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Passions in Poetry

Dichotomies & the Natural Associations Between Disciplines

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jbouder
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since 09-18-99
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Whole Sort Of Genl Mish Mash


0 posted 02-16-2001 12:51 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder


quote:
Today we have a weakness in our educational process in failing to understand the natural associations between the disciplines. We tend to study all our disciplines in unrelated parallel lines. This tends to be true in both Christian and secular education. This is one of the reasons why evangelical Christians have been taken by surprise at the tremendous shift that has come in our generation. We have studied our exegesis as exegesis, our theology as theology, our philosophy as philosophy; we study something about art as art; we study music as music, without understanding that these are things of man, and the things of man are never unrelated parallel lines.

(Francis A. Schaeffer, Escape From Reason, Ch. 1)


Frac's and Brad's threads started my thinking in a new direction that I think might be better addressed in a separate thread.  

I think we all tend to think in the way Shaeffer described in the above quote.  There is nothing wrong with categorizing and systematizing the different disciplines but I think there is a real danger of man-made gulfs forming between those categories and systems if we forget their necessary inter-relationships with one another.

I think the same can be said of the transcendent/pragmatic, noumena/phenoumena distinction that Brad mentioned in his post.  I happen to think the two are more related than they are distinct.  Can reason, emotion, and personality be purely biological phenomena or are their respective existences examples of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts (evidence of a "soul" or "spirit")?  Is the spiritual/transcendent (if it even exists) on one plane and the physical/mundane on another?  

This is why I think the Christian/atheist distinction is better expressed as transcendent & mundane together vs. mundane.  Christianity is not dualistic.

In one sense, I think the Buddhists do have it right: human life, in an of itself, does not have intrinsic meaning.  I think the Judeo-Christian tradition agrees with the Buddhist at this level.  For the Jew and Christian, however, meaning is bestowed on human life by a personal Creator who is also the Sustainer of His Creation.  The Judeo-Christian "Fall" is descriptive of the loss of meaning and the same's concept of redemption describes the restoration of that lost meaning.  But, always, the transcendent and mundane are inter-related.

Of course, I could be wrong.


Jim

"If I rest, I rust." - Martin Luther


Brad
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since 08-20-99
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Jejudo, South Korea


1 posted 02-16-2001 10:59 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Whatcha doin' usin' big words on me?

The n/p distinction is exactly what I was trying to translate.

We do have a point of disagreement though. Wonder if we ever get that far.

Brad
Brad
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2 posted 02-18-2001 07:57 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I guess what I don't see here is the necessity of putting emotions, beliefs, feelings on some kind of higher plane. Why make them transcendental? Does it make you feel any less (and the transcendental is always describes as more, higher, better -- and it's always nice that the unexplainable is always better). If we described the transcendental world as somehow a different world (Pretty sure the Celts saw it that way but I could be wrong.), would that somehow lose its flare?

I don't need to modify the intensity of emotions and thoughts with rhetoric that somehow makes them more than something I feel. I feel them and I'm happy with that. Does this make the world somehow less to me than others? I don't think so. In fact, I wonder at times if people are so busy worried about a world they can't see, feel, hear, touch, taste, or even really think about doesn't limit them from seeing what is here and now and, even worse, what might be done.

Stephen already pointed out that it's rather difficult to really have a meaningless world -- you still promote some things over others which gives those same things significance over others. How does one actually live a life, take any action, without giving significance over something else? (Stephen, I'm talking about individuals here, not inanimate objects).

Is it possible to live a life without meaning? Is it possible to think of the meaning of death without thinking about your own intent?

If one says, my life has no meaning aren't they saying that other lives have more meaning? If one says life has no meaning, aren't they saying life doesn't mean what I thought it meant before and I've changed my mind?

Or, if one says life has no meaning, I'm going to stay in bed today, aren't you placing more meaning in staying in bed than in getting up?

Conscious individuals always have intentions (that's what consciousness, to some extent, means) but doesn't that mean, by definition, that these things have meaning.

Life is filled with meaning because we make it that way.


Brad

jbouder
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3 posted 02-19-2001 09:39 AM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

“I guess what I don't see here is the necessity of putting emotions, beliefs, feelings on some kind of higher plane. Why make them transcendental?”

I think we see eye-to-eye here. Transcendentalism is anti-intellectual … it does exactly what you mentioned … puts emotions, faith and feelings on a higher plane than other human attributes. But it doesn’t stop there. Making distinctions like these is a watershed. Suddenly monastic or ministerial life is more virtuous than secular professions. Not only are reason, logic and physical labor devalued, but also (and necessarily) professions and disciplines that require developing these “mundane” attributes are devalued. This line of thinking, I believe, is just plain misguided.

“I don't need to modify the intensity of emotions and thoughts with rhetoric that somehow makes them more than something I feel. I feel them and I'm happy with that.”

Good. Don’t change.

“In fact, I wonder at times if people are so busy worried about a world they can't see, feel, hear, touch, taste, or even really think about doesn't limit them from seeing what is here and now and, even worse, what might be done.”

