Does the phrase ‘karmic relief’ strike anyone else as hilariously funny? No? I guess it’s just me, then…
“Or is it?”:http://www.temple-of-lore.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=7841 With the Olympics just recently behind us, there are a lot of individuals (and countries) who are celebrating their victories or cursing their defeats. I heard a comedy sketch once by Jerry Seinfeld that hit on this. His take was that it was great to get the gold because it was proof that you were better than everyone else. And it was good to get the bronze because, hey, at least you got a medal. For the guy who got silver, though, well, that’s not so good. Getting silver means that you were the first loser, the first one to get beaten.
So, why is that second isn’t often considered to be a huge achievement? Why is it that so many people consider it to be the position of prime embarassment? Or is it really perceived that way? Honestly, I think it boils down to perspective. It’s a matter of which direction you looking. Getting the silver means that you were two steps away from ultimate success, from beating the field, from standing up at the highest point and being able to say, I did it. I’m the best there is. The failure here is in not looking the other way. True, you were _this_ close to total success, but look behind you and see how many are still behind you. From that perspective silver suddenly doesn’t look so discouraging or shameful. From that perspective, it means that you are still the best in your field, save one, and that, in my opinion, is not such a bad place to finish after all.
By golly gum, I think I finally got Matt’s Asides installed. Talk about your major headaches…
Purdue’s campus has quite a bit of sculpture on display. Most of it is pretty nice; it dresses the campus up very well, giving it a bit more character and personality. But I must admit – sculpture is one of those artistic mediums that I don’t fully understand. Actually, I should probably be a bit more clear. What I don’t understand is simplistic art. I appreciate art that shows complexity, that shows how much work and time and effort the artist put into designing and creating it. I appreciate such art, and I respect and admire the artist for it. Detailed work takes great personal sacrifice on the part of the artist, and it involves great risk to display it in public, waiting to see if they will love it or hate it.
The thing that gets me is when the intellectual takes a higher place of importance to the visual (or the auditory, in the case of musical or literary works read aloud). I can’t understand how an artist could possibly be satisfied with his work of art that is so simple in design that it looks as though a small child could have conceived of it. I realize that the artist probably spent hours trying to decide what shape his work should take so that it could best represent the abstract concept bouncing around in his brain, and I respect that. I do. I guess I just feel that good art should be created in such a way as to need no explanation from the artist in order for the general public to understand and appreciate it.
I saw a painting once that made me turn my head various ways trying to figure out what it was, trying to figure out what possessed the artist to create it, trying to understand what, if any, meaning there was behind it. Someone who knew the artist saw my confusion and proceeded to explain in great detail what the picture was and what the concept was that inspired it. The sad thing is that I don’t remember the explanation now. It was simply too complicated and not at all inspirational.
My philosophy of art is that it should be able to be enjoyed by anyone who experiences it, not just the elite few who think in such convoluted ways as to picture the world from one man’s own twisted mind. I personally think that art should be relatively reflective of the concepts being portrayed ((Though, to be fair, to the artist the work is probably a very clear depiction of the concept he is portraying visually.)). I also tend to think that the art should be more complicated then a few wires twisted around or several pieces of smooth concrete stacked one on top of another. It seems to me that if a child, who is only just learning fine motor skills, can create the work, then that work required very little skill on the part of the artist. It merely required a thought to initiate it, something that anyone can do.
Maybe I’m being elitist in my own way by suggesting that so much of the art that is lauded in our high society is really just a pile of simplistic trash, but I guess I just hold a high standard for what can and should be art. I like to see art that looks like it took effort to bring into existence, that took mental discipline to manufacture, that took great care and love to detail and clearly represent some abstract concept.
Random thought that’s probably an obvious ‘duh!’ statement – the fact that we don’t know nearly everything there is to know about science is the very thing that allows us to write science fiction literature. Pretty obvious statement, I know, but it did occur to me that if we knew everything there was to know about science, about the universe and all its workings, we probably wouldn’t have much left to write about that would be all that interesting. Much of science fiction is based upon what we know, but so much is speculation about what we don’t know. ((Hence, the reason that science fiction is lumped under the heading of ‘speculative fiction’.)) But then again, maybe we would still be able to create interesting science fiction works even if we _did_ know everything, simply because so many of the concepts and principles in science are so big and so awesome that they would continue to wow us, no matter how well we knew and understood them. It’s just that, with the passing of time, new ideas lose their novelty and become ideas that we take for granted. ((See, the automobile, communication technology, etc.))
