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The Body in the Mist

By Donald R. Ramsey

One of the most interesting concepts I encountered during my years working in the computer industry was called vaporware. Vaporware was a product that had been announced but not yet delivered. The product announcement was usually, but not always, conducted with a great fanfare and many promises were made concerning its performance. Most of these efforts were of course designed to promote interest in the product and to prevent customers from selecting a different product. During the time a product spent on the vaporware list, the characteristics of the product began to take on more shape as the producer would reveal more details.

These details did not make the product any more tangible. It was still, after all, vaporware. One could not claim to possess it or to use it for the intended purpose. There were, however, some, who were close to the producer and certain others, who were able to obtain the product early--before the general public--for the purpose of testing it for suitability to intended use and for other planning purposes. As the product development cycle progressed, some of these individuals would be enlisted to make testimonial statements regarding the product and to proclaim how it solved all manners of problems, especially those not solved by competing or older products.

This cycle of events has been modified somewhat in the present age of the global Internet. Now the number of people who have access to the final testing stages of computer products, mostly software programs, has increased dramatically. The number of people testing or otherwise experimenting with Internet software now reach into the many millions. In some cases this level of experience and experimentation causes glaring errors to be noticed. And some obscure errors or shortcoming in the software is now frequently magnified beyond measure.

Those doing the testing and members of the trade press often spend considerable effort chastising the producer for failing to anticipate these problems. Recriminations fly while executives and public relations types trot out to explain the situation. One of the reasons most often cited is that all software is in a state of continual development and by nature is quite complex from the beginning. The claim is made that given the complexity and continual development of software, it is understandable why it is not in a completely final state and that some unforeseen problems will inevitably arise. Everyone is called upon to remember that the testing is still underway and most of these problems will be resolved prior to the final release of the product.

Continued development of these products is driven by the desire of the body of individuals using it to have more or better features (i.e. functions) available in order that they might become more productive, efficient, and useful. So we see a constant stream of product enhancements being delivered in subsequent releases of the software that are delivered under increasingly short development cycles. The producer decides which of the desired features can be delivered in a particular span of time and sets out to deliver the product in that time. These artificially determined delivery times often prove unrealistic and the product remains as vaporware for considerably longer than the producer intended.

It can be observed that there are many similarities in different complex systems. Religion is no exception. Humanity is in many ways a body in the mist. That is, we are vaporware when it comes to spirituality. Take Christianity as an example. (The choice of an example could just have easily been Judaism or some other group, but since there are more Christians and it is the religion most familiar to me, I'll use Christianity.)

It is not a secret that the Bible puts forth several attributes of character that individuals are expected to manifest in their own lives. Given the state of Christianity today, this may come as a surprise to many Christian believers. However, it is plain that the Bible requires Christians to be truthful, just, loving, longsuffering, bear injustice with gladness, and to live peaceably with all, especially with those of the Christian faith. This little list is far from exhaustive.

Yet it is also no secret that for most of the Christian era, Christianity has failed miserably in most of these areas. History is full of examples of Christian shortcomings and errors. Clearly, Christianity, as a whole, is not where it ought to be at this point, after so long a period. But as mentioned above, it is still in development. This is true at the individual level and the whole body of Christianity.

Christians should not despair in the face of the difficult task facing them. Judaism's history is full of similar shortcomings which are duly noted in the Bible. This is no more a reason for degrading the Jewish people or their religion than it is a reason for degrading Christianity. It is, in fact, a testimony of our common humanity. These shortcomings are also a witness of the need to make a greater effort to do those things that the Bible requires of us. Namely, to transform ourselves into the righteous and spiritual people expected.

As claimed by a popular television show, the truth is out there. We must make a concerted effort to understand and acknowledge our shortcomings in order to correct them. We must rely more on our faith than ever before and this will require us to actually incorporate our faith into our lives.

So each of us should determine whether we are still in the mist or whether we can see clearly.

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