Sunday, December 31, 2006
Too many choices! Happy New Year everybody!
Saturday, December 30, 2006
So welcome, another new year. We all await to see what you will bring this time.
Friday, December 29, 2006
The Problem of Pain
For suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character, hope.
St. Paul: The Letter to the Romans
In the beginning, we are told, humans were created in God’s image. They were to be the stewards of the land, and over other animals, and in that state of perfection “they felt no shame.”1 Unlike the rest of creation, man was given free will. Even though God walked with them in the Garden of Eden, our ancestors had a choice to commune with him or not. For them the choice was very simple; to love God above themselves, or themselves above God. To them the will of God was a presence that seemed to carry them along, and a delight to do so, but as the woman in Perelandra discovered, “I thought that the good things he sent me drew me into them as the waves lift the islands, but now I see that it is I who plunge into them with my own legs and arms.” This free will, which allows us to distinguish ourselves from God, though he is everywhere and in all, was the gift that God gave humanity. When mankind fell, it became the cause of pain.
Lewis sums up the Doctrine of the Fall of Man thus; “He made all things good, and for the sake of their goodness; that one of these good things…the freewill of rational creatures, by its very nature included the possibility of evil, and that creatures, availing themselves of this possibility, have become evil.” The first sin was naturally the most simplistic; that for the first time humans chose themselves over God. Humans were convinced of the lie that we all believe so readily, that God is withholding some happiness, and by our own power we intend to get it. That striving for what we think we want is the root of all the suffering, pain and misery we experience. We can see that all around us. Every time we choose to do something, and to hell with the consequences, we have twisted something that may have been meant for our good. Sometimes God will say no, and we’ll go ahead with our own plans, only to find out that the path we wrested from him by our own will was the path he intended for us all along. The action isn’t as important as the will behind it. In everything we do we must add the preface,“Your will be done, and if it isn’t what you want, take it from me.”
While suffering is a natural byproduct of the fall, it also serves as our redemption from it. Pain is the means by which God alerts us to our present state of wretchedness. “It is true that everything teaches man his condition…what are we to conclude from all our darkness but our unworthiness.” Pain serves three functions; to help us surrender our self will: to shatter the illusion that we have all we need; and in an extreme case, to force us to act (for our own good) in opposition to our inclinations. Pain is not good in itself, but like all in our fallen world, it is used by God for our salvation and development of character. The danger of free will is that humans can still choose how to react to the pain they encounter. Either we can use the opportunity to submit to God and refine virtues such as patience or charity, or we can rebel against Him. We can say with Job, “though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” or with his wife “curse God and die”.
One paradox that Lewis introduces, but doesn’t solve is the good aspects of suffering and the Christian (and Judaic) admonition to alleviate suffering wherever it is to be found. Throughout history God has been concerned with the sufferings of those who cannot defend themselves. Judaic law protected the widows, orphans and foreigners. The prophets often mentioned abuses of those laws as one of the key reasons that Israel was allowed to be overrun by the reigning nation du jour. In Christ’s wake “blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and good news is preached to the poor.” Lewis does not address this issue in The Problem of Pain except to say that the paradox exists. It is certain that suffering in others allows us to practice the virtue of Charity. Our own suffering, if we will let it, can not only benefit ourselves, but allow those around us to come to our aid and offer support, encouragement, and expressions of Faith. Speculative charity will “soon become the corroding rust that will destroy the best feelings of our nature.”
