Pentecost 110

Pentecost 110
My Psalm 110

Progression, Popularity, and Life

A sequence is an organized path, a grouping of things in a particular order. Because events in one’s life tend to happen in a particular order, such as being born, learning to sit, crawling before walking, etc., we tend to think of life as being sequential. After all, a person turns eight before they turn nine; one learns to talk before learning to write; primary grades are completed before college. Many of our daily activities, leisure time events, and even health responses are based upon sequences. It is even used in the defense of our nation.

In geometry, a geometric progression refers to a list of numbers in which each successive number is determined by multiplying the immediate previous number by a specific, unchanging, non-zero integer which is often called the “common ratio”. This is used in something as simple as proving .999 = 1 or a greater problem such as determining statistics.

In 1968, the United States Air Force employed geometric progression for its study in determining the effectiveness of using the Delphi procedures for formulating group judgments. Often, a panel of advisors is used, each bringing their own opinion, to formulate policy, even when exact data for such is unknown. This particular study concerned itself with the direct relevance of using subject matter experts as advisors for making decisions and formulating policies having long-term effects.

The Delphi method is a time-tested procedure used in educational arenas, health care, and even municipal planning. It involves three steps, based on the premise that “Two heads are better than one”. The first step uses autonomous responses to formal questionnaires. The second involves iteration or the repeated use of a process and controlled feedback.

Iteration is a way of problem solving that involves a succession of approximations, each of which builds upon the preceding one to gain a more accurate result. In computers iteration is the repetition of a statement or version, more commonly called an upgrade by the average person, although it may or may not include actual changes.

The third step is called statistical group response. Statistical group response are used because, well, getting everyone on earth to answer the exact same question in the exact same setting at the exact same time would be impractical, improbably, and statistically impossible.

The United States Air Force study was just one of many that heralded something called opinion technology. Earlier this week, in USA Today, Leonard Evans wrote an editorial on highway safety. He employed opinion technology and geometric progression as did the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA reported an increase in highway deaths but stated that, overall, traffic highways deaths continued to remain at an historic low as they had for the past five years. In his research, Mr. Evans found the USA had higher traffic fatalities than other industrialized nations. He stated the reason for this: “Safer countries focused on changing driver behavior to reduce the risk of crashing, while the U.S. has been hyper-focused on technology, particularly mandatory improvements designed to mitigate harm after a crash occurs, and vehicle defects.” By using all the progression methods previously discussed, Mr. Evans concluded that unsafe driving poses a greater threat to the driving American public and the government should focus on correcting that rather than requiring auto makers to constantly change their product; thereby, suggesting policy based upon mathematics.

The noted Myers-Briggs personality profile test, like many others, also uses sequencing in its determinations. Myers-Briggs, the doctoral thesis of two female graduate students in the late 1940’s was used to mark where a person was at that point in time so that positive future growth could occur. Regretfully, many take it and assume it is cast in stone. If the test says you are one thing, you are doomed to remain that forever.

What we often fail to recognize is that as our life moves through its predictable sequences, we have the power for unpredictable responses. Just because someone steps on your toes does not mean you need to step on theirs in retaliation. The scriptural adage “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” was an analogy given to illustrate the need for a tempered response. It was uttered at a time in which all responses were exaggerated. The analogy was calling for equal and just consequences, not a carte blanche to wound or kill at will. In fact, killing was strictly prohibited: “thou shall not kill” is pretty explicit.

In making our own personal choices, we often subconsciously employ a Delphi method. It is not a bad method when used properly. The anonymous response to a structured questionnaire insures everyone answering exactly the same question without fear of retaliation or peer pressure. The use of systematic procedures such as iteration lends an air of objectivity and comprehension while the group responses afford little fear of inhibitions guiding the responses.

However, we need to be sure that the subject matter experts we are trusting in their opinions are really ones we should use as role models when it comes to our own lives. Far too often, those in the public eye are deemed authorities when, in actuality, they are simply other struggling pilgrims. Recently a famous wife, known for her reality television series and several businesses as well as managing her own children’s lives, filed for divorce. This person sells herself as a lifestyle expert but sadly failed to manage her own life effectively so as to achieve the optimal result. Because someone has a perceived sense of status in the modern world, they are considered better able to offer advice as opposed to the teachings of religious doctrines and spiritual beliefs dating back over time.

The United States 1968 study revealed an interesting fact. There was an identifiable difference between men and women concerning accuracy and changeability. It also determined that the realm of opinion was different from the realm of knowledge. The public figures so many idolize are simply offering an opinion which is illustrated by their life choices and actions. It conflicts often with a more knowledgeable choice of action.

Life is a series of events, a sequence of experiences. When we factor in lessons learned, we can then proceed with hope for a brighter future. A baby can sing (of sorts) at the age of three months and with intent by age six months. He or she may not fully understand their utterances but they are capable of making, actually from about twenty-four hours after birth. After all, the same things needed – vocal cords – enable the baby to cry immediately upon being born. While pleasant singing takes longer, a baby can sing. We need to utilize the progression of life provided to us and grow, ensuring that when we sing – figuratively or literally, we are singing the melody that we want, that will be best heard, that is in harmony with a better tomorrow and provide victory for the life we are living.

My Psalm 110

O God, you alone are most high.
We are the captains of our own paths.
We may not select the journey;
However, we can lead the way.
You are our compass.
Your teachings steer us towards successful being.
Your presence affords us comfort and strength.
You will never let us down and walk beside us supporting all.
Thanks be to the One who loves without ceasing.

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