Tuesday, October 31

Psalters

I finally got some time to organize some more pictures. Here are the Psalters playing at Greenville last month. Simply amazing. I like them a lot. I think pretty darn good pictures, too.

From Psalters

Thursday, October 19

Louis + Menu

My friend Louis and I were studying St. Anselm for a Philosophy of Religion test tonight. It was a strange and uncomfortable experience. Louis is an art/religion double major and one of the students I respect most on campus for his opinions and insights into such things. He's often the guy who raises questions and ideas that a lot people can't even understand, let alone answer. So I felt strange tonight that he had to depend on me to explain a lot of concepts that I understood weeks ago. It's alien to me that someone be humble about their incomprehension. I'm more used to people not understanding and becoming quiet or changing the subject. "I don't know" is too rare a phrase on the lips of intellects.

I suppose it's not unusual that I understand philosophy or religion that others don't, but it wasn't comfortable to "show off." My response, which I don't like either, is that I made myself appear unsure about things I knew absolutely. I think I'd rather people think me too dumb than too smart. Why is that?

Other things on my menu tonight:
lima bean/corn soup
big cup of java
Indian hijras
cannabalized bread
Vespers and Compline (these ones minus the blood transfusion, tonight)
study of the transgendered adam, if I have time

Wednesday, October 18

FreeCycler Near Me

FreeCycle is in the Greenville area. Yay!

Saturday, October 14

I Heart Heartly

So I wouldn't have been so stressed this week if I hadn't volunteered for an extra newspaper editorial:

I Heart Heartly

I mean - Hartley. And the entire religion department. As I travel my final semester as a GC religion major, I become increasingly and exceedingly appreciative and excited about the education I'm participating in.
To be fair, we're not the biggest school. Unlike the music and ed departments, a whopping dozen students become religion majors, with a few more ministry majors. Our professors don't write books (that I'm aware of) and aren't quoted for their reviews of books. We're not famous and until I return on a chariot of fire and fame to teach myself, we never will be.
Yet I would confidently chose our faculty over legendary authors and orators. I hear the great authors regardless when I read and for much less money and without writing papers. The potential difference in school is an opportunity for flesh as well as words. The profs here are taking full advantage of that potential. They listen to students, seek to take on our perspective, ask questions and respond to our questions. Beyond that, they open their office. They eat in our dining room and invite us to eat in their dining room. There is a story of some students of one of those a fore mentioned legendary giants of academia. There was an extraordinary time when they actually visited his house. When they saw the bathroom, they stood in awe. "We didn't think you used a bathroom." Fortunately, I cannot share in that awe.
For instance, last Sunday a religion professor (who might wish to stay anonymous) attended a potluck with me, then engaged me in a two hour conversation about biblical inerrancy and ceremony, and then played with me in a giant parachute on Scott Field. And then talked about gospel hermeneutics. And isn't that exactly what Jesus did. Come off the pedestal; eat; talk; play; talk. Other schools' students boast of the one time in four years they had coffee with a professor. Bah!
Yet that might be said of any of GC's glorious faculty. (Personally, Dr. Iler throws the best parties.)
What seems to make GC's religion department shine is the particular approach to Christianity's sticky issues. At first glance, it does not approach them. There is no lecture debunking Calvinism or Six Day Creationism or affirming the Free Methodist doctrines of sanctification or Memorialism. I bet you've never heard of those doctrines. It's not laziness or poor planning and it's not a covert plot to wash you with their own doctrine while you're in a false sense of security.
In fact, you probably know religion classes (and their COR201, 301, and 302 counterparts) wisp us out from our security blankets. This is the typical criticism of unwary students. But pay attention to the method and I think you'll agree they're not out to destroy our faith: The method of destruction is to quote some high statistic or authority (probably Scripture) and show how incompatible your belief is with that source and therefore you're wrong. GC's method has an important but significant difference: they confront you with ideas, not facts. Facts have no feeling - you can't empathize with them and you can learn to ignore them. Ideas are alive. You might not like them, but they won't disappear. Either you become their friend or you leave. Profs don't want you to leave the faith; they want us to commune with these new truths. (A wise writer in the Technology Myth column this week says some nice things about this idea.)
Here's the clincher and my motivation for this editorial: Greenville's religion faculty taught me to listen. I don't know if I was bad at it before, but I think I'm pretty good now and I see GC's fingerprints all over me. In my various conversations, I occasionally encounter a person who simply cannot even comprehend something outside their previous ideas. That thought has recently scared me more and more. It's equivalent to going deaf, blind, or illiterate. Isolation from new ideas is permanent, academic death. Our two best courses are Foundations of Doctrine and Methods of Theology. They both don't talk about theology, they talk about talking about theology. They are interested in the deep assumptions of our faith.
GC religion department, you are my savior.

