Monday, January 24, 2011

Lucy in the Strings

This is an experiment in minimal string art. I invite comment. (click on the picture on the right to make bigger, but it's better not-so-big)

Cuts me to the Quick (Part 2)

I'm spending far too much time browsing a new blogging site. But it's like a book I can't put down.

Two worthy excerpts:

I thought about how the writers who have posed those questions [the big questions in life] were often the ones who suffered most deeply: Dostoevsky, Van Gogh, Flannery O’Connor, Kafka, Emily Dickinson, Anne Frank, Simone Weil, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Beethoven. "We only believe in those thoughts which have been conceived not in the brain but in the whole body," noted Yeats, and those who ask the deepest questions seem to be the ones who have lived the questions, which is to say suffered the questions, in and on and through their bodies--and then have somehow linked the suffering to the rest of us.

People hear "living out the Gospels" and tend to think "compliance with some arbitrarily rigid moral code." To me living out the Gospels means consciously suffering, and realizing we are complicit in the suffering of the world, and that the way to overcome that is by beauty and love, and that, as Dostoevsky said, "Love in reality is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams." You will do things out of love that go way, way beyond the "strictest" moral code. You will sit at your desk sweating tears of blood trying to get the work right for years on end out of love. You will suffer cold, hunger, loneliness, poverty, misunderstanding, and failure for love. All true and enduring art springs from love.

Cuts me to the Quick

Clicking through seemingly random links started by The Anchoress, I came across a post from another blog, "The Shirt of Flame". The title of the blog was curious, "Faith Healer: What belief doesn't do." Good read.

These excerpts from near the end of the post give me great comfort:

I find there are two basic types of people who attack when they discover I’m Catholic. The first are lapsed or disgruntled Catholics who claim to be revolted by the Church but can't stop talking about it. I love these types. Their hearts are broken. They’re always trying to trip me up, get me to say something bad about the Church, convert me back to the cause of the unbelievers. The second type, the Pharisees (in a peculiarly unfortunate combination, the two "types" sometimes exist in one person), are always trying to get me to say something bad about other so-called (in their eyes lukewarm) members of the Church.

None of these folks can bear the hideous gap between how a follower of Christ should be and how a person who claims to be a follower of Christ actually is. It is horrible, it’s absurd. But don’t let that stop you! I want to say. Anyone who signs up to be a Christian signs up for failure. The very, very few who "succeed" die. In order to be any good at it you more or less have to be killed. You also have to be somewhat nuts to set yourself a goal that is basically impossible to achieve. As Thomas Merton observed: “We must remember that in order to choose religious life, you must be a misfit…Let’s get away from the mystique that religious are the cream-of-the-crop Christians.”

Oh Joy! The wonders of Science.

Being trained as a scientist, I'm able to work with exponents pretty well - as math is the language of science. When we get to exponents of "10 to the -7" in measuring the distances between peaks in a wave of light, it is easy to manipulated. When we are thinking of light traveling at huge speeds 3 x 10 to the 8th meters per second, it is easy to scratch it out on paper.

Some (albeit very few) are getting excited about the possibility of having a few weeks of a second sun made by an exploding star 640 LY (light years) away. Betelgeuse is nearly at SuperNova stage. Any minute now. Then, of course, if it happened this minute, I'd have to wait 640 years to see it. Too long to wait.

Now I will grant it to the excited few among us, it would really make for a marvelous event - especially if it happened to coincide with the nighttime position (Earth in between Sun and Betelgeuse). I must admit that my first thought in reading this was "Oh dear, what is the observant Muslim to do if this happens during Ramadan?" My next thought was "Short the stocks of vitamin D manufacturers".

But I'd put the chances of seeing such a thing in my lifetime are 1 to 10 to the -100th power. Not likely.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Not a "Christian" radio station

When I was driving home yesterday with my two kids, Anjali (who was in the front seat riding shotgun) asked me if the radio station we were listening to was "Christian". Since this was at the end of our journey, I stopped the car and looked at her for a couple seconds (just to make sure she was looking at me) and I said "No". Being that the station was KTIS, and all they do is play songs about God and Jesus 24/7, one might think I was nuts. But I wanted to make a point. "It's just a radio station and a radio station cannot be a Christian. Only a person can be a Christian. A book can't be a Christian, a song can't be a Christian, a cow can't be a Christian, nor can it's milk be Christian." I explained my thoughts about t-shirts that had pictures or messages about God, but we should be careful about how we describe things. Jesus died for people. Some may want to sell us socks - and to help them sells the socks, they might be called Christian socks, but they are simply socks.

