Monday’s manifesto for life: Cloud Appreciation Society

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Photo taken from Cloud Appreciation Society and copyright Laura Stephens

Occasionally I’ll come across a manifesto that just makes me smile. This is such one… you can find more about Cloud Appreciation Society and their manifesto at their site.

WE BELIEVE that clouds are unjustly maligned
and that life would be immeasurably poorer without them.

We think that they are Nature’s poetry,
and the most egalitarian of her displays, since
everyone can have a fantastic view of them.

We pledge to fight ‘blue-sky thinking’ wherever we find it.
Life would be dull if we had to look up at
cloudless monotony day after day.

We seek to remind people that clouds are expressions of the
atmosphere’s moods, and can be read like those of
a person’s countenance.

Clouds are so commonplace that their beauty is often overlooked.
They are for dreamers and their contemplation benefits the soul.
Indeed, all who consider the shapes they see in them will save
on psychoanalysis bills.

And so we say to all who’ll listen:
Look up, marvel at the ephemeral beauty, and live life with your head in the clouds!

Property is Power

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A church leader once remarked to me “property is power.“ I believe he was trying to give me advice. He struggled with a church the concept of a christ-community that had no building… a Christ-community that encouraged it’s members (a term I’ll use loosely) to resource local charities and initiatives.

Our practice is our theology.

If we truly believe ‘church is people’ rather than a building then our ministries must reflect that
Our (church) finances must similarly organized.
Our church models must embody that.

Jesus said “My kingdom is not of this world”
He said “Go and find people of peace” to host you.

Unfortunately we are more like Cain, who, in being told to wander the world built himself a city.

Coffee and theology (part 1)

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I enjoy coffee. My favorite method is the Kone mark 3. The Kone is a steel cone with fine, lasered holes that allows even extraction of the coffee grounds. It is my method of choice not only for the taste, but because I enjoy watching the coffee ‘bloom’ and taking in all the different aromas.

I fill the kettle with filtered water and switch it on. I then begin take 33g of freshly roasted beans (normally within a week of being roasted) and grind using my Porlex grinder. As I finish this the water boils. I use this to preheat the kone and decanter before ensuring the temperature is optimum (between 192 and 202F) for brewing coffee.

The decanter is emptied into two mugs and the fresh grounds are placed in the kone atop a digital scale.

I pour in around 50g of water and allow the grounds to bloom. They come alive as gases are released. After a moment I turn to my pouring jug (now holding the once boiled water) and pour over the grounds in a steady spirals until 510g of water has been reached. I wait a moment for the water to pour through.

The mugs are emptied of their water and filled with delicious, delicate coffee.

The Kone and decanter are cleaned immediately with water and occasionally non-scented detergent.

Thoughts on prayer and how technology has changed it…

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Until recently I lived in the city where cell phone signal was amazing- apart from in my home. I would regularly receive text messages a week late, or suddenly find 7 voicemails that I had not been notified of. I moved to a rural community and unsurprisingly things have been the opposite of better…

There are angry conversations* that are becoming more common and go somewhere along these lines:

“Why didn’t you reply to my message”

“I left a message on your Facebook wall- I can’t believe you didn’t respond”

“… I text you”

“… I tweeted you”

“… you would have seen my missed call”

Something has shifted. Technology has now given us the presumption that ‘they know I called’ and a lack of a timely response agitates and breaks friendships.

I remember a time when phones would ring and ring… There was no answer machine to leave a message.

I am not calling us to go back to the good old days, but as I reflect on conversations with friends I can’t help but notice how this impatience has crept in to our spiritual lives.

“I prayed, but you didn’t answer”

We are no longer persistent in prayer, because we presume God will get the message. God is now at our beck and call because we presume the message (prayer) as ‘read’. Because we presume the message as ‘read’ we follow the same line that stretches our other relationships and our feelings are hurt.

We give up.

We walk away,

or worse…

Where prayer was once meant to connect us with the Creator and change us, transforming us- we instead change our ideas of the Creator.

We dismiss God as untimely.

We dismiss God as uncaring or

We dismiss the very notion of God at all.

For those who are patient I pray for more patience and thank you for your example to me.

For those who have been hurt, I pray for healing and understanding.

For those who have stopped believing I pray for a fresh encounter…

*disclaimer- the majority of my friends are very understanding-especially after a visit to my house. The conversations I refer to here are of a pastoral nature or commonly overheard on any high street/public transport…


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I particularly like number 5 (highlighted).

