Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

JAD's Wedding Vows

Caveat lector: I wrote these words in about 20 minutes knowing they would either haunt me or bless me for a lifetime. In retrospect I think it was a success.


Dearest Susan
It is with inestimable joy that I come before you
And this audience
To publicly declare the vows of love
That express the countless reasons
Why I know that you and I
Were meant to spend our lives together.
I know that we have passed the past five years
Growing more in love with each other
And learning about how we are to live our lives
More in alignment with the only true love
Who sustains us every day.
With that love in mind,
I make this vow to you today
And every new day that is to come
To pour out my entire heart, soul, and mind,
To be your best friend,
Your Comfort in times of dire straits
And your lover
Regardless of what may come in our future.
With each morning that we shall face together,
I promise to anticipate each new dawn,
Where thankfully
I will be able to greet you,
My companion.
I am amazed by the beauty that you have shown me
A reflection of the beauty of a righteous heart,
Like our God and Saviour.
You cause me to long to be
A man who could love you
One thousandth as much
As you already love me.
And so this day
With no regrets, fear, or wavering,
I make this vow
To love you as long as God grants me breath and life.
Your love will outlive your mortality.
And your touch will always keep you in my memories.
Thank you for joining me this day,
My little girl.
I love you,
I would die for you,
But with more anticipation
I long to live for you.
From this day forth
And as long as I live
I am yours.

Friday, March 21, 2008

easter ruminations

So this is my first attempt at recording a video. To help you follow along, I have pasted the Latin text and one website's translation of it into English. I hope you enjoy listening to/watching this.

Victimae paschali laudes
immolent Christiani.
Agnus redemit oves:
Christus innocens Patri
reconciliavit peccatores.
Mors et vita duello
conflixere mirando:
dux vitae mortuus,
regnat vivus.
Dic nobis Maria,
quid vidisti in via?
Sepulcrum Christi viventis,
et gloriam vidi resurgentis:
Angelicos testes,
sudarium, et vestes.
Surrexit Christus spes mea:
praecedet suos in Galilaeam.
Scimus Christum surrexisse
a mortuis vere:
tu nobis, victor Rex,

May you praise the Paschal Victim,
immolated for Christians.
The Lamb redeemed the sheep:
Christ, the innocent one,
has reconciled sinners to the Father.
A wonderful duel to behold,
as death and life struggle:
The Prince of life dead,
now reigns alive.
Tell us, Mary Magdalen,
what did you see in the way?
I saw the sepulchre of the living Christ,
and I saw the glory of the Resurrected one:
The Angelic witnesses,
the winding cloth, and His garments.
The risen Christ is my hope:
He will go before His own into Galilee.
We know Christ to have risen
truly from the dead:
And thou, victorious King,
have mercy on us.

it is a good friday, when great latin songs are near to me

this song is simply beautiful--the title means praise the paschal victim. i will post a second utter where my thoughts are expressed in video format.

rev. wright---is he more right than he seems?

I'm no advocate of his style and I'm sure a lot of his conclusions and arguments are flawed, but with regard to his roosting chickens quote, it's clear to me that hearing him in context, he has a very important point. Call it chickens roosting, call it blowback, there is a sad set of consequences that occur when we try to exact vengeance.

Saw this clip here:

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Ebb and Flow of Seasons-maybe

A clear benefit to living in an area such as Maryland is an understanding that life inevitably brings change. When I first arrived here in the summer of 2005 it was hard to imagine this area resembling anything but a humid jungle of oaks and vines and maples and insects and sweat. Moving here was in my estimation, to say the least, perhaps the largest mistake I had made in my life. And then, the magic of fall came. Trees changed color and leaves died in concert, and most importantly I was free of the humidity and heat. Brisk mornings and cooler days replaced such oppressive torture. I was set--perhaps this was what life in Maryland was REALLY about. But that would soon change as freezing temperatures, snow, and ice converged in my environment. Fear took hold of my mind again as weeks and weeks of worrying about slipping in ice, combined with the obsession over whether each and every layer of clothing that would ensure my comfort and health was lost or forgotten. This was hell on earth, and it had frozen over. Or so I thought, for again my mentality was jarred by the new buds and fresh greens of spring. The ice thawed, and my cynicism towards this area did as well. The cycle was complete after several weeks, as the jungle weather sneaked up slowly but surely upon us. And thus began my second summer here.

