Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Taste of Things to Come . . .

Well I will be extremely busy in the coming new year as we are moving and I will begin a new job. However, while on holidays I am becoming reinvigorated with what was an initial vision for my cyberspaces. This vision has to do with orientation, locating yourself within space, time, and whatever other variables you choose to include (spirit, society, sexuality, etc.). As a primer to the importance of cartography in our lives sit back and enjoy this cutting edge informational video.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Life Imitating Art

I love coming across a book where I become increasingly unconcerned about catching every detail because I realize I will need to read the book again. This realization is no commentary on the reader's inability but is praise for the density and fertile nature of the work in question. I had little to no expectation for Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man when I first picked up. However, once I got past the slightly disorientating "stream of consciousness" beginning I quickly began realize that I was reading some of the most dense but accessible literature I had ever come across (which may not be saying too much).

What I have appreciated is what I perceive as Joyce's encounter with the various manifestations of the sacred in the main character Stephen Dedalaus. Stephen encounters this humbling power in his experience with religion, sexuality, and ultimately his embrace of art and beauty. Perhaps this is too much a case of the reader influencing the interpretation but Joyce speaks directly to the issues that have become extremely important to me. This is the question of transcendence and how close we can come to Reality. That is, how close we can experience something or someone without the mediation and limitations of such things as language and space as well as such human boundaries as fear, insecurity, and hatred.

For me this is where beauty and holiness find a union of expression and purpose.

Perhaps there will be more commentary to come or at least some excerpts but I can tell that this book is quickly driving to the top of "best of" literature list.


Monday, December 11, 2006

A New Start for a New Year

Well I am pleased to announce that I have been offered the position of associate pastor at Hillcrest Mennonite Church in New Hamburg Ontario (close to Kitchener/Waterloo). Here is a link to the sermon I preached on my candidating weekend. I start on January 9th. Crazy times.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Humour . . . It's No Laughing Matter

About five years ago I saw a professional comedian perform live for the first time. I can’t remember his name but he was Dennis Milleresque and quite good. What struck me was that at least half of his performance was a fairly strong critique of our western culture. He has a captive audience with a medium that would stick in people’s minds. I had never realized how powerful a platform a stand-up comedian could have.

I have a co-worker who was obsessed with finding the type of joke that would make me laugh. He told me some of crudest jokes I have heard in long time. I was never quite sure how to respond. He knew I was planning on becoming a pastor and that played a role in the types of jokes he would tell me. Was I supposed to be offended? Was he looking for some sort of victory in making ‘the christian’ laugh at something naughty? Was he just trying to tell a good joke?

Michael Richards reacts to some hecklers using some derogatory language . . . people laugh. He drops numerous ‘n-bombs’ on them . . . fewer people laugh. He tries to incorporate his tirade into some type of social commentary . . . people get up to leave.

Michael Richards begins to apologize on David Letterman . . . people laugh. Jerry Seinfeld tells them, “It’s not funny” . . . still some chuckles.

Elaine thinks that Jerry’s voice is permanently funny. Jerry shouts at her, “It’s not funny!” Elaine and audience laughs.

Kramer makes Indian war cries out of a taxi-cab with the ‘cigar-shop Indian’. Jerry makes the Indian dance and chant . . . everyone laughs.

Gabriel-Maximilien Leuvielle – Star of early silent film comedies; depression and suicide
Tony Hancock – British comedian; suicide
Richard Pryor – 1980 suicide attempt
Charles Rocket – suicide
Freddie Prince – suicide

Parker Posey – “I can do comedy, so people want me to do that, but the other side of comedy is depression. Deep, deep depression is the flip side of comedy. Casting agents don't realize it but in order to be funny you have to have that other side.”

Whoopi Goldberg – ““I am [a relatively happy person]. I only say that because other people have said that of me. I’m drawn to depression. It’s what inspires me.”

. . . The sad clown is no joke . . .

I find humour bizarre. Perhaps it is no different than the artist’s relationship to death and depression, but the contrast is certainly more striking. Humour can expose and insulate. It is a tool of control and manipulation. It can heal and calm . . . or enrage. What is it that humour is dancing with?

. . . But I suppose the laughs will just keep on coming . . .


Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Good Week in Books

Not to be out done by my good friend Mr. Beldman who soaked up the book sales at SBL/AAR I wanted share my experience this week. First, I had contacted Canadian Mennonite about doing book reviews for them. So a couple of days ago I received two books. One is a revised edition of Gregory Baum's Religion and Alienation which is an exploration in the role of social theory in theology. The other book is Crystal Downing's How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith. This book is a little less promising but still has some hopeful sections.
That same day I was nosing through a Goodwill store and came across these little jewels.
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. $1.50
Not a spectacular find, but I like stocking the shelves with some classics.
David Richter, ed. The Critical Tradition 2d ed. $2.99
This is an extensive and relatively recent reader in critical theory. I was pleased.

