Thursday, September 21, 2017

Summer Reading 2017: Updated

Since today is the last full day of summer, I thought it apt to write an update on the progress I made in my summer reading plan. Including 12 books on my list was a daunting arrangement, but I'm a curious person, and therefore, cramming a surplus of information into my head is less intentional than it is intuitive. Shout out to temporary unemployment and completing undergrad courses (I didn't say 'graduating' 'cuz that's saved for October) for opening up a lot of spare time for me, too.

Without further adieu, here is the updated list. Aren't you looking forward to reading this? Ha, oh stop you're embarrassing me, of course I knew you were ... wait, I said 'Without further adieu...' but I just keep on prattling...

1. Thomas Merton - New Seeds of Contemplation (meditations / FINISHED).

2. Max Weber - The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (sociology of religion, economics / have not started).

3. Jay DiNitto - Pale Blue Scratch (philosophical fiction / FINISHED).

4. David A. Karp - Speaking of Sadness (sociology of mental illness, symbolic interactionism / chapter six).

5. Bishop Kallistos Ware - The Orthodox Way (theology / FINISHED).

6. Peter Kreeft - Ecumenical Jihad (religion / FINISHED).

7. Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann - The Social Construction of Reality (sociology of knowledge / FINISHED).

8. Peter L. Berger - A Rumour of Angels (sociology of religion / have not started).

9. A. W. Tozer (editor) - The Christian Book of Mystical Verse (poetry / FINISHED).

10. Christopher Butler - Postmodernism (philosophy, theory / chapter two).

11. Janet Wolff  - The Social Production of Art (sociology of art / chapter six).

12. Thomas E. Schmidt - Straight and Narrow? (sexuality, theology / FINISHED).


Additional books I picked up along the way:

13. A. W. Tozer - The Pursuit of God (meditations, FINISHED)

14. James Farganis (editor) - Readings in Social Theory (sociology / theory, chapter six)

15. G. K. Chesterton - Heretics (philosophy / chapter 17)

I also read the Bible on a daily basis and am currently reading from Acts and the Psalms.

My favourite and least favourite books:

Without a doubt, the book I enjoyed reading most this summer was Ecumenical Jihad by Peter Kreeft. As I've stated before, Kreeft's prose style is just splendid and for a controversial treatise on religion and culture to be so fun to read, is an accomplishment in itself. I highly recommend ordering a cheap used copy on Amazon. And hey, a new edition is getting published in October. Good books tend to get re-published (wink).

Unfortunately, I will have to demote The Social Production of Art by Janet Wolff to the "least favourite" category. While this book did have some good moments (in my eyes), its dense usage of Marxist ideas ultimately became too boring for me to bear. The ghost of Marx has a monopoly on contemporary sociology, and so, theoretically speaking, the ambitions of this book simply don't strike me as being very creative. Economics and power are only of peripheral interest to me.

Further thoughts:

I would like to begin A Rumour of Angels one of these days ... but I should at least finish Heretics first ... and maybe Readings in Social Theory, too. Also, I'm liking the weather these days.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Great Chain of Linking, Part 4

Get Your Soul Back - "Just as we shop for our comforts and pleasure, so we “shop” for the self and the latest version of its “health.” ... Such relief, however, should not come at the price of our souls."

Robots are not going to take over the world - Jay DiNitto offers some fun thought experiments.

Conservative pastor listens to death metal - Douglas Wilson states his thoughts on the relationship between content and style, with Becoming the Archetype as a reference point.

Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions - Published in 2005, but seems like a decent resource for those interested in the topic.

You Want Snark With Those Fries? - An article about Wendy's social media antics.

Prozac at 20 - An episode of The Agenda with Steve Paikin from seven years ago. I watched a half hour and it's a good discussion on controversial medication.

Calvinist movie trailer - Additionally, you can watch the original trailer here.

The Emoji Movie receives bad reviews - Just look at that Tomatometer score!

Monday, August 28, 2017

On Being Trendy

Being a trendy writer is not a difficult thing to do. Sure, you probably aren't or won't become a New York Times best seller - though there are many of those - but being a trendy writer in itself is not a complicated matter. Trendiness has to do with form and content, completely apart from how noticed your work might become.

At the risk of over-spiritualizing the matter, it might be inferred that trendiness has its identity in sin, at least, in part. To speak of trendiness is to denote the manners of a majority, or the ways of the world (see Romans 12.2). A majority can act in both good and bad ways.

In the world of writing, the list of sins is long. Some of these are aesthetic sins while others are of a moral nature. Aesthetic sins can include: numerous pages for a single post, a surplus of bullet points, 'scholarly' information lacking of citations, and obnoxious videos playing without even clicking on them. The last item mentioned is especially interesting; writing alone does not beg enough attention, or, readers do not beg for writing as much as they beg for entertainment. Moral sins, on the other hand, may include: crassness, idolatry, pride, and lying.

The reason I bring any of this up is that my writing used to be the object of my critique, that is, in certain respects. In a blog that is still active for reasons of nostalgia but no longer attached to my name - not even my pseudonym - you can find the occasional curse word, a plethora of pseudo-intellect, and even a greater amount of pride. In short, some kind of image of a trying-to-be edgy Christian who took themselves too seriously and thought of themselves as a genius for being able to ask some questions about life. If only I could laugh about it to the degree that I am disgusted by it. These are no longer things that I want to be a part of my life.

In some ways, perhaps not much has changed. I still have lots of questions about life, am still trying to die to my pride, and more than occasionally find myself upset over trivialities. So, why write any of this?

I suppose I have undergone many paradigm changes over the last few years. Some of the past heroes of my thought-life are no longer championed and, on my good days, forgotten about.

