Friday, November 13, 2009

Resistance is Futile! Join/Create Study Groups & Support Systems

Knowing that some of you may wish to read only the guidance for ministerial examining preparation in this post and skip the philosophy underlying it, the guidance comes first and the thinking behind it is afterward.

The recommendation is to join or create a study group for your RSCC and MFC interviews. I participated in one at Starr King School for the Ministry. We jointly read material from the reading list, prepared short reflection papers, read the papers in the group, and discussed the readings and our papers. It was a very useful way of obtaining and digesting multiple perspectives on the readings and to be supportive of one another.

Join/create a study group and take what we did a step further: share and discuss critical feedback from your Center for Ministry, CPE, internship, and other evaluations. Talk about the accuracy of the evaluations and what steps you've taken to address the concerns raised in them.

Study groups should augment having advisers, mentors, and friends reviewing your RSCC and MFC packages, especially the essays, and having a mock interview.

OK, now for a little philosophy:

Those of you who are Star Trek fans know that "Resistance is futile." is the motto of the Borg, who according to their Wikipedia article, are:

The Borg manifest as cybernetically enhanced humanoid drones of multiple species, organized as an interconnected collective, the decisions of which are made by a hive mind, linked to subspace domain. The Borg . . . operate solely toward the fulfilling of one purpose: to "add the biological and technological distinctiveness of other species to their own" in pursuit of perfection. This is achieved through forced assimilation, a process which transforms individuals and technology into Borg, enhancing, and simultaneously controlling, individuals by implanting or appending synthetic components.
The Borg represent nightmares of totalitarianism, automation, and assimilation. They carry on in the traditions of Orwell's 1984 (totalitarianism) and the computer HAL 9000 in Clarke's and Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Contrast these visions of the threats of automation and collective thinking with the words of Eamonn Healy, a chemistry professor, from the film Waking Life. (The 3.5 minute clip from the film and transcript are available here.) Healy offers up the vision of a new evolution based upon two types of information: digital (technology) and analog (biology) life. He states that under the old evolutionary paradigm, digital intelligence would replace biological intelligence. Under his new paradigm, the two intelligences augment one another, accelerating evolution.

It's quite possible that the digital will be the savior of the biological. Just as the scary computers of the 1950s and 60s turned into the useful tools of today, the internet has many "hive mind" aspects. Healy imagines that the blending of the biological and the artificial will lead to greater individuality. It already has lead to great interconnection. The two visions are compatible.

Questions about sharing and privacy are important. Yet, we grow and become more resilient when we share ourselves with those who are trustworthy. I am incredibly grateful to the mentors and friends who guided me through the fellowshipping process. Don't wait to build your own support systems.


  1. Hi Earl, Interesting to me that you chose the Borg metaphor. I agree that in many ways we are utterly dependent upon one another not only for resources, but for an accurate sense of self and how self is perceived by others. At the same time, if we look at Levinas as taught by Gabriella in the Allergy to the Other class, it is most common for any community to react to difference with impulses to either assimilate or annihilate. Given that, as UUs, we profess one of our goals to be mutliCULTURALism, how do we invite not only the multiple apparent identities of diverse peoples (queer, of color, poor, etc) into leadership in our movement, but also their actual cultural differences around, for example, ways we talk about money, or how and with what emotions we think its apropraite to discuss conflict?

  2. Thank you for your interesting comment. I was perceiving this issue from the perspective of the individual ego, AKA, her/his majesty the baby. You've added the perspective of the collective.

    I believe that MFC members are making a conscious effort to encourage diversity when it comes to inviting the multiple identities of diverse people.

    The other day a successful UU minister who's a raging extrovert questioned whether our process favored extroverts like her rather than those how are introverted or shy. This is also an interesting question about which we may not have the same intentionality.