Remixing Lawrence Lessig’s REMIX

I read Lawrence Lessig ‘s  REMIX: MAKING ART AND COMMERCE THRIVE IN THE HYBRID ECONOMY  to learn something about copyright law and what constitutes “fair use” of material.  I am specifically interested in what this means for blogging, though probably the issue of biggest concern in our society is the file sharing of movies and music done by so many today because the Internet has made it so easy to do.  Not being much of a consumer of contemporary media, my interest in Lessig is certainly not mainstream. 

I really did enjoy his book and learned a great deal about the issues and problems which the electronic age has caused regarding copyright and fair use.  Lessig’s thoughts on how to reform law and culture in the electronic age made sense to me.  His use of the metaphor comparing a RO culture (read only) to a RW culture (read write – taking cues from modern electronic equipment) shed a lot of light on the topic. 

I intend in this blog  and the next to do a bit of amateur creative remixing – taking from his book an idea that was not his main purpose but which intrigued me to ask a rhetorical question about America’s war in Iraq.   Lessig is writing about the limits of government regulation in dealing with many issues and specifically as it might apply to government efforts to regulate the copying and creative use of copyrighted material (Lessig favors regulation on the use of copy but not so much on the copying itself).  He draws an example from America’s war in Iraq, which is what got me thinking about how Bush led us to war.   What follows is related to what became a mantra for conservatives in advocating smaller government and the deregulation of so many aspects of the economy.   On 20 January 1981, Ronald Reagan said:

“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem.” 

The anti-government attitude was in some ways a mix of 1960’s anti-establisment thinking with laissez-faire capitalism and conservative small government thinking.  It gets embraced in varying ways by Americans of all political stripes (from government should stay out of our bedrooms and leave sexual and reproductive decisions to individuals to government should not run the health care industry thereby socializing 17% of the economy (GDP); and on the other hand from both sides wanting government – legislative and judicial – to support and champion their causes and issues).

Lessig’s rhetorical question, which is not the main subject of his book (“This is not a book about Iraq.” p 282), made me wonder about what was the supposedly conservative Bush administration thinking when it invaded Iraq?   Lessig asks:

What reason was there to think that government power could succeed in occupying and remaking Iraqi society?

… I’m talking about everything that would obviously have to be done after the invasion – from security, to electric power, to food supplies, to education.  It was as if those at the very top simply assumed that the government could do all those things, without ever asking whether that assumption made any sense. (p 281)

The very philosophy supposedly influencing the conservatives was a distrust of the government to do anything right.  So why did they believe they could remake and run a whole society?   If government was not the solution to America’s problems why did they believe that the U.S. government could readily make right Iraqi society?

Of course the question might be faulty.  It is possible that they actually never thought much at all about rebuilding the country they were about to destroy because they saw themselves as only destroying “the government” and didn’t take into consideration that the whole Iraqi society would be the “collateral damage” in such a war.     Or perhaps they assumed in their Reaganesque thinking that since only the government is the problem, eliminate the government and the society will do just fine on its own – vastly underestimating that the total removal of government would push the people toward nihilistic chaos.  (One need only think about the scenes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina once it was apparent that the government had vacated the city leaving only flood waters to check people’s activities).

“A parent, an army, a government: they all must be certain that their devotion to truth does not blind them to the consequences of their actions.  There’s only so much a government can do.  Where we find that limit, we must then find other means to the legitimate end.” (p 287)

Next blog:  The War on Digital Piracy: A Cynical Response?

Being Christian: Reclaiming the Christmas Season

We continue our preparation for the celebration of Christ’s birth this week.  Though consumer and familial pressures may try to push the Christmas season into a time of materialist consumption, we Christians know it is a season to make room and make time for Christ in our hearts and homes.  Quiet time, prayer time, fasting, reading scripture, singing hymns are all part of the season for us.  In Orthodoxy, the weeks before Christmas are not just connected to shopping, but are within the Nativity Lenten period.    One of the many lists we might make and use this season is the list of what we need to say in confession to help us be true disciples of Christ.   We must ask ourselves: Does it make a difference that Christ has come into the world?  It should in our hearts, if we are in fact are Christians.  If any atheist or non-believer could be doing exactly what we are doing in these weeks before Chirstmas, then perhaps we have not given Christ the place in our hearts and homes that He should have as our Lord and King. 