That was nearly two years ago, and as my 3rd cycle of life in this area comes to a close over the next 3 months, I think I have finally gotten it. Slow to learn, my Californian mentality is revealed. It's clear that my former way of thinking about this earth was based on the notion that my environs would never really change. At least, when things did change, that was a sign of something tumultuous. Whether change came from a storm, a heat wave, Santa Ana winds, or some other strange alteration in the climate, change was always bad. The normal would eventually return, and patience during a brief suffering was all one really needed to endure the temporary unpleasantness.

What is obvious on paper, that California is the exception of stability among a rule of flux, was not sufficient for me to have this truth in my heart. The cyclic and changing nature of weather patterns here have had to turn and churn several times for me to understand that this brief moment of a particular season will soon fade and a new way of life will arise.

As a Californian, I would often mock the superficiality of conversations that had begun with interrogatives such as "How is the weather?" Now I know that this question contains the key to life--is the world welcoming to me or is it my worst enemy? One never knows for sure in a place such as Maryland.

This makes me wonder-maybe it's better to live somewhere like Maryland, for it more closely mirrors the human existence. Maybe the "craziness" that Californians are oft accused of is simply based on the fact that the environment trains people to subconsciously assume that comfort and stability are the norm.

Maybe the pain of bad seasons reminds us that life has seasons that are naturally trying, and maybe enduring those bad times makes the good times all the sweeter. Maybe I should stop saying maybe. Just maybe.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Great Minds of the Early 20th Century

As many of my posts have emphasized, I've been reading quite a bit from the works of the two-headed entity also known as the "Chesterbelloc". Because of an upcoming book club/meeting in honor of Belloc, I was trying to find out whether they liked drinking just beer and wine, or whether they also had a penchant for whiskey. Again, google directed me to the archives of the New York Times. I was very pleased to see and read this article from 1908, written by the famous socialist playwright, George Bernard Shaw. He tries to attack these two men for what they are worth. The frailty of his attack, combined with his insistence upon a teetotaling vegetarian blandness that is utterly scientific but lacking in soul and substance emphasizes how great they were to stand for an existence that was simultaneously more spiritual and more tied to this earth than any of the more godless goons of their day. However, the overall eloquence of both Shaw and the editor who writes the headline and a brief preview demonstrates that even those who stood on the proverbial wrong side of the fence seem to have been brighter than almost anyone walking on the face of this planet in our current time. Oh weeping and gnashing of teeth! At any rate, I converted the pdf of the article into a jpeg for this site. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

name that tune/human.....

In my family, we eagerly anticipate the arrival of a baby girl.

At the same time, we have no idea (or at least, no clear notion) of a fitting name for her.

Current favorites include Charlotte, Isabella, Eleanor and some others.

So I'm seeking your input, which will most likely be disregarded. Then again, a good idea is a good idea.

The question is--do you have one?

Let me know, Joe.

Get with the flow, yo.

Monday, March 10, 2008

on the literary beauty of SpongeBob Squarepants

So, some stirrings in the blogosphere (whose url's will remain unidentified) have led me to put some thoughts down in reflection on the goodness of the cartoon known as SpongeBob Squarepants.

I still remember the day when I strolled down the halls of the department of molecular biology and biochemistry at UC Irvine, when the departmental chair stopped to ask me if I was a fan of this show. He knew I was somewhat quirky, and thought we could share a moment of common affection for what I now hold to be a television great. However, in standard elitist tone, I gruffly said "No. I'm too cool for such childishness." Of course that comment was half tongue in cheek, half serious. As the years passed and free cable graced the face of our student housing complex, I saw some of the show as my wife and son were watching. Admittedly, there were moments of great music, as this undersea alternate universe played it out in ways that were comical and true to our world.

One instance would have to be SpongeBob's pet Gary, the snail who is indubitably the show's equivalent of a cat. When Gary left, this song accompanied SpongeBob's seach for reconciliation with his pet. The R&B sensibilities are just great.

But overall, there was a period of time where I knew that my family enjoyed the show, but I had no serious interest in watching it.

Perhaps the weight of the three letters, P, h, and D, have led me to seek more levity. Whatever the cause, at some point the genius of SpongeBob Squarepants got through to my hardened heart.