And then the grand finale . . .
Paul Ricoeur, The Symbolism of Evil. $0.99

I actually did a double take when I saw this spine staring back at me. This find may gone as one of the all-time highlights in cheap used book finds.

Now comes finding the time to read them . . .


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Those Words, Those Words, Those Words

I am sure many of you have already seen this clip of Michael Richards (Seinfeld's "Kramer") at least in part. I think there are several things going on here. One of aspect that I need to reflect on more is the role of humour and how powerful and non-neutral it is. Second, and this is something I would not want to push too far, what initially struck me was no matter how much I enjoyed Seinfeld I always had a slight uneasiness with how the group of clever upper-middle class white folk participated in the lives of all sorts of minorities be it ethic (Babu), physical (Mickey), or sexual (the virgin). Is good humour always close to the edge? Finally, there is the need for power behind language. Richards himself assumes the position of the “the (white) man” in his own tirade and then at the conclusion tells the audience that we still have “those words”. What is interesting here is that the black people in the audience did not have “those words”, cracker is hardly a comparison and they knew it. Language here revealed again (as crisis did in Hurricane Katrina) the deep-seated racism that is far from healed in America.

In any event have a look and weigh in if you want to.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Hope and Philosophy

I have been wrestling with the value of modern philosophical pursuits. Most every “big name” in the history of modern philosophy tends to be reduced in large part to the question of relationship, namely our position in the world in relationship to other people and objects. Some maintained that reality exists in the mind as it provides the organizing principles to interpret the influx of non-meaningful sensory perception (I believe this is basically Kantian). Others argued that the human mind and body exist as a clean slate onto which external objects inscribe reality and meaning (Hume?). I understand this to be the difference between empiricism and idealism. Both of these approaches had a confidence that either the mind itself or the ordering of the material world offered the possibility of stable consistent truth. Derrida appeared to undermine the possibility of a stable or accessible core of truth. All reality is mediated linguistically and words are only understood in relationship to other words and so meaning or access to the world around us remains deferred in its difference. Recently Slavoj Zizek, working from Jacques Lacan, states that,

It is not that we need words to designate objects, to symbolize reality, and that then, in surplus, there is some excess of reality, a traumatic core that resists symbolization – this obscurantist theme of the unnameable Core of Higher Reality that eludes the grasp of language is to be thoroughly rejected; not because of a na├»ve belief that everything can nominated, grasped by our reason, but because of the fact that the Unnameable is an effect of language. We have reality before our eyes well before language, and what language does, in its most fundamental gesture, is – as Lacan put it – the very opposite of designating reality: it digs a hole in it, it opens up visible / present reality toward the dimension of the immaterial / unseen. When I simply see you, I simply see you – but it is only in naming you that I can indicate the abyss in you beyond what I see.

I admit that these are immature images of these thinkers but I am quite certain that lurking beneath all this technical language remains that basic urge for knowing ourselves and the world around us. I am enjoying my brief tour of philosophical literature but I foresee that I may be wearied if I do not find a vulnerability towards the Real which these writings border on smothering. I am sure that my approach to reality could be quickly classified and dismantled by any rigourous thinker in any of these camps, however the force of authority that I once gave this views is beginning to wane (and perhaps not even enough yet).
The result so far is a renewed vision for the need of witnessing to a personal God. I mean this in no modern evangelical sense of the word. Rather I am coming to recognize that we are in essence relational beings, limited yes, but appropriately equipped nonetheless.
My early response to such stirring is hope.
I hope to return to the poetic which seeks out the cracks and possibilities of language.
I hope to return to the holy which pours through these cracks.
And approaching advent may we look in hopeful expectation to Mother Mary who lived both the intimacy of the incarnation and the experience of shame and the inability to communicate the reality within her (and really who could believe her?).
And finally I hope to find myself in a state of worship which I believe is the only posture in which we may truly participate with Triune God, Creator and Sustainer of our reality.


Remembrance Day

At 12:30am on November 11 Harry Lehotsky passed away. He was a transforming presence in Winnipeg's downtown demonstrating the best of both the "social" and "spiritual" Gospel. May his good work be shown at the Harvest.

