Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Conversation has a Spirit of Its Own

Am working through Merold Westphal's Whose Community? Which Interpretation? Half way through he is discussing Gadamer.  I'll lift this quote from Westphal with an embedded quote from Truth and Method by G.

...when conversation takes place willingly and humbly, the partners "are far less the leaders of it than the led . . . All this shows that a conversation has a spirit of its own (TM 383/385)"

It seems to me that is how good conversation should be.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Laudato Si

This is the first encyclical I've ever read. For me it was moving and characterized by great depth. Pope Francis did not discuss climate change in detail, only used those two words a few times. He described that the larger problem is how we treat the earth. And, that how we do that affects us all. He does not prescribe solutions but asserts that a variety of possible proposals may be effective for achieving solutions. Here is a significant snippet which I think summarizes his approach and which I like. 

"Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth."

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Regarding "10 Books You Pretend To Have Read"

  Nice list here titled "10 Books You Pretend To Have Read (And Why You Should Probably Read Them)."  Link here at io9.   I did indeed read Gravity’s Rainbow.  It was my crowning achievement of 1976.  It would be another thirty years before I would learn that it was something called postmodern. Read Foundation as a teenager in 1968 and the Dune series I believe in 1978.  Finally, I’ve read 1984 several times.   I stopped reading SciFi around age thirty.  Just lost interest in it.  I’m thinking perhaps the next one on the list that sounds the best for me would be Infinite Jest.  I resolve to read that by end of 2016.  Several other commitments are in line first.  I wish Isaac Asimov, the author of Foundation,  was better remembered and appreciated than he seems to be.  I would venture that many of us who chose science and engineering in the fifties and sixties were heavily influenced by him.  Not only his science fiction but other things such as commentaries on Shakespeare and the Bible were helpful to me.  I don’t know which book it was but one day in a bookstore when I was in my late teens I read a good chunk of one concerning evolution.  His account of evolution and how different animals are designed for their environments and situations helped me move away from the anti-evolution reflex of my religious heritage.  Lastly, it seems to me that the development of the internet matches to an amazing degree his short story about the future which is titled “The Last Question.”   He wrote it in 1956! 

Friday, July 03, 2015

Some Quotes from "On the Mystery" by Catherine Keller

Just finished reading On the Mystery: Discerning Divinity in Process by Catherine Keller. Here are some pithy quotes that I feel captured something meaningful I want to remember.




Faith is not settled belief but living process. It is the very edge and opening of life in process. To live is to step with trust into the next moment: into the unpredictable. from Prologue



But, of course, the Bible virtually never gives any abstract definition of God.      One of the (two) times it seems to, it announces: “God is love” (1 John 4: 16). Does this suggest some changeless and dispassionate paternal entity? Or rather a mystery of infinite relationship? p16


We are indelibly marked by our past. We cannot escape the process of being influenced and of influencing. But we may exercise creative freedom within it. p22


we do not exist outside of our relationships. We become who we are only in relation: we are network creatures. p32

The universe in its persistent becoming is richer than all our dreamings. —STUART KAUFFMAN  quoted on p45.*  


 *It comes from Kauffman's Investigations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 139

Friday, May 22, 2015

Krakow Poland April 24, 2015

Krakow  Poland  April 24, 2015

An in depth and meaningful tour.  The NATO meeting in Rzeszow ended on Thursday the 23rd.  Early the next day I took the bus to Krakow.  Was just there for a fraction of a day and already very tired. I hit the market and made a circuit then headed to St Mary's church where a friend said walking tours began. Jakub was standing by himself holding his sign. When asked, he said he was doing the Jewish tour in English at 11 am. It was 10:30 and initially I thought I'd rather do the Old City tour first. But I thought of a question for him concerning the significance of the dragon. His answer showed me not only that he knew the facts, but that he knew how to present and articulate more than superficial details. Our conversation continued and it was clear to me that he was a person of depth and insight. I was hooked. The tour, it was 2 1/2 hours, did not disappoint. His knowledge was wide ranging and he conveyed it with humor, where appropriate, and poignancy. I highly recommend and would do it again. Jakub is not Jewish but clearly has much affection for his subject.  

Several weeks later I was in Huntsville, AL and visited with one of my colleagues who was also in Poland and stayed a week later than I.  After hearing me tell the above, she said she and her husband had the same tour a week later and with the same guide.  She said that Jakub has a PhD is Sociology and his dissertation topic concerned the story of the Jewish people in Poland.  


 Fortunately, Krakow escaped significant destruction during WWII. Thus the central part of town with its ancient buildings and churches survived. This is a photo of one side of the Grand Market. Read more about it here: http://www.krakow-info.com/rynek.htm — in Kraków, Poland.


