Category: School Related

On Seminary

As I keep sharing with folks that I’m excited to be in a masters program that is based in “purpose”, I keep getting the same response I already mentioned.

“You’re going to school to become a preacher?”

It seems, then, that a further note of clarification is in order.

No.

I never have, nor ever will believe in educating myself in order to gain financially. I went to college after high school because I wanted to be (first an FBI or CIA agent and finally) an Air Force officer and pilot. I wanted to “be” those things because of what they meant in and of themselves. Whether I was paid or not was never part of the equation. Becoming them required college, therefore, college.

But somewhere along the way learning became an end in addition to a means. For a Three Amigos plethora of reasons, I am now taking courses at a local seminary because I am interested, not in someday getting paid for my future and resultant mastery of all things evangelical Christianity, but rather I am interested in what a right relationship with God looks like. And this in order to determine if I want to pursue that sort of thing.

Put another way, there is a quote from Tom Selleck’s Mr. Baseball where he is exasperatedly explaining to the exceedingly high work-ethic filled Japanese team to which he’s been demoted that: “Baseball is a game and games are supposed to be fun.” Like Selleck’s delivery of this line, I can’t do more than encourage you to discover learning as an end. I can’t reason you into understanding this anymore than he can force the Japanese team to have fun.

Make sense?

****

One more observation: It’s nice to be around people who can read aloud with confidence. (Maybe everyone in a masters program can, but for some reason I have been surprised that nobody elects to “pass” when it’s their turn to read and also that they don’t struggle with English. And even writing this now makes me suspicious. Should it really take a college degree to be able to read aloud?)

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Why College? Veterans Know.

The reason to attend college is debatable.  It shouldn’t be.  Let’s clear the air.

College, if you’re lucky enough to go, is simply the place to finish out the “how to be human” training we began in kindergarten.  It is not, nor will it ever prove to be, a kind of vocational training ground.  But that is what a lot of people seem to believe it is.  My question, the question this post asks, is why?  Why is college now discussed as merely a part of our professional development, as opposed to our human development?  Perhaps more important than that question is this one:  what can be done about it?

Lucky for all of us, I have the answers:  College became known as a place for professional development because the baby-boomers found out they actually had to work for a living, and the resultant anger they felt clouded their subsequent decision making.  Poor decision making led to them not wanting to accept or own the fact that the America they grew up in did not happen by accident.  The question about the future is, of course, one that I can and will answer, but it is one that we all have to answer for ourselves.  Do things have to get worse before they get better?  Some seem to believe that.  Or can we just start making things better right now?

It’s a given that I had the least military bearing of any of my peers in the Air Force, but even I still recognized the value of “Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence In All We Do.”  I’m sure the other branches have some similarly applicable ideals to guide their decision making.

In other words, we should never forget that college is the place where we learn how to be human.  Being human entails getting along with people who are different from us.

Veterans know what it’s like to not get along with people who are different from us, and therefore must accept the new duty of re-enforcing college’s mission.  But there is more.  Veterans must not shirk the responsibility of reminding the country of the value of values.   Unfortunately for veterans, then, it seems the fight never ends.

 

White Hot Flame

This blog has a persona that I’ve been attempting to carefully control.  It hasn’t been the full picture, though, and sometimes I don’t feel good about not sharing everything.  As an experiment then, here’s some of what you’ve been missing:

“Hi Pete…maybe not cold blooded, but perhaps a bit narrow visioned, or at least inconsiderate, as a result of white male privilege…brutal enslavement of women is not a thing of the past.  Sadly, that is not made up.  And I disagree that it was “cured” by the U.S. military riding in on their white horse. It happens here too.”

“Hey S-,

I just finished watching “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” and I have to say I’m in the mood to talk about my feelings.  Brutal enslavement of women is not sanctioned by anyone (public or private) in the United States of America.

What are you even talking about?

Individual crimes happen, sure, but those will never stop happening.  In fact, I heard the other day that a white male was murdered.  I cried myself to sleep that night.  Because I’m white.  And I’m a male.

The terrible crimes against women that happen in America and occasionally are bizarre enough to receive national news coverage (which are the only things I can possibly imagine you’re referencing as evidence of women being enslaved “here”–you do know slavery is against the law here, right?), these individual crimes aren’t even in the same categorical universe as the situation in Afghanistan–the situation that is causing Afghan women to choose to burn themselves alive.

