8 February, 2002

( 6:48 AM )
Woke up this morning with a clear thought relative to my feelings as my unusually-late tenure review approaches (Tuesday, at 9 AM; I meet with my external reviewer this morning). I’m not “nervous” in the “Golly, what will those people decide?” way; I know the committee, and they’ll decide what they’ll decide, and that’s not a concern for me.
I do feel a sense of the gravity of the moment, though. I know a lot of folks for whom these days were fraught either with anxiety in anticipation, or with recrimination and pain in retrospect. This is a process by which plenty of people have been broken and, without disregard for their gifts and attainments, the justice of those tenure decisions is beside the point; the point is that a process designed for one end (ensuring that able scholars be freed from the threat of capricious retribution for unwelcome research and unpopular conclusions, to oversimplify) often enough produces an entirely different effect: steamrollering people.
So I do feel the momentousness of what’s happening these days, not out of a particular dread of the outcome in my own case (though only an arrant fool casually assumes a positive tenure recommendation), but out of respect for people whose lives have been wounded by ugly, or unfair, or biased, or vindictive, or just plain short-sighted tenure reviews.


Blogging, phase one:writing as though no one would ever read what you put there. (I certainly never figured David Weinberger would read the squib I wrote down the first time I opened a Blogger window).

Blogging, phase two: writing as though only the people whom you know might possibly read your blog will in fact do so.
Blogging, phase three: Become conscious of phases one and two, and realizing that someone else has surely already thought about this before.
Blogging, phase four: Beginning to grasp the fact that your words are out there, that anyone could read them, including that idiot you lambasted after he snubbed you in the planning meeting, or that exquisitely intelligent and beautiful woman about whom you’ve been blathering, day after day, like a hormone-soaked teenager.
Blogging, phase five: writing as though no one would ever read what you put there, or maybe would, but that’s not why you’re writing what you write. You’re just blogging.
(Consumer health advisory: This developmental scheme does not necessarily apply to anyone else in the world. My experience is not the measure of all things, and especially not of your experience.) (Leopold, this means you, not that you’ll ever read it.)
[Retrospective addition: ‘The Five Phases of Blogging’ actually got a little web traction when I first posted it, in olden days when there were many fewer things to find interesting on any given day on the web. Those were simpler times.]

7 February, 2002

( 1:12 PM )
I’ve spent most of the morning setting up and stage-dressing a shared blog for some friends to talk about theological topics at the Theoblogy Seminar (dead link, alas). Steve Webb is outta control, racking up the postings at the moment, but I’m hoping other folks will join in.
Dave and David, here’s one difference between “preaching” (and here I’m referring to preaching in the best, truest sense, however rarely that may be exemplified) and “marketing”: preaching should be an intrinsically non-profit, disinterested enterprise, whereas marketing, as best I understand it, is intrinsically “interested,” and has a lot at stake in “profit.” Now, a gold-star, beneficent, Love Is the Killer App marketer may order his energies to the end that “everybody profits”–but I still sense a difference. Preaching should be like the anti-Enron: no effective auditing of income and outflow, not because someone wants to pull something over on others, but because the well-being of others is the absolute, only, ultimate and exclusive telos of the practice. If marketing succeeds at helping others profit, but at the cost of its own bankruptcy, then something’s wrong with the equation–isn’t it? Saints and martyrs are positive exemplars in preaching; calamitous bankruptcies are not positive exemplars in marketing.
I must admit, though, that every time I try to articulate that difference, I can hear a marketer saying, “That’s just like me,” and I suppose that someone will tell me that bankruptcies are good marketing, too. But I’ll wait to be persuaded of that.
( 10:22 PM )
I’m thinking about persons, identity, presence, voice, and corporations. Fair warning — blog ahead.