The chapter on animal pain is the section that Lewis addresses the least. Since animals are incapable of sin and virtue, they neither deserve pain nor are benefited from it. We tend bestow on animals our own human emotions. They do feel pain and react to it, but not on the same level. Biblically speaking, animals were said to be herbivores until the fall, but scientific evidence shows that animals were carnivorous long before humans were in the picture. Animal immortality is not mentioned in the Bible, but that hardly serves as evidence since human immortality was a concept introduced only at the very end of the Old Testament. It is only with the coming of Christ that the Kingdom of Heaven becomes a real place. Perhaps one of the purposes of unfallen humanity was the redemption of animals. In Perelandra the Green Woman is surrounded by animals that are almost rational. The woman says, “we make them older every day…is that not what it means to be a beast?” This process of making animals more rational is theoretically what would give them immortality. “In her they became themselves. And now the abundance of life she has in Christ…flows over into them.” Perhaps animals will be saved, but it will not be on account of the suffering they endure on earth. That is the sole prerogative of humanity. It is hard to picture heaven without other creatures. But as Aslan says we are never told any story but our own.
What struck me most, was in the section on Heaven; the idea of that something “other” that we catch glimpses of in books, movies, music and nature. Sometimes while reading I’ll come across a passage that reminds me of something I’ve never seen. “I don’t know what it is. But sometimes I see something. And maybe it’s beyond.” I find the beyond at the end of Lord of the Rings, when Frodo leaves for the grey havens; in The Blue Castle when Valancy lives on the island; when Wendy and Peter fly off to Neverland as the music swells; throughout Marc Adamo’s Little Women; and at the end of John where it supposes that all the things Jesus did were written down there wouldn’t be room in the whole world for all the books that could be written. Numinor. The numinous. That sense of awe we feel when for just a moment the curtain drifts aside and we catch a glimpse of something beyond ourselves and our small lives. It is that longing that makes me yearn for heaven. That longing makes all of the suffering more bearable. It is that sense of beyond that makes all of the wonderful small blessings we come across so special: because in them we see reflections of that which is waiting for us, if we can only “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” and one day, to cross over. “One day you will either find that you have attained it, or that it was within your reach and you have lost it forever.”
Monday, December 25, 2006
Check out this new microfinance organization -- you can loan a small business the money they need. View pictures of the entrepreneurs, and read a summary of their business needs. They also provide an anticipated repayment date. This is a loan, not a donation!
Check out the founder's blog for more information.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Ahhh the joys of adulthood.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
I've begun my first class. I've just finished reading The Problem of Pain and am halfway through my first paper. I bought a book by Pascal called Pensees which I used for a few quotations in the paper. It's not really a book, so much as a collection of notes for the book that wasn't written.
And tea break.
And that's about it. Christmas is coming. My shopping is done. And most of the cards have been sent. I think. Actually I got halfway through the list, put it in a drawer, and forgot about it. Maybe I should check that out before my head goes back into fuzzy mode. oh. oh. Too late.
I'm not a big fan of medicine. I mean for the small stuff. Usually my preferred plan is suck it up and wait it out, because, after all, if we dope ourselves up for every minor illness, eventually it will take bigger and bigger guns to cure the bad stuff. And what happens when you run out of guns? Well, anyway, Fuzz. And besides, the study somewhere says that rats in the wild are actually far better able to combat illness than lab rats because their immune systems were allowed to come in contact with diseases and build up antibodies. (Is that the right word? Antibodies?) So, go immune system, go! And if it gets really bad, I'll spring for an Ibuprofen.
Little Red Boat is back from vacation, and pithy as usual. Hurrah!
And now I'm off in a quandary about what to do after the holidays. I'm exploring options again, and there's always the deal in California, which may be smart, but I won't have the chance to see it for myself before I have to be down there to work, and I'm running out of tolerance for "just a job." I'd sort of like to start focusing on whatever it is I want to do. Hm. Plan one, decide what it is I want to do.
Not so easy. I've been doing that for six months now (at least) and can't come to any conclusions. My only plan now is to keep exploring options for the time being and see what comes to the forefront. Reality is sinking in and telling me that I have a limited amount of time at my disposal (and likely shorter than I'm allotting). How much longer can I continue this inability to PICK SOMETHING.
