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Getting Things Done: Better Call Agent 007-0827

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Or should we call a prayer meeting?

“Agency” is a word for getting something done. In a philosophical sense, it is the capacity to act in the world. It has to do with choice-making and accomplishment and focus—especially focus. We hire an advertising agency when we need to offload some critical marketing element and make sure it happens. That agency accepts the mission and acts. And so we pay their fee.

Why hire agency? Because we don’t have the capacity to do it ourselves, whether that means talent or headcount or time or interest or focus or all of the above. But the critical thing needs to be done and must be done. So we get someone we can trust to do it. There is an entire industry set up around the notion of getting things done. Time management is always a hot topic for any gender in business or academia and in the rest of life.


But agency has a tricky theological side. Even non-theists debate determinism versus free will. And Christians, well—we’ll kill each other over our views of how the world works. Just find an Anabaptist and ask how their minority voice was received by their determinist rulers, way back when.

Why bring in theology when talking about getting things done in real life? Isn’t theology the useless opposite of getting things done here on earth?


And, No.

Because while we can accomplish much with our time-management techniques, there is much outside our ability. Like changing someone’s mind. Or opening long-closed doors. Or protecting oppressed people from their brutal dictator. Or helping a nation care about all its citizens (versus just the privileged ones).

What the time-management industry does not answer and cannot answer is how to work with these very large questions that deal with agency in the larger world. So we back off and shut down and feel guilty.

Can we pursue agency that sees and acts on larger things? Some of my heroes are doing this and their agency consists of some combination of prayer and action and faith and presence.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

August 27, 2014 at 9:16 am

Ben Kyle: Hey—What if We Did a Living Room Tour?

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The Dog Days of DIY

07082013-tumblr_mpmcl33I561qbmgeto1_500There is no one on the other end of this telephone connection who can help set up my new smartphone. With my last several technology purchases I’ve found myself alone in the final fine-tuning that actually makes the device work. Oh—there is certainly tech support. But my questions seem to send the customer representative to their supervisor (>30 minutes on hold) for answers. Not because I’m so smart, only because I am the chief of my cobbled-together IT system and I seem to always demand awkward things of said system. This is my penance for pushing for non-standard capabilities.

But maybe do it yourself is not such a bad set of expectations.

And maybe do it yourself is the future of, well, everything.

A local artist I find myself listening to again and again—Ben Kyle of Romantica—seems to be doing this very thing. He’s taking his music into the homes of friends and strangers. Right into their living rooms. Pot-luck and BYOB. Sign up here and you’ll see Ben singing from the ottoman. Can this be literally true—have I got this right?

If so, I’m watching for other artists to do the same. Why not run a DIY art gallery (oh, wait, that’s been done for years). Why not bribe neighbors with brats and beer to come to my book reading? Why not summon an interpretive dance-off on my front lawn?

As a nation we’ve always been enamored by fame. Anyone’s definition of “making it” inevitably carries some component of fame. You’re a success when everyone knows your name. If everyone knows your name you are a success. How else to account for the seeming success of the Kardashians who are famous for being famous?

But this DIY future doesn’t look like mass audiences following influential taste-makers. At least not at first. Ben Kyle is on to something that real influencers have known for years, that building an audience is a person-by-person activity. This is the word-of-mouth model: generally slow but immensely effective.

And maybe anything worth doing is worth doing one-on-one, despite what our national psyche longs for. I’m with Mother Teresa on this one:

Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.


Image credit: Francesco Romoli via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

July 8, 2013 at 9:31 am

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