Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This is Good

Sometimes you come across things that just ring true.  And since this also something that I have been learning about my own faith - to embrace the mystery - and love and believe and hope in spite of and because of it, I wanted to share this article.

"I'm Right, And You're Wrong" by Dan Miller
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science.  He to whom this ‘emotion’ is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder, or stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. His eyes are closed.”  Albert Einstein 
In today’s world it seems we want to remove the mysterious. We all want “evidence” and we want to be “right.”  In religious and political circles we’ve abandoned civility for the sake of proving who is “right” and who is “wrong.”  Richard Rohr says he doesn’t recall Jesus ever saying “This is my commandment: thou shalt be right.”  The amazing arrogance of people today to claim the truth creates walls, wars, and wailing. 
Where is the embrace of the mysterious?  When asked which is the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus replied:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt 22:36-40) 
Does loving our neighbor require that we first prove who is right?  Does standing in awe at the sunset require that we first argue about color refraction?  If I am in Venice, Florida and pull into a service station, do I demand proof that what comes out of the hose is gasoline before I pump it into the tank of my beautiful car? 
Faith, by definition, requires walking ahead without clear “evidence or proof” that what we believe will happen.  If we remove faith and the mysterious from our lives, we are not reaching for our ultimate best; rather, we have deteriorated into mechanized robots — or as Einstein says, “as good as dead.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Book Review: Inheritance

Inheritance (Inheritance, #4)Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

*Sigh* I start this review off with a sigh because that is how I felt each time I picked up the book to read it. I have anxiously awaited the release of this book for the sheer fact that I wanted to see how the series ended. I had really enjoyed Eragon, and then Eldest, and when Brisingr came out was ready to see how the series concluded. However, when Christopher Paolini changed the game and made it a 4 book cycle instead of 3, I believe it embittered me toward the fourth book from the get go. I was annoyed that I had to wait another three years to see how the story would end. And I really did not want to wade through another Brisingr, which would have been much better with sharper editing and fewer pages. So imagine my dismay when my pre-order book arrived and I discovered that it was 850 PAGES!!!

Really? 850 pages? The story couldn't be wrapped up in fewer than 850 pages?

But I was determined to see how it all ended (though I had forgotten much of how it all began because of the delay in between books). It took 250 pages for the story to really pick up and only then, halfway through the book did the story become compelling.

I don't want to take away too much from Paolini's creation - for he did create it, and I have a lot of admiration and respect for those who create stories. But, I believe that there is as much power in EDITING your story as there is in creating it. And here is the rub for me. There was WAY too much detail and superfluous sentences in the midst of long-winded descriptions for me. If the description does not move the story along, why include it? Why include an encounter with giant snails? Why draw out the ending of the tale (and make it eerily similar to the end of LOTR?)? Why all the chapters about Nasuada's torture and giving us hope for her escape - yet never realizing that hope? Why a whole chapter on Eragon healing a baby born with a cleft lip? It is instances like these that I did not understand, but muddled through, in order to continue on with the larger story.

I also was annoyed that Paolini spent the last three books fleshing out the character of Angela, and yet still (in 850 pages!) still did not provide her origin story or who she was. I also was mildly annoyed that King Orrin didn't prove to be a spy of Galbatorix's, because the story seemed to be going in that direction - and I'm pretty good at guessing the direction of stories.

It is a good story - I wont' deny that. But I will remain perturbed that I had to suffer another 850 pages to get to the end of the story. I guess now I can go tackle War and Peace.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Where are the Good Samaritans?

Over this past weekend while great college football games were played around the country, a former defensive coach at Penn State was arrested on child abuse/sexual assault charges.  And as more and more details come out, a once revered football legend, Joe Paterno, and his entire football program, are being shown as men who did nothing in the face of facts and eyewitness accounts of abuse.  The details are horrifying to read and even harder to stomach.  A man who was allowed to continue on in his profession for years, all the while attacking innocent children, and all the while working with colleagues who knew about previous transgressions.

Is anyone innocent here?  Legally, yes.  Morally? That is an all-together different question.  I can maybe understand a person being so shocked by what they saw (a 28 yr. old graduate assistant witnessed an actual act of assault) and so intimidated by a powerful athletic program, that maybe your first course of action would be to go to the head coach (Joe Paterno) and tell him what you saw.  And being the head coach, maybe you would go to your athletic director first and expect him to take action.  Maybe everyone involved assumed someone else would take this to the police.  But what is inexcusable is when it became apparent that the matter was going to be swept under the rug, not one of the people who knew went to report it to the police.

