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Category Archives: Politics

Communication and Respect

c2016, KB

c2016, KB

There’s a meme I occasionally encounter on social media, and it’s a quote from Isaac Asimov:

There is a cult of ignorance, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’.

Usually, I let the meme pass without comment.

Not so after the most recent encounter:

Unfortunately, democracy is made up of flawed human beings of varying perspectives, values, and educations. One trauma, one triumph, one challenge, one loss, one gain, one ________ can change our view of the world and of ourselves.

We — an all-encompassing “we” — need not assume that someone’s disagreement with our point of view means they are the ignorant one in the conversation.

Regardless of where we stand on certain issues, we too often think we stand above those with whom we do not agree. That, I think, is one main reason there are such gaping chasms between groups in this country.

Are only those with whom we agree worthy of courtesy?

Are only those we deem our intellectual equals worthy of our respect?

Are only those we consider morally correct worthy of being treated with decency?

We tend to assume we’re the ones with the whole truth, and often do not consider we might be mistaken.

On the other hand, there is absolute truth, and if we have no strength of conviction, we’ll never stand for anything.

There’s a time to hear and understand other points of view, even if we never change our own stance.

There’s a time to examine ourselves and explore other ideas, and then decide whether or not we need to adjust or to remain firm.

Simply because others disagree does not mean we double-down, speak louder, or become aggressive in trying to change their minds.

Maybe we’re the ones who are wrong.

Maybe, in our ignorance, we overlook their intelligence.

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Where Are You Going?

Where Are You Going?

“Progress” is merely motion in a certain direction, as in advancement toward a goal. Depending on the goal, your motives, or your methods, that progression can be positive or negative.

People say, “Hold on! It’ll get better!” but sometimes we need to let go. As much as we admire people who trudge onward toward their goals, there is, indeed, a time to give up.

Sometimes we persevere in the wrong direction. We may not know it. We may know it but not know how to change it. Our effort, skill, hope, endurance, loyalty, courage, and strength of will are expended in vain.

Step back. Examine goals, motives, methods, relationships, results. Is this truly the path you want to tread? Is this the end result you desire?

Don’t be discouraged by how much road — or how much life — lies behind you. It’s never too late for a course correction.

east on a Wyoming highway (c2013, KB)

east on a Wyoming highway (c2013, KB)

 

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Story First

Anyone else wearied by myriad causes du jour? By politics and the endless “debates” about it on social media? By the expectation of outrage or an emotional response about [fill in the blank] lest one be labeled by folks who are outraged, offended, etc.?

In the literary realm, one current debate is the “inclusiveness” of novels, and some people think we need to keep score: x number of ethnic characters, x number of certain genders or sexual orientations, and so on. There’s plenty of agenda-driven fiction out there, from a variety of political, religious, and cultural viewpoints. From whence comes this need to turn stories into soapboxes or pulpits?

I have opinions and beliefs, and I’ll talk about them, but not everyone requires, deserves, or is entitled to knowing what they are. In this age of constant exposure, personal freedoms and privacy are in becoming a short supply. So is moderation of speech and behavior.

The Internet, as valuable as it can be, is also a digital three-ring circus. Society/culture at large is often a flamboyant, obnoxious tyranny demanding everyone think alike.

Not gonna happen.

Even in the most repressive governmental regimes, silence or outward compliance have never meant assent. There is always an underground.

I cannot and will not divorce what I believe from what I write. However, my focus is story first.

c2015, KB

c2015, KB

 

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The First Principle – day 3

The First Principle – day 3

A young adult perspective on this month’s CSFF Blog Tour novel:

Marissa Shrock‘s The First Principle wasn’t exactly what I expected. For one thing, It read like a spy thriller rather than like other books I’ve read in the same genre, which was refreshing since Christian-young-adult-dystopian-sci-fi is a pretty narrow genre.

There aren’t many pauses in the action – but that’s once you get to the action. The suspenseful moments are almost stressfully so, but the story gets off to a bit of a slow start, since Vivica doesn’t gain a big, personal conflict that the reader cares about until a couple of chapters in when she discovers her pregnancy. Even then, there’s still more pages to traverse before the suspense actually sets in.

