Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Do Hipsters Exist?

Often times, it is said that post-structuralism and postmodernism followed existentialism. While this is true, I might also wager that hipsterism should have joined the continental conga line. Just as certain existentialists denied that they were existentialists, many hipsters deny that they are hipsters (in addition, reading existential literature gains hipster points).

But unlike the fact that existentialism was once a real theory and approach to be reckoned with, the very notion that the hipster was/is actually a materialized entity has been questioned. Rob Horning, in his article The Death of the Hipster, asks "...are there hipsters, actual hipsters, or just a pervasive fear of hipsters?" Perhaps this says something significant about identity-denial among those perceived as hipsters, an implication that is very much a fact in the social stock of knowledge. In a way, it almost seems like hipsterism is to aesthetics what atheism is to religion. The gods who are so obvious to the majority of the world go unnoticed by the atheists; the hipster fashion trends that are so obvious to the non-hipster majority go unnoticed by the hipster collective. And, like all social groups, both make room for some hypocrisy. As an atheist might be militant (religious) about their purported lack of beliefs, a hipster might deny the commonly perceived nature of their attire.

So, the answer to the question of whether or not hipsters exist is contingent upon who you ask. If they're slurping down a can of PBR while reading the latest issue of the New Left Review, the answer is probably "no." If, however, they're voicing a jeremiad about how pretentious a site like Pitchfork is, the answers is likely "yes."

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Great Chain of Linking, Part 1

In typical blogger fashion, I am going to start doing some link sharing posts on here. While my own writing will continue to be central to the hesitant telos, sometimes I lack more original ideas to communicate and want to let others know about media of interest without being so boring as to replicate the intellectual property that belongs to others or whatever you might call it. The name I have ascribed to this is a parody of "the great chain of being." This probably isn't related enough to that, but I thought it was catchy - a catchy pleonasm. Also, no promises on the relevancy (in terms of publication date) of these. I'm notoriously late in many a ways, so such a rule about trendiness just won't work for me. Without further ado, I give to you The Great Chain of Linking, Part 1.

1. Can Sociology be Saved? - The mentioning of criminal justice here is interesting to me as a sociology major, which is to say, that sub-field isn't really interesting to me at all.

2. Linkin Park's new album is getting bad scores - I'm quite content with Hybrid Theory and Meteora, personally. Their remix album was also good.

3. Song of the week right here: "Feeling Neglected" by Rainer Maria - why aren't there more female singers in emo bands?

4. Christina Hoff Sommers questions the gender wage gap. I'm trying to be as open to the evidence here as possible, but as far as I can tell, she makes a good case.

5. Peter Kreeft on the liberal arts and its relation to sexual morality - His prose style is simply captivating. I wouldn't doubt if Kreeft was objectively one of the best contemporary writers on religion, though of course, that is a difficult claim to test.

6. Is the Bible like any other book? A.W. Tozer didn't think so.

7. Pumpkins are symbols of Caucasian-American culture, a couple of authors in the GeoHumanities journal argue. Maybe it's articles like these that cause people to think that sociology can't be saved and shouldn't be saved?

8. Observations from Alexander Griswold on the Wild Goose Festival 2014 - I've mentioned this festival on the blog before and I have no vigor to say anything else about it at the time ... other than that I find it to be a fascinating social movement that I will probably continue to study second hand in the future.

9. A video of the Nicholas Christakis controversy - The sociologist and his wife, Erika, have resigned from Yale because of, from what I've gathered, advocating that students should be able to choose their own Halloween costumes as opposed to measures of social control. Yeah, students just wouldn't go for that apparently and made their lives more difficult than they should have (is respect for a professor no longer a thing?). Apparently the guy at the ~2 minute mark and someone else have received leadership awards for their complaining! I honestly feel so bad for Nicholas and Erika.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

i m a g e d . s e n s - my new photo blog

I suppose it's time to let the cat out of the bag - I just can't stop making blogs, apparently. Just last week I started up i m a g e d . s e n s, a (mostly) wordless blog that is intended to showcase my own photography/visuals, unless otherwise noted. I spent money on a DSLR camera (Canon Rebel T3i) a few years ago, so I may as well put it to use. There's a good chance many of the uploads to come will be oldies but goodies laying around in the crevices of my hard drive, though a couple of the shares have been recent (by recent I mean within the past couple weeks). In theory, I could just share the photos here, but I really think the design of the other blog really compliments the intention. Speaking of design, you might have noticed that I changed some things around on here: links are green, I disabled the sticky header, and I no longer have a featured post. Unfortunately, the search button and those three lines beside it button (not sure exactly what it's called) are now a little finicky! They should work when you first arrive on a page, but if you scroll down and scroll up and click on them, they don't work. That's too bad, although, I really didn't like the sticky header so I think I'm still at an advantage.

