Tuesday, July 26th, 2005
I was just sitting down to read Homer's Odyssey when I stumbled on the following passage. Odysseus has made it home after twenty years only to find a group of men vying for his wife's hand in marriage. They've been feasting and carousing at his expense, and will likely want to kill him if they discover him alive. What he wants is vengeance on them, without losing his own life in the process. The goddess Athena comes to him at night to hearten him. Odysseus speaks:
If by the will of Zeus and by your will
I killed them all, where could I go for safety?
Tell me that!
And the grey-eyed goddess said:
"Your touching faith! Another man would trust
some villainous mortal, with no brainsand what
am I? Your goddess guardian to the end
in all your trials. Let it be plain as day:
if fifty bands of men surrounded us
and every sword sang for your blood,
you could make off still with all their cows and sheep"
Homer, The Odyssey, trans. Robert Fitzgerald.
(New York: Everyman's Library, 1962), p. 376.
Isn't it like this for us? We trust people who are so little deserving of our trust, and then are slow to trust that God can get us out of a scrape.
9:48 am Pacific Standard Time
[ posted by Rick Ritchie | 2 comments ]
Friday, July 22nd, 2005
Last night a friend came over and we talked about Homer's Odyssey together. (Quite a discussion just on books ten and eleven.) I also had rented "Jason and the Argonauts" since he had never seen it before. A little into it, they show a scene on Mount Olympus, and my friend shouted, "Hey! That's Luther!" (Okay, his language was more colorful.) He was right. Niall MacGinnis who had played Luther in the old black and white movie was playing Zeus.
I felt a little sorry for McGinnis as he had come down in the world, now having Hera for a wife instead of Katie von Bora. Granted, Hera was played by Honor Blackman who played, well, I won't say her name, in Goldfinger. But I would rather have a mere mortal than have to put up with that kind of conniving in a goddess. (Most days.)
11:30 am Pacific Standard Time
[ posted by Rick Ritchie | 4 comments ]
Tuesday, July 19th, 2005
I found Atwood's posting of this, so I decided to try it.
What’s the most underrated type of food?
Mince pie. A tradition in my dad's family. My aunts (his older sisters by about ten years) would bring them over when they joined us for Thanksgiving. At Polly's Pies, they make a good mince pie and serve it heated with french vanilla ice cream. Mmmmm.
What do you usually eat for breakfast?
Honey nut Cheerios and milk on weekdays. On Sunday, I like a nice omelet. Preferably with chilis and cheddar cheese and ham. (And perhaps bacon and onions.) And a carrot-apple muffin. And cranberry juice.
What’s your favorite local bird?
What’s your favorite local tree?
What’s your favorite season?
Here, they're almost the same. (Sigh.) While I love the convenience of Southern California weather, I miss what Massachusetts was like (my two years at Gordon-Conwell) in the middle of a fall or a winter. (Of course, that counts for about sixteen weeks of the year altogether.)
What’s the best night sky (Northern hemisphere)?
Anywhere you can see the aurora borealis, as I did one summer night in Minnesota.
What is your favorite way to imbibe alcohol?
A black and tan at the Harp in Costa Mesa, but half of that on account of
What is your favorite drinking fantasy?
Getting schnockered at the wedding feast at Cana, and Jesus laughing. (You said fantasy!)
What’s the new band that you most shamefacedly admit to really
Flogging Molly. They're not exactly new, but I'm not into new. (If new is a must, then Coldplay.) I've just been corresponding with a friend about how music has been a wasteland for the last fifteen years. But I've heard Flogging Molly live, and they knew how to jam.
I just noticed that I fulfilled "new" but not "shamefacedly" on this one. I'm with the others. I'm not ashamed that I like them. I'd be ashamed not to.
What’s your favorite golden oldie?
Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys. (Because it always sounds new.)
I know you’re in Borders, and I need to find you quick. What section
would I find you in?
Fiction and Literature. Lately Mythology and Poetry.
What literary character do you kind of sneakingly hope you might be
compared to some day?
Professor Kirk in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
What literary character do you have a sinking sensation you might be
Charles Wallace in A Wrinkle in Time.
4:56 pm Pacific Standard Time
[ posted by Rick Ritchie | 14 comments ]
Tuesday, July 12th, 2005
On this day in 100 B.C., Julius Caesar was born. So put some candles on a caesar salad and celebrate. (Hint: This probably works best on a grilled chicken caesar salad. Candles don't stick so well in lettuce.)