  1. The use of sounds that exist already is not allowed. Subject to article 2. In particular:
    • No drum machines.
    • No synthesizers.
    • No presets.
  2. Only sounds that are generated at the start of the compositional process or taken from the artist’s own previously unused archive are available for sampling.
  3. The sampling of other people’s music is strictly forbidden.
  4. No replication of traditional acoustic instruments is allowed where the financial and physical possibility of using the real ones exists.
  5. The inclusion, development, propagation, existence, replication, acknowledgement, rights, patterns and beauty of what are commonly known as accidents, is encouraged. Furthermore, they have equal rights within the composition as deliberate, conscious, or premeditated compositional actions or decisions.
  6. The mixing desk is not to be reset before the start of a new track in order to apply a random eq and fx setting across the new sounds. Once the ordering and recording of new music has begun, the desk may be used as normal.
  7. All fx settings must be edited: no factory preset or pre-programmed patches are allowed.
  8. Samples themselves are not to be truncated from the rear. Revealing parts of the recording are invariably stored there.
  9. A notation of sounds used to be taken and made public.
  10. A list of technical equipment used to be made public.
  11. Optional: Remixes should be completed using only the sounds provided by the original artist.

The cockroach and the jellyfish.

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I read a great deal about the organic church. I have been an advocate of the process for some time. I use process deliberately instead of model.

As the idea becomes more fashionable as a church-growth model it continues to impose an idea of how things will be when the the fledgling church ‘matures’. But what if the church is not on land, but in an ocean, and it doesn’t walk on two legs, but more like a jelly-fish?  I am not against structure, but our western and Cartesian view continues to presupposes it is ‘our structure’ that allows for the growth of the Church.

Size is also an important factor. Not all congregations are meant to be large. We are too often focused on being big rather than fulfilling our purpose. If we truly hold on to Romans 1:20 we will see the small congregation is as important to the church ecosystem as the the cockroach is to us humans.

Albert Einstein on Karl Barth

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I came across this quote recently which was a comment on the Pastor’s Emergency League set up by Karl Barth in response to the German Evangelical Church as they began to fall in line with Hitler’s ideology…
“Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but, no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks… .

"Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.”

Incomplete Manifesto for Growth

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  • Allow events to change you. 
    You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.
  • Forget about good. 
    Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.
  • Process is more important than outcome. 
    When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.
  • Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). 
    Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.
  • Go deep. 
    The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.
  • Capture accidents. 
    The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.
  • Study. 
    A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.
  • Drift. 
    Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.
  • Begin anywhere. 
    John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.
  • Everyone is a leader. 
    Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.
  • Harvest ideas. 
    Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.
  • Keep moving. 
    The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success. Resist it. Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.
  • Slow down. 
    Desynchronize from standard time frames and surprising opportunities may present themselves.
  • Don’t be cool. 
    Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.
  • Ask stupid questions. 
    Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.
  • Collaborate. 
    The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.
  • ____________________. 
    Intentionally left blank. Allow space for the ideas you haven’t had yet, and for the ideas of others.
  • Stay up late. 
    Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world.
  • Work the metaphor. 
    Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.
  • Be careful to take risks. 
    Time is genetic. Today is the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow. The work you produce today will create your future.
  • Repeat yourself. 
    If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it again.
  • Make your own tools. 
    Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.
  • Stand on someone’s shoulders. 
    You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.
  • Avoid software. 
    The problem with software is that everyone has it.
  • Don’t clean your desk. 
    You might find something in the morning that you can’t see tonight.
  • Don’t enter awards competitions. 
    Just don’t. It’s not good for you.
  • Read only left-hand pages. 
    Marshall McLuhan did this. By decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called our “noodle.”
  • Make new words. 
    Expand the lexicon. The new conditions demand a new way of thinking. The thinking demands new forms of expression. The expression generates new conditions.
  • Think with your mind. 
    Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.
  • Organization = Liberty. 
    Real innovation in design, or any other field, happens in context. That context is usually some form of cooperatively managed enterprise. Frank Gehry, for instance, is only able to realize Bilbao because his studio can deliver it on budget. The myth of a split between “creatives” and “suits” is what Leonard Cohen calls a ‘charming artifact of the past.’
  • Don’t borrow money. 
    Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice. By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.
  • Listen carefully. 
    Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.
  • Take field trips. 
    The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic–simulated environment.
  • Make mistakes faster. 
    This isn’t my idea — I borrowed it. I think it belongs to Andy Grove.
  • Imitate. 
    Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You’ll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable. We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.
  • Scat. 
    When you forget the words, do what Ella did: make up something else … but not words.
  • Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.
  • Explore the other edge. 
    Great liberty exists when we avoid trying to run with the technological pack. We can’t find the leading edge because it’s trampled underfoot. Try using old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.
  • Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms. 
    Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces — what Dr. Seuss calls “the waiting place.” Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference — the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals — but with no actual conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.
  • Avoid fields. 
    Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.
  • Laugh. 
    People visiting the studio often comment on how much we laugh. Since I’ve become aware of this, I use it as a barometer of how comfortably we are expressing ourselves.
  • Remember. 
    Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or event. That’s what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and, as such, a potential for growth itself.
  • Power to the people. 
    Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives. We can’t be free agents if we’re not free.