Dan Gilbert is the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. He tells us that one of the things the human brain can do better than the brains of other animals is it can simulate. That is, your brain, somewhere in its prefrontal cortex, can predict what an experience will be like. Your brain can simulate and experience and you can figure out whether or not you’ll like it. You don’t need to actually do everything to have a sense of what sorts of things you would find more satisfying than others. Gilbert begins one of his lectures on the subject with a question: which of two things would make you happiest, winning the lottery or becoming a paraplegic. Which do you think? Put your predicative simulator to work. Read more
The author and pastor Frederick Buechner once wrote that he could sum up everything he had tried to communicate in his writing with these two words: “Pay attention.” Buechner wrote more than thirty books and he summed them all up with that phrase, “pay attention.” I want to invite us to pay attention, to pay attention to a few biblical texts and to God’s good creation, which even now begins to change from its many shades of green into new dresses of red and brown.
Part of paying attention it seems to me is realizing that our first impressions can be wrong. I can remember one of the summers I worked as a guide leading canoe trips. On one trip we were camped on a little-visited lake set back off the main canoe routes. It was not what you would call a beautiful lake. The trees were not particularly tall, the water was not clear. Instead of rocks or sand, the shoreline was muddy and almost impenetrably shrouded with undergrowth. Read more
Despite the general belief to the contrary, there is some evidence that Jesus was a comedian. Comedy, good comedy at least, is all about timing, surprise, truth and discomfort. That’s how I see it. Making people laugh is only part of the gig. A video of a guy getting whacked in the groin might make you laugh but it isn’t necessarily good comedy. Now, as far as I know there’s no record of Jesus doing that last thing but there is plenty to suggest he was quite good when it came to timing, surprise, truth and discomfort. This Sunday’s gospel text, Luke 14:24-33, is one example. Read more