Busy Week & Currently Reading

Things have been hectic this week and so I haven’t had a chance to write a proper post.  But I promised myself that I would put up a post each week, so here it is.

This week I’ve been reading N.T. Wright, who I’ve seen referenced as the greatest living theologian – book Simply Christian.  I have a summary Aquinas did of his Summa Theologica and several books on St. Francis to read also.

I’ve also been working my way through Java data structures; it’s interesting to see how much more I can understand things with that background.  Tree searches, for example, are a key component in Artificial Intelligence.  I have six chapters in this book, which is more of an introduction; then, I have books dedicated to data structures and algorithms to work through.

I’ve also been keeping up on my reading in international affairs.  I just got a book from the library on counterinsurgency called Hearts and Minds: A People’s History of Counterinsurgency.  I also have been going through a survey book on strategy and I have Louis Freedman’s Strategy: A History waiting for me as well.

So lots of work and reading; tonight, though, is date night at the symphony and Mozart!

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U.S. Strategy and the New Medievalism

I’ve noted before that I’ve done some work with the Matthew Ridgway Center for International Security Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.  Dr. Phil Williams, a noted scholar on transnational security threats, was the director, and was also a visiting scholar at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, and for them he wrote several monographs.  One in particular that caught my eye was “From the New Middle Ages to a New Dark Age: The Decline of the State and U.S. Strategy“.  At the time (two years ago) I toyed around with the possibility of a book-length expansion on this, going as far as working up a table of contents and listing some extra things that the book could cover that the monograph did not.
Real life intervened, as it often does, and I found myself back at work as an engineer, so I never got much further with the book.  Still, I think Dr. Williams’ paper deserves more consideration, and I’d still like to explore some of the ideas in the monograph in further detail.  Given the Arab Spring, Ukraine, and Syria, as well as the situation in the South China Sea, I think Dr. Williams foresaw a lot of things in this publication.  At the end of it, he gives some recommendations which are interesting in light of the cutbacks to the U.S. military that we are seeing.
I’ll explore different areas over the next few weeks – I’m aiming for one blog post per week.  For today, here is a synopsis of the monograph taken from the SSI website.  I encourage you to download and read it.
From the New Middle Ages to a ... Cover Image
“Security and stability in the 21st century have little to do with traditional power politics, military conflict between states, and issues of grand strategy. Instead they revolve around the disruptive consequences of globalization, declining governance, inequality, urbanization, and nonstate violent actors. The author explores the implications of these issues for the United States. He proposes a rejection of “stateocentric” assumptions and an embrace of the notion of the New Middle Ages characterized, among other things, by competing structures, fragmented authority, and the rise of “no-go” zones. He also suggests that the world could tip into a New Dark Age. He identifies three major options for the United States in responding to such a development. The author argues that for interventions to have any chance of success the United States will have to move to a trans-agency approach. But even this might not be sufficient to stanch the chaos and prevent the continuing decline of the Westphalian state.”

Integrating Belief and Calling into My Career Journey

So I left off last time with computer programming and while I will come back to that, first, a digression of sorts.

Being a Christian has been a part of my life for a long time.  I’ve spent a number of years figuring out what that means – as well as trying (and often failing) to live up to my own standards.  I’ve spent a lot of time on personal stuff, working on trying to become a better person.  I’ve read a number of books on prayer, Bible study, and so on.

Lately, however, I’ve been bothered by this: I haven’t spent much time…on others:

James 2:17, NIV: “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Also, Matthew 25:30 – 46  (The separating of the sheep and the goats, by their service to others).

I don’t feel like I’ve put this into action.  And as i look to the future, I ponder how I need this to become a part of my life.  I read an excellent book in the fall by Ken Wytsma called Pursuing Justice, and it touched on this.  For Lent, I’ve been involved in praying for those caught in the web of modern day slavery (see the book Not for Sale for more).  I am also currently reading The Hole in Our Gospel by Rich Stearns, and whatever your feelings on the World Vision situation, it is well worth reading.  Serving others, mercy, and so on, are not subjects that are popular today in America, especially from certain sides of the aisle.

But that brings up another point, in that I don’t have a real theology of God.  This is ironic, considering that I’ve been reading the Bible and Christian books for most of my life – the Bible alone three times.  A lot of what I’ve read, though, has been either polemic – from both sides – or baby food.  In a world where Christianity is under attack that’s not very helpful.  I don’t worry about whether or not we’re “winning the culture war” – Christianity was never about that anyway.  Win believers, make disciples, and you win the culture war.  Even if you’re driven underground, there is always a remnant.  forcing others to follow your beliefs never works.  But having a solid foundation to stand on, that’s important.  Especially when talking to those on the fence.

So I’ve starting reading Theology.  At the moment, I’m reading a little introduction to Thomas Aquinas in the Armchair Theologians Series.  I want to be able to build a foundation on reason, as well as what I’ve already learned and experienced.

The above books are informing my journey as I seek my calling, which I think will involve computer programming, data analysis, development, and so on.  I think Computational Social Science and complexity are a part of that as well.  I don’t know, at this point, where the journey will lead.  But hopefully I am following God’s lead.