The deal is, and maybe this is more a dear diary moment than a blog moment, but I made a mistake in high school. God called me to *something unspecific* and I chickened out and ran. I decided that I was going to be a performance person, and maybe tell somebody about him sometime. If I felt like it. And it was miserable. Not the performing part, but the everything else part. And I'm glad of that, because if it hadn't been, I wouldn't have told God to have his way because my way sucked. Then I took some time off, healed a bit, toured in a ministry capacity - that was nice - and then failed at a ministry after that. Badly.
So what do I do now? I love working in ways that allow my life to be a benefit to others. And I enjoyed the dinner theater because it combined the two - theater and ministry - but I've turned down two tours now since then. I have an aversion to "Christian" drama because it's often cheesy, and being in the forefront of "popular christiandom" has never been my thing. But then, do I want to go back into performing, which may have been a vanity thing. I can't tell. Was it the right profession but wrong then because I was determined to do it whether God wanted me to or not? Is it right now, or should I completely give it up and find something more worthy of what little time we have -- because after all, performing really is a very selfish job. So much of it is self-promotion, and while some people may be able to perform without turning into a raging diva, but many can't. If you become really famous that's another thing, because then you could "use your powers for good" though many don't. I have all this talent that I feel like I'm squandering. And then there's academia. I'm good at school. I like studying and learning. But what do I pick? I love theology, and english literature, and there's even a third-world economics and politics course that looks interesting. But that's several years of my life to dedicate to going back to school. I still haven't paid off the last degree that I only use occasionally. And then there's options like YWAM vs seminary vs public university programs. Or working for charities I already support.
Oh what a downer. But that's where I am, and could use some prayers because I need to pick something, and nothing's coming. Nothing's obvious. And I don't want to choose-- I, as usual, want to do it all.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Van: Julia, would you be comfortable in helping Frasier learn how he could
have related to you in a more office-appropriate manner? [Julia is staring
down, paying no attention.] Uh, Julia?
Noel: [rising] She's playing solitaire on her palm pilot, Van.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Monday, December 11, 2006
Sunday, December 10, 2006
CHRISTMAS CAROLS FOR THE DISTURBED *
1. Schizophrenia --- Do You Hear What I Hear? *
2. Multiple Personality Disorder --- We Three Kings Disoriented Are*
3. Dementia --- I Think I'll be Home for Christmas*
4. Narcissistic --- Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me*
5. Manic - Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Trees and.....
* 6. Paranoid --- Santa Claus is Coming to Town to Get Me *
7. Borderline Personality Disorder --- Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire*
8. Personality Disorder --- You Better Watch Out, I'm Gonna Cry, I'm Gonna Pout, Maybe I'll Tell You Why *
9. Attention Deficit Disorder --- Silent night, Holy oooh look at the Froggy - can I have a chocolate, why is France so far away? *
10. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder --- Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle,Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells , Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jing
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Friday, December 08, 2006
This was me today, trying to make a left turn out of the Big R parking lot.
"Oh look at that. No one's coming either way. Cars in front of me though. Maybe someone will let me in. Nope. Not letting me in. Now there's cars coming. Oh.........Ok. No cars coming. Maybe I can get in now. Oh, they're slowing down in the turn lane. May..be..I..can.....nope. Cars coming. Maybe this nice person will let me in. Or that one. Hm...."
Five minutes later....
"Nice Lady? Nice Lady? Nice Lady in green car going to let me in? Oh. Not nice lady. Mean lady. Lady in blue car? Nice lady in pretty blue car? Not nice lady. Nice man in suburban? Oh! Oh! Ohhhhhh. I'm WEARING Makeup!!!!"
Eventually I gave up the ghost, made a right turn, then turned around down the street in a parking lot. Was there anyone at that light THEN? No there was not. Go. Figure.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
The Top Ten Principles of Good Consumption
©2004 Worldwatch Institute, www.worldwatch.org
Consumption is one of life's great pleasures.Buying things we crave, traveling to beautiful places, eating delectable food: it's all icing on the cake of life. But too often the effects of our blissful consumption make for a sad story. Giant cars exhaling dangerous exhaust, hog farms pumping out noxious pollutants, toxic trash heaps nudging into poor neighborhoods-none of this if there weren't something to sell.