If only people would take themselves less seriously...

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Yet Another Change in the Design of this Blog

I'm sure it's become a bit of a joke around here. That being said, the last design did last quite long. If memory serves me correct, I updated it in late April, meaning that I kept the design quite consistent for approximately four months. That's not bad by my standards at all.

But who knows how long the current design will last! I've used this one before and I like it for its blueness (or grey ... or nearly green ... depending on the colour settings of your monitor) and minimalism. I sort of do miss having my pages (about, other pages, contact), but hey, I'm still sharing my writing on here and I think that's a heck of a lot more important than professionalism.

Am I a professional to begin with, anyway? I don't exactly think so. I'm high on intuition, meaning that I'm bad at doing practical things and decent at being theoretical. I'm afraid to say that this is not the most suitable set of qualities when you exist in an iron cage of rationality, to put it in Max Weber's terms.

It's funny how I was quite content for a long time with the design of this blog and suddenly, like the flick of a light switch, I feel so compelled to give it some digital renovations! It probably has to do with another project I undertook recently, which was searching through old email for old songs of mine and compiling them to make this Email project I released today through Bandcamp.

Yet another instance of artistic restlessness.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Questioning Some Common Ideas

"To begin your piece with an introduction is essential."

I agree to the extent that an introduction could be preferred by some, but I must ask, preferred by whom? If I were preparing an essay to a submit to a professor, then yes, an introduction is essential, generally speaking. For myself though, I think introductions are boring and spoil everything that you are about to say, albeit in a manner utterly void of evidence! As a matter of fact, I also had one professor during my undergraduate studies who said that he did not care about the structure of our papers, and part of that was an indifference to the inclusion of introductions or conclusions. His reasoning, as I recall, was that Philosophy papers ought to be written as works of logic (i.e. make some arguments), rather than well-structured prose for an English course, for instance.

"If you really are pro-life, then you cannot be in favor of the death penalty."

While emotionally stirring, this attitude promotes taking things too literally. To be 'pro-life', for many people, is to allow the opportunity for existence outside of the womb unto those whom this experience has yet to be actualized. Fetuses, on this view, ought to at least have the chance to exist beyond the womb in the first place. The death penalty, on the other hand, is not intended for those who have not been granted a chance at existing beyond the womb. Such persons have already existed in such a life-type, and according to some, have tainted their own existence by committing such a heinous act that their very existence ought to be negated by means of the state. If you were to ask me, I would say that I am generally against both abortion and the death penalty. I say 'generally' because I am sure there are some cases, if I was in the place of a judge, where the death penalty would seem to be the best option to me, though certainly not the ideal option. I believe that taking a life is always a sin, though sometimes, only wrong options are available, and so, you have to choose the better of the two evils. It seems at least possible, in this moment of armchair philosophizing. To say that all pro-lifers should be against both is a false equivocation. Abortion and the death penalty are different ethical issues.

"You cannot love someone else without loving yourself first."

This is probably a product of the Enlightenment, with its emphasis on individuality, efficiency, and selfishness. I have yet to hear a reason as to why this is factual rather than an artifact of pop-psychology. I agree, there are some things that we as individuals, in our individualness, have a responsibility over that nobody else does. We tire out, need rest, and yes, self-examination is important. But the Christ said that "there is no greater love than the one who shed blood for his friends," and to me, that clearly seems to be an act of loving another before loving oneself. So, at least sometimes, you can love someone else before loving yourself.

"It is 2017 for crying out loud..."

Ha ha ha! This should be a fun one to address and it is definitely a product of the Enlightenment, with its notion of the human race at large progressing in its intellect and moral sensibility. Some people like to use this little catchphrase when complaining about, to give some examples, pejoratives, violence, and general stupidity. The people who say this appear to believe that those alive in 2017 are the smartest and most compassionate people to have ever existed.

But there is a flaw in the ointment: it is a circular argument. Those who are alive in 2017 are morally and intellectually superior to those from past years because it is 2017. That is the only substance contained in this idea. It is a boring and trendy aphorism and I think that more people should get off their high horse.

"You study sociology? You must be a social justice warrior (SJW), a neo-Marxist, or a postmodernist!"

Okay, so this is not a common idea per se, but it bugs me nonetheless. The first person who comes to mind is psychologist Jordan B. Peterson, who seems to enjoy criticizing the discipline. I like Jordan B. Peterson well enough, but that does not mean I cannot have my disagreements with him. I agree that sociology is in trouble, but as it turns out, sociologists like Peter L. Berger (RIP) and Anne Hendershott have already discussed this (to be fair, Peterson tweeted Hendershott's article, though in a snarky fashion).

The problem with this animosity is that it has an all encompassing "sociology says" attitude. The truth of the matter is that there is and should be disagreements among sociologists. Peterson's crticisms might hold up insofar as they address sociologists whose work has a postmodern, conflict-theory, or neo-Marxist bent to it, but to think that these are the only theories available to sociologists is a fragmented view. Other sociological theories/methods include: symbolic interactionism, functionalism, actor-network theory, ethnomethodology, systems theory, and more. Even if Peterson is correct that neo-Marxism, postmodernism, etc. are the dominant theories, they do not have to be. There are different ways to do sociology.

At this time I would also like to address the claim that those interested in sociology are SJWs. Here I will simply share the wise words of Steve Bruce, taken from chapter five of his wonderful book Sociology: A Very Short Introduction: "...though the discipline owes much to reformers and many sociologists derive their research interests from moral and political engagements with the world, sociology must be distinguished from social reform."

In short, sociology just means "the study of society," something quite different from what some might perceive (whether fairly or not, I will not comment) as "foolish activism," and you can study society in many different ways.