July 28, 2006

Here’s a couple of quotes to play with

Posted in theology at 10:04 am by Jerry

I thought these quotes on their own were interesting, but put them together and they add so much more than they intended to.

My theology, briefly, is that the universe was dictated but not signed.
Christopher Morley
US author & journalist (1890 – 1957)
Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.
Arthur Schopenhauer
German philosopher (1788 – 1860)
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July 27, 2006

Honor Your Father and Your Mother

Posted in family, scripture at 8:32 am by Jerry

I’ve been wanting to blog over the last week or two, but have been getting a variety of common illnesses (cold & flu) that have kept my creative juices at a minimum. However, while I was being nursed by my lovely wife, I have had time to daydream.

If you’ve read my wife’s blog, you’d know that I’m gonna be a father in January. It’s an exciting time. I can’t wait to hold the little one in my arms. And, of course, I’ve been daydreaming about what kind of father I’ll be. It’s frustrating because I can explore possibilities, but I can never assume any father style other than my own style of responding to different developing personalities. So, I’m just patiently waiting to discover WHO this little one is.

On a related topic, I’ve also been daydreaming about one of the ten commandments:

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you. Exodus 20:13 NASB

What does it mean to ‘honor your father and your mother’? I don’t think this is under the assumption that you don’t honor others, is it? Then, does it mean to honor them MORE? How should our parents be treated different than anyone else?

(One of the reasons I ask this question, is because I will have a little one watching my behavior, learning from how I treat others. This little one will eventually recognize what kind of respect I have for my parents, and possibly mimic that respect for me, and Becky. This little one will be challenging me in so many ways!)

I suppose, to have something to work with, I could say, supporting them at those times when they need it most, might be an example of honoring our parents. But we do that for others as well. Not everyone. But children usually have people other than their parents they are closely tied to, or committed to care about.

And so, I will continue to daydream about this enigma. If any of you reading this have thoughts about what it means to “honor your father and your mother” I’d love to hear from you.

July 19, 2006

Abandoned

Posted in church, family, politics, psychology, scripture, theology at 4:41 am by Jerry

Is abandonment a given? Do we all do it? Which of our abandonments should we put aside for those we want to convince not to abandon us (in one form or another)?

a·ban·don ( P ) Pronunciation Key (-bndn)
tr.v. a·ban·doned, a·ban·don·ing, a·ban·dons

  1. To withdraw one’s support or help from, especially in spite of duty, allegiance, or responsibility; desert: abandon a friend in trouble.
  2. To give up by leaving or ceasing to operate or inhabit, especially as a result of danger or other impending threat: abandoned the ship.
  3. To surrender one’s claim to, right to, or interest in; give up entirely. See Synonyms at relinquish.
  4. To cease trying to continue; desist from: abandoned the search for the missing hiker.
  5. To yield (oneself) completely, as to emotion.
  6. via

Picture two parties feeling abandoned by the other, but for different reasons, different crucial reasons. How would we know which crucial reason trumps the other? And even if a heirarchy of values is understood to recognize who’s reasons get trumped by the other, will the ‘trumped’ party be able to sacrifice or put aside his/her crucial needs for the other party’s greater crucial needs?

I think there are all sorts of abandonment — emotional, physical, mental, volitional. Whether it be among nations, friends, or family, abandonment can always be seen from both sides. Or can it? What about a parent and child? I’m not talking about a teenager here. Maybe parents reading this post could respond to this: How old does a child have to be to be able to abandon his/her parent(s)?

And speaking of children abandoning their parents, and vice-versa, for you Christians and other interested parties…

When the sixth hour came, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” which is translated, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”

– Mark 15:33-34 (NASB)

Could Jesus have abandoned his Heavenly Father in some way? Would his incarnation be considered an abandonment? Or, depending on your theology, did Jesus abandon the Heavenly Father by giving up his imperfection? And, do you think Jesus abandoned anyone among the communities he walked through? Do you, yourself, ever feel Jesus abandoned you even though he sent his Holy Spirit in place of him to comfort us (according to the bible)?

Again, is abandonment a given? Do we all do it? And, which of our abandonments should we put aside for those we want to convince not to abandon us (in one form or another)?

July 13, 2006

Art vs. Authority

Posted in art, novelists, politics, religion at 4:20 am by Jerry

I just recently watched what I consider to be the best interviewing done between host and guest I have ever witnessed. It was pure articulation of deep inquiry and thought-provoking response. And, surprisingly, there were no “ummms” and “uhhhs”. It was fluidity manifested before Becky and I.

