Summer Reading Group: Stand Out of Our Light

“The gate to salvation is narrow, and closing quickly” (xii). The urgency of this most Adventist-sounding warning in the introduction to James Williams’ Stand out of our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy stresses the book’s timeliness and importance. But, rather than predicting the nearness of the Second Advent, Williams’ apocalyptic message is much more immanent. He focuses on what is already here — flickering screens which provide us instant communication and near limitless information, capturing our collective attention in a way so completely engrossing that their corrosive individual and social impact may be irreversible. Williams’ (a former Google advertising strategist turned philosopher) purpose is to explain why he thinks the liberation of human attention is the defining moral and political challenge of our time — and to ask for our help in keeping the light of our attention lit.

The book’s title comes from a story that Williams relates in the introduction. Diogenes of Sinope was a notoriously offensive, impulsive, and even rude ancient Greek philosopher. In our internet age, he would likely be called a “troll.” Even so, Alexander the Great was an admirer of Diogenes. Visiting him one day as he sunbathed, Alexander stood before the reclining philosopher to share his admiration and confidently make an astounding offer. He promised to grant Diogenes any wish he desired — to which the eccentric philosopher-troll gruffly responded, “Stand out of my light!” (3).

Alexander’s offer was based in his own power and ability as a political leader. Many would have considered his attention alone a great gift. Beyond this, his offer was an extraordinary opportunity to be relished and received with servile gratitude. And yet, his mere presence frustrated Diogenes’ more immediate desire — for light. Diogenes may have been a curmudgeon, but he knew what he wanted. I wonder if we know what we want. Figuring that out is going to be essential as we explore the challenges of the technology facing us in the information age, or as Williams prefers, the age of attention.

In order to take up this challenge, we will be reading through Williams’ book together for the 2018 Spectrum Summer Reading Group. You can see in the reading/posting schedule below, we have an able group of facilitators ready to assist us in grappling with the challenge of focusing our attentions in an age of distraction:

July 13 — Preface and Chapter 1: Philosophy for Trolls, Brenton Reading

July 27 — Chapter 2: The Faulty GPS and Chapter 3: The Age of Attention, Carmen Lau

August 3 — Chapter 4: Bring Your Own Boundaries and Chapter 5: Empires of the Mind, Lisa Clark Diller

August 10 — Chapter 6: The Citizen is the Product and Chapter 7: The Spotlight, Ronald Osborn

August 17 — Chapter 8: The Starlight and Chapter 9: The Daylight, Zane Yi

August 24 — Chapter 10: The Ground of First Struggle and Chapter 11: The Monster and the Bank, Nicholas Miller

August 31 — Chapter 12: Marginal People on Marginal Time and Chapter 13: The Brightest Heaven of Invention, Keisha McKenzie

As in past years, you are invited to order or download a copy of the book and join in the discussion. An electronic version of Williams’ book is available free/open access through the Cambridge University Press website. (For those who prefer a physical copy, Amazon has it in paperback for about $15 at the time of this writing.)

Feel free to leave a comment, if you plan on joining us, or want to respond to anything in the preface and/or first chapter.

Brenton Readinglives with his wife and three children in Shawnee, Kansas (a suburb of Kansas City), where he practices Pediatric Interventional Radiology.

Image courtesy of Cambridge University Press.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8881

Broad and. Narrow have different connotations. Jesus offer is wide open “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden”. “behold I stand at the door and knock”. Yet Christ speaks of the broad way that leads to destruction. Just a quick run down of tele evangelists will give one the basic clue. The Herbie Douglass view of Adventism now under Ted in vogue again is frightening. My way or the Highway is not Gospel. Truth is a
invitational, error is always demanding— Do or else. Dire Consequences is not redemptive in any sense. Of course the way is narrow but not frightening. This emphasis on compliance is unworthy of leadership.

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Always, in all ways.

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Wonderful to hear from Brenton again! And what a superb group of facilitators. Thank you.

The bad news: I’m trying to reduce my cache of books and here you go introducing another tome I want. Yea verily, I still buy books [gasp] and write notes in them.

Call me old-fashioned. Or call me Ishmael.

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Just don’t call me late for dinner. :grinning:

Thanks Chris.

Perhaps the ancient codex technology you prefer is one way to reclaim our attention from the machines. Williams’ book isn’t very thick so it won’t take up too much room on your shelf. Glad you will be reading along with us.

Welcome aboard, Chris. (I prefer binding and paper, too, for most books, but actually ended up reading this one on a plane electronically in a few hours; it reads more like an lengthy/meaty essay.) Looking forward to the conversation!

This is a bit off topics but I believe essenual to the survival of Adventism in North America at least. remove Ellen White as a modern day Prophetess and cast her a insightful avid reader and observer of contemporary Christain writers. For Example footnote her sources and include a full bibliography. Make Desire of Ages the front runner. Retitle Steps to Christ as Steps with Christ, Great Controversy should also be properly footnoted, and the final chapters deleted as conjecture. The books Education and Ministry of healing given similar treatment. Deep six the testimonies.

