An Extreme Price for Fruit Plucked

In “Speaker’s House and Destiny” (Chapter 11 of Messages from Estillyen), Reader and Voice examine why the initial act of sin—the small bite of one forbidden fruit—changed the course of history. One “small” sin unleashed the need for for Christ to be crucified. Wasn’t this an overreaction?

What is the power of one small act?

What is the power of one word spun out of control? Continue reading “An Extreme Price for Fruit Plucked”

Media and Messages

In the last couple of decades, new communication methods—new ways of sending messages—have poured into our lives. With these come qualms, reservations, and fears that the dangers of these devices and methods outweigh the benefits.

But distrust of new means of communication is nothing new.

In his dialogue Phaedrus (c.130 B.C.) Plato records Socrates’ laments concerning the new trend of writing. He feared that literacy will make us less wise: “Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding.”

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), that great advocate of simplicity, had little regard for new inventions—including the telegraph: “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.”

Many eschewed the telephone when it first came into common use, fearing that it would exterminate face-to-face visits.

Even radio was suspect. Some thought it would kill music; others thought it would kill the effectiveness of presidential speech.

When the television was invented, people feared that literacy would suffer.

And so on.

Some of these fears were well founded, yet media are here to stay.

Meanwhile, communication methods continue to evolve. Each, despite it benefits, cause some to worry about its downsides:

E-mail (already becoming passé) is impersonal and can be too hastily sent with too little time between thought and message.

Facebook is addictive.

Texting is robbing our ability act as literate beings.

Twitter is limited to 140 characters. Should important thoughts be reduced to such short snippets?

Snapchat enables a user to open and send a photo with a few simple hand gestures. The time between thought and message is reduced to almost nothing.

Why does all of this matter? According to a Longitudinal Study of American Youth, young adults are now as likely to connect with friends, family, and coworkers online or via text as they are in person. This type of technology feels natural to those who grew up with it; besides, texting, tweeting, e-mailing, Facebook, and the like work well for busy people. These technologies can be useful and are not inherently corrupt.

On the Isle of Estillyen, messages matter. Words matter. The media’s influence matters. The Estillyen monks offer a probing, questioning commentary regarding the modern onslaught of words, images, and sounds. They investigate what it means to navigate for meaning in this swirl of messages.

Like writing, telephones, and television, some new media methods are here to stay, at least for a while. Their benefits will remain, as will their weaknesses. It will continue to be up to the users to navigate for meaning as they send and receive messages.

What messages do you want to convey? Which media are best suited for them?

The Message of the Beatitudes

“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

He said:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’” Matthew 5:1-12

What message did Jesus’ words sent to his listeners? What message do they send to our modern culture? In Jesus’ time, the heroes were warriors—those victorious in the Colloseum. In our time, heroes are those who have won wealth, success, and fame. Our heroes are the powerful.

“Blessed are the meek,” Jesus says. Not the arrogant, the overconfident, the overbearing, the self-serving. Not those who ruthlessly claw their way to power. The meek.

“Blessed are the merciful,” Jesus says. How can we reduce suffering? How much of our wealth and time can we give to offer help to those who need it—to joyfully do good, without judgment?

“Blessed are the pure in heart,” Jesus says. Our culture is violent and corrupt. Obscenity is celebrated. As individuals we long for wealth, recognition, and often-empty entertainments. Purity is disdained as naiveté. Yet, Jesus tells us to have pure hearts.

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus says. While individually we can do little to bring about world peace, we can influence harmony instead of conflict. We can find areas of common ground. We can acknowledge others’ strengths. We can lay aside intentional rivalry. We can listen. We can forgive.

“Blessed,” Jesus says, “are the poor in spirit. Those who mourn. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Those who are persecuted.” These are the ones who suffer because of poverty and great loss. These are the ones despised and treated as outcasts. How can it be, then, that they are blessed? They are blessed because God has always comforted, attended to, and honored those who, though oppressed, live for him.

And so should we. That message is clear.

Rejoice and be glad.

Words Matter

Messages from Estillyen rings with the message that words matter, some more than most. Why do words have so much power? Why do they matter so?

In Chapter 20, the monks of Estillyen address this question at the beginning of the reading “Let Them Go!”

READER: A letter written but never sent, never read—should it be called a letter? A speech drafted and tucked away, never spoken, never heard—is it truly a speech? A composition never played, never sung, perhaps swept away by fire—how is it to be described? What’s to be said of the ashy notes? Is it a burnt melody, or something else?

In order for all three to be what they were intended, it seems that the letter should be read, the speech heard, and the composition played. If this they’re not, then something else they are. Their original intent they failed to become. They are undone, unsung, never spoken, never sent.

Similarly, a word cannot claim to be a word if it’s only a thought.

