This I Believe

I had composed a little cynical rant in which I hated on the sages whose wisdom is guiding us through the recent economic muck. But by the time I finished writing, I decided to recant. To prove that I wrote it, however, I include the original post below (WARNING: it's boring & predicatble... don't read it. Skip it.)
I have been absolutely loving the political/academic discussion about the current economic crisis because we are all learning something. Today as I was driving home, listening to some expert or other talk about how government spending on bridges, roads and other "infrastructure" would provide the kind of stimulus needed to restart the stalling economy. Okay, I'll admit it: this sounds a little convincing. But a thought came to me minutes after hearing the report: what happens in four or six years (whenever the stimulus money is spent) to the workers who had been hired as a result of the stimulus?

So we imagine the unemployed worker who is willing to work, taking a job with a bridge-building company that can afford to hire him because they got a few commissions to build some roads in (say) North Carolina. It takes a lot of workers to build roads. Hire them, North Carolina! -- you can afford it now thanks to the stimulus money. Four years later, we have nicer roads in N.C., but the money is dry. What happens to the bloated bridge-building company who can't find a commission? What happens to the workers who were hired?

Oh, shucks... this is too complicated. And I don't want to sound cynical. Let's just trust that Paul Krugman knows what he's talking about, despite looking like the shiftiest-eyed huckster to ever walk the planet:

He is not wholly at heart a knave, I fancy, among whose dupes is himself. Did you not see our quack friend apply to himself his own quackery? A fanatic quack; essentially a fool, though effectively a knave."

Please refrain from comment. NO TRUST here.

I hope you skipped all that. I've decided instead to type up a little optimistic list of the things I believe, in order to inspire confidence, because I believe that's what's really lacking these days, fellow Americans! Here's my list:
  • I believe intellectuals pay too little attention to sports, and athletes pay too little attention to intellectual matters. But of the two groups, I believe intellectuals are in general more negligent. [Feeling warm and fuzzy yet?]
  • I believe that people can change, for the better, right down to the core.
  • I believe the time is ripe.
  • I believe in the notion of Sabbath or sacred time.
  • I believe America is a special case.
  • I believe fathers and sons can really know each other -- just barely.
  • I believe that intense study born of earnest curiosity can lead a person to unexpectedly fine experiences.
  • I believe people in a "state of nature" are naturally (but not entirely) good.
  • I believe that the human story will not end on the planet earth.
  • I believe Art is approaching a golden age.
  • I believe it is a great blessing to be multi-lingual.
  • I believe one glass of wine a day is good for health; and that two is detrimental.
  • I believe that the meek shall inherit the earth.
  • I believe that the television program Chuck, airing on NBC Monday in 3-D, is a significant breakthrough in the business of entertaining me.
  • I believe in hard work, free markets, and charity.
  • I believe that the world will not end in 2012.
  • I believe that I'll be in Charleston with family during the total eclipse of 2017.
  • I believe that things are getting better on the planet, and that ideas are the cause.
  • I believe ties are permanently going out of style (good riddance!).
  • I believe computers should be used in moderation.
  • I believe "exercise" is religious in nature.
  • I believe that more than 80% of Americans are polytheists.
  • I believe that Umbros were good shorts.
  • I believe everyone has a right to learn how to swim.
  • I believe race is as superficial as eye color, and that human beings will figure that out before 2,300.
  • I believe I will get to fly out of earth's atmosphere before I die, and I'm already nervous about it.
  • I believe in eternal life.
  • I believe family medicine and psychiatry will become better versed in natural/homeopathic and traditional healing or they will become irrelevant.
  • I believe China will be a great beacon for humanity in the next 100 years.
  • I believe the universe is an organism, and we are some of its tiniest components, and that we have not yet begun to imagine what it means to be "intelligent."
  • I believe in trying new foods.
  • I believe that moderation in most things is a good rule of thumb.
  • I believe in dead relatives, old friends, and history books.
  • I believe that hands are the other windows to the soul.
  • I believe in the saving power of doubt.
  • I believe we're overdue for a religious revolution.
  • I believe that freedom and discipline are equally necessary.
  • I believe that we are as young as our spines are flexible.

Thanks for coming along! Best wishes. Shantih Shantih Shantih.


Who Decides if a person is White?

This seems like it isn't a joke... CLICK HERE to watch it. I can't find anything on the internet "about" it. You'll have to watch for yourself.

There's a shorter version of the same experiment -- known as the Counter-Move 6 Experiment.

