Monthly Archives: May 2005

Winslow Photo




Winslow Lecture

Originally uploaded by AKMA.

Just this afternoon, I received from Seabury’s Director of Communications a series of photos she took during my Winslow Lecture last month. The photos are terrific; since I’m not very good-looking to start with (I have, as Halley might say, let myself go over the years, except to the extent that the phrase implies that I had anyplace to go from), it’s not often that pictures please me. I’m an especially bad subject when I’m painfully aware that someone’s taking my picture. But since I had other things on my mind while Connie was taking these pictures, I’m very much at ease, and I think it shows. Thanks very much Connie, and a toast to the other lecturers, who made the series such a success.

Now, if they send their manuscripts to me soon, we can get this puppy off to our editor. . . .


Good and Faithful

Jeanne and Gail’s dog Kindred died this morning, at an undetermined — but quite advanced — age. Kindred was a precious friend, a trusted member of the family, whose body could not sustain her any longer.

Kindred, a black dog, patrolling her yard

Our sympathies go out to our sisters in Maine. When Pearl’s afflictions overbore her strength, nine years ago now, our hearts broke; Margaret especially missed the puppy she’d chosen fourteen years earlier, and had raised into a wonderful friend to our college and seminary communities. I didn’t know Kindred very well, but I know Jeanne and Gail, and I know their love for Kindred, and I didn’t want her life and death to pass by unmarked.

Truth, Error, and Varieties of Dissent

Is it even possible to err, theologically? How would we know?

I see two prominent ways of addressing the possibility of theological error. The first depends on the premise that theological truth doesn’t involve any particular realities apart from our selves. If one speaks one’s heart, sincerely and authentically, one speaks the truth. On this account, the dangerous sort of theological error entails making claims on a basis other than one’s own personal understanding of the world; by the same token, any claim made authentically, from one’s heart, can’t be challenged. One can’t be right or wrong about God — one can only be inauthentic. Our intuitions and feelings provide the criteria for theological truth, and they can’t bind the consciences of anyone else.
Continue reading Truth, Error, and Varieties of Dissent

Remembering Paul Ricoeur

Of the various theorists of hermeneutics, Paul Ricoeur always frustrated me most. I would assent to roughly four-fifths of a point he makes, and then the remaining fifth would seem entirely off the mark. And in such frustrating prose! Give me a bracing, dense passage of Derrida any day, rather than the deadpan exposition of Ricoeur.

Yet I doubt that anyone has done more productive work, across the whole span of hermeneutical thought, in the twentieth century. Ricoeur affected everything; if you disagree with him, you still interact with him (whereas ideology fences off, say, Derrida from his dissenters). His reflections on time, identity, narrative, parables, interpretation, culture, all make a difference to participants in the discussion across the board. Dissent need not mean disrespect; all grace and peace be with Paul Ricoeur, now and forever.

This Got By Us

In the tumult surrounding Pope John Paul II’s death, the vaunted self-promotional network of web insiders failed miserably. If it were half the megaphone it’s supposed to be, everyone would have heard ad nauseam about the April 11 issue of Newsweek, which I picked up not as a JPII collectible (despite his beatific visage on the cover), but because it includes a section on “who’s prospering on the web these days,” and I’m acquainted with some of those named.

So here’s to Stewart and Caterina, to Joi, to Mena and Ben (why is “Ben and Mena” the canonical order?) — whom Newsweek deems “leaders of the pack” of “hi-tech’s new day.” That kind of acclaim can be embarrassing, and I’m intrigued that I couldn’t find a trace of anyone trumpeting the feature online (this, even before “Newsweek” became the journalistic scapegrace of the moment). And now there will perhaps be an easier-to-Google reference to this article. . . .

Guide to the Hitchhiker’s

The family trundled down to the local moving picture show this afternoon, after a curriculum committee meeting, to watch The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I enjoyed it greatly — it’s light without being lite, and my main complaint was that I would gladly have stayed for a double feature with The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, which I hope is coming soon.

That’s partly because our house is a serious branch office of the Zooey Deschanel fan club, ever since Big Trouble. Margaret was delighted to see her as Trillian, and I second the motion.

The new plot elements worked moderately well; they skewed a little heavily toward Hollywood for my taste, but Douglas Adams skewed toward Hollywood still remains delightful and ingenious. They handled Zaphod’s extra body parts very well; the Vogons were appropriately repulsive; I love Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast, even though I wish he’d paced the name-revelation dialogue a little differently. Mos Def and Martin Freeman did very well, and I toast Sam Rockwell for moving from Guy Fleegman in Galaxy Quest to President of the Universe here.

Adams’s anti-religious tic, though, just gets wearisome for some of us against whom his barbs are directed. Perhaps I’m too touchy, perhaps I should find my life as risible as he would have, but I see in these scenes less of Adams’s outlandish wit and more predictable japery.

So, is Restaurant in production yet?

Power of Ideology

No, I’m not talking about the suppression of the Bush war memo from July 2002. I’m talking about the reason that a movie almost everyone agrees to be a disappointing special-effects reel with leaden dialogue, improbable plotting, and formulaic directing will nonetheless make zillions of dollars in gate receipts.

It occurred to me as Margaret was compiling another catena of continuity problems, contradictions, and confusions, that the reason the movies will do well has much to do with George Lucas’s capacity to propose a compelling ideology much more than a believable cosmos or a well-engineered motion-picture franchise. I’ve read several times that Lucas actually believes in the myth he’s telling, and that assent provides the only reason I can possibly acknowledge for being able to bear looking at the most recent three movies. For a true believer, there are good reasons that Darth Vader doesn’t recognize C3PO and R2-D2 when he sees them in The Empire Strikes Back; there are good reasons that the apparently “liberated” proletariat must be kept under constant heavily-armed surveillance; there are good reasons that “full employment” includes large numbers of long-term unemployed workers, or that the public rationale for a massively destructive war keeps changing.

If you buy the ideology, the contradictions dwindle to irrelevance, and the glories of the cause you espouse far outweigh the incoherences your cause engenders. Star Wars doesn’t need to make sense, because Luke Skywalker’s triumphant torpedo shot justifies it.

(Might this also apply to church politics?)

Death By Eraser




Death By Eraser

Originally uploaded by AKMA.

I’ve fallen behind my posting Pippa art; she’s been drawing cartoons such as this one, but also has begun experimenting with oils and mixed media. I’ll have more to post in a few days, as she gives me permission.

She has a canvas up in the Seabury community exhibition, and will be showing a ceramic piece in the Evanston Young Artists exhibition, in the home-schooled students’ area — but now she’s busy watching Attack of the Clones (she thinks that the closing wedding scene should have had me edited in as the officiant at the marriage of Anakin and Padme, though she points out that “Dad would forbid it” [the wedding]).