October 27, 2009

Mother Nature and Father Time

Posted in atheism, church, film, history, novelists, philosophical theology, philosophy of religion, science, soup, theology at 5:35 pm by Jerry

Check out this video on what kind of “God” cannot logically exist…

I remember when I wrote about these ideas sometime ago in my novel-in-progress. The end result was, however it came to be, that I couldn’t think of “God” (I was a christian at the time) as being the creator of all things ex nihilo (out of nothing), but rather the creator of all things in the sense that he/she worked with material already existing. So, “God” to me was a “God” that could NEVER have been “omni-present”, nor “omni-potent” (unless whatever is, logically, the most powerful being ever to exist could be called “omni-potent”).

These changes in my theology also included a limitation of “God’s” knowledge. I couldn’t see “God” as a supreme being living outside of time. And assuming time is never without an end, it was impossible for me to picture “God” with the ability to know the future. And so, my novel-writing process led me to re-interpret my theology into one of many “Open Theist” interpretations.

I never even considered the fact that I had stepped into a “liberal” understanding of christianity (though I had yet to see the bible as a strictly human artifact) . From my perspective, I was only trying to see God in a logical manner because I assumed he/she thought of him or herself as logical. Even when I started reading Brian Mclaren’s books while entering into the “Emerging Church” scene, I never realized that I had liberal leanings in my christian faith. Looking back, I can see now that I could have easily labeled myself a Liberal Christian much earlier than I did – which was right after I left the church for good.

February 17, 2007

Healthy Skepticism

Posted in fiction, novelists, philosophy, religion, science at 9:53 am by Jerry

Peter Kreeft, a Christian philosopher, often challenges schools of thought by using their philosophy against them. For instance, for the school of skepticism, he would say something like, “To stay true to their philosophy, skeptics need to be skeptical of skepticism.” This may sound like the school of skepticism is defeated in this phrase, but I think it makes skepticism stronger. I think we should always challenge our own methods of discovering truth and try to improve them.

I also think we should explore others’ methods, learn from them, and use them against our own ideologies. One of the ways I enjoy doing this is by creating fictional characters who don’t share the exact same philosophy or agree on social issues. I love creating an informal debate between them. The characters, for whatever psychological need I give them, are on a personal inquiry, challenging those who see things differently. I’ve corrected my own philosophy through this method plenty of times.

Some people I’ve had conversations with react to a deconstructionist argument as if they thought it were a pursuit for complete annihilation. The truth is, though it can be used for complete annihilation, the bigger picture reveals that it’s just a lot of pruning. And when the pruning is done, it’s so much easier for the living to grow.

Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep insights can be winnowed from deep nonsense. – Carl Sagan

February 12, 2007

Baby Challenges Novel Writing

Posted in fatherhood, fiction, film, novelists at 6:11 am by Jerry

I look at Emma and somehow I feel challenged to make sure my novel gets done. I want her to be able to read a finished product in the future.

Maybe it would help if I imagined her goading me like baby Stewie goads Brian the dog in this Family Guy clip:

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.

October 31, 2006

The Great Pumpkin

Posted in culture, fiction, film, novelists, psychology of religion at 2:18 pm by Jerry

I just watched the Charlie Brown Hallowe’en episode on Becky’s blog, called The Great Pumpkin. I loved it! In this episode, the writer Charles M. Schulz chose “sincerity” instead of “faith” to describe one of the tenets of the Great Pumpkin belief. How fitting, don’t you think? Sincerity addresses more than a rational justification. It acknowledges authentic feelings without contradictions.

sincerity

n 1: an earnest and sincere feeling [syn: earnestness, seriousness] 2: the quality of being open and truthful; not deceitful or hypocritical; “his sincerity inspired belief”; “they demanded some proof of my sincerity” [ant: insincerity] 3: a quality of naturalness and simplicity; “the simple sincerity of folk songs” [syn: unassumingness] 4: the trait of being serious; “a lack of solemnity is not necessarily a lack of seriousness”- Robert Rice [syn: seriousness, earnestness, serious-mindedness] [ant: frivolity]

via

I have to compliment Linus (the Great Pumpkin believer) on the power of his imagination. It was evidently strong, especially at the end of the episode. Which makes me wonder – with a mind like that, why did he choose to, exclusively, concentrate the focus of his imagination on that particular belief, avoiding contradictory ideologies outside of its circumference of belief?

Mark Twain says…

You can’t trust your eyes if your imagination is out of focus.

…but can you trust them if your imagination is focused only on a small area, making it impossible to see anything beyond its circumference?

Here’s a couple of inserts from the Wikipedia article called “The Great Pumpkin”:

According to Linus, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch he finds to be most “sincere“. (“Look around you! Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see!”) The Great Pumpkin then flies through the air to deliver toys to all the good little children in the world. In one strip, Linus claims that the Great Pumpkin has in fact been seen by people other than himself in pumpkin patches across the country, if not the world, indicating that if the Great Pumpkin is indeed imaginary, his existence is at least believed in by people other than (and even more suggestible than) Linus. The fact that Linus is, aside from his pumpkin faith, one of the most sober-minded characters in the strip seems to be a point in his favor, and adds great irony to his irrational belief in the imaginary vegetable.