February 06, 2002

( 12:52 AM )
Dave Rogers at Connect & Empower says (in a response to a blog from David Weinberger, who has since responded to David Rogers, but I’m a slow reader), “The secret, the magical art is to find and know one’s soul and to speak and write from that wellspring. That holds true whether it’s an individual or a company.” I’m hypersensitive to connections between marketing and anything having to do with the church, but I find myself saying the same thing to my students with regard to their preaching. (Actually, I leave out the bit about “whether it’s an individual or a company” when I’m talking to my students).
Maybe the big answer (which perhaps applies to marketing, I don’t know and don’t want to think about it) but surely applies to preaching is that the deeper you reach into your soul, the more reason you’re giving someone to pay attention to you. Is it “deeper” or “more truly”? Is it a matter of self-knowledge or (pardon the upcoming barbarism) self-profundity (or both)?
I’m just an awful bear on writing precisely; it’s one reason I just read people’s blogs for a long time before I stuck my toe in the water. In what is a typically casual medium, I’m wearing a starched shirt and tie. But my rigor comes not (only) from latent obsessive tendencies, as anyone who has seen my office can attest — it comes at least to some extent out of respect for whoever might be listening, out of the sense that if I’m going to speak to someone who has other things to do, the very least I can do is speak carefully. And of course this applies all the more so when we preach. It’s so very easy for Jane or John Q. Citizen to not go to church, and such a bother to go, that if I’m going to ask them to listen to me rant for twenty minutes or so, I’d better jolly well have put every available bit of consideration and attention to what I say in their presence. It’s the least I, or we, can do.
And part of that painstaking preparation (here I get back to David Rogers–remember him?) involves not trivializing either the message or the listener’s effort by treating the enterprise as no-big-deal.
( 11:07 AM )
My family watched O Brother Where Art Thou again last weekend (imagine five inhabitants of the same house, from mid-forties to eight years old, whispering loudly, “We thought you was a toad“), and Nate (eldest son) was especially taken by George Clooney’s repetition of the line, “Dang! We’re in a tight spot!” Well, I should now say, “Dang! I should have known that Telford Work would be a blogger!” It’s some comfort to see that he only started relatively recently, too, but I’ve known Telford and his interest electronic media for a long time, and I shoulda reckoned that he’d be onto this blogging thang. (He’s also the one who set up the Ekklesia Project blog/zine; maybe I just thought he was too busy with the EP to make his own, but more likely I just wasn’t quick enough to put 2 and 2 together.) Anyway, now the web of theoblogs grows another iteration richer. Thanks to Joel Garver for finding Telford’s blog and pointing it out. (Will I have to link to people’s blogs every time I mention them? Soon I’ll have to quit work just to keep up with my HTML.)
( 12:13 PM )
Okay, Weinberger is pushing me too far. For the record, I’m very far from being the luminous presence that he describes me as being. I didn’t want to get my wife her pet dog; I make my Greek students tackle a new lesson almost every day; I make them parse and construe syntax; I’m fierce about students improving their writing; I make my early church history class memorize some names and dates. But it’s kind of David to take so generous a view of my stuff, anyway, and gosh, I like him too.
But now I have to devise some way of surpassing him in incipient assholism. Hmmm…..
( 12:52 PM )
While cruising Telford Work’s site, I noticed that he too inherited Duke University’s greatest legacy to its students (well, maybe after a terrific education and the opportunity to see your alumnal basketball team play for the National Championship almost every year): a relentless commitment to writing well. Thanks for keeping the flame alive, Telford. I appreciate all your observations, but am especially keen on number 5 (“Use the right words!”), as I said here a few days ago.
On the other hand, as a copyright skeptic, I was a little bemused by the intellectual-property claim at the top of the page. One of the interesting topics that will come to the fore in some blogathon or another will be the future of and alternatives to copyright, and I hope I’ll be there to take part in the brouhaha.
