Saturday, July 9, 2011

Dostoevsky and his Atheists

"No more than five days ago...he solemnly announced in the discussion that there is decidedly nothing in the world that would make men love their fellow men; that there exists no law of nature that man should love mankind, and that if there is and has been any love on earth up to now, it has come not from natural law but solely from people's belief in their immortality...for every separate person...who believes neither in God nor in his own immortality, the moral law of nature ought to change immediately into the exact opposite of the former religious law..."
Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, p. 69

Russian authors have this annoying tendency to be revered as brilliant storytellers and writers.  The most obnoxious part is that they probably deserve it.

Now perhaps this is just the bitterness of being unfortunate enough to be born in a country that has almost no great literature to call its own.  But in any case, The Brothers Karamazov is a brilliant work, and other than a short section relating a rather bizarre story by, ironically, the same brother that is spoken of above, has not ceased to keep me interested.  I'm 287 pages into the work and I'm not even halfway.  Stupid Russian winters.  Kept Dostoevsky at his manuscript for too long.

But returning to the extended quotation above. Why is that so significant?  Well, because it brings up an important point, the connection between immortality and virtue.  The point being that there is no virtue if there is no belief in the human soul.

One may argue that virtue exists in atheists in spite of the fact they do not believe in the immortality of the soul.  Thus, even were the belief in God and immortality to become the minority opinion, virtue would still exist.  The reason for this (were such a hypothetical situation possible) would be that virtue would exist as a neurosis.  The bottom would have fallen out, so to speak, and we would be left with the surface action, virtue, but lose the reason for acting virtuous.  The other answer would require the belief in the Bible, and an understanding of Romans 1 as Dr. Horner of The Master's College would explain it. That virtue would exist because in spite of the fact that man would deny it, his act of denying it would bring to mind the truth that he knows, that there is a God and man is immortal.  This would cause him to act as though there were a just judge out there even if he were to deny the existence of such a being.

In short, evolution and the materialistic philosophy have nothing to say to explain why we shouldn't kill anyone who ticks us off, why rape is bad, and why a genocide isn't such a brilliant idea.

Good Lord, we need You.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Time and it's confusion

The world waits with baited breath.  For what we're not quite sure.  Perhaps, perhaps it's for a new movie to come out.  Or the next CD by a stellar band.  Or perhaps even for truth.  Which unfortunately nobody seems to be able to offer--certainty is as offensive as intolerance.  Never mind the fact that nobody is angry at mathematicians for dogmatically saying that two and two makes four.  Truth is too often mistaken for opinion.

This mistake stems from the inability of humans to recognize that truth exists outside of themselves.

There are many people in current culture who understand truth does exist.  But alas, our postmodern world believes that man has no way of reaching that truth.  In a book I recently read by Cormac McCarthy he continually presses the idea into readers that there may be a God and there may be a purpose behind everything, but mankind is so lost and separate from Him that they can never reach that truth, and wander aimlessly through the world with the knowledge that there is more, but without hope of discovering it.

And honestly, they're right.  It's about time we removed ourselves from the neoclassical view of man as being able to with the aid of reason discover all that is to be known about the universe.  The blunt truth is that if we are to know anything, we need to have somebody above the human condition be able to show us what truth is.  And we can't verify that truth.  We have no choice but accept or reject it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I never post. Therefore, no one ever reads. I think. Therefore...

Hello again blogging world.  The world that cares little whether I sleep or play video games for four hours, or even do something productive...wait, isn't that sleeping?  What a fine uncaring world you are blogosphere.

Can I be honest for a minute?  Well, since you can't actually answer me until after I post, I'm going to assume the answer is yes.

Honestly, I'm a tangle of emotions.  Yes, I have learned the British way and am keeping the stiff upper lip, but honestly the past hour and looking towards the future have been difficult.  I've had such an amazing time this last semester, the thought of it slipping away into nothing but a vague mass of memories is saddening.  To live with the knowledge that never again will I be living at 8 Crick road with 24 great American students breathing the same damp air of England is difficult.  It's not leaving Oxford, nor is it really the actual act of saying goodbye.  Most of these people I'll probably see again.  But never again will all of us be worrying about deadlines and tutorials, running to Tesco to buy food, or reserving books at the Bodlein Library.  It's over.  And it's sad.

