The Avengers

Is Technology Killing Our Creativity?

Iron Man 3By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I don’t camp. I prefer to be in a place with electricity and running water. I’ve owned a Kindle for years, and I’ve been using computers since the only game you could play on them was pong.

I’m not someone who thinks the world was better off before technology.

But I am someone who’s wondering what our dependence on technology might be doing to our long-term ability as a society to think creatively and to innovate.

Reliance on technology hurt Iron Man Tony Stark.

After fighting the aliens in New York during the final showdown in The Avengers, Tony Stark—a creative genius—is in a tailspin. Every time he thinks about New York, he has a panic attack. His technology failed him, and he almost died as a consequence. Since then, he’s made over 40 upgrades to his suit, tweaking and tinkering.

At the start of Iron Man 3, what he’s ended up with is a suit that malfunctions more than it works.

One of those malfunctions strands him in Tennessee (he started in California). He scrounges parts to try to repair his suit, but still can’t get it to charge properly. With no suit, he doesn’t know what to do.

Then a little boy reminds him what he is. He’s a mechanic. The suit isn’t Iron Man. He, Tony Stark, is Iron Man.

His creativity created the Iron Man suit. When he became overly dependent on the technology he created, he lost that creativity.

It wasn’t until his suit was taken away that he got his creativity back. He breaks into the Mandarin’s mansion using items he could buy at a hardware store and rig in the little boy’s shed.

I wonder sometimes if we aren’t raising a generation who will have the same problem. All the technological inventions of the past 20-30 years came from a generation that was forced to use their brains and creativity apart from advanced technology in order to create it. But will the next generation be able to innovate apart from their current technology or will their creativity be stunted by it?

Is a generation coming who won’t know how to write, only to type? Is a generation coming who can’t do mathematical calculations by hand, using their mind? Is a generation coming who doesn’t need to remember anything for themselves because the answer is only an internet search away?

And if those things are true, will their minds be as sharp as the great men and women of the past who enabled us to reach this point in the first place?

I don’t have the answers, but I’d love to know what you think. Are we in danger of allowing technology to kill our creativity? What might be the solution if we are?

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Is the World Becoming More Evil All the Time?

Loki The Avengers

This is Loki making the crowd bow before him.

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

It feels like the world is getting worse by the day. Like each day, a new level of evil is revealed. Until we wonder if we’re even safe to leave our homes.

But I was reminded of something this weekend as my husband and I watched The Avengers.

Loki, basically a super-villain with super-powers comes to earth to take it over. He kills without remorse.

Early in the movie, Loki forces a crowd in Germany to kneel before him. He wants humanity to fear him. He wants to rule over them. “You were made to be ruled,” he tells them. “In the end, you will always kneel.”

One old man struggles to his feet. “Not to men like you.”

“There are no men like me,” Loki says in a tone dripping with condescension.

“There are always men like you.”

Like Loki, every new “villain” in our world thinks they’re something new and special.

To weeks ago, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev killed three people and injured 176 more by setting off homemade bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, I’ve heard people talking about how dangerous and evil our world has become. I’d be lying if I claimed I didn’t say it myself. How it feels like you can’t send your children to school, or go to the movies, or attend a major event without wondering if you’ll come home alive.

But the truth is there always have been and always will be men like the brothers who bombed the marathon. The methods might have changed over the years, but they’re the same type of men doing the same type of thing. Spreading fear because it makes them feel more powerful. They’re nothing new.

In the 1940s, men like them sent millions of Jews to gas chambers. During the French Revolution, men like them sent thousands to the guillotine. And in 1200 B.C., parents like them sacrificed their children to the false god Molech by burning them alive.

Evil isn’t anything new.

And in the face of the fact that there always have been and always will be men like them, it can sometimes feel like fighting it is hopeless and we should just hide away where we’ll be safe. It’s a natural human reaction to a threat.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

I think instead of hiding away, we need to do the opposite. When the worst happens, instead of running away, we need to run towards it.

Like Carlos Arredondo who leaped a fence and used his own clothes to help staunch the bleeding of the victims at the Boston Marathon. Like the first responders who rushed into the World Trade Center.

When we cower in fear, evil wins because we let it control how we live our lives. When we continue to fight for what’s still good in the world, continue to find a way to enjoy life and help those less fortunate than ourselves, good wins.

We can’t turn this world into a utopia, but we can keep fighting to make it a place worth living in.

What do you think is the best thing we can do in response to tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombing?

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Is Anger Always A Bad Thing?

The Hulk Bruce BannerBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Too often we’re made to think that anger is a negative emotion, one we should avoid because it’s weak or shows a lack of self-control.

You can see it in The Avengers in the way Dr. Bruce Banner is treated. His character is a personification of anger. If Banner gets angry, he turns into a giant green monster capable of breaking an entire city. 

When we first meet Banner in The Avengers, he’s working as a doctor in the slums of Calcutta. S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff tricks him into coming to a deserted hut on the edge of the city. The hut is secretly surrounded by snipers just in case Banner loses control.

Banner ducks inside, and she steps out of the shadows.

“For a man who’s supposed to be avoiding stress,” she says, “you picked a hell of a place to settle.”

Banner turns around. “Avoiding stress isn’t the secret.”

“What’s the secret then?”

