Long weekend

I'm back, although chances are you didn't even know I was gone. Julie has inspired me to post an old cartoon... I'm a universalist, but that doesn't mean I like everyone. In fact, it doesn't necessarily mean I like anyone.

But I like you, of course.


"Well, someone has to spy on the beachcombers..."

Last night, the bugbear that stalks me reappeared: the question of free will. I did get a nice, concise explanation of "Arminianism," which is very good to have (also, some Thai food, which is also good to have, but is probably unrelated to the question of free will); but the question of grace and our relationship with God is only a small part of free will.
As it so happens, Tony Campolo has recently written a short essay about free will. I won't go into a full-fledged dissection of this piece, but I want to bring attention to a common error Tony commits here.
He starts by saying that God is self-limiting in order to give us free will: just as a parent must allow a child the freedom to make mistakes in order to mature, God has granted us an even greater freedom in order to achieve spiritual maturity. The problem comes in the next move: Tony switches from human freedom--and thus, sin and suffering borne out of that freedom--to cancer, hurricanes and tsunamis. Some people argue that those things (sometimes called "natural evils") are the product of human sin, but Tony (thank goodness!) doesn't make this argument (at least not in this article). But he doesn't offer an alternative connection between human freedom and natural evil, which is necessary in order to connect them at all. Can we imagine a world that had no hurricanes or tsunamis, and little girls didn't die of brain tumors? This doesn't have anything to do with free will at all: it's a question of theodicy. Despite centuries of trying to explain the latter in terms of the former, it still doesn't work.
I had hoped that Tony would offer something more satisfying... oh well.
Back to beachcombing.


Brush with fame!

Local celebrity sighting: James Todd Smith! Well, it wasn't really him, just someone having problems with her pants... but I have it on good authority that at least one Lady Loves Cool Tonda...

And I suppose I should explain a bit about the previous post, with more "old news":

"Mr Miro is the highest-ranking official to visit since ties were severed over support for Iran in its 1980-1988 war with Iraq." And:
"Mr Miro - who is accompanied by a large delegation of ministers and businessmen - is expected to sign various cooperation agreements."

"I know that every time Mr. Miro would call him, regardless of whether he was available or not, he would always respond and go to Mr. Miro. And Mr. Miro used to leave with him the keys to the storage where there were a lot of goods, very important significant goods."
[Much of this document has been redacted in closed session--sorry!]

I hope that helps to clarify things, particularly the question of whether I really am "mad, bad, and dangerous to know."


Old news, new cartoon.

This is from the Middle East Economic Survey, 04 August 2003:
'Before arriving in Turkey, Mr Miro suggested to the Turkish daily
Sabah that Syria, Turkey and Iran should make common cause to fight American plans for the region, saying that “the whole world knows about America’s policy to establish a new order in the Middle East. Therefore I think Turkey, Syria and Iran as well as other countries need to act more and more together, because if we stay alone it becomes easier to do what has been done to Iraq.” The very fact that Mr Miro could openly propose such a common front is one indication of the parlous state of US-Turkish relations.'

Mr. Miro commonly proposes various thing that, in hindsight, seem like profoundly bad ideas, but only rarely do they indicate the parlous state of US-Turkish relations.


A Chat with iGod

I realize this site has been linked before, but I went there again today and had this exchange with God:

Me: What about a job?
I will think about it and get back to you.
Me: I'm not expecting you to employ me, just to help out
God: I am surprised to hear that you are not expecting me to employ you just to help out.
Me: I realize you already have a lot of people working for you
God: You are not the boss of me.
Me: Um, no, I'm not.
God: Excuse me! I heard you are.

Even with my liberal theology, I don't really think I'm the boss of God.
I bet the pay for that's pretty good, though.



More on Tuesday

I ran across this quote recently:
'I told him I had been that morning at a meeting of the people called Quakers, where I had heard a woman preach. Johnson: "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all." '
I suspect that people who continue to hold this view would call themselves 'traditionalists,' and would be happy to see this quote if they're not already familiar with it. I can't quite believe that people would still hold such a view; while it's true that some women don't have the gift of preaching, others certainly do. I'm sure I could come up with others as well, but the point is a more general one: Johnson reflects an unwarranted prejudice that persists for no apparent reason. This isn't really my soapbox, but it strikes me as odd that I would be more accepted in a many pulpits than people who actually have gifts in that area and a desire to be there.

