Monday, July 20, 2009

Rhythms of life

There's an imagined boxing match in my mind between competing views of wisdom:

In one corner is the sentimental but I admit somewhat appealing view of the poem "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple". This offers the view that happiness is found in acting in ways as an adult that are typically considered childlike.

In the other corner is the wisdom of the Greeks, with this maxim from the Delphic Oracle offering a view of distinct stages for a 'life well lived':

As a child be well-behaved (Παις ων κοσμιος ισθι)
as a youth - self-disciplined (ηβων εγκρατης)
as of middle-age - just (μεσος δικαιος)

as an old man - sensible (πρεσβυτης ευλογος)

on reaching the end - without sorrow (τελευτων αλυπος)

I saw a portion of this on a column that is part of an exhibit at the Met here in Manhattan. One part of the "Treasures of Afghanistan" shows the influence of classical Greek civilization on the region with the excavation of a city founded by Alexander the Great. The 147 maxims were written onto columns in a temple in the city.

The larger question for me as a Christian is the place of wisdom in life generally. Much of what is written in the Delphic maxims could be found in Proverbs. This confirms what Reformed theology understands to be "common grace", the recognition that all truth is God's truth, and that there is wisdom contained, to varying degrees, in the cultures of the world.

I have written before on this site briefly about that last statement, of not having sorrow looking back over one's life ("I used to row"). That can only come about, I think, if one has the possibility of forgiveness (or perfection). If we view negative experiences as always positive learning experiences, that is well and good; however, this would neglect how others (let alone God) were affected by misdeeds. Such a view would place my personal development at the center of the universe. Further reflection on the place of Providence is needed for a fuller view of how one lives, of course, but for now the question arises...

is reaching the end of life "without sorrow" contingent on forgiveness? What say you?

Edna Mode's view: "I never look back, darling, it distracts from the NOW!"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Wave Motion Gun

If you are reading this blog post, perhaps you were attracted by the title, "The Wave Motion Gun"? If so, this places you firmly as a child of the 80's, or at least aware of one of the forgotten but great cartoons, Star Blazers.

This was in the genre of the Japanese animated shows like Speed Racer, but was much less popular. The Star Blazers rode around in space on a sort of recycled battleship, that also kind of doubled up as an aircraft/spacecraft carrier and submarine when needed! A truly green initiative and perhaps we should consider re-using old battleships this way. I expect part of the consciousness of the Japanese people as their immense WW2 navy was slowly decommissioned over time played a part in this.

But the really cool thing about Star Blazers was the Wave Motion Gun. This was clearly influenced by the Death Star on Star Wars, but in the hands of the good guys. The show used a hodge-podge of physics sounding terminology to let little kids like me know that this weapon packed a wallop -- it could destroy the cause of justice.

And then don't forget the characters, including the young pilot "Wildstar" and the old salt of a commander, along with the faithful sidekick, spunky woman and a dastardly villain to round out the main cast. For some reason, their uniforms had arrows pointing to their stomachs, akin to t-shirts that might say "baby inside".

So, here's the question: did you see it when you were a kid? Didn't it seem so cool at the time to be on the bridge of a battleship in space?

Maybe I'll think about another great animated show another time, taking a stroll down memory lane with Liono, Cheetara and all the ThunderCats (Ho!).

Monday, July 6, 2009

Titanic's view of heaven hits an iceberg

"It was reassuring to know the person who had fixed it was still on the aeroplane. What are the odds of something like that happening?"

I read an interesting story that reminded me of a theme that plays out in the Bible from beginning to end. A plane heading back to Manchester, England was going to be stranded in Menorca because of a lack of a mechanic to fix a problem, when it was found a mechanic was a passenger on board returning from his holiday. He came forward, fixed the plane and all was well. There was an extra measure of trust because he was with them on the plane!

Ever wonder what is up with all the intricate laws in the Old Testament? In the midst of the very specific instructions on what the furniture should be like (dimensions of the altar, what basin should be used for washing, what proportions of different incense to be burned, etc.) in the place where Israel worshipped the LORD, there is an explanation of what all the fuss is about. The purpose of the Law is to show how an unholy people can dwell with a holy God, and so in the middle of the instructions, the LORD says, "I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God." (Exodus 29. 45,46).

