things that irritate me

I am sorry for the negative note, but there are things that irritate me. Do you know that there are conventions in place for driving that tell us before we ever come to a stop sign or stop light what to do? Well there are, If there is a four way stop, and you come to a stop before anyone else, you can go first. If you and somebody to your left arrive at the same time, you can go first. If you and somebody else to your right arrive at the same time, you must wait till they go before you do. Here is the thing that irritates me. People who, thinking they are being polite, or giving you something, or according you privilege of some sort, and wave me on irritate me. They think for some reason that you need to be allowed to do what you are, by convention told to do anyway. Or breaching convention they wish to allow you to go first when you arrive at the same time or later from the left. I try to ignore these people, but when it is really my right to go first, by convention, I feel angered because it looks like them waving me on is something I am obeying. I feel like stopping in the middle of the road to prevent them from going. I feel like getting out of the car and asking them if it is OK to go now. I feel like getting pissed off. I realize that there are so many people doing this completely idiotic thing, that I would spend my day being angered by them and reacting to them. I feel like giving them the finger. I am far too polite and respectful, however, to do any of these anger-induced things.

I thought I got over road rage in Birmingham AL. But this is a new thing. I haven’t found the zen of traffic at stop signs, yet. I will. There is no fruit in revenge, or violence, or trying to shame them into doing what comes automatically for a socially conscious driver. They are just humans, and they may really be trying to be courteous. Who am I to stop people from being courteous in such a rude world? Well, it certainly would be counterproductive to be violent when much of what my life is concerned with is peace.

To the idiot drivers who never went through driver’s ed, I am sorry for my anger, sorry for my anxiety. But I will continue to ignore you even as you continue to ignore common sense. I will not try to tell you that green means stop and red means go. You would not believe me. That is too obvious. The more subtle things like traffic conventions are beyond your ability, even as being kind towards idiots is beyond mine.

How about people driving with cell phones attached to their psyche? It is illegal in some states for good reason. How about tailgaters? How about drivers who pay more attention to their passengers than to the road, or traffic? How about people who take half a mile to accelerate to 35 miles an hour? The list is not endless, but long enough for me to desire even more horsepower to get around you, and away from you.

god forgets?

Excuse me for bringing this up again, but a leader in the Assemblies of God said, “The very concept of ‘atonement’ means ‘to cover.’ Or, as David put it, ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us’ (Psalm 103:12). God’s forgiveness includes His forgetfulness. He is not interested in broadcasting your failures. Instead, He throws around you His robes of righteousness.”

I argue with none of this but what is emphasized above. Does God’s forgiveness truly include his forgetfulness? This is a difficult problem for one reason only: political. I would feel free to criticize this remark, even publicly, but I agree with what this leader is doing and do not wish to cause him trouble. What I would like to do is criticize the remark without having it reflect on this person’s otherwise much desired leadership.

To do that, I would like to set the remark in the context of a fairly primitive theological view. It is primitive, not because it is generally biblical but because it refuses to use the light of logic as a test for theological statements. Let’s make up a new word to fit the problem: theoillogical. That is not to say that all true theological statements are comprehensible, but that some are beyond our logic. The above statement is not one of those.

One thing we have learned in the last 2500 years or so is that humanly perceivable logic is actually true, despite the curious fuzziness at its limits. The core of logic, though empty is nonetheless true. If it is not true then, everything we have constructed around it is also without plausible connection to our rational perception. The world then becomes a complete mystery, and all our science is still completely in the dark. I cannot accept this consequence. Kill me now. If our logic is disconnected from reality, then most of what we know is wrong. Let the world end now. It isn’t worth trying to square things away any more.

Rubbish. We may not know everything, but we know some things.

The other possibility is that the theology is wrong. Is it possible that some things can be known of God? Is it possible to know what God can or cannot know, at least categorically? There is another issue: is the God I believe to be, worthy of being my God? The answer to the first question that bears on the second one, is that, categorically, any God must know more than I do, both about me and the universe. If that simple requirement isn’t met; if that isn’t the God who is there, then don’t bother me any more with theology, I am an atheist. Or, better, if there are superior beings who don’t qualify as Gods, then I would be happy to meet them as fellow travelers in this universe.

