Friday, March 15, 2013

Margin- Chapter 3

(A few friends and I are reading this book together. Each week we are reading one chapter. On Fridays, I am posting my comments, then giving them the opportunity to add their thoughts as well. If you would like to join us or simply find out more about the book, you can read about it here.)

Chapter 3: "The Pain of Problems"

- In Part One (chapters 2-5) of this book, the author is addressing the pain we see in our lives and its origins.  In this chapter, he specifically looks at the problems we face.

- I have not done a thorough historical analysis, but his proposition seems valid: things are changing quicker today than they were in the past, therefore new problems are popping up more often and other problems are changing more quickly.  For instance, I think the difference between 1988 and 2013 (25 years) would be much greater than 1246 and 1271(also 25 years, in case you are wondering).  Transportation and technology have made the world "smaller," allowing change (including changing problems) to happen much quicker.

- His statement, "Our tendency is to select what we wish to remember and conveniently forget the rest" (page 37) reminded me of something I hear from the older generation.  They'll say, "I remember when gas was 59 cents a gallon."  I always want to ask, "How much were you paid in that time?"  To illustrate my point, I looked up some stats:
1950- Wages: $1.60/hour; Price of Gas: $.18/gallon; therefore: gas 11.25% of hourly wage
2012- Wages: $23.06/hour; Price of Gas $3.60/gallon; therefore: gas 15.61% of hourly wage
My point: gas prices are up, but they aren't up as much as $.59/gallon to $3.69/gallon makes it seem.  People remember more going out, but forget about more coming in.
* Couple of notes: I assumed 50 weeks of work at 40 hours a week to determine hourly wage. Link to 1950 facts. Link to 2012 gas price. Link to 2011 average income (couldn't find 2012 because taxes aren't all filed yet.)

- I feel that his list of unprecedented things in Figure 3.1 was a strong argument for the many new and rapidly changing problems we face.

- I don't feel that he did (or could) prove that things are changing exponentially.  The mathmatical calculations would require someone really smart like ... ok, someone other than me.  Regardless of whether that is true or not, I do not feel that it invalidates his arguments that the problems we are facing are unique.

- In the last couple of sections of the chapter, he points out that when change is not so rapid, we have a "cushion" called margin between us and our limits.  However, the rapidly changing world around us has swallowed up and overtaken the margin of many people, damaging many areas of life.

- Much of what he says I think is probably true.  I just don't think he can empirically prove it.  I know he has to lay a foundation, but I am looking forward to Part Two when he talks more about margin itself.

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 2
Discussion on Chapter 4


  1. The opening example regarding the husband watching a movie while his wife was giving birth was sickening, but it probably illustrates how far removed people have become.

    "Despite uninformed claims to the contrary, we live in an unprecedented day with unprecedented problems. We have been disarticulated from our own past and do not yet know how to deal with the present, let alone the future." (pg.37) - My mind went to the passage in II Timothy 3:1-7, "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, ...." The Bible shows problems throughout history, but it also states that the degree of such will be magnified.

    "Nathan Hatch. 'By a subtle and often unconscious process we pick out of the historical tapestry only those strands which reinforce our own points of view.' Or, as Jackie Gleason quipped, 'The past remembers better than it lived.'" (p.37) - I do think that the past is usually romanticized and this was an accurate statement. Thanks, Jacob, for the illustration and the statistics (how in the world is the average $23/hr.??!!! I guess the super rich are helping to bring up the average or something.... I'll stop here so as not to get political this time).

    His list of the unprecedented (his Figure 3.1) helps to support his claims of the "exponential curve" in this chapter, though not prove it, as Jacob said. I appreciated his discussion on limits. We have more of more in today's world, which cannot continue without a limit being reached. There are people who appear to be handling things just fine until they hit a "breaking point" that causes a nervous breakdown, bankruptcy, or other "over the edge" result. I agree with the author that we must be aware of our limits and be proactive at making boundaries in order to not reach the straw that breaks the camel's back.

    More pain... looking forward to the solutions.

    1. I think if you will take the amount of support you received last year and divide by 2000 (50 weeks @ 40 hours/week), $23/hr. is not quite as astounding.

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  2. "It is as if history sneezed..." That kind of summed it up for me. Progress has increased so quickly that we don't have the ability to keep up.

    When I thought of the application to local-church ministry it made me think of the 'progress' of the many forms of contemporary churches. In an effort to keep-up with the progress of the church, many have not stopped to consider the Biblical blueprint and the consequences of not following that pattern. Can the church keep up with the need for more?

    For a personal application, I considered the cost of trying to keep up with progress. To make a long story short, I asked myself how much 'progress' caused me to forget, delay or diminish the timeless, fresh every morning manna from Heaven? Needless to say, it was a very challenging question.

  3. I thought that his point on page 41 that since we have exceeded so many limits already we don't even know what margin is was helpful. Also, it encouraged me once again to evaluate the things that I do based upon God's leading and direction in that matter not just because society is moving in that direction. Individuals and churches have been swept along in the current of "progress" and many times have replaced God's plan of evangelism and Christian living with modern "advancements."

    Have enjoyed these foundational chapters, but really looking forward to the practical chapters to come.