Monday, July 10, 2006

It Has Begun...

Though my profile has been saying for a couple of months now that I am writing my master's thesis, until now this has only been partially true. I haven't been writing so much as researching (which in my case basically means a whole lot of reading). As of last night, however, all of that has changed. I am now actually writing my thesis (5 pages in as of this afternoon). I'm in the process of creating the first draft of my second section (the first major section after the introduction) which is basically an elaborate argument in favor of Paul Ricoeur's interaction theory of metaphor followed by a slightly less elaborate argument attempting to explain how allegorical (as in 1 Enoch) and symbolic (as in Daniel, though I'm not sure I'll keep this terminological divide between symbol and metaphor) systems function in essentially the same way as interactive metaphors. All of this to say that blogging will likely slow down considerably over the next little while as I will be trying to expend the lion's share of my creative energy writing my thesis. If anybody cares (which I frankly kind of doubt), my apologies. May I recommend the vastly superior blogs on my sidebar for your reading pleasure? Paleojudaica and Slacktivist are particularly worth regular visits. So, cheers all, and I'll see you again when I'm done writing the absurdly arcane and never-again-to-be-read product of months and months of work.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I Hope Not to Fail...

I read the words of a dead man today. In truth I read the words of dead people every day. Philosophers and theologians, apostles and prophets, all men and women who have passed through the veil. This was different. The man who penned these words walked with dead feet, breathed with dead lungs, saw with dead eyes and wrote with a dead hand. His name was Colin Mackay.

I discovered Colin Mackay at an online publication house called Originals Online. He wrote a book chronicling the final nine weeks of his life, the nine weeks just prior to his suicide. I haven't read the whole work yet, and I'm not sure that I will, but I have read an excerpt from the first chapter. It is here that he explains the reason for what he calls his calm and rational decision to kill himself. I quote:

I did not think, "“Why?"” I knew the why. For years I have known it. For years it has walked beside me, whispering in my ear. It is my fury, my shadow. Its name is failure, I think. Failure to become fully human, to give life, and save life. Failure to do more than observe the passing of the world. Failure to return my thanks for the gift of breath, and leave the world a richer place than I found it. It is what I see from the corner of my eye, the thing that always vanishes whenever I turn to face it. I cannot enter a room without wondering if it is waiting for me, if it has finally tired of the game and is going to let me meet it, face to face.
(Colin Mackay, Jacob's Ladder, downloadable at Originals Online).

I believe that we can fail. I don't know if Colin Mackay actually failed, but I'm sure that failure is possible. He strikes, I think, the core of failure when he laments his "[failure] to do more than observe the passing of the world." This is my fear, to do no more than watch the world as it passes, an observer in what should be an interaction. This is, unfortunately, precisely what the culture in which we live encourages: passivity. But I hope not to fail.

I hope to interact, to involve my life with the lives of others. I hope to engage with other knowing subjects and change and be changed by them. I hope to be a friend and husband and son and brother and father and teacher and student and on and on and on and on. I hope never to sit before a blank sheet of paper contemplating my suicide diary. I hope to, as the poet says, rage against the dying of the light; not for fear of death, but because there is yet good for me to do.

I hope not to fail.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Good Guys and Bad Guys...

Jin and I (along with my sis and some friends) went to check out Superman Returns the other night. It was a much better movie than I had heard (I think Roger Ebert was particularly hard on it), though by no means Oscar material (or even watch for a second time material for that matter). But it was fun and things blew up, so no worries. There is one little tidbit that I found to be insightful in (I assume) a completely unintentional, and therefore highly ironic and amusing, way.

There's this bit in the movie where Superman is just beginning to reclaim his role as the great protector of humanity. This comes, apparently, after a few years of backpacking around Europe (read here: traveling distant regions of space and the depressing ruins of his home world of Krypton) trying to find himself. In what is seemingly an attempt to settle into his new environs Superman flies up into the thermosphere (or maybe it was the mesosphere, this point was never made clear) and begins listening carefully to all of the noise of pain and suffering on planet Earth. As we listen along with Superman we hear crimes as they occur. I can't remember much that is distinct among the wave of noise, but I am sure that at one point I heard a little girl's voice crying out for help. On hearing this cry Superman, of course, rushes down to the planet below to save this poor, defenseless child...or not. Instead the little girl's cry is immediately drowned out by the sound of, you guessed it, a bank robbery. Superman's eyes snap open and he launches himself down to a large metropolitan bank somewhere in the continental United States (really where the hell else are you going to find a bank worth robbing? Switzerland I guess, or maybe the Caribbean, but they have much stricter gun-control laws which may have hindered the thieves in obtaining their boom-mounted gatling gun).

Are you kidding me? In a world of 6 billion people he couldn't find a potential rape or murder victim to save, a woman being abused by her husband, a pedophile kidnapping a child? A bank? Seriously? What the hell kind of superhero is this guy? People are dying, pain and suffering everywhere, the world is on the brink of coming apart at the seams, but let's make sure that our property is safe. Let me clarify that I have no problem with personal property, and I really hope that nobody ever robs me (I am setting aside the fact that robbing a bank only really hurts the bank and their insurance company), but given Superman's crime fighting assets I really think that he could have done better here.

I doubt that Bryan Singer or any of his co-producers are actually trying to say that possessions are more valuable than people, but this subtext seems to jump out at the viewer regardless. Either way the spectacular irony (and indeed hypocrisy) of this subtext is the fact that the film's villain Lex Luthor is presented as evil precisely for engaging in this sin of valuing wealth over people.

Is there, then, a real difference between Superman and Lex Luthor? Between hero and villain? In the structure of the story as a whole the difference is immense, but in this small instance of subtext I think that we see with far more accuracy the truth of human nature. At the core the difference between "good guys" and "bad guys" is much more slight than most of us wish to believe.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

On Both Your Houses...

It would I appear that I am something of a rabbit's-foot-in-reverse for sports teams that I cheer for. I just spent a generally enjoyable morning/afternoon watching the FIFA World Cup quarter final games today and both of my teams lost. That's right, I was pulling for England and Brazil and they both fell in games that were nailbiters right up to the end. Actually they were only nailbiters at the end, but what are you gonna do?

I wouldn't make such a thing out of my bad luck charm status if it weren't for the fact that none of my teams can ever quite get it done. In hockey I cheer for the Oilers, in Canadian Football for the RoughRiders, in American Football for the Eagles, and so on and so on. In fact I can hardly remember the last time that the team I was cheering for in any championship event won. From all of this I can only draw one inescapable (and only mildly narcissistic) conclusion...I am at fault for the losses of all of these teams. I am a sports version of small-pox.

As a result I wish to offer my condolences and apologies to Beckham, Rooney & Co. as well as to Ronaldo, Ronaldinho & Co. It was not my wish to jinx you and I am sorry. As for the rest of the World Cup finals I feel that I should go on the record. I am explicitly not cheering for Italy and I explicitly am cheering for Portugal, Germany and France. Let's just hope my charms don't wear off now.