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odd findings

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I have a bit of the absent minded professor about me. Especially in terms of my books. I’ve a good amount of books, and these good amount tend to be moved around. Most of the books I would use only to fill bookcases are in storage of one type or another. I’ve boxes and boxes of those.

Books I have in here are books I generally use, or think I’ll use, at some point. Once a year or so if I haven’t moved, I realize any manner of organization has completely disappeared and I need to go through and do something with these books. Stacks have formed in various other, non-bookshelf, spots, and these stacks have an increasingly diverse mix of topics. Plato, which I haven’t read since college is sitting under The World according to Garp, which is sitting by Don Quixote, which is on top of The Princess Bride and the third Harry Potter novel, opposite Ignatius of Loyola (whose day it is today) and the complete works of Josephus and Mark Twain, on which is sitting Toward a Theology of Nature by Pannenberg. This is quite a silly order of things.

The bookshelves, of which I do not have nearly enough, have run into the same problem. There’s no organization any more. Books on learning how to use Dreamweaver and InDesign are sharing shelf space with a book on Christian nominality, the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship, Taiko by Yoshikawa, the Dead Sea Scrolls (in book form) and the collected works of Jack London. Different projects required pulling books out, and they never quite got back to where they would feel comfortable. Somehow I generally have a sense of where a particular book might be only the disorganization and stacks tends to make my mind feel a little cluttered.

So, since I’m going to start writing again tomorrow after a month or so away from anything particular, I figured today, being an odd sort of day, is a good day to get things squared away. It’s odd mostly because it’s the 31st and a Monday. The end of a month while also the beginning of a week. It is the middle of summer and misty cold outside.

This past Friday, Monday called up and said it was going to be a day for cleaning. So, I penciled it in and here I am typing instead of cleaning, writing a long post on what is, thus far, completely unrelated to anything I’ve written thus far. The point of this post follows.

In cleaning up my bookshelves I found what occasionally pops up in other times of cleaning and moving and otherwise sorting.

It’s a ticket to Disneyland.

It’s a ticket to Disneyland given as a prize to some Disney contest in celebration of Disneyland’s 30th anniversary. Disney recently made a big deal about their 50th anniversary, which means, well, this ticket isn’t exactly new and has wandered around various boxes and bookshelves for a good while.

I don’t even know if it’s still good, though I imagine it is, and worth considerably more than what it was worth when it was given out in 1985.

That was in the era of my regular Disney attendance, which fell off about ten years ago or so. This ticket floated around, never around when I went since 1985. Out of sight, out of mind, out of any memory of where it might be except when it makes an appearance on completely inconsequential days such as this when there’s absolutely no chance or plans to make good on its temptation.

I note this now for a reason. Only I’m not quite sure of that reason, but assume it must be about the same reason as why I keep coming across this ticket at odd intervals.

The funny thing is that at this point if I went to Disneyland I’m not sure I’d use it. It’s been twenty years.

Think of how much value it will have in twenty or thirty more. I just need to tuck it back into the bookcase, maybe behind the 5th volume of the ante-nicene fathers or the autobiography of Clarence Darrow sitting right next to it.


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Alright, for those of you lo those many moons ago voted, I’ve changed the front page finally.

The new server gets a new look in the front. I’ll be adapting the other page for something else, in coming weeks.

White headed woodpecker

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Apparently this is among the least studied of all woodpeckers. Funny thing that I pretty much see these every day around the house, drinking a bit of water, having a bite of food, hanging out on a nearby tree. You know the usual stuff.

Here’s my observational note to add to the research. White headed woodpeckers like corn.

white-headed woodpecker

They also like to store things in the crevices of incense cedars.

white-headed woodpecker

She spent a good long while going up and down the side of this tree checking out and poking into the various cracks. A job well done, Ms. Woodpecker.

white-headed woodpecker

unpacked boxes

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Well, I’m now at the new server. Funny thing is during this switch the occasional glitches were company wide and due to major power blackouts in LA. So, the new server was getting hit too. Only now things seem to be back in control, and that’s fine. I’ve been at that old server since 2003, and well, it was crowded. So, now I have room to stretch out and that means everything should be running a lot quicker.