I hope this clears things up. Though this leader’s God is great, it is not great enough to know my sins I haven’t forgotten. That God doesn’t qualify categorically.

Actually the God I worship is greater than this leader’s God. My God still forgives me, covers me, redeems me, even though my God knows everything about me. My God, the one who created logic, and for that matter, all truth, is worthy of me, is not less than me, is the maker, the master, the holder, the origin, the all-encompassing one, whose beginning and end are incomprehensible, and who, arguably, is beyond human logic, impossible to prove the existence of, and scientifically uninteresting.

I think I’m going to hunt for more on this later. Who knows…

an interesting proposition

I bumped into an interesting blog Feministe through a tweet by @kidsgoape. It concerned the prospect of not assuming the gender of a child, but letting the child choose their own gender. Click here.

Here’s my take on the issue. It is clear that there are a small percentage of cases where the attribution of gender because of genitalia has caused psychological problems for the child. But this is a very small number. I am guessing that number must be less than 1 percent, less than those who eventually declare themselves to be gay.

I agree with Holly that mistakes have been made, and against the absolutists who force the gender issue, I say, “Give it a break! There is a wide variability in human children, enough to suggest that absolute answers are mistaken.” But I say this to Holly as well as to the physiology=>Gender police.

Holly, attempting to protect the tender sensibilities of those few children who are traumatized by this issue, she wants to force all parents to allow their children to decide what their gender is. This is as much a mistake as allowing the normalizing power of patriarchy to guide the decisions of women. Most kids, under Holly’s rule would choose the gender their genitalia dictates, but some who would otherwise prosper in blissful naivete would be thrown into a psychological thunderstorm and suffer terrible doubts, and worry incessantly about their gender.

I understand and appreciate the sentiment that drives the radical to want things to be different, but to totalize a rule because of the warranted mistakes of a few parents is overreacting. The reason radical feminism failed to keep the attention of the public is that ordinary men became their enemies. Holly will make enemies of ordinary parents with this line of reasoning.

got a new camera

I bought a new camera last week. This week I am learning to use it. It is a Canon 50D, a mid-range prosumer body with a 28-135 zoom lens. When I am happy with it, I will pass it off to my daughter who will be using it for school in the fall. I haven’t been much of a photographer in my life, preferring to see life through my eyes than through pictures that are mere slices of history. The same goes for movies. My wife doesn’t have this aversion.

I think my aversion to seeing the world this way is related to my feeling about people, not my enjoyment of material nature, the blue sky, green trees, flowers, or even my enjoyment of people. As it turns out, I am actually very shy about asking people if I can take their picture. It seems rude to me. I don’t know whether this is a natural aversion, or some sense that I can’t make an object of them. I think I should learn to ask people if I can take a picture of them. Who knows the truth of this?

some weeks are curious

I had every intention of working on my dissertation this week, but while, not precisely distracted, found it difficult to actually take the steps required to make it that far. I did work on a paper for SPS (Society for Pentecostal Studies) that was requested just last week because of a dropout of one presentation. And I did read a few pages of Foucault, but in general, I didn’t move forward on my “real” work. That’s OK. I met an interesting person (see i met a rainbow), had a ~good few days at work, and spent some time with my wife. I did read some, but for the most part I was on low-productivity.

I did this on Feb 20 2009. Seems right now. bye, into the ether…

tweet tweet

I thought I should get closer to my friends, and one thing I did was to get an account at twitter.com. I’ve had some fun with it. I am keeping in touch with the friend I wanted to and bumping into another world that is interesting on its own terms.

Marshal McLuhan said “The medium is the message” in the book Understanding Media. He said, “In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium—that is, of any extension of ourselves—result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.” (p. 7)

This is an entry about twitter.com. The medium of near-instant status updates, often with strangers that are interesting to us, and interested in us creates a community that, for all its random, serendipitous, occasional, and absurd content and context, nevertheless provides a community that is at once personal, transparent, and engaging. One learns quickly that one cannot say anything on one’s mind, but there is an appropriate protocol. These distant relations, made close by the magic of the internet and a society that hungers for contact nevertheless engenders a sense of responsibility to be the best we can be, at least true, even if that truth is buried in an alias.