It seems like it could be interesting, or it seems like it could be a waste of time. Or it seems like it could be something somewhere between obfuscation and poison. I honestly can't tell. In any case, if it is an "experiment," I'm not sure what's being tested. Here's another example of the same sort of "experiment."

If you get hooked on this like me, this website seems to be the source. Holler back.


F*ck Jesse Jackson 'cause it ain't about race now

I watched Katt Williams' new stand-up special last night, It's Pimpin' Pimpin'. Earlier that day someone or something had called my attention to 2 Timothy 3:12:

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Read that a couple times, then watch Katt Williams speak about keeping it real and "haters" around the 4:30 mark in the clip below. See if you can wonder what I wonder:


The One-State Solution

In America, we are black and white, but all American... Muammar Qaddafi suggests that Israelis and Palestinians should be able to do the same: The One-State Solution.

I like it. Last week, in a message to a facebook friend, I wrote:
Some day, someone will realize that we could have world peace if America, France, Japan, and India marched their armies into Jerusalem asserting themselves through military dominance and declared the city once and for all an eternally open and democratic city-of-the-world. If you want to make it happen, I'll take your seat in heaven.

I'm a little ridiculous, but I'm also a genius, right? Then again, I don't like it... the impulse to gather everyone under one banner is dangerous and scary, to anyone who has read either Derrida or Revelation.

Drop Tacitus!

Now that at least one of my four readers is coming around, I'm motivated to begin anew on the timeless questions.

In my favorite book ever, Herman Melville's The Confidence-Man, in chapter 5, titled, "THE MAN WITH THE WEED MAKES IT AN EVEN QUESTION WHETHER HE BE A GREAT SAGE OR A GREAT SIMPLETON," the elusive con-man of the title sets his sights on a college sophomore who he sees leaning over the railing of the river boat, holding a copy of Tacitus (in Greek!).

The con-man begins his work:
"Pray, now my young friend, what volume have you there? Give me leave," gently drawing it from him. "Tacitus!" Then opening at random, read: "In general a black and shameful period lies before me." "Dear young sir," touching his arm alarmedly, "don't read this book. It is poison, moral poison. Even were there truth in Tacitus, such truth would have the operation of falsity, and so still be poison, moral poison. Too well I know this Tacitus. In my college-days he came near souring me into cynicism. Yes, I began to turn down my collar, and go about with a disdainfully joyless expression."

And later, "Without confidence himself, Tacitus destroys it in all his readers." If you don't understand how that kind of unringing undorsement can pique someone's (a sophomore's?) interest, you won't understand where I'm headed here...

My interest spurred by Melville's con-man's admonishings, I picked up Tacitus' Annals last year, determined to find this dreadful lack of confidence. All I found was this:
Agrippina's (Nero's mother & sister to Caligula) seductiveness was a help. Visiting her uncle frequently - ostensibly as a close relation - she tempted him into giving her the preference and into treating her, in anticipation, as his wife. Once sure of her marriage, she enlarged the scope of her plans and devoted herself to scheming for her son [Nero]...

Did anyone spot Tacitus' legendary lack of confidence? A clue: Wallace Stevens knew of it:
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.


Next Question

I was going to do another post about "race" in America, race relations, justice, etc. It started this way:

"I'm sorry about slavery."

What does that statement mean? If I white person were to say it to a black person in America, could it possibly be offensive? Does it matter if the white person is acquainted with the black person? Is it like saying to someone who has stubbed their toe, "Sorry you stubbed your toe?" Or is it like saying to someone you've bumped into inconsiderately, "Sorry about bumping into you?" Or is it like saying to someone whose child you ran over while drunk driving, "Sorry I ran your child over while drunk driving?"

But I've decided that I'm through with it for a while, especially on my blog. Today I feel that I have not heard an earnest word spoken about race in my entire life -- least of all in academic discourse. It is a failed game of accusation and unapologetic refusal, or of innuendo and self-flagellation, or of grace and misunderstanding. I'm moving on until someone says something I need to hear.


What if the Mightiest Word is Love?

A swampy malaise is settling over me -- I'm depressed and ill-tempered, uncomfortable in silence. I know that all of this is the direct result of Barack Obama taking office.

We sat in an office together, or stood in a kitchen together, drinking, or sharing dinner, agreeing, "Bush is an idiot." Or one-upping: "He's an illiterate cowboy." "...and a war-criminal." We clinked glasses and agreed, with a spark of hope in our eyes. I was convinced America could do better; you were convined the Democrats could win again. We agreed and enjoyed an unsparing round of criticism directed at President Bush.

