Spritzophrenia

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Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

Optimism Doesn’t Work. Voltaire’s Candide.

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 26, 2012

Christmas is a low stress affair in my family. We don’t give gifts to adults any more, so the frantic “What-on-earth-do-I-get-X?” is removed from the holiday. One of the few gifts I did receive is a new translation of Voltaire’s satire Candide, subtitled “Optimism” (published in 1761). I’ve never read it, and it turns out to be very enjoyable and full of surprises.

For example, Candide is a young man. I’d always assumed the hero(ine) was a woman. The name equates to “white”, and by implication, “innocent”. Candide is indeed somewhat of an innocent, being convinced that his tutor Proffessor Panglosse is the greatest philosopher in the world, and that Panglosse has proven beyond doubt that this world is “the best of all possible worlds”. I first came across the idea of the best of all possible worlds when I was studying the problem of evil, and it appears this kind of thing was being promoted in Voltaire’s day – perhaps by Leibniz? More on this below.

Another surprise for me, is that Voltaire’s real name was Francois-Marie Arouet. He published under 178 pseudonyms during his life, but Voltaire was his preferred name, an anagram of “AROVET LI,” the Latinized spelling of his surname, Arouet, and the initial letters of “le jeune” (“the younger”). The adoption of the name “Voltaire” following his incarceration at the Bastille is seen by many to mark Voltaire’s formal separation from his family name and his past. The name also conveys connotations of speed and daring, and you can refer to Wikipedia for the rest.

existence

Also surprising is how enjoyable Candide is, if an adventure that features rape, hideous floggings, disease and numerous disasters can be enjoyed. In parts it reminded me very much of Monty Python.

From the translators introduction:”The word optimism, first used in print in 1737, represents a philosophical position, a claim that in spite of errors and appearances God’s creation is as good as it could be.”

God, being perfect, can only create perfect things. Ergo, this world must be perfect. In Candide, the entire book is a series of misfortunes which poke fun at this idea. I once read something by evangelical philosopher Norman Geisler, who said this world is clearly not the best of all possible worlds. However, he claims, this world is the best WAY to the best world. In other words, he believes that the sufferings and misfortunes of this world are permissible (or perhaps necessary) in order to achieve the best world. Putting it another way, the horrors of this lifetime do have either some purpose (eg, *some* suffering may improve one’s character) or some necessity (eg God cannot make a consistent physical world without allowing the possibility of drowning or falling). Geisler lists a number of explanations for evil and emphasises that each one only covers *some* aspect of suffering; there is no single catch-all explanation that explains everything. However, Geisler believes that taken together, these explanations make suffering and evil understandable.

In similar vein, I picked up Timothy Keller’s The Reason for God again. For some reason, my mother now owns it. It is a good, popular exposition of the reasonableness of belief in God, specifically the Christian one. But I found his chapter on the problem of evil somewhat dissatisfying. I suppose in this world we should never become comfortable with disaster, suffering and failure and a book that makes us feel comfortable would probably be missing something. Keller is absolutely right, in my view, that the problem of evil is not proof that a good and loving God cannot exist. Where the argument from evil comes undone is that we are finite beings without full knowledge: We cannot KNOW all of God’s reasons for why things happen, therefore evil does not prove that God cannot be. Emphasis on the word “prove” there. However, while Keller is not twee, I think more acknowledgement of how shit this world can be, and sympathy for those affected by it, would improve his book. His chapter defending the church’s mistakes suffers a similar lack – he almost breezes over some of the horrors and banalities of Christianity. I think his defense is reasonable, but a little more humility would make me love him. Ah well, these books are never perfect and the appropriate bits should be added to one’s personal worldview rather than treating the whole as some kind of Bible.

Which leads me to my sister’s cancer.

I think I blogged about it over a year ago when we first discovered it. Briefly, it was pretty serious liver/colon cancer, at the point where she might not have long to live. She went through chemo and it looked successful – Hallelujah. Then the tumors came back and she had more surgery. This may have been successful (test results in the new year will tell us something), but has resulted in very painful adhesions. So she is gaunt, in regular pain, and may only have a year or two to live.