Beautiful horses gave some people very pleasant rides around the square.





"Krakow's Cloth Hall, the Renaissance monument of commerce. The world's arguably oldest shopping mall has been in business in the middle of Krakow's central Grand Square (Rynek Glowny) for 700 years. Circa 1300 a roof was put over two rows of stalls to form the first Sukiennice building – Cloth Hall – where the textile trade used to go on. It was extended into an imposing Gothic structure 108 meter long and eight meter wide in the second half of the 14th century. " Lifted the above paragraph from this url: http://www.krakow-info.com/1clothall.htm


St. Mary's Cathedral, the brown building and tallest in this scene. Just to the right of it is where I saw a guy holding a sign for Free Walking Tours of Kracow. I asked him which tour he was leading. He said the Jewish Tour and we would start out at the square and then head to the Jewish quarter, then the Ghetto - from where most were taken to the camps, and ending up at the site of Schindler's factory. Initially I was not sure if I wanted to do that one. But after some discussion it was clear he was a man of depth and insight and I was hooked. http://freewalkingtour.com/jewish-krakow-free-walking-tour,city,1.html


If I remember correctly, this was the synagogue of Moses Isserles, also known as Rema. He was a renown interpreter and his writings unified and ending up being a guide to nearly all Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jewish people. He lived from 1520 to 1572. You may recall the prohibition against working on the Sabbath. But what about starting a fire on the Sabbath? It does not get that cold in Jerusalem. Snows once a century. But not being able to light a fire in Poland in winter could lead to mortal danger. He helped resolve such questions. A better explanation than I can give is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses_Isserles


This narrow street is in the movie Schindler's List. He claimed the reality did not involve such a pleasant place.


We pass over the Vistula River bridge on our way to the Jewish Ghetto.


And here we are. In the background are some of the actual buildings into which Jewish families were crammed. They found that they did not have room for their larger furniture items like couches and desks. They kept the chairs. When the war was over and the Jews were gone, there remained an amazing number of chairs. This plaza is a memorial to these people, 90% of whom were killed

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Finally, a Journey to Poland

This nine year old in 1959 knew little geography. My world was Central Oklahoma, Southeast Michigan and Northeast Arkansas.    I think it was Christmas of that year that my Mom gave me a book The Silver Sword. It was here that I learned of a country called Poland. Oh to be young again when every little datum was an instance for wonder. I was fascinated even by the name Poland and people called Polish.  The story concerns a Polish family from Warsaw that was separated early in the  WWII conflict when the father and mother were taken  away. That left three children to survive on their own, ages 12, 9, and 5. They do survive and all are reunited after the war. So, from that age, I had an interest in and a special place in my heart for the Polish. Any time someone in books or media of Polish heritage, whether Jewish or not, was mentioned, in the back of my mind, it called back the memory of the book. 

Finally, after all these years, my work sent me to Poland. I was there Sunday May 18 to Saturday May 25. Landed in Krakow, from there a nice two hour bus ride brought me to Rzeszow Poland.   

I was there to attend a NATO Symposium and present two papers.  Stayed at the Bristol Hotel at the central market square of the town (of about 175,000 people).  The hotel was spacious and nice.  The food was good and quite inexpensive.  On Wednesday afternoon I had time to explore the town square and take pictures.  


Rzeszow Town Square


 Stayed at the Bristol Hotel seen here from where I'm standing in the middle of the square.


Statue of 

Tadeusz Kościuszko

I'm half way around the world and yet the center of the town has a statue to an American Revolutionary War patriot and friend of Thomas Jefferson.  He is a Polish hero as well.







Sunday, April 05, 2015

Goethe on How Children Learn

Just completed reading on my Kindle  Autobiography: Truth and Fiction Relating to My Life  by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe.   I'll be adding some snippets from it from time to time.  One of the things I have enjoyed about this autobiography are his opinions and observations about life from a time remote from ours.  He wrote this late in life, the early 1800's though some of it regards memories decades prior to that.   In the quote below, he discusses the nature of how children learn. Now that I have grandchildren, I've had to opportunity to be reminded of this.
From my earliest years I felt a love for the investigation of natural things. It is often regarded as an instinct of cruelty that children like at last to break, tear, and devour objects with which for a long time they have played, and which they have handled in various manners. Yet even in this way is manifested the curiosity, the desire of learning how such things hang together, how they look within. I remember, that, when a child, I pulled flowers to pieces to see how the leaves were inserted into the calyx, or even plucked birds to observe how the feathers were inserted into the wings. Children are not to be blamed for this, when even our naturalists believe they get their knowledge oftener by separation and division than by union and combination, . . . 

