Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Ten bucks to the one who can tell me what fissiparous means without looking it up on google or in a dictionary. Bonus points if you know anything about Ignatius of Antioch and can come up with a way for me to pass Doctrine 1 without torturing myself with the reading. :)
And the answer is: 1. Reproducing by biological fission. 2. Tending to break up into parts or break away from a main body; factious.
So that means I owe ten bucks to Maria (and Scott gets runner up...).
Here they are!
Thanks for playing. :)
Monday, January 29, 2007
But this time, I hit not just a dry patch or a brick wall, but fell down an 80 foot well that was also dry and brick. I couldn't see my way out.
You know, I'm sick of repeating myself, of finding fault with what used to be beautiful to me. It's like the girl who spends every Friday night with her girlfriends whining about the guy she left. What's up with that?
And in the midst of my postmodern virtues series, I realized one of the virtues is not knowing what to say and saying so. There's value in waiting, in not pontificating, in recognizing my own limits.
So here they are.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
The Girlosophy books are by Anthea Paul. They definitely lean east in terms of the metaphysics and spirituality in them. The photography is exquisite. Each page has a gorgeous photograph that is rich in color and often respectfully sensual or bold in its portrayals of girls. They aren't sexual, though. Just very affirming of what it means to be a young woman who inhabits a real female body. Paul includes an affirmation or thought that goes with each photograph. The books are not didactic in the sense of having chapters devoted to a single point that is then developped at length. Rather, they are written in such a way that over the course of perusing the pages (which draw you in because the photography is so good), you find encouragement or hope or reassurance or empowerment in the form of short phrases, sentences or paragraphs. Only occasionally does Paul develop an idea beyond several sentences.
The book I referred to in the post below is the second in the series: Girlosophy 2: The Love Survival Kit. There is one three page section that talks about sex before marriage and living together. I will try to dig up a copy of the book (Johannah has it) and post some quotes. If you go to B&N, you can simply flip through a copy before purchase. Make sure it fits your family's values and ideals.
Here's an interview with Anthea Paul to give you a sense of who she is.
Friday, January 26, 2007
Seems in the last year my eyes have been opened to just how many kids either are having sex outside marriage (and outside their parents' awareness), are marrying young so that they can have sex (and in most cases, are skipping college too), or are turning up pregnant to the surprise of everyone. (We had a fifteen year old become pregnant this year in our little corner of the world.)
To stem what feels like a tidal wave of promiscuity, my peer group of evangelicals and homeschooling parents have attempted to wind back the clock to a time when keeping your knees together until marriage was the norm.
This is the era of abstinence (purity) pledges. Dr. Dobson made the whole idea popular years ago when he featured a father on his broadcast who had given his daughter a promise ring - the promise being that she would not have sex until marriage, to safe-guard her virginity. The promise was made to her parents as well as to God and her future, as-yet-unknown husband.
Since that broadcast, my age-mates (particularly homeschooling families) have clung to the purity pledge phenomenon like static cling to laundry. Us too. Johannah has a ring (actually, she has two - she liked two equally well so Jon said one could be from me and one from him). Hmm. As I write this, I can see some smart-ass teen wondering if she could give up the "gift" twice and still be sin-free.
In any event, it was in that spirit that a friend of mine and his wife have co-founded a "purity ball" in Colorado Springs (fittingly located since Focus on the Family put the whole idea of promise rings on the evangelical map). Fathers take their daughters to an elaborate formal dance in a large banquet room of a hotel (similar to a prom). The daughters wear gowns, get their hair done, sport high heels, decorate their young faces in make-up and then sign a parchment that declares to their parents, God and all present that they will not give away the gift of virginity until marriage. The fathers, in turn, pledge to protect the daughter's purity (and invoke military imagery in so doing - they will "war" on behalf of their daughter's virginity).
This purity ball includes girls as young as 7 or 8 (though the target age is a bit older) all the way into their twenties. Some daughters and dads go every year to the ball (it's not necessarily a one-time event in a girl's life). There is, interestingly enough, nothing even remotely comparable for boys, who one would presume are just as in need of purity commitments as daughters...
In any case, Glamour magazine sent one of their reporters to the purity ball and they wrote an article about it.
The article is well-written and worth a read.
Here's an excerpt toward the end:
Following dessert—chocolate cake or fruit coulis for the adults, ice cream sundaes for the girls—couples file into the adjacent ballroom. Seven ballerinas, including Christy Parcha, appear in white gowns with tulle skirts, carrying on their shoulders a large, rustic wooden cross that they lift up and rest on a stand. Lisa Wilson cries as she presents each of their three ceremonial dances, one of which is called “I’ll Always Be Your Baby.” Afterward, Randy Wilson and a fellow pastor, Steve Holt, stand at the cross with heavy rapiers raised and announce that they are prepared to “bear swords and war for the hearts of our daughters.” The blades create an inverted “V” under which girls and fathers kneel and lay white roses that symbolize purity. Soon there is a heap of cream-colored buds wilting beneath the outstretched arms of the cross.