I’ve been thinking about optimism and pessimism. Since the days of Voltaire, optimism has altered in meaning and entered the common lexicon. I don’t think either pessimism or optimism can be proved. One can look at the world and see violence, disease, crime and war. This is Voltaire’s story of Candide. Or one can see beauty, charity, nurture and success. Both perspectives are true, and I think the philosophical position that can sum them up will be extremely nuanced. That’s probably why the Christian story (if it’s true) comes to us as a story, rather than a philosophy. Stories tend to be better for nuance than philosophy.

What can help is a perspective. Some of us like to claim we are “realistic”. Is this possible? Whether true or not, it’s more fun to be optimistic, but at times pessimism seems hard to deny.

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Carbon Based Lifeforms | Photosynthesis

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Posted in agnostic, hardship, personal, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

Alcohol

Posted by spritzophrenia on February 24, 2012

Instead of intimating once again that much has happened and leaving you tantalised, I shall simply write: About five weeks ago I foreswore the use of alcohol. Although there was much going on in my life at the time – I had just completed a five day festival involving drugged binges, nudity, dancing, abberation and chaos – it was not for these reasons that I decided to permanently abstain. It was more a feeling of enlightenment, a feeling that my time had come, that I was “done with alcohol”.

Annual or tri-annual weekends of excess are not unusual for me. I plan for them, I enjoy them, I become obnoxious, and I recover from them. Sleep and solitude is a wonderful therapist. The thing about alcohol is that it’s one of the few truly pleasurable drugs for the tongue. It has a palette, rather than choking your lungs or tasting like metal chalk. Due to my mental illness and my medication for such, very few illegal drugs are available to me. Hence, I have enjoyed the legal ones far too much at times. The irony of course, is that alcohol, our pre-eminent legal drug, is probably one of the more dangerous of the pack: Addictive, depressant, destructive, instigator of violence and death, destroyer of families, jobs and lives. For myself, I managed to stave off addiction although I will say that I was becoming perilously close. At the end, I was imbibing an entire bottle of wine every single day. Sometimes more. For months and months on end. It’s a testimony to my genes, my stamina and my caution that I was not sucked into the bottom of the barrel.

wine

I am glad I could give up so easily. From the moment of my decision I have not had cravings, nor had difficulty staying on the wagon. In the words of an old hymn, Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow. I confess, I have had two drinks since then. It’s part of my agreement with myself that I am allowed a glass of wine with one particular friend as it’s something of a ritual. However, the difference between a single glass per month and 7 glasses per day is palpable. And speaking of differences, if you want to lose weight – give up alcohol. The weight has been falling off me with very little effort and I now require belts to hold up trousers that were once bulging.

Alcohol is a wonderful friend. If I may borrow from a noted enthusiast, Christopher Hitchens drinks, he says, “because it makes other people less boring. I have a great terror of being bored. But I can work with or without it. It takes quite a lot to get me to slur.” Or so he says.

Elsewhere, he writes:

“Alcohol makes other people less tedious, and food less bland, and can help provide what the Greeks called entheos, or the slight buzz of inspiration when reading or writing. The only worthwhile miracle in the New Testament—the transmutation of water into wine during the wedding at Cana—is a tribute to the persistence of Hellenism in an otherwise austere Judaea. The same applies to the seder at Passover, which is obviously modeled on the Platonic symposium: questions are asked (especially of the young) while wine is circulated. No better form of sodality has ever been devised: at Oxford one was positively expected to take wine during tutorials. The tongue must be untied. It’s not a coincidence that Omar Khayyam, rebuking and ridiculing the stone-faced Iranian mullahs of his time, pointed to the value of the grape as a mockery of their joyless and sterile regime. Visiting today’s Iran, I was delighted to find that citizens made a point of defying the clerical ban on booze, keeping it in their homes for visitors even if they didn’t particularly take to it themselves, and bootlegging it with great brio and ingenuity. These small revolutions affirm the human.” ~ Christopher Hitchens in Hitch 22.

However, alcohol is also the friend who stabs you in the back. It’s probably churlish of me to suggest that Mr Hitchens’ terrible death may have been assisted by his vices. It’s likely that tobacco was the direct cause of his throat cancer. And there may be an argument for making the adage, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” the cornerstone of one’s social life. Nevertheless, a bevy of cancers, obesity, strokes, brain damage, rotting teeth and general deterioration can be laid at the feet of alcohol. For every Christopher Hitchens who can control himself, there is a Manson-esque figure who abuses his family when taken by the demon drink.