Can one stalk in twitter? Sure. But then are there any public forums where it is not possible to stalk? No. Security is only as good as the paranoia and kung fu of the developer. It is also not possible always to detect who the stalkers are. But that doesn’t mean we can hide and not present ourselves, allowing the damaged and terrorizing elements in our society to rule our behavior. That doesn’t mean that ordinary caution should not be used. But, that caution should match the necessity of the medium.

Since anyone on twitter can see my tweets, I shouldn’t think that what I’m saying is private, even though what I’m saying is personal. The risk of abandoning privacy for the hope of interesting connections is the nature of the twitter game. The question becomes, Is the hope of community worth the risk of exposing my soul?

I stumbled across http://omegle.com. In it you can have a chat with total strangers. I talked to a university student in Britain. My daughter has carried on numerous chats with people from all over the world. If you can imagine, twitter.com is more personal, because you choose to follow the people and groups you do. You can carry on long term relationships with people, follow their interests and lives. The medium is the message. How do we interpret that message? Is the message that we can be connected, even though we are strangers? Or, that humans are social creatures? Or, that connectedness leaves us less lonely? Or, that information is more than merely data to be stored then used?

I think the message is something like this. The internet and all its social structures are essentially human and the metaphor that the internet can be understood as a form of biological life becomes more complete, the more we populate the medium. There is as much to fear and as much to hope for in this digital world as there is in ordinary life.

From Friday, 24 April, Tweet Bomb.

today, i met a rainbow

Don’t let my title trivialize this meeting, this tryst, this unplanned koinonia with a brother. In the middle of our conversation, he gave me a book this season’s people by Stephen Gaskin, the leader of The Farm, one of the most successful communes developed in 1971 intentionally from lectures given by Stephen at Berkeley. I have periodically been interested in Stephen Gaskin, if only because of the phenomena that rose organically from ideas worked out during his lecture series.

Clay a resident, at least momentarily, of Eureka Springs Arkansas, started a conversation across a table that I had set my computer down at in Starbucks on Glenstone in Springfield, MO. I was using a gift card given me by a friend for loaning my car to him to help surprise his wife on her birthday. I only mention these details because they are part of the circumstances that conspired to be one of the most intensive and interesting conversations I have had in years. For intensive, I have to say that after about 2:45 pm when the conversation ended until 7:30 when I went to Barnes and Nobel to read Foucault, I was unable to think of anything else but our conversation, and unable to focus on the work I had intended to do when I went into Starbucks.

He started the conversation by asking me what I thought of the idea that Adam was created out of the dust of the ground. I answered him in my ordinary voice that I didn’t think Genesis could be read as a scientific document. He proceeded to tell me about how it is important that we refocus our world around the earth and the ecological concerns over its preservation, which I agreed with. I told him that I was a theistic evolutionist, and he wove my remarks sympathetically into a discussion of sustainable agriculture, of Father God and Mother earth.

I am not going to say that he was irrationally bent on driving a point home. I didn’t feel that at all. Driven? Yes. He was focussed on one point of view that, as it turns out, I am completely sympathetic with. That was the beginning of a 3 and a half hour discussion, centered on God, that wandered, as conversations between strangers do, through books and authorities, likes, dislikes, truths, conspiracies, and the love of God for us and how God can guide us.

We both told stories of God’s grace, and of our significant others, of chance and happenstance, of words and things, of music and sympathy, of the future and the present, of doom and possible resolutions to the crises of our civilization.

We parted, having had an experience of kinship that comes so rarely in life as to be astonishing. We experienced something of the love of God, something of human tenderness, something of openness and truth. Frankly, I’ve had moments like this with my Christian brothers and sisters, but not ever before with a stranger.

I saw myself judging his trustworthiness to invite to my house. I felt ashamed of myself. Have I become so calloused as to be unable to recognize purity when I see it? No, but I have become suspicious of people in general. But here is a human who asked nothing of me more than my opinion, which I gave him, which I had not intended to give anyone at that time. I opened myself to contact with an alien and found a brother.

But the conservatives will ask whether he was theologically pure. Well, no, but then they aren’t either. His soul was pure, at least pure enough for my blunt senses to see it. I want for everyone to see it. It is a wonder, a sign, a ray of hope.