I honestly find the whole phenomenon a little creepy. I'm a fan of "saving it until marriage" and would advocate that to my kids. But adding the layer of dating dad, fathers warring to protect daughters, and the oddly romantic quality of the ball between a father and his daughter leaves me uncomfortable.
And worse, I don't think it works.
Just this week, I found out that a dear friend of my daughter's (one who I have known well and whose mother is a friend) is having sex--a homeschooled girl from an abstinence family. I found out that another dear friend's son and his fiance are, oops, expecting a baby before the wedding. And as I spent some time reflecting, I tallied up ten+ homeschooled kids who have married before turning twenty and several of whom had kids by 21. Some of these lived with boyfriends or girlfriends before marrying.
What's going wrong?
Or perhaps a better way to put is: why do we attempt to coerce commitments from daughters?
I hate the emphasis on protecting the virginity of girls with not a mention of boys (who typically display far more sexual energy and a willingness to over-ride moral commitments when in the throes of hormones than girls of the same ages) and I find the "dating Dad" phenomenon oddly forced. I love the idea of being close to your father, but I don't like the way Dad is suggested as a substitute for developing peer relationships that do include some of that sexual tension.
When Johannah asked for a ring, Jon's concern was that she might box herself into a role and commitment that could change as she aged and made her morals her own. Her response was that she felt right in making the commitment today and that if reevaluation occurred, she'd face it then.
She has a book called "Girlosophy" that has the best teaching on teen and young adult sexuality I've read. The writer gives details of what sex involves (emotional, physical and relational commitment levels) and then says to the girls: you get to decide which of these you want.
So empowering! It seems to me that the only way to truly value purity is to know that you can choose not to be pure. If it is expected of you prematurely and the feeling of love and acceptance in your family is tied to staying a virgin, you really haven't made a commitment about sex at all. Perhaps all you've done is accept the terms and conditions for being a welcome member of the family which has little to do with sexual self-awareness.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
The Bengals have been the butt-end of jokes for the last year due to the bone-headed behavior of some of their younger players, which has included drunken driving and illegal possession of fire arms. I'm not sympathetic to their behaviors individually at all. I want to say that "up front." And I totally understand the fabulous source material for tsk-tsking the team that these arrests provide to radio show hosts, sports journalists and the water cooler Monday morning bag-fest.
Still, I can't shake a nagging suspicion.
Are the Bengals really the only team in the NFL with a bunch of obscenely paid, immature athletes who get drunk and smoke weed? Really?
Somehow our fair city got all the bad apples out of the barrel of NFL draft picks? They all rolled down the chute to Cincinnati and missed Tampa Bay or Miami or even San Diego (drug dealer haven of "Traffic" fame)?
I can't believe that. So I've been wondering why the Bengals are getting caught. I mean, I'm glad drunk drivers are being pulled over and dragged from their vehicles... I really am. But are all the other superstar athletes in every other city and sport just that much better at hiding their dope? At staying out of vehicles while under the influence?
Or is it just possible that in Cincinnati, a higher number of blacks get pulled over while driving than in other cities? I'm just sayin'. I do know that the arms arrest happened outside of Cincinnati so I will exclude that one from my discussion.
Still, I have to know. Is it possible that "Driving While Black" is part of what's going on here? I've heard anecdotal reports and I've read some studies that suggest that Cincinnati is more zealous about stopping black drivers than other cities. Could that be what's going on here, partly?
It's not that I hope that drunks will be overlooked on the road. I want to make that clear. But I still can't quite shake the question of whether or not the style of police work in Cincinnati is partly responsible for the much higher number of arrests than we see in other cities with equally high profile athletes.
In 2002, a bill was passed intending to reform the Cincinnati police department's mistreatment of African Americans in arrests and particularly in pulling them over while driving.
Yet in 2005, (scroll down) Cincinnati was still in violation of that agreement. You have to wonder. Old habits die hard? Hard to catch the police when they side step clear instructions? What IS the deal?
As I was thinking about all this today, I heard Keith Olberman on Dan Patrick's show jokingly suggest that instead of seeing Joseph's arrest and the other 8 as examples of "bad Bengals" we could reframe the description of these nine arrests by saying that they are examples of "good police work." Dan laughed and then the two of them riffed about the "crack job" that the Cincinnati police are doing, that they are better at finding and arresting drunken athletes than other cities, etc.
So in a way, Dan and Keith had stumbled onto my own question, but without seeing that it may also have a potentially insidious meaning as well.
It gave me pause.
The seed has been planted in all our minds here, that in Cincinnati, blacks get "preferential" treatment while driving... to the Bengals peril.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Here's today's column.
It may take her a bit of time to gather the data, size the photos and write the epic ballad poem that will honor her esteemed favorite QB, but if it's not up by 5:00 p.m. eastern, you have my permission to descend on her blog demanding the completion of what is sure to be an uplifting tribute to the man, the legend!
