Monday, November 28, 2011

What is faith?

“You’ve just got to have faith.”

“Just believe.”

These and similar phrases are often thrown about within Christianity. These statements assume that in many ways faith is opposed to reason, logic, science. Rightly, critics criticize Christianity (or at the very least its more public and vocal front) for its anti-intellectualism.

I don’t buy into that.

I believe faith is a logical extension of what can be experienced and reasoned.

A few days ago I watched The Fabric of the Cosmos: Universe or Multiverse? on PBS. The gist of the program was about whether or not our universe is singular or not. Scientists line up on both sides of the issue because the existence or non-existence of the multiverse cannot be empirically tested. There are multiple pieces of evidence that point toward its existence, however, and its existence would in turn explain many of the observed mysteries about our universe.

Towards the end of the program it discussed the role of mathematics: mathematics has often served as a predictor of scientific realities when those realities at the time could not be tested empirically. Many times these mathematic predictions contradict accepted science of the day but are later found to be true.

Some may choose to disagree, but I believe religious faith is similar to mathematics described in the preceding paragraph. Faith is never a leap beyond reason and logic, it is never wishful thinking, but an extension of reality. It integrates what is known and what has been experienced to project a future reality that is based firmly on the past. Just as mathematics models what is already known, and through those models discovers new realities, faith models what is already known and through it projects what the greater, unseen reality ought to be.

That is what I believe Hebrews 11 to be saying to us as it opens, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (ESV)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

This year’s Thanksgiving was different from previous years in at least one way: Shelley is no longer home. Because it costs so much and the holiday is so short, it didn’t make any sense for her to come home. Thus it was the three of us remaining plus a couple of friends that celebrated Thanksgiving together.

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In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, Petersburg found itself under thick blankets of snow. After the first dump I spent quite some time digging the driveway out while Elise shoveled the path to the back of the house and cleared off the deck. It didn’t stay that way for very long as the second large snowfall came not too long afterwards on Thanksgiving morning. I was going to be busy and Elise didn’t want to shovel. She saw our neighbor plowing with his 4-wheeler so she gave him some money to have him clear out our driveway.

This year’s Thanksgiving dinner menu was -

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The day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday for much of the rest of the country. There wasn’t much black about Petersburg though. We have no malls, no crowds, and no one attacked anyone else with pepper spray.

I had a “50% off any regularly priced item $50 or less” coupon at TrueValue and searched the store for something close to $50 that I needed or wanted. I found some toys but they were just over $50. There was nothing in the kitchenware section that caught my eye that fit the criteria. I finally found a Black & Decker corded Dustbuster with a hair-removal attachment meant to be used for pet hair. Since all such attachments for our current vacuums no longer seem to function, I figured it fit the “need” category. I also picked up a set of plastic food storage containers that were on sale.

I wandered about the town and stopped in at Lee’s Clothing where I tried on some Nordic sweaters. Now you have to realize that these things run well over $200 at regular prices, thus not making them a casual purchase. However, they were 20% off on Friday and Saturday. I’ve been in Petersburg now for over five years and I still didn’t have a Nordic sweater. It may not seem that important but it is kind of like formal wear here. It can be worn to church, to weddings, to funerals, and to public functions. With the Oxford Caroler performances coming up (in which I’ll be singing for the second year), the sweater moved into the “need” category. As an added incentive I had signed up my American Express card for Small Business Saturday’s $25 credit offer. I found one sweater that I liked but needed to wait until the next day to make the purchase.

Click for product page

Trading Union had coupon offers this week as well. For each $10 spent there was a coupon for a free item: laundry detergent, first pound of ground beef, 1/2 gallon milk, 3# apples. I spent a bit over $30 and got the detergent, beef, and milk.

Friday evening was the traditional festival of lights parade and tree lighting ceremony. The weather cooperated nicely: not too cold and no rain or snow. There was a great turnout of people – much more than on some years when it was wet and soggy.

Late Saturday afternoon after collecting the mail at the Post Office I went back to Lee’s Clothing where I purchased the Nordic sweater I had picked out.

Me in Nordic sweater

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Perspective: Once Upon a Time vs. Grimm

I’ve now watched all currently broadcast episodes: that is three for Once Upon a Time (OUaT) and two for Grimm.

My impressions after watching the first episode of each was that I preferred OUaT over Grimm. After watching what is available up to now, my impression remains the same. Why is that?

A few days ago our younger daughter mentioned something about character-driven vs. action-driven plots in regards to writing a novel. That got me thinking about these two TV shows. Both have a similar point of origin: take fairytale and fantasy characters, place them in the modern world and develop stories around them. But the two shows couldn’t be any similar beyond that point.

In OUaT the characters suffer a curse, cast by the Evil Queen, in their home world and are dumped into a small town of Storybrooke in Maine. Their memories of their pasts are forgotten, and it is going to take the daughter, Emma (who knows nothing of the curse), of Prince Charming and Snow White to break the curse. The story contains action (mostly in the fantasy world), certainly, but that is not the primary focus. The focus is on how these characters interact with one another and grow. The interactions between the protagonist, Emma, and the antagonist, Regina (mayor, formerly the Evil Queen) primarily push the plot forward.

Grimm is a detective drama set in Portland, Oregon. It would be an ordinary crime-fighting drama except for the twist that characters from Grimm’s Fairy Tales are alive and well in the present day world, and most of them are not nice. It is up to the descendants of the Grimm family to destroy these evil creatures. Nick, the protagonist and detective, is one of them. At the opening of the series he does not know this, and only slowly begins to accept that he is different. Nick’s character develops as he responds to the surprises and challenges thrown at him. Nearly all of the antagonists exist for just a single episode, to fulfill parts required by the action. The only antagonists that have appeared in both episodes so far, and only briefly, are the shadowy Police Captain Renard and a hag.

OUaT seems to better fit the character-driven story while Grimm is more an action-driven one. OUaT feels innovative and new whereas Grimm seems more a reinvention of a standard crime-suspense drama.

My personal taste apparently runs toward character-driven stories. Of all the Star Trek TV series, I preferred Deep Space Nine because the characters really grew and fleshed out over the seven seasons. My favorite series was Babylon 5, again because it was about the characters and their interactions.

Or maybe because I’m Japanese and have been raised on and exposed to character-driven dramas. NHK’s Sunday evening epic historical-fiction dramas would be a prime example. A single series runs weekly for a year. Everyone knows the story already so it is definitely about the characters, often minor ones that are given life through the series. NHK also airs a series that runs 15-minutes a day, Monday through Saturday, for six months per series. There can’t be much action that takes place in 15 minutes (actually less because there is intro and closing), so again it is about the characters.

The point of my rambling is to report that both OUaT and Grimm are worth watching, depending on your tastes. I personally hope that OUaT is picked up for the rest of the season and gets additional ones, unlike so many ABC series of late.