Fantasy literature has a bit more of a free reign, of course. In fantasy writing we create entirely new worlds, where the rules can be just about anything we want them to be. The fundamentals are pretty hard and fast, of course – we’re required to have human beings in our stories, else we don’t have a common point of reference and cannot understand the principles and concepts contained therein because the landscape would be entirely and utterly alien. ((The same goes for scifi.)) But the rules of magic and power can come under whatever rules we, the writers, can come up with from our own heads. What we know or don’t know about the real world has little effect on what happens, or can happen, in our new world.
Then again, maybe science fiction can do this, too, though possibly at the risk of alienating every hardcore, hard-scifi aficionado on the face of the planet. The only real rule that scifi has to adhere to is that the story centers around some sort of technology that does not yet exist. ((Or one that could _never_ exist.)) Beyond that, it is the author’s choice what actual scientific knowledge the stories embraces, if the story centers on any such concepts at all. Either way, what we don’t know can only help us as authors of speculative fiction to create fantastic worlds where virtually anything is possible.
Sometimes, finding consistency and balance in various aspects of my personal worldview isn’t easy. For instance, I believe that homosexuality is wrong, that it is sin, and that it should be avoided and abstained from by even the most blatant of homosexual-leaning individuals. Yet, I believe in the freedoms espoused by our country’s laws and ideals, and as such I believe that it is allowable for homosexuals to live their lives as they see fit, so long as they do not, in the process, attempt to steal or destroy the rights of those not like them.
I also believe that it is a waste of time and resources, not to mention a detriment to the testimony of Christians everywhere, to pursue a course of legal action that will bar homosexuals from gaining the rights to marry and tap into those resources reserved for married heterosexual couples. I am not convinced that this is the proper (or most effective) approach to ministering God’s love to the homosexual community since legal action generally only fosters anger and resentment against God’s people (a resentment that, admittedly, the Christian community has brought upon itself).
These questions, then, beget still other questions – where do we draw the line, or should the line even be drawn? For instance, if we allow homosexuals to marry and gain benefits that are reserved for married couples, per the freedoms of this nation in which we live, do we then also allow them to adopt children (since homosexuals are biologically unable to produce children on their own)? If we acknowledge that homosexuality is wrong, that it is sinful, are we then justified in allowing them to raise children, particularly since we have already established a precedent of allowances in permitting marriage and benefits rights?
Add to this another value – I believe that allowing the government to dictate and regulate every part ((Or simply too many parts)) of our lives is a very bad thing, as it restricts so many of the very freedoms we hold dear. Should the government even be involved in this process, should it take a special interest here by disallowing certain freedoms because one group ((i.e. Christians, in this case)) has fears and concerns? My primary concern in allowing homosexuals to adopt is not necessarily that these children will grow to themselves become homosexual, since at least part of homosexual leanings can be attributed to biology and physiology ((Though certainly not all, since there is a definite link between homosexuality and disillusionment with the opposite gender or a need for an absence parental figure)), or that they will be psychologically handicapped or confused as a result of being raised by same-sex parents, since it can be argued that many children coming out of abusive, heterosexual homes are also extremely screwed up.
My concern is that children coming out of homosexual homes will already be conditioned to view homosexuality as every bit as acceptable as heterosexuality. I don’t have a problem with them being tolerant of homosexuals having relationships and getting married ((Again, I believe homosexuals have that right in this country)), but I wonder if they will ever come to recognize that homosexuality is actually wrong. How will children raised in such homes handle the tension should they come to accept Christ as their Savior and learn what the Bible has to say about homosexuality? Suddenly, they are faced with the knowledge that homosexuality is sin and the conflict that their parents are living in sin.