I know my own story of aiming to please God, and now I know something of his parallel story, of the miracle of guidance, of the grace of God in him, the hope of glory. Is there a way to suggest that in every conversation we should be offering humbly the bread of our life in Christ without also judging the linguistic perfection of their offering.

Clay gave to me, I gave to him, I did not turn his offering away, nor did he turn mine away. We gave each other of God that which we have, and left richer than we came. We ate at God’s table together. I am happy and sad for this meeting. Happy for this unexpected tryst. Sad that the purposes of my life look so impoverished compared to this serendipitous companionship. The fear that he spat on my life in retrospect is rejected as unworthy of the moment of our communion.

This event makes me love my friends and my family even more, and makes me want to be a better man, makes me want to open the doors of my students’ minds to truths unavailable previously, and allow them to look into life. For a human moment, this is one of the best sorts, and for me one of the best. Thank you God. Thank you Clay.

the president apologized

Today in the New York Times I read something president Obama said. He apologized for making a mistake. He said he screwed up. His critics were doing their best to give him grief. What nobody said was that the practice of big government is so untidy that mistakes are not only possible but inevitable.

What is different about Obama from previous presidents is that instead of betraying weakness by admitting fault, he shows enough strength of character not to fear the attacks of those who would seek his downfall. Admitting error in a system that can’t be freed from them is the position of a realist, not a weak person.

Here is the opportunity to draw more than lines in the sand. We have endured administrations that are inaccessible, furtive, and dodgy while the society around them crumbles. Here is a president who, though faced with seemingly insurmountable problems, is willing to make the White House accountable and make his decisions and discussions public.

What I like about Obama is not his party, which is an accident of history, but his reasonableness. He is the most powerful man in the world, (with some caveats,) but he does not wish to gamble with the people, to put them at risk, to hide his moves, to play Janus.

Democrat, or Republican, or Libertarian or whatever, here’s someone that could dismantle generations of mistrust in federalism.

i moved

I have just moved away from the linux server and the company CIHost that my websites and the websites of my customers were on since 2001. At that time, for $99 a month, I had the independence and enough kung fu to manage multiple web sites with a new and fairly secure technology. At times I even made enough money to break even and even profit from it. After enduring one upgrade with that company and because of my ignorance, suffering from their benign neglect, I found that my own web site, olena.com had been cracked and was being used as a platform to send spam. Shortly before that, I had recognized that some spammer was watching over my shoulder. One of my sites, was getting a lot of spam from an email address that was not used publicly. The email that was forwarding to that address was the public one. So I changed it to something else. Within an hour I was receiving spam from that changed internal address. So I worried, but set my worries aside.

Here was my problem. I just didn’t want to spend a lot of time managing or learning more in order to keep that cash flow going. I have loyal customers, and I could still serve their needs without going much further with managing the server. But I got tired of receiving over 1000 spam emails a day.

So I went hunting, and decided to move all the web sites to a single host though not to another dedicated server. This blog is now on that server. The technology is better (newer), and the support is OK, even though there are some rules the host doesn’t mention for people who buy multiple sites. That’s OK. The server is faster, the controls are more powerful, the possibilities for developing interesting sites is really pretty good.

stirred up

I am listening to Mae, emo rock. I saw that a young friend on Facebook liked it. I previewed it, and bought it. It certainly fits my mood at the moment. I have found myself worried about lots of things lately, and subsequently I have found confidence in God and my reality that it is all going to work out even if it means that things will crash. I don’t really care whether they crash or not, or whether my plans work out or not, but it is a matter of trust that I’m not going to hurt myself on that account. I am in the middle of my doctoral research, there are very few adjunct jobs for me to teach and the economy is still souring more every day as we speak.

It seems the quick reaction of the public is to draw back and ignore the world, but I think this is a mistake. In this era of uncertainty, we should try to know more about our world. We should read more broadly, experiment with our lives in a way that permits the possibility of substantial growth. This will require unsettling the certainties and stabilities and force real work on our own selves. We should not doubt our intuitions but try them out at every moment to see if they prove true. We will need to be creative to catch up with the chaotic shifts of dramatically growing pools of knowledge. We can’t afford to be still long enough to become stagnant.

Hatefully, this means we will only have little time to refresh and renew, recreate. If we make it part of our practice to renew by learning, then the exhaustion we feel will go toward increased capacity and competence, where we will be able to rest a bit.