( 2:47 PM )
Did I used to have a life, or is that just a nostalgia-induced mirage? [Editorial Revision: I should have said, “Didn’t I already have a life, to which I didn’t precisely need additional exciting ideas added?”] So many people are shooting so many provocative ideas around here that I’m spending all my time just trying (in vain) to keep up.
Last episode, I was commenting on remarks about voice that Dave Rogers and David Weinberger had probably thought quiescent; after all, they had stopped blogging about the topic days ago. But I had to butt in, and now they’re both freewheeling through the ether with more on voice, communication, preaching, and so on. So:
To Dave R. (why are both these guys named “David”? Couldn’t one of my correspondents be named “Alonzo” or “Gertrude”?): Quite so, alhtough I’ve heard many fewer hokey, rambling sermons that came off than I’ve heard hokey, rambling sermons that some preacher would have defended by characterizing them as “friendly” and “not too academic” and “inclusive.” But yes, some do work that way.
I feel a little queasy, though, that my observations about preaching good news seem to lend themselves so readily to designing corporate web sites. Not that I can disagree, offhand, but that I’m a generally pretty anti-commercial character, so it’s a somewhat surreal experience. On the other hand, if you can get me some consulting gigs to help pay for my son’s conservatory tuition….
To David W. and Dave R.–I guess I have to read Rageboy’s book, now. The blogs at Gonzo Engaged sure sound interesting, though. Now I have to take Si to get his typhoid shot–so nobody say anything interesting till we get back.
( 7:02 PM )
Getting back to Telford and his copyrighted page of writing advice:
I don’t know whether I’m just so hiply post-copyright that I thought, “Anyone can use these ideas; they are free, like the birds,” or whether it never occurred to me that the stuff I wrote there was worth trying to protect, or whether I was just adapting stuff from classroom handouts, so I didn’t put copyright notices on my web stuff any more than I do on my Greek quizzes (now, wouldn’t that be an idea). But my composition pages don’t have no copyright notices, and the recent article in which I quote DW involves a shallow but ardent dismissal of the future of copyright.
(Digression: the article is in an academic journal, so I had to make it sound sober and reputable–but the presentation from which it arose, is still available on the web (don’t tell anyone: the publishers of the academic journal, to protect their copyright on what I wrote, made me sign a statement that their article wasn’t available on the web) (so it isn’t; this is the presentation I gave, which coincidentally has some thematic and verbatim overlaps with the article) and is much more casual and–hmm–vivid in expression (and less carefully copy-edited) than my academic writing, or even my web writing so far. I was nervous about this talk, which came at the end of a conference mostly dedicated to “How I used Powerpoint to transform my boring lectures into somewhat-less-boring lectures” and “I tried using a bulletin board for my Hebrew class, but it didn’t work very well.” So I had two separate presentations planned–one a more straightforward conventional lecture about biblical scholarship and media scholarship, which is closely related to an essay still in gestation for the American Bible Society, and this one. But I got so angry at having to sit through all the bilgewater other academics were pumping that I whipped together a much more flamboyant presentation with UPresent, a formerly-freeware Powerpoint knockoff for the Mac, while I was sitting through other people’s excruciatingly tedious presentations. That’s why some of the graphics are so crude. End of digression.)
I’m a copyright holder myself, and the Greek textbook I wrote could conceivably catch on and make what counts for big bucks among us nickel-and-dime academic types — the rest of the books barely make me minimum wage on the time spent writing them, if I’m lucky — but mercy sakes, I just don’t feel at all moved by prolonging the death-pangs of copyright. Coders need to earn a living, writers and musicians need to earn livings, and I respect that, but something else will happen, and clinging furiously to an outdated model won’t help prepare us for what’s around the corner.