On the happy side, I've been able to sweeten the pain by travelling Europe with a few of my good friends.  We started as a group of seven in Paris, where we ate baguettes and crepes, walked until our feet were screaming with pain.  Except they weren't, because feet don't scream.  Yet it is a word-picture we often employ.  Why?
But Paris was beautiful.  So many buildings whose architecture just astounded me.  The Louvre and the Musee D'Orsay were fantastic.  Seeing actual Degas and Monet, as well as ancient greek statues, like the famous armless Venus, and the Mona Lisa (what is so great about that painting?  She isn't even pretty...).
It's odd, because my appreciation of art is very different from most.  I could care less who painted it, or the history behind it, or what movement it was a part of.  I care mostly about the painting as it is.  Is it beautiful?  Does it capture my eye.  Do I find myself interested by it?  How is the composition, the lighting, how the artist (hopefully) did something to make me see the object differently?  That's what I enjoy in art.  But in museums, if it's old, it's included.
Sculptures I also find more interesting than paintings, which is something I didn't really expect, but there you have it.  Probably because older composition is so different that my more cinematic tastes.  Thus for sculpture, whose composition is completely different from painting or photography, I find fascinating.
Climbing the Eiffel tower was pretty cool.  It's a pretty big piece of metal..  But the Luxembourg Gardens were gorgeous.  If I was an old retired Frenchman, I'd spend so much time reading there...people would begin to think I was one of the sculptures they had in the garden.
I also purchased sunglasses outside the Louvre for 10 euro.  The seller originally offered them for 20, but when I began walking away, he asked how much I'd pay, and I said 10 euro, and he handed them to me.  It was definitely necessary.  Paris is a very white city, and sunlight intensifies that.  I needed the shades.  Plus they're aviators, and cool.

After Paris I went to Venice, which after experiencing Paris it was nice being able to walk wherever you wanted to go.  There really isn't much to see in Venice, so one day was plenty, and then we ended up in Florence.
So in Florence, which is where I am at the moment, I've seen the naked David statue by Michelangelo, and then a bunch of ridiculously awesome sketches by Renaissance dudes.  I've discovered (among other things) that I could spend hours looking at sketches by artists, but finished paintings bore me.  Odd, I know, but there you have it.  I blame my best friend for his awesome sketchbooks.  They've made me this way.  But I love it...I love cool.
And now I am on the brink of beginning my long, long journey home.  I'll be in Oxford for another day and a half, and then I'll be heading to London, then home.  And I am so happy about that.  This post-term trip has really made home seem such a wonderful place.  It is where I go to see my mother and father, to share with them my experiences, to find a place called home.

Homeward bound am I, and I am ready for home.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

One idiot said to the other idiot, "Doesn't he know it's rude to eavesdrop?"

Since my last post, there has been two movie nights and two tutorials, an "inkings" meeting, and a delicious breakfast of hashbrowns and scrambled eggs.  Yes indeed, life at Crick Road is good.  The question is, though, what has happened that would be remotely interesting to you my avid readers.  What would induce you to heights of ecstatic appreciation of my evocation?

Honestly, I don't know.  That's probably why I haven't written a blog post recently.

What has happened is mainly that I am falling in love with my food group, which is pretty much the awesomest  Of course, we are The Food Group Formerly Known as Awesome, and for those to lazy, we go by "Awesome."

The other day, one of the S(cholarly) C(hristians) I(n) O(xford) staff Simon joined our food group and pretty much made it the funniest night of our lives.  His humor is brilliant.  Unfortunately, as all good jokes exist within a context, to repeat them would be to do them a disservice. Yet I will anyways.  One example was when he told a story about his son.  His son, as he told us, is very sensitive, and will collapse if he senses that his father is displeased with him.  Once, this son threw food on the table, and Simon told his son, "Rory, we don't do that."  And then Rory looks at him and says, "Daddy, I won't do that anymore."  Seeing that the girls got really emotional, I made the comment that if Simon were to tell more stories like that, the girls would probably start crying.  Simon then said, "But we won't.  Nothing touches these bowls of steel!"

See what I mean by you need to be there?

And that's the problem with writing these blog posts.

I had my first creative writing tutorial this past Wednesday, and I am amazed at the man who does them.  Somehow, he is able to tell you that you're the worst writer in the world and make you feel good about it.  I'm not entirely sure how he does that.

Anyways, hope everything is pleasant stateside.  Be back on here hopefully sooner rather than later.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

All my life I've been dying to know

Ah yes, another day, another year, and another something or other that would make your head spin were you to know it.  Thankfully, I value the unqueasiness of your stomach, so I won't mention that one.  But, you are not reading this to hear my random and wild thoughts, but to hear about Oxford and England and why you should be so utterly envious of me that you run around your house screaming until you're lungs stop working.  Please call an ambulance before proceeding.  Your heath is my priority.

In any case, shall we?

Monday began my orientation, which basically meant I went to Wycliffe Hall and heard people talk for half the day, then spent the rest of my day hanging out with people.  On one of the days (not sure which) I was led on a tour by an extraordinary Classics professor named Jonathan Kirkpatrick who happened to live in the Kilns.  Now, for those ignorant of these matters, the Kilns once belonged to the great C. S. Lewis.  And, if you don't know who that is, then, I pity the fool.