Perhaps the bystander effect, also known as the Genovese syndrome, took over - a term that refers to cases where individuals do not offer any means of help in an emergency situation to the victim when other people are present.  It was first named after Kitty Genovese, a woman who was murdered in 1964, in a neighborhood where bystanders and neighbors heard about the assault, but did nothing to help the victim.

The crazy thing is that just a week ago there was a high-profile murder case in DC about a young woman who worked at a Lululemon in Bethesda, MD was murdered by her coworker.  The case itself is gruesome and bizarre, but the truly horrific thing in my mind is that there were two Apple employees right next door, who HEARD the entire attack and did NOTHING.  A young 30 yr. old woman could still be alive today if those workers had picked up a phone and dialed 911.

In both of these instances - in the case of the Penn State football program and the murder of Jayna Murray - people failed.  Humanity failed.  They just looked the other way and did nothing.

Is there any hope?

In Christianity,  the basic tenet of the entire faith comes in Luke 10:27 - "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself."  A Pharisee asks Jesus after this statement has been made, "Who is my neighbor?"  And Jesus goes on to relate a story in which an innocent man is attacked by a band of robbers and left on the side of the road for dead.  A priest walks by and moves to the other side of the road, ignoring the half-dead man.  A Levite, a person looked up to since he is from the tribe of Moses and Aaron, also ignores the beaten man.  It is only a Samaritan, the Jews' enemy (almost like a Palestinian, to put a modern spin on it), who stops and takes pity on the man and takes care of him, at a personal cost and sacrifice to himself.

And that is the rub - there is a cost and a sacrifice to being a Good Samaritan, to loving your neighbor.  I'm guessing for Joe Paterno, it was that a deep darkness would be exposed in his beloved football program he had devoted his entire life too, and the exposure of unthinkable horrors in a man he had trusted.  Maybe that cost was too much to go the extra mile and show courage and bravery on behalf of an innocent boy, who now, instead, forever bears the scars of his cowardice.  

My heart breaks for those innocent vulnerable children - and for a man who knows he should have acted differently.  My heart breaks for the family of Jayna Murray who will forever live with the pain of loss and knowledge of the brutal death their daughter suffered - and also for the Apple employees who now will forever live with the guilt of doing nothing and knowledge that perhaps they could have prevented a loss of human life.

Here is to hoping that instead of bystanders, more Good Samaritans will be found and stories will be reported of people stepping up to do the right thing, to love their neighbor, and protect them from harm.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I Now Know Why Antiques Roadshow Airs Late At Night

Antiques Roadshow is a show constantly flabbergasts me because I will never understand how these innocuous things, like a piece of sand art, can be worth $4k.  That is just ludicrous to me and I guess the ludricousity to the general public is what makes the show appealing to the wider PBS audience.

But imagine, if you will, you are innocently watching this program, because the show you were watching prior to this finished up and you haven't had the chance (read - are too lazy) to change the channel yet. So you're sitting there, watching a piece of sand art be valued for $4k. And while you are marveling at the ridiculousness of that, it suddenly switches to a story about a chair that co-joined twins used.  And you think that that is kind of an odd story, so you start to pay a little bit more attention.  But then something wild is said, so wild you have to rewind the program to make sure you heard correctly.  The two appraisers relay this story about Chang and Eng, the co-joined twins, and yada yada yada, something something something, "...and they had 21 children, and would you look at the turnings on this chair, wonderfully preserved..."



21 Children??

Co-joined twins?

How did that one work??

And I thought Antiques Roadshow was supposed to family friendly!!!

The chair, by the way, was valued in between $10k-$12k.  In case you were wondering what a specially made chair for co-joined twins would go for.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Book Review: Closer Than Your Skin: Unwrapping the Mystery of Intimacy with God

Closer Than Your Skin: Unwrapping the Mystery of Intimacy with GodCloser Than Your Skin: Unwrapping the Mystery of Intimacy with God by Susan Hill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book that sneaks up on you. It starts off slow and whiles its way through vignettes of the author's childhood. But as this memoir moves on, something begins to happen to your soul. As I read along the pages a long-suppressed desire of hearing and seeing God on the move awoke. Through example after example, and story after story, the author relates this quiet power that is accessible to all believers - but something that we so often suppress and ignore. Why do we question the ways that our God can communicate with His people? Why do we not believe that He can reach out to us in a dream, through a song, a fleeting interaction with a stranger? This books served as an awakening call - one that I am sure that I will have to be reminded of, as the jadedness and bitterness of life creep back in. But for now, I am enjoying the stretching of my faith and the realization that God is bigger than the box that I constantly seem to put Him into.

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