February 5, 2002

( 8:20 PM )
David Weinberger thinks he’s winning the contest of “incipient assholism”–don’t tell him (it’ll break his heart), but I’m just letting him win to make him feel better.
As for whether it would be appropriate for us to call one another friends, I’m a little surprised that yesterday he cited “friendship” as a word that the Web was transforming, but today he figures that there’s a problem if (for instance) he and I call one another “friend” if we’ve never met. I’m not even sure that’s good Aristotelian ethics — the Philosopher says:

For separation does not destroy friendship absolutely, though it prevents its active exercise. If however the absence be prolonged, it seems to cause the friendly feeling itself to be forgotten: hence the poet’s remark:
Full many a man finds friendship end
For lack of converse with his friend. (Nic. Ethics 1157b 1)

But observe that Aristotle is concerned with the possiblity of converse, of (and I’m using this in an innocent sense) intercourse with another, which would be gravely impaired in Aristotle’s fourth-century context if the two friends-or-maybe-not weren’t in the same place. Sure, you could gamble on letters, for what they were able to accomplish, but for true friendship to thrive, you needed to be able to exchange ideas, to be present to one another.
But if “presence” and “voice” are among the transitional-words that David’s discussing (and I’m putting them there, they weren’t on his list), what’s the impediment to Web-based friendship? Indeed, some folks are more candid (parrhesiastikos) on the Web than they ever were in person; might it not be easier to be their friend online than face-to-face?
So if David’s right that new media change the words we use in them (isn’t that what you meant?), then I’d think that “friendship” of a different sort, both more diffuse and more intense, is perhaps available at a distance, whatever Aristotle reckoned. And don’t worry; I wouldn’t think less of Aristotle for not anticipating the Web.
( 10:03 PM )
As I complained yesterday about the paucity of theologically-interesting blogs, today I see that I should include Joel Garver’s page. He’s reading The Postmodern God and looking out for James Smith’s The Fall of Interpretation, and those are good signs bei mir.
I should add that my son Si has a blog now, too, with potential for exciting posts as he goes away for a four-week trip to Sri Lanka. Or even just tomorrow, as he goes to Children’s Memorial Hospital for his typhoid vaccination.

February 4, 2002

( 1:09 PM )
Okay, so part of the blog phenomenon involves locating oneself in a network of co-conspirators — not necessarily likeminded, but interesting conversation partners, and then linking to their blogs and further articulating the web. So far, so good.
Since I’m just a nouveau blogger, however, I have relatively few cyber-compatriots (“Hi, I’m AKMA, your electronic friend”). And among the blogs I’ve observed, many constitute different conversations from the ones that interest me most, and others look rather tidily complete (I have a horror of squeezing a chair in at a table where everyone is already engaged in active conversation, where no one knows me, and where no one — it turns out — particularly wants me to be there).
So, for the record, when I get around to revising the page design I’ll cite David Weinberger‘s blog, because he is someone I relish talking with, and he has cordially involved me in his conversations. And I’m looking around at other blogs, really I am. I always check Dean Allen’s blog at Textism, because I used to work in digital type design and can’t get over the summer I spent adding and deleting rows of pixels from Cheltenham Bold 24, and besides I have France envy, and because I like his voice, even when I think he’s wrong. Likewise Andy Crewdson’s blog at Lines and Splines.
And my colleagues at the Ekklesia Project have a snappy new zine-blog at (get this) the Ekklesia Project Online.
I just thought of some other people and voices I should cite, but they went out of my head no sooner than I pushed the “edit” button.
And I’ll keep looking around at other blogs, to enrich the conversation.
( 1:54 PM )
David Weinberger cites a book by Michel Foucault as a provocation for him to think about the way words and concepts may be changing around us under the influence of the Web. I thank David for prodding us to think about such things in public (with parrhesia); it stimulates oxygen flow to the brain, even as I feel some hesitations about his angle on the book (which I have not read yet, partly because my neighborhood bookstores don’t stock books published by Semiotext(e) — not even here in Evanston).
So for starters, words and meanings and concepts are always changing — they just usually change slowly enough that we don’t notice them much (although think about the career of “gay,” which in my youth meant “cheery,” in my adolescence meant “homosexual,” and now in some sad linguistic circles has come to mean “stupid” or “uncool” or “pointless”). “Parrhesia” isn’t different in that respect, though it’s intriguingly illustrative.
So especially when the social circumstances within which we use words are changing so rapidly, convulsively, we ought only to expect that words/meanings/concepts would be changing too, if only because there’s no fixed point to which those words/meanings/concepts might be attached to insulate them from the pervasive cultural change around us.
But I’m very uncertain that

the concepts today that no longer make as much sense as they once did [are:] Privacy. Friendship. Employee. Politeness. Sincerity.