Yes, I’m talking about the Bill Moyers interview with Salman Rushdie Becky has just recently posted about on her blog. The whole interview was, in my mind, worthy of quoting (transcripts here). But Becky and I only have room for parts of it. She focused on Rushdie’s commentary on broadening boundaries and morality preceding religion. I’ve decided to focus on the parts where they talked about Art’s conflict with Authority. It was an inspiration for a wanna-be novelist like me.

In Bill Moyers’ introduction, he says..

I have asked some noted writers, storytellers, to sit down with me and talk about faith and reason. These free-thinking men and women hail from diverse backgrounds. But because their work unites clashing desires and perspectives, they just might lead us to a place where our humanity and our values — our self-worth and our hunger for community — are not mutually exclusive. As you listen to what they say, listen as well to how they say it – and then go online to join the conversation.

This next question caught my attention because I have a natural bent toward philosophy and I majored in theology in a seminary training me to be a preacher. But I dropped seminary half-way through and focused my energies on a novel I was writing.

BILL MOYERS: Why did you ask writers to discuss faith and reason and not theologians, philosophers, preachers?

SALMAN RUSHDIE: Largely for the reason that we are dreaming creatures and we wanted and I wanted imaginative acts of response. That’s to say — And I think that’s what writers can offer better than journalists, better than philosophers is that they can use their imaginations to look at the world and what’s happening in it and especially I think — And one of the things in the time we live in is that there is a kind of imaginative failure, I think, of understanding across the gulfs in the world now. You know-

BILL MOYERS: Failure of empathy I think-

The Sacred Roots of Art discussed here:

SALMAN RUSHDIE: I think you know we as human beings look for transcendence, you know? I think we’re not satisfied with the every day. You know, because we are dreamers, you know, because we are an imagining creature, you know, we do have the ability to imagine a world which is not simply the flesh and blood world that we inhabit. And that has great, in many great ways, found its manifestation in the world’s religions. And as I say, art came out of that. And then at a certain point, literature, music, painting separated itself from its sacred roots and became, if you like, secularized. And out of that comes the art of the novel. But I think one has to remember its roots in mythology, its roots in religion.

Political and Religious Authorities and their Relations with Writers discussed here:

BILL MOYERS: I looked at the writers on the opening night of the festival, and I realized that by the very nature of their vocation, they can’t do anything but express what they’re thinking and what they’re feeling. I mean, their freedom to criticize puts them in direct contradiction to every orthodoxy, dogma, faction, party. Can there be any kind of peace between writers and authority, religious or political?

SALMAN RUSHDIE: I think there’s — You know, even leaving aside the issue of oppression and so on — I think there is quite a valuable creative tension between power and art. You know? I think there always has been and probably always will be. Men of power, women of power seek in a way to define the world in their own image and in a way that suits them-

BILL MOYERS: To their own advantage.

SALMAN RUSHDIE: –gets them elected, so on, keeps them in power. Writers are also trying to create visions of the world, but not to get elected, you know? So, there is a clash of visions, you know, quite often between writers and people of power. And that’s all right. I think mostly we all accept that that’s how the world is. What’s happened more and more nowadays is that the power has begun to take reprisals, you know, against artists around the world.

Universality of Freedom of Expression discussed here:

BILL MOYERS: You say we plead for the universality of freedom of expression so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents against all abuses and all dogmas. That’s the very thing that the tyrants don’t want. They don’t want the critical spirit applied to their-

SALMAN RUSHDIE: But this is the time honored role of the artist to speak truth to power, you know, and if you look at what is happening in the Muslim world some of the writers signing that manifesto are particularly concerned with the oppression of women, which is a very big subject and in the Muslim world. Others are concerned with the oppression of freedoms of speech and assembly. And others are concerned with simple — the creation of kind of overarching world view, which makes it impossible for people to consider the concept of freedom. You know, that’s to say it simply not available, for discussion, you know. And one of the awful things about long term mass censorship is that in the end people can lose a sense of what it’s like to live in a free world. You know, because it’s not–there’s nothing automatic about it. It’s a thing you have to fight for and preserve.

