Which Way to Speakers’ Corner?

Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park

I would like to find my way back into public speaking. I am considering whether I should pursue teaching in some way. Maybe when I write my books I will have speaking engagements. Then I can do radio interviews and maybe give speeches at political conventions. Or maybe I should just stand up and speak, like they do at Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner.

Hyde Park Speakers' Corner

Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner

I have spent many years of my life teaching — but it seems like a lifetime ago! For some six years or more I taught children in Sunday School, Junior Church, 5-Day Clubs, and Good News Clubs while my life was moving toward a career in children’s ministry. I completed a four-month program at Child Evangelism Fellowship Leadership Training Institute. I even did my senior project in college on the faith of a child.

But somewhere I went astray. You could ask me whether I believe in child evangelism or whether a child could savingly believe or whether I believed that I was responsible to evangelize them. But I really wish you wouldn’t. These days I try to keep matters of faith private, and I am certainly not in the practice of seeking to persuade others regarding their faith. You could then say that I am apostate or unfaithful or some other word to heap shame and reproach upon me. But I really wish you wouldn’t. Can we just move on? Oh, but I guess I was the one that brought it up, wasn’t I.

The point that I am trying to make is that I have many years of teaching experience. Not only did I teach Bible lessons and missionary stories to children, I also preached sermons to adults. Sermons? Yes, and here we go with all the faith-based questions again. Can we just change the subject? Please? I also taught History of Western Civilization for a semester. This was at Tri-State Bible College. I love the subject, and I would love to teach it again.

I did a few more stints along the way. I once tried out for a teaching position at a Christian high school in San Antonio, Texas. I taught one class and was told that I did an excellent job. But the position was filled by a returning teacher. I also had a seven-week position in the San Antonio Independent School District as a Poet-in-Residence. I shared my poetry in various schools and encouraged students to write their own.

I have had very few opportunities for teaching or public speaking since those early days. I regret that. But what could I do? I had one opportunity to speak during my U.S. Air Force career. I was a lowly airman (A1C), and I gave a presentation about the section I worked in (Special Actions). I put together talking points that were approved by the Lieutenant, and after the speech I was given rave reviews. Some said it was excellent. In my telecommunications career I had very few chances for public speaking. I may have taught a tech course or two, but nothing special or interesting. I just spent eight hours a day with my arse in the chair staring at a computer screen and managing massive computer networks. How mind-numbing.

Some People May Be Right

800px-Stipula_fountain_pen

I love to write. But you know what? I am hesitant to do it. Isn’t that strange! It is not that I don’t enjoy the writing activity itself, but that I’m concerned that either no one will read my work, or no one will read it and particularly like it.

How I love it when you like me!

How I love it when you like me!

We all like to be liked. Everyone loves to get those likes on Facebook. Everyone wants to be someone about whom people speak highly, or to whom they speak affectionately, with warm and kind regards. And, of course, every writer or artist or musician wants his works to be liked too.

Maybe that is too much self reflection. There is so much of the world to study and discuss. It would be such a tragedy to waste all one’s time in an endless loop of vain solipsism. But you know, it is true there’s only one of me and so many of you.

Frankly, I would love to launch into a lengthy research and writing project about ancient Sumer or Western philosophy or Russian literature. Unfortunately, no one is paying me to do that, and I wonder what would be the result of just churning out pages of text that it seems no one will ever read.

Is that too bleak? Some people say that it is enough to write for writing’s sake. Some people may be right. You never know with some people.

 

 

What is Insight?

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I awoke one morning recently from a dream with a sentence lingering on my mind. The statement itself was nonsensical, but the concept and keyword were clear: insight.

I have been trying to grasp the idea more completely. An online definition gives:

: the ability to understand people and situations in a very clear way
: an understanding of the true nature of something

What are the pathways to insight? I expect many of you have simple answers or applicable verses. Is it so easy to gain true insight? Pat answers often lack depth of deliberation.

The true nature of life is more than buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage, surviving in a difficult economy. Sometimes I find myself searching for some all-encompassing algorithm to address my needs and wants. Maybe it is insight that I need instead.

