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Here at the beginning of the year, I am reading through the book of Genesis. Actually, I am mostly listening: my morning routine has become jump on the treadmill, fire up my Bible app and listen until I can't run any further (which isn't very far!) Listening to this foundational book of the Bible, you can't help but notice: these men and women are a mess! (Just like the Jedi.)

For a short while before he wrote Peanuts, Charles Schultz wrote a comic strip called Li’l Folks. What I love about that title (and apparently, Schultz preferred it, too: he is reported to have hated the name Peanuts) is the hint at the depth Schultz was aiming at. He did not write comics strictly for children. He wrote about the human condition, the condition that all “folks” must deal with, big and little.

I grew up watching the old James Bond movies (Live and Let Die, Goldfinger, etc.). These are not great movies to learn about healthy interaction between men and women, but they do highlight one Kingdom value extremely well: the danger of an uncontrolled pursuit of power. Unfortunately, when I look at villains like Dr. No (“World domination. The same old dream...”), I have to admit I see a little bit of myself.

Psychologist and Swarthmore College professor Barry Schwartz was on NPR yesterday, talking about his TED Talk, "Are We Happier When We Have More Options?” and his 2004 book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. His main idea: unlimited choice, even between good choices, does not make us happier. Having too many options inflates our expectations and can overwhelm our ability to decide. Life is better when we have limits.

Psalm 19 is in full agreement...

Tolkien truly loved nature and was suspicious throughout his life of machines. Although I am not aware if he ever communicated what standards he used to judge whether a particular "advancement" was a thing of Mordor or instead, worthy of the Elves, I think things like beauty, simplicity and "does no harm" would be high on his list.