Caesar granted to the Jews the status of a tolerated religion. He was looked upon in a more favorable light by them than other emperors.
1:15 pm Pacific Standard Time
[ posted by Rick Ritchie | 2 comments ]
Saturday, July 9th, 2005
I found this set of questions on John Halton's blog. He said he was willing to do this meme despite promises otherwise since it didn't involve tagging other people. (I'm tempted to tag someone and then blame him just to mess with things.)
Why do you blog?
If I don't, I have to wait around for people to write articles for my main site.
What has been your best blogging experience?
No one experience. It's all been pretty good.
What would be your main advice to a novice blogger?
Read other blogs. Put a link to your blog in your e-mail signature.
If you only had time to read three blogs a day, what would they be?
The First British Lutheran Blog Ever
Here We Stand
Who are your spiritual heroes?
What are you reading at the moment?
Homer's Odyssey, Fitzgerald's translation, and Green Shadows, White Whale by Ray Bradbury. Bradbury's book tells of his time as a young writer in Ireland, writing the screenplay for Moby Dick. What an ear for striking dialog!
What is your favorite hymn and why?
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. It's joyous. Seeing the end in the beginning. It has some great arrangements (e.g. Wilcocks. Check out recordings by King's College, Cambridge. The trumpets are glorious. And those great bass voices underneath it all.). And it sneaks its way everywhere (e.g. "It's a Wonderful Life", "A Charlie Brown Christmas"). You rarely hear theology half this good anywhere, and you hear this one everywhere.
Can you name a major moral, political, or intellectual issue on which you've changed your mind?
When my academic advisor at Gordon-Conwell, Dr. David Wells, said he was spending his upcoming sabbatical researching why evangelicals don't do theology, he said that he thought it was the result of changes in cognition brought about by television. At the time I was more inclined to think it was philosophical ideas that had slowly gone mainstream. (A Francis Schaeffer approach.) Now, after reading a lot of Wells and Postman and Jacques Ellul, I think Wells was right.
What philosophical thesis do you think that it is most important to combat?
The idea that "That's your interpretation" is supposed to settle things.
If you could affect one major change in the governing of your country, what would it be?
Nothing can be televised. No election coverage on TV. No soundbites. If you're a politician on a camera, you're like a vampire looking into the mirror. You can't be seen that way.
If you could effect one major policy change in the LCMS, what would it be?
Outlaw the use of electricity in our churches.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life?
Choose your friends carefully, as you will become like them.
What, if anything, do you worry about?
Will the cultural decline continue at the current rate? I worry about this less for moral or safety reasons (though I do worry about it for those) and more because it makes things lonely.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything that you'd do differently?
Yes. A lot. Mostly enjoy the early teen years more. But there are also a number of things I am thankful I did as I did.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do now)?
Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
Hang out with friends.
What is your most treasured possession?
What talent would you most like to have?
Be able to write like Homer
If you could have any three guests, past or present to dinner, who would they be?
C.S. Lewis, Martin Luther, My dad's dad (never met him)
12:03 pm Pacific Standard Time
[ posted by Rick Ritchie | 5 comments ]
Monday, July 4th, 2005
One of my favorite book discoveries of the last five years is David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. One of Fischer's most interesting discussions (which is saying a lot, since there isn't a boring page in the 900 pages of his tome, and I bore easily) is about "Freedom Ways." Namely, how the term "Freedom" had different meanings to the inhabitants of different regions of the country (as they had in the different parts of England from which the settlers came). Fischer identifies four different "Freedom Ways." I'll cover them in the order Fischer did.
First was "Ordered Freedom." This was the idea of freedom in puritan New England. Freedom was freedom to do good. Freedom of religion would be an example. To be able to worship God in purity was worth fighting for, and enduring hardship for. But this was not what we would call a "reciprocal" liberty. You could have it without granting it to your neighbor. Writers in our time will say that it is "ironic" that the New England puritans would fight so hard for their own liberty only to persecute others once they had it. I share the belief in reciprocal liberty that these writers have. But I don't see any "irony." You have to have an understanding of liberty as being reciprocal in order to see a contradiction in denying liberty to others. If you don't have that as part of your definition, there is no contradiction. Fischer also described how Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" is rooted in this New England tradition. For people who don't share the New England idea of Freedom, Roosevelt's use of the term freedom is odd. But his use is not odd to the ears of other New Englanders. Whether or not they agreed with his policies, his use of language resonated with theirs.