I’m not here to preach the virtues of teetotalling for others. Occasionally I do miss the flavour – non-alcoholic wines, thus far, leave something to be desired although there are a couple that may be alright once I have acquired a taste. The range of potable non-alcoholic drinks at most bars is revolting. I am developing a skill in very nice alcohol-free cocktails.

All things considered, however, I am rather enjoying a clear head and a full wallet.

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George Thoroughgood – I Drink Alone

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How to Change Subconscious Cultural Assumptions

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 16, 2011

Tena kotou katoa. Ko Jonathan Elliot taku ingoa. Kia Ora Tatou! No reira, you just had a cultural experience reading those words. Most likely it was uncomfortable or confusing. Perhaps your cultural assumptions of how one should begin an English-language blog were challenged.

We all have subconscious cultural assumptions, things that we think and say and do which are so “obvious” and common sense that we never question them. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s a universal condition of being human.

What I want to know is, how do I overcome my cultural assumptions?

I am using “culture” in a very broad sense. For example, I think men have a culture that is distinct from women. Much of it is based on our upbringing and society. Some of it is based on our purely physical differences. Because of the latter, no matter how we try, men will never truly understand the depths of being a woman – and vice versa.

A subconscious cultural assumption could be another way of describing a Foucauldian “discourse”. A discourse, simply put, is what can be said at a particular point in history. In Madness and Civilization he asks why it was possible to talk about “madmen” in the 1800s and yet now we can only talk about those who are “mentally ill”. Foucault suggests that a new type of person, the madman was actually invented when we began to talk about people in a certain way.

Maori

To illustrate a moment that questions cultural assumptions, let me quote from another of Foucault’s works, the opening to The Order of Things.

This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought – our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography – breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other. This passage quotes a ‘certain Chinese encyclopaedia’ in which it is written that ‘animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (1) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies’. In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.

So, I know I have cultural assumptions. How can I be aware of them, and perhaps change them? Here’s
what’s worked for me:

1. Admit You Have Assumptions and be Willing to Change

If you read the above, understood it and agree, you are probably already in this mindset.

2. Expose Yourself to Other Cultures

In the late 90’s I did two overseas tours as a musician/DJ. One to the USA – this wasn’t much of a culture “shock” as the US mainly speaks English (and Spanish). But there were distinct differences – I will never forget the time in smalltown Georgia where I saw a Taco Bell with a sign outside: “Hamburgers 95c – Praise the Lord”.

A second DJ tour was through South-East Asia. In Malaysia we were hosted by local Chinese families. They took us out for an amazing 9 course dinner at a street restaurant. I had always found Chinese people to be a bit “different”, I had never really felt comfortable around them. After this I realised how warm and loving these families were, how deeply they loved their kids and how generous they were. It changed my life and I have always felt deep love for Chinese people ever since.

3. Give It Time

Challenging your cultural assumptions is easy. Changing them is hard. One thing I’ve learned is that you simply have to give it time, and expose yourself to different cultures again and again. For example, when I was a teenager I had heard of this “progressive rock” band called Yes. They were supposedly very good. I went out and bought two albums (on vinyl) to see if I liked them.

At first, I wasn’t impressed. The singer had a too-high falsetto, their lyrics were a poetic mess, and they spent most of their time in interminable guitar solos and fiddly-diddly keyboard solos (Rick Wakeman was in the band at the time). But I made myself listen again. And again. And by the third listen I was beginning to “get” the music, and enjoy it. Now, many years later I’m looking forward to seeing them live for the first time ever.

It was the same experience, but more extreme when I was first exposed to drum ‘n bass in 1996, and more recently to dubstep. Now I love them both. But it took time and a willingness to persevere to understand these musical subcultures.

What about you? What other ways can you think of to help us see through our subconscious cultural assumptions?

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This post is part of the blogfest initiated by Carlos “Iggy” Shelton from Emerging Thought in Montana. If you enjoy this post, please check out the other links:

Blog Carnival: Subconscious Cultural Assumption by Emerging Thought in Montana.
Baked Ham for a Blog Carnival by Tripping and Stumbling While Following Jesus
Subconscious Cultural Assumption And “The Other” by Ben Currin on Facebook.