Just as the great heroes are not mere molecules who accidentally arrive on scene and unwittingly save the day, the adventures of SpongeBob do not come about in a haphazard way. The genius, however, is that this show presents itself as pure whimsy. The plots unfold like any standard story, and our protagonist carries himself as no hero at all-if anything, he is the opposite of a hero. If you watch him explain his stance on the matter of fun in the following video, you will see what I mean.

A cursory observation of this clip (and most complete episodes) would lead one to think of this as harmless children's entertainment where having a fun time is all that matters in life. A more twisted view may lead to conclusions of superficiality on the part of our 21st century undersea Ulysses (or Odysseus, if you're really cool), or even some sort of underlying immorality on his part.

On the contrary, the true beauty of SpongeBob Squarepants is in the fact that he exists as a light shining out in darkness. His light, masked in a nerdy awkwardness, is a light of innocence. He exists in a world of cynical narcissism, megalomania, and godless materialism, as exemplified and personified by the most commonly occurring adult characters of Squidward, Plankton, and Mr. Crabs, respectively.

Going back to the F.U.N. video, we see two different views of what matters in life, and as silly as SpongeBob is, he is right about what matters more. Power and bombs, or friendship?

Zooming out to consider this show in toto, all of the interactions that our child hero undergoes show the glaring incongruity between the mind of a child who wants to engage in the simpler things of life and the adults who are contrasted with him. Sure, some of the funniest moments are when this innocence leads him to make conclusions that are fallacious, but the texture of the show is a consistently innocent one.

And so I would say that not only is this show funny because of the silliness, but behind the silliness is a tapestry of wisdom. There is wisdom in innocence. It is not self-aware in the young ones on our planet, and self-awareness is sometimes the strongest way to quench that light, but childlike simplicity has the power to overcome that darkness. We see this, oddly enough, in a cartoon as unassuming as SpongeBob.

The Pope loves Luther (Martin, not Lex!)

Found this link at Evangelical Catholicity.

This could be quite interesting, to say the least!

P.S. This link is less positive in terms of what will be said this summer. It's still interesting, nonetheless.....

Friday, March 7, 2008

Why I am not a Protestant

I have surfed and sifted and pored over pages of thinkers and prophets, and one thing is clear to me.
I am not a Protestant.

The idea that good religion is all about bad religion is really just a bad idea.
The idea that we are defined by our protesting is an idea that protests against human nature.

And to be a Protestant, literally speaking, is to be one who protests against various doctrines and practices of some other religion that one finds to be offensive, illogical, unbiblical, or some combination thereof.

But as I surf and sift and think about what I've learned (or been unwittingly corrupted by), I see more clearly each day that my world is not composed of negations and denials, at least it should not be composed as such. May it never be so, that is a prayer and yearning of mine. But in some views, it most definitely is so, and it is an ideal for these Protestants.

If you think I am wrong, think about this-entire denominations exist because of protests moving beyond the troubles in Germany that led Martin Luther to write his theses. The Baptists emphasize their name of Baptist, though their overall group would be Protestant. But this name of Baptist is rooted in a protest against those who baptize children prior to their ability to comprehend the significance of such an act. Shortening the name Anabaptist, which means those who baptize again, as in the age of Reformation and schisms adults who grew up Roman Catholic were baptized again, as the first baptism was considered null and void.

And don't think I'm bashing some people just because I think that they deprive their children of a sacrament.

It gets even worse when you follow denominations whose ideal theologian is John Calvin. There are sets of Presbyterians who will not get along because one set thinks that Cornelius Van Til is better than Gordon Clark, and vice versa. They both agree that the detailed and systematic Westminster Confession of Faith is accurate, but one thinks that God's knowledge of the world is not discursive, whereas the other views analogous knowledge to be self-stultifying. If you made it through those phrases with no stumbling, you know what I'm talking about. If you felt like shrugging, just realize that these people are both serious scholars on epistemology but due to some technical differences seeing eye to eye was impossible.

The argument over whether any Christian should call themselves Protestants can be reduced and distilled to this-are you one who will say on your death bed, something to the effect of, "That transubstantiation nonsense is all rot!" Or will you cry out to God and your family, in thankfulness for the life you have had, thankful (or perhaps fearful) for your faith that can sustain you as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death?

