April 26, 2006

Baguazhang and Nights!

Posted in marriage, martial arts at 11:12 am by Jerry

My lifestyle has taken a healthy turn for the better! I'm joining a Kung-Fu class today and I'm about to embark on a new position at work (of which I will hopefully drive a new bike to) that includes mostly night shifts and NOOOOO DAAAAY SHIFTS!! YESSS!!

I hate day shifts. As uncommon as it is, my body prefers to sleep best during the day (yes, like a vampire) and has the worst time of it at night. Evening is not so bad.

And not only is this new change in my lifestyle healthier for me physically, but it also frees up most of my evenings for social events with my grrrl.


April 20, 2006

“the empty tomb…”

Posted in philosophy of religion, psychology of religion, scripture, theology at 8:36 am by Jerry

I've never read an Easter story like this one. I like it.

Here's parts of it:

So maybe the tomb really isn’t much of an accomplishment at all.I mean no disrespect but…
Maybe the tomb is really something far more controversial, confusing, and unfinished then I haver [sic] consdered before.

“I’d like to join your excitement but let’s be realistic. Did any of you touch him? Why did he not let you? We have to [sic] careful not to let our tired bodies guide our sensibilities. Remember that time on the mountain when Moses showed up. Shucks guys maybe this was just his way of saying goodbye. And do you know what we are really saying. I mean if somehow he actually is alive. We are all dead men. And women! Don’t forget they really wanted Jesus dead. I mean really wanted him dead. Are we are [sic] next? Especially if we claim that he’s not really dead. At least now we have our boats – our jobs to go back to. Guys there will be nothing left if we start claiming this story is true. I’m not trying to tell you that what you saw was not real. I’m just trying to bring a little reality to this. I mean unless I can touch his nail prints…”

It’s somehow justifying your very life on the mirage that will not let you touch him. It’s belief that exists – completely yet without certainty.

Needlessly the tomb is not a minor symbol for me any longer…
Now just to get those Jesus junk people to start putting the empty tomb on a necklace…
Happy Easter all!

April 18, 2006

The Truth About Stories

Posted in literature, non-fiction, politics at 3:45 pm by Jerry

Have you ever had the feeling, when you read a book, that it’s a book you’ve been searching for, for years? Only, you didn’t know the name of the author or the book title? It’s happened to me before, and this time the book is called The Truth About Stories by Thomas King, a book comprising his 2003 CBC Massey Lectures.

There are so many facets to this book that it seems I need to quote the whole book to do it justice. Legislation, Native Identity, Oral Story-Telling, Social Activism, Native Literature, Personal Ethics – the list could go on. I want to share at least one string of thoughts I see in the book, but consider them mere samples rather than a representation of the whole book. I’d hate to misrepresent the work of art King has communicated.

The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.

“There are stories that take seven days to tell,” says the Cherokee storyteller Diane Glancy. “There are other stories that take you all your life.” (122)

..Why is the government concerned about defining who is an Indian and who is not? There’s not an Italian Act that defines who is and who is not an Italian. Or a Russian Act. Or a Greek Act. Mind you, in California, in the nineteenth century for a while, Mexicans were legally defined as “White,” while Chinese were legally defined as “Indians.” But even with the French in Quebec, who occupy much the same position in Canada as Native people do, there has been no legislative effort to distinguish between French and non-French. No French Act.

Yet, like Indians, the French float in a sea of English influence. They control an entire province, a larger land base and more resources than any of the tribes in all of America. They seem to annoy the English as much as, if not more than, do Native people. And they have to deal with the attitude of many in this country who believe that the special rights the French enjoy – a distinct language, a distinct society – are benefits that, like Native rights, are unearned and undeserved.

The French, I’m sure, feel that they constantly have to reaffirm their right to exist, but they don’t have to deal with laws that try to get rid of them. There are no legal divisions for status French and non-status French, the concept of the pure laine being a social construct, not a legal one. Consequently if a French woman marries an English man and her children marry Italians and Greeks and their children marry Australians and Germans and maybe even Indians, they don’t, by law, lose their claim to being French.