Second was "Hegemonic Liberty." This was the idea of freedom in cavalier Virginia. This idea is so odd that I can scarcely follow it. I can understand each individual sentence of Fischer's description. But it is a misuse of the term "concept" to call this picture of freedom a "concept." The most succinct definition Fischer offers is a "condition of dominion over others and -- equally important -- over oneself." Why is this called liberty rather than domination? Because those who wished to have it would cite their English liberties. Certain conservative writers who offer arguments I cannot follow likely come from this tradition. When they want conservatives on the Supreme Court (as do I) but argue for "originalism" as a legal hermeneutic, but in such a way that you imagine that it would have left slavery intact, I suspect them of coming from this tradition. Against such people I will classify myself as a "classical liberal."
Third was "Reciprocal Liberty." This was the Quaker and German Pietist conception of liberty. Liberty was to be shared universally. Liberty for only one man or group was not worthy of the name. William Penn wrote eloquently on the subject. And worked diligently to ensure that the government was framed so as to actively promote liberty. Slavery was frowned upon as a violation of the Golden Rule. The Liberty Bell itself was purchased by the Pennsylvania Assembly in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of William Penn's 1701 Charter of Privileges. That Assembly was 70 percent Quaker. Reciprocal Liberty has been made into a generic idea and fused with other ideas to form the idea of Liberty we know today.
Lastly there was "Natural Liberty." This was the view of the backcountry settlers. Freedom is a right of birth. It is something that not only all men, but all of nature seeks. To be able to act unhindered. This could perhaps be best found in the anarchic side of the Libertarian Party. The idea is to have as little government as possible. Not so much as a philosophical principle. (Many with libertarian ideals may wish to see government strong enough to interfere with those who would do violence to their neighbors.) But as an absolute preference, even where it allows some to enslave others. It may involve choosing a location where lawmen are absent and slavery present.
The conception of liberty I hold is probably closest to Reciprocal Liberty. Some of what Fischer terms "Natural Liberty" holds promise, but more as an attitude than as a philosophy. I have lived my life in a very populated area. But I do think that summers spent on farms and ranches in Minnesota, Arizona, and New Mexico gave me a sense of how independent some people can be that was important. As much as a major city cannot be run like the Wild West, I fear the day when my country does not have a large number of people living in more rural locations. Those who only know the city have a distorted sense of reality.
Fischer continues this conversation into his book Paul Rever's Ride. The British who fought against us in the Revolutionary War may in certain cases had idea of liberty closer to my own than some of the New Englanders and Virginians who fought them. (The officer who stopped Paul Revere addressed him with the greatest respect: "May I crave your name, sir?" Would that our modern police were so respectful of our citizens.) I don't for this reason regret the Revolution. Far from it. But I might have chosen England over New England given the choice. But I would have chosen Pennsylvania over either, as did my ancestors.
1:48 pm Pacific Standard Time
[ posted by Rick Ritchie | 12 comments ]
Sunday, July 3rd, 2005
I went to the local library in a very downcast mood the other day. There are times that I get overwhelmed by the way the church seems to focus so much energy on worldly concerns and so little on the Word. But there is nothing so good for depression as running into someone who is agry over the things you are down over.
This is what I found when I ran into a book by Jacques Ellul called Hope in Times of Abandonment. I was drawn to the book by Ellul's name. I had recently enjoyed his The Humiliation of the Word and some others. This book covered some of the same issues as Ellul's other books. But he seemed angrier when he wrote it.
What Ellul makes us aware of is "technique." How man will study the world and learn ways to manipulate the world. And that those methods tend to work. They work so well that they draw all kinds of human energy into them. And the results are valued partly because they are predictable. Technique does not only describe our use of machines and tools. It describes our understanding of organizations. Ellul says (this in 1973!) that the ecumenical movement will no doubt accomplish much of what it claims it wishes to accomplish. For purely organizational reasons. Organizational methodology tends towards mergers. This does not make Ellul optimistic, however. The kinds of mergers we will see between chuches are sociological, not a result of a move of the Spirit of God.
What I loved was how Ellul would present this without getting apocalyptic. The fact that these things happened without the Spirit didn't mean that they were diabolical. We just have to keep our perspective.
Somehow Ellul's anger gave me hope. But his perspective also gave me hope in that much of this organizational stuff is on a certain level amoral. But that is the subject of another post. (Partly because I may need to change my mind on that subject before I write!)
4:45 pm Pacific Standard Time
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