CBC Article

CTV Article

Sun Article


Friday, November 10, 2006

Down the Pipe

It has been a little too long since I have posted a piece of real effort. I am currently working on an article that I would like to submit to Canadian Mennonite, my conference's national magazine. So if they do not accept it I will offer it to my wide readership. Also I have been able to find the time to read some great books that I would be well served to reflect a little and comment on. Hopefully to come will be posts on Zizek's The Puppet and the Dwarf, Kiekegaard's Fear and Trembling, and Descarte's Meditation's on First Philosophy. Perhaps this little post will keep my motivated to see this through.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Does It Get Any Better?

From my niece,


Friday, October 20, 2006

You Got Me Hans!

The quote below in my post "The Sixth Sense" is from Hans Urs von Balthasar's The Glory of the Lord. Given the context of my post I came across another section that hit below the belt.

In order to read even a form within the world (in comparison to divine revelation), we must see something invisible as well, and we do in fact see it. In a flower, a certain interior reality opens its eye and reveals something beyond and more profound than a form which delights us by its proportion and colour. In the rhythm of the form of plants - from seed to full growth, from bud to fruit - there is manifested an essence, and to reduce the laws of this essence to mere utilitarian principles would be blasphemous.

Nice burn Hans! Ouch.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Marrying my Cousin!?

For those of you who didn't know I married, okay officiated, at my cousin's wedding this summer. Hopefully there will be a reflection on this at some point in the future. Here's a picture.

Photo Gallery


Friday, October 06, 2006

The Sixth Sense

In his extensive exploration of theological aesthetics Hans Urs von Balthasar (yes it is the most awesome name a theologian could have) attempts to outline an understanding of spiritual perception. In one section of this investigation he quotes Romano Guardini who writes that,

The purely material thing does not exist; the body is from the outset determined spiritually. And this spiritual element is not subsequently added to the sensory datum, for instance by the work of the intellect; it is grasped by the eye at once, even if indeterminately and imperfectly at first . . . Seeing is an encounter with reality.

There are many things that could be commented on here however I wish to focus on the first line. "The purely material thing does not exist." What I am curious about is whether all reality shares equally in its participation in the spiritual or whether there are aspects of reality that are more "poor in spirit"? I ask this because I wonder why it is so difficult to work at a factory. What I keep coming to is that a fully industrialized factory is determined primarily (if not exclusively) on the manipulation of material elements.

- what is the most efficient means of transferring pots of flowers into transport containers?
- what is the most efficient configuration of transport containers which will both maximize quantity of shipments while maintaining a bare minimum of quality?
- how can growing time be minimized?
- what is the minimum human input required to run the packing line smoothly?

The factory is based on the efficient movement of materials. If "the purely material thing does not exist" then how am I to spiritually perceive my factory setting? Even the roses I see everyday are subordinated to material movement. I rarely find them beautiful. Do we play a role in how life participates in the spiritual?

I think I will leave it there for now, but I would love some feedback and I will try to explore this further in the future. Most people have difficulty finding fulfillment in their job. I think there is something here worth exploring in response to that.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Dostoevsky's Demons

I have greatly anticipated the opportunity to begin reading Dostoevsky's Demons. It usually takes D. a few hundred pages to establish the basic setting and character relations and now after 250 pages I am beginning to come across the type of dialogue I was waiting for. Nikolai, having been gone for a number of years, returns to his home village where is confronted with Shatov an ardent admirer of Nikolai's ideology. Shatov experiences something which begins to shake his view of Nikolai. In a "feverish" rant Shatov confronts Nikolai with how he understood Nikolai's own teaching. I have little commentary on the following quote but it seemed to relate to some of the thoughts being expressed in Jason's Notes on the Future

Its a little long but I think it flows well.

