"Today's Best Rock"

I don't really like the Doors.
Why, you're probably asking yourself, should I care? Well, it's just to illustrate my disappointment, yet again, with radio.
As I was leaving work this afternoon, I turned on the radio; since I had missed most of "Talk of the Nation" and decided to try to find a decent music station (always dicey around here). I shouldn't get my hopes up, but why is that stations seem to invariably follow their boast, "today's best rock!" with a song that is just plain horrible? So I kept going and found the Doors ("Like a dog without a bone, An actor out alone") but that's the best this little town has to offer.
Now, before you jump to the conclusion that I'm some middle-aged white guy with a pony-tail and an earring who always complains that "music was better when I was a kid," let me just say that Def Leppard's Pyromania was one of the better albums when I was in high school (much better than the Phil Collins onslaught), which pretty much means that nothing was happening then, either (U2, REM and Elvis Costello were around, but not getting much radio play--I grew up in an even smaller town that the one in which I currently reside). Feel free to discuss how music sucked when you were in high school, too, in the comments.
(I realize that this isn't much of a post, considering that I haven't posted in over a week, but I hope that you at least can enjoy the cartoon.)


"Naive aprioristic autoanthropology"

I've been to Powells and got my fix: who knew a visit to Portland would would make me think of Matt?
Some select quotes from Daniel C. Dennett:
"The individual cells that compose you are alive, but we now understand life well enough to appreciate that each cell is a mindless mechanism, a largely autonomous microrobot, no more conscious than a yeast cell...
We are each made of mindless robots and nothing else, no non-physical, non-robotic ingredients at all."

But it's not just about robots: "Must we talk about zombies? Apparently we must."

And an unexpected treat from Selmer Bringsjord: "It all comes down to zombies."
Doesn't it, though?


Giving thanks

This hardly seems like the right cartoon to leave my loyal readers with for the next week, but I haven't had time for the "cookie" series this week, and I doubt I'll be able to post for the next week.
So, traveling mercies for all who are traveling, rest for all those who aren't.
(And please forgive my Hebrew!)


The Perfect Pizza

Whenever I think of the ontological argument (and I do that as little as I can, but Anselm keeps popping up these days), I think of an example I used primarily back when I taught at Radford.
No disrespect intended: we can compare Anselm's thoughts about God to the perfect pizza. The crust is just right, neither too thick nor too thin, not too chewy or crisp, not over- or under-cooked... ditto with the sauce, the cheese, and whatever other toppings you might desire. After all, it's the perfect pizza. Here's where we get back to Anselm: what would make that pizza you're currently thinking of even better? Well, it would be even better if it were here right now, i.e., if it existed. Since Anselm was talking about God and not a pizza, he could say that, since God is "a being than which nothing greater can be conceived," then God must exist. (Just as the truly perfect pizza must exist--but there's nothing inherent in the concept of a "pizza" which makes it necessarily perfect in the way that God is.)
The thing I particularly like about this example is that it addresses the problem of our finite imagination. We don't know what God's perfection consists in, but we can see that our differing ideas of what makes a perfect pizza can point towards some ideal. Whatever our notion of perfection is, God must be greater than that, but because God is that being than which nothing greater can be conceived, however else we imagine God, existence is a necessary perfection (i.e., a God that didn't exist wouldn't be perfect).
Now, if that argument doesn't make sense to you, please don't blame me: blame Anselm. That is, something has gone wrong here, but it's difficult to say exactly what. It wasn't until Kant came along in the eighteenth century that we see where the problem lies.


Work needs to get done...

And it doesn't seem to be getting done today.

Part of that is simply focus problems: I'm sitting in the piazza San Marco, having a cup of coffee in the late morning with Friedrich Nietzsche, trying to figure out... well, what I'm going to do next. The book contract is not simply for a book I have written, although I have done a lot of work on it. The problem is, I did that work seven years ago and haven't really looked at it since. Even the parts that I consider polished and well written need to be brought up to date; at the very least, I need to do a literature review to see if there's anything out there I need to incorporate.
And the chapters that I already know need work...

and I really want to do that work, which is precisely the problem I'm having this afternoon, because it's not the most urgent work to be done.
I need to be reading about St. Scholastica and Hrotsvit of Gandersheim, as well as Kathryn Tanner's Jesus, Humanity and the Trinity, which I don't particularly like.
And despite my threat to "not-so-casually mention the book in any and all of your conversations," I doubt that Nietzsche would be welcome in the above discussions.


