Monday, February 14, 2011

A Practice in Coming up with Fancy Names for Simple Concepts

Sorry folks, nothing particularly brow-raising or feather ruffling for this week's post (not that these have ever in any way been weekly publications, there's always been a nagging intention...).

Today I would like to share with you a practice of mine. A tool that helps me very much so in understanding how I really read scripture, what I get from it, and at the same time encourages my mind to chew, digest, and grow from what I am presented with.

Eeehh, I suppose this practice should have a name. A mental index card to add to... er... we'll call it autotranslation. Sounds academic enough to be real. Excellent.

Autotranslation is a process that begins with the reading of a passage. (I like to stick with the Psalms right now for this, because it feels slightly less heretical and a bit more poetic...let me know about your own expeeriences). Pray about it... read it out loud. Read it again. What words stick out to you? What meanings stick out?

Now, for the fun part:
Write it yourself.

Seriously. How is your mind processing those squiggles and blocks on the page? What other words come to mind or you feel should be there based on your own understanding of scripture? Is there a better way in your own language of saying something again based on your own understanding of yourself? If this passage was written by you for you, how would it go? What would it say just to you?...

Psalm 1: Alexander Translation

Worthy to be praised and of great respect
is the man who's life, guiding principles, and sources
of renewal are contrary to those who do not
know any better, yet blindly pressure you to act as
they: founded in sin and ignorance.

His Base motivation, his wellspring of life and
joy come from an understanding of God's Truth.
(His life is ordered by Godly wisdom)

And as a tree planted by the water, he and all
he does will be filled with vitality and
fruit which is plain to see. The prosperities of his
energy will be for all to recognize and enjoy
and will be unaffected by seasonal disruption.

Unlike those who seek out the heart of God,
the spiritually iggnorent will make no lasting contribution
to human society.

That being said, neither the truely evil nor the
fool will find acquittal before God when all
our actions are accounted for.

For only those whose primary disposition is
parallel with the will of Christ will abide with
Him, while the will of the foolish can find
no other end yet oblivion.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Why not know: Belief in Faith.

Faith is a beautiful thing.

Faith moves mountains, Faith inspires, Faith encourages humans all over the world to forgo that which is assured for that which will one day reap an even greater reward. As I heard when I was young, and as a defense for faith, we place our trust in the unseeable and unknowable every day, from when I open a can expecting soup to be inside, I have faith that the label is telling me the truth, right? Or when you turn your key, you have faith that the engine is going to roar with life.

These, I feel, are false analogies. Faith is always a conscious decision. Generally, I turn the key without thinking about if it might not run. I open my can and of course it's filled with my soup. There is a choice in faith. You can't have faith unless you're thinking about faith. (Perhaps I'll expound on this later)

There's something about our society today that just loves faith. it's so darn inspirational! Hallmark probably generates half their revenue from that single concept alone... Believing in the unseen. Trusting in the unknowable...

I'm wondering if we're wrong about faith. Or maybe we missed the point.

I'm reading a book for class full of words or phrases like "habitus," "milieu," and "small scale societies." Anthropology, it fascinates me. So far I've learned: trying to completely enter another person's experience of life is, well, basically impossibly complicated. Perception of reality and the meaning of things within one's community completely alter's your experience and others' expectations.

In this book, there's a brief story of one of these small scale societies in South-Asia that had an incredibly difficult time understanding what Faith was from the missionaries sent there. Their local traditions had no analogue, because for them, the spirits of their forefathers were simply a fact. The existence of several states of after-life existence were simply different states of life, and that they could hold a conversation through a shaman with their deceased uncle is for them as mundane as going to the dentist is for us.

This got me thinking: why don't they need faith? Goodness, they don't even have a concept of faith. For them, this is knowing. It's real. An inarguable fact. Something perhaps we've lost the concept in our post-modern perception of the world: inarguable facts. There must always be another side or a bias or relative point of view or hidden agenda thrown in there.

So now all we're left with is: Faith. When presented the Story of Our Redemption, we're told it's real, we believe it's real, than what keeps us from knowing?

--> I wonder if we're all afraid of being found out as fools? (Then what's keeps us from not being afraid?) Or perhaps we as Christians are still trying to reconcile the ponderous quantities of knowledge, pomp, and foolery brought on by Enlightenment and Capitalism with our understanding of Scripture.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


So the other day, I saw a real dead body. Really, for the first time.

My hand, in an attempt to photograph something seemingly relevant

Alright, not in person, but rather in an instructional video. A training video for the process of embalming.

Apparently they have trade schools for everything. They call it Mortuary Science. Creep-tastic. Context: I'm currently in an Anthropology class on Death, so we get to hear about stuff like this 2 hours a day.

This was different, though. This was a real video, and a real dead body. I kept thinking over and over thats just a body just like I have a body... but different. They poke and they prod and they sew the mouth shut, and as would be expected, there are no signs of resistance. There's nobody in there. It's empty of life.

Empty... vacant. It was unreal, there should have been someone in there! It looked like there should be... his spirit had truly left him.

It was a strangely spiritual realization. How could you not look at that kind of body and understand that our existence is so far beyond the physical? That this flesh is merely a tent, as scripture refers to it?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Back to our Ruts

It's been quite a while...sometimes, it's easier just to forget the past and move on. Sometimes, that's just what we need, to get moving again instead of bearing this immense weight of past and history waiting to be written before the present can ever ever be touched.

So here I am.

Sitting amongst the light of a candle powered by the timeless wonder of bacon grease. 

Bacon Candle
Lights out, orange globs dancing about my ceiling... this connects. This grounds the mind in something that stretches further back than recorded history. Of fishing and gathering, of laughter and love, of the labor of your hands belonging to the tribe and nobody else. There's something almost spiritually grounding in firelight, also. Perhaps this is why we haven't replaced the candles in candle-light ceremonies with LEDs yet. Fire is rich in symbolic value also, in purification and judgement and survival.

I thought about all this today as I sat in church, musing about one thing or the other instead of the sermon. That's my problem, my mind seems to understand church services as free license to think about just about everything accept the message, maybe there's some sort of subtle rebellion taking place there, rejecting simple absorption of information.

Have we lost anything in Protestantism? Has there been something profoundly lost in the rejection of tradition? Traditions arise for many reasons, and certainly can cloud true reasoning, but we've become so intellectual, so heaven-bent on understanding that sometimes I feel Christian ceremony has become less capable of connecting with that deep core that simply desires to dance recklessly around a fire and scream to the heavens praise and grief and joy