The Knobz | Don’t Give Me Culture This is a New Zealand post-punk song from 1981. It was written in protest of then-Prime Minister Rob Muldoon’s sales tax on records. He considered records not “cultural”.

Posted in music, personal, personal development, Sociology | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Your Opinion: My Blog and Privacy?

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 27, 2011

I’d like your advice. On my mind recently has been the question of how to handle the tension between sharing personal stuff on my blog and my professional career.

As you know, I’m embarked on an academic career, at least for now. Like many other academics, I like to share a little of what I’m learning or questioning here. It’s inevitable that my students, colleagues or people studying similar fields internationally will come across these works-in-progress eventually. That’s fine, I only see benefit in that.

However, I also like to keep this blog interesting, and at times I write quite personal stuff. See this post, for instance, where I expose my own moral failings. Also, as a teacher I need to be careful not to let my personal opinions colour my teaching too much. But my personal opinions expressed here on, say, paganism might contradict what I teach in class.

Most of you guys seem to appreciate the mix of interest, humour, personal and thoughtful I try to aim for. But is sharing personal stuff like this likely to cause me problems, either with sniggering students sharing my secrets, or snooty professors seeing an intellectual sap because I don’t just talk about “ontological empiricism”? (Family Guy quote, right there.) 1

While I’m asking, do you like the music videos I post? I do it most of the time, I’m just curious if anyone listens.

question

On a completely different note, Meal With a Muslim time is rapidly approaching. Has it been a year already? It’s also the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Maybe start thinking about who you could invite for coffee or a meal?

1. Thanks to Jared in the comments below for pointing out the correct quote. My brain remembered “ontological existentialism”, and I only saw that Family Guy episode last night. 😀

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This song has been going around and around in my head these last days. Have a listen, it’s beautiful and profound.
Lauren Hill | Forgive Them Father

Posted in personal, Sociology, Your Voice | Tagged: , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

How Do You Deal With Fear?

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 27, 2011

Fear‘s been a part of my life recently.

Actually, it comes and goes regularly but it’s only in the last few years that I’ve really noticed it and named it for what it is. “I won’t get a good mark in my studies” [fear]. “I better turn those lights off, we are spending too much money.” [fear]. “I won’t be able to sustain being a good father and partner.” [fear] “If I don’t blog/tweet/facebook people will forget about me” [fear]

Here’s a few snippets from “Effortless Mastery”, a book aimed at musicians by Kenny Werner.

Stephen Nachmanovich, in his book Free Play, writes of five fears that the Buddhists speak of that block our liberation: fear of loss of life, fear of loss of livelihood; fear of loss of reputation; fear of unusual states of mind; and fear of speaking before an assembly. He points out that fear of speaking before an assembly may seem light compared with the others, but we may take that to mean speaking up, or performing. Our fear of performing is “profoundly related to fear of foolishness, which has two parts: fear of being thought a fool (loss of reputation) and fear of actually being a fool (fear of unusual states of mind).”

continued…

fear

Then he says: “Let’s add fear of ghosts.” I would take that to mean the implant of fear by authority figures no longer present in our lives, but the echo of whose voice remains to control us (teachers, parents and so forth).

Werner goes on to say that fear originates in our “little mind”, which can be called the ego. He goes on to say that the goal of Indian music is the dissolution of the ego and union with the divine. So I guess that’s one approach to losing fear. (He says much more, the book is a must for any performer.)

Whenever I think of fear it reminds me of the classic novel Dune. “Fear is the mind killer”. As I recall, through superhuman (supernatural?) and drug assisted control of his own mind, the hero is able to conquer fear. Very much like the “cognitive behavioural” approach I’ve come across through my therapy. Essentially, you have to retrain your mind to tell it positive thoughts instead of negative. It seems like a long and hard journey at times.

So, how do you deal with fear?

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Posted in Buddhism, life, personal | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

The News You’ve Been Waiting For

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 14, 2011

Well, you might not have been, but we were. Because you subscribe to my blog – thankyou! – you are the first to get the photos and name.

Happygirl gave birth to a girl on June 11th at 5:19pm. Baby was 3.3 kg, and Mum and baby are doing just great. We have her at home now.

We named her Soleil. It’s pronounced “So-lay” and is French for “Sun”.

