Reading Leonard Sweet's Viral: Part 1

There are some events in life that just knock you silent. You have no reference point on how to respond, no way to really even begin comprehending what just happened.

When I was in college, I was given the assignment to read SoulTsunami by Leonard Sweet. In my entire collegiate education, I don't think that any book a had a more profound effect on me and my life. Our professors were "fans" of his work, and we were blessed to have him come speak at our school. My professors introduced me to him, with the introduction that I was their one true postmodernist in the school.

Since then, Len has been a mentor of mine, whether through his writings, through encouragement via txts, and through some of most memorable meals (a meal with Len is a meal to remember).

And then, on December 27th, 2011, I recieved a copy of his forthcoming book in the mail, open it, and find this:


I just... I still don't know how to respond to such an honoring act. It's one of those things that humbles you and encourages you so very much. And intimidates. This man, a hero and mentor in my life, a man who shaped not only my world view but my spiritual views... through me being me and us being us, our conversations and interactions altered his path. And now, there's a book of his dedicated to a name no one knows. And oh how I am humbled.

At one of our meals, Len and my wife argued for the power and beauty of holding paper in their hands, while I was adamant that I would have no reason to ever read a paper book again. That digital was better in every way.

I have to admit... holding a book signed by your mentor is better than holding a Kindle. You may have won that arguement after all, Len.

Part 1: Where Are We?

This book is taking me longer to read than most books. Typically I'm a very fast reader and, if need be, I can simply go on cruise control by scanning. The problem with doing that here is this book is amazing. As much as I naturally hate being labelled, this book is practically the definition of me. When I meet people who don't understand me, I feel like if I just hand them this manuscript they will have a much, much better understanding of the way my mind works and how to interact with me. Len, who admitted is an immigrant to the generationg of "Googlers," and was a native "Gutenberger," has somehow managed to perfectly grasp our Google ways and mindset. In the book Len says he has become a Googler himself - his great understanding of "our" ways show how very true that is.

I don't know how to do book reviews. I only know to say that you need to read this book. It's up there with The Shallows for books-Aaron-thinks-you-should-read. Because this book is print, I did something I haven't done in ages... I underlined things. So, instead of trying to recapture Len's thoughts in my own words, I've chosen to simply write some of the words and ideas that resonated with me as I was reading. This is something we've been doing with our B&H book apps; since in the digital medium you can't flip though the pages of a book to find ideas that "pop" out at you, we try to pull out ideas and quotes that will drive you to dive further into the text.

A few of the things underlined from Part 1 in my copy of Lenoard Sweet's Viral:

  • How many cultures in history have devoted so much effort, invention, time and possion to building networks that offered no payoff beyond engaging with other people? This is getting pretty close to pure relationship, when connecting is its own reward.
  • There is nothing more boring than reading the memoirs and minutia of someone you don't care about. But there is nothing more exciting that reading the memoirs and minutia of someone you honestly care about.
  • While Googlers are getting by with acronyms and finding friends everywhere, Gutenbergers are delving into words about words that have been written aboug God's words.
  • Words are useful truths, but words are not truth.
  • [Jesus] is a personal letter, not the envelope it comes in.
  • Jesus did not come to earth so that later generations of his follwers could prove a point. He is the point.
  • Christians may be fascinated with the future, but too many of us don't want to live in it.
  • Change is God's signature on life.
  • But the future is not a Thomas Kinkade painting.
  • I want the passion of Eugen Ormandy, who dislocated his shoulder while conducting the Philadelphia orchestra.
  • The future demands our hands... The future demands our head... The future demands out heart.
  • Discipleship is the process through which we strip away all that impedes the lave and mercy and grace of Christ through us to the world.
  • But once a doctrine becomes familiar, it quickly becomes overly familiar.
  • The notes on a page of music never change. But every time the notes are played or sung, the sound is different: what changes are the lips, the bow, the baton, the interpretation by the players.
  • For example, the Japanese word for "mother's sister" is the same as that for "father's concubine."
  • When I was born, children access information through authority figures. We now raising the first generations of children that do not need authority figures to access informatino.
  • No problem is ever solved; it is only resolved for the moment, shortly to raise its head again in new guise.
  • We forget that comfort is a very recent concept: only a very small percentage of the world's population use chairs until a few centuries ago.


Leonard Sweet's Viral releases March 13, 2012.