==========

- Highlight Loc. 1970-75 


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Nightfall from the Lone Ranger TV Series

Music early in life.  Beside the William Tell Overture, there is a haunting piece of background music for the Lone Ranger television show that has been running through my head for at least sixty years.  It is called "Nightfall". I recall laying facedown in my bed taking an afternoon nap one day when I was three or four. As I wake up, I hear this music from the Lone Ranger playing in the living room on our first television.  Young children try to make sense of the world about them.  I thought this piece of music was telling some kind of story or conveying some kind of important meaning that I would learn about when I was older.  There is a moment of stealth and caution. The music also conveys the idea of a continuation of something in time, on and on. 






We had this football.  We had it in 1955 when we lived on the plains in Oklahoma.





Wednesday, March 18, 2015

My Religion

I had been working some on a post about my religion and just now read Richard Beck's take along a similar vein.  Read it here:  Unpublished: Being Church of Christ.  He articulates why he is a member of the Church of Christ.

That gives me impetus to finish my thoughts.
----------------------------------

I come from and was formed by the Churches of Christ heritage.  I've visited many other churches since moving to Memphis a year ago.  It has given me much to think about.  In reflecting on my heritage, here are my thoughts.

Here is What I Like About and Am Comfortable With Our Heritage:

1.  A Cappella Singing:  I like it.  I'm use to it.  I enjoy singing.  I don't have anything against rock bands in church.  However, at one church I had to stand up and listen to four songs in a row by a rock band. I was not familiar with the songs and was disappointed that I could not sing along. Perhaps if I was a regular I could have joined right in.  At another church, it seemed that the lead singer of the rock band was the star and it was just a concert by him.  We could not participate like I am used to. At other churches I heard some good music by choirs and orchestras.  I enjoyed that too.  However, I love exuberant congregational singing.  I have pleasant memories of when I was a child and attending country churches where the folks belted it out load and unconcerned about the finer musical details. So some were off-key.  So what.  It was real and felt and authentic.  I was a song leader until hanging up my pitch pipe at age 59. I would not claim our way is the only way.

2.  Rationalism:  I don't trust feelings.  From the pulpit, my dad and other ministers taught us not to trust our feelings.  I'm a nerd by profession,  I love science, math, and technology.  So, my heritage and my personality style go hand in hand here.  Among the evangelicals, our group is unique in tending to have both a high view of revelation and of reason.  Not that we are consistent.  It is easier to see the irrationalities of others and not ourselves.  The postmodernist in me recognizes that I'm a recovering modernist and tries to temper my sometimes over reliance on rationalism.

3.  Congregationalism:  I'm OK with this.  I suppose there are advantages to as other traditions do, ie. having a larger organization and reporting to them and getting financial and expert assistance as well.

4.  That we are amillenial:  A feisty minister from Texas by the name of Foy E. Wallace lead the charge in the first half of the 20th century to expunge millenialism from our brotherhood.  I had the unforgettable experience of hearing him preach during the sixties when I was a teenager.  I disagree with him on a lot and frankly do not care for his tactics he used.  Amongst evangelicals, our group is among the most amillenial, as I understand it.  My Dad often preached against the 1000 year reign. The rapture was never part of our story.

5.  The role of tradition:  I suspect most of my fellow church of christ brethren would say they believe in traditional values.  By that they would mean traditional in terms of morality and religion.  Still, when it comes to religion, there is a healthy wariness about relying too much on tradition.  I grew up being skeptical of tradition.  And I got that way due to my dad, a very conservative minister.  At least that is how I interpreted him.  He often claimed that we should go with the truth and not our traditions.


Don't like:

1.  Inerrancy.  It simply does not work.  There are conflicting things in the Bible.  There are anachronisms.  Inerrancy is an assumption, not a conclusion of an objective investigation.  We should leave it behind and move forward.  The postmodern Christians are a big help to me regarding this.

2.  Contemporary Conservatism.  Gathering from statements in prayers and sermons and classes, most people in the CofC are polically conservative and buy into the contemporary form of conservatism. They are reliably Republican.   I say contemporary because today's form of conservatism is not necessarily the same conservatism of the 60's and 70's and 80's.  I am a conservative in comparison to those times.  Then again, my political and economic opinions I do not hold to with the same confidence that I have in my opinions regarding science and religion.