There’s only one problem. My gallery didn’t make the transition. It was a program based on their server, and they have since switched to a newer program. So, I’ll need to go through and repost all the various galleries. Which is fine, I suppose. The newer version really is better. Just don’t click on the gallery link and expect to find anything quite yet.

Oh!: The gallery is now working again. There may be some other things not quite right but as those things are most likely obscure and I wouldn’t think of them, do let me know if something isn’t quite working as it says it should.

landing on a new tree

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brewer’s blackbirds
brewer’s blackbirds on a cedar

on imagination

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From CS Lewis’ discussion on Paradise Lost:

It remains, of course, true that Satan is the best drawn of Milton’s characters. The reason is not hard to find. Of the major characters whom MIlton attempted he is incomparably the easiest to draw. Set a hundred poets to tell the same story and in ninety of the resulting poems Satan will be the best character. In all but a few writers the ‘good’ characters are the least successful, and every one who has ever tried to make even the humblest story ought to know why. To make a character worse than oneself it is only necessary to release imaginatively from control some of the bad passions which, in real life, are always straining at the leash; the Satan, the Iago, the Becky Sharp, within each of us, is always there and only too ready, the moment the leash is slipped, to come out and have in our books that holiday we try to deny them in our lives. But if you try to draw a character better than yourself, all you can do is to take the best moments you have had and to imagine them prolonged and more consistently embodied in action.

But the real high virtues which we do not possess at all, we cannot depict except in a purely external fashion. We do not really know what it feels like to be a man much better than ourselves. His whole inner landscape is one we have never seen, and when we guess it we blunder. It is in their ‘good’ character tht novelists make, unawares, the most shocking self-revleations. Heaven understands Hell and Hell does not understand Heaven, and all of us, in our measure, share the Satanic, or at least the Napoleonic, blindness. To project ourselves into a wicked character, we have only to stop doing something, and something that we are already tired of doing; to project ourselves into a good one we have to do what we cannot and become what we are not.

Hence all that is said about Milton’s ‘sympathy’ with Satan, his expression in Satan of his own pride, malice , folly, misery, and lust, is true in a sense, but not in a sense peculiar to Milton. The Satan in Milton enables him to draw the character well just as the Satan in us enables us to receive it. Not as Milton, but as man, he has trodden the burning marl, pursued vain war with heaven, and turned aside with leer malign. A fallen man is very much like a fallen angel. This indeed is one of the things which prevents the Satanic predicament from becoming comic. It is too near us; and doubtless Milton expected all readers to perceive that in the long run either the Satanic predicament of else the delighted obedience of Mesiah, of Abdiel, of Adam, and of Eve, must be their own. It is therefore right to say that Milton has put much of himself into Satan; but it is unwarrantable to conclude that he was pleased with that part of himself or expected us to be pleased. Because he was, like the rest of us, damnable, it does not follow that he was, like Satan, damned.

This explains our current creative context almost perfectly. The oft considered artistic movies are so often, these days, little more than Jerry Springer titillation for the wine sipping crowd. They delve into execrable characters with auteurs declaring them to be images of real life. Meanwhile stories of heroism or victory are maligned for being cheesy and naive. Yet, as the Lord of the Rings movies, for instance, reveal there is a depth to moral victory which the dashes of sin spattered realities can’t approach.

To speak of something more, to make a call this is not all there is can be a fanciful endeavor. It can be a Kinkade quality pining. At the same time to dwell in our present mud, to wallow in the sins of others because, well, at least “we’re not that bad” isn’t art either. It’s escapism of a different sort, a sort that says nothing beyond the obvious. “Humans are jerks.”
Thank you, I realized that when I woke up this morning… again.

How do we speak of more if we do not know more? That is imagination. That is the quest of the discovery of self, the sallying forth in our own personal crusades, to see freedom, to embrace the higher life, to wander in what may be difficult and disciplined directions, denying ourselves in part to find ourselves in full, and living to tell the story about it all. To taste of the possibilities of our lives and let our imaginations press us beyond our present capabilities, that is the task of the sanctified and living mind.

