After 12/7/2011, this blog will no longer be updated, although content will remain. Please visit my new blog at Hidden Latitudes.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pat Conroy on Losing.

Pat Conroy, lower left
There is no downside to winning. It feels forever fabulous. But there is no teacher more discriminating or transforming than loss. The great secret of athletics is that you can learn more from losing than winning. No coach can afford to preach such a doctrine, but our losing season served as both model and template of how a life can go wrong and fall apart in even the most inconceivable places.
   Losing prepares you for the heartbreak, setback, and tragedy that you will encounter in the world more than winning ever can. By licking your wounds you learn how to avoid getting wounded the next time. The American military learned more by its defeat in South Vietnam than it did in all the victories ever fought under the Stars and Stripes. Loss invites reflection and reformulating and a change of strategies. Loss hurts and bleeds and aches. Loss is always ready to call out your name in the night. Loss follows you home and taunts you at the breakfast table, follows you to work in the morning. You have to make accommodations and broker deals to soften the rabbit punches that loss brings to your daily life. You have to take the word "loser" and add it to your resume and walk around with it on your name tag as it hand-feeds you your own shit in dosages too large for even great beasts to swallow. The word "loser" follows you, bird-dogs you, sniff you out of whatever fields you  hide in because you have to face things clearly and you cannot turn away from what is true. My team won eight games and lost seventeen... losers by any measure.
--Pat Conroy, in My Losing Season.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Life of the Artist

“I tried to get a Christmas job at Walmart once,” he recounts, “and when I filled out the application, I had to put down, ‘Musician for 20 years.’ I could see in their eyes what they were thinking, ‘Musician, drugs, irresponsible.’ What they actually said was, ‘Thank you for the application, Mr. Mallonee, we’ll call if we’re interested.’ I realized, ‘If I can’t get a job at Walmart at Christmas, I can’t get a job anywhere.’ This is all I can do. On the other hand, this is what I really love, so I have to take the famine with the feast.”
Bill Mallonee, quoted by Geoffrey Himes, in Paste Magazine.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Can you be a criminal and a Christian?

   A blog I read on occasion is Friendly Atheist. It is the work of Hemant Mehta, a math teacher in suburban Chicago (and who is, indeed, a friendly atheist). On September 8, 2011, the title of his blog entry was:

If People of Faith Commit a Crime, Do They Still Represent the Faith?

   Mr. Mehta then referred to a study by the Brookings Institute and the Public Religion Research Institute. The study reveals that, if a Christian were to commit a terrorist act in the name of religion, 83% of Americans would declare that person as not a true Christian, while only 13% would say that you COULD be a Christian and a terrorist.
   The survey also found that, asked the same question about Muslim terrorists, the numbers are much closer: 48% say NO, while 44% say YES, a Muslim terrorist is probably a true Muslim.
   The blogger's only comment about the findings are this: "How's that for a double standard?" Well, it is, for sure. But I guess it bodes well for Christianity in general that we are disassociated with violent acts in the name of religion (although some think otherwise). As an aside, I think it is worth noting that the most horrific and brutal acts in history were carried out by people who, like Mr. Mehta, professed no faith at all.
   But I'm sure Mr. Mehta (and the Institutes) would never have thought to ask an even more provocative question, and it is this:

   Isn't being a criminal actually a prerequisite for being a Christian?

   I think the answer to that question should be an unqualified, emphatic YES! For at the heart of Christianity, as Christ taught it, were two hard truths: 

   First, Man is a criminal, if not for crimes against humanity, then for crimes against divinity—rebelling against and denying a God who made him and sustains him.
   And second, judgment has been passed and a sentence has been handed down. But strangely enough, the penalty has been paid for the crime, and we can walk free, if we admit our guiltiness and accept the payment.
   I have said in the past that a church is "a wonderful community made up of murderers, adulterers and thieves." If you've worked it out how to atone for your own shortcomings (sin, in Biblical parlance), or you disagree that you have any, then neither Christ nor Christianity will be your cup of tea. But if you have doubts...
—Wayne S.
P.S.: For those of you who like to get your sociology freak on, the above mentioned study is fascinating stuff. 

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Dialogue, not dogma.

“I just spoke to Christianity Today,” Farmiga shares, “and they were extremely grateful for fully realized representations of Christians, where they’ve been given senses of humor and exquisite personalities. And yes, faults, but not to the degree where mockery is being made. They’re three-dimensional portrayals. And then you’ve got the other side that have come to me and said ‘I was fully prepared to be cynical and not connect, and in fact didn’t want to connect. And I found myself incredibly touched, and I thank you for that openness.’ So it’s wild to see unexpected reactions from either skew. But you know, I think films are the best sermons. No matter what faith you’re coming from—Hinduism or Buddhism or Islam or Judaism or whatever. The best sermons within all these faiths are the ones that provoke dialogue and don’t instill dogma.”
Vera Farmiga, on her directoral debut film Higher Ground, as quoted in Paste Magazine.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Science or Morality?

There are many things that are “unscientific” but not anti-scientific, things science can’t prove but can’t disprove either—things everyone accepts, like beauty, and love, and morality, and the presence of a self, an “I” in this body, not just atoms. So there’s nothing wrong with being “unscientific.”
Today, most people who don’t believe in God are not hard-headed scientists who demand rational proof of everything, but softhearted, compassionate people who are afraid God is too tough, too demanding, too “judgmental,” too moralistic. The primary reason for refusing to believe in God—the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—is moral today.
from Angels and Demons, by Peter J. Kreeft