The only obvious difference between the French and the Indians is that the French represent a formidable voting block, which can decide who comes to power and who does not.

Ah, there’s the rub.

And because there’s no legal distinction, the French can go on creating more French no matter whom they marry. All they have to do is maintain their language and culture, and they will never lose status, while Indians can disappear even with their languages and cultures intact. (148-49)

On page 142, King explains that status/non-status grandparents that have a child who marries a non-status person, who have children that marry full-blooded Indians, are considered to be without a legal Indian identity. I wonder how much value the great-grandparents of these children would put in the goverment’s declaration of their great-grandchildrens’ identity.

And right now about 50 percent of status Indians are marrying non-status folk. No one knows for sure how long it will take, but according to John Borrows and Leroy Little Bear, two of Canada’s leading Aboriginal scholars and teachers, if this rate holds steady, in fifty to seventy-five years there will be no status Indians left in Canada. We’ll still have the treaties and we’ll still have treaty land held in trust for status Indians by the government.

We just won’t have any Indians.

Legally, that is. (143-44)

When I was going to university, there was an almost irresistable pull to become what Gerald Vizenor calls a “cultural ritualist,” a kind of “pretend” Indian, an Indian who has to dress up like an Indian and act like an Indian in order to be recognized as an Indian.

… Not wanting to be mistaken for Mexican or a White, I grew my hair long, bought a fringed leather pouch to hang off my belt, threw a four-strand bone choker around my neck, made a headband out of an old neckerchief, and strapped on a beaded belt buckle that I had bought at a trading post on a reservation in Wyoming. Trinkets of the trade. (45-46)

… a young Native man about my age, dressed in a ribbon shirt, bone choker, and beaded belt buckle, the very markers of race that I had so casually abandoned, stood up and asked me what the hell an “apple” was doing speaking for real Indians. (67)

As long as I dressed like an Indian and complained like an Indian, I was entertainment. But if I dressed like a non-Indian and reasoned like a non-Indian, then not only was I not entertainment, I wasn’t an Indian. (68)

Strange world. But maybe being entertainment isn’t so bad. Maybe it’s what you’re left with when the only defense you have is a good story. Maybe entertainment is the story of survival. (89)

April 14, 2006

My Kind of Challenge

Posted in church, fiction, religion at 4:27 pm by Jerry

This is the kind of writing that inspires me to write. I'm trying to think of a creative response to his post, but my creative juices are not flowing as of yet. However, (and I hope the author doesn't mind) I invite ANYONE to respond to this post. If the author doesn't want the traffic, send it here. We've gotta talk more about this stuff, and doing it creatively is even better!


I finally came up with this response:

I think he's already been stamping his feet and pouting and crying, but he has yet to fall into "the basement".

But I hope he does fall into the basement. And there happens to be a big mirror leaning against the wall in front of him. And I hope he takes a long look at himself in the mirror. And I hope his reflection in the mirror says to him, "You are such a Dumbo!"

"You are such a Dumbo, thinkin' you're the only one that matters, and using your size to prove it. Why are you so afraid of others? What can they do to you? Have they hurt you? Or have you been hurting yourself? I think your fall should help you answer that question.

"Why don't you try inspiring people instead of inflicting fear on them! You can hold onto that bible-writing feather next to you if it makes you feel optimistic. That's it. Now start flapping your ears, show others that they actually work. That's it! Work 'em hard! Work 'em hard!

"You're flying! I knew you could do it! Fly! Fly! Lift yourself up to the level of others and inspire them, confess your insecurities, tell the DJ he isn't hurting anybody, and that you love him, and want him to feel good about the music he plays!

"Fly, Dumbo, fly!"

April 13, 2006

What is with Restaurants serving Chicken Lemon-Rice Soup?

Posted in soup at 3:21 pm by Jerry

It seems, everywhere I go, the one soup that has the greatest chances of being the "Soup of the Day" is the horrible chicken lemon-rice soup! Do people actually like this stuff? Or is it just the least expensive soup for restaurant owners to buy?