"Do you remember your expression:'An atheist cannot be Russian, an atheist immediately ceases to be Russian' - remember that?"
"Really?" Nikolai Vsevolodovich seemed to want the question repeated.
"You ask? You've forgotten? And yet this one of the most precise indications of one of the main peculiarities of the Russian spirit, which you figured out. You can't have forgotten it? I'll remind you of more - you said at the same time: 'He who is not Orthodox cannot be Russian.'"
"A Slavophil notion, I suppose."
"No, the Slavophils nowadays disavow it. People have grown smarter nowadays. But you went even further: you believed that Roman Catholicism was no longer Christianity; you affirmed that Rome proclaimed a Christ who had succumbed to the third temptation of the devil, and that, having announced to the whole world that Christ cannot stand on earth without an earthly kingdom, Catholicism thereby proclaimed the Antichrist, thus ruining the whole Western world. You precisely pointed out that if France is suffering, Catholicism alone is to blame, for she rejected the foul Roman God but has found a new one. That is what you were able to say then! I remember our conversations."
"If I had belief, I would no doubt repeat it now as well; I wasn't lying, speaking as a believer," Nikolai said very seriously. "But I assure you that this repetition of my past thoughts produces an all too unpleasant impression on me. Couldn't you stop?"
"If you had belief?" Shatov cried, paying not the slightest attention to the request. "But wasn't it you who told me that if someone proved mathematically that the truth is outside Christ, you would better agree to stay with Christ than with the truth? Did you say that? Did you?"
"But allow me also to ask, finally, " Nikolai raised his voice, "what this whole impatient and . . . spiteful examination is leading to?"
"This examination will end forever and you will never be reminded of it."
"You keep insisting that we are outside space and time . . ."
"Be silent!" Shatov suddenly shouted. "I'm stupid and clumsy, but let my name perish in ridiculousness! Will you permit me to repeat before you your main thought of that time . . . Oh, only ten lines, just the conclusion . . ."
Shatov again leaned forward a little on his chair, and even raised his finger again for a moment.
"Not one nation," he began, as if reciting line by line, and at the same still looking menacingly at Nikolai, "not one nation has ever set itself up on the principles of science and reason; there has never been an example of it, unless perhaps only for a moment, out of foolishness. Socialism by its very essence must be atheism, because it has precisely declared, from the very first line, that it is an atheistic order, and intends to set itself up on the principles of science and reason exclusively. Reason and science always, now, and from the beginning of the ages, have performed only a secondary and auxiliary task in the life of nations; and so they will to the end of the ages. Nations are formed and moved by another ruling and dominating force, whose origin is unknown and inexplicable. This force is the force of unquenchable desire to get to the end, while at the same time denying the end. It is the force of a ceaseless and tireless confirmation of its own being and a denial of death.

I will end this quote here but I will likely add at least two others of similar length that continue and conclude this "feverish" rant. I know this is so grossly out of context and may make no impact on you. But I am a convert and I am seeking others to join. I find that making significant social and philosophical commentary in a narrative context so powerful. I will save my own commentary for now.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Day of Hard Writing

I pray for a day of hard writing.
A day to move past deep desire long and vigorously nurtured.
To write in the liberty of . . .
To write in Liberty . . .
To write Liberty . . .
To Liberty
Where ambition and pursuit no longer mask themselves as fuel but reveal themselves as addictions.
I pray for a day of hard writing.
To be overwhelmed not by inadequacies
because this is not the passive act of being overwhelmed
this still offers claims at control and prescribing uncalled for boundaries.
Rather be overwhelmed
and pray for a day of hard writing
where she suddenly appears in simply lines.


After Postmodernism?

Sorry this is a lame post considering I haven't posted in so long but for those of you not up on the movers and shakers in current philosophy check out these clips from youtube featuring Slavoj Zizek. Enjoy (especially the bedroom scene ;))

Philosophy and Late Capitalism


Hopefully more original content to come!


Sunday, July 23, 2006

I Don't Believe It

Perhaps many people who know me would assume this, but coming to this conclusion was no simple formality. I am, I believe by temperment, a person who hesistates at putting firm stakes in the ground. In most matters I get pulled in by the validity and limitations of various positions regarding the same issue and at the best of times can act as mediator between opposing sides. At the worst of times this can lead to a general sense of ambivalence. This can be frustrating for myself and others (eh, rudy).
Developing the character of Isaakii in August 1914, Alexander Solzhenitsyn writes,

He was confused by the plethora of contending truths and agonized at the fact that each of them seemed so convincing. [At university] he was given Lavrov and Mikhailovsky to read and - how true they seemed to be. Then he read Plekhanov, and there was truth again - and so beutifully consistent. Kropotkin also went straight to his heart and was no less true. And when he came to read Vekhi, he shuddered - it was the complete reverse of all he had read before, yet true, piercingly true!

For better or worse this is how I have responded to many varied and diverse texts and ideas.
In reading the Quran I carried much of this thinking with me. I found in the Quran many expressions which, as a Christian, I could offer full assent to. However, I came to a section which drove home the point about recognizing or denying God's revelation (see the section entitled "The Heights").

Who is more wicked than the man who invents falsehoods about God or denies his revelations?