I gathered from her reaction that she wasn't expecting my response, nor my intensity from such an innocent question. That's why I'm thinking of making it up to her by getting her a gift. It's a Deluxe Miracle Jesus Action figure - complete with plastic loaves and fishes, and a small jug to turn water into wine. We could do experiments with it to see if it floats or sinks. Maybe if we bring it fishing, we'll find money in the fish we catch. Or maybe it's just a cheap plastic doll with a fancy label to get me to buy it - $12.95 + S&H! I think I'll pass.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Big Happy Government

You know me by now, I don't like pointing out the faults of government. I'd rather let them point out their own.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bible Study

Last evening, I joined a Bible Study. I recently was involved in a Mid-week Bible Study at my Church (with about 500 people), but declined to continue after the Winter Break.

So this new Bible study consists of about 10 people - though 3 of us attended for the first time. There is no curriculum - and that is wonderful. There are 2 months between studies - which is great. The last topic was on "Hearing from God". There wasn't a specific Bible text and we had 2 books about the subject that anchored our discussion (here and here). The setting was at a real home about 13 blocks south of where I live, though some came from many miles away. I was the youngest by at least 15 years (for sure, 20 years most likely - I didn't survey the group). The last characteristic was about the only one this study had in common with the one I just left.

Not a one of us seemed like a natural-born leader. Ron White (who would get the nod only because he started the group) said that he had a list of questions that he would use a discussion starters if nobody said anything. (Empty threat.) It was a good and worthwhile discussion - very little disagreement (which was unfortunate). I was the only one who said anything remotely bizarre. But because I was new and because I was young, I asked questions and posed scenarios rather than put out my opinions.

Once we had done with that topic, it was time for desert - but not until we set things up for our next meeting. Where? same place (Yes!). When? first Tuesday in 2 months. About what? Hmmm. Nobody said much. I suggested "Suffering". That got the ball rolling, but we all settled on "Suffering". No prescribed books, but many suggestions were made to be prepared with. CSLewis and PYancy were some of the authors mentioned. I, for one, will focus on the book of Job. I'm in the middle of reading it (again) anyways.

I don't know why Job and the question of suffering has such appeal to me. Maybe I haven't suffered enough in my life - and out of my self-inflicted guilt I an trying to imagine living in suffering as penance. But so many throughout the ages have had a curiosity about this, that I don't feel so terribly odd.

I will write about this more as I think through things for our next study.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Growing Divide

It wasn't too long ago that the Evangelical Movement was seen as a monolithic group - moving in lockstep on every doctrine and issue. Liberals & Fundamentalists beware, the Evangelicals were rising up. The Evangelicals were seen as a powerhouse because they were seen as unified and they could deliver large votes or sentiment in a single direction for or against an issue.

But the lines of fracture are being felt more and more. One of the very first lines centered around the Emergent/Emerging Church. To simplify the issues way more than called for, but it is a good generalization anyway, the E___ Church wanted to adopt more leftist social issues while maintaining an Evangelical perspective on spiritual matters. The biggest of these social issues has to do with the Green Movement (not the political party, the "care of the world").

Today, the NY Times published a story about the divisions among the Evangelicals over this issue. Some Evangelicals are upset and worried over the "capitulation" of other Evangelicals to this movement. An article simply would not be about Evangelicals if the term "false religion" were not included - and this is no exception. They are worried that some Evangelicals have jumped on the "green bandwagon" without really understanding the issues (or dangers) - they simply liked being associated with "friendly-to-the-earth" issues.

I fear that the various sides of this (and other politically left) issues will not resolve their differences and will eventually disrupt Churches and denominations. The resulting chasms will certainly end the monolithic-ness of the Evangelical Movement.

(There have been some fractures in the Environmental Movement as well. This is one result.)