I happen to LOVE soup. Just ask Becky. Not just any soup, mind you. It has to be goooood soup. I like thick soups like stew, I like soups with a great broth, but I don't like weak soups. You know, the ones where the broth seems just a little more than water and the veggies and/or noodles in the broth could be gathered all onto my table spoon.

Ya, I know chicken lemon-rice soup isn't weak. And that's just it. It doesn't even reside in the poorly-made-soup category. There's good soups, there's bad soups, and then there's Chicken Lemon-Rice soup. 

April 11, 2006

On my journey as a philosopher…

Posted in fiction, history, non-fiction, novelists, philosophy, religion at 6:24 pm by Jerry

Professor: Some believe “history repeats itself.”Student: Of course! That makes so much sense! I’m such an idiot!

There are so many books written on philosophy. If you want to learn about philosophy in general, where do you turn? Years ago I bought a book to help me explore my bent for philosophy. Usually a general view of philosophy means a historical view of philosophy (which is where it gets interesting – explanation below). And every historical view of philosophy is written with its own style. The book I’m talking about is written in a style meant for idiots. That’s right, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Philosophy by Jay Stevenson, Ph.D.

[Other historical views of philosophy I’ve purchased and recommend are: Sophie’s World – A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder; A Brief History of the Paradox – Philosophy and the Labyrinths of the Mind by Roy Sorensen; and Evil in Modern Thought – an alternative history of philosophy (I wrote a few posts on this one) by Susan Neiman.]

I’ve been asked in the past, “Jerry, what’s with the ‘Idiot’ books on your shelf?” (I have three other Idiot Guides). And here’s my reason: I feel challenged to be able to explain to anyone with the greatest clarity and most common uses of language, complicated ideas. And observing others do it (or attempt to do it) is truly a treat for me.

So, anyways, I decided to read the Idiot book again just to see how far I’ve come in my understandings of philosophy. The book looked entirely different. And it still had plenty to teach me! I am such an idiot. It seems I’ve become less mystical and more scientific about philosophy. I use to think of myself more of a Platonist than Aristotelian, and this still may hold true. But metaphysically speaking (or fundamentally speaking), I am Aristotelian.

[Plato believes essence precedes existence (in the past, my religious leanings led me to believe God’s foreknowledge of his future creations was similar to Plato’s perfect “forms”. Who knew I had gnostic leanings?). And I’ve mentioned before in my post on existentialism (existence precedes essence) that I don’t believe existence nor essence precede the other. Apparently, this is Aristotelian.]

Back to history – I consider a portrayal of the history of philosophy, such as this Idiot book, interesting because of all the available philosophies of history that are out there.

Philosophy has been considered a pursuit of the “big picture” or “bird’s eye view” of things. In fact, the first chapter in the Idiot book is called “The Big Picture.” But the term “big picture” can have some interesting connotations when you move your direction of thought from looking at ideas to looking at people. As soon as I look for a big picture of people, I automatically diminish (to some extent) the diversity within the community. Looking for a big picture of a community or nation, without a regard for our innate inability to perform true empathy, will result in destroying our attempts to understand ourselves better, the very reason we look to our history!

I come to the position that we should be able to recognize a continuity in our personal history while questioning the reliability of a described history as a continuity of a people. This is huge for me! It makes me see written histories of nations and religious communities in a different light; and it effects my groundwork as a wanna-be novelist. What is story-telling if not some sort of meta-narrative, a story about the story we see in our world? It makes me wonder how much of the subjective fiction we find in novels can also be found in history books. Interesting, no?

April 4, 2006

A Whole New Respect for Leadership

Posted in film at 6:08 am by Jerry

I've often thought of myself as a "cat person" when I consider having animals in my home. After wandering through blogs and discovering this video on this guy's blog, I gained a whole new respect for those who've taken care of me in the past. 