I’m very happy. 🙂

This is not why we named her, but years ago, I picked up a vinyl record by “Air”, an unknown French band (at the time). They went on to make a name for themselves, but I have their first record – you can see the record sleeve in the video below. The title translates to “The Sun is close to me”.

Air – Le soleil est prés de moi

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The Age of Doubt (and The Day of Hope). Christopher Lane’s New Book on Agnosticism

Posted by spritzophrenia on May 7, 2011

Christopher Lane has recently released a book, The Age of Doubt, on doubt and agnosticism (surprise!). He’s adapted a chapter for New Humanist (UK), which I’ve excerpted below. But first, for those who saw my last post, an update on my sister, Carol.

Carol had her surgery yesterday, and the news post-op is much better than we thought. The colon tumor has been removed, and the ??? in her ovary was not, in fact, cancer. It was removed and her ovary is still intact. No other new signs of cancer were found, so that’s good news too.

She’s walking around a lot today, as that’s a requirement to aid the healing of the colon. Apparently it heals very fast, perhaps in 48 hours. In a couple of weeks she’ll be starting chemotherapy to get the small tumors in her liver. So all in all, the news is very positive.

That’s the hope. Here’s Christopher Lane on doubt:

Our culture has become impoverished by certainty. In our overheated climate of polarised public debate, we give less credence to uncertainty; yet the crises that preoccupy us – including religious extremism – demand that we tolerate increasing amounts of it.

Doubt and its religious cousin agnosticism, a word rarely heard nowadays, may have fallen out of fashion, but they have much to teach us, despite the disdain of Richard Dawkins, who famously wrote in The God Delusion: “I am agnostic only to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden.” He also quotes approvingly Quentin de la Bédoyère, science editor of the Catholic Herald, who in 2006 wrote that the Catholic historian Hugh Ross Williamson respected firm religious belief and certain unbelief, but “reserved his contempt for the wishy-washy boneless mediocrities who flapped around in the middle.”

To see doubters and freethinkers such as Herbert Spencer, Leslie Stephen, George Eliot, Thomas Huxley (who coined the word “agnostic”) and Darwin himself mocked in this way, given their intense engagement with complex human issues, only highlights the boldness of their thinking and the intellectual hubris of today’s unbridled certainty. The stridency of both Dawkins and de la Bédoyère misses how these and other Victorian intellectuals saw doubt as a creative force – inseparable from belief, thought, and debate, and a much-needed antidote to fanaticism and zealotry.

Ironically, it was the Victorians, often dismissed as prudish and uptight, who led the way to an open-mindedness and engagement with ambiguity that stands in stark contrast to the impoverishment of contemporary thinking about religious doubt and belief.

Fifteen years before Darwin published On the Origin of Species, the Scottish editor, writer, and publisher Robert Chambers anonymously brought out a book called Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844). In it he argued that the progressive evolution of species was fully compatible with God-given laws. Vestiges reached a transatlantic and cross-European audience far larger than David Hume could secure with broadly compatible claims in the mid-18th century. Among Chambers’ fascinated, sometimes horrified, readers were Queen Victoria, Abraham Lincoln, Alfred Tennyson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Florence Nightingale, Benjamin Disraeli and Charles Darwin. The book became a widespread topic of conversation across Britain in particular.
[Interesting: Darwin wasn’t the first to have a concept of evolution, only one of the first to come up with a successful model of how it might work. Apart from Chambers, there was another chap who’s often regarded as a co-inventor of evolution, whose name escapes me. Can anyone remind me?]


[As a sociologist, I find Herbet Spencer’s inclusion illuminating:] One of the most prominent thinkers to advance [the agnostic] claim was Herbert Spencer. The polymath sociologist, philosopher and biologist argued in First Principles (1862) that religion and science must grapple with “the Unknowable”, a blind spot in human understanding that faith had once seemed to fill.

Despite his forceful defence of Darwin and agnosticism, however, [Thomas] Huxley did not embrace full-blown atheism. He acknowledged “a pretty strong conviction that the problem [of existence] was insoluble”, a position that asks doubt and intellectual inquiry to replace hedging, complacency and anything resembling easy acquiescence.

