Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Magical World of Miyazaki

Miyazaki

I recently watched the documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness about famed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. I was both inspired and saddened by the mesmerizing, yet cynical Miyazaki in the throes of his last film The Wind Rises. But one scene in particular that stood out to me took place in a seemingly small hotel room as Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki awaited a press conference following the release of the film. Looking out the hotel window, Miyazaki beckons the camera over. Peering over the rooftops, Miyazaki's imagination begins to take hold. Pointing to a building, he says,

From that rooftop, what if you leapt onto the next rooftop, dashed over to that blue and green wall, jumped up and climbed up the pipe and ran across the roof and jumped to the next? You can, in animation. If you can walk the cable, you could see the other side. When you look from above, so many things reveal themselves to you. Maybe race along the concrete wall. Suddenly, there in your humdrum town is a magical movie. Isn't it fun to see things that way? Feels like you could go somewhere far beyond. Maybe you can.

The conversation was spliced with various clips from Miyazaki's films, often matching the very actions he was describing. It was thrilling to see Miyazaki take the mundane and make it magical. Enchanting the ordinary strikes me as very close to--if not the same as--sacralizing the mundane. Perhaps we are our moral and creative best when we do so.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Finding Meaning Within Chinese Factories


We, the beneficiaries of globalization, seem to exploit these victims with every purchase we make, and the injustice feels embedded in the products themselves. After all, what's wrong with a world in which a worker on an iPhone assembly line can't even afford to buy one? It's taken for granted that Chinese factories are oppressive, and that it's our desire for cheap goods that makes them so.


So, this simple narrative equating Western demand and Chinese suffering is appealing, especially at a time when many of us already feel guilty about our impact on the world, but it's also inaccurate and disrespectful. We must be peculiarly self-obsessed to imagine that we have the power to drive tens of millions of people on the other side of the world to migrate and suffer in such terrible ways. In fact, China makes goods for markets all over the world, including its own, thanks to a combination of factors: its low costs, its large and educated workforce, and a flexible manufacturing system that responds quickly to market demands. By focusing so much on ourselves and our gadgets, we have rendered the individuals on the other end into invisibility, as tiny and interchangeable as the parts of a mobile phone.

Chinese workers are not forced into factories because of our insatiable desire for iPods. They choose to leave their homes in order to earn money, to learn new skills, and to see the world. In the ongoing debate about globalization, what's been missing is the voices of the workers themselves.

This is how journalist Leslie T. Chang begins her enlightening TED talk (based on her book Factory Girls) on Chinese factory workers. The talk as a whole looks at how these workers construct meaning in their employment. See the whole talk below.



Sunday, March 8, 2015

Being Co-Creators With God

During my flight to the University of Virginia for the Faith & Knowledge Conference this past weekend, I finished a small AEI-published book entitled Entrepreneurship for Human Flourishing.[1] Human flourishing is one of the major lenses through which I make sense of my religion. One of the most well-known scriptural passages in the LDS canon is God's declaration to Moses: "For behold, this is my work and my glory -- to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). To me, "the immortality and eternal life of man" is the ultimate example of human flourishing. According to authors Chris Horst and Peter Greer, entrepreneurship can play an important role in bringing about this flourishing:

Made in the image of God, the imago dei, humankind still bears the Creator's fingerprints. When a mother gives birth or we create something with our hands, we mirror the wonder of creation. In some small but significant way, we have the privilege of being cocreators with God. If we look closely enough, we see this ability to cocreate all around us as: an artist transforms a blank canvas into a masterpiece; a builder assembles planks and raw materials into the structure of a home; a pharmacist synthesizes substances that heal; or a farmer reaches down into the dirt, plants seeds, and watches life spring forth.[2]

This is because "entrepreneurs are in the business of solving problems, not creating them. Their initiatives and inventions--and the businesses that sustain them---meet human needs...When entrepreneurs fulfill their mandate to serve others and solve problems, humans flourish. And to solve these problems, entrepreneurs recruit workers, who can also then experience the dignity of work. At its best, entrepreneurship aims to encourage human flourishing."[3]

This is why I'm interested in the theology of work. When we recognize that economies and organizations are networks of relationships, their place in the larger picture becomes a bit more clear.



2. Chris Horst, Peter Greer, Entrepreneurship for Human Flourishing (Washington, D.C.: AEI Press, 2014), 78.

3. Ibid., 8-9.