Then you must feel wonderful, now. Your wildest political dreams perfectly satisfied. I am trying to stay agreeable--after all, I don't want to ruin dinner. I'm still clinking glasses, but after dinner I am likely to bite my tongue a little, suspicious that you've traded in a perfectly good set of critical eyes for a pair of slinky-goggles with spiraling irises.

It would be an exaggeration--and in poor taste--to say that I'm "haunted" by the notion that America can still do better. The experience of this malaise is not so intellectually neat. After the dinner party, I find myself wondering how long you supported Bush after his first inauguration... almost 80% of you can boast "for some time," at least. And I think I can match that; I think I can hold this malaise in its potential-energy phase, unspoken and so unnamed. Maybe there's nothing there at all--

But I have asked, in good faith, how I will recognize injustice or error or shortcoming, and tonight I know: when this unnamed potential springs kinetic, and when I am able to give it a name...

A mild yoke, it is, indeed.

Education & "Determined Inutility"

Holy cats, this is an important article.

Reflections on Race and American History

Yesterday, to celebrate MLK-day, I visited Charlotte's Levine Museum of the New South. They had two temporary exhibits up: one about domestic servitude in the reconstruction era and one about the integration of schools in America. It was part heartwarming, part heartbreaking, to hear a black man explain to his 7-year old daughter that "when grandma was your age she couldn't go to the same schools as people who looked different than we do. Now you can go to school with kids who look different than you -- that's way better, isn't it?"

As I was looking at one of the permanent pieces on display -- a political ad from 1950 for a North Carolina senator (or congressman) who asked, apparently rhetorically, "Do you want Negroes sharing the same transportation with your wife and children? Do you want Negroes in your churches? Do you want Negroes to shop at the same stores you do?" etc. -- as I was looking at the advertisement, I was struck by one of those flashes of clarity that almost allows you to see the heaping pile of absurdity (American racism) in all its inglory.

What struck me most was this: the exhibits seem to urge (allow?) over and over again a single, too safe, emotional response: "How horrible. How could they?" So the viewer remains distant, and the exhibit remains essentially unmoving, insofar as the viewer believes that he or she would have been on the side of justice if they had been around "back then."

But the unsettling truth is that whatever positions-of-justice I have taken in my lifetime have been, more or less, consensus positions. I can give myself no credit for supporting a political position because by the time something is recognizably political, there is at least a sizeable minority. I have never been the first in my neighborhood to oppose an injustice. Why should I let myself believe that, if I were 30-years old in 1940 in North Carolina, I would have been on the side of civil rights and racial integration when almost no one else in my county was? The question that the displays should try to elicit should be: "How could I?"

It is easy to look now at displays detailing the injustices of the Jim Crow era and shake one's head, detached, off the hook. But now did not exist then.

It is a terrible thing to know that I probably would have been just like all of the other white people of that time and place -- it causes me to pause and wonder about what injustice I am blind to in 2009. I sit and search and sit and stare blankly -- the only injustice I can see is the injustice I can see.

But there is an incredibly subtle dual moral movement here: as I imagine myself passively accepting the injustices of 1940, my estimation of my moral-self crashes. But as I sit here in 2009, genuinely trying to see some injustice in the world of 2009 that is not already on my radar, I can imagine someone in 1940 sitting in an office earnestly wondering what social injustice he might be sanctioning by his blindness, unable to see Jim Crow.

We incline to imagine that people in 1940 had our consciences--we think, "No, they knew that Jim Crow was injustice"--and that the only difference between us and them is that we are better at obeying our inner-moral compass. It is not so: as I see & imagine myself on the heaping pile of inglory, I allow some of the ghosts of the past a moment of... not forgiveness... something more like sympathy, or understanding. In the wake of this flood of thoughts, I feel both an increasing moral seriousness (in 2009) and a kind of spiritual regeneration, or liberation (in 1940).

If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles, I guess.


But sometimes it is the critic who counts...