Being a disciple of Christ requires conscious choice, discipline and hard work.

It does not come to pass so spontaneously as the development of the human personality of the innocent Adam on the fresh soil of human nature, but first of all through a conscious assimilation of Christ’s life or of Christianity; and then also through a mysterious penetration of the newly grace-filled nature of the Church into our personality. (Anthony Khrapovitsky, The Moral Idea of the Main Dogmas of the Faith).

Discipline and self-control, which we learn through fasting and abstinence, train us to be disciples of Christ.  Our goal in practicing self denial and discipline is to train ourselves to follow the Gospel teachings of our Lord rather than to follow our own selfish desires.

The aim of the Christian life is not to free the soul from the body, but to free the whole person—body and soul—from sin.    (Richard B. Steele, St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 52:3-4, pg. 418)

Being a disciple, following a discipline, are not easy tasks, but rather reflect the fact that we engage in spiritual warfare as disciples of Christ.

We need, then, to observe that the Christian life, according to Jesus, is not all joy and laughter…The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them. Jesus wept over the sins of others, over their bitter consequences in judgment and death, and over the impenitent city which would not receive him.   (John R. W. Stott, The Message of The Sermon on the Mount)

There is a deep joy at Christmas which we experience and live through God’s gift to the world:  the incarnation of His Son.  Christmas places responsibility for our response to God on ourselves.   Either we believe in the miracle of God’s Word become flesh and live accordingly, or we allow the Nativity of Chirst to be emptied of meaning  by reducing the time of salvation to how much we spend or get during the winter festival. 


Christ Abolishes the Wall of Separation

Christ Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.   (Ephesians 2:14-22)

St. Paul’s argument in Chapter 2 of his Epistle to the Ephesians is that the coming of the Messiah has meant the end to the distinction between Jew and Gentiles, between the Nation of Israel and the nations of the world.  God has overcome all human divisions through the cosmic salvation brought about in Jesus the Word of God become flesh.  Even “the middle wall of separation” – that wall which prevented the Gentiles from entering into the Jerusalem Temple sanctuary which was by Jewish custom reserved for male Jews only – has been broken down, making it possible for all people of the world to have access to God and to salvation in the Church.

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.   (Galatians 3:27-28 RSV)

Strangely in Orthodox history, the Church eventually reconstructs a dividing wall not only between believers and non-believers, but also between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christians, and then even between the ordained Orthodox and the non-ordained.    For ultimately the iconostasis is built as a re-established dividing wall of separation to keep all but the elite away from the altar; this, despite the clear references throughout the New Testament to the dividing walls being ended by Christ (see for example Matthew 27:51 or Hebrews 8:1-6, 9:6-11, 10:19-25).

George Fedotov in his THE RUSSIAN RELIGIOUS MIND writes critically of what happened to Christianity in its early history because of its success in converting the Roman Empire to the faith:

“The ancient Church was the heir of the cult of both the Synagogue and the Hellenistic mysteries. … The mysteries were destined for the few, for the initiates only.  Yet since the whole Empire belonged to the initiates, the mysteries were brought forth to the masses.   The danger of this vulgarization was met by a retroactive process.  The Church now tried to protect and to hide the mysteries again, particularly the Eucharist, which is the core of the Church life and its cult.  Hence the tendency, and afterward the rule of pronouncing secretly the prayers of consecration as well as many others; the development of the altar railing into the high Iconostasis, completely hiding the sanctuary from the lay people.  Hence also, under the use of late neoplatonic theurgical language, the new verbal vestment of mysteries, which made them sublime and inaccessible, even dangerous for the unworthy…”  (p. 52, Volume 3 of his collected works). 

The solid and high Iconostasis was the rebuilding of the middle wall torn down by Christ.  Though some in the Orthodox world would defend it saying the wall merely holds the Icons which are windows into heaven.  But it would be strange to erect a solid wall where none existed just to place a window in it.   And we are allowed to look into heaven but not into the altar?

We are baptized into Christ – this is the fulfillment of the theological notion that God became human so that humans might become God.  We are united to God in the mysteries of Baptism and the Eucharist, but then separated from one another by a wall which seems to declare that for some the mystery of Baptism was not all that effective and leaves them still on the other side – the wrong side – of a wall which Christ supposedly had torn down according to St. Paul.