July 12, 2006

Mythologies of War and Peace

Posted in literature, martial arts, mythology, philosophy, psychology, religion, scripture at 8:35 am by Jerry

I just finished Myths To Live By by Joseph Campbell. Most of this book was enthralling. And as my last comment on this book (I commented and quoted two posts ago), I’m gonna quote passages from a chapter in this book called Mythologies of War and Peace:

It is for an obvious reason far easier to name examples of mythologies of war than mythologies of peace; for not only has conflict between groups been normal to human experience, but there is also the cruel fact to be recognized that killing is the precondition of all living whatsoever: life lives on life, eats life, and would otherwise not exist. To some this terrible necessity is fundamentally unacceptable, and such people have, at times, brought forth mythologies of a way to perpetual peace. (174)

I copied the above quote down because it made me think about humanity’s relationship with the earth.

Reviewing the mythologies of war, we have found in both the Torah and Koran a belief that God, the creator and sole governor of the universe, was absolutely and always on the side of a certain chosen community, and that its wars, consequently, were Holy Wars, waged in the name and interest of God’s will. A not very different notion inspired the “Flowery Wars” of the Aztecs for the capture of sacrifices to keep the sun in motion.

In the Iliad, on the other hand, the sympathies of the Olympians are on both sides of the combat, the Trojan War itself being interpreted not in cosmic but in earthly, human terms: it was a war for a recovery of a stolen wife. And the noble ideal of the human warrior-hero was there expressed in the character and words not of a Greek, but of a Trojan hero, Hector. (204)

After reading this page, I was reminded of those times when I read through the Old and New Testaments, wondering about the personal stories of those who are portrayed in the bible as the enemies of God. I wonder, if they had written an autobiography of the journey of their consciences, and archeologists discovered it in our present day, preparing it for us to read ourselves, how would our perceptions of these enemies of God change after reading them?

I’ve also thought about the perspective of an “enemy” when I think about the possibility of me ever having to use the skills I’m acquiring in my Kung-Fu training. Will both Justice and Mercy find its place in my defensive stance? Will I have the physical skill and emotional strength to live up to my philosophical stance of protecting the attacked and the attacker from permanent harm?

July 11, 2006

Quote of the Day

Posted in literature, novelists, psychology at 5:52 am by Jerry

“No man remains quite what he was when he recognizes himself.”

– Thomas Mann

(he wrote one of my favorite novels — The Magic Mountain)

July 9, 2006

A Popular Indian Fable

Posted in mythology, religion, scripture, theology at 11:24 am by Jerry

I’ve been reading Myths To Live By by Joseph Campbell. I usually wait until I’ve finished a book before I blog about it, but just for kicks, I thought I’d throw something down I thought was intriguing.

The book is definitely a good read for those who like comparing religions and exploring their psychological purposes. I recognized some of the passages Campbell quoted from eastern texts, but there was one that I not only didn’t recognize, but it also seems like it has something different than other eastern tales I’ve read.

A young aspirant whose guru had just brought home to him the realization of himself as identical in essence with the power that supports the universe and which in theological thinking we personify as “God.” The youth, profoundly moved, exalted in the notion of himself as at one with the Lord and Being of the Universe, walked away in a state of profound absorption; and when he had passed in that state through the village and out onto the road beyond it, he beheld, coming in his direction, a great elephant bearing a howdah on its back and with the mahout, the driver, riding — as they do — high on its neck, above its head.

And the young candidate for sainthood, meditating on the proposition “I am God; all things are God,” on perceiving that mighty elephant coming toward him, added the obvious corollary, “The elephant also is God.” The animal, with its bells jingling to the majestic rhythm of its stately approach, was steadily coming on, and the mahout above its head began shouting, “Clear the way! Clear the way, you idiot! Clear the way!” The youth, in his rapture, was thinking still, “I am God; that elephant is God.” And, hearing the shouts of the mahout, he added, “Should God be afraid of God? Should God get out of the way of God?”

The phenomenon came steadily on with the driver at its head still shouting at him, and the youth, in undistracted meditation, held both to his place on the road and to his transcendental insight, until the moment of truth arrived and the elephant, simply wrapping its great trunk around the lunatic, tossed him aside, off the road.

Physically shocked, spiritually stunned, the youth landed all in a heap, not greatly bruised but altogether undone; and rising, not even adjusting his clothes, he returned, disordered, to his guru, to require an explanation. “You told me,” he said, when he had explained himself, “You told me that I was God.” “Yes,” said the guru, “You are God.” “You told me that all things are God.” “Yes,” said the guru again, “all things are God.” “That elephant, then, was God?” “So it was. That elephant was God. But why didn’t you listen to the voice of God, shouting from the elephant’s head, to get out of the way?”