Wait a minute.  I think I know what’s happened here.  Yes, it’s all becoming clear now.  Because I look like your dad, who I can only assume you hate, you think you get to bring up my “race” or my “culture” or my “ethnicity” without fear of reprisal.  That must be it.  Am I close?

To be clear:  (I was taught once to not use the phrase “I think” when writing, because of course each of us only ever writes our opinion.  But for those of you who haven’t learned that ev-er-y-thing is opinion, I’ll use “I think” here.)  I read M-‘s poem.  I thought it was good.  I didn’t think it was great.  But I thought it had the potential to be great.  I never doubted that Afghan girls were burning themselves alive, though I don’t have time to focus on the news these days, and until reading the poem, I wasn’t aware they were doing this.  The purpose of this course is to teach us to write better, teach us to use imagery, etc., teach us to write in a way that causes the reader–any reader–to feel what we (the writer) intended to be felt.  I did not “feel” that M-‘s word choice was as effectively-imagery-ridden as it could be, and, in my own style, I told her as much.

S-, R-, and K-, that you chimed in on this discussion did nothing except reveal how misaligned your understandings’ of life on planet Earth are.  Suffice it to say, because I have responded to you despite the fact that you used words like “offended” and “inconsiderate”, I’m now very afraid that some actual repercussion will occur, and, if so, that could result in me losing some money.  Because I clearly think I know everything, I composed a swan song that I’d like to share with you now.  Please write this down, and when able, commit it to memory:

College is the last time in your life

When you might be given actual honest feedback.

However, at your bidding, in this class, and from now on,

I’ll only say the most unoffensive and considerate things about everything you write.

In effect,

I’ll lie.

That should cause

Some real growth.

I know I’m

Looking forward to it.

Pete”

A Word

I have written a short story for a class I’m taking now.  It’s much longer than my normal posts, and I’m still deciding whether I can break it into parts or if it needs to be read as a whole.  Until tomorrow then.

A Letter to the Victims of the Aurora Theater Shooting

To the Victims of the Aurora Theater Shooting:

“If I had my way they’d take metal altogether out of this world. Every blade, every gun,” says Natalie Portman’s character in the classic film “Cold Mountain.”  Maybe I’m just a sucker for movies, but when I watch that one–and that scene in particular–an “Amen!” or “Preach it!” escapes my lips before I know it.  I can only imagine that you feel the same way.

I’m writing this letter to you today because I want you to know that I do not believe a letter like this is what is needed at the moment.  But, at the moment, I have to write a letter for a class and I wanted to write to you.  I’ve been taking undergraduate courses in writing recently, and a large part of writing is rhetoric.  Rhetoric is the term used to describe the tools writers use to affect their audience.  I’m told a writer uses rhetoric—these tools–to persuade people to agree with him.  Sometimes the use of rhetoric isn’t deliberate, sometimes it is very deliberate.  Like I said, though, I don’t believe words, especially not the words on this page, can help me persuade you to believe anything at the moment.  “So why the letter?” you may ask.

As you know, Colorado, in large part because of the tragic events of July 20, 2012, is currently in the spotlight of a larger movement across the nation.  I’m talking, of course, about the state legislature’s recent revisit to its gun policy.  There’s no denying that without guns July 20th—more importantly, your lives–would never have been tainted by this unbearable act.  Just the same, I can’t help but wonder if changes are being made too quickly.

Here’s what I’m proposing:  For the last year I’ve been hosting a dinner series of sorts at my home.  I’d like to invite you over to the one scheduled for July 20, 2014.  If you can believe it, July 20th is my birthday.  As July 20, 2012 approached I’d been excitedly anticipating the movie for a year, knowing it was coming out on my birthday.  My brother can confirm that I bawled on the phone that morning as I heard the news.  I had called him to discuss whether we should still see the movie that night.  He was on I-70, driving to Denver from Kansas City so we could see the movie together as a birthday present.  This July 20–July 20, 2014–I’m inviting you to a dinner at my home.  The dinner will be a place where we will share ourselves.  You don’t know me yet, but rest assured that disrespect has no place at my home.  I want to know what you think, and I would like to share some thoughts with you as well.

So, what do you say?  I have a little saying that I stole from the Oracle of another blockbuster trilogy: “The only way to get there is together.”  I believe my time in the Air Force allows me to own this phrase as it’s essentially the positive way of saying, “You don’t crash in compartments.”  I feel like you and I are separated by more than space, and I don’t think that’s necessary or valuable.  Please contact me if you agree and would like to join me for an event that your presence will enhance substantively.