[…]Stressing the importance of faith in the Great Pumpkin, Linus states that one must never say “If the Great Pumpkin comes”, but rather, “When the Great Pumpkin comes”; a lack of sufficient faith, he avers, might cause the Great Pumpkin to pass one by at the critical time.

In the words of Charlie Brown, “Good Grief!” But maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on Linus. He has a psychological need for various “security blankets,” a phrase coined by the Charlie Brown strip.

Happy Hallowe’en!!

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 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)

June 10, 2006

Writing and Fighting

Posted in film, novelists, philosophy, science, theology at 2:25 pm by Jerry

I haven't touched my novel since before last Christmas. I don't know how many books I've read since then, but I like where they have taken me.

I opened up my novel and started reading/editing. It was fun! Hard work at times. But fun nevertheless. I could see that I had definitely taken a long enough break to gain new and better perspectives on what I had created.

Right now I'm on the 14th of 35 chapters. So far, I've only bumped into at least two chapters that were complete bombs. Wow, were they horrible. I did what I could with them. But I'll have to wait until next time around to do any tidying up.

A new chapter is brewing in my mind that will probably have to be between chapters 5 & 6. But I'm not putting anything to paper until it becomes a need.

I must confess, working on my novel isn't the only thing that's kept me from writing here. Over the last week I was heavily involved in debate/arguments on other people's blogs. I enjoyed it, for the most part. I learn a lot when I have to explain myself. And I think fighting (if I can call it that) reveals a lot about people. In one of the Matrix movies a character says something like, "You don't truly know someone until you fight with them." Nice.

I hope the others that I sparred with enjoyed it as much as I did. The main theme was about "objective knowledge" and whether it exists. Personally, I thought this was a no-brainer. But I was surprised to find a lot of opposition. All I can say is, the only way I would believe all is subjective is if that subjectivity included all that is objective. And if God exists, then you have someone who can do that.

But to be fair, they were talking about what can be known by a human being. And my response to that is, "A person without objective knowledge couldn't add 2 + 2 or say, 'Today, gravity exists, and the earth is round and it revolves around the sun.'"

As you can see, there was also a sub-theme about whether science has de-mystified ANY of our natural world. I don't know how anybody can say it hasn't. How else would doctors be able to do what they do with internal organs, and then patch the bodies up without stopping them from working? (I didn't say this in the dialogues, but as far as I know, it doesn't contradict my other comments.)

I hope I didn't offend people. I tend to do that quite easily on the net. Was I offended? Not by the people.

So, I 'm off to work on the novel. I just thought I'd drop by and say a little something of what's been going on.

May 21, 2006

For Whom Shall I Write?

Posted in literature, novelists at 3:51 am by Jerry

The ultimate problem in the rhetoric of fiction is, then, that of deciding for whom the author should write. We saw earlier that to answer, "He writes for himself," makes sense only if we assume that the self he writes for is a kind of public self, subject to the limitations that other men are subject to when they come to his books. (396)

Just finished reading Rhetoric of Fiction by Wayne C. Booth. I mentioned two posts ago that Booth reminded me of my concern about how reliable the narrator should be. But ultimately, I'm left with the subject in the above quote.

When I tell others that I'm trying to write a novel, there are the odd times that the question is asked. "Who is your audience?" or "Who's gonna read your books?" or "Who are you writing for?" I've given rough answers to these questions, but I suppose my current response would be, "First and foremost, I've been writing for myself. But eventually I want to discover who would appreciate not be able to stop reading what I've created, even if they hated it. Then, with them in mind, I'll try to finish the novel while intentionally trying to communicate to them, on some level, with what I've written."

I don't know how I'm going to discover these readers of my novel. Maybe it's a matter of trial and error. Who knows? My curiosity is growing, though. And if I were to guess, I'd say they will be a small group of individuals, not necessarily familiar with each other. Why? I have no idea. Call it a hunch.

May 19, 2006

Back to the Beginning

Posted in literature, martial arts, novelists at 1:53 am by Jerry

One of the reasons I haven't been writing so much here is because I've been immersed in learning. I feel like, in alot of ways, I've been returned to past beginnings. My Kung-Fu training is taking me to where I was before I had learned any Karate, a place that needed developing, strengthening, changing.

I feel like a martial art infant, learning to sit, stand, and walk. I can tell that I'm impatient, seeing others running and wanting to run with them. My teacher said, "You're moving like a tiger, and I want you to move like a dragon." I've got a lot of re-training to do.

Nevertheless, I'm just so happy to be studying what I've wanted to study ever since I was interested in martial arts. I feel like I've finally found what I was looking for all these years.

I've also been reading through Rhetoric of Fiction by Wayne C. Booth, and it seems I'm being reminded of the most fundamental aspects of how a written story is communicated. For instance, I've been returning to the question, "How reliable should your narrator be in the eyes of your readers?"

No person is completely reliable. And I struggle to imagine someone who is completely unreliable. I think we learn to expect certain qualities, good and bad, in people. And, for myself, I've learned to expect people to be themselves, changing in a way only they would.

I'm being reminded of core personalities by Booth (unintentionally) and intentionally reminded of my core body by my Kung-Fu teacher. The core (or center) is often a starting place to learn about life, and I've been returned back to those beginnings to learn.

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