That is art.

wallowing in sin

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One of the big critiques of the Emerging Church is it has a deficient, according to some, understanding of the harsher realities of human existence. It wants to be positive and accepting, rather than fire and brimstone convicting.

I’m of the opinion there’s something to be found here in this critique, and something to be developed. For Emerging Church to really discover a contributing theology I think it will have to address in new forms the classic topics. Theology is such a huge thing there isn’t an era that can encompass its fullness, and indeed I think God is so entirely grand that he offers us revelation through space and time. We need thousands of years of consideration to begin to discover him in some respects, and he has allowed us this time to wrestle with what he has done and what he has doing, sending his Son and his Spirit to reveal and teach.

The concept of sin touches on so much of our reality, towards God and towards others, I’m thinking it might be quite interesting to explore how we in our era can discover the concepts anew. This is not to deny what has been past, indeed it is to embrace it for what it teaches and seek to discover if we are best to be reminded or can in fact add some nuance to the discussion. Such nuances, I suspect, are not in the order of “sin is bad, all people do it, and really they shouldn’t but can’t help it, so there’s Christ.” Rather, such nuances would explore what is the nature of sin itself. What is it doing in us, through us, to us? How do we parse its labyrinth ways, and in our state of salvation begin to progress towards the quite New Testament exhortation of perfection.

Do we know the battle we are fighting? Or do we each, on our own, fight in isolated caverns flailing our arms about and grabbing whatever is near to beat down our most pernicious selves?

Ah, but the critique stands, and not only for the part of the church which tells the world it is emerging. We’ve not, I find, a good counsel on the wiles of our wiles. None of recent writing at least.

I know what to discover in ancient texts written with the dust of deserts likely still clogging the quill. Only I don’t quite know what I would read if I sought a text written on sin, or sins, in the past couple of centuries, or decades, or years, or weeks. Well, certainly there are texts relating the vast array of sinfulness, one need only type particular phrases into google to find examples abounding. But, I’m not looking for proof. I’m wanting to hear discussion on the nature of sin, and how it works, what it looks like from the perspective of God, and how we go about dealing with it.

I take this back. I do know of one book, a very good one subtitled a Breviary of Sin. That’s one book. Since I’m somewhat out of the loop of contemporary Christian publishing I figure there are more. Only I don’t know their names. Any suggestions, guidance, direction?

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Psalm 83:1 (NRSV) O God, do not keep silence;
do not hold your peace or be still, O God!
2 Even now your enemies are in tumult;
those who hate you have raised their heads.
3 They lay crafty plans against your people;
they consult together against those you protect.
4 They say, “Come, let us wipe them out as a nation;
let the name of Israel be remembered no more.”
5 They conspire with one accord;
against you they make a covenant-
6 the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,
Moab and the Hagrites,
7 Gebal and Ammon and Amalek,
Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre;
8 Assyria also has joined them;
they are the strong arm of the children of Lot. [Selah]
9 Do to them as you did to Midian,
as to Sisera and Jabin at the Wadi Kishon,
10 who were destroyed at En-dor,
who became dung for the ground.
11 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb,
all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
12 who said, “Let us take the pastures of God
for our own possession.”
13 O my God, make them like whirling dust,
like chaff before the wind.
14 As fire consumes the forest,
as the flame sets the mountains ablaze,
15 so pursue them with your tempest
and terrify them with your hurricane.
16 Fill their faces with shame,
so that they may seek your name, O LORD.
17 Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever;
let them perish in disgrace.
18 Let them know that you alone,
whose name is the LORD,
are the Most High over all the earth.

Why this Psalm now? Why because it’s the page that was showing when a 1000 year old psalter was pulled out of an Irish bog recently. The first book of its kind to be found in 200 years. Such a thing makes me think of those who wrote it. Why it ended up where it did. Dropped while running from vikings yelling “Odin!” maybe?

computery things

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My updates might be a little sparse the next day or three. I’m moving to a new server and, well, there’s a good bit of stuff to move. I’ve rented the big uhaul, have the industrial dolly going nonstop, and have to make sure some of the more delicate items get over to the new home without getting broken.

The sign of completion will be thus: The brewer’s blackbirds will alight on the cedar spire.