You Know, that Feeling

You that feeling when you're so closing to failing at something and then find out all your stress was in vain? The deadline for my Egptian semester application semester was supposed supposed to be this Monday (that is, everything had to be received in the mail). So after a lot of running around and mostly fearing that one item would get delayed in the mail, the deadline has been extended at the last minute for another two weeks. I suppose that's really a good thing, because now everything's done. But I'm not really happy about it.

I hope my biology test will end up like that too.

Tech Myth: Tech Must Die

The next action packed episode of my column:

Technology Must Die

I have to confess that my last article was not completely honest. There was an important element that I left out. Last week I wrote that the central theme of myth is of resurrection. Myths, which are stories that transcend our selves to communicate deep and universal truth, always come back around to the issue of resurrection. This includes the myths of religion, literature, film, folklore, and even technology. Well, I'd like to think technology.
The essential truth of the myth of resurrection is made of three parts: death, liminality, and rebirth. Technology is extremely good at rebirth. How else would else would our generation have access to the glories of Howdy Doody from $1 DVDs at the supermarket? A 1300 year old Qur'an was found recently and technology played an integral role.
The problem with technology and resurrection is that before resurrection, there must be death. Am I going too fast? Moses could never have become Isreal's leader without first "dying" to his citizenship as an Egyptian. Luke Skywalker could not become a Jedi without the death of his legal guardians and "dying" to his home planet. For a greater good to come, something significant must occur that signals and enforces leaving the old lesser good (or downright bad) behind. This symbolizes the critical need to clear space in our soul where something new can grow or be inserted. There is simply not enough room in the human psyche - something has to go.
The step after death is illuminality - the period of time where that empty space is cleaned and purified. Like a garden, the soil is churned and given fresh nutrients. Buddhists in an area of China will send their children to the monastery for several days during a rite of passage - their first away from their parents. At that time they are not addressed by their real names and their heads are shaved. Also this shows the cleansing of the old self. Christians will recognize this theme in conversion: dying to self and to sin to prepare room for the Holy Spirit "fill our hearts."
Now think to technology. Technology fulfills the the resurrection process of others, but lacks any death of its own. Technology is one of those rare places that focuses on bringing news things. Constantly. "Nothing new under the sun" applies less to technology than anything. Technology focuses on the new; exploring new places; inventing new mechanisms; dreaming new ideas. It wouldn't be technology if it didn't. It only fits then, that it's out with the old, in with the new. That broken car and outdated computer are not admired. The Amish who reject motors for animals are considered anti-technology. With the exception of a few artists turning old junk into art,
If we want to embrace the digital age lifestyle, we must learn to accept and utilize death. Or perhaps technology will mature to learn to value the death and rebirth, not only regular life. Until one of those happens, we'll have to approach our new culture with caution. And those timeless methods of resurrection will need to be heeded in greater measure.

Monday, October 9

Trailblazing technology

So I'm rather ashamed to say I've had my Mac for about three weeks and I just now installed a word processor. I used writely quite a bit which is amazing, but I realized it's not a replacement for normal word processing. I'm personally boycotting Microsoft which means using OpenOffice. It's perfect except that it's not obvious how to install it on a Mac. That's a first. Still, it's worth saving the $150 or so from Microsoft Office.