I suppose, though, that this would likely be not much different than those children faced with a parent who has had an affair, who is abusive, who has divorced, who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, or any of a dozen other vices. Maybe the problems would be no more severe; they would just be problems of a different nature, problems that the Christian community would have to adapt to in order to face head-on, to face with the power to heal. Homosexuals who are allowed to adopt would give children with no homes a place to live, albeit one that might be less than ideal. ((But doesn’t that happen everyday already?))
I’m still not sure that I endorse homosexual adoption. It’s a process that I am still working through in my own head, and I am very open to feedback and opinions from others on this issue. Where does the line between personal freedom and the welfare of the majority fall? My own concerns in allowing homosexuals to adopt is for the welfare of the children involved. Unfortunately, this is still such a new issue that there is very little long-term research available to describe what the effects of such practices might be. In the meantime, I do urge Christians to be patient and compassionate, because as we have seen in so many other places, becoming angry and hateful and spiteful does absolutely nothing to help the situation. The world is changing around us almost faster than we can keep up, but the pre-eminence of Christ is still able to effect healing and change on a powerful, widespread scale that should be humbling to us all. We should remember that and tap into before considering any actions that might prove harmful to the cause of Christ.
I don’t know how it is for other fiction writers, but usually the way I land on complete stories is by snagging “scenes”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=229 that spin about through my head and writing them down on paper. They’re incomplete snapshots of events that have not fully developed in my mind yet, but I know that if I do not write them down, I will ultimately lose them forever.
So, I write little bits and pieces here and there and set them aside, file them until a later date. I have discovered that, if I wait long enough, two or three (or more) of those scenes begin to connect. They form these little alliances, joining forces against me. Enough of this and I have no other choice – it must be put to ink. I finally have a complete story that has been built in front of me, completely separate from my own contrivance. In short, the story built itself from the random firing of synapses in my brain, and I am just the pen that gives permanent form to the specters of my mind.
I’ve enjoyed reading “The Banana Republican”:http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com. Every single one of his entries is short yet extremely intellectually stimulating. Naturally, most of the thoughts expressed there are based on certain assumptions and presuppositions, and as a result, some of the logical steps look a little ‘leapish’, but it is enough to get the ol’ mental juices flowing. ((The only thing I wish he would do is allow commenting on his site. I love being able to leave feedback.))
Here’s one from today:
bq. Negative Bible critics wrongly assume that the unexplained is unexplainable, forget the Bible’s human characteristics, assume the Bible is guilty of error unless proven innocent, confuse interpretations with revelation, assume a partial report is a false report, fail to understand the context, presume that the Bible approves of everything it records, neglect to note literary devices, assume divergent accounts are false, forget that only the original text is inerrant, assume round numbers are false, confuse general statements with universal statements, and forget that later revelation supersedes earlier revelation. “#”:http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2006/02/negative-bible-critics-wrongly-assume.html
Several excellent points raised here, very adequately and succinctly stated:
bq. Negative Bible critics wrongly assume that the unexplained is unexplainable…
Try, for instance, the Trinity. How is it possible to have one Being that is actually three separate Beings and still have them be perfectly united as one. How can they maintain their separateness if they are the same? Or, the God-manhood of Jesus. How do you have an individual that is at the same time 100% God and 100% man. It doesn’t logically compute, yet the Bible states that it is, in fact, truth. It is not explained, but that does not necessarily mean it is unexplainable.
bq. …forget the Bible’s human characteristics…
Except where it is convenient to do so. Critics of the Bible are quick to point out the supposed contradictions in the Bible and claim that it is demonstrative of an inconsistent God. Or they want to point out that the Bible was written by men and therefore it is impossible for it to be truthful or accurate.
bq. …assume the Bible is guilty of error unless proven innocent…
Easy assumption to make, since every other book in existence has errors of some kind. ((Or tends to develop errors over time.)) But yes, they are quick to accuse and never allow the chance for supporters of the Bible to demonstrate how it is in no way guilty of error.
bq. …confuse interpretations with revelation…
Bingo. This is a biggie. Every single English translation has some error contained within it. That’s the nature of translation and why Biblical scholars place such heavy emphasis on the original manuscripts.