EDIT: Uninstalled Instagram from my mobile cellular phone today. Hopefully this photo blog will be somewhat of a reprieve from the boringness that came along with the app.

EDIT 2: The sticky header has been enabled again. I couldn't in good conscience have buttons that didn't work. Unless anyone objects, I plan on keeping it. I think it's okay once I made the header font smaller and non-bold.

EDIT 3: Forgive me, I just can't make up my mind on preferred aesthetics at the time. Hopefully this will change in the near future. Links are blue again, the featured post is there again.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Why I Enjoy Philosophy More Than Theology


I have really thrown myself into a sarlacc pit this time! As a self professing Christian, I find myself uncomfortable with making the inference that I enjoy "the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language" (philosophy) more than "the study of the nature of God and religious belief" (theology). I can see that I have also made some of the more serious Christians uncomfortable here, as a swarm of them run towards me. The Roman Catholics have copies of the Catechism and Vatican II documents to lend, the Reformed have their Westminster Confession of Faith, and process Christians have a handful of Alfred North Whitehead and John Cobb books cupped in their eco-friendly local soap washed hands. Those are the first three groups I saw. There are a plethora more and far too many to count. I jest; really, I do.

Before I try to defend my mere opinion, I can think of no better way to begin than by bringing in a quotation from Austrian-American sociologist Peter L. Berger. He writes in the preface of A Rumour of Angels: "I also consider myself a Christian, though I have not yet found the heresy into which my theological views would comfortably fit." To elaborate on this profound statement would be belabored, but I hope the reader will keep these words in mind while they read the paragraphs which follow.

If there is one thing that I dislike about theology it would have to be its competitive nature. While individuals arguably do have a certain disposition to particular philosophical and theological outlooks alike, I believe that the former allows for more altruism than the latter. In the words of Shelly Kagan, who is the Clark Professor of Philosophy at Yale: "I'm a philosopher, I don't know 'facts.'" In philosophy, you can take a side and defend it ardently, though you will probably still acknowledge that you could be wrong. Saul Kripke, author of the groundbreaking philosophy of language work Naming and Necessity, affirms this attitude: "It is really a nice theory. The only defect I think it has is probably common to all philosophical theories. It's wrong." The gardens of theology, on the other hand, make for difficult terrain in which specimens like doubt and altruism might flourish. Theology in general, I would argue, attempts to deal with who God truly is and what correct religious beliefs actually are. To give an analogy, theology is like trying to create a map so that you will not get lost, while philosophy is like having a map set before you and questioning its implications and thus becoming lost. Personally, I enjoy the wandering that comes with philosophy and have difficulty devoting myself to a single theological tradition (note that I did not say God, but rather, theological tradition!).

Of course, I think that the ideas of knowing God Himself and living a life that brims of good religion are wonderful things. Notice here that I used the word 'idea' though and not 'experience' or something to that effect. I have folded myself into the fold-out couch so to speak, and I will not edit this out for the sake of potentially amusing the reader. This is important because it brings me to my next point: philosophy is more successful at being a study than theology.

I wager that philosophy is more successful at being a study than theology because the former is, in general, directed toward mere ideas while the latter is directed toward an actual person, to some extent. In the sense that theology is a study of the nature of God, theological discourse is by definition directed toward a person. The way in which one familiarizes themselves with ideas - in the subjective thought-world - and with a person - in the objective social world - are of course remarkably different. Starting with how one familiarizes themselves with ideas, let us suppose that I want to learn about the ethical theory of utilitarianism. To learn about this, all I have to do is pour myself into some books by Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Peter Singer, and so forth. Reading is the sharpest tool of the trade when it comes to familiarizing oneself with philosophical ideas. On the other hand, when it comes to knowing a person, reading is simply insufficient. Suppose that my friend, Smith, hands me a list that includes details about his friend, Jones, say his physical appearance, interests, mannerisms, etc. Even if I were to memorize the details on that list, it does not mean that I actually know Jones himself. Now, I suppose somebody could argue that those details are Jones, that his identity is contingent upon his appearance, interests, mannerisms, etc. and not something else. I, however, contend that such thinking is too impractical and violates the sense of the common. A safe albeit abstract definition of knowing a person, it seems to me, is that two or more persons must share some type of experience. This experience need not be grand or complicated, but reading about a person does not fulfill this requirement and is therefore mere blarney.