By the way, I just realized that operating systems seem obsessed with the letter X:
Window XP
Mac OS X
Linux's GUI is called X
Running Unix GUI apps (like OpenOffice) on Mac OSX uses X11

Twin

Oh my gosh! Randy Bergen has the exact same strengths as me. I thought that's supposed to be stastically impossible.

Thursday, October 5

Tech Myth: Resurrection

Here is week two of my column:

You always want to start general, getting the big picture capturing the essence of the subject within which all the details are comprehended. Unless you're a good author; in that case you keep your readers guessing until the end; I'm not that good. Because myth is a story transcending circumstance to communicate a universal truth, the truth should transcend media. That is, the essence of religious myth, literary myth, and technological myth should be the same. If I'm to follow the sages of Myth, I must say that essence is Resurrection.
Christians should not be at all surprised to find Resurrection in the center; Jesus was rather obsessed about dying to this world and gaining life through Him. Joseph Campbell, the greatest mythologist and non-Christian, discovered that all ancient mythology centers on death and return with something greater. I dare say every great modern novel and film, those containing transcendant truths. Even Pixar's The Incredibles features super heroes who die to the crime-fighting world and struggle to revive their old lives. The "hope of the resurrection" is what we all identify with.
Technology can be no different. Technology continually seeks to re-invent old pleasures (or boring business chores) with a new splash. I remember sharply the feeling of listening to American HiFi bicycling down a busy Chicago street on an iPod. There was a freedom in the music both recollecting old enthusiasm and new chainlessness. Books, comedy, family, learning, art, and even friendship find new and renewed meaning through technology. Seniors are receiving better eye sight through laser surgery than they ever experienced.
But it's not enough to state facts. Myth is story. So I regale my favorite resurrection story. Internet historian will recall the famous Browser Wars of the mid 90's. Back when the Web was young and easily influenced, two web browsers fought for popularity and to shape the future of the web: Internet Explorer and Netscape. In the heat of battle, Microsoft employees placed a ten foot "e", the Internet Explorer logo, on Netscape's law, surely akin to the ancient, Celtic fear tactics. After several bloody years (which equals half a century in Internet time) Navigator lost position beyond hope and then end was declared in 1999.
That, however, was only the beginning. Netscape declared its browser dead and sent its code into the chaotic netherworld of open source. Open source was known for being a lair of extremely intelligent geeks but rarely producing something useful. Still, Netscape hoped that its browser might find redemption there, renaming the project Mozilla. An army of geeks, especially fired Netscape employees, collected under Mozilla's banner to combat Internet Explorer's monopoly (and general hatred of Microsoft). The result was Phoenix, named after symbolic bird of resurrection. Renamed Firefox later, the new browser returned to the surface of the technology. It was named the Best Software of 2005 and any techie will agree it now kicks Internet Explorer's shiny, blue butt.
Now whenever I load up my resurrected Fiery Fox, I can't help but connect with this ancient myth. It reminds me of the needed death to inefficiencey and resurrection hope for my own soul and body and all I hold dear.

Technology Myth: A Preface

For those outside GC, here's the first article in my newspaper column, The Technology Myth.

