Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Good Week in Books

Not to be out done by my good friend Mr. Beldman who soaked up the book sales at SBL/AAR I wanted share my experience this week. First, I had contacted Canadian Mennonite about doing book reviews for them. So a couple of days ago I received two books. One is a revised edition of Gregory Baum's Religion and Alienation which is an exploration in the role of social theory in theology. The other book is Crystal Downing's How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith. This book is a little less promising but still has some hopeful sections.
That same day I was nosing through a Goodwill store and came across these little jewels.
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. $1.50
Not a spectacular find, but I like stocking the shelves with some classics.
David Richter, ed. The Critical Tradition 2d ed. $2.99
This is an extensive and relatively recent reader in critical theory. I was pleased.

And then the grand finale . . .
Paul Ricoeur, The Symbolism of Evil. $0.99

I actually did a double take when I saw this spine staring back at me. This find may gone as one of the all-time highlights in cheap used book finds.

Now comes finding the time to read them . . .

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Those Words, Those Words, Those Words

I am sure many of you have already seen this clip of Michael Richards (Seinfeld's "Kramer") at least in part. I think there are several things going on here. One of aspect that I need to reflect on more is the role of humour and how powerful and non-neutral it is. Second, and this is something I would not want to push too far, what initially struck me was no matter how much I enjoyed Seinfeld I always had a slight uneasiness with how the group of clever upper-middle class white folk participated in the lives of all sorts of minorities be it ethic (Babu), physical (Mickey), or sexual (the virgin). Is good humour always close to the edge? Finally, there is the need for power behind language. Richards himself assumes the position of the “the (white) man” in his own tirade and then at the conclusion tells the audience that we still have “those words”. What is interesting here is that the black people in the audience did not have “those words”, cracker is hardly a comparison and they knew it. Language here revealed again (as crisis did in Hurricane Katrina) the deep-seated racism that is far from healed in America.

In any event have a look and weigh in if you want to.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Hope and Philosophy

I have been wrestling with the value of modern philosophical pursuits. Most every “big name” in the history of modern philosophy tends to be reduced in large part to the question of relationship, namely our position in the world in relationship to other people and objects. Some maintained that reality exists in the mind as it provides the organizing principles to interpret the influx of non-meaningful sensory perception (I believe this is basically Kantian). Others argued that the human mind and body exist as a clean slate onto which external objects inscribe reality and meaning (Hume?). I understand this to be the difference between empiricism and idealism. Both of these approaches had a confidence that either the mind itself or the ordering of the material world offered the possibility of stable consistent truth. Derrida appeared to undermine the possibility of a stable or accessible core of truth. All reality is mediated linguistically and words are only understood in relationship to other words and so meaning or access to the world around us remains deferred in its difference. Recently Slavoj Zizek, working from Jacques Lacan, states that,

It is not that we need words to designate objects, to symbolize reality, and that then, in surplus, there is some excess of reality, a traumatic core that resists symbolization – this obscurantist theme of the unnameable Core of Higher Reality that eludes the grasp of language is to be thoroughly rejected; not because of a na├»ve belief that everything can nominated, grasped by our reason, but because of the fact that the Unnameable is an effect of language. We have reality before our eyes well before language, and what language does, in its most fundamental gesture, is – as Lacan put it – the very opposite of designating reality: it digs a hole in it, it opens up visible / present reality toward the dimension of the immaterial / unseen. When I simply see you, I simply see you – but it is only in naming you that I can indicate the abyss in you beyond what I see.

I admit that these are immature images of these thinkers but I am quite certain that lurking beneath all this technical language remains that basic urge for knowing ourselves and the world around us. I am enjoying my brief tour of philosophical literature but I foresee that I may be wearied if I do not find a vulnerability towards the Real which these writings border on smothering. I am sure that my approach to reality could be quickly classified and dismantled by any rigourous thinker in any of these camps, however the force of authority that I once gave this views is beginning to wane (and perhaps not even enough yet).
The result so far is a renewed vision for the need of witnessing to a personal God. I mean this in no modern evangelical sense of the word. Rather I am coming to recognize that we are in essence relational beings, limited yes, but appropriately equipped nonetheless.
My early response to such stirring is hope.
I hope to return to the poetic which seeks out the cracks and possibilities of language.
I hope to return to the holy which pours through these cracks.
And approaching advent may we look in hopeful expectation to Mother Mary who lived both the intimacy of the incarnation and the experience of shame and the inability to communicate the reality within her (and really who could believe her?).
And finally I hope to find myself in a state of worship which I believe is the only posture in which we may truly participate with Triune God, Creator and Sustainer of our reality.

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Remembrance Day




At 12:30am on November 11 Harry Lehotsky passed away. He was a transforming presence in Winnipeg's downtown demonstrating the best of both the "social" and "spiritual" Gospel. May his good work be shown at the Harvest.

CBC Article

CTV Article

Sun Article

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Down the Pipe

It has been a little too long since I have posted a piece of real effort. I am currently working on an article that I would like to submit to Canadian Mennonite, my conference's national magazine. So if they do not accept it I will offer it to my wide readership. Also I have been able to find the time to read some great books that I would be well served to reflect a little and comment on. Hopefully to come will be posts on Zizek's The Puppet and the Dwarf, Kiekegaard's Fear and Trembling, and Descarte's Meditation's on First Philosophy. Perhaps this little post will keep my motivated to see this through.

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