So what am I trying to say here? In truth, I am having difficulty figuring this out for myself, as my stream of thought seems to be in contradiction. I guess part of what I want to say has been reiterated by so many before, in different ways: knowing God must be something more than an intellectual task. As I have outlined above, I see some of the downfalls of theology including that it tends to breed competition and only focuses on details about God. That being the case, I do not think that either of these are useless or necessarily uninteresting for that matter, but instead, could become idolized and create a sort of spiritual myopia, which would be dangerous. And of course, I have read some theology books and will likely read more and find them beneficial. However, I am still convinced that there must be something to knowing God that goes beyond my own efforts to learn.

In short, I do not want to take ideas too seriously that do not need to be taken seriously. I would bet that some of the ideas floating around in the theological world are meaningless and too complex for their own good, and do not think that I would be betting on the wrong horse. If I want to waste time on ideas, why would I not just read philosophy, which, to put it in a personified sort of way, does not take itself so seriously and succeeds in that non-seriousness? For these reasons, I might find myself more inclined to pick up a philosophy book before a theology one, at least, in some cases.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Saint Lucy

It's been awhile since I posted a "digital artwork" on here. Today's feature is an icon of Saint Lucy.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Saucy Defense of Rhetoric: The Escape Artist of Prose Style


Since when did so many writers become recalcitrant about paying attention to their prose? Publishing information is easy; a soul-less robot can do that. Even if there is a mountain of meaning, a soupçon of style is nothing more than unsatisfying. Indeed, it is quite a shame (sham?) how 'rhetoric' has become a pejorative term. In Jane Austen's time, the conflict existed between pride and prejudice; now the conflict lies between pejorative and prejudice. Rhetoric, the modern pejorative, has unfairly been equated with prejudice. "Just as prejudice lacks reason or experience, rhetoric is also void of substance," I can hear the analytic variety loudly roaring.

What the analyst does not understand, however, is that rhetoric is no mere gymnast, but rather, an escape artist. The analytic crowd can complain as long as they please about the somersaults, tumbling, and aerials, but they are not seeing the full performance. The rhetorician has meaning as its gymnastics and prose style as its escape. The analyst has no gymnastics and no escape whatsoever, as they sit at their desk looking oh so serious, writing down their dull words with an even duller pencil. The rhetorician escapes the binding seriousness of the analyst, though the latter only sees imbecilic gesticulations.

I can think of no better example than music to defend my zeal for rhetoric. Suppose that the no-nonsense analyst has a very complex sequence of thoughts, though they lack a writing style that reads well. Second, I invite the reader to entertain the idea of Beethoven playing a complex piece on his piano where the notes simply do not go well together. It does not matter how hard the analyst thought, or how tricky a composition Beethoven might have played, because the first does not make for enjoyable reading and the second simply hurts the ears.

Why it has become so difficult to find something enjoyable to read has me bewildered. Those who do not take pleasure in reading are often blamed for their lack of literary vigor, but perhaps the blame ought to be shifted. If the writer does not give quality time to their prose, there is little reason for them to deserve time from any reader. Contrary to popular opinion, I would say that reading is only as boring as its writers are, and not vice-versa.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Epistemology of Magnetic Resource Imaging, or, the Futility of Empiricism

The plausibility of the idea that the brain has different sections which serve different functions, as well as the objectivity of how these sections are to be referred to, are questionable matters. First of all, science is defined as “systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation” (Dictionary.com; emphasis mine). The plain truth of the matter is that nobody has actually seen a functioning brain in itself. The closest humans have come to achieving such observation is through technology such as magnetic resource imaging (MRI). But the results these scanners render are not true access to the brains themselves; they are mere images. This is not some abstract, philosophic notion that has no practical utility, as some scientists themselves have affirmed this attitude. To substantiate this claim, I would like to provide a quotation from neuroradiologist Mario Mastroianis: “The images pretend a precision and objectivity which is not really there” (Burri 375; emphasis mine).

