Monday, May 30, 2005

So. Whatcha Doin'?

Happy Memorial Day sounds wrong, so I'll just say, thanks to the nice posters out there.

Dawn is off on her traditional birthday weekend road trip, this time to the southwest. It's a mom-daughter thing this time, with Beth, since school is out.

What is Mark reading in the intermission between semesters? Ah. Glad you asked.

Just finished Lord Norwich's A Short History of Byzantium, which is a one thousand-year-long meditation on two things: how horrifically immoral Christian leadership can be and God still not destroy the church in a place; and, how people will substitute meaning for reality any chance they get. Meaning is found in visions that interpret the world that is in terms of how it might or should be, and that this hope-which-grants-meaning is not the food of an aspiring culture on the rise, but also the crust of bread upon which the people of dying civilizations subsist even as their countries subside.

Just finished Frederick Turner's Beauty: The Value of Values, a programmatic statement of his theory of biocultural evolution. He's basically a Chardinian, I think, which I am not; but unless Tom Torrance did so or Alister McGrath just has, no one resembling an evangelical has constructed nearly so comprehensive a synthesis of the sciences and the humanities.

Just started Ian Barbour's Ethics in an Age of Technology, parts of which will be the common text for an ethics and technology group that has started at the med school here. (It evolved out of a discussion of the most problematic areas in a theology of healing.) The medical types are most interested in the ethics, the rules. I think this will drive them back to a theory of human being, to a philosophical or theological anthropology, as every ethics is rooted in and incomprehensible and unlivable without, a base metaphysics. But we'll see.

I'm halfway through Julius Weinberg's A Short History of Medieval Philosophy, because even a guy like me has got to be allowed some beach-frolicking, frisky and playful, bodice-ripping fun every now and then.

I'm writing a long engagement, longer than is deserved, probably, with Slavoj Zizek's On Belief, which is a recovery of the biblical meaning of belief as not intellectual assent but existential commitment, although he is recovering this for...he's not sure what. Marxism? One can hardly say so any more, even if he thinks it.

I'm almost finished with Donald Davidson's Subjective Intersubjective Objective, and recently finished John Searle's Rationality in Action. These are part of a project to fill out my dissertation with Anglo-American philosophical positions that Habermasian philosophy would have to address if it were to be pushed forward here. Davidson is a pragmatist of a sort, and Searle is trying admirably to develop an analytic systematic philosophy, which has not been even so much as attempted so far as I know. Habermas used Searle a lot in his early post-Marxist works, but there was no dialogue actually with Searle, and Searle and Habermas both moved on. So I'm looking to write something on how the mature Searle's system might interact with the mature Habermas's. Davidson is really a technician, and I just need to make sure my critical realism passes technical muster.

At night I'm reading Robert Bretall's selection called A Kierkegaard Anthology, which is wonderful. What's not to like about a philosopher who hoped people would keep thinking of him as a wealthy, philandering, dilettantish playboy, and so would attend the opening of every theater and art performance, just so he could sneak out the first chance he got to get back to writing seriously Christian philosophy?

There's a bunch of "emerging church" literature coming out. I can hardly bring myself to read it. It matters enough to me that I get angry when people get it wrong. I'm incredibly frustrated, embarassed, and mad at myself for not being, as I could have been, the first practitioner to publish in this area. There's a bunch of it, which is daunting from a time-allocation point of view. And it's the latest punching bag for the more literate illiterati in evangelicaldumb. Yet I am writing and speaking, and do intend to do more of both, in this area, so I need to stop whining, buy the books, and read them quickly.

More substantively, I have had real conversations with a couple of people over the doctrine of the atonement, which I consider the key to sorting out Christianity for the emerging, postmodernizing culture. So I'm to read Grant Hill's edited anthology (actually a festschrift for Roger Nicole) called The Glory of the Atonement, the latest state-of-the-field report within evangelical circles and squares.

I'm also trying to get back into reading Habermas. During my dissertation writing, I read 4,500 stinking pages of the guy, and yet I still have 1,500 to go just to get to all his stuff that's in English. So I'm desultorily picking at Toward a Rational Society, Legitimation Crisis, and On the Pragmatics of Social Interaction. I also need to get the secondary literature under my belt, and so I'm starting with Johanna Meehan's Feminists Read Habermas, not least because I'd like to contribute something worthwhile to the Damaris conference this fall.

I also do dishes, stay up til Jonathan comes home from cleaning up Cafe Brazil after hours, and avoid balancing my checkbook. So I stay busy. Summer school at El Centro starts on D-Day, June 6.

It's getting to be summer, so Italian cream sodas and gelatto all around,


Thursday, May 19, 2005

You're Late

Hey. Well, apropos of me not having blogged in ten days, I have noticed that several times in The Lord of the Rings somebody tells somebody else that they're late. It's the first word of the movie, when Frodo tells Gandalf he's late for Bilbo's party. Legolas tells Aragorn (in Elvish) "You're late--and you look terrible" when Aragorn staggers back to Helms Deep after recovering from his wounds in the warg attack. Both Denethor and Saruman tell Gandalf that Late is the hour that Gandalf the Grey comes to Isengard / Minas Tirith.

And so on many times throughout the movies.


So, the world is a big place, with a lot of people in it, which has been around for a while. Which means that, whenever you start in helping or doing your bit, it's already "late"--a lot of stuff has already happened, a lot of people have already been hurt or victimized or whatever, no matter how energetically, strategically, or earnestly you intervene. That does not, of course, mean don't do it. It means you are part of something bigger, that others before and after you, and others now, feel passionate about causes and issues you do, that your story is a chapter in a bigger story that puts your story in context and makes it mean something.
So laugh--as both Gandalf and Aragorn do--at yourself and the situation, take a deep breath, and charge in. Are you too late? Yep. From the obvious point of view are the bad guys winning, the good guys disorganized? Yep. So what do you do now? Just what you were going to do anyway, only with more maturity and at the same time with more reckless abandon.

As I start off, again, trying to start off a speaking writing networking thing, I'm once again too late. The publishing world moves on, key positions are already staked out, people get bored, I'm not exactly covershot material. And you know what, you just laugh about it, trust God, and plunge in again.

I've sent out two manuscripts this week to well-placed readers. Not too weak for a week. It's a start.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Well, Tim, We Can See That You're a Busy Man

Dawn and I are actually going to get away for our anniversary this weekend. We'll go to Louisville and see her mom and sisters, but we'll manage, I'm pretty sure, to make time for us. Hm, should I bring my grading or not...?

The process for which this blog is named has been going well without any calling any attention to the fact. So I did, this past weekend, at LGBC's community dinner. It's time to make official--i.e., artificially overt--what the Spirit is, I think, making unofficial--i.e., real, whether overt or not--namely, that the Body of Christ is functioning--in a lumpy, bumpy way, to be sure, but that's how we do it--in LGBC well enough that I am receding from my excess importance to being a (valued, but finite) member and contributor and participant in the community. That's very cool. How often do you get to have a vision for something, then get to actually try to start one, and then, way past what you did to catalyze it, the thing takes off with a life of its own, and actually holds to much of the vision? Um, well, Mark, most people probably never get to carry that off, except in raising their kids maybe. So we're very humbled and grateful that it's happening here and now. That's cool.

Got to go. Talk more soon.