3.  Anti-Evolutionism.  It has not been discussed much in the CofC churches I've attended. But it is pretty much assumed that Evolution is wrong and Intelligent Design is on "our" side.  I learned about evolution when I took biology my senior year at my Church of Christ university.  That was the fall of 1971.  Since that time so many amazing and wonderful discoveries and developments have verified that narrative.  Thank God for Evolution!

In-Between:

1.  The Restoration Principle:  This can be good and not so good.  We cannot and should not replicate the early church. In fact we cannot.  We simply do not have enough details from that very different culture of long ago.  And it must be a good thing that we don't.   But we surely can learn from them and re-evaluate ourselves with respect to what they were doing.  My opinion is that Christianity is a dynamic thing and not something that is static.

What I Understand the Least:

The Holy Spirit.  Our brotherhood has often played down the role of the Holy Spirit, in part I think, due to our rationalism and antagonism to the charismatic approach.  I know one of our scholars has written that we have often been effectively Binitarians by esteeming God and Jesus but not the Holy Spirit.  I have to say that I want to find a way to accommodate the Holy Spirit.  I cannot accept the classical formulation of the Trinity.  Sorry, it just doesn't make any sense to me.  Growing up, in our parlance it was called the Godhead.  So maybe I'm prejudiced here by my heritage. It prepped me to be skeptical of the Trinity.


What I Think We Should Consider:

1.  The soft postmodernism of several postevangelical thought leaders like Brian McLaren, Peter Rollins, Myron Penner, Leonard Sweet, and the like.

2.  Process theology is the next thing I'd like to explore further.  I think there is something of significance there.  The theory of emergence may be a way of integrating the spiritual and the physical.  This may be where science and religion are compatible and helpful to each other.

3.  The Mimetic Theory of Rene Girard is something I'm learning about now.  I think he has made a valuable and important contribution.








Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Quotes from Goethe: Autobiography: Truth and Fiction Relating to My Life

From time to time I pick up a writing of Goethe and have fun with it.  Here's something from him about the stages of a person's life that I came across as a young man and it has always stayed with me.  It is interesting when he makes a statement from his temporal location in the 18th or 19th century which his life spanned that relates to something contemporary.  Here's what he had to say about "Boomers and Millenials".  Now, I'm half way through my kindle copy of:

Autobiography: Truth and Fiction Relating to My Life by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Below are a few of some quotes that strike me as interesting.  Every year of my life from the fifties when I was a child till the present at age 64, I heard complaints about being too easy on our kids in school.

The case often happens, that, when the elements of an exclusive art are taught us, this is done in a painful and revolting manner. The conviction that this is both wearisome and injurious has given rise, in later times, to the educational maxim, that the young must be taught every thing in an easy, cheerful, and agreeable way: from which, however, other evils and disadvantages have proceeded.

So even in his times, there was a cleavage of views on education.

Every bird has its decoy, and every man is led and misled in a way peculiar to himself.
*
All that had hitherto taken place was tolerably modern: the highest and high personages moved about only in coaches, but now we were going to see them in the primitive manner on horseback. (He's reminiscing about a coronation from the 1760's.) 
*
But a momentary incitement often brings us, and others through us, more joy than the most deliberate purpose can afford.


Saturday, February 07, 2015

My Evolution on Evolution and the Future

Been reading Jack Whelan's After the Future blog and my words here result from thoughts welling up from reading his Sacramental Semiotics post.

He says in response to my comment,

I have been a Teilhardian since I first struggled with the Phenomenon of Man in the summer of 1969. The title of the blog, 'After the Future' is my way of paying homage to two great Jesuits, Teilhard de Chardin and Rahner, Teilhard for his Omega Point and Rahner for his idea of God as Absolute Future. Those ideas are in the background of everything that I write here..

Most Christians, most humans for that matter, operate with what McLuhan called a rear-view mirror imagination of the future, and Christians, particularly Catholics, seem to think that the past is in some way privileged in a way that the Future is not. Teilhard and Rahner point us, instead, toward the Future, which has always been the deepest orientation of Jews and Christians since the time of Abraham.