Radio Radio

I've recently discovered some new, listenable radio stations... which must be some sort of odd Midwestern thing, because both in the place I grew up (West Coast) and where I've lived as an adult (Mid-Atlantic and the Deep South), you pretty much know exactly what's on the dial all the time (unless they decide to switch formats as soon as you discover them, something that happened to me in Roanoke back in '98).
Anyhow, I've been thinking about the various--and pretty good--NPR stations that come in down at one end of the dial, and the smooth jazz--with Stevie Wonder thrown in this afternoon at least--I occasionally listen to at the other end of the dial... and the mixture of country and Christian stations in between. "Country & Western" is not my music, despite the fact that the little boys who lived across the street in Roanoke always thought I listened to country because they would troop over when the Dead broke into Mama Tried or Big River or Me & My Uncle on some bootleg I was listening to.
C&W is the music of my uncle, Fred, who shoes and trains horses for a living. His kids--my cousins--listen to it to, but both of them did rodeo as a varsity sport down in high school in Bakersfield, CA. And since it was part of the culture of a close part of my family ("close" in the emotional sense, not in physical proximity), I recognized that I couldn't just co-opt it. That, and it tends to be stupid and repetitive.
On the other hand, Christian music is mostly unlistenable, at least what they play on the radio around here, as well as what my grandparents listen to (although I have a killer version of "Abide with Me" on my latest CD!)
SO: depending on where you are in town, and the weather (and possibly other factors I haven't yet discovered, such as the color of my socks and how many times I've posted in the last week), I can pick up some decent rock and roll on the radio. But it's a gamble.

Recording contract?

Not today, but I did get my book contract!


Busy Wednesday

Today is yet another busy day, although at this point it looks as though I'll get everything done.

Well, probably.

In any case, since I might not get to post again until next week, I thought I'd leave you with a bunch of cartoons.

And I'd apologize to Drew... but I don't really feel like it.

And I guess I could mention that I've recently learned a Chinese phrase, hsuan pin to chu, which became the name of the cartoon which it describes. Who knew I'd learn anything while reading theology?


Wet Feet

I've just gotten back from a lecture on the medieval university which was quite interesting (and I'm sure Jerry would be proud of me--"the world needs more medievalists!"), but I was a bit disturbed that even back then parents were concerned about students wasting their time strumming the guitar...

Rainy Tuesday

I have a headache; I don't think Mechthild will help.

Love flows from God into man,
Like a bird
Who rivers the air
Without moving her wings.
Thus we move in His world
One in body and soul,
Though outwardly separate in form.
As the Source strikes the note,
Humanity sings --
The Holy Spirit is our harpist,
And all strings
Which are touched in Love
Must sound.

-Mechthild of Magdeburg (1207 - 1297)


Question of Christology

"“The love of one is barbaric: for it is pursued at the cost of all others. Likewise the love of God."” -Nietzsche

What are the most important parts of the Gospels? Everyone has their own sense of what is essential, and I find that my reading really focuses on the human condition. Jesus as the Christ is telling us (and demonstrating how) to show mercy, work for peace; consider the lilies; heal the sick; eat with everyone; feed my sheep, tend my flock, and do so because of their need rather than their worthiness. These passages do not merely indicate that we are hungry, poor, and sick, although we certainly are; more importantly, we do not respond to the needs of others.

I recently stumbled back across the quote at the top of the page; this time, it made me think about the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-39). I have heard people say how Jesus cheated here: when asked for a single most important commandment, he gave two; but what if he intended it to be two parts of the same commandment? That is, the best way to show our love of God with all your heart, all your soul, all your energy, all your mind is precisely to love your neighbor as yourself?

This Jesus is the compassionate teacher, but in that capacity he stands beside other figures both within and outside of the Christian tradition, most notably the Buddha. Because of this, I ask with Paul Tillich, "“In what sense and in what way is Jesus as the Christ the savior, or, more precisely, in what way does the unique event of Jesus as the Christ have universal significance for every human being and, indirectly, for the universe as well?"” (Systematic Theology vol. II, 151) This involves a number of questions, including the meaning and method of “salvation;” Schillebeeckx points out, "“in which concrete historical events this '‘grace and favor'’ or renewed offer of salvation in Jesus has been manifested the New Testament nowhere explicitly states"” (Jesus: An Experiment in Christology, 390). This comes as a bit of relief to me, since it often seems to me that people--e.g., Anselm in Cur Deus Homo--are just making stuff up. Schillebeeckx doesn't come out and say this directly, but that seems to be his implication. That's not a bad thing, though: it gives me an opportunity--if not imperative--to work this question out for myself.

The larger context for me is, what does it mean to be a universalist Christian, in the sense of acknowledging that there is truth to be found in the world'’s religious traditions, without either taking a condescending view of those other religions (viewing them as embodying Christian teachings in an adulterated form), or else losing the core of Christianity, so that it becomes one path among many with nothing in particular to recommend it. These seem to be the Scylla and Charybdis between which I find myself navigating. In some respects the problem is precisely one of Christology: "“what is it that Christ has done for us that we could not do for ourselves?"” Even setting aside the absolute uniqueness of Jesus (so that others can play similar roles in different traditions), I still find myself stopping short with this question, even as I recognize its centrality. Looking again with Tillich, viewing salvation as healing of estrangement "“between God and man, man and his world, man and himself,"” (Systematic Theology vol. II, 166) I still ask, what does Jesus as the Christ accomplish what we cannot do ourselves?

Even if the answer is that He has inaugerated the Kingdom of God, what exactly does that mean?


Like, Wednesday

Today, it's just about the cartoons.
Tomorrow, it will probably also be about the cartoons, but perhaps there will be more of them.
Don't like cartoons? Well, just like Sam, many people fail to see my genius.