If someone else were to describe you in one brief paragraph, would those words be chiefly about the sins you bemoan, the vices you avoid, and the people that you cannot stand? Or would that person speak of the things that you love and hold dear, and how you are one who seeks to foster those things that you adore? As for myself, some may write of me in a negative manner, and I have given much ammunition throughout my life to support that portrayal, but as I have walked down this road of life I see how wrong that way of thinking is.

Put another way, are you a Christian because of who God is, or who He isn't?
If the former, why would you ever call yourself something based on who He isn't?
I do not want to call myself the man who has no love for the trash of this world. I am truly a father, husband and friend of people that I cherish. I am not the guy who does not want to see the bad guys stop their corruption. Who I am is a person who wants to make this world a better place.

I most definitely protest against things, but to have those things become definitive of who I am is to ruin my sight of what matters in this life most. It is to have those protests become tyrannical over who I really am.

Maybe you're sensitive about this post because of tradition, familiarity, and the like. Let's step back and think about a completely different sense in which negation is not enough. Think about something such as the philosophy of punk rock. Is it great to simply hate an establishment, a set of mores that are repugnant? Or is it more important to look at the world in terms of the better days that could be had if society was not so obsessed with triviality #x?

In the same sense, if our religious stance is simply not Roman Catholic, we are nothing but empty complaints about wrongs. I don't think anyone would disagree with this on a conceptual level, but I think some will still insist to walk the party line by defining themselves with a phrase like Protestant, which is merely negative. As for me, those days are past me, thankfully.

Just as I have argued elsewhere that Augustine got it write when he said that evil was a privation, so too do I think that calling one's self a Protestant is really coming short of what we could possibly be. It's coming short of what we were made to be, a new creation that stands for something good for the sake of something good, not to exist as demolition machines that merely rip apart what is flawed.

It is what we should be, at least.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Richmond 5-0

Last night we were on the road from approximately 10 pm to 12 am, heading further into the South than I had ever been (think Sam Gamgee's voice as you read that sentence). I have known that the road known as I-95 was a mostly functional, desolate road occupied at night by loons and truckers, whose chief distinction lies in mode of transportation, not an actual state of mind. The speed limit was 65, but the flow of traffic was at least 70. Those few non-truck cars that were on the road generally would zoom past us at a ferocious speed of at least 85, which is so rare in these parts (it seems). So we confined ourselves to the lanes occupied by trucks; that is, the most beat up bumpy lanes where one does not need to be worried about being tailgated but then one has to worry about being shaken from potholes and engineering imperfections.

At one point, two of the three lanes were occupied by trucks, so I warily ventured into the fast lane. It was then that it happened--a police car was tailgating me. Now, I hadn't been speeding, but for me to get away from this truck and get out of the fast lane, I would have to go much faster than the speed limit. I tried speeding up a bit (as I noticed a small truck weave past these two trucks at a truly fast speed), but the truck next to me also sped up, in typical male fashion, where everything in life is a race, except life itself.

I gave up on trying to pass this trucker and started to slow down, and in the meanwhile, so did the cop who was still apparently watching all of this, looking for some excuse to pull me over. I decided to slow down even more and just get into the second lane. That's when my worst fear came true. The cop behind me followed likewise. I tried my hardest to not swerve or waver, but I'm sure something happened. A few moments later, the cop instantly sped up and left us through the sluice also known as the fast lane.

"He was checking my license to see if there are any reports on me. I'm sure of it."

Annoyed by the knowledge that my background was just researched not because I had done anything wrong, but because this man COULD do so, I thought of our society's ill of assuming that we should operate "justice" by looking for injustice when it's not apparent. Presume me guilty until proven innocent, this modicum will not produce health and harmony, and it sounds a little backwards in comparison to our actual legal standards.

But we weren't in Richmond yet. About 40 miles later, and we exited the dark roads of I-95. With just five miles to go, I was safe, right? About five minutes later, I would be proven wrong. I was expecting a left turn to come 4.1 miles down the road, but I knew not to trust to odometers and the like. As I have said before, the South's roads are still labyrinthine to ensure that Yankees are cursed forever for their treachery of aggression. While driving slowly (roughly 42 in a 45) so as not to be pulled over for speeding, an unwelcome guest appeared behind me-the county police.

