I’m usually pretty disappointed. So why all the fuss about wanting to take one “off" on purpose?

My Mean-Day was pretty awesome, even though it was an epic failure. 

I didn’t bother to plan it. I never do. 

One of my parishioners wished me a “happy” one, and I had a moment of awestruck wonder: what if I made an effort to do just that?

It was at this divine suggestion that I tried to take my Mean-Day “off.” Without bogging you down with details, here is my report on the matter: I conclude that I do not know what the word “off” means any longer. 

And I’m ok with that. 

For the next 42 sol revolutions, I will prefer not to anxiety-rage at myself over not making enough “off days” happen. I’ve spent too much time and effort clawing my way out of entrepreneurial, self-employed [#dangthatwasalotofcoffeetoday] workaholism to retro-guilt import its problematic assumptions about production and rest into my existential moment.

Tick. Tick. Tick. 

Two solid strides over the hill and the waiting is just getting going...

...according to the mean….

But this next 42, I intend to take more time as I go about it, because I'm convinced of this: trying to make more of it is for the birds....

Be strong, and let your heart know courage.
Rev. Fisk

If you love Mad Mondays, forward this newsletter to someone who needs a bit more madness in their life.

Quick Hits for the Eyebuds

Inanity, insanity..potato, potahto

Clickbait Paradise

Time waits for no man, 'cept when it stops

It goes without saying that life in a pandemic is rather strange, with the days running together in a weird holding pattern, we’re not clear to land and in some cases fuel is running low. Aviation metaphors aside, a sober article appeared recently in The Week, with the writer relaying an experience that would be familiar to many, even to a lot of our Mad Mondays readers. He writes of the ‘limbo’ that his graduating children are finding themselves in, as they face uncertainty around their study and work plans and concludes that humans are "futural”:

"Human beings live their lives in time. Our sense of ourselves in the present is always in part a function of our remembrance and constant reinterpretation of our pasts along with our projection of future possibilities. We live for the person we hope to become... and we commemorate the transitions from present to future with rites of passage celebrated in public with loved ones and friends...

A present without a future is a life that feels less worth living, because it's a life haunted by a shadow of futility."

How soon is now

As Rev. Fisk often laments, with "The Clock" at the center of our lives, the god of Chronos can be an absolute tyrant, as we wrestle with feeling productive, perhaps to prove our worth, even just a little. Yet, cycles and seasons and days and hours are a mercy from God in this fallen creation - you can see it if you imagine life without the markers of celebration, work and rest. Kind of like in a pandemic...

We got all kinds of time

One of the characters in Tolstoy’s famous book War and Peace states that “Patience and time are my warriors, my champions.” In the war against the world, our flesh, and the devil, we could do worse than to patiently trust God’s providence! Mad Christians are caught in a peculiar place - our faith is one that draws assurance from the past (creation, the Cross, our baptism) but is fueled by future hope (the return of Christ, the new creation and being done with sin). Perhaps this could be what makes us the best qualified to be fully “present" in the mindfulness sense, being available for our neighbors, enjoying time slowly but working hard. 

As the cliché goes, we don’t know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future. God grant us wisdom to “look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil."

From the top

ICYMI - LCMS president, Matt Harrison recently appeared on Issues, Etc. where he reported on the happenings in the Synod. He reminded people to pray for their pastors, who are working extra hard, trying to shepherd their congregations and also to honor the lockdown requirements of their governments. President Harrison also comforted listeners with a thought from Augustine which is helpful at this time when we aren’t able to meet together: it is not the absence of the Supper that brings judgment but rather, the despising of it.

"Don't dress to kill, dress to survive*"

Fashion designers are finding ways to subvert the collection of data, by tricking A.I. surveillance technology. One ‘adversarial' fashion label has designed clothing covered with license plates in an attempt to put false data into automated license plate reader algorithms. Yes, but will anyone wear them?

For anyone concerned about facial recognition technology invading public spaces, this shirt has been able to confuse some A.I. neural networks. Again, you might need to sacrifice any sense of fashion though - it’s pretty ugly! The developers of the shirt are actually using it to find holes in the technology and prevent A.I. from being tricked. 

In the end, if you want to baffle A.I., just keep living your pandemic lifestyle. This article reveals how machine learning has been all over the place as the recent erratic behavior of humans in lockdown has thrown them into a tizzy.

It is another of those complex situations that comes of living in our modern societies - surveillance helps track all sorts of nefarious activity but can also be very invasive. One of the MM team's mothers used to say, “Locks are only for honest people,” and that’s probably true. If people really want to break the law, they will find a way. 

Speaking of nefarious activity, Rev. Fisk passed along this fascinating long-read from Wired about a young hacker responsible for shutting down one of the worst malware attacks in history but not before many adventures in the seedy corners of the internet. You might not purchase anything online again...

Anyone mad for statistics and graphs might enjoy this one which shows the adoption of various technologies in the States, from running water to e-readers.

*Karl Largerfeld

The answer is 42, but what is the question?

The answer to life, the universe, and everything is found in the word of Christ. Here's some awesome "42's" to ponder this week:

Psalm 42

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Job 42

Then Job answered the Lord and said:

“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’

Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 

‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ 

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;

therefore I despise myself, 
and repent in dust and ashes.”

Only Illuminati Need Apply
Your Reaction Highlights

What have our MM readers been doing this quarantine?

I finally finished this stained glass piece based on the Lord's Supper. I thought we would be celebrating this together by the time I finished. Is this a sign that Without Flesh is getting to me? 

-Benjamin Hayter

(Design from Reformation Lutheran, St. Louis.)

A Good Word:  Rec's from Rev. Fisk

Another music selection from Rev. Fisk:  the Hancock soundtrack.  He did not say that it grants super-productive abilities, but Tracks 1 (the guitar!) and 12 (the drums!) are our picks.

Sweetness You May Have Missed...
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If you are in need of a livestreamed service, check out Village Lutheran or St. Paul Austin.  Don't forget to continue giving to your church - your pastor is worth his wages.

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If last week's flashback was a difficult read, it's because easy reads are boring.  At the same time, I'm trying to gradually train together several "voices" of the narrative that will be reliable tools in later storytelling. This continues this week, though I think you will find it is less difficult than last week's. 

At the same time, I believe the smooth poetry of the rhythm has a great deal to do with that, and I've not yet convinced myself that the beat doesn't somehow get lost before the end of this segment.

So, help me! I want to hear your comments and feedback to better rework this section for next week:

Let us pray: O God, the Giver of all that is good, by Your holy inspiration grant that we may think those things that are right and by Your merciful guiding accomplish them; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.