… Words enable thoughts to get dressed, come out, and speak their mind. As a word, a thought is no longer indisposed, undisclosed. It has entered the world. It is a word.

… Words are thought descriptors. They project thoughts from anonymity. They transfer thoughts into messages. Messages move the world.

Words are important because they bridge thought and message. Flowing words unleash messages that cannot be reversed.

What thoughts have become words whose messages moved the world?

Which of these thoughts were dressed in words appropriately? Which ones were not, sending destructive messages?

Words matter, some more than most.

Is Satan Dead?

I’ve written about the removal of Satan from the new movie ‘Son of God’.

We hope you will read and enjoy it (link below). If you do kindly click, Like, Tweet, and pass it along! We’d like to see this go Global! It would also be great to have your comments on the Time site.

Time Article: Is Satan Dead?

Say What? Google’s Patenting a Throat Tattoo?

According to a post this week by CNN, that appears to be the shape of things to come—a high-tech tattoo has been designed for the human neck.

“The patent says the tattoo would communicate with smartphones, gaming devices, tablets and wearable tech like Google Glass via a Bluetooth-style connection and would include a microphone and power source” (source).

So what’s actually happening here? Is the tattoo much ado about nothing, or is it a symbol signifying matters of greater import?

It would seem the word yes is a better bet than no, but okay, is it good or bad? In many respects, that’s not the question. It is. The tattoo is a sign of what’s come to be, or soon will be.

What’s obvious is this—there is something most significant going on in our larger human sphere. What it is ain’t exactly clear.

The tattoo-revelation is more than a bit of isolated high-tech news. Last week, Twitter made its début on the New York Stock Exchange. Twitter’s messaging was clear, the company has a mission. The aim is to make Twiter the “real life companion” for the 2.4 billion people now connected via the internet.

The question is what does all this mean? What does this companion for real life have to say about your life, and mine? Do we simply say, ‘Cool’? It seems that issues of selfworth must arise, mingled in with the wonder of tweets and tattoos.

The medium is the message. The form of any object bears an implicit message. In the case of some objects, widespread aspirations arise; worldviews adjust. We see ourselves in ways not seen before.

One of the major themes in the Estillyen work is media—its impact on life. While the Estillyen monks do not advance a negative view of media, they do offer a kind of questioning commentary, on what it means to navigate for meaning in a world of mediated messages. They have much so say about the swirl of words, images and sounds.

The Estillyen monks also have a unique way of drilling down on words that matter most. Sometimes, they do so with a stoke of humor. This is clearly seen in the way they have devloped the character of Lucifer, and incorported his role in their readings. The monks have even given Lucifer a signature song titled, Happenstance and Chance. The opening lines read:

Happenstance and chance. Flow and flap.

Say what you wish and will, old chap.

Mix up your words. Swirl ’em around;

don’t get precise when you jot them down!

I would argue our new age of mediating messages is a matter of great import, as great as any faced in the world today. The issues surrounding this topic will only compound and mount in the years ahead.

The Estillyen message flows towards introspection and stilling, towards words that help us grasp human worth. So important is this message. Human beings have an inate desire to center in a message; we long for story, not for words in bits and pieces.

Chips and Nicks of Life!

Picture of worn chair. Hollie's chair. www.estillyen.com
Chips and Nicks of Life!

 

That’s what Hollie Macbreeze thought, as she studied the primitive, painted chairs in the reading room of Three Pond Cottage.

Engrossed, she mused about all the chips, nicks, and signs of wear, adorning the charming red chairs. “Who sat in the chairs throughout the years?” She wondered. 

She thought of aging. “What does life hold? Will I age?”

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 17, The Point: The Redemption of Oban Ironbout.  It’s Hollie’s reflection, as she struggles to come to terms with her incurable kidney disease. Starting at page 200. Continue reading “Chips and Nicks of Life!”

Writer’s Cottage

Photograph of Author William Jefferson's writing cottage. www.estillyen.com
Writer’s Cottage in June!

A lot of time is spent within, thinking about the Isle of Estillyen, beyond the Storied Sea. I love that place.

ADRIFT

Adrift in waters vast I sat,
My vessel gently bobbed.
Shivering off to numbing sleep,
I prayed and wafted on.

Veiled in darkness thick,
Wicked waves about me rose.
Cast inside Abyss’ eye,
‘Twas certain I would die.

Clinging fast to vessel’s mast,
In steep decent I plunged,
I cried, I cried,
Dear Lord, Dear Christ, ’tis I.

I dreamt with me a figure sat,
Rowing oars with hushing call.
At dawn on warming beach I sat,
My vessel gently bobbed.

‘ADRIFT’–Ancient Poem from the Isle of Estillyen