Banner doesn’t tell her how he’s managed to go a year without turning into the Hulk, and throughout the movie, that becomes the question.

The others either tiptoe around him, try to provoke him to expose his “secret,” or they take protective measures in case he does get angry. (Measures that include a giant cage that will drop him from the sky.)

We treat anger the same way in our lives. We block it off, pretend we aren’t angry when we are, or try to learn techniques and tricks to keep from getting angry.

But the secret isn’t to keep from becoming angry.

At the end of the movie, the Avengers line up to fight the alien army set to invade earth.

“Dr. Banner,” Captain America says, “now might be a really good time for you to get angry.”

Banner strides toward the aliens. “That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always angry.”

Everyone thought that Banner had discovered some way to keep from getting angry and that was how he prevented himself from becoming the Hulk.

The truth was he hadn’t purged his anger. He’d learned how to control it. By the end of the movie, he’d even learned how to harness it and redirect it for good.

Feeling angry isn’t wrong. Anger is merely an emotion. Sometimes it can even be healthy if we’re angry over injustice or true evil. And denying it or hiding it won’t make it go away.

It’s what we do with anger that matters. (Click here if you’d like to tweet that.)

Do we allow our anger to hurt and destroy? Or do we channel it into righting wrongs?

It’s the difference between a father who goes out and murders the drunk driver who killed his only daughter and a father who finds a way to bring about stricter punishments for drunk drivers and establishes a safe ride program in his town. Both were justified in their anger. But one used it for evil while the other used it for good.

It’s the difference between saying something cruel back to a person who’s hurt our feelings and using that anger to remind us how not to treat other people.

It’s the difference between screaming at our spouse because we feel like they never help us around the house and letting that anger be our cue that it’s time to have a painfully honest talk about weaknesses in the marriage that we need to work on.

What do you think? Is it alright to get angry? Or should we work on trying to purge ourselves of anger?

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Related Posts:
Could You Be An Evil Person?
Is There a Cost to Hiding Our Mistakes?
What Does Your Behavior Say About Who You Are?

Do We Need to Be A Little More Old-Fashioned?

The Avengers' Captain America and Iron ManIf you woke up one day to find that 70 years had passed, would you be excited or would you mourn for lost friends and family and the way of life you’d known?

When we meet Steve Rogers again in The Avengers, he’s still struggling with this very thing. Back in 1942, a special serum turned him into Captain America, and in the middle of fighting a rogue group of Nazis known as Hydra, he accidentally ended up in suspended animation. He wakes up in the “present day.” The world has changed a lot since 1942.

Not surprisingly, Steve feels like he and his values are obsolete. He doesn’t understand Tony Stark’s cavalier attitude or circumvention of the rules, or Bruce Banner’s scientific mumbo jumbo, or any of the pop references the others make (except for one about flying monkeys—and he’s almost pathetically excited about finally “getting one”).

It doesn’t look like there’s much that can break up the gloom surrounding what should be a golden boy character. But on their way to the flying ship, Agent Coulson tells Steve that they’ve updated his Captain America costume.

“Aren’t the stars and stripes a little old fashioned?” Steve asks.

Agent Coulson looks him straight in the eyes. “With all that’s going on in the world, people might want a little old fashioned.”

Throughout the movie, Steve comes to realize that Coulson was right. People are starting to not only want a little old-fashioned, we’re starting to need it.

And it’s not about the evils of technology. Technology isn’t evil. It’s not about needing to reconnect with nature and unplug. It’s not about retro becoming the latest fashion trend or collecting records or bottle caps.

It’s about reviving some old-fashioned values. I suspect that, like me, a lot of people long for the return of some of the things we’ve lost.

I’m only 30, but when I was a child, stores in my town were closed on Sundays. Was it an inconvenience if you wanted to buy something? Yes. But didn’t we always manage to survive until Monday? And wasn’t that a small price to pay to give everyone a day of rest, a day focused on friends and family?

I miss the idea of a day of rest. And a 40-hour work week that gave you enough income to live off of. Not only live off of, but raise a family on.

I miss when a handshake meant something, people did what they promised, and you could leave your doors unlocked.

I miss teamwork. Days when it wasn’t about getting ahead as an individual by stepping on others, but rather about working together to make sure everyone achieved their goals. We didn’t feel the need to shout to be heard. We didn’t feel the need to sing our own praises because we knew that if we did a good job, someone else would sing them for us.

Those are the type of things that made the good old days good. Those are the things that are now old-fashioned, and those are the things I think we need to fight to get back.

I’m an optimist, but even I know that I can’t turn back time. I can’t change society to make stores close on Sundays again, and we can’t safely leave our doors unlocked even in small towns anymore.

Captain America couldn’t force Tony Stark or any of the others to accept his values either, but he chose to act on what he believed, and by the end of the movie, however subtly, it was his example they followed, even Stark. The man who “didn’t play well with others” worked as part of a team, and even risked sacrificing himself to save the world.

While I can’t change the world, I can change me. Like Captain America, I can still live by those old-fashioned values.

I can refuse to work seven days a week because my body and my relationships need that day of rest. My handshake and my word can still mean something. And I can support others and let my actions speak for themselves. I have control over me.

And maybe, just maybe, if enough of us change ourselves, the world will one day follow.

What old-fashioned value do you think needs to be revived? How are you helping to bring it back?

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