A Preface

I never liked news. So it comes as great surprise to me that I ended up writing a news column of all things. A couple years back I took some time off from college in the woods of Wisconsin and, equally surprising, I started reading the news, mostly technology news. It was a good time-filler, but I never stopped. I began to realize that what I was reading intriguing not because it was factual or that I was obsessed or bored. It was, in fact, a myth.
But let me explain first, because this part of the story confuses people. In plain speak, a myth is just a false statement. However, in religion, literature, and anthropology, a myth is much more, so listen up. A myth is story that communicates deep and timeless truth for every person. Thus, a myth is always true. Myths attract us by metaphors, adventure, extreme characters, and fantastical events. Myths in American culture usually appear in books and movies. A few examples are The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. They may not be historical, but their themes resonate with us deeply enough that we realize the facts don't matter.
A myth can be historical, though. September 11 and World War II were myths because their obvious lessons profoundly impact us. Similiarly (hold your cries of blasphemy) every narrative in the Bible is a myth. C.S. Lewis remarked that the Gospel is the point where Myth intersects History. On a smaller scale, family histories often contain myths, like the death of my grandfather. Through my experience, I think technology may be yet another myth wherein we can glean meaning for ourselves.
Over the coming semester, I intend to continue exploring the possibilty that technology is a myth. I say possibility, because I admit I'm not thorougly convinced that the fear and awe born from Darth Vader and Hitler can be replicated by Bill Gates, nor the juxtaposition of humanity and divinity of Hercules and Jesus matched by cloning DNA. However, the giddiness of my prof today as he learned to use the Smart Board gut wrenching while watching An Inconvient Truth about carbon dioxide emissions kindles my curiosity such that I cannot discard the interplay between technology and psyche.
Our Information Age culture so disregards the ancient myths and ceremonies and leaves individuals to struggle to define purpose beyond their own wants. Read Jameson's column, [insert name of column here], for excellent, related insights. I hope that as we hurdle farther and farther from the old symbols and meanings that we can reach out and discover new meaning - or else discover that we need to turn around. And I hope you travel with me and email your thoughts.
Oh, I also might report some news. Maybe.

Wednesday, October 4

Pre-children

Here's a random observation I just had: fetuses aren't treated like human beings, even by Christians. I remember multiple times when someone would state the number of people in a room when a pregnant woman was included but her child was not. Similarly, have you ever heard of a funeral for a fetus after a miscarrage? Why not, if it is as much a person as you or me? And why don't they have names? When parents already know the child's sex and have decided a name, they still use the language of "her name will be so and so." There's also the language of "I'm going to be a mother/father." There's also the fact that we count age by birth, not conception, though I'd blame that on tradition and usually not knowing the date of conception and wanting a "birth"day. There's also the legal element: fetuses aren't filed on tax returns. I'm not making some pro-choice arguement; I'm just stating an observation that we despite what we believe, we don't treat unborn children like "real" children.

Tuesday, October 3

Ghost?

You should check out this car commerical from New Zealand. When they finished filming the ad, the people who made it noticed a ghostly white mist moving along the side of the car, and an eerie sound. You may need to turn the volume up, enough to hear it. The ad was never put on TV because of the unexplained ghostly phenomenon. About halfway, as the car goes past the trees, look and you will see the white mist crossing in front of the car then following it along the road. I don't take those things seriously, but it's interesting.

Some Slightly Insightful Church Bashing

The problem with Christianity is that's too much belief and not enough action. Now, when I say Christianity, I mean the set of historical beliefs, practices, symbols, and values in the proportions and emphases defined by most Christians. I don't mean the way those same things were defined by Jesus or Torah.

For one, practice is more practical; it's more important to give to the poor than to know why one should give to the poor, what God thinks about poor people, etc. For another, there is more expressed meaning through practice than belief. Invariably, what a person physically acts will have more influence on their own self than what they think. To be glib, you are what you do, not what you say. For another, Christendom would be far more united if we centered ourselves on actions rather than belief. Denominational divisions are most often from belief than action. Even in Islam where the issues of women's involvement is also debated, their is no division because of it because they are more focused the basic actions - fasting, charity, and prayer. And of course, I think it's more scriptural. I could quote all day where Scipture says to "do this" or "do that," but I'm hard pressed to think of verses that read, "think this" or "believe that."

For instance, this week at Greenville is Global Impact Week. Repeat: impact. But the typical evangelical response in chapel yesterday purposely rejected talking about action and explained what we should think and believe about God and action. It was the same sermon that gets preached in every church at least once a month: God is love and cares about the world and you should too.

On a positive note, the maintenance department at Greenville this year is outstanding! I'm continually amazed by their promptness and organization.