The story itself deals with issues that are very real in the world today and that many people don’t want to talk about. In fact, this is the first story I’ve read that actually handles the issues of abortion and teen pregnancy with more than a passing mention. Not only that, but neither of those issues is glossed-over or given a prepackaged answer; rather, Vivica’s situation is discussed fully and with a lot of questions and struggles, and the Biblical response is presented in a good way. Also, the story isn’t kept “clean” and “safe” for the sake of not offending anyone; rather, it is allowed to handle realistic scenarios realistically.

FirstPrinciple-258x400The conversion scene in this book is also well-handled. When a character does finally accept Christ as Savior, there is no big to-do. Problems don’t all magically get better. Consequences are still consequences and the world is still an uncomfortable place. There are no rose-colored glasses involved, just inner peace and grace that the character sometimes has to struggle to accept.

I also like that not everything ends happily or easily, yet enough of it does end well enough that the reader can be satisfied, and that forgiveness is a big theme, yet so are consequences and responsibility.

I have one major complaint, that being that the title of The First Principle is never actually explained or even referenced in the book anywhere that I can find. What is the first principle exactly?

Overall, though, this is the best Christian-young-adult-dystopian-sci-fi that I’ve read so far, and while I’ve begun to tire of dystopias in general, I am looking forward to any sequels that may follow The First Principle.

Here is where I digress from the book a bit and talk about the genre: as I’ve said above, it’s a very narrow genre, and the seemingly-endless flood of dystopias on all fronts is especially beginning to grate.

Therefore, I would like to issue a note to authors in which I remind them that variety of concept is a good thing (you don’t just have to write whatever’s selling right now) and refer them to Amish Vampires in Space for an example of a story with a serious tone and message but also a mild dose of humor – mainly due to the creative blending of genres – and a noticeable lack of everything-going-to-pot-in-the-government.

I’m not saying everybody needs to start writing books like that one; just that it’s time to do something creatively different genre-wise from what’s being done right now.

~Jamie, age 17

For other perspectives on the novel:

Julie Bihn
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas

 

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What’s Your Filter?

Two or more people can look at the same object at the same time, and although they are seeing the same thing, they are not perceiving it the same way.

The filters of experience, prejudice, understanding, philosophy, religion, age, appreciation, comfort or discomfort, good day or bad — all color the way we see the world.

Below are several versions of a photo of the statue of the grieving Christ outside the Oklahoma City National Memorial, commemorating the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Building. Each image is affected by various filters imposed by photo editing software — each filter is overlaid the others, until the image underneath is far different from the original.

Christ (c2015, KB)

Christ (c2015, KB)

Christ in black and white (c2015, KB)

Christ in black and white (c2015, KB)

Christ in black and white, with blue duo-tone (c2015, KB)

Christ in black and white, with blue duo-tone (c2015, KB)

Christ in black and white, with blue duo-tone, overlaid with a filter to make it appear as if taken circa 1960 (c2015, KB)

Christ in black and white, with blue duo-tone, overlaid with a filter to make it appear as if taken circa 1960 (c2015, KB)

Christ in black and white, with blue duo-tone, 1960s, and Cinemascope effects (c2015, KB)

Christ in black and white, with blue duo-tone, 1960s, and Cinemascope effects (c2015, KB)

See how unexpected interferences or cooperations change what the viewer perceives?

The order matters, as well. If trauma colors our world at a young age, we will view it through a different filter than we might if that same trouble arrived when we were older.

Below, black-and-white and Cinemascope effects were applied in different orders. When the movie effect was applied first, then the monochrome, the image looks crisp. However, when the order was reversed, the image takes on a sepia cast.

Christ in color, as if filmed in Cinemascope (c2015, KB)

Christ in color, as if filmed in Cinemascope (c2015, KB)

Christ in Cinemascope with the color removed (c2015, KB)

Christ in Cinemascope with the color removed (c2015, KB)

Christ in black and white, then "Cinemascoped" (c2015, KB)

Christ in black and white, then “Cinemascoped” (c2015, KB)

Is there something in life you’re not seeing clearly?

Are there colors you think you’re perceiving, but your friends, colleagues, loved ones — or perfect strangers on social media —  do not view?

Before we impugn one another’s intelligence, reputations, abilities, etcetera, it might be wise to step back and consider the filters through which we — and they — view the world.

