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Archive for the ‘Random rambling’ Category


The following is my act of productive procrastination in an attempt to get out of my head the content and ideas related to a paper that I have due in my class on Dante and His Divine Comedy

The General Prompt: What has happened to the character Dante by the time he encounters Fra Alberigo in Cocytus, Inferno 33b? Review his behavior through the descent. Has he learned to respond to the Damned appropriaely of has he ‘Lost it’? What is the purpose of his reactions and what do I make of how he changes. 

–> according to the professor, how I answer this question will no doubt reflect my theology as well as literary assessment of the Inferno.

 

My rambling Answer that will need to be shaped and expanded with proper analytic details before I hand in as a paper:

 

“When in Rome, do as the Romans Do.” This familiar adage came to my mind as I began going through the descriptions given to us by Dante the Poet of the different interactions he had on his journey through the highly structured levels of Hell. Be it his momentary loss of self as he swoons over the tragic (and condemning story) told by lovers or his outburst of anger and use of deception at the deeper levels of hell, his embodied actions—especially his final two encounters—left me asking questions that I’m not sure I will ever fully come up with answers for.

 

One of these questions deals with the choice of Dante the Poet to include in the pilgrim’s last encounter (but also in the whole of canto 33) a textual allusion to the Sermon on the Mount. According to a footnote provided in the Durling and Martinez translation of the Divine Comedy the “scornful play on the name” of the last soul the pilgrim meets (Alberigo) “is related to the word for ‘tree’ (albero) and draws on the Sermon on the Mount” from Matt. 7.16-20. My question for the presence of this usage of the name is why does he do it—espeically when we look at the other messages present within that chapter of Matthew. For example, the first segment of the chapter places an emphasis on it being the task of God and no other to Judge and then prescribe/carry out punishment. It is possible to answer this question through the “when in Rome” lens by saying that because Hell is an inversion of how a positive reality is supposed to be then of course Dante is supposed to judge because it is the opposite of what Christ said to do. However, I do not want to accept this because although Dante is in hell he cannot do what the condemned and keepers of Hell do because of his state as a living and embodied human being with his poetic soul still attached. Therefore, my confusion is because of this physical state shouldn’t the Pilgrim still need to abide by the Christian values preached in the seventh Chapter of Matthew and the sermon on the mount? Yes, he can be drawn toward and even seduced by sins but these visceral responses are bound to happen because he is still a flawed breathing man with soul and body joined together.

“When in Rome, do as the Romans Do.” This familiar adage came to my mind as I began going through the descriptions given to us by Dante the Poet of the different interactions he had on his journey through the highly structured levels of Hell. Be it his momentary loss of self as he swoons over the tragic (and condemning story) told by lovers or his outburst of anger and use of deception at the deeper levels of hell, his embodied actions—especially his final two encounters—left me asking questions that I’m not sure I will ever fully come up with answers for.

 

One of these questions deals with the choice of Dante the Poet to include in the pilgrim’s last encounter (but also in the whole of canto 33) a textual allusion to the Sermon on the Mount. According to a footnote provided in the Durling and Martinez translation of the Divine Comedy the “scornful play on the name” of the last soul the pilgrim meets (Alberigo) “is related to the word for ‘tree’ (albero) and draws on the Sermon on the Mount” from Matt. 7.16-20. My question for the presence of this usage of the name is why does he do it—espeically when we look at the other messages present within that chapter of Matthew. For example, the first segment of the chapter places an emphasis on it being the task of God and no other to Judge and then prescribe/carry out punishment. It is possible to answer this question through the “when in Rome” lens by saying that because Hell is an inversion of how a positive reality is supposed to be then of course Dante is supposed to judge because it is the opposite of what Christ said to do. However, I do not want to accept this because although Dante is in hell he cannot do what the condemned and keepers of Hell do because of his state as a living and embodied human being with his poetic soul still attached. Therefore, my confusion is because of this physical state shouldn’t the Pilgrim still need to abide by the Christian values preached in the seventh Chapter of Matthew and the sermon on the mount? Yes, he can be drawn toward and even seduced by sins but these visceral responses are bound to happen because he is still a flawed breathing man with soul and body joined together.