Book Extrovert

Posted in fiction, literature, non-fiction, novelists at 5:02 am by Jerry

I'm in the mood for starting new books, a lot of new books! I don't know why. I just am. And I'm really excited! I've updated my "Currently Reading" page somewhat, but I know there will soon be more titles and names added to the list.

There are times when I choose to read one book in one sitting, but sometimes, a lot of the time, I like to meet new books, new authors before finishing my conversation with other books. I know, I know, books cannot hear your response to them. But there is plenty of response, and at times, after reading a book again, it corrects my response!

I suppose, in a sense, I'm a book extrovert.

My understanding of extrovertedness is that if a person is more extroverted than introverted, they are more likely to be drained of energy first by being alone than by being surrounded with people. I'm usually a strong introvert. And I know books are not people, duh! But when I read books I never read them without being consciously aware that I'm reading something about the author. So, in that sense, maybe I'm an extrovert with books.

Some books on my reading list have been there for awhile, which is no slight on the books. I enjoy picking up these books now and then, returning to the author when I'm in the mood to listen to him or her. And yes, there are times when I stop listening to a book and never come back to that book.

Becky asked me which books I've never gone back too. I couldn't think of them off the top of my head, considering the lack of an impression they made on me. But when we looked at our library, she started naming a couple of books she couldn't finish and both of the books she named first (One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig) were ones I couldn't finish. Others I haven't couldn't finish are Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, The World as Will and Idea by Arthur Schopenhauer, Utopia by Thomas More, Enneads by Plotinus, and City of God by Augustine (but I loved his Confessions). I'm sure there are more, and I may end up coming back to these books (not likely), but these give you an idea of books I've rejected mid conversation.

To end on a positive note, I will eventually list in my "About Me" page my top ten (or so) favorite books. I haven't yet because I think I want to read them again before I do (and maybe write posts about them).

April 1, 2006

Camus’ Purpose Driven Life

Posted in non-fiction, philosophy at 2:21 am by Jerry

I just finished reading Camus' existential essay Myth of Sisyphus, recently published by Penguin Books in their Great Ideas selection. Before I (as usual) throw out some quotes of interest, I should explain my bias about existentialism: I have a love/hate relationship with existentialism. I love everything about existentialism except its most fundamental tenet – existence precedes essence.

I have a hard time believing that there are no essential meanings in existence, and that we are fated to create meaning out of nothing. I think existence is simultaneously essentialist (intrinsic meaning), and from this actuality, meaning can be retrieved. The problem is, if people asked me to retrieve intrinsic meaning from our existence, I would not be able to satisfy them.

There exists an obvious fact that seems utterly moral: namely, that a man is always a prey to his truths. p.30.

There are famous people considered by Gabriel Marcel to be Christian Existentialists (Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Tillich); however, Atheist Existentialists consider "Christian Existentialists" to be an oxymoron (and "Atheist Existentialists" redundant) because Christianity customarily assumes – God gave meaning to His/Her creation when She created it because meaning is found in God. And yet, how many Christians have you heard unintentionally describe themselves as existentialists in the manner of the next quote?:

For the existentials negation is their God. To be precise, that god is maintained only through the negation of reason. (footnote – Let me assert again: it is not the affirmation of God that is questioned here, but rather the logic to the affirmation.) p.40.

This book is introduced as an "..argument for the value of life in a world without religious meaning" (synopsis on back cover). Camus says –

…belief in the absurd is tantamount to substituting the quantity of experiences for the quality. If I convince myself that this life has no other aspect than that of the absurd, if I feel that its whole equilibrium depends on that perpetual opposition between my conscious revolt and the darkness in which it struggles, if I admit that my freedom has no meaning except in relation to its limited fate, then I must say that what counts is not the best living but the most living. p.58.

Camus illustrates:

To men living the same number of years, the world always provides the same sum of experiences. It is up to us to be conscious of them. Being aware of one's life, one's revolt, one's freedom, and to the maximum, is living, and to the maximum. p.60-61

..The present and the succession of presents before a constantly conscious soul is the ideal of the absurd man. p.61-62.