bq. …assume a partial report is a false report…
How true. Many places in the Bible only a partial record of events is given. Critics claim that this means the stories much be false, which is a logical fallacy. ‘A’ does not necessarily beget ‘B’, or ‘A partial record does not necessarily mean that the event did not occur.’
bq. …fail to understand the context…
Context is, in fact, often ignored. It’s actually a problem even within Christian circles. It’s easy to quote something as support for your arguments, only to find that, upon close examination of the original context, the passage does not actually say what you are trying to get it to say. Context is of tantamount importance.
bq. …presume that the Bible approves of everything it records…
How often have I heard someone accuse God of being unjust or unrighteous because of something they read in the Bible? ((Especially if someone else did it.)) Just because God allowed someone in the Bible to get away with an unjust crime does not mean that He endorsed it. The Bible is pretty clear, in fact, that in the end, justice will be leveled to all men and crimes will be punished once and for all.
bq. …neglect to note literary devices…
Another biggie. Literacy devices populate the Bible just as much as any other literary work. ((More, in some places.))
bq. …assume divergent accounts are false…
Psychology has shown that three people can see the same event and report that event in three different ways. Does that mean that any or all of the accounts are false? Not necessarily, since different perspectives provide unique lessons.
bq. …forget that only the original text is inerrant…
This being the original Hebrew for the Old Testament and the original Greek for the New. Even Christians forget that sometimes, and find themselve embroiled in bitter battles over which English translation ((KJV, anyone?)) is inspired. ((Answer: none.))
bq. …assume round numbers are false…
Ah, yes. Don’t we see this even in our news media? Numbers are often rounded up or down for the sake of ease of reporting? In such cases, the numbers are not what is important; it is the events that actually took place that are. The same goes for the Bible. In the cases where the numbers are important, they are precise. In the cases where they aren’t, they’re rounded.
bq. …confuse general statements with universal statements…
General statements are subject to some debate. If A happens, then B generally happens as a result. With universal statements there is no room for debate. If A happens, then B will always, absolutely happen. A little bit of study and discernment helps elucidate which statements in the Bible are general ((e.g. Proverbs)) and which are universal. ((e.g. the Gospel))
bq. …and forget that later revelation supersedes earlier revelation.
Absolutely. That’s the beauty of “understanding the Bible in its entire context”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=218. You get to see the progression of God’s relationship with mankind throughout time. Part of that progression is seeing how Christ’s work on the cross gave us new revelation that allows us greater access and deeper fellowship with the Father.
Great, thought-provoking thoughts, Will.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The trials begin tomorrow.Ã¢â‚¬Â The older man was leaning against the rail, watching as the waves slid past beneath the bow of the ship.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I cannot wait. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll likely not sleep tonight,Ã¢â‚¬Â the younger one replied. He stood a couple paces off, facing his elder. The water held no interest for him, such was the intensity of his reverie. His eyes held that distant look that bespoke visions of far-off things.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d best try, Ciphero. The trials are not for the weak, as you well know, and those who lack sleep will find themselves at a distinct disadvantage.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yes, of course, Elder Mast, you are right. Perhaps Lycil can draft a sleep serum for me if I have trouble. Her antidotes have always proven most helpful.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Be cautious, Ciphero. She, too, travels with us for the trials. You may find her less accommodating, and less trustworthy, now than you have in the past.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The two were silent then, Ciphero now joining his teacher in gazing out across the endless sea. The brief silence was broken by a smallish voice.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Excuse me, sirs.Ã¢â‚¬Â Startled, Ciphero and Elder Mast spun to face the source of the voice and determine the identity of the intruder. It frightened both of them to see a young girl, obviously no more than eleven or twelve years of age, standing less than three feet away. The girlÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s proximity to them was alarming in itself. Both masters of their craft, they had either become far too secure in these somewhat familiar surroundings, or this girl possessed a stealthy skill far beyond her years.