When I was in high school, my dad encouraged me to memorize this famous excerpt from a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt in 1910 at the Sorbonne in Paris:

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those timid and cold souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.
I must have been fifteen then -- a sophomore. I don't remember any specifics, but I'm guessing this was my dad's way of telling me to "cool it" with the criticizing. Among my dad's other favorite pearls:
  • Persistence and determination alone, are all that matter (the original was "Persistence and determination alone, are omnipotent," but I learned this one at age 9, and dad must've figured that was a pretentious word). --Calvin Coolidge
  • Whiners and complainers are a detriment to society. --source unknown, possibly an original
  • Look, if you're facing a difficult decision, just ask yourself, "Is it the right thing to do, or not?" --certainly an original
  • We'll just outwork'em. --also an original

Small wonder, then, that I grew up to have a low tolerance for criticism... I suppose the only surprise is that I happen to be a critic-by-profession myself. And certainly there's some Freudian psycho-babble that accounts for that apparent act of rebellion.

Of course, as my title suggests, I've learned to believe that, sometimes, it is the critic who counts ("Hey, we should stop waterboarding people, stop bombing civilians, start helping hurricane victims sooner, and let people fuck & marry who they want to!). But I have simultaneously taken care to nurture an ongoing interest in the epistemology of the process of criticism: rather than "simply" asking what is wrong or right about a certain act or artistic production, I bother myself with questions about precisely how I know that criticism is warranted. In this way, I have assured myself that even if I am a critic by trade, I'm not only a critic... I try to be a critic who is slow-on-the-draw with his red ink and commentary. Talk about a sure way to repel a potential readership.

Here's the point: I admit that when I was 15, a sophomore, I thought memorizing Roosevelt's speech was simply something to do -- I didn't wonder at all why my dad suggested I memorize anything at all, not to mention this excerpt in particular. A lifetime later, I suspect my dad was prescribing just the medicine he thought I needed at the time. Or maybe he was prescribing just the medicine I needed at the time. Question: What do I (or "society") gain, if anything, when I willfully refrain from criticism? Was my dad just sick of hearing me talk?--or was his advice wise and useful?

In my twenties I developed the habit (literally!) of biting my tongue. Is it a bad psycho-symbological habit?


Baby Steps...

The NY Times' latest article on Race relations in America ends as weirdly as I've seen an article end in recent memory:
On the morning after the election, Kristin Rothballer, 36, who lives in San Francisco, kissed her female partner goodbye on the train while commuting to work. A black woman who sat down next to her turned and said she was sorry that Proposition 8, the amendment to ban gay marriage in the state, looked like it was going to pass.

“We grabbed hands,” Ms. Rothballer recalled. “And I said, ‘Well, I really want to congratulate you because we have a black president and that’s amazing.’ ”

“Our conversation then almost became about the fact that we were having the conversation,” she said.

Something moved her to apologize to the black woman for slavery.

“For two strangers riding a train to Oakland to have that conversation about race, it wouldn’t have been possible if Obama hadn’t been elected,” she said. “I always felt open with my colleagues, but to say to a stranger on the train, ‘Hey, I’m sorry about slavery,’ that just doesn’t happen.”

I... don't get it. I can't think of anything more awkward than walking up to a gay person and saying, "Hey, sorry about Prop. 8." Unless it's walking up to a black person and saying, "Hey, congratulations on Barack's election." Mind you, that's how the whole article ends... no commentary or guidance about whether I should start apologizing to black people I see on the sidewalk for slavery. Is that what they're doing in San Fransisco now? Weird.


Re: Bizarro-Jesus

The New York Times did an unnecessary piece on "the cussing pastor" (I hate him already), Mark Driscoll. Unable to stop myself before it was too late, I read his wikipedia page, focusing on the quotes near the bottom. Here's one fine example:

Some emergent types recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.
That's exactly the problem, in my view. I can't think of a better summary of what I don't believe than this little paragraph... [Insert ironic take on Bruce Willis in Die Hard vs. Jesus here for good measure.]

Now View This...

Niall Ferguson, author of the newly released book The Ascent of Money, and participant in my favorite PBS series of all-time, Commanding Heights, has put together a two-hour program for PBS with the same title as his new book. I've only watched about half of the program so far, but I already recommend it even if the second half features Prof. Ferguson twiddling his thumbs in the dark in silent meditation. Watch it all online now.

Recommended especially: Ferguson's linguistic analysis of the word "credit" around 5:40 into part two, "Trust." From the Latin root credo, meaning "I believe."

Israeli Exceptionalism

Probably for good reason, I feel compelled to speak/write more delicately about Jews, Jewishness, and Israel than I do when speaking about... anybody else. I suspect I'm not alone. And, again, I'm not necessarily saying we shouldn't collectively speak with more consideration when it comes to Jewish people.