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This semester I chose to audit a class titled “Reading and Writing about Artificial Intelligence.” As a part of the course we are expected to not only discuss and read the impications of science fiction writings about Artificial Intelligence but to also create our own stories about them. However, I am not sure if I–as only and auditor and not a student fully taking the course for credit–am supposed to follow through and complete the writing assignments. However, after the first class meeting last week I am pretty enthusiastic and have decided I should at least start off by doing as much of the work as I can. The first writing assignment we received was to write up a 400-500 word flash fiction piece dealing with artificial intelligence. What is to follow will hopefully be an acceptable attempt at completing this assignment.

Mira’s eyes scanned quickly through the notifications on her retina screen. Two birthday invitations, a voice mail from her mother, reminders of tasks she needed to complete, package delivery notification from Biocorp. Was it really already here? She stood up and made a swiping motion with two fingers across the projected screen from left to right to clear her vision. The package awaiting her had been a purchase she’d saved up for over a year to afford but hopefully it would provide the interactive experience the advertisements promised.

Mother, of course, had questioned her choice to purchase a persona simulator. ‘Why couldn’t you just by a new Scholastic vid screen like every other student your age instead one of those things? They simply aren’t natural.” She had nagged–sticking to the ideas of her pre-biointerfaced youth.

The persona unit she was expecting wasn’t necessarily top of the line thanks to the low funding provided to students of Earth’s Historic Religious Theories. She would finally have a chance to interact with the material on a more dynamic level than scans of books and images.

She walked over to the delivery control panel and keyed in her acceptance code. A couple seconds later a vertical five foot tall box–far larger than she anticipated–materialized in the middle of the room. Behind the clear plastic front she saw frozen in cryo-wrap the form of a girl clothed in a plain tan dress with the emblems of Earths many religions imprinted along the hemlines of the skirt and sleeves.

Confused, Mira reactivated her retina screen and looked up her order information. Yes, this was what she had ordered. But the dealer hadn’t mentioned that this Persona wouldn’t be the same size as all the others she saw around campus. “I guess that is what I get for going through a no-returns vendor.” She grumbled.

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When I came to the Divinity School a year ago I began my journey with a healthy dose of confusion over what I wanted to do with my time here. I originally applied to join the concentrated Religion and literature Masters program but was asked instead to first join the YDS community under the “Comprehensive” MAR Program. The exact reasons why I had to make this change were never quite explained to me, it could have been because I had a writing concentration rather than literature in undergraduate or that there weren’t enough slots in the program. Whatever that reason for the requested change in my starting degree I agreed to do it because it meant I would be able to start studying at Yale in the fall of 2013. This change in my degree also gave me an opportunity to consider once more what exactly I wanted to get out of my time at Divinity school. I knew that I had a passion for learning more about the relationship between literature–especially science fiction–and religious themes/conversations. But, with this pause in my leap into the concentration I found myself also wanting to take advantage of being a part of a pastoral-oriented community to learn more about how to take spiritual practices and integrate them into a more secular mentoring environment.

These two interests still play a constant battle of tug of war in my mind. But, I moved forward with my initial intent and made the official transfer into the Religion and the Arts (Literature) program. This is the degree that I will graduate with in the spring. Yet, I feel as though somehow my academic and spiritual journey is nowhere near done. I still have a very strong call to work in a mentoring role for students as they navigate their different spiritual and academic trials.

The big question now is how can I manage to do both?

At first I thought that the most obvious and logical answer was to become a  teacher at the private boarding school level. In that sort of position I would potentially live with students and act as their adviser as they worked their way through high school. This is still a role I am interested in eventually taking up. However, in the past couple weeks I have settled on another route that might ultimately lead me to where I am called to go. This route will require me to continue on for another MA or even to a PhD in Library Science so that I can become an Academic or Teen Librarian.

 

What exactly being a librarian or what position I will end up in I am still working out. But it is at least a start, right?

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Am I Good Enough?.

 

This Blog post, which was featured on Freshly Pressed is short, sweet, and speaks to the driving question many of  us nurture. “Am I good enough?”

 

Even though the post predominantly talks to anyone who is an aspiring writer I think her advice applies to all aspects of life. Sometimes “good enough” lies in the fact that you took the time to accomplish something.

