Thursday, July 30, 2009

Join the Revolution

Kudos to the good people at Barnes & Noble for finally joining the revolution and giving us digital nomads complimentary online access at all their locations nationwide. Of course, Panera Bread has done this for years [scroll down to my 06/15/09 entry titled “Mobile Avenue.”] And Starbucks has finally begun offering a limited online service of two complimentary hours per day with an active Starbucks card.

Speaking of digital nomads, the Washington Post recently published a story titled “Digital Nomads Choose Their Tribes.” A couple of featured business partners made this insightful comment: “In real estate, the emphasis is always put on ‘location, location, location’ and thanks to ever-evolving technology, we can now be productive from almost any location. And while we understand that there is no place like home, we like to think we have many homes—the primary one being the World Wide Web.”

And a recent New York Times article covered the effort of Baltimore to offer citywide Internet access through a developing technology called WiMax, which delivers the Internet through radio signals broadcast from cell phone towers. It is being touted as a “4G network,” to signal its superiority to today’s 3G networks. While the results are mixed so far, the point is that emerging technology is supporting the mobile lifestyle.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Renewed Perspective

It has been said that we are each the sum total of all the people we’ve known, all the books we’ve read and all the places we’ve been. And I can’t help but think of how today’s social networking technology is helping us all broaden our respective spheres of influence.

Over the course of the past several days, I’ve spent time beefing up my online presence in each of these areas by connecting with professional colleagues through LinkedIn, posting about the interesting books I have read on Shelfari and listing favorite trips I have taken on TripAdvisor.

As a mobile professional, I particularly benefit from the renewed perspective gained by getting out of my home and interacting with people, reading publications and visiting places. For the purposes of thinking differently, there is simply no substitute for a change of place.

My location of choice today happens to be a café with a steady stream of clientele, an eclectic mix of music and online access to a wealth of information at my fingertips. But it is not so much information as inspiration that I am in search of as I write these words.

I am not sure what it is about leaving one’s usual surroundings that lends itself to creative output but I am thinking it has something to do with the change of pace as well as the change of place. Space and time tend to yield to those who slow down and savor life rather than seek to speed it up.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A Thoreau Primer

I recently finished reading a fascinating book titled The Thoreau You Don’t Know by Robert Sullivan. As a big fan of Henry David Thoreau and his classic Walden, it was fun learning more about his life sequestered in a 150-square-foot cottage he built on friend Ralph Waldo Emerson’s property and lived in from 1845-1847. His book has been called the bible of simple living, a point supported by Thoreau’s own accounting that he spent all of $28.125 to build his home at Walden Pond outside Concord, Massachusetts.

Much like me, he was a writer who had trained to be a minister before turning to writing. An excerpt from Sullivan’s book speaks to this point: “He had written that a writer publishing in the popular press had more influence that a preacher in a pulpit. Thoreau became a writer who was in no camp completely and, as such, eventually learned to write for two audiences simultaneously, the popular press and a reader he imagined to be like himself, who reads obsessively and is always thirsty for spiritual renewal.”

Another similarity is the era in which we each lived. Sullivan writes, “It’s important to think about the economic climate. As the country reeled from market forces, as the gap between rich and poor widened, as people strained to make a living and saw their social and family life begin to change as a result, Thoreau was about to give a very practical answer to the question that Emerson asked, the question that was not just on the mind of philosophers past and present but on the mind of the country: “‘How shall I live?’”

I was particularly drawn to Sullivan’s depiction of Thoreau as a marketplace minister: “Thoreau had trained to be a preacher and, like Emerson, he was one in the end. He was working in the culture, not apart from it, and the culture was the culture of enterprise, as in business. Business was now a moral term, as in the business of your life. Your commerce was your work in resisting the mass culture, what you are told to do. Your profit was your virtue, your principal your principles.”

For the first several years after I left pastoral ministry to follow journalistic pursuits I struggled from time to time with my calling. It was the faithful words of a friend that finally helped me to break through my self-imposed funk: “You are still in the pastoral ministry, you just traded pulpits.” While I may not track with Thoreau’s transcendentalist leanings, I do sync with his message of simplicity, as well as his means of sharing it through the printed word.