Every human being's experience bears out the effect of the Law, which is to turn up the volume on our awareness of our inability to keep it. But if the Law is so rough on us (it condemns us because we don't keep it), why does the Old Testament constantly describe love for the Law? Because they know that God gave it so that He might dwell with his people. Good news!

The prologue to John's Gospel shows that the great cosmic solution for the breach between the Creator and the creature would come from God himself. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1. 14). When Jesus later explains what his death will accomplish, he speaks in terms of his people dwelling with him: "In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." (John 14.2,3).

The final scene of the Bible has this in place, as everything reaches its culmination in the new heaven and new earth: "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." (Revelation 21.3,4).

So that puts God firmly at the center of reality, not you and me and what we want heaven to be like. It's not like the Titanic ending, where everything is about Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio's characters having their best day -- the Authoress helpfully pointed out to me -- what about the guy who is a busboy forever -- what if that is not his best day? -- then the center of the universe really is about Kate and Leo's kiss, or it's an illusion). No, heaven is not about you and me and our wants, but about dwelling with God. And at his right hand, as Psalm 16 puts it, there are pleasures evermore.

That concludes our theologically deep post for the week...

The Beautiful Game of Baseball

My friend Chad arranged for some guys to go a ballgame this Saturday. All hail Chad!

Green grass, slow moving game punctuated by strategic moments of excitement, beer and peanuts. Maybe a hot dog filled with nitrates...bliss.

And not any old baseball game, but a game here in New York City. For most people, that evokes the excitement of the new Yankees Stadium or Citifield (the new version of Shea Stadium where this Phillies fan from childhood's hated Mets call home).

But it's not the new stadiums that cost hundreds of millions, or the roster of major leaguers who all earn seven figures that we're going to see. It's minor league ball. YES!

The Brooklyn Cyclones, while a farm team for the Mets I guess, are still a minor league team. And thus there will be no airs of superstardom like A-Rod or even Johnny Damon (who I like from his days on the Red Sox). Just some guys hungry to make it to the big leagues who play hard each night because their stats don't relate to whether they get a performance bonus they might not really need or care about. Rather, they are playing their heart out or they won't play at all. Somehow, the whole atmosphere is all a bit friendlier even with that in mind.

At least it has been at minor league games I've attended in the past. I occasionally don my New Britan Rock Cats cap, enjoying the "who are they?" questions from my conversation partner.

What about you --- are you a minor league or major league fan --- for watching a game live, taking into account all the factors of cost, hassle, crowd and such?

Incidentally, the Phillies Phanatic (picture) is the greatest mascot in baseball, don't you think? I do, as I dressed up in a homemade Phanatic costume as a kid one October...Check out this dual between the Phanatic and an arch-enemy...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

If you're stuck in traffic, be thankful...

"What? Be thankful that I'm stuck in traffic!" At least you weren't on the M25 when a giant mammoth showed up, as this video of the BBC show Primeval imagines.

It's a show that considers if there were little holes in time, through which animals/creatures from various epochs came into 21st century Britain. It's a terrific time to consider what impact some pretty fearsome dinosaurs, sabre-tooth tigers and so on might have if they turned up in our day.

Some scientists, zoologists and a guy who is handy with a big gun make up a team who try to get these animals back through to their own time, without giving rise to panic in the general population. The characters are okay, and the series peaked in terms of dramatic drive and plot about two-thirds of the way through season one. But one aspect that is interesting in the second series is that the team engages a mythologist who studies the beasts and creatures of the stories across the ages. The notion is that mythical beasts (such as the Loch Ness monster) are creatures from another era who got stuck in the wrong place, or rather, time. Fun to contemplate!

This has little to do with the overall theme of this blog, I'm merely a sci-fi geek.

And yet! If you are contemplating some travel over the Fourth of July, especially if this involves crossing the Hudson River near New York City, don't sweat the hour wait at the Lincoln Tunnel or George Washington Bridge. Just be glad you haven't met this big fellow on your journey...