Moreover, whose observation counts in obtaining scientific knowledge? It seems to me that there are two main types of actants who can achieve such observation in the first place: laypersons and the scientists themselves. Considering techniques which attempt to understand the brain, whether that is through MRI scans or otherwise, it is the scientists who have access to these methods, not laypersons. With this observation, the question becomes one of whose narrative is more trustworthy: that of personal experience and accumulation of information or secondary information and interpretation of that information. If personal experience is more trustworthy (i.e. empiricism), this is of course problematic for laypersons because such people probably do not have the time or resources to practice science ‘properly,’ at least, to the standards of the scientific community at large. For scientists, however, this is not a problem because they are the ones publishing the accounts of their practices and observations, and are the ones who the laypersons are told to trust. This is to say that laypersons are on the receiving end of the second narrative I mentioned, meaning that laypersons receive secondary information and must interpret that information as laypersons. This means that laypersons are not using empiricist methods to understand phenomena that are meant to be understood empirically. In the case of what a patient is told about their brain, they do not get to see it for themselves, and based on Mastroianis’ quotation, neither do scientists. Another problem is that scientists have paradigms by which their thought collectives interpret and explain their findings. Unless a layperson has a penchant for autonomous study, chances are high that their interpretations of scientific information do not meet the standards of the scientific community.

APPENDIX: I don't know if that word, 'appendix,' actually applies here because this is certainly not a book, but anyway, this is a section from my Fringes and Folkways paper that I've mentioned on here at least once or twice before. I posted some other parts from the paper here, and here, and ... here. More to the point, in this piece I am not arguing for some anti-science or anti-healthcare attitude, though I understand it may read like that, unfortunately. Rather, this is a questioning of taken for granted assumptions about technology, and an exposé of some of the problems that empiricism suffers. Under empiricism, as I have outlined it in relation to technology and healthcare, there is neither sufficient evidence to trust ones judgments about their own health nor to trust that of a medical professional, both of which I think many of us would agree are dangerous. Also, appendix is a pretty apropos term for a short article about a health-related topic!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Aesthete Observations

My legs are very sore today, and if there's one reason I won't sleep tonight, it's because my legs are a little sore today.

The hours of the past three days have not been what I quite expected, though I take delight in them. My world feels open to me even if the world itself is not. What a difference 'the' makes! When I think about it, I am, in actuality, nothing more than an unsuccessful rebel. For what I rebel against is not so much of importance as the truth in itself that I rebel without being granted the very success which drives my rebellion. But here I am sounding rather tautological and wish to write no more.

"What am I waiting for?" This is such a common question and prima facie it appears to be one that should have been answered a very long time ago. The question almost brings to surface a kind of angst or despair. The questioner understands that they are waiting and wants to do something to change their situation; and yet, either they sincerely don't know what they're waiting for or they simply don't know how to get what they want. When I ask the question, I'm asking it in the former sense. I don't know what I'm waiting for. Even my own world seems out of place, as if every planet in the galaxy had lost its sense of being in the cosmos, making for a failed solar system. But who am I saying any of this, I don't even know anything about space - I just try to enjoy what's beautiful. If only I didn't sound so hedonistic with that last thought. Of course, there's nothing wrong in and of itself with being happy, but to be honest, I worry about the value of those things that do make me happy. I'm either afraid of my own insipidity or of my interest in the insipid.

I feel like nothing quite reaches the ideal, whatever that ideal may even be. What ought I to do when I count it all as meaningless? I see the options before me in a predictable fashion, all of which look like yesterday, as if they were passé articles of clothing hanging on a rack. Of course, truly it can't all be meaningless if I believe that some options are better than others, which is to imply morally that some options have a greater meaning of goodness compared to others. On the other hand, what happens when it's all over, at the equal sign, in the ultimate? I don't know for certain and the uncertainty keeps me in suspense.

I guess there's no obvious moral dilemma here at all. It's just the realization that I could do anything, and for whatever reason, it wouldn't be enough. The continuance of existenz seems to spark a sort of insatiable striving. Is this attitude void of contentment though? Strangely enough, it seems that giving up would resolve the problem. Who would give up for the sake of contentment though? It's not an attitude or act that receives social praise.

Then again (and again and again and again), nothing on my mind at the moment is furnished with grandeur. I'm thinking about the most ordinary of things, the things I would usually delight in, but my appetite has shifted. Like I said, I don't know what I'm waiting for, so I guess I've written a whole lot about 'nothing.' Nothing less than absurdity.

When I say that something is among my best memories, am I referring to the past situation in itself or am I only referring to the memory of that past situation - a sort of reconfiguration? I'm telling myself that none of this is mere claptrap. Am I safe in the none?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Four Years Since Bible School

It's been about four years since I departed from Capernwray Harbour Bible Centre, which I attended from September 2012 - May 2013. In the immediate aftermath, I remember looking at the yearbook quite a lot. Though such a preoccupation with this particular past has fluctuated over time, lately I've been returning to it. Arguably the most engrossing of the implications which make up the yearbook would be the notes/signings. The wording of some of the notes make it sound like familiarity would never waver. I believed that and it seems that others did, too. Of course, being cities, provinces, countries, etc. apart can make contact more difficult, I have found out. Related to this, I wonder how to classify the group I was immersed in: primary or secondary? The answer appears to be rather ambivalent. That being the case, this entry is not intended to read like some mnemotechnics that purely brims of confusion and forlornness.