Jonathan Kirkpatrick led us around on a sightseeing tour, giving us various details that were entertaining, and interesting, and all the better because we got to hear a British accent.  One thing, however, to bear in mind is that British people walk really, really fast.  He left us in the dust.  Like Usain Bolt at the Olympics.  Of the amusing things he shared, one was that there are several colleges who claim to be the oldest colleges of Oxford, these being University, Balliol and Merton.  Another is that the All Souls' College has a traditional duck hunt where the dons walk around the walls of the castle in chase of a duck.  This is due to the fact they discovered a dead one while digging for the foundations.  Hilarious factoids do not stop there, as we were also informed that Christ's Church (another college) runs five minutes behind time, because back when it was founded, Oxford's time was five minutes behind London's.  This was a result of the latitude.  So when trains began running, and they switched to a universal time zone for convenience, Christ's Church decided tradition was stronger, and thus still remain on the old Oxford time.

My roommate and I scored big time on our food group.  Not only do we switch dinners off with people who are fun and will clean up, but they also cook amazing meals, and bake absolutely brilliant desserts.  Tonight being the soon-to-be world famous lemony bars, the quote resulting being "That's transubstantiation going on over there!"  Those bars are perhaps the best tasting square inch I've ever had.  An explosion of flavor in your mouth in every...single...bite......

Needless to say...well, if it's needless, then I won't say it,

Moving on....

Yesterday, I went to London, where we jogged after a diminutive Australian, visited a variety of famous historical places, heard the darkest, yet funniest, stories ever, and saw the national gallery of art.  Though, perhaps, the best part was the several hours worth of chatting, and the delicious Chipotle burrito at the end.  Yes, I did say Chipotle.  There is only one in the nation, and I ate at it.  You ask, why?  So many things you can't have in the states, and you choose Chipotle?  Well, it's good, isn't it?  And for further, unnecessary justification, I can eat anything in London in Oxford, but there is no Chipotle in Oxford.  It's the truth.  And it is sad.  Life is painful folks.  It really is.

Move night, ah yes, movie night.  Our brilliant head of house Sam chose the film Amazing Grace.  This being the second time I've seen it, I once again form the conclusion that the movie is one good film.  And, I must admit, the second time was better, if only for the fact that British candies, biscuits and cookies were served.

The time is not drawing to a close, I could devote many more hours to this, but I'm getting bored writing it, so that means you must be equally, if not more, bored than I reading it.  Cheerio chaps!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

An Unextraordinary non-Gentleman's arrival in England

I felt like my gradual immersion into England started in Atlanta at the plane flight to London, where I began to hear lots and lots of foreign accents.  There were several French and British people on the plane, one being a family from England that sat fairly close to me, and I began to hear the coveted British accent then.

Upon arrival in England, I was walking with my carry-ons when a British man stopped me and handed me my boarding pass telling me.  "You dropped this, it might be important."  I said thank you, and was just super excited to hear the British accent.  Getting through customs was easy, as was getting my luggage.  Now, getting my bus ticket to Oxford was a bit more of a challenge.  I tried to use the self-checkout because the sign told me to, but it never accepted my card, so I got in line and had to purchase it from the lady, but she was really nice so it worked out in the end.

I think the bus driver got mad at me because I had no idea what I was doing, but I eventually got on the bus and we left the airport.  At this time, all I had seen of London was the airport and the sky, so I didn't quite know anything about it.  London-Heathrow airport is a fair distance from the city, so when we left the airport, we pretty much went straight into the countryside.

The best word I can think of to describe the land is gnarly.  Everything seems old, and twisted, and the ground seems to be covered in shrubs.  On the softly rolling hills grows this grass that seems so soft and somewhat uncared for.

I wasn't that weirded out by driving on the wrong side of the road, but more so--much more so--by the driver seeming to be on the wrong side of the car.  It is somewhat odd to look down and where you're used to seeing a driver is and empty seat.  You'd be surprised at how disorienting it can be, especially in comparison with the relative ease it is to accept that these Brits drive on the other side of the road.

My first viewing of Oxford was the outskirts, which wasn't that impressive, but once I got more towards the center of the town, I was struck by the buildings.  You can't really describe the experience of seeing these 15th or 16th or whatever-century-they-are buildings everywhere, especially when they're oddly juxtaposed next to buildings obviously built much later, as in the last half-century. (It's weird thinking that half-century can mean 1960...)