But there's no need to swap pleasure for guilt. With thoughtfulness and commitment, consumption can be a force for good. Too long have we consumers been a blushing bride overwhelmed by business suitors. It's time for the bride to assert herself. We've got the dowry; we have the purchasing power. We can require our suitors to comply with our vision of environmental stewardship-or we can close the door behind them on their way out. Through buying what we need, produced the way we want, we can create the world we'd like to live in.
To that end and for the future, here is a Consumption Manifesto:
PRINCIPLE #1Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This brilliant triad says it all. Reduce: Avoid buying what you don't need-and when you do get that dishwasher/lawnmower/toilet, spend the money up front for an efficient model. Re-use: Buy used stuff, and wring the last drop of usefulness out of most everything you own. Recycle: Do it, but know that it's the last and least effective leg of the triad. (Ultimately, recycling simply results in the manufacture of more things.)
PRINCIPLE #2 Stay close to home. Work close to home to shorten your commute; eat food grown nearby; patronize local businesses; join local organizations. All of these will improve the look, shape, smell, and feel of your community.
PRINCIPLE #3Internal combustion engines are polluting, and their use should be minimized. Period.
PRINCIPLE #4Watch what you eat. Whenever possible, avoid food grown with pesticides, in feedlots, or by agribusiness. It's an easy way to use your dollars to vote against the spread of toxins in our bodies, land, and water.
PRINCIPLE #5 Private industries have very little incentive to improve their environmental practices. Our consumption choices must encourage and support good behavior; our political choices must support government regulation.
PRINCIPLE #6Support thoughtful innovations in manufacturing and production. Hint: Drilling for oil is no longer an innovation.
PRINCIPLE #7 Prioritize. Think hardest when buying large objects; don't drive yourself mad fretting over the small ones. It's easy to be distracted by the paper bag puzzle, but an energy- sucking refrigerator is much more worthy of your attention. (Small electronics are an exception.)
PRINCIPLE #8Vote. Political engagement enables the spread of environmentally conscious policies. Without public action, thoughtful individuals are swimming upstream.
PRINCIPLE #9 Don't feel guilty. It only makes you sad.
PRINCIPLE #10 Enjoy what you have-the things that are yours alone, and the things that belong to none of us. Both are nice, but the latter are precious. Those things that we cannot manufacture and should never own-water, air, birds, trees-are the foundation of life's pleasures. Without them, we're nothing. With us, there may be nothing left. It's our choice.
— Contributed by Umbra Fisk, Grist Magazine
© 2004 Worldwatch Institute www.worldwatch.org
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
I was at Inklings, checking on my Volume III which was supposed to be out three weeks ago. (Mine is backordered and out of stock and I ordered it in July. Bugger.) The owner spent some time checking on things, and found me in the Inklings section perusing the complete letters of Tolkien. She held out a little plastic baggie with a hand addressed tiny envelope inside. "It's a letter from C.S. Lewis to a lady in town," she said. "It was donated to us."
Monday, December 04, 2006
I finished The Complete Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II yesterday. And read several of Jane Austen's unpublished fragments today, along with a quick perusal of Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl. All of this over several giant bowls of hot chocolate with my feet on my fake fireplace. Ahhhh.
I'm off now to a Christmas party for my Monday night Bible Study.
Saturday I was in Portland all afternoon filming Minute Zero. Film is an entirely different creative process than theater. How odd to stop mid-stream, and then pick up minutes later trying to remember what your face felt like, and where your hands were at the last "cut." The director kept commenting on my intensity, which threw the other actor off, because I'd get my game face on as soon as the film rolled. It caused him to break character several times. Our three pages of dialog were shot in five sections, three takes each, with five different camera angles. The only quick part was my closeup shots; I could do the whole script in one take.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Pride and Prejudice
``Marry well'' is Bennet tenet: Bingley singly must remain
Since classy Darcy (Lizzy-dizzy) thinks he's far too good for Jane.