My introduction to the Phenomenon of Man was in the spring of 1971 in a Philosophy of Religion class.  I was a junior physics and math major at my Christian school, Harding University. However, I was still considering the ministry and thirsted for the knowledge I thought I might learn from the class.  Some in the class were assigned the book and the ensuing reports of it and the Omega Point seemed weird and contrived.  I did not understand where it came from.  I knew it assumed evolution.  Am not sure just what I thought about evolution at that point. I probably leaned toward old earth creationism but knew I had much to learn about the Bible, Science, and Everything. Was only 20 at the time.  After my experiences in Europe that summer and then my Biology class that fall, I became convinced of evolution.  This despite the fact that one of the two teachers of the class had written at least one book against it.  I came back from Europe with the rather pessimistic thinking that what people believed and how they acted was to a great extent dependent on where they were born, how they were raised and by whom  and other external factors besides actual truth.   The question of how there can be free will vexed me.  Biology seemed to confirm that also.  For instance, consider that how we feel and our emotions can be controlled by drugs. (I'm grateful for that, just had a dental implant recently and couldn't wait to get to the drug store for pain medicine.) I'm not giving the whole argument here but the direction.  After graduating and spending one more summer in evangelism work in order to give the faith of my tradition one more chance, I set out to explore other approaches.  All this time staying moored in body if not mind to my church customs.  It appeared to me while in my more depressed moods that it could be that we humans were just complicated machines, as Bertrand Russell says, an "accidental collocation of atoms."  Another important influence on me was my study of physics. We learned how to derive equations that explained so very much of how things in nature work.   And that approach has been very successful in improving our lives when implemented by engineering and technology.  

Laplace said:  

"All the effects of Nature are only the mathematical consequences of a small number of immutable laws."

That and other things he said were the start of what came to be known as reductionism.  Everything that happens is a result of these impersonal mechanistic rules.  Free will is an illusion.  A previous post discusses this.  However, the nature of consciousness provides clues to resolution of this problem. 

In 1999 I read Ken Wilber's The Marriage of Sense and Soul.  He described the principle of emergence, Arthur Koestler's holons, and the Great Chain of Being.  A graph of the latter blew me away.  It shows clearly the direction of evolution both inner and outer of the individual, And other axes as well.  Then I later found other explications of emergence.  Briefly, each level incorporates the underlying level but also creates new features.  The universe becomes more complex and interesting and more conscious.  





Finally I've discovered some things that give me hope and which point to a resolution of the problem.  Chemistry and Biology cannot be reduced to physics!  Some of Nancy Murphy's writings have been helpful here.  Such as "Anglo-American Postmodernity: Philosophical Perspectives on Science, Religion, and Ethics".   Also, Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism:  How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set the Theological Agenda.  








Saturday, January 17, 2015

Books Recently Read and Favorite Music

I See Satan Fall Like Lightning by Rene Girard.  Read perhaps five years ago and needed to reread to help it soak in better.  Brian McLaren and Michael Hardin discussed it in YouTube Videos and that reminded me about it.

The Age of Spirit: How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy is Shaping the Church  by Phyllis Tickle and Jon Sweeney.  This one is excellent history about the development of the concept of the Holy Spirit.  Does not spend much time on what the Holy Spirit is doing now and how it is viewed at the moment.  The ancient church made so much about the proper interpretation and the fine distinctions they made between each of then.  It can make you head hurt.

Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry by Owen Barfield. This one was pretty difficult going.  I'll need to go through it again.  Main thesis is that the consciousness of medieval people and before was different from we moderns and it would be helpful to us to learn from that.

How (Not) To Be Secular by James K. A. Smith  Excellent at summarizing Charles Taylor's tome. Maybe I'll address this later.  Taylor as interpreted by Smith says that most thinkers view the secular as what happens when faith is subtracted from a person's life.  As related by Smith, Taylor claims that there were several junctures on the way to secularity and that what happened was not inevitable but could have gone otherwise.  The social imaginary and the buffered self who experiences cross pressures are important concepts.

What We Mean When We Talk About God by Rob Bell.  I liked the first half.  He begins in process theology mode.  Starting with physics and evolution.  Gets to the Hebrew Bible and makes a jump I could not quite follow.  That is where I wanted something filled in.


Discovered Nicholas Jaar about 9 months ago.  I listen to this "Live at Sonar" several times a week.  Every chord, screech, trill, and sonic flourish is perfectly placed.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Caputo on Derrida and Travel, Journey and Truth

I've enjoyed reading several of John Caputo's books.  My favorite is What Would Jesus Deconstruct. The following is an excerpt from a Dec 17, 2014 interview by Amy Frykholm with Caputo that appears in the Christian Century.

When Jacques Derrida would come to Philadelphia, I would say to him, “Let me take you on a tour. Let me show  you the Liberty Bell or Valley Forge.” But he didn’t want to go. His way to explore a city was to walk until he got lost and then try to find his way back. In the process, he would discover all kinds of things. Both personally and as a philosopher, he thought that being genuinely lost and seeking something is a crucial part of the journey. We expose ourselves to the unknown and the unforeseeable. Truth is like that.
Travel can be a spiritual discipline.  This is great advice.

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