A more astute contemporary thinker than Dawkins on the issue of agnosticism, in its broadest, existential sense, is the American playwright John Patrick Shanley. In the preface to his Pulitzer Prize-winning play Doubt (also a film), he argues that “doubt requires more courage than conviction does, and more energy; because conviction is a resting place and doubt is infinite – it is a passionate exercise.” While such questioning takes us past a point of comfort, he claims, it is “doubt (so often experienced initially as weakness) that changes things”, and thus represents “nothing less than an opportunity to reenter the Present”.

Lane’s full essay is here and the book The Age of Doubt is at Amazon.

Even in the last day I’ve had new subscribers to this blog– thankyou. It really flatters me that forty-five people value my thoughts enough to want to be updated when there’s something new. If you haven’t yet subscribed, it’s easy, just enter your email in the box at the left.

Doubt, Hope; let me conclude with the trivial. Today we hired a car seat for the impending arrival of baby (7 weeks or so away), test played the new board game my son Master T is working on and I bought some new clothes. It’s strange how new clothes can make one feel so much better. Not that I was feeling bad, I’m refreshingly happy these days. (Note to self: Get new depression meds on Monday.) Sometimes maybe it’s best to ignore the big picture and enjoy the small things in life.

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Split Enz | Poor Boy

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Is It May Already?

Posted by spritzophrenia on May 5, 2011

Hi all, and a special welcome to the new subscribers. It seems like an age since I last wrote from the land of Spritzophrenia.

Some personal goings-on first. It’s less than 8 weeks until our baby is born. Happygirl is getting extremely round, and is somewhat physically uncomfortable, but all is well and as normal as these things go.

I found out two weeks ago that my younger sister Carol has cancer. She’s not quite forty years old, and it’s serious. It’s colon cancer, with some nodes in the liver and a tumor has spread to one ovary. She goes into surgery tomorrow to remove the growths, and within three weeks they hope to start 9 months of chemotherapy. Things are not good, but the doctors have also said it’s potentially cure-able. All is not lost. Needless to say, I was quite upset after she rang me. (You might want to go back to my short series on sickness and pain.) Strangely, in the last week I’ve become very confident that she’ll be able to beat this thing, and I feel peaceful. I don’t know how much stock to put in such feelings, but those of you who pray are welcome to do so. (Yes, I did.)

My postgrad sociology study is going very well, however there’s a huge workload which doesn’t leave me with much energy to blog. I do have a lot of thoughts, theories and mental meanderings to share with you, it’s just a question of when. I’ve just finished my thesis proposal on “Why Stay if You’re Gay?” (Homosexual Participation and Identity in the Church). Would you like me to put it up here for you to read?

sunrise woman

Among other things, I’ve been reading up on Queer theory. You may or may not know that the word “heterosexual” was only coined a couple of centuries ago. Some people (notably a chap called Foucault) argue that the conception of heterosexuality was very different before this. As part of les-bi-gay studies, the study of heterosexuality has emerged. Given that I’m studying gay Christian men for my thesis I find it enlightening to look at things from the other side, so to speak.

Here’s some thoughts from one writer (Richard Dyer, in a 1997 paper, for what it’s worth). What do you think of these?

Dyer considers heterosexuality and homosexuality are not acts, or an identity, but what we desire. “Heterosexuality is not man-woman coitus, but the desire for it and/or the fact of being identified by the desire for it.”

Here’s his list of five attributes of heterosexuals:
1. Difference is at the heart of sexual object choice.
2. Difference is conceptualised as oppositeness.
3. Difference is, in fact, power imbalance. (Eroticised power imbalance)
4. Sexuality has something to do with procreation. (For many religions sexual reproduction is the purpose of sexuality.)
5. Sexual practice is an affirmation of one’s identity as normal.

The notion of race is profoundly heterosexual. Race is a way of categorising bodies that reproduce themselves.

Society enforces a “compulsory heterosexuality” (Adrienne Rich).

So there we go. How do those of you who are hetero feel about these? Identify with any of it?

Till next time,

Jonathan

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Tori Amos | Crucify

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A Decade Out

Posted by spritzophrenia on March 10, 2011

As I expected, my blogging has been a little less regular now the semester has started. So far I’m really enjoying it. I’m doing four sociology courses– a theory paper, one on “Settler Societies”, one on analysing documents and a research paper.