Rummy mummy, jaunty aunty, these would drag both gallants down
--Plus the younger siblings' dribblings over officers in town.
See the specious Wickham trick 'em with his tales of birthright gloom,
See how hideous Lydia's ruin looms before she gets her groom;
Glassy Darcy saves the bacon, shaken out of former pride:
Is he Lizzy's destined love, to shove her prejudice aside?
Has she clout to flout that matron, patroness of priestly coz
(He whose ludicrous proposing Rosings rules -- like all he does)?
Darcy oughter court her daughter, destined his through two decades...
``Mulish, foolish girl, remember Pemberley's polluted shades!''
Dare she share his great estate, or can't Aunt Catherine be defied?
Yes! and ere the bells ring jingly, Bingley too shall claim his bride.
by Mary Holtby
from: How to Become Ridiculously Well-Read in One Evening, compiled by E. O. Parrott (Viking, Penguin Books, 1985)
[Note that this works best when read with a British accent; also "ludicrous proposing" is the object of the verb "rules".]
Miss Bates's answering machine:<BR>
"It's so obliging of you to call, but then we have so many obliging friends that we are truly grateful, not that we wouldn't be grateful just for our health, but all these friends are so kind, and I know that you will forgive us for not being here when you called, except that my mother might be in but she can't answer the phone because she's deaf you know, not that she has anything else to disturb her, in fact she's remarkably healthy for her age, and she would answer but she probably hasn't heard the bell, so I'm sure you won't mind, and where was I? Oh yes, if you'd be so good as to leave your message just after the beep, that's the fourth long beep, not the first one, there are three short beeps and then a long one, that's the one to speak after, otherwise the machine won't record your message and we'd be ever so sad if we didn't receive it because I'm sure that it's very interesting, and I will call you just as soon as I get in ..."
The following is an interesting scene from an unpublished fragment dated 1803. Does it remind anyone else of a future similar scene with roles reversed?
At the conclusion of the two dances, Emma found herself, she knew not how, seated amongst the Osborne set; and she was immediately struck with the fine countenance and animated gestures of the little boy, as he was standing before his mother, wondering when they should begin.
"You will not be surprised at Charles' impatience," said Mrs. Blake, a lively, pleasant-looking little woman of five or six and thirty, to a lady who was standing near her, "when you know what a partner he is to have. Miss Osborne has been so very kind as to promise to dance the two first dances with him."
"Oh, yes! we have been engaged this week," cried the boy, "and we are to dance down every couple."
On the other side of Emma, Miss Osborne, Miss Carr, and a party of young men were standing engaged in very lively consultation; and soon afterwards she saw the smartest officer of the set walking off to the orchestra to order the dance, while Miss Osborne, passing before her to her little expecting partner, hastily said: "Charles, I beg your pardon for not keeping my engagement, but I am going to dance these two dances with Colonel Beresford. I know you will excuse me, and I will certainly dance with you after tea"; and without staying for an answer, she turned again to Miss Carr, and in another minute was led by Colonel Beresford to begin the set. If the poor little boy's face had in its happiness been interesting to Emma, it was infinitely more so under this sudden reverse; he stood the picture of disappointment, with crimsoned cheeks, quivering lips, and eyes bent on the floor. His mother, stifling her own mortification, tried to soothe his with the prospect of Miss Osborne's second promise; but though he contrived to utter, with an effort of boyish bravery, "Oh, I do not mind it!" it was very evident, by the unceasing agitation of his features, that he minded it as much as ever.