The oneness of the Body of Christ though is preserved in the words of the Liturgy in which we continue to pray in the “we” and “us.”   Let us lift up our hearts, let us give thanks to the Lord.   All the baptized faithful participate together in

Christ Liberating Prisoners at Dachau Concentration Camp

the elevation and consecration of the gifts.    “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”   (Romans 8:38-39 RSV).

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself  being the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

The parish is the place where we live out our relationship to Christ and to our fellow Christians within the Body of Christ.  St. Paul’s very description of a Christian is that we are part of the household of God.  One Christian is no Christian.  We can only be a Christian in relationship to all other Christians but especially in relationship with the Christians in the local community where we both receive and become the Body of Christ.

Thanksgiving 2009

Lips that utter frequent thanksgivings

shall be blessed by God,

and the grateful heart is visited by grace.

(St. Isaac the Syrian)


Basket of Apples by Levi Prentice, 1895


We Orthodox pray fervently and frequently

for God to bless the entire world

with an abundance of the fruits of the earth. 

Let us also frequently and fervently

give thanks to the Creator

for the harvest which He has bestowed on us.

Glory to God for All Things Ode 9 Illustrated

Akathist:  “Glory to God for all Things”   

by Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Tryphon (+1934)

See Ode 8


Why is it that on a feast-day the whole of nature mysteriously smiles?

Why is it that then a heavenly gladness fills our hearts, a gladness far beyond that of earth,

and the very air in church and in the altar becomes luminous?

It is the breath of Your gracious love; it is the reflection of the glory of Mount Tabor.

Baptism of St. Paul

Then do heaven and earth sing Your praise: Alleluia!


When You called me to serve my brothers

and filed my soul with humility,

one of Your deep-piercing rays shone into my heart;

 it became luminous, full of light,

like iron glowing in the furnace.

I have seen Your face, face of mystery and of unapproachable glory.

Glory to You, transfiguring our lives with deeds of love.

Glory to You, making wonderfully sweet the keeping of Your commandments.

Glory to You, making Yourself known where man shows mercy on his neighbor.

Glory to You, sending us failure and misfortune, that we may understand the sorrows of others.

Glory to You, rewarding us so well for the good we do.

Glory to You, welcoming the impulse of our heart’s love.

Glory to You, raising to the heights of heaven every act of love in earth and sky.

Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

Next Ode 10

Church Unity: The Spirit’s Gift of Leadership

SS Peter and Paul

Some modern Christians like to believe that the early Church was constant charismatic experience with no order to it.   However, history shows a different reality:  along with charismatic experiences, there was an order emerging in church life.  Leadership and order were part of the gifts of the Spirit to the growing Christian communities.

“Despite the increase of the number of local churches, the unity of the Church remained undisturbed, for they did not have different eucharistic assemblies but one and the same…No single church could separate itself from the others for it could not separate itself from Christ. All were united to one another through love…The historical direction of ecclesial organization went from internal toward external universalism…The opposition between the Spirit and order in modern theology stems from a false conviction that it is human will that serves as the organizing principle in the Church. Rather, it is the Spirit who serves as the guiding principle of organization and order in the Church…The gifts of the Spirit are given not for their own sake but for ministry in the Church and for its building up. This Spirit in the Church is a principle not of anarchy but of organization. For this reason it is hard to imagine anything that would contradict the basic principles of ecclesial life as much as the hypothesis that distinguishes charismatic from no-charismatic ministries…We readily acknowledge that the Church possesses the fullness of grace but we flatly refuse to recognize that in the primitive Church there were no principles other than grace.”          (Nicholas Afanasiev, The Church of the Holy Spirit)

Glory to God for All Things Ode 8 Illustrated

Akathist:  “Glory to God for all Things”   

by Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Tryphon (+1934)

See Ode 7


How near You are in the day of sickness.

You Yourself visit the sick.

You Yourself bend over the sufferer’s bed; his heart speaks to You.

In the throes of sorrow and suffering, You bring peace;

You bring unexpected consolation. You are the Comforter.

You are the Love which watches over and heals us. To You we sing the song: Alleluia!


When in my childhood I called upon You consciously for the first time,

You heard my prayer;

You filled my heart with the blessing of peace.

At that moment I knew Your goodness,

knew how blessed are those who turn to You.

