Friday, 29 January 2010

7 Quick Takes (XXVII)

1. My life is a bit of a paradox. I say that I am fascinated by different religious traditions and that I like to hear other people talk about their faith, as different as it might be from mine. But in the end I pretty much only read about other beliefs. I visited a mosque once and I talk to atheists and agnostics and secularists a fair bit, but pretty much all I ever hear from them is denial of religious tenents, rather than affirmation of something positive. I should emphasize that all I ever hear is the denial; it's more than possible that they affirm all sorts of things and I'm just not terribly good at listening. It's probably a balance of the two.

So what do I do when people of another faith come to me to talk?

On Saturday, two Jehova's Witnesses came to our door. I am used to this. One of the pair that visited this past week, named Esther, has visited about three times before. When I lived in Sebringville I would often speak with a particular woman who came to our door. It was easier then, however, because she would only come in the summer when I was happy to stand outside and talk. It is rather cold to do that here. I will do this, talk. I will generally affirm or pause to consider most of what they say. After all, their opening statements are generally not very disparate from orthodox Christian teachings and I am not very good at disagreeing with strangers, especially if I'm not forced to give a bald-faced lie. But I feel like I have some obligation to tell them that I am not going to convert. Do I say to them, "Look, I go to church. I serve at church. I'm an acolyte. If your sole object in coming here is to convert me, then you are wasting your time."? I don't really want to scare them away, though. I think I do want to talk to them about their faith, but how do I do that honestly? The answer, likely, is just that: be honest.

Esther implied she'd be by in a week, which at this point means sometime tomorrow. I could conveniently arrange to be out of the house at noon so I can have another week to consider it. I don't know.

2. Sunday, for the first time in a long time, I was in the congregation again. We are reading, in conjunction with services, The Purpose-Driven Life, by Rick Warren. I admit that I am hesitant about celebrity-preachers. They seem too glossy for me. They are also often too controverial. I did a little research on this Rick Warren guy. He doesn't seem too bad--he's no Pat Robertson, for instance--but there are still a few things I'm worried about. We all have our warts, but somehow they look worse on celebrity Christians. I fear that they do more damage than good. Of course, there are exceptions: the dead ones, like St. Paul or Martin Luther or Deitriech Bonhoeffer or C. S. Lewis have a particular limit to how damaging their warts can be, and the self-effacing every(wo)man Christians who have come to celebrity indirectly, like Jennifer Fulwiler, display their warts endearingly. But those mega-preachers... they worry me. I'm not sure how much of this hesitation comes from our secular culture and how much of it is legitimate, though.

I should say that I'm reading The Purpose-Driven Life not antagonistically, but critically. So far, I have very little to complain about, but there are a few things that I disagree with or that I think aren't quite playing fair. He's not nearly as sloppy as Dawkins in The God Delusion, but a few of Warren's logical prestidigitations are of the same category, if not caliber. For instance, quoting an atheist as saying something to the effect of, "Without God, life has no meaning," does not mean that you've established that fact beyond reproach. It means that one atheist agrees with you on this one.

3. I finished my grad school applications this week. Now I wait. I hope it all works out. My greatest fear is often that I did the paperwork wrong and that I'll ruin my future because of a technicality. According to Northrop Frye, such a concept belongs most naturally in a comedy, though these days I think you'd see it in a satire. Perhaps this is why you don't see such strong comedies any more, except in out of the way places like the Drayton Theatre stage. (Drayton has some excellent comedies, by the way.)

I don't think I'll make it to seven this week, folks.

4. I heard from an insider that UBC's MFA program has made its admissions decisions. She also told me that they are very slow in getting the word out, though, so I may not hear one way or the other for a while.

I am worried about this, to be frank. I don't feel that my portfolio is particularly strong. I may have mentioned this already. I was encouraged to not choose fiction as my top two choices, since everyone chooses those and it drastically reduces your odds of getting in. So I went Children's Lit, Fiction, and Non-Fiction, in that order. However, I have no Children's Lit material, so I had to write 15 pages from scratch. Now, in the committee's first round of admissions decisions, they only look at your first choice. If you make it through that round, they then read the rest of your portfolio, and cut more people from there. My first choice was Children's Lit, and this was also the weakest (so I think) part of my portfolio. If I made it into the second round, I think my portfolio just might be strong enough. But I'm not confident that I did get into that round. In retrospect, I ought to have gone with Fiction, Children's Lit, and Non-Fiction. That, however, is in the past.

And I think that if I don't get in, I will be more upset by the rejection than the fact that I didn't get into the program. Don't get me wrong: I want to get in. But disappointment I can handle. Rejection, though...

5. I now have time to write, and I think I'm ready to get into it. I have an idea for a novel (again), and I'm afraid it's a little too odd for your average reading audience, but it's not odd for no reason at all. I am working with a purpose, here. And certainly odder things have hit book shelves, and some of them sort of along the same lines. I wouldn't compare what I plan to write directly with Half Life by Shelley Jackson, especially not in style or tone, but I think that this book has been at the very least published is an indication that what I'm interested in writing isn't too outlandish to get on the bookshelves. I intend to be cagey and silent on what it is I'm writing, though. Don't bother asking too much.

6. I also plan to write something for NorthWord. That's not the one based in BC, with the same name; I mean the one focusing on northern Canada. It will just be a short piece, and I'll submit it and see whether they accept it. You don't get paid for submissions, I don't think, but it'll be another publication, and I want to support northern Canada literature. Contributing to NorthWord seems like a small way of doing just that.

7. This past week I read Deception Point by Dan Brown. I was disappointed with his treatment of Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic. In particular, I thought it strange that he didn't bother to mention it. NASA is gallivanting all over Ellesmere Island, making discoveries of titanic scientific importance, and then keeping them secret until they are ready to announce them, and not once does anyone mention that this is all happening on Canadian soil. Why does NASA get to lead these expeditions, and how can the US publically announce these discoveries, made within Canadian sovereignty and without Canadian knowledge, without receiving international criticism? Probably because, in the universe of Dan Brown, Canada doesn't exist except as a producer of unpatriotic beer, the Newfoundland coast, and a red-shirt geologist. (These are literally the only times the word "Canada" shows up.)

I would just put this all down to Dan Brown's repeated attempts to break for the fence dividing truth from wild fantasy, if it were not for the fact that there are unresolved sovereignty issues in the Canadian Arctic. The only differences are that, in Deception Point, there is no foreign criticism and the American institutions are more clearly in the wrong.

American readers, please inform me: what does your average US citizen think about Canadian sovereignty? Does your average US citizen think about Canadian sovereignty? Politically-aware Canadians, for the record, think about foreign countries' sovereignties all the time. (The not-so-politically-aware Canadians likely do not.)

As always, check out 7 Quick Takes' host at Conversion Diary.

1 comment:

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

Re: #5 - best of luck with the writing! And I apologize that I forgot to mention you as one of our regular guy 7QT participants. I was really, really tired when I wrote that post. :)

Have a great weekend!

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