Emma did not think or reflect; she felt and acted. "I shall be very happy to dance with you, sir, if you like it," said she, holding out her hand with the most unaffected good-humour. The boy, in one moment restored to all his first delight, looked joyfully at his mother; and stepping forwards with an honest and simple "Thank you, ma'am," was instantly ready to attend his new acquaintance. The thankfulness of Mrs. Blake was more diffuse; with a look most expressive of unexpected pleasure and lively gratitude, she turned to her neighbour with repeated and fervent acknowledgments of so great and condescending a kindness to her boy. Emma, with perfect truth, could assure her that she could not be giving greater pleasure than she felt herself; and Charles being provided with his gloves and charged to keep them on, they joined the set which was now rapidly forming, with nearly equal complacency. It was a partnership which could not be noticed without surprise. It gained her a broad stare from Miss Osborne and Miss Carr as they passed her in the dance. "Upon my word, Charles, you are in luck," said the former, as she turned him; "you have got a better partner than me"; to which the happy Charles answered "Yes."
Friday, December 01, 2006
I believe that Christianity can still be believed, even if Evolution is true. ~C.S.Lewis
I see no need to disbelieve evolution on the principle that it diminishes God's place in creation. The accounts of creation in Gensis leave a room for speculation: The Genesis creation is entirely Earth-centered. The Bible is not God's plan for the universe, or God's complete and total account of all of his workings everywhere; it is a very specific story of his workings on this planet, specializing in one particular group of people that live here; how he worked through them and for them; and what became of those that he directly affected while walking around for a few years on our little swirling rock. Even that account leaves gaps. Other than a few speculatory passages, there is no account of what he did with the rest of the population in the same little history. Nor what he intends to do with those that won't get a chance to hear this little history now. Since the Bible is only intended for a very specific purpose, it is the hight of ego to assume that nothing at all happened until the moment before we appear into the universe.
The following little story is the image of creation in my own head, influenced liberally by Tolkien's Silmarillion and Lewis' The Magician's Nephew. It isn't intended to be doctrinal, but a fantasy that allows for both creation and evolution. (That having been said, it doesn't matter one bit whether one believes in one or the other, so long as everyone agrees on the core beliefs. But western Christiandom specializes in majoring in the minors, and it would be good to remind ourselves from time to time that passionate fighting on the minors both detracts from our witness, and takes time and resources away from helping those we're meant to help)
God spoke, and all the matter that would become the Universe burst outward into the void. And God and the Angels watched as the matter began to form together. Some globs swirled together and burst into flame. These lighted balls began to dance through the heavens. Some bits of matter were pulled into their dance, and began revolving around the points of light. And the great Celestial dance was made, each ball of matter, large and small, taking their place. And the stars sang together while all the angels shouted for joy. A few balls of matter erupted, spewing clouds that wrapped around the bare rock, concealing the face. Plates of rock ground together. Mountains pushed up from under the surface. Lightning struck the rock and pools of mud began teeming with microscopic life. And God looked down, and caused streams of water to come up through the rock and flood the entire surface. He pooled the waters together in places. He breathed and small points pushed through the newly exposed earth, small at first, then growing larger, and spreading green branches toward the sky. In the new moisture small tufts of heath covered the bare earth. Bright points of color appeared, dotting the ground. In the waters, the microscopic life took on new shape. Large creatures, and the small ones, and ones that could not be seen. God beckoned and some swam toward the shore and changed shape. Their scales hardened. Their fins became feet and claws instead. They grew in size. Some grew strength in necks and tails and began rampaging through the foliage. Others grew stumpy and muscular. Some developed spines, and sails, and ridges. And they lumbered around the new fresh planet. God beckoned again, and more creatures emerged from the seas. These ones lost their scales and hair sprouted. Fins and flippers morphed into all kind of claw and hoof and pad. Flippers sprouted feathers and became wings. Some ran, some galloped, and a few walked upright. And God took interest in one such creature, and changed him the most of all. He drew him into a shaded glade between four rivers. He caused the animal to shed its fur, and changed its shape. Into its mind He poured parts of himself; his desires, creativity, and love of beauty. He breathed a soul into the man, and woke him.