I’m not sure of what DW is getting at here. Sure, “employee” is undergoing a mutation, especially for information-industry types but indeed also for assembly-line workers and career middle-managerial types. And the Web is obliging us to accelerate the pace of our re-examination of “privacy,” a concept which had been wavering under ideological assault from every side for a few decades. But “politeness”? “Sincerity” and “friendship”? I have much at stake, philosophically, theologically, and personally, if those are concepts that don’t hold up any more. (And why leave out “identity,” “voice,” and “conversation,” to name three concepts David has been unraveling for a while now?)
Yes, cybermedia complicate the concepts (or, more to the point, they amplify problems that already affected the concepts to a greater or lesser degree), but “no longer make as much sense” sounds like a different point.
The blog ends with the hopeful prospect of a new golden age of Athens. Sounds exciting, though we should remember (as Foucault would hasten to remind us) that the first golden age of Athens coincided the subordination of certain insignificant people to the end that the really important people could have their say. I would have nominated “distance” for David’s list of problem-words, since the Web both makes possible friendships between distant correspondents in ways that Aristotle would have dismissed as impossible, but the same technologies further conceal from me the extent to which my high-bandwidth lifestyle separates me (and sets me at odds with) others.
You know, there aren’t many theologically-interesting blogs out there. I’m looking, really I am, but I’m not finding.

Kierkegaard and Doubt

Kierkegaard: “If I want to keep myself in faith,” Climacus writes in Concluding Unscientific Postscript, “I must continually see to it that I hold fast the objective uncertainty.”
Now, the author of the article cited above, Erin Leib, continues, “In building faith out of doubt, Kierkegaard made the absence of God look like the presence of God. He constructed a theology wherein one has full faith precisely where one does not have full faith. This, to put it mildly, is slippery, and lends itself to a theological demagoguery. For engaging with possibility is not the same thing as asserting definitively. Entertaining marriage is emphatically not the same thing as marrying. The dialectical lover and the dialectical thinker lived and died a bachelor after all.” Well, to an extent; I’m no Kierkegaard expert, so I can’t make a definitive claim about his success at getting his rhetoric just right. At the same time, Leib’s position seems to oversimplify the theological sublime to which Kierkegaard aims. Those for whom “faith” or “presence” excludes an appreciation of “the objective uncertainty,” and who thereby dismiss Kierkegaard as having weak faith or impaired faith (are these not the “knights of faith” whom he so pointedly interrogates?), miss the point that “faith” itself can well include the recognition of how improbable the whole venture looks from outside, that is, the recognition of “the objective uncertainty.”
Now, the tawdry theologians of uncertainty make a virtue out of doubt, and I don’t believe that that was Kierkegaard’s path; he can hardly have advocated the virtue of doubt when he ascribed such transcendent importance to obedience to God’s counter-ethical demand. The pivotal line, the line so thin as perhaps not to be there, takes the possibility of intelligent doubt seriously enough to acknowledge that faith is not necessary, that atheists, agnostics, and those whose faith differs materially from “our” faith (whoever “we” are) are stupid, perverse, deranged, or in some other manner out of touch with plain manifest reason. That doesn’t make faith “unreasonable” nor does it constitute “doubt” as a virtue — but it demands humility of faith, and offers doubt the respect that we ourselves would ask for our faith.

W and Difference

George Bush heard my rant from the other day and hammered home my point with this speech.
“Not only will our country be better, but we will show the world that values — universal values — must be respected and must be adhered to” — or else, presumably, we’ll bomb the dickens out of anyone who doesn’t respect the universal values that W stipulates.
Now, if you have to threaten people in order to make them adhere to values that you’re claiming are universal, how does that work out? It sounds to me as though they’re not exactly universal values under those circumstances. “Universal values, except for the people we disagree violently with.” Now there’s some good clear thinking.