I have contemplated three ways to gain new insight on a situation. The first is to gain a new perspective, trying to see things from a different angle. This could mean an actual change of scenery – perhaps a vacation – or it could come from reading or conversation where we begin to understand the views of others.

The second idea is to change focus. From our own current standing place (pou sto), we can choose to focus on something different. We can give our attention to something new in the landscape, or the cityscape, or the convoluted reality that is our lives.

The third facet of my search for new insight is interpretation. We can look at the same things that we have seen for years, and perhaps if we label them differently, we can create a new framework for understanding in our lives.

All these may seem overly philosophical. But I think that much of the way we see our world and ourselves in it is couched in the language – both internal and external – that we use to describe it. Can we change our lives through insight? I believe that we can. Now the practicality of it is something different.

Building WordPress Websites

html

Through the years I have worked on various ways to build websites.  I studied HTML and CSS and sometimes became bogged down in the design aspects.  Creating a website from scratch and making it work was not my problem.  I was able to build simple HTML pages, like this:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<body>

<h1>My First Heading</h1>

<p>My first paragraph.</p>

</body>
</html>

I added content and worked on ways to place the data and pictures at different places on the page.  I created CSS files to control the various styles within the website.   It all seemed like a lot of work just to get some basic results.  Snippets of code could be added to spice it up, and the work project became ever more complex.  Enter WordPress.

I was never satisfied with my results until I started working with WordPress.  With WordPress I am able to focus on what is most important to me about web development:  the content.  I can easily and quickly put up a basic website, and within minutes I am able to start adding content.  There are additional functionalities that can be added simply by using plugins.  My point is this: Why re-invent the wheel?

Not everyone who wants a website has done this groundwork.  In fact, many people don’t want to be bothered at all with building or maintaining a website.  If it is not their core business, why spend the time and effort required?  These people just want it to work.  WordPress can make that happen.

I have been reading online about the practice of creating websites for profit.  There are two ways to do it.  The first is to create and maintain websites for yourself through which you can sell products, advertising, and services.  The other way is to build websites for others.  I’m considering whether either or both of these could be profitable for me. I have made some efforts in the past, but need to learn how either to find customers or to monetize my own sites.  It’s possible.  People do it.

I noticed that someone has taken my domain name www.newzplanet.com.  I was not able to monetize it and I didn’t renew the domain. It seems that there is a common practice on the internet of gobbling up domain names as they expire.  It’s a crazy business, this website domain market.  It is referred to as virtual real estate.  How odd.  And you thought I was not realistic.

world

A photo used for my NewzPlanet website logo

 

STEM or not STEM? That is the Question

stem

After so many years working in technology, I wonder how I survived. I have read that anyone with an IQ of more than 115 could do just about any job out there. Since that applies to me, I may well have found my answer. But I am inclined to think that I may not have been using my greatest abilities in this work.

These days, creative people must struggle to find their place. In the US, there is a tremendous preference for anything related to STEM careers. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. And the need for STEM workers is on the rise. What is an artistic person to do?

It is like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. I am not trying to say that I’m square, or even that I am incapable of doing technical work. But my greater interests and aptitudes are for a different kind of career. I long for a flourishing career using my greatest strengths. Sometimes that is difficult to make clear to those who are most concerned about money and security.

There is little creative leeway allowed in technical work. First the problem must be defined, next the solution must be created, and finally the design must be implemented. All of this must be within the parameters of established protocols and procedures. The attributes required for this kind of work may be classified as realistic, enterprising, and conventional. This is no place for Picasso.

Every career field has its plus points. For STEM, there is the challenge to wrestle great problems to the ground. It takes tenacity, ingenuity, and focus. There are opportunities to learn and grow both horizontally and vertically. At the same time, there is the constant risk that one’s skillset will become out-dated in a volatile and everchanging field. I can name several obsolete network protocols and vendor platforms for which I was considered a subject matter expert. Many of my colleagues through the years have gotten out of the field and moved onto other things.

Probably the best thing is to stay alert and ready for whatever opportunities might arise. But for me, I yearn for chances to read, study, write, sing, teach, and speak publicly in ways that help us all to grow and learn and become better. That’s what I want.

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