Stops wondering because it happens often enough, but I still think that such worries are isolated and are not the norm (and they are not limited to people worrying about religious matters). However, I think what you are saying is beginning to build something of a straw man. More often than not, the people I know who are intent on exploring what they believe and why they believe it are more likely to that very thing that might, otherwise, go undone. A quick personal example: A group of 12 people in my home church, on their own initiative, took an interest in autism and other disabilities, and formed a respite care group to provide community supports for families dealing with such challenges. Disaster relief services, food banks, soup kitchens, and utility vouchers demonstrate the simple fact that people who think about those things that cannot be sensed, and gather with those who are like-minded, are far more likely to take the steps necessary to address unfulfilled needs in their own gathering and in the community at large.

It’s a shame that these people don’t get more attention.

Jim
Brad
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4 posted 02-19-2001 06:36 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Am I building a straw man? Hmmmm, I don't know but I'm following certain ideas that seem prevalent in Western and Eastern (another distinction that I have a lot of problems with) societies and that have been covered in a number of recent threads here:

1. meaning/significance/purpose

--the supposed non-existence of God does not/can not negate these in any individual life.

2.permanence/certainty/contingency/termporality

--the first two terms are a dangerous game and yet necessary for political reasons. Purity and nostalgia seem to be corallaries
here.

3. categorical distinctions

--necessary but [always] should be subject to reevaluation

4. individual/society

--individuals create society and are created by society. The distinction is caused by the repression of the contradictory modes of the individual. The contradictions of society are easily seen.

5. religion/spirit

--religion is the more interesting of the two. Spiritualism has always been a rhetorical move. The reverse of what many seem to be saying here.

6. secular/transcendent

--unnecessary distinction as currently portrayed (not too far from you on that one)

7. to do/to be (the problem of time)

--stop worrying about what you are and start worrying about what you do. Identity comes from action, not the other way around.

A rather sporadic, if not spastic, group don't you think? If there's a center to any of this, I think it revolves around the inability of individuals to see outside themselves (I'm just as guilty of course) and almost a need to avoid the attempt. What struck me in your thread was the line:

[those]"intent on exploring what they believe and why they believe it"

This holds for both spiritual and secular movements because it's not an assertion of identity but an exploration of it, not to find yourself, that's just the 'why', but also an expansion, that's the 'what'.

And it doesn't end until you stop trying.

This isn't a manifesto (I haven't spent the time on it to be that) but I wonder if I really am seeing a straw man here?

Brad
jbouder
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Whole Sort Of Genl Mish Mash


5 posted 02-23-2001 03:56 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

Brad:

By "straw-man", I was referring to your concern or worry that those who are so intent on those things that cannot be seen, felt, heard, touched or tasted will flounder in inactively and leave those things that should be done, undone. Maybe "slippery slope" would have been a better term to use. Experience and history shows me that those who find meaning in something larger than themselves are more likely to do the very thing you fear will not happen ... act ... attempt to fulfill the need.

I have a greater fear ... one that grows out of a concern for those who are disinterested in thinking about the possibility for something greater than themselves ... those who deny the existance of the God who is there. I think the temptation for this person to focus inward poses a greater danger to those in need. Selfishness is the great killer of charity. It is also the great killer of Marxism, btw.

Been swamped for the past few days, Brad. Sorry it took so long to respond.

Jim
Brad
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since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


6 posted 02-24-2001 05:31 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I know, I know you're busy.

We seem to be agreeing here if not exactly thinking along the same lines. You argue selfishness and I argue a misunderstanding of the individual as such. I think we both agree that a quick overview of American history leads to a misunderstanding of "enlightened self-interest" -- the enlightened part keeps seeming to disappear. Interestingly, my secular views and your religious views both believe that the individual is created, formed by something other than the individual itself (self doesn't happen spontaneously). Yet, I don't seem to see these issues being discussed perhaps because the dissolution of a permanent, bedrock individual also creates problems for American ideology (Freeeeeedommmm!). Is this what Schaeffer means when he talks about the ultra-separation of categories? When we talk about music as music, are we forgetting that music also makes us feel a certain way and that's why we do it in the first place (and of its significance in religious practice)? When we discuss philosophy, we tend not to see it as a factor in the lives of people but as a kind of intellectual masturbation? Not saying you or I think this way, but isn't there always a tendency to brush off these things as if they weren't important, as if they were mere philosophy, mere theology, mere poetry?

And what follows from this or these ideas? Well, once we see the individual as antithetical to society, we come to a reification of the individual and of what's really important. I think this often manifests in people's concern for children which means protection of the innocent, never the enrichment or the diversification of experience. Society is antithetical, remember, and what is experience if not in society?

This ties in with the Howl thread but I'm not as against the opposition to Howl as many people might assume. I'm against the quick and easy answer that Howl should or should not by placed in the curriculum.

When someone argues spirituality over and against religion, aren't they doing the same thing? Again, religion is societal and spiritualism is personal and we all know the personal is purer, truer than corrupt society. But how does one come to spiritual beliefs without first living in a society?

Would it be too much of a jump to then argue that the vilification of society is also an abdication of responsibility for that society?

Brad
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