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Wow, Tom, that’s a long wishful list that you presented.
You know that none of those changes will happen, right? :wink:

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Absolutely not!

Once such bold and definitive statements have been made, that has been backed by Scripture, according to their interpretations, there’s no way to backtrack. The SDA church is inextricably tied to EGW. Just the same as Joseph Smith and the LDS Church.

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Certainly not in Ted’s tenure. The sheep will still be sheared unfortunately. But being honest with God and man is the basic premise so why not give it an honest go.

Tom,

I agree with George on this one. Won’t happen.

First, as cfowler notes, EGW is foundational to traditional Adventism and revisions of her works would be a nonstarter for church leadership and most members. Making the changes you suggest would disrespect their needs and wishes.

Second, (and here I will try to bring things back on topic) those like myself who have moved beyond traditional Adventism have shifted our attention away from EGW as well. A few years ago I tried to argue against the assertion of a professor of religion that the most recent generation of Adventists had lost interest in EGW. As evidence, I pointed to the Red Books play and the Ellen White Project. I think I was wrong. Despite interesting conferences like this. There is not enough sustained and widespread attention on EGW to make a change.

Once looking beyond the Adventist bubble, there is just too much to capture one’s attention. How would you address the issue of attention?

(click on the in text links to see prior Spectrum articles on the topics)

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Tom, if you aren’t already aware if it, you may be interested in the new, annotated version of Steps to Christ, Andrews University Press released recently. I don’t know if there are plans in the works to do something similar for White’s other books, but this is a step in the direction you are describing when it comes to placing Ms. White in her context.

https://www.adventistreview.org/church-news/story-ellen-whites-steps-to-christ-released-in-annotated-edition-for-125th-anniversary

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The three books I believe are MOST important by Ellen [I DID NOT say they were promoted or read] are Steps to Christ [now it comes in various “flavors” such as Happiness Digest, which
is an excellent name], Ministry of Healing which is a summary of Ellen’s 50 years of writing on
heath – healing of the body, mind, spirit-soul, and Education.
However, I believe if one asked 100,000 adult SDAs, very few had ever heard of Education or
Ministry of Healing.
Probably only a few of those who HAVE heard of MofH, and Education, have ever read them.
I don’t know of any SDA church pastors who promote the reading of Ellen on a consistent bases,
or have what we call “book study Sabbath School classes” on her works.

So as we have been discussing for quite a L-o-o-o-o-o-ng time now, Ellen is more of an IDOL,
than a vibrant contribution to the average SDA Adult.

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Hi et al! I fully agree that it won’t happen. I wrote those suggestions as a way to stop the voting with the feet… With the coming gloom and doom of the international scene it might forestall such an exodus. But it is not possible to make the case for Ellen White to this and future generations without a strong fear motif.God is not dead but the church is dying. It should have happen in 1919.

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So they keep changing EGW’s writings, making new books but keeping her authorship, right?
Is the “annotation” an explanation of what cannot be otherwise understood? Or is it an addition of information that was missing? Or is it just another fund raiser?

I wish they would be willing to publish all her books with proper “annotations” revealing which parts are her own and which part are mere plagiarism. I know, it won’t ever happen.

@GeorgeTichy, here’s an interview we did last year with Denis Fortin, the editor of the new annotated version. It may answer some of your questions:

https://spectrummagazine.org/article/2017/02/14/educating-readers-about-ellen-whites-writing-process

-WebEd

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Reading a book together is a great summer indulgence, and my just-ordered hard copy (please keep it secret that I could have gotten an on-line version for free) has arrived. Thank you, Brenton and other facilitators. It’s a joy to have a community to be grateful to.

I have found myself using the word “distraction” more and more, not least when I try to champion the Sabbath experience. James Williams underscores just how much the digital age has ramped up the threat of distraction: now attention itself seems on its heels. Again, Sabbath can help: a day for renewal of attention! And as with many of the opportunities associated with deliberate and substantive rest, this one invites renewal of something that is pertinent every day.

“Attention must be paid,” said the distraught Linda Loman in Death of a Saleman. I read the paper; I face tauma in family and other aspects of daily life. Yes, these words are more important than ever.

Again, thank you. I’ll keep reading and keep commenting. Conversation means so much!

Chuck

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I got the book from Cambridge University, in .pdf. Just started reading it, and I like it so far. The distraction issue is indeed serious, and is affecting the new generation in general.

I can’t think of how knowledgeable will de youth in our Church be about the true Gospel and the Biblical truth. I don’t think that’s what they are reading on their phones everywhere they go, or even while driving…

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Received my book in the mail today from Amazon!

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