Tuesday - in color!

Well, sort of color.
I continue to ponder the profound, but keep coming up short. Maybe it's the blue sky and the happy little clouds... or the fact that I'm once again wondering what I'm going to do with my life, with the Rollings Stones as my soundtrack--to the wondering, not my life--and not really coming up with much.
I was reminded of Sequin Socks a couple weeks ago, but have forgotten to add the link; this will have to do for now. One of the dancers in the Roanoke Ballet Theater's production of 'Goodnight Moon' (based on Margaret Wise Brown's book) told me that they continued to sew sequins on the costumes of the socks up until the last minute (for the "goodnight, socks" portion of the performace).
An odd way to be reminded, but I guess no stranger than someone thinking of this cartoon as they toured the Albuquerque Museum of Art & History.


Here's to Peace and Justice!

Today's Dennis the Menace has Dennis and his little friend walking away from a buffet; Dennis says, "Buffet must be French for 'Get up an' Get it Yourself!'" Ha ha ha, don't you just love Dennis?

Well, maybe not. I don't know about the etymology of the word "buffet," but it has occurred to me that it's better than asking a waitress (or waiter), "Please just bring me plates filled with random food, until I'm ready to puke." That would be embarrassing; thus, we have the buffet (or better yet, the "All-you-care-to-eat buffet").

Julie has posted a bit about her experience with a clearness committee; I won't go into the level of detail she does, but I have also gone through one recently. It was the third I've been the focus of, although the experiences have been very different from one another. It was very good and affirming, and possibly has reopened some doors that I had already closed.
Not that working at a soup kitchen was one of them, but I though Lonnie might appreciate this cartoon.


Considerate Idealist

I'm hopping on the bandwagon.

Not profound

I feel the need to post more cartoons, to make up for my recent absence. (Matt, take note!)
The cartoon requires some explanation: technically speaking, philosophers don't "just make stuff up." However, in searching for a definition of philosophy that could capture all the different things that have fallen within the bounds of the discipline, from Thales' speculation that everything was water, to Descartes' Cogito ergo sum, to Isaac Newton's "natural philosophy," to J.L. Austin's How to Do Things with Words, and so on... (this list is intended to show how wildly disparate the subject matter can be, not list favorite philosophers), I've come up against the following question: what do they all have in common?
Each is trying to answer a question that can't be "looked up" or tested. (Newton's laws are an interesting case in point: they still seem true, even though Einstein showed that they weren't). In the absence of an empirical method to test the theories (or divine revelation, which is typically discounted by philosophers), we use can reason in order to form a hypothesis to answer our question. Hypotheses must meet certain criteria, including offering a plausible answer that adequately explains the subject in question. But the subject doesn't matter as much as the method, thus, this method of approaching questions is the essence of philosophy. (It also explains why the "perennial questions" never get answered, and why philosophy as a whole is so easy to spoof: anything that gets a concrete answer ceases to be within the realm of philosophy.)
I guess all of this is merely a long, unnecessarily footnoted way of saying, 'yes, philosophers do just make stuff up; but they do so within a certain framework, according to rules that have been refined and handed down over thousands of years.'
Of course, that doesn't make what we say true.

Wherever you go...

My thoughts on life-alteringly profound insights: they tend to sound either stupid, silly, banal, or cryptic. That doesn't mean that they aren't true, just that you have to be properly receptive to them. And things that sound profound at one point are often pretty dull once you sober up. (William James noted this in Varieties of Religious Experience--but being a true pragmatist, I've also tested it through experience.)
In lieu of life-alteringly profound thoughts today, let me take the time to note that today is Steve "I told Craig not to do that" Talley's birthday.
Happy Birthday, Steve!


Trouble with Tribbles

This has nothing to do with Tribbles, but I was thinking of Dan "I want to hear Kashmir!" Talley this morning.
The cartoon is only funny if you're familiar with this. Well, maybe it's not funny even then.
I've been scurrying around, trying to complete errands lately... funny how "free time" can be busier than when your schedule is booked.
I haven't been looking at any more etymologies lately, either. I promise to come up with something life-alteringly profound over the weekend. (Does that sound suspenseful or merely conceited?)