Elder Mast was the first to regain his composure. Ã¢â‚¬Å“And who might you be, little girl? I have never seen one so young as yourself on this ship before.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am Rith,Ã¢â‚¬Â she declared boldly, Ã¢â‚¬Å“and I have a question.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“What is your question, Rith?Ã¢â‚¬Â Ciphero asked. His heart was still pounding heavily in his chest, and he hoped his voice didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t betray how unnerved the girlÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sudden appearance had made him.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“What are these trials you speak of?Ã¢â‚¬Â
Elder Mast fixed her with a glare. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We do not joke about such things on this ship, young Rith! If you are here, then you know what the trials are. There is none who goes to the trials who does not volunteer to do so. It is impossible to attend any other way. To feign ignorance is a great disrespect and insult, both to the trials and to all who undergo them.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Rith returned Elder MastÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s glare with a heat of her own. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But I am not a volunteer for the trials. I am here against my will.Ã¢â‚¬Â The elder shifted as if to strike her. She felt her body grow tense, but she did not back away. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I was kidnapped,Ã¢â‚¬Â she shot, as if defying either of these two men to contradict her.
Ciphero laid his hand on his companionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s shoulder in order to calm him. His eyes, though, never left the girlÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s face. He could not believe what she had just said, yet her face begot no lie.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Kidnapped. Yes.Ã¢â‚¬Â Rith nodded once to emphasize her confidence.
Ciphero glanced at Elder Mast and was reassured to see that the worry displayed on his teacherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s face mirrored his own inner fear.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Who was it that brought you here, Rith?Ã¢â‚¬Â the older man asked.
She shook her head slightly. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know his name. He was very tall, skinny, and his bones stuck out from his skin.Ã¢â‚¬Â She lifted her shirt slightly to reveal a darkening bruise on her side. She grinned, almost apologetically. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He had to carry me. I put up a fight.Ã¢â‚¬Â Her bemused expression turned thoughtful. Ã¢â‚¬Å“And he wore a low, black hat with a wide brim.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ciphero turned to face his teacher. His voice was urgent, a hoarse whisper. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We cannot take her even to the captain, elder. He is the very reason she is here.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Elder Mast responded, not bothering to conceal his voice. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I agree, Ciphero. You are right. Something is dangerously amiss. Things are changing, the magical barriers are breaking down, if someone can be brought aboard against their will, especially someone so young as Rith.Ã¢â‚¬Â He turned to face the girl again. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am afraid, Rith, that once someone has come aboard this ship, they are bound to remain. There will be no returning to your home until you have gone through the trials with the rest of the candidates.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“But elder,Ã¢â‚¬Â exclaimed Ciphero, Ã¢â‚¬Å“no one so young as she has ever gone through the trials, let alone survived them! Not even all who are here will survive, and we are all experts in our own trades.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The older manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s face expressed the burden of sadness he felt, as he sighed, Ã¢â‚¬Å“There is no choice, Ciphero. The Maiden has laid out the law, and we are bound to abide by it. Let us just hope that this is the _only_ rule that is Ã¢â‚¬ËœbrokenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. Perhaps, once she is made aware of our young Rith, she will exempt her from competing.Ã¢â‚¬Â His tone conveyed, however, that he did not believe his own words.
Elder Mast held his hand out to the girl. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Come, Rith. Our time has become very short, and you shall have need of such wisdom and guidance as I have if you are to have hope of facing what awaits Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and survive.Ã¢â‚¬Â
I find that I tend to go in cycles. For several weeks my mind will race through dozens of topics and issues, providing me an endless source of article fodder. Then I’ll hit a dry spot, a veritable intellectual desert in which no good idea will grow. It is these sandy, thirsty times where my only concerns are getting enough done at work and at home, getting bills paid, and getting enough sleep to survive the day. My mind _wants_ new and interesting things to think about and write about, but there is nothing in that mental queue.
And so I end up writing about the fact that I have nothing to write about. Pretty pathetic, right? This has just been a very slow week for me, probably in part due to struggling to overcome some sort of head and chest congestion and not getting nearly enough sleep. My mind just doesn’t function well under those conditions. (Ironically enough, I’ve come up with three new short story ideas, which may end up landing in any one of a couple larger works I have percolating upstairs.)
So, I’ll touch out my net and fish for some ideas, even though historically my net comes up empty. I’d love suggestions of topics to write about, particularly since I have some time this afternoon to do so. I’m also working on hammering out a rough draft of a story snippet floating in my head right now that I might post up a little bit later.
Any feedback is greatly appreciated!