November 29, 2006

Breaking With Tradition

Posted in culture, family, marriage at 3:58 pm by Jerry

I suppose, most of the people who know me might think of me as somewhat unconventional. And that might be true. If it is, then my latest tradition breaking will not be a big deal. I, personally, think it’s a big deal because I enjoy being creative in this way. My latest change may not be unique, I don’t know, but I think it’s soooo fitting!

I mentioned in the last post about the struggle to come up with names for my unborn child. Well, I can tell you a temporary full name for our child: Shnodda-nas Peters Bennetch. (See an explanation for “Shnodda-nas” here.)

I thought it was cool that our child will have both of our last names and not the usual last name after the father. And it got me thinkin’ – “I’d still like to have somekind of commonality with all of our last names. I think in the future our child would like it and I think it would be less confusing for public situations.” So, I thought, “Instead of getting rid of my last name like wives traditionally do for their husbands, why don’t I just add Becky’s last name to my three names?” So, even though I am now “Jerry Bennetch,” my full name is Jerald Grant Peters Bennetch.

To me, this idea suits me so well. And to top it all off, when I told Becky about my idea, she said she’d take my last name as a second middle name. So, the whole family will have the names “Peters Bennetch” after our first names. Becky and I now have four names, which I think is also cool. And if our kid (who will be given only three names) wants to make this a new tradition, he can add his future spouse’s name at the end of his names or she can add her future spouse’s name as a second middle name in her names.

November 15, 2006

Pinnacle of Poetry

Posted in culture, family, fiction, film, literature, mythology, novelists, philosophy of mind, poetry, psychology at 9:40 am by Jerry

After re-reading Becky’s post on our baby blog, I wonder how frustrated our child may get because of how badly we misunderstand him/her. Articulation is such a challenge. I consider it one of my greatest weaknesses. I’m not exactly superhuman in other areas either, but in some sense, ineffability has become my Kryptonite. (Maybe that’s why I’m so hard on those who pursue ineffability.)

I can already see the irony in what I’ve just said here, because, my pursuit to improve my ability to articulate my thoughts and feelings about my life and the world I live in, is, in fact, a form of pursuing ineffability. Let me attempt to clarify: I’m not saying any pursuit of ineffability is dangerous. What I am saying, is – destroying or barring forever any knowledge, and the language that carries it, is dangerous. If we pursue ineffability by reaching the limits of knowledge and language after using all knowledge and language available to us, then ineffability can be accepted as a part of our current identity. Arriving at this point, for me, is the pinnacle of poetry.

I say “forever” above, because I see validity in keeping certain knowledge from ourselves until we think we are ready for it. It may seem, at times, knowledge and language can be mirrors that don’t always reveal the best of life, including ourselves. But this shouldn’t make knowledge and language our enemies. I know meaning can often get buried in so-called knowledge and convoluted wordiness. It doesn’t have to. Knowledge and language can reveal meanings, create clarity, and help us understand their limits. These are not characteristics of an enemy, but instead, a friend.

And this is the kind of friend that can empower us. There’s validity in the saying, “Knowledge is power,” as long as that knowledge is in the right hands. How alienated and powerless would we feel if we were not able to articulate who we are to others? How blind would this world be if we barred knowledge of others from ourselves?

Here’s a clip from the movie “Waking Life” – an elaboration of language and the human need to communicate with others…

 

*[Coffee break needed here. This post doesn’t know if it’s two posts or one.]

NAME CALLING

There is power in being known and knowing someone’s identity, someone’s true name

My baking and brewing I will do today,
The queen’s son to-morrow I will take away,
No wise man can show the queen where to begin,
For my name, to be sure, is Rumplestiltskin.

Rumpelstiltskin – one of many ineffable names, only, this one was ineffable out of ignorance, not out of fear. Out of fear, other monsters’ names are not uttered because it is felt the utterance would call the monster’s attention to the one speaking their name, as if the monster was omnipresent. This kind of superstitious fear gives more power to the monster and its name than deserved. (A lesson kids can learn from Rowling’s Harry Potter.)

And what, exactly, are the evil doers’ motivations for wanting others and themselves to believe misrepresentations of their own identity? I think it’s because the truth would reveal how small and incompetent the evil doers really are. I think this is the reason why some myth-making novelists portray the paradoxal vampires as incapable of seeing their own reflections. And I say “paradoxal” because these “undead” creatures are also created to have the power of immortality. To me, this represents the lofty value of life, recognizing that as long as life has existed, its always been larger than death.