 

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The following post is my act of productive procrastination as I work on a readers response journal entry on Walker Percy’s novel titled The MovieGoer.

What is it we are looking for when we choose to attend a movie over any other activity? what are we seeking in that darkened theater filled with sounds and images of a life apart from our daily experience?

In this novel the main character, Binx Bolling, is an avid moviegoer who is driven by his own search but what he seeks isn’t found in his weekly visit various theaters. His search is something that finds significant evidence in things as ordinary as the contents of his pockets piled on his bureau. The movies are not his answers to the search he feels driven to pursue but they act as reference points to help frame and “script out” each urge and experience.

When  think back to my own movie-going experiences and my reasons for them, I realize that I ultimately go to the movies because I want to experience something grander than my day-to-day experience. Whether it is to distract me from the chaos or mundaneness of normal life honestly depends on the day, but I still go. A movie is something to do rather than sitting around and questioning the direction my life is taking. For an hour or more I have the chance to sit anonymously in a theater and focus entirely on the story playing out in light on the screen.

The novel by Walker Percy addresses far more than the experience of attending movies as an escape and reference point however. For Binx movies are certainly a passionate pass-time that he takes pleasure and comfort in but they are not the whole of his life. Instead they are an outlet and confirming experience. A movie is a scripted experience where all uncertainty is –for the most part– guaranteed to be resolved and end how it is meant to every time. No wonder Binx starts off (and continues through the rest of the novel) with using movies as reference points for his thoughts and experiences. They provide him with pre-made scripts through which to understand and parse out his life.

We see this “scripting” through movies especially when he allows “passion” to take over as he pursues Sharon Kincaid, his newest secretary. A prime example is how he describes the time when he has her stay late after work to help with writing letters to clients. He sets the scene for us as readers to watch him dashingly play out his role:
“Already the silences between us have changed in character, become easier It is possible to stand at the window, loosen my collar and rub the back of my neck like Dana Andrews. And to become irritable with her ‘No no no no, Kincaid, that’s not what I meant to say. Take five.’ I go to the cooler, take two aspirins, crumple the paper cup.” (92)

An earlier example of Binx relating life to movies is seen in the following passage: “If it were a movie. I would have only to wait. The bus would get lost or the city would be bombed and she and I would tend the wounded. As it is, I may as well stop thinking about her.” (9)

But, there is something else about this novel I want to focus on. It is shift I glimpsed in Binx between when we first meet him and the final scene. His habitual movie-going and scripting of experiences is a constant but something changes in his approach toward his search and his manner of lifestyle in general.

In the beginning Binx tells the readers adamantly that the act of following general convention and fitting into the stereotype he has chosen to settle into. One of the most notable comments he makes about this is the following: “It is a pleasure to carry out the duties of a citizen and to receive in return a receipt or a neat styrene card with one’s name on it certifying, so to speak, one’s right to exist. What satisfaction I take in appearing the first day to get my auto tag and brake sticker!” (4)

This dug-in appreciation for the small confirmations of his existence does not appear to be enough, however. A couple pages later Binx’s facade of contentedness becomes shaking when he says:
“I even dreamed of doing something great. But there is much to be said for giving up such grand ambitions and living the most ordinary life imaginable, a life without the old longings; selling stocks and bonds and mutual funs; quitting work at five o’clock like everyone else; having a girl and perhaps one day settling down and raising a flock of Marcias and Sandras and Lindas of my own.” (6)
As I read this passage I had the sense that his words were empty and were meant to convince not is readers but himself that the life he had chosen was the semblance of comfortable familiarity that he desired. I don’t have any particular phrasings to point out as support for why this moment is when you see Binx’s facade of perfectly scripted experience slip away. A better moment in the text that breaks the facade painted by Binx is with the sentence “But things have suddenly changed” and the glimpse we are given into Binx’s past experience as a soldier at war:
“I dreamed of the war, no, not quite dreamed but woke with the taste of it in my mouth, the quesy-quince taste of 1951 in the orient.” (7)
In this moment of change and recollection, the tidy and confirmed world Binx created for himself losses its shine and he found manifest in his core am “immense curiosity” and need to search out something that he could not name but know he would recognize when he found it.