Unfortunately, after getting off the bus, my card didn't work in the ATM, so I had to walk to Crick (the house I live in is on Crick Road), and unfortunately had no idea how to get there, so I wandered around Oxford for about an hour until I found it.  Thankfully, being lost in Oxford just means you get to see more of the fantastic buildings, even if it is raining.  I don't mind rain, so it was all good, but I have to admit I was very glad to find Crick at the end, and get moved in.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to walk around Oxford with one of my roommates, and that was very enjoyable.  Pretty much everywhere in a certain area is so utterly beyond anything I've ever seen in the States.  My roommate and I walked around talking about Philosophy, Theology, and Literature, soaking in the sights, and sometimes indulging in conversation that wasn't quite so deep, which is also (I believe) important.  It was a great experience.  During that walk, I had an English Americano, if you can catch the irony there.  I also heard the story of how the Americano was invented, and I hope the story is true, because it's pretty hilarious.  And no, I'm not going to tell you.

Ok, just kidding.  Basically, the story is that some Americans in France wanted some normal drip coffee, and couldn't find it anywhere, so they went to a Barista and asked for drip coffee.  She made espresso then added water, and handed it to them and said, "Here's your Cafe Americano."

I hope that's true.


I was also able to go to a pub yesterday (and had a coke, in case you're wondering).  That was pretty fun, to be in that environment.  It was called an "old man's pub" because it wasn't that rowdy, and the atmosphere was one more relaxed and conducive to conversation (rather than rowdiness).

Today, then, I went to St. Ebbes church, which is like an Evangelical Anglican church, and I was very impressed at the expositional style of preaching.  I felt like it was fairly close to a church that I would choose to go to back home.  Obviously, having real wine for communion was a bit different, and the fact everything was said with a British accent.

As far as people are concerned, Sam and Graham (Which is not pronounced "gram" like we do, but "Greyam." He's rather particular.) are great leaders.  Both are PhD students at Oxford.  Sam studying History, and I'm not sure what Graham is studying.  Then the students for the most part are really neat people.  My roommates are really neat people, and I am really glad I am with them.  One of the students is from Zimbabwe, and he seems really cool.  It threw me at first, because his accent sounds very similar to British ones (they are not all the same).  Another student was born in Sudan and moved to the States when she was nine, so there's a pretty broad range of students, though all of course go to Christian schools and are on the more intellectual side of things.  It's an experience I probably would not have anywhere else.  I also have a pretty firm belief that I'm the youngest person in the programme....though that hasn't been confirmed yet....

The British accent is one of the coolest aspects, and I am hoping I learn how to speak it (which I have a feeling I probably will, seeing as I already am figuring it out). Some of the things they tend to do is rather odd.  They'll add syllables where we don't, and drop them where we don't.  One of the weirdest things, however, is the "r", which is dropped out of words where it shows up in the middle, like "bird" or "here", but is added to the end of words like "pizza" so Sam will say "The pizzer is heah,"

I am looking forward to see what else will happen.  I will try to get some photographs up onto this blog here in the near future.  We shall see, we shall see.  (Because, well, we'll have to).

Monday, August 2, 2010

Different standards of Beauty?

This next blog post has come far too late I’m afraid. I’ve been distracted, and just generally lazy, ignoring my poor blog. I suppose that since I have no way of knowing if people are actually reading, so it’s hard to motivate your own self to do something that seems only to really impact yourself, and since I already know everything I’m going to say, it’s hard to push myself into putting it into words.
This next idea on beauty is related to the all too familiar problem of differing standards of beauty. I still think that this difference is not as broad as people might think, but still, it is there. Just look at people’s opinions on actors and actresses. One actor somebody might uphold to be the idealization of masculine appearance might not be given a second thought by another.

What explains this?

A very terrible book once made a good point. I won’t mention the book title because that would be sacrilegious, and the idea wasn’t original to the book. A friend and I had discussed it at least two years before I picked up the book, so it (based on a previous post) must be a universal truth I stumbled upon before. The point was that just as parents can love uniquely and equally their children, so God relates uniquely to each of us as individuals. And because God is infinite, he has infinite means of relating. This is reflect how we each relate uniquely to the ultimate beauty. Just as are relationship with God is manifested in different ways (just compare the feminine style of worship to the masculine to see this illustrated), our perception of beauty is unique to each one of us.

This does not negate the standard of beauty, for even though we relate to God differently, there are many, many, many similarities. That’s why so many people will universally recognize certain individuals as more beautiful than others. Johnny Depp is a much more devilishly handsome fellow than I am. That’s uncontested. But not everybody thinks Johnny Depp is the handsomest man alive. The principles of harmony are at work. Depp’s facial features work together much better than mine do, but perhaps as equally well as Brad Pitt’s. Then for someone to say that he or she thinks Johnny Depp’s face is more handsome is the result of personal preference, not an absolute standard.

I don’t think this idea is too ridiculous. In fact, I think that it answers the problem most people bring up regarding taste, and furthers the idea of an absolute standard being there. That standard being God, not Johnny Depp.