Religion and Difference

David Weinberger gets what jillions of folks can’t see: that it’s only to be expected that religious disagreements may go all the way to the roots, even when the disagreement seems to involve really nice and friendly people. I suspect the Dalai Lama is a snazzy guy, probably beats the dickens out of many of my bishops for sophistication and profondeur, but so far as it’s been given me to understand the world, Buddhists just have the deal wrong. Nicely wrong (when they’re not using government military power to coerce native peoples into submission), but they still miss an important boat.
It doesn’t bother me to say this because, as far as it’s given me to understand Buddhism, a good Buddhist has to think that I’ve misconstrued the nature of the universe. And rightly so.
Not that this means Buddhists and Christians can’t get along, can’t agree on things like “It’s better not to slaughter indigenous peoples to shore up the nation-state,” can’t play football (the world kind, not American football) (not that a Buddhist couldn’t play football, though I don’t understand why they’d want to). They will just disagree about lots of important things. And again, that should be okay. Especially when Christians (and here I’m picking on my sisters and brothers because they have a claim of accountability on me and I on them) remember that they’re supposed to turn the other cheek, endure suffering rather than inflict it, be wronged rather than wrong someone else, and so on.
Again, Weinberger wonders how the very idea of universal truths works: “Finding a universal ground for all religion reduces us to mouthing abstractions so vague as to be meaningless and ignores what is most distinctive and most important about each religion.” My way of putting this in an argument with a colleague who believed fervently in universal truths was, “I’ll agree that we believe in universal truths when the truths in question are so universal that you’ll let me tell you what they are.” Of course, Max wouldn’t let me define what the universal truths were; he wanted both universality and the whip hand in defining the universal truths. Does that smell fishy to anyone else? “You have to believe in universal truths, and let me tell you what they are.” This kind of arguing often comes from people who slag the writers who taught me a lot about thinking (Lyotard, Derrida, Foucault, Irigaray, that bunch) for complicity with the forces of reaction and fascism— presumably because these theorists don’t subscribe to the dogmas of universal reason.
There! Got that off my chest. Still haven’t found a copy of “Alive (For Once in My Lifetime,” though.
By the way, David Weinberger ascribes the aphorism, “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted” to Dostoevsky; a little Googling, though, would have suggested that this expression doesn’t appear in the most common translations of Dostoevsky’s works, though the phrase “Nothing is true, everything is permitted” appears in John Fowles’s The Magus and William S. Burroughs (“Apocalypse,” there assigned to Hassan i Sabah, the Old Man of the Mountain), and, most memorably for me, Jim Carroll on his Catholic Boy album (“Nothing is True”) (I’ll bet you can find that on the Internet).

Sunday, January 27, 2002

   ( 3:27 PM )
It’s interesting to observe the tides with which particular artists wax and wane in popularity in the cyberworld of the Gnutella, Napster, and Hotline networks.
I happen to be very enthusiastic about the Pyschedelic Furs. I am both a fan and an advocate; I relish the listening/croaking-along experience, and I admire the music as compositions, arrangements, and performances. They’re a pretty well-known band, right? They’ve inspired some covers, their single “Pretty in Pink” was adopted as the title of a movie I never cared to watch, and they’ve reassembled recently to release a live album featuring a new single. But the P2P networks seem never to have heard of “Alive (For Once in My Lifetime),” though the number of tedious make-fun-of-Osama jingles and ‘N Sync blockbusters seems limitless. In a recent Gnutella search, only four Furs songs came up, three of them versions of “Love My Way.”
Now, lots of factors enter into how far the Gnutella system searches, how many hits it returns, but all the same it seems clear that the Psychedelic Furs occupy a lot less bandwidth than I would have thought.
   ( 5:12 PM )
I should add, in the name of honesty, that I also get pedantically vexed by people with tin ears and short attention spans, who can’t tell the Cure from the Furs, or the Pretenders from the Proclaimers, or They Might Be Giants from any other band with pretensions to being amusing. Likewise those who can’t spell “Psychedelic.”

