Spread the Word

...observations and ramblings from a learner and traveler...

09 September 2017

Our Recreation

Worth reading in its context in Charles Spurgeon's Sermon #2189, page 2.

"Our rest is in the Lord's service; 
our recreation is in change of occupation."

06 September 2017

Chiasm and Biblical Narrative, simplified

 Jackson Wu's blog post on chiasm, the biblical narrative, and Western culture's difficulty with using and embracing chiasm is informative as well as thought-provoking. I particularly appreciated his graphic showing the narrative structure of chiasm. I recommend it to my friends who are students of biblical literature especially, but it may be equally useful to those who pursue the study of other literature and of storytelling, biblical or otherwise.

31 August 2017

Boston in 2 hours: with ecclesiastical and humanistic comments

 I got the chance this month to explore Boston for a couple hours before boarding my plane. Below are a few pictures of things that I noted as I wandered through one section of the city. 

Two comments:
1. Harvard station
2. A subway is a subway is a subway. 
The next 4 pictures below were taken at the historic Park Street Church.

Lowell Mason: an influential hymnwriter whom I was unfamiliar with
Apparently he is considered the "Father of American Church Music" with over 1,500 hymns, at least 70 of which are still sung. His most famous hymn is "Nearer My God to Thee." He was the first organist at Park Street Church in 1829, as well as being influential in bringing music into the Boston public school system.

Ockenga and Graham, leaders of (the New) Evangelicalism of the '50s and beyond

As a student of theology, I know why I stepped inside. But why do others visit this building, especially when they are walking "The Freedom Trail"? 

The pipe organ looked very impressive, but only the piano and violin were being practiced. Too bad.

Tremont Temple Baptist Church: the first integrated church in America
It was founded in 1838, free to attend by any race, free of cost.
It wasn't open to the public.

the Old Massachusetts State House
a place of rebellion

the site of the Boston Massacre
The history of this particular event seems, to me, to find echoes in modern society.

26 August 2017

Lincoln's Childhood Area

Replica farm house on Tom Lincoln's land

 The Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Indiana was an interesting little place to visit. The kids loved it, because it includes real life stuff. I was a bit amused to be visiting a place of myth on this trip - understanding that 'myth' does not relate to the truth or falseness of an event or figure - but it was actually fascinating because while the site itself is associated with Thomas Lincoln, Abe's father, it is simply presented as an example of a living farm of the era with many fascinating features. The people who staff and serve on this farm were extremely knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful.

more of the farm
  Also, I appreciated the public recognition of the 'myth' aspect of Lincoln as the sign said that this  park was to show "respect and reverence." Indeed, I suspect that he, along with Washington and MLK, is one of the most reverenced myths in American history.

08 August 2017

Evoked by the Flag

Van Dyke said, "We love our land for what she is and what she is to be."

Inclusion - Exclusion
Sorrow - Numbness
Freedom - at Home
Heritage - Conflict
Brainwash - Power, squash!
Ideals - Prideful
Opportunity - Identity

What has she been, what is she, what ought this land to be?

  These thoughts were drawn from a collection of views that were shared as single words following the display of the American flag. They relate to this post from a year ago on Patriotism vs. Nationalism.

29 July 2017

A "we" as big as humanity

  Since I am studying in proximity to a good library right now, I am also trying to examine some of the books that I have had on my 'wishlist' for a while and see how good they really are. In Lustig and Koester's Intercultural Competence, I found this nugget which relates directly to the need I constantly see for us to meet and be in relationship with those we fear or reject, whether our fears are cultural, economic/vocational, religious, or martial. It is difficult for us to love 'them' - whoever 'they' might be - without meaningful relationship.

The casual we for most of us does not include the 50 percent hungry, the 60 percent in shantytowns, and the 70 percent illiterate. Most of us construct our we without including them. Thinking of the world close up, as if it was a village of one thousand people, forces us to confront what we mean when we say "we." ...
How often does our we come to include people of other faiths, other nations, other races? How often does our we link rather than divide? Our relation with the "other" may move, as Smith puts it, through a number of phases. First we talk about them - an objective "other." Then perhaps we talk to them, or more personally, we talk to you. Developing a real dialogue, we talk with you. And finally, we all talk with one another about us, all of us. This is the crucial stage to which our... dialogue must take us if we are to be up to the task of creating communication adequate for an interdependent world. 
- Diana L. Eck, as quoted in Lustig's Intercultural Competence, pg 5 (italics original)

If the world were a thousand-person village... (2001 stats; ibid., 4)

09 July 2017

Consumerism, Zen, and this TCK

 Ewa Hoffman's Lost in Translation is assigned reading for my MA class; overall, it is excellent, but Part 2 "Exile" has been especially poignant to me, as a TCK who rejected the torturing consumerism of American culture when he was ten. (Technically, the author is a CCK, cross-cultural kid, not a third culture kid, but that's beside the point.)

 She also describes many of the feelings of lostness within and disengagement from a culture graphically. Yet, it was at the point where she began describing her response to materialism that the book really grabbed me. I don't recall having read anything so near to my own feelings about materialism. Finally, she speaks of being alone in a dorm over the holidays in a way that vividly recaptured that experience for me.