 

 

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The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises DVD coverDirected by Hayao Miyazaki for Studio Ghibli, The Wind Rises is a fictionalized account of the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the aeronautics engineer who designed the infamous Zero fighters used to attack Pearl Harbor during World War II.

Some viewers dislike the film for its fiction (Jiro’s wife did not die of tuberculosis, for instance), some for its pacing, some for its glossing-over of the death and destruction his planes caused. There was offense at the way his wife was portrayed, and offense at the way he treated her. Some viewers were either offended on Jiro’s behalf, thinking the added fictions dishonored him, and some were offended that the creator of the Zero was the focus of an animated film.

Regardless of detractors, the hand-drawn animation and the beautiful colors are beyond excellent. There’s a night scene in Germany where the elongated and distorted shadows of men running through the streets are stunning in their realism, and the clouds throughout the film are nigh photo-realistic.

The story — which borrowed heavily from an unrelated novel, The Wind Has Risen, by Tatsuo Hori — is interesting, and the dialogue is often sharp and funny.

It’s an homage to love and dreamers, and is a film well worth seeing.

 

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What Is It To Be Human?

What Is It To Be Human?

What is it to be human?

What is staying alive? To possess
A great hall inside of a cell.
What is it to know? The same root
Underneath the branches.

What is it to believe? Being a carer
Until relief takes over.
And to forgive? On fours through thorns
To keep company to an old enemy.

What is it to sing? To receive breath
From the genius of creation.
What’s work but humming a song
From wood and wheat.

What are state affairs? A craft
That’s still only crawling?
And armaments? Thrust a knife
In a baby’s fist.

Being a nation? What can it be? A gift
In the swell of the heart.
And to love a country? Keeping house
In a cloud of witnesses.

What’s the world to the all powerful?
A circle spinning.
And to the children of the earth?
A cradle rocking.

Waldo Williams (translated from the Welsh by Menna Elfyn)

According to the article about him on Wikipedia,

Waldo (GoronwyWilliams (30 September 1904 – 20 May 1971) was one of the leading Welsh languagepoets of the twentieth century. He was also a notable pacifist, anti-war campaigner, and Welsh nationalist.

The fourth and fifth stanzas of the poem above reveal his political views. The translator states,

One must remember that “nationhood” in Wales was very often synonymous with anti-militaristic campaigns. Very many prominent poets in Wales have been known as pacifists, seeing their patriotism as embedded in total regard for human life and rejecting notions of “imperialism” and “colonization.” Many would argue that Wales was the very first acquisition of the English state when Wales was conquered in the thirteenth century, its princes killed, and the Welsh language disallowed. (Poetry, April 2008)

This poem reminds me of the spoken intro to the song “Higher Education and the Book of Love” by Rich Mullins:

What does it mean to be human?
What does it mean to be human?

I cannot help but suspect that, at one time in the history of thinking,
people believed that it meant that we were spiritual,
and that we could make choices,
and were capable of aspiring to higher ideals…
like maybe loyalty or maybe faith…
Or maybe even love.

But now we are told by people who think they know
that we vary from amoeba only in the complexity of our makeup
and not in what we essentially are.

They would have us think,
as Dysart said,
that we are forever bound up in certain genetic reins —
that we are merely products of the way things are
and not free —
not free to be the people who make them that way.

They would have us see ourselves as products so that
we could believe that we were something to be made,
something to be used,
and then something to be disposed of.
Used in their wars —
Used for their gains —
and then set aside when we get in their way.

Well, who are they?
They are the few who sit at the top of the heap —
dung heap though it is —
and who say it is better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.

Well, I do not know that we can have a Heaven here on earth,
but I am sure we need not have a Hell here either.

What does it mean to be human?
I cannot help but believe that it means we are spiritual,
that we are responsible, and that we are free —
that we are responsible to be free.

Influenced greatly by St. Francis of Assisi, Rich Mullins endeavored to live what he believed. He died at age 41 in an auto accident in autumn 1997.

Of possible further interest:
1) Fan site for the late Rich Mullins: Calling Out Your Name
2) Lyrics with the intro to “Higher Education”: Lyrics Mode
3) Poetry Foundation
4) Rich Mullins on YouTube
4) Waldo Williams official website
5) Menna Elfyn’s website — in Welsh!

 

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