I thought it might be fun to jog my brain for some highlights from the year. Should I use bullet points or paragraph form? Bullet points are easy. I'll go with bullet points. Also, things are warming up here in Saskatoon, hence my difficulty with doing much of anything at the moment. I've been wanting to write something more deep but nothing comes to mind. I tend to get headaches from the warmth, so ... I can't believe I've written this much given my sapped state ... where was I? ... I'm not sure. I should go outside or something. But then again. Bullet points - that's what it was about. Actually, I kind of like the look of numbers more.

***

I visited Seattle and words can't explain the experience.

I chose Ecclesiastes 5:2 as my Bible verse in the yearbook, and to be honest, I probably would have chosen a verse from Ecclesiastes if I was in the same situation now.

I was on the yearbook team. My best pages were for Missions Fest and my best drawing was the emotional candle tree. I think this was a good preamble to future efforts I joined like Indie Vision Music and In Medias Res. Males have proven to be in the minority for both yearbook team and the In Medias Res editorial board. C'mon, men! I know some of you are writerly and artistic ... right? Honestly, I don't care if men join or not and I was just trying to be humorous, so enough of that ...

I don't wear fake glasses as often anymore. That whole not getting as-bad-of-headaches thing becomes more important to you than aesthetics after awhile.

My friend, Chad, encouraged me to become a social worker and he was pivotal to my interest in philosophy. The dream of being a social worker was alive on and off throughout the year. Though I did not pursue the route of the social worker after all, I did declare sociology as my major, which is of course related. In addition, I also declared philosophy as my minor and am in the process of completing the last class for my undergraduate degree. Sociology and philosophy truly make for a wonderful combination.

My hair is usually not as wavy. I'm really nailing this whole heat-is-bad point, aren't I?
EDIT: Numbers look just terrible.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Summer Reading 2017

I posted a reading list last summer, though this time around I won't be mentioning what music I plan on listening to 'cuz I'd rather be more spontaneous with what music I do listen to, as opposed to even trying to listen through full albums or EPs. However, I would like to continue mentioning what books I've been going through and which ones I plan on reading. Below is a list and the order is in accordance with the picture I took. In the brackets I will be mentioning the genre and my progress (please forgive the inconsistency). Also, sorry the picture isn't that great. It's tricky to get a good photo indoors, I guess.

1. Thomas Merton - New Seeds of Contemplation (meditations / 12 of 39 essays read).

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 / halfway).

4. David A. Karp - Speaking of Sadness (sociology of mental illness, symbolic interactionism / chapter 3).

5. Bishop Kallistos Ware - The Orthodox Way (theology / have not started).

6. Peter Kreeft - Ecumenical Jihad (religion / chapter 7).

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 / about halfway done).

10. Christopher Butler - Postmodernism (philosophy, theory / have not started).

11. Janet Wolff  - The Social Production of Art (sociology of art / have not started).

12. Thomas E. Schmidt - Straight and Narrow? (sexuality, theology / ~50 pages deep).


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Mars Ill - Inside Out

"Blames the system that built jails instead of schools
Blames religion as a set of useless rules
Blames his father that he never even knew
Looks in the mirror. Yeah, he blames him too..."

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Train Bridge

The armchair is cozy but I never know what I believe until I leave it. Truth is best found in fear and not tranquility. To be in fear means to lay waste to both knowledge that is taken for granted and to rediscover knowledge that is taken for granted. I am not thinking about what I usually think about, as my life-world begins to brim with surprise. The thing I have forgotten in my stable life-world comes to surface. It has been there all along, though I did not know it. Truth has been there all along, though I was unaware. My life, the chess board, has been crammed with pawns, knights, bishops, and rooks ... but where was the queen? Where was the king? The king has come to greet me in my fear! He was hidden in the crowd for so long a time; but now, I see him. Why did he ever disappear at all? Situation puts the human on their feet, in the objective world, while theory only puts pen to paper, in the subjective. In situation, I am tested in my entirety. I not only recognize my responsibility but I become aware that I may actually have to exercise it. In my thoughts, I can imagine instances where I could decide to choose responsibility or not, though no thought whatsoever has much of an objective bearing. Only my thoughts are tested. But this was no mere thought, though I imagined angels.