Thanks for all your suggestions a couple weeks back. I’ve decided my research topic will be

“Gay and Lesbian experiences of remaining in the Christian Church”.

I’ll be surveying as many as I can contact, and interviewing four to six people. My particular interest will be in why they stay– it seems fairly clear why one would leave. I suspect my topic may end up being further refined, eg perhaps lumping men and women together isn’t going to work. Theoretical angles will include things like identity, deviance*, family, power, religion, sexuality, gender… I’d like to use Foucault a lot, and perhaps Durkheim. I’m discovering lots of writing in this area already, so my literature review will be easy. Happily, it now looks like I can take a sociology of religion angle.

* Note, “deviance” in sociology is not a derogatory term, it’s intended for any study of groups who go against a perceived societal norm. Though I have my own opinions on this, and prefer “difference” as a term.

For the text analysis course, we had to write a short piece on “What we hope to see in our lives in ten years time”, which we’ll be analysing as a class next week. I thought I’d share mine with you:

books

Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.
~ Niels Bohr

Jonathan A Decade Out

I’m surprised to discover I have clear ideas on what I’d like to see happen in the next decade of my life, as I haven’t been the sort of person who’s had definite plans or goals in the past.

Foremost is the baby we’re having in June, hoping that will go well and my relationship with HappyGirl will continue to grow. In ten years my new son or daughter will be that many years older, and I hope it will be as satisfying and joy-filled as the first ten years with MasterT, my now twelve-year-old son. In ten years he’ll have left home; I hope we’ll have a close relationship through his teens.

This year I’ve embarked on an academic journey. In nine more years I hope to have earned my PhD and found a teaching position at a university. Along with that I hope an income beyond the student struggle will arrive, although remuneration isn’t foremost in my mind.

I’ve just had my first music released by a real record label, and in ten years I’d love to have the chance to play music around the world, or at least in New Zealand. To be able to regularly play festivals would be fun.

I guess I’ll always be a writer. Perhaps I will have published a book by then, and I hope my blog has a solid following concurrent with that.

Who knows if we’ll be living permanently overseas, but perhaps we’ll have spent two or three years living somewhere sunny and dry; Arizona, New Mexico or certain places on Australia’s East coast spring to mind.

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I’m Bored

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 24, 2010

Day three and the pain is not ending. I have a fear of being bored. It may be because I’m a head person, I live in my mind, as opposed to heart people who live in their emotions and gut people who live in their bodies.

I have many interesting books, but none of them appeal. There is television. Ugh. So banal I want to throw something. I have movies recorded. Yes, but I don’t want THOSE ones. Surfing the net just yields more tedium. Music? Meh. I could go out or talk to friends but I don’t have any money, and more tellingly, I can’t be bothered. Write? I have a killer writer’s block.

bored

Happygirl suggests I go for a walk. But then I’d be left alone with my head, and my thoughts. I want to fill my head so that I don’t have to think. I don’t want to confront whatever horrors are waiting for me in my imagination. I want to get drunk or high to get out of myself, but I have no wine.

According to Schopenhauer, “The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom”. He was a grumpy old git anyway. I recall the rich and jaded Marie Antoinette said, “Nothing tastes”.

I see boredom as similar to depression. (Perhaps it IS depression.) It’s a change of perspective in myself, it’s not real. Nothing objective has changed in the world, therefore it’s my view of things that’s changed. For example, with a quick search I found the following:

* A fascinating and scary interview with a Mexican hit-man.

* According to this article, quoting the NY Times, US Corporations have just posted the biggest profits ever. When do the rest of us see the trickle down?

* Or for entertainment, an Indian teen sings “Club Can’t Handle Me”. One comment suggests the club won’t even let him in.

See? I bet you found at least one of those worthwhile. I can recognise with my intellect that these, and many other things are worthy of comment and attention. Yet my feelings tell me otherwise.

I’m conscious that a great many people in the world would love the luxury of being bored. I feel selfish and indulgent. But I can’t help what I feel. Perhaps it’s a spiritual malaise, but what does that mean? Do I have to just wait this out, or is there something I can do?

I wonder if connecting with nature will help me. Yes, I will try that. At this point, dear reader, we leave our author sitting alone in the garden, enjoying the sun and sifting soil through his hands.

[Edit: The dirt smells like cat piss. Typical.]

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Iggy Pop | Im Bored

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