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from "Brain Gain," by Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker, 27 April 2009

“One of the most impressive features of being a student is how aware you are of a twenty-four-hour work cycle. When you conceive of what you have to do for school, it’s not in terms of nine to five but in terms of what you can physically do in a week while still achieving a variety of goals in a variety of realms—social, romantic, sexual, extracurricular, résumé-building, academic commitments.” Alex was eager to dispel the notion that students who took Adderall were “academic automatons who are using it in order to be first in their class, or in order to be an obvious admit to law school or the first accepted at a consulting firm.” In fact, he said, “it’s often people”—mainly guys—“who are looking in some way to compensate for activities that are detrimental to their performance.” He explained, “At Harvard, at least, most people are to some degree realistic about it. . . . I don’t think people who take Adderall are aiming to be the top person in the class. I think they’re aiming to be among the best. Or maybe not even among the best. At the most basic level, they aim to do better than they would have otherwise.”

from "Dwelling in Possibilities," by Mark Edmundson,, 14 March 2008 :: via Santiago Ramos at Good Letters

A Romantic, says Nietzsche, is someone who always wants to be elsewhere. If that’s so, then the children of the Internet are Romantics, for they perpetually wish to be someplace else, and the laptop reliably helps take them there — if only in imagination. The e-mailer, the instant messenger, the Web browser are all dispersing their energies and interests outward, away from the present, the here and now. The Internet user is constantly connecting with people and institutions far away, creating surrogate communities that displace the potential community at hand.

Then too, booking by computer has made travel easier and, by eliminating a certain number of middlemen, kept it reasonably cheap. So there’s an inducement to take off physically as well. The Internet is perhaps the most centrifugal technology ever devised. The classroom, where you sit down in one space at one time and ponder a text or an issue in slow motion, is coming to feel ever more antiquated. What’s at a premium now is movement, making connections, getting all the circuitry fizzing and popping.

For students now, life is elsewhere. Classes matter to them, but classes are just part of an ever-enlarging web of activities and diversions. Students now seek to master their work — not to be taken over by it and consumed. They want to dispatch it, do it well and quickly, then get on to the many other things that interest them. For my students live in the future and not the present; they live with their prospects for success and pleasure. They dwell in possibility.

from "Following Christ 2008 Theme: Human Flourishing," InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, 8 March 2008

Are there universal elements of human flourishing, things that every person needs to flourish? If so, which of these are immediate gifts of God and which can be created, shaped, or nourished by the practice of the academic and professional disciplines?

Why do men and women fail to flourish? To what extent does sin, both personal and systemic, account for this failure?

In the face of such failure, how is the gospel good news and how does it help us flourish ourselves within our vocations and beyond?

Is it really true that to fully flourish one must be a follower of Jesus? How can such an outrageous claim be presented compellingly in our culture?

Must our bodies be doing well for us to flourish? In what ways does our embodiment affect our flourishing?

What does pursuing excellence have to do with human flourishing? Is elitism inherent in excellence, and does it impede human flourishing in a diverse society?

Will the career and personal path I’m on lead to my flourishing and that of others? Are my vocation and occupation in sync? Should I perhaps change paths, and how can I know?

What kinds of suffering stifle human flourishing, and what kinds can contribute to it?

How can we prepare to flourish and help others flourish in the face of an uncertain future and rapid social, cultural, economic, and technological change?

by Andy Crouch for Culture Making

In December I will have the great delight of helping give away $6,000 to three individuals or teams who have innovative ideas for integrating their Christian faith with their vocation. The Bosscher-Hammond Prizes, sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Graduate and Faculty Ministries, are a juried competition that will culminate during IVCF’s Following Christ 2008 Conference, 27–31 December 2008.

But for the jury I’m chairing to have the maximum delight, we need some really good submissions—and the deadline for initial entries is Wednesday, 15 October.

So, are you, or someone you know, thinking about a project that demonstrates the integration of faith, learning, and practice and that in some way shows “how the academic disciplines and professions can contribute to human flourishing”? And are you, or someone involved with the project, actively affiliated with an institution of higher education or a 2008 graduate of one? Then get yourself on over to the Web site for the prize and send off an executive summary by the deadline, followed by the full submission no more than a month later. (By the way, in additional to the cash prizes for the winners, 26 semifinalists will receive free registration for the Following Christ conference.) I’d love to help recognize your work and vision for cultural creativity, so do apply and—unless your innate competitiveness hasn’t been properly sanctified!—spread the word to others as well.