Concerning Her Reponse to Materialism and Consumerism:

  After battering myself again and again on the horns of lust and disgust, I begin to retreat from both. I decide to stop wanting. For me, this is a strange turn: my appetites are strong, and I never had any ambitions to mortify them by asceticism. But this new resolution is built into the logic of my situation. Since I can’t have anything, if I were to continue wanting, there would be no end to my deprivation. It would be constant, like a never-ending low-level toothache. I can’t afford such a toothache; I can’t afford to want. Like some sybarite turned monk who proves his mettle by placing himself in seductive situations, I can now walk between taffeta dresses and silk lingerie without feeling a shred of temptation. I‘ve become immune to desire; I snip the danger of wanting in the bud.   By the same sleight of consciousness, I’m becoming immune to envy. If I were to give vent to envying, there would be no end to that either. I would have to envy everybody, every moment of the day. But with my new detachment, I can gaze at what my friends have as if they lived in a different world. In this spatial warp in which I have situated myself, it doesn’t make any difference that they live in big houses with large yards and swimming pools, and cars and many skirts and blouses and pairs of shoes. This way, I can be nice to my friends; I can smile pleasantly at their pleasures and sympathize with their problems of the good life. I can do so, because I’ve made myself untouchable. Of course, they might be upset if they guessed the extent of my indifference; but they don’t.


 In my lush Western Sahara, I’m confronting a tantalizing abundance that doesn’t fill, and a loneliness that carves out a scoop of dizzying emptiness inside.

Concerning Eastern religions in American culture:
Two decades later, when the Eastern religions vogue hits the counterculture, I think I understand the all-American despair that drives the new converts to chant their mantras in ashrams from San Francisco to Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The gospel of detachment is as well suited to a culture of excess as it is to a society of radical poverty. It thrives in circumstances in which one’s wants are dangerous because they are surely going to be deprived – or because they are pulled in so many directions that they pose a threat to the integrity, the unity of one’s self.


...America is the land of yearning, and perhaps nowhere else are one’s desires so wantonly stimulated...

Concerning lonely breaks:
...in my nearly empty dorm during a holiday break, I forget my ascetic techniques, and the desire for the comfort of being a recognizable somebody placed on a recognizable social map breaks in on me with such anguishing force that it scalds my spirit and beats it back into its hiding place.

Hoffman, Eva. Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language (pp. 136-140). Plunkett Lake Press. Kindle Edition. (Emphases added.)

27 June 2017

Understanding, Listening to each other, and Knowing

 I will be posting tidbits from my grad school reading here. Much of the recent stuff doesn't relate directly to teaching; it relates to humanity and learning. The chapter mentioned below by Curran was particularly good.

The more words I have, the more distinct, precise my perceptions become - and such lucidity is a form of joy. 
Eva Hoffman, Lost in Translation

The preservation of the self-image is the first law of psychological survival. Therefore, in any social encounter each person exposes for public scrutiny and public testing - and possibly for intolerable undermining - the one thing he needs most, which is the self-perception that he has so laboriously fashioned. This mean that the stakes in any social encounter are incredibly high. No such encounter, therefore, can be merely routine.
- Earl Stevick, "A View of the Learner" (emphasis added)

This is a common major or minor tragedy of the human condition: two people meet each other, both seeking to be understood, and neither of them are able or willing to make the effort to understand. This could be like two performers in a circus trapeze act - both expecting to be caught and no one catching. One can almost feel the pain as they crash into one another after both have leaped off the trapeze. 
Consequently understanding between people cannot be presumed, even though it is a basic need of us all. That is why it is necessarily an acquired skill. To assume it, as many do, is to mislead oneself. In the assumption, one can be in the narcissistic bind of presuming one is a very "understanding" person when one has, in reality, never left oneself and one's own world. Others seldom tell us this even when everyone around us knows it. We can therefore remain in a self-deception trap. 
- Charles Curran, Understanding: An Essential Ingredient in Human Belonging (emphasis added)

15 June 2017

Struggle - Together

 Some of you may know, and others may not, that I have started an MA in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). A reading this week resonated deeply with me, not simply as a student or teacher, but also as a person and as a follower of Christ. The article was by Leahy and Gilly and was entitled, "Learning in the Space between Us." It's available on JSTOR if you care to go peruse it; it's excellent. The subject is Collaborative, Transformative Learning - education towards change, together. Here are some excerpts:

[Parker] Palmer said, after all, "there is no knowing without conflict."

Commitment to "together" means that persons are welcome to bring body, mind, heart, and soul; their skills, ideas, and learning styles; and both endearing and maddening idiosyncrasies. ... Cultivate the intent to include as if to say to others: do not withhold yourself; allow us to come to know you; engage with your whole self; let us value and use our diversity.

It was our commitment to "together" that oddly enough was both source of and solution for the tension. It was not an option to win the argument by dismissing the other. Ultimately, even when exasperated, we each chose to honor not only the commitment to struggle but also the commitment to "together." We were committed to producing things; our conversations were not intellectual speculation, however, getting something done never trumped "struggle" and "together."
(emphases mine)

 That last seems to me to be great marriage advice as well. I cannot say that I have 'learned' it, but as we celebrate 8 years of marriage, it makes a lot of sense to me in many, many ways.

31 May 2017

Human Culture as Human Environment

Disregarding certain aspects, I found the main idea of this excerpt from Patricia Crone's Pre-Industrial Societies quite useful. This is from the beginning of the chapter entitled 'Culture.'

[Animals'] genetic programme might well have been unsuited for the [hypothetical] island, in which they would have risked dying out; but the only, or almost only, way they could have adapted themselves would have been by natural selection. The human animal is of course genetically programmed too. However, its programme for social organization is deficient (and to some extent even counter-productive). The programme does little but instruct its bearer to learn, or in other words to acquire culture with which to supplement (and in some cases even to suppress) such specific instructions as it retains. Without doing so, the species simply could not survive; doing so, it can survive almost anywhere on earth and even, for limited periods, outside it. Culture is thus the species-specific environment of Homo sapiens. Living in accordance with nature is an attractive idea, but in the human case it actually looks like living with culture.
(bold mine)