However, as I mentioned in my old blog ( the Quran places firm restrictions on how I can understand the revelation of who Jesus is. I don't know enough about Islam to know the extent to which such texts can be and are interpreted however I feel that without denying those aspects which accord with the Christian Bible I must reject the Quran as authoritative revelation. Again, it may be that for many Christians this would seem a matter of course. And I must re-iterate that much in the Quran resonates with what I recognize as truth. However, I believe that in rejecting the Quran as a whole as divine revelation I hope that I am given it the respect that it is due. The question I would ask to anyone who may be reading this is whether I would be respecting the message of the Quran by saying that God is Three-in-One and that Allah is One and Muhammed is his prophet? I'd love some feedback.


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Oh Canada II

Perhaps this store front sign on Main St in Hamilton gives some clarification to Canadian identity. The sign reads

The Multicultural Friendship Centre Inc.
Members Only
That still makes me laugh out-loud.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Oh Canada

Realizing how flashy the Declaration of Independence is I thought I would try to dig up some primary sources for Canada's history. I held on tightly for inspiration and insight. But, so . . . so boring. Now I understand these are political documents but where is the vision that forged Canada? No wonder Americans know there history so much better. Their texts are a pretty interesting read. Now I am sure we have our share. However, they are not, as of yet, in our shared consciousness. Where are they!? Do we have any? Here's the link where I got some of my sources.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Writing on the Wall

I was recently reminded of a strange cultural phenomenon of North American men (and perhaps women but I hardly think it is equivalent), the bathroom wall. I went to a warehouse for a pick up and had to use their bathroom. Sometimes I try to anticipate how bad these bathrooms would be. But it had been awhile since I last encountered a bathroom with such an elaborate fresco. The usual suspects were there. Scattered were various phone numbers offering various services. There were several crudely drawn images of naked women with a bear minimum anatomical representation. Then there were the penises (peni?). They were disembodied, pointed straight up and given faces and a turban (with a stereo-typical “East Indian” look). The caption beside one read, "A new Canadian."
Now were does one start in commenting on a bathroom wall? What struck me in this instance was just what men must think about their penises (I'm entering this on my Pocket PC and for efficiency it automatically suggests words I have used before and so now whenever I start with the letters "pe" it suggests “penises”)? I always got the impression that we were rather fond of that particular body part, but the way it was employed here or in derogatory language it appears that we actually think very little of it.
Perhaps the question can be answered by turning the perspective around. What do men think about immigrants?
Immigrants often look and act differently than we are accustomed to. They may not deal with situations as we think they should. This difference, viewed as a foreign or uninvited presence, can easily be treated with fear or mistrust as we cannot predict or control all the actions of these people. This uninvited guest poses no immediate threat but can affect various aspects of our life. From here it is often a short step to outright hostility fuelled by the belief that we are protecting what is good and right in the face what seeks to destroy. The immigrant, perhaps like the penis, can often be treated like the enemy within.
As the bathroom wall demonstrates sexuality is intensely objectified in our culture detached from holistic world-view. I do not believe that men have integrated their sexuality and so, being foreign to them, it often becomes the plane of violence.
Sexuality is so close to holiness, something so intimate but so foreign, so powerful, and so beyond control.


Saturday, June 17, 2006

A Body of Work

I thought that for my first blog I would post a recent reflection on writing (sorry for the accidental alliteration . . . ahhhhh . . . anyway). A major reason why I continue to maintain a blog and website is so that I have a forum to explore my thoughts and ideas in writing.

What they tell me is that a story needs a structure and that finding that structure is crucial to the existence of the story. I am sure that in many ways this structure has been likened to a body. A body, a human body, may be born in love, hate, passion, or indifference. But it is always born in union; in penetration and reception, in giving and receiving. For this reason perhaps stories too may be born in an author’s rape of its subject. Or perhaps the story was conceived casually, almost mechanically. Like children born in these circumstances, the fruit may even turn out to be good stories.
Now if the story is the child, the body to be born, as an author who is my lover? Is it life, ideas, society, or God? In love there are no neutral participants, but this is also the crux, there are participants. Love is not a solo act and neither are stories. I know some stories have come out of hatred for life, ideas, society, or God as they have come from innumerable other emotions which drive us into each other’s arms. I suppose that if any of what I am writing is true, then I am aware enough to choose how I will approach my lover whether I will attempt woo or wield her. I am approaching 30 and feel that just now am I realizing that I may not love people. This is an age where if I were to be a successful writer I should at least be published or locally recognized by now. But if I am learning just now that I may not love the one who will bear a story for me how long will it take to reach the sort of intimacy in which we might enter the marriage bed? Or maybe I have gotten it wrong. Perhaps I am the one who warded of the advances of life, ideas, society, and God. Maybe they are seeking intimacy with me that I may bear them a story honouring to them. How much longer then? I know this much, I am beginning to long for the story and so perhaps I should pray for the lover.


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