Thursday, March 27, 2008

when life becomes allegory

Doing biblical studies has given me a deep appreciation for the way in which metaphors can become reality for us. Like when you're reading the stories of David and Solomon, or even something obscure like the early chapters of Joel, somehow with the movement of the spirit they can tell you something about "reality", almost as if there was some kind of magic waiting to be unlocked by the movement of the Holy Spirit.

Now I wonder equally how the reverse might work. I'm learning how life itself can become the allegory. It's as if each little episode of our lives, no matter how seemingly irrelevant, can also become a story waiting to be unlocked by the inspiration of the spirit.

These same stories are like paradigms that we all have to live out ourselves. We not only read about the prodigal son, we are him at times... and we can be the father at times... and the older brother at times. We all build the temple, and we all cavort with the foreign gods. We all raise up our voices in praise and promise as did Solomon, and display his cunning wisdom at times, and also at other times, his desecrating idolatry.

It reminds me of how things really don't change. I mean they DO, but so long as people are people, our entire lives are already written, couched in the tales of characters long past. We are all immortalized, with different details, in those texts of antiquity. Even the messages... occasionally we have the same realization, state them anew, and they are once again enlivening. And there are times when I hear lines, and they remind me of our inherent connection with these people of old. The same wisdoms, parroted again for the first time, enculturated into a totally different space and time.

What in particular brought about this little reflection? Hehe... check it out.

How silly.

How simple.

How poignant.

"There is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes

"It's all the same, only the names have changed." - Bon Jovi (Wanted Dead or Alive)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Words on integrity and relationships from Coach Dan John

I really liked this little thing. It's from a letter written by Dan John, who is a well-known coach in the firtness and bodybuilding community, but also a Religious Education coordinator in the Roman Catholic church. Ostensibly he was talking about dating, but I liked the part on integrity and its connection to proper relationships; I don't think it has to refer only to dating.

Integrity is one of the things some people forget when they start getting
relationships. Integrity is being “one” person…so, on a date or just out
with friends, are
you the same person you are when you are with your family
at Thanksgiving? If you
change from place to place, event to event, you fail
the integrity test.

It is a great gauge for people you want to date, too. Watch somebody in
the school
cafeteria when the teachers aren’t around. Watch them when they
are with “less popular”
people. Watch ‘em. Someone who treats you like fine
gold and a disabled person like dirt is going to be treating you like dirt very
shortly, too.

A great clue for people is to watch how they act around their parents.
When I see
a student genuinely happy to see their folks, I know I have a kid
who acts the same at
home and school. Kids who are rude to their folks may
try to charm you but keep an eye
on your wallet.

If you are worried about introducing people you date to friends and
family, you
might want to put yourself through the integrity test.

-Daniel John (aka: Coach Dan John)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

overt racism

Well, one of my students is choosing to take an overtly racist position for her paper on abortion. The question for the essay reads: "Is an unborn essentially a human being who is in a stage of personal development, or is it essentially something less than human until birth or a certain stage of development?"

The real point is to get them to identify what it means to be "essentially human": What makes us what we are? How are we different than other animals? Do embryonic and fetal tissues share in those essential traits?

Anyhow, one of my students approached me with the question of what to do if ze (since it might be a man or a woman) thought it was ok to abort a black baby, but not a white one. I said well, it seems that you're proposing that race is an essential trait of humanity. The answer "yeah, basically."

As stoic as I typically am in the classroom (especially philosophy), it's difficult for me to stare down blatant, unrepentent racism in the modern world. I understand it as the product of a different place and time. I don't really judge racism in the American south a century ago, because it was a latent cultural assumption inherited from epochs of social conditioning. But today?

I mean seriously, which Sesame Street program did ze miss? Which of the millions of elementary indoctrination attempts, or MTV truisms didn't accomplish its brainwashing purpose? I'm a bit ticked. It's like hey, if you're going to brainwash people into being tolerance drones of all kinds of freakishness, at least make sure the good aspects of uber-tolerance are successfully imparted.

Besides, apparently this person doesn't have the kind of concerns that outweigh racism. For instance, I might think about being racist for a while, but then I couldn't watch Dave Chappelle's black white supremacist and bust out laughing. And what about all the hot Asian girls that are available to me as a single man? And then you've got the issue of Indian food. How can we live in a world where we can't acknowledge the objective superiority of spicy curry and nan to "meat'n'taters" ? Or there's the biggest issue of all: How can a racist live in a world where you can't pull for McFadden over Tebow for Heisman?

At this time and place of human history, I just don't get the impulse of racism...