I started to call upon You, night and day,

and even now, I call upon Your Name:

Glory to You, satisfying my desires with good things.

Glory to You, watching over me day and night.

Glory to You, curing affliction and emptiness with the healing flow of time.

Glory to You; no loss is irreparable in You, giver of eternal life to all.

Glory to You, making immortal all that is lofty and good.

Glory to You, promising us the longed-for meeting with our loved ones who have died.

Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

Next Ode 9

The Folly of Wealth

While wealth and prosperity may be a blessing from the Lord, they represent a certain temptation, humanly speaking, for those trust in their wealth.   Our Lord Jesus told this parable:

 At that time, Jesus told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’  So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”   (Luke 12:16-21)

Wealth and prosperity are much welcomed and valued in this world, yet they are of no value in any life beyond this world.  They are thus the materialist’s best friend for getting through this life.   For those who believe in God, life in this world represents only a limited portion of the life in God – for God’s plan and Kingdom exist beyond the limits of death and this world.   Thus wealth and prosperity cannot be judged only for their value in this world but also for the impact they may have on life in the world to come.   St. John Chrysostom (sounding a bit like the Buddha) says that the wealth of this world is but a dream—when we die, we will awake from this dream and understand the true value of wealth.

Present realities, you see, are no better than a dream; rather, just as people imagining in sleep they have money, even in control of a king’s ransom, are more indigent than anyone once day dawns, so too with this life, because you can take nothing to the next, you will be more indigent than anyone, even if in possession of everyone’s property. You were rich in dream only, after all.”

Prosperity squandered on one’s self in this world is of no real benefit in this world for bringing about satisfaction nor in the world to come.  Profligacy and prodigality do not quench one’s selfish passions but rather inflame them.  Taking all one can get leads to wanting more, not to being satisfied let alone being generous.    Overeating leads to obesity to longevity.    Sharing one’s food, even with a modicum of ascetic self denial, can lead to longevity of life in this world, and eternal blessings in the life of the world to come.

Take a few minutes to read Leo Tolstoy’s HOW MUCH LAND DOES A MAN NEED?

The Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple (2009)

The Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple celebrates not an event recorded in Scripture, but rather calls us to contemplate the very process by which God brings us to salvation.  Metropolitan St. Philaret of Moscow  said on the Feast Day, “In man in a sinless state, ‘the image of God’ was the source of blessing; in fallen man, it was (only) the hope of blessing.” 

The Feast of the Entrance recognizes the hope of blessing – the beginning of salvation.  For humanity no longer lilved in the original sinless state, and the image of God in man had become distant from what humanity experienced in the world.   The process by which God brings humanity to salvation is beginning with the Virgin standing in the temple giving hope that “God with us” of which the temple was but a sign, might now actually be fulfilled.   We come to understand what purpose the Temple served in the process of salvation – for it was meant to be a type of the reality, but not the reality itself.  It was to prepare God’s people for how God would be with His people – how Immanuel (Matthew 1:23) is the Word made flesh who dwelt among us.   When the Virgin Mary came into the Temple, the Temple now encountered the one who would be Theotokos (the God bearer), the one who would realize that of which the Temple was but a type.   The Temple was not unimportant; it was an essential preparation for what God was going to do to save His people.  But in the encounter with the Theotokos the Temple became part of the OLD Covenant, that which fulfilled its purpose and was passing away as the New was being revealed.

God’s Mercy: Our Freedom and Our Judgment

St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:4-10 –

God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved, and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

 Biblical scholar L. Ann Jervis in her book At the Heart of the Gospel: Suffering in the Earliest Christian Message comments

God’s mercy, not our sense of justice, has always defined God’s relationship to God’s people. In other words, God’s freedom to have compassion on whom God will have compassion (Rom 9:15) is at once God’s righteousness.

While we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), when we were dead in trespasses (Ephesians 2:5), God showed His love for us, dying on the cross in order to save us.  The Cross – the place where the Crucified Lord dies – is His very throne of judgment and His righteousness.  This is the great mystery of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ.  

In the end, God has no desire for the death of the sinner (Ezekiel 18:32), nor does He take any pleasure in such a judgment.  God however does, as He always has, allow us humans to make our our choices even about eternal things.  As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Great Divorce  – 

 There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done’, and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’