The main change after this moment was not visible to others is seated in the change of his awareness. He was no longer fully content in his small actions of confirmation because now he knew that “The search [which he felt the need to now pursue] is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life.” (9)

Where is Walker Percy leading us in these first thought and realizations? Does Binx ever find whatever it is he suddenly needs to search for?
I am not quite sure. But, from certain hints such as the one on page 10 when Binx brings up the possibility that his search might ironically be for the God he did not think he believed in.
“What do you seek–God? you ask with a smile. I hesitate to answer…” “For, as everyone knows, the polls report that 98% of Americans believe in God and the remaining 2% are atheists and agnostics–which leaves not a single percentage point for a seeker. For myself, I enjoy answering polls as much as anyone and take pleasure in giving intelligent replies to all questions.”
There is something to this answer that Binx gives. I can’t quite put it into words myself but I get the feeling that Binx is looking for an answer from God and the world around him for how he is supposed to live. He is seeking a certainty that he may never reach because of his own disbelief in himself, God and his surroundings. ((Possibly due to PTSD he developed while fighting in the war.)) On top of this, if we take some of Percy’s other writing into account, there is the hint that Christianity itself–whether Binx believes in it or Percy intended it– is prevalent as a theme and possibly clue in Binx’s search. ((How to be an American novelist: “It is a part of the air we breathe…And any novelist who begins his novel with his character in a life of predicament which is a profound mystery to which he devotes his entire life to unraveling… is a closet Jew or Christian.” ))

As I think about it my mind jumps to Kate (the other key character in this novel who in many ways acts as a counterpoint to Binx). Kate too appears to be on a search for control and “certifying” solidity to her life. Where Percy’s search is one that he cannot name–or refuses to name– Kate is aware of what she needs and ultimately creates it for herself through her interactions with Binx.

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Crave to post


I often have a craving to post. It sometimes comes upon me slowly, a thought at the back of my head when I wake up in the morning that grows as I work through my morning routine. The need builds while I brush my teeth and prepare breakfast but I put it off, saying to myself that I’ll do it once I am ready for class–that way if I get carried away and loose track of time I won’t have to worry about anything because I am already prepared. But, the pattern the past few times is always the same. I finish my morning routine, walk over to the main academic building, sit down in my usual chair for class, finally turn on my tablet and open up WordPress. Then what do I do? My mind goes blank.

The drive to write has been there all along but when it finally comes time to write I freeze, Why do I do this? Maybe it is because something inside me wants to make sure my posts are meaningful. I don’t want to just write nonsense that nobody would want to read. I want my writing to be purposeful and entertaining not simply a puddle of ramblings from an over-filled brain.

Something I have noticed since I came to graduate school is this defeating urge. I want to write casually but when I usually give myself the chance to, I freeze because of the need to produce productively. At graduate school I seem to have been trained into feeling that all my writing and reading (or at least the majority of it) should be something educational or applicable to my studies.

Is this a good or a bad thing? I am not quite sure. It is important for my health that I learn to relax a bit more and allow myself to write freely. Yet, the  list of work I need to complete before the semester is out is constantly growing and I hardly ever see an end in sight.

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Rarity of Quiet


This piece makes me want to sit and wonder at how often if ever do we have truly quiet moments in our day to day lives. Even during my quiet time or studying I tend to listen to music. Maybe this is why those few moments of absolute stillness you snag just before bed or after your alarm goes off (but before you get up) feel so precious .

Corned Beef Hashtag

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It starts at 6 a.m. with the alarms that wake us up.

Then the television goes on for the news, because so much has probably changed in the four or five hours that, maybe, I’ve been asleep. The coffee maker gurgles and burps in the background. The toaster pops and the skillet sizzles. The child groans and complains in an effort to resist getting out of bed, once she is up, fed, and  dressed,  I exchange a brief goodbye with my wife I open the door with a creak. I walk to the car, my daughter in front of me, shuffling her feet across the pavement.

The car rumbles to a start, the heater roars as it blows the still cold air through the vents. My daughter asks me to listen to the radio so I tap my phone to life and turn on the app to bring up her…

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