Yours sincerely,

//signed//

Pete

Review of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami

Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World continues the post-modernistic tradition that aware readers have come to love.  Upon completing the second chapter, it is clear that something different, something unfamiliar is occurring.  The story is rife with metaphors and characters that work enough to keep us engaged, but it is really the storytelling’s style itself that causes our fingers to seek an instantaneous transition from one page to the next.

The story’s feint is that it’s about a detective.  Of course, no tale worth its salt is ever about what it portends.  Some authors make their points directly.  For Murakami, who convincingly communicates that he is well-read, however, it is simply no longer interesting to tell the reader what to think.

As with other post-modern and fabulistic works, this book is a reaction.  It is a plea to cause readers to never forget that no one should be taken for granted.  In using these artistic movements, Murakami firmly plants his feet and announces to the world that he is not to be trifled with.

In the end, there is certainly nothing new under the sun.  Yet Murakami has found a way to take his readers on a journey that is fun, difficult to predict, challenging and finally, rewarding.  If you’ve been in a reading rut and need a book to shake things up, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover that you can’t put this one down.

****

Murakami, Haruki. Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: A Novel. New York: Vintage, 1991. Print.

Review of The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer

Like the British accent today, Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales charms at first, but in the end sounds ridiculous.  Buh-dumh-ching!  Really, though, the book is just too old.  Reading it under the tutelage of a doctoral professor of Middle Earth (or is it middle-English?) is the only way to do it, and even then it is slow going at best.

After finding out that the rape that appalled you was supposed to be funny, you’ll find yourself being chided for laughing at the next rape–because that one was not funny.  The entire collection is a roller-coaster of meanings and double meanings, which all need to be explained step by step.  They need to be explained not because they were written in another language, no, middle-English is actually the first version of English we are told; the reason they need to be explained is because life was so very different back in the 14th century.  Well, no, that’s not right either.  Or is it?  Wait, what’s going on?

After three months of reading and studying, I am still not convinced why I should value so highly a work that requires so much explanation.  Does the Mona Lisa require explanation?  The pyramids of Giza?  Plus, the apparent result of fully investing oneself in Chaucer’s genius leads only to wanting to sleep with the man.  While intriguing to some, I can’t get there from here.

This review might have become more a review of the course or the way the Tales were presented than the Tales themselves.  Oh well.  While there were enjoyable moments, for any reader that hasn’t skipped reading books written in the last 700 years since the Tales, there was nothing new.

In the end, The Canterbury Tales may have been new in their day, but the serious reader need not feel guilty for skipping this seminal work.

Review of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlow’s apathetic voice is Conrad’s gift to readers.  Through this apathy readers have a defibrillator to use on their hearts, which have slowed to a stop after contemplating the full meaning of the tale.  Without this literary device, countless souls would be unable to return to their pleasant state of existence.

Conrad introduces Marlow as the novella opens.  Within two pages we discover Marlow has decided to tell an unrequested tale containing an uncommon bleakness that offers no immediate value to the audience.  By the end, we are left feeling despondent, depressed, and largely in a state of wonder.  We ask ourselves, “If this horror happened to a man such as Kurtz, it surely would happen to little ol’ me.  And that being the case, what’s the point of even trying?”

Add to these feelings the fact that the story is only 70-pages, and we find ourselves returning to page one with a singular goal.  We long to discover that we overlooked the hope.  Returning to page one with this new sense of purpose, we begin to notice that Marlow’s story is preempted by the notion that “the bond of sea…had the effect of making us tolerant of each other’s yarns—and even convictions.”  Likewise, Conrad demonstrates his value by creating this tolerance in those of us without this bond.

Marlow’s apathy is palpable throughout the tale—evidenced by his ability to remain a detached observer.  During this re-read we notice that this apathy, then, is Conrad’s gift to us.  This apathy lights the path which will lead us out of darkness.  Conrad doesn’t intend for us to remain in darkness.  He wants us to take Marlow’s journey; not believe that we’re Marlow.  The key to coming out whole is to remember this–remember that, unlike Marlow, we still care.

****

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Dover, 1990. Print.

Review of The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, by Jean-Dominique Bauby

In The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Twain quotes John Hay regarding the imperative to write an autobiography.  Hays says,

And he will tell the truth in spite of himself, for his facts and his fictions will work loyally together for the protection of the reader: each fact and each fiction will be a dab of paint, each will fall in its right place, and together they will paint his portrait; not the portrait he thinks they are painting, but his real portrait, the inside of him, the soul of him, his character (223).