They followed me while a guy in a run down car (with Virginia plates, mind you) sped past at an exorbitant speed. And by this point I was getting close to the left turn, so I really did need to slow down. And just as the police car passed us at a light, I realized that very light was the one we had needed to turn left. As a consequence, my abrupt left turn which coincided with the cops passing us looked too suspicious for the next turn events to not happen.

As I turned left, the cops magically changed their minds, and also wanted to turn left. As we started driving, they followed us for almost a half mile. The road was getting work done it, so it looked like some mythical obstacle course from a 1960's driving instruction film reel. This, in turn, led me drive even more slowly than before. It was a lost cause, like the cause of the South. Then the blue lights started flashing, and my Honda Civic was illuminated by a light. Fortunately, my two sons remained comatose in the back seat-they never woke up throughout this gauntlet.

As they approached me (for whatever reason the partner needed to accompany on this perilous road to pull over a guy with his two sons and pregnant wife), they pointed out the obvious.

"We've been following you for a while and you've been swerving quite a bit, and driving quite a bit below the posted speed limit."

"I know sir, I'm sorry but I've never been here before in my life." I wanted to elaborate, to explain how I would be interviewing at a university that these two lads probably rooted for during various sports events, and how much I loved to actually be near the capital of the legendary but infamous Confederacy. But I didn't. I merely continued to explain that we were looking for our hotel. I showed them the printouts from Google Maps, and they discussed among themselves where this place could possibly be. Seeming incredulous, they asked for the particulars about our hotel, and they also asked for my registration. It turns out it wasn't there-it was removed for other identification purposes, and as a result they needed to check my driver's license again.

As the cops came back, they returned with the attitude I had anticipated from this region. They were very apologetic, and (imagine!!) helpful. They gave detailed descriptions of every store/gas station we would be passing, and sped us on our way.

Pulled over in Dixie by the Richmond 5-0 wasn't my idea of heaven, but it was much nicer than my California, Arizona and Maryland police experiences. And don't get me started about the tribal police of New Mexico!

Monday, March 3, 2008

"Then let us love one another and laugh. Time passes, and we shall soon laugh no longer--and meanwhile common living is a burden, and earnest men are at siege upon us all around. Let us suffer absurdities, for that is only to suffer one another." --- Hilaire Belloc

On almost every level I think that that the majority of our world's problems today are related to a failure to look at the world in the way that Belloc and others do. We push each other away for fear of them offending us and in so doing create the greatest offense of all--a schismatic fractured world. This is not to decry injustices or those who decry injustices, but if one's plaintive call is only a negative statement, the sin that started the protestation will result in an even uglier reality, of separation. When unity is lost, a vacuum is created, and when that vacuum is filled through the natural laws of mass action (yes, they apply to spiritual truths), what comes in is worse than what went out in the first place. Of course, my use of the word protestation has certain ecclesiological implications that are conjured, but they are not on my mind at the moment. What is on my mind are the myriads of families who are flying into this vacuum like a science fiction movie when the door to the spacecraft is accidentally opened. This horror movie scene is replayed in home after home, as divorce physically rends united souls, and even without divorce so many exist in compartmentalized existence. And the results of this are even more grotesque than any suffocation and explosion (or yes, even the cooler concept of an implosion).

I don't want to sound Hegelian, but we really do need more synthesis in our life. Antithesis should start off a discussion over a disagreement, but mere antithesis is probably the worst thing in the world, for it is ultimately unrealistic.

As the Belloc quote implores, so do I say, let us suffer absurdities. For if we do not, we are the most absurd ones of all.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

the man who was thursday

As mentioned in my latest post, The Man Who Was Thursday was dramatized by Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre. If you will never read the book, you can at least listen here. I assure you, if you are foolish enough now to say you won't read it, if you listen you will change your mind.

Such eloquence in Chesterton's writing is marvelously portrayed by my chief dramatic hero, Orson Welles.

so what is richmond like in the summer

I set about to find articles describing the summer in Richmond, when I was amused to see that google gave me a result that was a New York Times article. Funny, I thought, why would that newspaper comment on Richmond. It turns out this article was commenting on the weather from the summer of 1862!