However, sometimes "delicate" doesn't do the trick. In my view, it's time to separate theology and politics a little in the name of Justice: Israel is a military force, and whether they are justified by the political situation or not, they have been using statistically "disproportionate" force in Gaza in recent weeks (nearly 1,000 dead Palestinians).

Theologically (or "culturally?"), Jewish people believe that they are in a singular relationship with G-d that persists regardless of worldly actions. When not in possession of political and military power, there is little danger in this belief... see Wade Davis' TED Talk on the beliefs some Sierra Nevada Indians who believe their prayers alone keep the world from falling apart.

But when this "exceptionalist" belief is reinforced by military might, I start to wonder: are G-d's people still G-d's people if they have the biggest guns? Is Israeli Exceptionalism a reality, or a phantom?

Other questions: can a person be anti-Israel without being anti-semitic? Who in the Middle-East are "the least among us?" Is Ahmadinejad's "wiping Israel off the map" the same thing as "another holocaust?" Are these leading questions?--unjust questions?--uninformed questions?


Mine went for a pint of Bacardi Light Rum

Proving once again that liberal arts students know little or nothing about basic laws of supply or demand...

Did you see the story about the girl--the women's studies major--who is auctioning off her virginity to the highest bidder? It's a stupid gag as far as I'm concerned, but there's a perfectly crystallized lesson in economics in what the girl says at the end of this article:
"I think me and the person I do it with will both profit greatly from the deal." She added: "It's shocking that men will pay so much for someone's virginity, which isn't even prized so highly anymore."

So far, the highest bid is $3.7 million. I know there are a lot of women who'd like to think that virginity isn't highly prized anymore... and a lot of men who genuinely don't prize it that highly anymore. But the market is the best indicator: a young-woman's virginity in 2009 (this young woman's) goes for $3,700,000. In certain circles, virginity is prized precisely as high as this bid makes it look -- or else the bid wouldn't have gone that high! Of course, that number could indicate a lack of supply instead of an intense demand. :)

Also, I'm not sure what the hell she's talking about when she says "me and the person I do it with will both profit greatly from the deal..." All he gets is a loss of almost four million bucks and some probably-lousy sex with a girl who couldn't possibly know what she's doing.


For the LORD spoke unto Tyler

I know Fight Club became something of a cliché for a while, and I can speak only for myself: but it was a pretty representative film for me... and for many in my generation. Ten years later, looking back on Tyler's famous speech is a real treat:

"We have no great war; no great depression..."

It's amazing what a bunch of twenty-somethings can accomplish if you give them ten years, isn't it?


Passing Thought

I'm wondering how we first recognize a symbol in fiction... Like, at what specific point, as a reader, do you say, "Ah, that black veil is not just a simple black veil; it seems the author wants us to associate it with difficulties in communication, or secret sin, or death, etc.?" And why?--is it something about how the object presents itself relative to the "unsymbolic" setting?

I suspect that understanding the mechanics of this pattern may teach me something about how we recognize "synchronicity" or revelation (or whatever) in real life. Here's a picture of a book that I own called "Symbolism," which I just looked at strangely, as if seeing it for the first time:

When I saw it, I was in my wife's bathroom, thinking about using my computer. So if I were "reading" my life at that point, would this be an interesting moment to underline? To think more about? Would it help, for example, to know who gave me the book? Or why it's there and not on a shelf? Or that the portrait on the cover is Venus Verticordia, by Dante Rossetti? Is it significant that the book-cover doesn't show the woman's breasts, but the original painting did? Is it significant that I have looked incuriously at the book since it's been there a dozen times before seeing it this time, from the bathroom twenty feet away? Could this somehow be a key scene in the novel of my life? Or not?

In other words, is there some revelation in the fact of that book? Would I have noticed it if there weren't? Am I "over-reading," and if so, what is the danger in that?

So, new topic: what is this thing we think we know so well--symbolism--and how does it work?

Update/Correction: the book jacket does show the woman's breast (only one of them), including the nipple. Is it significant that I missed that on first glance?



[Inaudible stretching]... I'm bored with this.


Humanity in the Age of Aquarius

When a friends says...
i'm not all that sold on gov't health care. it'll still be the rich who get the best care. and the poor will still rely more on emergency care and they won't be able to afford the same level of preventive.
...and it makes me feel as if I've convinced him of something, maybe I need to reconsider what I'm trying to convince people of. The debate is superficially about economics and government intervention, etc. But there is an underlying assumption that is more difficult to address -- approximately, it has to do with whether we believe human nature is fixed or changeable.

