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Showing posts from August, 2007

St. Walker

I finished Walker Percy's 1983 existential parody Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book in early August. It was an uneven attempt at getting people to see why they may be "lost." The book really picked up in the last two parts his "Space Odyssey." Something akin to C.S. Lewis' space trilogy Percy wrote a scathingly funny examination of what would happen if humans tried to colonize space. After reading that you should listen to T. Bone Burnett's "Humans From Earth." Have you ever been to Lost Cove, TN?

God and Evil

As my friend, philosopher R. S. Lee, put it perhaps the strongest argument against God is the problem of evil (G. K. Chesterton once quipped that the strongest argument against Christianity was Christians). Many atheists, of the loudmouthed stripe these days, seem to think this is some new evidence that they alone (the "brights" as Richard Dawkins wishes to label his ilk) have marshalled this damning bit of quandry against the forehead of Goliath-like religion with some smooth stone of David. Acutally guys, this reasoning is pretty old. . . ancient, in fact. Many of the ancient Greek dramatists and poets dealt with this topic. And yet, Christians are still here (religion is still here for that matter).
In David Bentley Hart's 2005 book The Doors of the Sea he tackles the problem of evil (theodicy as the ancients knew it) in the context of the 2004 tsunami that killed 1/4 of a million people. This short book is an excellent meditation on the question whether an all-good Go…

Collapse ahh, ahh (sung to the tune of Queen's "Flash")

The subtitle of Jared Diamond's Collapse- "How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed"- doesn't quite give you the idea that the core of collapses that he examines are from environmental causes. Environmental causes couple with human ignorance or hubris, that is.
Diamond chronicles the fall of several past societies--Easter Island and some other South Pacific groups, the Anasazi of the American Southwest, the Maya, the Vikings, and the Norse of Greenland. Additionally, he looks at some contemporary examples of collapse and those on the verge--Rwanda being the former with Haiti, China, and Australia in the latter. Diamond also examines the state of Montana for signs of despair and hope closer to home.
He outlines five factors that combine to cause a society's collapse; they are 1) the resilience of the local environmental region and the amount of human-inflicted damage, 2) climate change (which isn't necessarily warming), 3) hostile neighbors, 4) decreased support …

What If . . .

I found this quote on the web today--

Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio challenges Christians to consider the following thought experiment: “What would happen if theologically conservative Christians were noted for their commitment to improving arts education in public schools more than for their opposition to the teaching of evolution? Is it possible that a commitment to a well-trained imagination is a necessary asset in properly apprehending the kind of thing Creation is?”

Why that's down-right un-Jesusy isn't it? Look, I have trouble with the story of macro-evolution too, especially the materialism it engenders, but I'd say we have a larger crisis of a poverty of the imagination, both in the larger culture and in the Church.

What does it mean to have a baptized imagination anyway? Why do so many (myself included) find themselves in battles that have little meaning (I don't mean to imply that the battle for creation metanarratives is trivial, it isn't) and can't find…

Introducing. . . Fishergirl!

This is what pride in your children feels like ( in your case, dear reader, reads like.) On our recent trip to Arbutus Lake (see "Ah, Quasi Wilderness") Rhonwyn wanted to use the fishing rod and reel I gave to her for her fifth birthday last month. So we went down the slope from our campsite to the lake and practiced casting for awhile with a weighted plug on the end of the line. A day later I purchased some Fancy, Imported Crawlers (they were from Canada).
When the time came to actually fish, Rhonwyn, in typical five-year-old girl fashion refused to bait the hook. OK, I think when I was her age I made my grandpa do the same thing. We cast a few times, lost some worms to weeds, logs, and nibbles, but received nothing for casting our worm out on the waters.
We stopped because we had to finish packing up to leave, but I wanted to give her one more chance. After the packing was finished we drove a short way over to the boat launch. I, once again, did my dadly duty and hooked th…

Are You Charlotte Simmons?

All right, I downed my first ever Tom Wolfe novel (in about 2 1/2 months). It was . . . good. A bit cardboardish with the chioce of characters, but given that Wolfe is trying to paint a broad canvas of contemporary US collegiate life, I think we can overlook his less than Reubenesque characterizations. I don't want this to be a long review so I'll just say that EVERY high school junior and senior in America (probably Canada too) should be forced to read the consecutive chapters titled "To . . . Us" and "You Okay?". As Wolfe has Charlotte observe throughout the book human sexuality is reduced to "rutting" and a spirit of gnosticism is found in every molecular gap on the campus of the fictional DuPont U.
The lesson for those who take the supernatural as real should be this: one coat of moral fiber/teaching is not enough. Charlotte absentmindedly refers to the Christianity she was brought up with, but it is not enough to stop the deluge of the need to…

Ah, Quasi-Wilderness

Well, we made it through our second camping trip of the season. We stayed at Arbutus Lake State Forest Campground, which is about 15 minutes south of Traverse City. We had the beach almost exclusively to ourselves during the five days we were there. A blue heron or two hung out to the northeast of this beach and at least one loon made its home somewhere on this particular lake.
While there we visited Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Surprisingly, this has been one of the few attractions in Michigan that I have failed to visit. We didn't spend as much time as I would have liked there so we'll have to go again. This picture is from a .6 mile hike to Pyramid Point, the northernmost part of the park. You have a great view of South Manitou Island from the bluff up there. That's about a two hundred foot slope below my feet there.
We also hit the Leelanau Peninsula, Traverse City, and Point Betsie Lighthouse on the way home. (Does anyone know how to layout photos so they are…

Curses!

I went to check on my lone beehive (down from two in previous years) only to find them queenless! Auuugh! The weather has been mild and dry to hot and dry this summer so I imagine the nectar flow has not been the best. They should have at least close to 60 pounds of honey by this time--I estimate they have about 45. This is very frustrating. They are raising their own queen, she's capped right now, but I fear that will be too little, too late. So much for an empire of honey this year. On the off chance that any other beekeepers come across this ( I feel like a beehaver) how has your summer been?

What Hath Economics to Do with the Environment?

Having recently taken (and passed, I might add) an Ecological Economics course and in reading a couple of books namely McKibben's Deep Economy and currently Wendell Berry's Another Turn of the Crank has changed my thinking immensely. A few years years ago I wouldn't have made the connection between economics and the environment other than the usual tired arguments about jobs versus saving some particular place or ecosystem. The issue is deeper than that.
What is your view of the global ecosystem? Is it a subset of the economy or is our economy, both local and global, a subset of both kinds of ecosystems? As we move farther and farther away from living and having our being in and on the land we would probably choose the first option. I think, based on science and the Bible, that it is the second one.
Anyway, in thinking about these things nearly incessantly these days, I come across Berry's comments in his essay "Private Property and the Common Wealth" where he …

The Past Ain't What It Used To Be

I finished Charles C. Mann's 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus back in March and I'm still letting some of his work settle in between my cranial folds. A couple points of interest he raises:
There were quite possibly more people living in the Americas than Europe in 1491 (scientists disagree but even the conservative estimates are higher than those found in most high school textbooks)Some Indians were living in harmony with their environment, but many had radically changed their surroundings:e.g., the Great Plains of America, the areas of New England where the Pilgrims and Puritans first settled.This is fascinating because the idea still is disseminated that Indians were perfect Earth-keepers as oppossed to those greedy Europeans. The evidence gives the lie to these antiquated ideas. The truth is that Indians like any other group of people they had good and bad practices and that they impacted their environment for their benefit. See for instance, Mann&…