But I’m getting off track here. Tangents – for good or bad, you’ll find them in all daydreamers.

At a loss without a segue, I’ll return back to the beginning about my child’s articulating abilities and say that I’m also looking forward to the day when our child articulates his/her recognition of us parents by calling out, “Momma” and “Daddy.” But before the little one tries to articulate our self-imposed names, the two of us have to try to make our nameless child named, which is no easy task.

Whatever his or her name will be, someday, I may end up telling the little one that as much as I try to understand her/him, I will not be able to define who s/he is in a few syllables (or a 300 page biography); but I’d be more than willing to help her/him pursue the ineffability of his or her identity through the means of all available knowledge and language. I know it’s presumptuous to pre-plan my fatherly role here, so I’ll just say – I’m looking forward to being there when my child needs my help on his/her journey of struggles.

November 13, 2006

My Heart Just Wasn’t In It

Posted in martial arts, philosophy of mind, psychology, science at 3:41 am by Jerry

I often question the validity of the psychosomatic process. And today is one of those days when I can’t help but wonder if it is valid. Throughout my Kung-Fu training I have discovered alot about my poor posture. I use to think posture was only about taking on a rigid, physical pose – “Sit up straight!” I’ve seen on TV shows, characters being “civilized” by learning to walk with a book balanced on top of their heads. But through my current training I’ve been discovering there is so much more value to this practice of posture

pos-ture

    1. A position of the body or of body parts: a sitting posture.
    2. An attitude; a pose: assumed a posture of angry defiance.
  1. A characteristic way of bearing one’s body; carriage: stood with good posture.
  2. Relative placement or arrangement: the posture of the buildings on the land.
  3. A stance or disposition with regard to something: “Those bases are essential to our military posture in the Middle East” (Gerard Smith).
  4. A frame of mind affecting one’s thoughts or behavior; an overall attitude.

via

My training has revealed to me that my heart was literally not into the maneuvers my body was doing. I arched my upper back as if my heart was trying to pop out of it. And to compensate, my mind would literally over-extend itself forward to over-analyze a badly needed instinctive response. And to increasingly lose adherence to a unified posture, my arms would get so involved with creating distance between me and my opponent’s strikes that their fluttering disconnected themselves from any power in my stances – which were also disconnected from a pelvis slipping out backwards and up to inadvertently dump my belly in front of me. Horrible.

Presently, I’m working to correct my posture while avoiding any further compensations of my uninvolved heart – like the superficial puffing out of the chest with rigid muscles, holding nothing but air (as if I was covering an insecurity of mine). I’m told by my Shifu (Kung-Fu teacher) to be relaxed-yet-ready; and breathing belongs at the back of the gut. I’m also told, after learning all the body mechanics of a posture to make them one feeling.

I wish I would have learned these lessons sooner. They might have saved me from alot of unhealthy behaviour. Whether it’s from the martial arts training I took before Jiulong Baguazhang Kung-Fu or just the verbal and psychological battles I’ve had while growing up, I can see now that I’ve mistakenly made an attempt to protect my heart by pulling it back from its natural position.

“Live and Learn,” they say, but what do they say about the difference between learning to think and learning to feel? There were so many times when a teacher of mine in public school (from early on) would write in my report card or stress to my parents, “Jerry would do so much better if he put his mind to it.” Apparently, I was capable of doing better than I did, but I daydreamed too much.

The teachers never (from what I can remember) suggested the possibility that my heart just wasn’t in it. Why would they? Because, then what? The mind is a better actor than the heart. Getting a student to think about different ideas is one thing, but getting a student to feel different emotions and desires would ask so much more from the teacher, more than the teacher may be able to give.

[note: I’ve described here my analogy of the relationship between emotion and reason, but I’d like to expand on it a little. Though I think emotion is to reason as flesh is to bone, I want to emphasize that there is a time when bone is not yet formed. And I say this because I want to emphasize that flesh and desire are much more prevalent than bone and reason. In other words – Just as flesh sets up the bone to keep the flesh in its place, I think desire does the same with reason.]

November 8, 2006

BE-LONGING

Posted in culture, family, literature, politics, psychology, songs at 3:00 pm by Jerry

A curious word, don’t you think? “Belonging.” There are so many thoughts and feelings, mostly feelings, when I think of the word “longing.” And I get all philosophical in my head when I think of the word “Be.” And to put all this together bewilders me.

Belonging. What does it mean to belong? Just how much of you is possessed by another, if any, to belong? Or should I be asking – ‘How much are you possessing another to belong to him/her’?