But this isn't a question of individual human nature: I am a fundamentalist when it comes to the question of whether individuals can change -- I wholeheartedly believe they can. Indeed, the belief in the possibility of change at the individual level feels to me almost like the bedrock of my world view. But when it comes to GDP and international economics, we are asking whether "we all" can transcend our ancient natures enough to escape from the heirarchical nature of our social structures: that is, can the rich stop being entitled and the poor stop being trampled? Read about the "New Socialist Man."

I watched an awesome documentary about "The Story of India" the other night, and it was nice to get a visual refresher-course on something I hadn't thought much about since elementary school: the caste system. They interviewed one of the "untouchables," and I was surprised to hear in the interviewee's voice absolutely no trace of resentment or hopelessness; instead, total acceptance marked his face. In fact, the "untouchable" took some pride in the fact that even the Prime Minister would rely on a lowly untouchable when it comes to committing his body to cremation and the afterlife.

Total acceptance of our "station" in life. It's such a foreign concept. I remember the way it was taught in elementary school: "Look at how barbaric the Indians are, children -- aren't you lucky to be in America, where anyone can become the president?" Kind of, I guess...

Is it irresponsible to imagine a civilization in which the poorest citizens simply and almost-happily accept the fact that they will never have access to the quality of healthcare that others will? Can we turn our back on the concept of equality without turning our back on the notion of Justice?

I'm really not sure. But I like how it makes me wonder--


People About Whom People Should Know

In a tie with Niall Ferguson, my favorite contemporary academic historian to make a successful mainstream crossover is Victor Davis Hanson. They're both considered conservatives by academics; I'm not sure what that means, but I heartily approve of both gentlemen.

Judge for yourself: Hanson's latest piece is an excellent defense of Classical education (this one's for you, Santos). Ferguson's book, The Ascent of Money (Fenhop), was recently the topic of conversation on C-Span's Book TV's After Words program: Here's a link.

And maybe best of all, click here to watch V.D. Hanson talk about "Where the University Went Wrong." [I tried to embed this, but it didn't work right -- apologies]

And what the hell?--how about one for Mxrk: This guy is a senator (finally!!!).


"But aren't it all a sham?"

Over break, due to some peculiar circumstances, I had a lot of time to think about this sentence:
Only a Christ could have conceived a Christ.
It comes from Joseph Parker, from a book titled Ecce Deus (1867). I found it in a book of collected wisdom and aphorisms. I deduced that Parker was suggesting that it hardly matters whether the story of Jesus is a true history or a fabrication. Here's the extended quote, which did not appear in the book of wisdom and aphorisms:
It is an affront to common sense that it is an imaginary sketch; but even if it be, what then? The problem is not solved; for as only a poet can write a poem, so only a Christ could have conceived a Christ.
I guess I think Parker's making a good point here. Can we imagine psychological depths & heights that we have not plumbed or scaled ourself? The other day I asked my wife, a poet, why she never writes about herself. She replied, "Everything I write is about me--how could it be otherwise?"

So maybe we imagine a 1st-century writing contest where the writer of the Q-Gospel dreamed the whole story of Jesus up. It certainly shifts our focus (from the "character" to the author), but would it diminish our wonder?


I'm Back

Sometimes when I'm driving around in New England, I think other people might like it -- but then I remember how strong the influence of Tom Petty can be.

I just spent 14 full days without ever being apart from my wife, driving more than 2,200 miles, from Charlotte, NC, to Saginaw, MI, to Providence, RI... by the time I got home, I lost the concept of "home" altogether.

But, as Twain said, a touch romantically, "Wheresoever she [my wife] was, there was Eden."

Predictions for 2009:

  • The Dow Jones index will close Dec. 31st of '09 below 9000.
  • You'll hear more about the IMF, "Breton Woods," and the apocalypse.
  • A major hurricane will wipe Kanye West off the map.
  • The pattern of Global Cooling will continue (the pattern that began in 1998).
  • Bailouts and government initiatives will rise to 2 trillion dollars.
  • Unemployment will rise to 8% +.
  • In the world of fashion: patches on clothing will be in style (remember '83?).
  • More organic, more vegan, more raw -- less fast food.
  • A problem with Russia.
  • Some kind of pro-marijuana rally.
  • Obama will prove boring, but "safe."
  • French "youth" will be fun to watch this summer.
  • Economic-conservatives unofficially split with Moralist-Republicans.
  • Most overused word: authentic.
  • Oscar goes to: Doubt
  • New York Yankees: lose in ALCS
  • Resurgence of Pin-up girls