[Early Ecclesiastical Rant]

I get weary of well-intentioned Christians using their air time to run down the church.
Yes, by all means, Christians have done and continue to do dopey, destructive things, too often in the name of their faith. That’s a true, significant problem, and no one better try to sweep it under the rug. Clear? Okay.
On the other hand, exactly what good do we accomplish by furiously parading our most grievous follies before people? It begins to seem as though part of the point of Christian faith is to talk at length about what a terrible historical force Christianity has been. Remember that I’m not talking about folks from outside the church here; their gripes have a different texture, and one would have to discuss the merits of their complaints differently. I’m talking about people who get up and preach (often) about bad stuff Christians have done.
Is there a way to communicate about the faith without either suppressing our failures or making it seem as though everything to this point has been a more-or-less grievous flop, but perhaps beginning tomorrow we’ll get it right?
Part of my point is my own general orientation toward encouraging people to learn and self-correct without getting hung up on having tried something that didn’t work out (here I’m thinking of my students, not about big terrible ideas like tolerating slavery or persecuting Jews); when I look beyond my classroom to the broader horizons of institutional practices, I still think that the only way forward from grievous error is a manifest commitment to doing better. Self-flagellation elicits titters from students who know how misguided that ascetical practice is, but numbers of them then go on and practice ecclesiastical self-flagellation in the name of candor about the church.
There’s a difference. It’s more complicated than the binary alternatives of belaboring sins or papering them over.
And I’m weary of folks behaving/speaking/preaching as though the only way to exorcise the demons of the past is to dwell on them–especially because no one (hardly anyone) ever did these beastly things in the full knowledge that they were wrong, but precisely because they were convinced that it was the right way forward for their faith, every bit as much as the earnest denunciators of today’s church are convinced that they now are in a position cavalierly to reprehend the guilt of past generations.
They may have understood more than we guess, and we may understand less than we guess, so let’s concentrate on what we can do, now, among the people with whom we live, and encourage one another to do better. And remember that if the church really believes what it teaches about repentance and the forgiveness of sins, that repeating conventional outcries against sins of the past itself may lock us to those sins, binding us up in Jacob-Marley-like chains of our own, forged in life link by link, and yard by yard.
Part of our recuperation from past sins is a willingness to acknowledge them, and to build lives that have been freed from those sins. And though we may never forget, we may well decide that there are more constructive things to highlight in the limited time that anyone’s paying attention to us.
Well, that’s off my chest.
[Early posts to this blog, in the halcyon days of Blogger, did not have topic headers or comments. I’m adding these posts retrospectively to my WordPress blog to tidy things up.]

[Early, Boring Entry]

So the Pippa is over at my office this afternoon, drawing pictures of palm trees and cocoanuts and waves and seagulls (because I only had brown and green and blue markers available) and a bathing suit and towel and washer and dryer (to remind me to do laundry before her swimming lesson tomorrow). She’s here helping me work because Margaret is on a field trip for her Church Architecture class, Nate is working at the Art Store, and Si is at his gym class. we’re having a jolly, if not very productive, time.
Notes to and from students and former students, ruminations about Magritte and biblical interpretation, a note to David P. asking about a presentation at Catholic Biblical Association this coming summer. And discussions with the Pip about her observations concerning my office, its size, the number of books therein, and when Si will come take her home.
[Early posts to this blog, in the halcyon days of Blogger, did not have topic headers or comments. I’m adding these posts retrospectively to my WordPress blog to tidy things up.]


Derrida eulogizing Pierre Bourdieu here in Le Monde; Jennifer had just given me The Work of Mourning for my last birthday. What a peculiar role for Derrida, chronicling the passing of the monumental generation of philosophico-cultural types among whom he has stood! And yet (complaints from the peanut gallery notwithstanding) he’s one of the contemporary writers whom I would most readily trust with a delicate topic. He writes with exquisite precision; indeed, the precision with which he writes constitutes one of the major impediments to reading him, since his finesse requires a concomitant close attention from the reader.
And with Bourdieu’s death, we lose yet another brilliant topographer of [post]modern culture.