Likewise, Bauby’s The Diving Bell and The Butterfly uses, perhaps unknowingly, modernistic techniques to embody his essence.  Like Twain before him, though likely for different reasons, Bauby discards the stifling form of realism.  Bauby’s condition renders him able to write only through arduous dictation.  Bauby foregoes strict chronology, instead opting for the easier, modernistic stream of consciousness form.  As Hay predicted, this form captured Bauby.  Lacking any appreciable context, we discover a man full of life.  More than that, we find simply a man.  Absent is the big-shot editor, the fashion mogul, the womanizer, the playboy, the failed husband, and the absentee father.  These simplistic generalizations vanish precisely because Bauby writes within the shattering framework that is modernism.

Beginning with the title’s juxtaposition of the movement continuum’s two ends, Bauby transports the reader to the depths—and heights—which he experiences after entering his condition.  Necessarily, Bauby begins with how he learned of his condition.  When the story reaches terminal velocity, the slightest thread of a chronological timeline acts as a scarcely visible trace of footsteps which keep us certain that we’ve never strayed far enough to become lost.  Besides this, Bauby’s style has the effect of placing us on the wing of his butterfly.  We climb, we fall, we climb again; flight without consequence.  What does a man like Bauby have to lose if the truth he tells is rejected?  Through the book Bauby proves what should–but never will–be common knowledge: the uniting power of truth–not just truth, but being comfortable telling your truth.  Through his memoir, then, Jean-Dominique Bauby proves like many before him that courageously announcing to the world that you exist has the power to break down the barriers we build for ourselves over a lifetime.  The only question remaining is why won’t we let Bauby move us to act on this lesson?

****

Twain, Mark, Harriet Elinor. Smith, and Benjamin Griffin. Autobiography of Mark Twain. Vol. 1. Berkeley: University of California, 2010. Print.

Part 5 (Conclusion) – I’m Moving to Mars in 2022

Next, I turned my attention to probably the greatest source I stumbled upon during my relatively light research for this paper.  I discovered an article entitled, “Revised Scenario for Human Missions to Mars” written by Jean Marc Salotti.  As mentioned in this paper, Mars Direct advocates the idea of sending the recovery vehicle to Mars first, and then everything else.  Salotti addresses this notion in depth, and also provides what he (and his team) think is a better scenario.  The specifics are rather boring and not easily summarized here, but suffice it to say that his team believes they have a better plan, which also minimizes risks by providing redundancies every step of the way (286).  What was so moving about this paper is that it was written with a tone that doesn’t hide that he fully expects a successful manned journey to Mars—and soon.

The journey nearing an end, I found an article which seemed a fitting punctuation mark with which to conclude the paper, “Can Humans Live on Mars?” by Ken Kremer.  The short answer is “Yes”.  Kremer focuses his question and subsequent answer specifically on radiation levels.  For the lay reader, the article reveals that astronauts today already operate within preset radiation exposure limits (Kremer).   He goes on to conclude that all the data argues that Mars’ thin atmosphere actually reduces the radiation exposure an astronaut would encounter when compared to current trips to the International Space Station (Kremer).  This is encouraging news.  There are, of course, still many uncertainties, but the overall point is that settling Planet Mars, as Mars One intends on doing, seems to be more than a joke.  While the details are being fine-tuned, it is clear that prominent members of the larger space exploration community argue that humanity possesses the ability to fly to and land on Mars.  Furthermore it seems that humans should be able to live for at least a short time without ill effect.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  This goal to inhabit Mars in 2023 is achievable and realistic.  More than the research this paper reviews, I know this to be true because I am a member of the human race.  I know this to be true because I possess the innately human quality intuition.  I know this to be true because when backed by the history of human experience and achievement, intuition proves itself accurate.  The human race is a super-organism that does not give-up.  When we direct our attention towards manifesting an idea, the rest is history.

****

Kremer, Ken. “Can Humans Live on Mars?” Universe Today RSS. N.p., 19 Nov. 2012. Web. 17 Sept. 2013. <http://www.universetoday.com/98509/can-humans-live-on-mars/&gt;.

Salotti, Jean Marc. “Revised Scenario For Human Missions To Mars.” Acta Astronautica 81.1 (2012): 273-287. Academic Search Premier. Web. 5 Sept. 2013.