Trying out Tumblr
for their cleaner iPhone app
and their free price tag.
Trying out Tumblr
for their cleaner iPhone app
and their free price tag.
From John Piper's Filling Up The Afflictions Of Christ:
It is ironic and sad that today supposedly avant-garde Christian writers can strike this cool, evasive, imprecise, artistic, superficially reformist pose of Erasmus and call it "postmodern" and capture a generation of unwitting, historically naive people who don't know they are being duped by the same old verbal tactics used by the elitist, humanist writers in past generations. We see them in the controversies between the slippery Arians and Athanasius, and we see them now in Tyndale's day. It's not postmodern. It's pre-modern--because it's perpetual.
In dark morning hours
her sleepy eyelids flutter,
her hand finds my beard.
I got out this weekend to see Avatar (in 3D). Impressive. Most impressive. The story, while basic, was enough to carry the whiz-bang special effects. I mean, it was basically Dune, except the desert was a hostile alien jungle, the sandworms were the flying creatures, and the spice melange was the mineral unobtanium. It was a wild ride, and I'd see it again in a heartbeat.
I'm puzzling over all the critics who call the film anti-western or anti-capitalist, though. As I saw it, there are four foils for the protagonist, Jake Sully: the doctor (knowledge), the colonel (power), the company man (profit), and the Na'vi (tradition). The doctor is, for the most part, willing to turn a blind eye to any abuses as long as she's able to do her research. The colonel is unhinged and just looking for an excuse to blow stuff up. The company man wants money, no matter the cost. And the Na'vi want stability regardless of the threats that they may face. The film is not trying to communicate the message that knowledge or power or profit or tradition are necessarily evil in and of themselves. What it does communicate is that, if pursued as ultimate ends, these things will devolve into evil.
Jake Sully is perhaps the most pro-western character in the film. He doesn't let his disability get in the way of navigating the waters between power and profit and knowledge and tradition with ingenuity and determination, even when everyone else is trying to exploit him. The colonel wants to exploit him for intel on the Na'vi. The company wants to exploit him to negotiate a deal with the Na'vi. The doctor wants to exploit him to study the Na'vi. And even the Na'vi want to exploit him for the sake of their traditions. And that, I think, is the running theme of the movie. It is not an anti-western or anti-capitalist movie. What it does carry is a strong anti-exploitation message. That gets a thumbs-up from me.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" (Luke 2:8-14 ESV)
I always tend to brush right past the "Fear not" (or "Do not be afraid" depending on the translation) in the account of the nativity. But as we've been reading through the Christmas story with the kids during Advent, I've noticed that the lad has really latched onto the angel's "Do not be afraid."
"What does the angel say?" I ask every night when we read.
"Do not be afraid!" he replies with a smile.
That is a good word. Do not be afraid! We will see no good news of great joy if we are still afraid and trembling. There will be no peace if we stay in the fields and ignore the word of this outrageous sign of a swaddled baby sleeping in a feeding trough. But fear not: There is good news of great joy. There is peace. I'm going to Bethlehem to see this thing for myself. Will you come with me?
I've fallen into digital overload. I've got Flickr and Picasa pages for pictures, YouTube and Vimeo pages for videos, Facebook as kind of aggregator for everything, a Twitter account, and this (tumbleweeds and crickets) TypePad site. Then I decided to add a Posterous site for ease of crossposting things like pics and videos of the kids to the various other sites. And finally I went ahead and added a (currently unused) TypePad Micro site to the mix.
I like Posterous for the one-post-goes-everywhere thing. But it's become just one more site to manage. I kind of like the idea of TypePad Micro (post-by-email, Twitter and Facebook integration) as a way of coming back to TypePad. I can post videos there, but it leaves YouTube and Vimeo out in the cold. (EDIT: I can post videos, but it doesn't automatically embed them. Advantage, Posterous.)
So, a question for all you friends and family who want to watch the kids grow up: what is going to work best for YOU? And a question for the digerati: any advice on how best to converge?
amidst stress and little sleep
and house construction.
Lars Brownworth, the creator of the outstanding 12 Byzantine Rulers podcast, has a new podcast for history geeks: Norman Centuries. I listened to the most recent episode in the car today and one item in particular struck me. The policy of Britain under some of their early monarchs in the time of the Viking raids was simply to bribe the Vikings to stop. It was a disaster, at least for Britain. The Vikings would come in, burn and pillage a view villages, and a representative of the king would arrive posthaste with bags of gold in hand to buy them off. Not a lot of work for the Vikings, but they got what they wanted: loot.
Sound familiar? Those who would use political power to seize assets from one person to give to themselves (or to someone else) are the modern-day equivalent of the Vikings. Less violent, sure. But they want what belongs to someone else, and they will use force or the threat of force (see also: taxation) to achieve their ends. And we, the voters, are like the inept kings attempting to buy them off with our votes, barely realizing that all we're doing is prolonging the problem.