The reason I’ve stumbled onto this topic is because Tim and I decided to read The Castle, by Franz Kafka. And this theme saturated my thoughts by the end of three chapters. Kafka’s protagonist, a foreigner in a strange land, uses whatever resources he can muster to achieve official acceptance in a society. He soon finds out, in order to receive this acceptance, he needs to win the approval of those in a “castle” up on a hill, next to the village he first entered.

The “castle” in my understanding (so far), represents any institution that breathes bureaucracy. Kafka seems to put so much more of a human face on the political nature of our society. And this draws me in. I’ve wondered for a long time – “What are the psychological motivations behind every human being’s political nature?”

One of my theories is put best by the last two stanzas in a favorite song of mine (of which the music itself has yet to be appreciated by my wife)…

Now watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical,
liberal, fanatical, criminal.
Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re
acceptable, respectable, presentable, a vegetable!

At night, when all the world’s asleep,
The questions run so deep for such a simple man
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd but please tell me who I am

– Supertramp (Logical Song)

November 2, 2006

“Church” Funeral

Posted in church, culture, religion, scripture, songs, theology at 5:23 pm by Jerry

There are two different understandings of what the church is — the conventional and the spiritual. But for now, let’s talk about the conventional.

What if the last church building became a museum, tourist spot, or was torn down, and the word “church” was retired (even though there were still believers who got together as friends). What would happen if the word “church” was only used to describe these museums or tourist spots? What if people never went-to-church anymore?

Would there be some sort of memorial or funeral for the conventional church? Would historians write about “the life and death of the church”? What would people say to each other as they mourned the death of the church? Now, when I say “mourned,” I don’t mean ‘hope to build another one.’ I mean mourning in the sense that people would be acknowledging the loss of something they were attached to that was ready to die. “It was time,” they would say.

So what would people say to each other? Would they reminisce the good times while overlooking the bad? Would they talk about the failing health of the “church” and how its days were numbered? Would the last generation of “church goers” tell stories to their grandchildren about what it was like to “go-to-church”? Would they talk about the sermons? or the singing? Sunday School? a choir? Youth Group? the prayers? the liturgy? where who sat in the pews? which ones slept through the services? which kids cried? which youths got pulled out for being a disturbance?

And what would happen to the spiritual church if the conventional church was dead? They obviously wouldn’t stop developing relationships. They wouldn’t stop learning from each other’s spiritual lives. The bible wouldn’t be ignored. Some may still consider it inerrant and infallible. It would be talked about, studied in numerous contexts like the literature setting of a book club, or a studious exploration of a text in a history class, or in an ethics class exploring morality in ancient texts. The death of the “church” wouldn’t change the use of the bible, would it?

But what about missions and the fundraising involved? I suppose, any socially conscious person who happens to be a believer would still be helping the poor through various organizations, or by themselves without the organizations. Financially speaking, there would be no bills to keep up a “church” and its staff. It’s not the “church” that’s expected to “Live long and prosper,” it’s the people, right? But then, that phrase was from the anti-emotional Vulcan “Spock,” not the bible. But the bible does say something similar to it, doesn’t it? Only I think it’s talking about the health-and-wealth of the spiritual church’s immortality. From what I’ve read, there’s no “Prosperity Gospel” for the conventional church.

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And this brings me to the question of mortality for the spiritual church. Can it die? Many believers may say, “As long as the Holy Spirit is working on earth, there will always be a spiritual church.” But what if the Holy Spirit chooses not to? It can choose not to, right? It has its own freewill, doesn’t it? And for those of you believers who also believe in human “freewill,” you don’t need the Holy Spirit to work on earth anymore if you have a record of what the Holy Spirit has already done, do you? People can read up on the Holy Spirit’s past work, and then use their freewill to “come-to-the-Lord”.

Sometimes it seems like the spiritual church is, in fact, dying. So many sicknesses (from what I’ve heard from others and seen for myself) . Like Jackie Mason says…

It’s no longer a matter of staying healthy. It’s a question of finding a sickness you like.

But are these symptoms a matter of a developing senility? Or are they just something the spiritual church caught like a cold or a flu?

[Note: Please understand, though I’m questioning the immortality of the Church here, I’m not questioning the immortality of God. I’ll leave that to God’s divine self (who may know our future but not His/Her own). I admit, I do wonder if any life is absolutely immortal, but I don’t see myself putting a lot of thought into it. I’d rather enjoy what life there is, that exists today, wherever there is life, including in the spiritual church.]