This comes from the end of J. R. R. Tolkien's translation of The Lay of the Völsungs, IX.80-81. I wonder how much of this is original to the poem and how much is influenced by Tolkien's own faith. Whatever it is, it's awesome.
In the Day of Doom
he shall deathless stand
who death tasted
and dies no more,
seed of Ódin:
not all shall end,
nor Earth perish.
On his head the Helm,
in his hand lightning,
afire his spirit,
in his face splendour.
When war passeth
in world rebuilt,
bliss shall they drink
who the bitter tasted.
I really enjoyed the whole poem, both for its deeper glimpse into the Norse mythos and for its rich influence on Tolkien's other work. And it has given me the itch to pick up Niebelungenlied, The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin again. Go figure.
German class, sophomore year of high school. We watched, mesmerized, as giddy Germans shouted and danced and took pickaxes and hammers to the graffiti-covered Berlin Wall. That probably would have been a couple days after the momentous event that happened twenty years ago today, when the Berlin Wall crumbled, at least figuratively, and the Iron Curtain began to disintegrate. But I do remember watching the celebration right there in the classroom.
Six years ago we vacationed in Germany but did not make it to Berlin or any other parts of what had been East Germany. The sense we got, though, was that the reunification process was ongoing, somewhat painful, and very, very expensive. It was, and probably still is, a mixed bag.
And here we are, twenty years later. The twentieth anniversary has come and almost gone, and I've yet to see even a mention from any of our own government officials. That's hardly surprising, given our slow but inexorable slide toward the same type of system that built the Berlin Wall.
The good news is that I slept deeply enough to dream last night. It was a weird one, a really long narrative compressed into what was probably a really short dream cycle. Some shadowy government agency was hunting me down for some reason unknown to me, all in breathless first person. Cut. The agents finally cornered me in a dark alley (of course), hit me with a tranquilizer gun, and dragged me in for interrogation. Cut. Several days later, it's gone third-person on me, and I'm watching my family receive and deal with the news of my death from clean-cut men in dark suits. Cut. Back to first-person, several weeks later, and I'm at my front door being welcomed back with tears and hysterics. I came to learn that I died during interrogation, but the men in black gave me a "new" heart that was leaky and defective in all kinds of ways and let me go. And so began the hunt for my original heart, just in time for my alarm to go off.
My takeaway from the dream: don't count on the government or any other human agency to give you a new heart. It's guaranteed to be defective.
Who knows, though, maybe I could figure out how to work the whole crazy thing into the plot of a story.
'Tis the season for zombies and vampires. I'm intrigued both by the ongoing cultural fascination with the undead and by the subtle shifts in perception of what were traditionally monsters. Vampires, in particular, have made the shift from horrifying and ugly monsters to dreamy angsty pretty-boys. I find that both annoying and troubling. (More on that here.)
It seems to me that both zombies and vampires reflect different facets of our cultural struggles. Zombies are always hungry but never satisfied; they are driven by instinct; they never rest; they are, in fact, consumed by their consumption. Theirs is an ultimately frustrating existence, and I think zombies might be a graphic portrayal of our (subconscious, perhaps) frustration with societal expectations, especially with respect to work and vocation.
Vampires, on the other hand, are symbols of sensuality and hedonism. Yes, they hunger, but they fill themselves and are satisfied, at least for a time, and usually accompanied by fabulously attractive and unaging companions. According to the Wikipedia entry for Vampire, "The continuing popularity of the vampire theme has been ascribed to a combination of two factors: the representation of sexuality and the perennial dread of mortality." That's hardly a surprise given our cultural youth-addiction and the ongoing pornification of, well, everything. Vampires are deathless hedonists. Of course they're popular.
The thing to remember, though, is that both zombies and vampires are dead creatures. Whatever life they have is merely a parody of true life. This is important when considering vampires, especially given the popularity of the Twilight saga and most other current vampire fare. Vampires (and zombies) are not characters to be emulated; they are monsters to be fought. What are monsters, after all, if not personifications of the evil in our hearts? We all have zombies and vampires in our lives, if we're honest enough to admit it. The question is, will we wage war against them? Or will we give in and be ruled by the hollow promise of undeath and reject life in all its fullness?
and so learn to motivate
the lad and the lass.
Late summer shower,
a laughing father and son
dancing in the rain.
I know a whole bunch of folk have their knickers in a wad about President Obama addressing elementary, middle school, and high school students next week. But come on. We're talking about government schools here. Is the education students are receiving politically unbiased throughout the rest of the school year? Really? And if not, why is it so upsetting that the chief executive of the United States government is going to address students in government schools? Please educate me, because it seems perfectly reasonable.