(Looks like her blog has been hacked!! Don't be fooled by the Peyton-hating post. She's at work and will be horrified to see that someone is tampering with her blogger account in her absence.)
Sunday, January 21, 2007
7:18 1st and 20 for the Colts. Touchdown knocked out of the air. Good defensive play.
7:26 End of first quarter. Pats: 7, Colts 3
7:37 Clutch 4th down conversion! And now a Corey Dillon (former Bengal) TD. Wow. I got it all wrong this time.
7:42 And away the Patriots go, like Paul Revere's night ride. TD Pats. 21 Pats 3 Colts
8:07 Colts have a critical 3rd down here.
8:15 So no end zone and they are how many qtrs without TDs? I'm thinking the Pats feel very comfortable, if you ask me.
Unfortunately, it looks like game over to me and I will have to remember that I should always pick according to what I believe about who can win, not who I want to win.
8:32 Here we go. Can the Colts make some tracks?
8:41 So the Colts got that one. One down and one more to go to catch up. Pats: 21 Colts: 13
8:58 Colts TD and why are they going for two?
8:59 Oh that's why. :) Game is tied.
Current score: Pats: 28 Colts: 21
Manning on the move.
9:23 I have never seen so many fumble-type TDs in the history of football! Tied!
9:49 FG good - Tied at 31
9:54 FG Pats... glad they didn't score a TD. Gives Colts a chance...
The biggest come-back win in play-off history!
Final score: Colts 38 Patriots 34
4:52 Saints have it. Bears did nuttin'.
4:56 Suh-weet!!! Bush baby. There's our TD and the roll is on!
5:06 Drew Brees is throwing well.
FG: No good.
5:15 Saints get another chance but start at own 5. This could be good if they use up a lot of time on a substantial chain moving drive that culminates in a TD.
5:20 Safety. Four point game. We need another 3 and out.
5:31 Gotta stop those Bears.
5:33 Touchdown Bears.... Oh no.
There goes the game? I think so. What do you think?
Current Score: Bears: 32 Saints: 14
3:10 Looks slippery out there. Yikes for Saints.
3:13 Ah first Rex throw - lousy.
3:19 Yeah, Bob, I agree. Brees looks pretty good. That field looks danged slippery.
Bob wants to know - any late prognostications.
Ack! Saints fumbled and recover, barely. Wow.
3:21 Scary moment with Hester on the return.
3:32 RATS! Tough fumble... Boo Bears.
3:36 Fourth down... 3 pts. opportunity. Rooting for a Bengal/Romo.
WTF? They are going for it? Well, hold 'em defense.
3:39 Why no penalty on back to back time outs? Payton head's up. Now a missed TD pass. Woo-hoo. ...good block! Go Saints.
Good grief! The defense might win this single-handedly without Grossman. NO needs to hang onto that ball!
Agree Kim - down.
3:51 3 more. But hey, one TD could erase all that. As we Bengal fans know all too well. Come on Drew!
4:01 Rex makes big play... Saints faltering.
4:03 Desperate times lead to desperate measures... blue corn chips and cheese slices... in my bed! Hang the crumbs.
Ha! Take that sexy Rexy. The Saints are comin'... Look out. They'll get their rhythm.
4:11 Chicago: defense will win the game. But I'm not giving up yet.
4:17 Lovie figured it out: Get the ball out of Grossman's hand and give it to the runners. Rats.
Time for a beer. Can the Saints get through this attack with another field goal?
My eyes, my eyes!
4:26 That's what I'm talkin' bout! Good passing.
4:30 Touchdown!! Here come da Saints!
Halftime: Bears 16, Saints 7
New entry for the second half. Eat snacks. :)
CHICAGO -- Chicago school teacher Colleen Pavelka knows how much her husband loves the Bears. Apparently, she loves him even more.
Colleen chose to have the birth of their second child induced a few days early so Mark Pavelka could attend Sunday's NFC Championship showdown between the Bears and the New Orleans Saints.
The baby was due Monday. But when Colleen went in for an appointment Friday afternoon, her doctors told her she could opt for an early delivery. She decided to do so.
After nearly six hours of labor, 8-pound, 9-ounce Mark Patrick Pavelka was born Friday night.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Let me just add that googling their images is a hoot! Each one repeats his identical pose in myriad settings. The most common pose for Mr. QB stud Tom Brady, though, was not repeated by any other QB. It's this shot, this one, and of course, this one. You'll find it over and over again.
That's the pose the other guys hope to add to their repertoires.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Brian posted the following on his photoblog 365. Check it out and click on the photo to read what it says.
I'm in stunned silence. Just who could they be meaning to protect in that sign? Conversely, who are they hinting at? This is when Cincinnati feels claustrophobic to me.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Whereas in Christianity theologians are said to cause a good old-fashioned God rumpus or Jesus pother, and in Islam mullahs might be at the centre of an Allah brouhaha, in Tibet and Bhutan the official term for the storm arising out of a controversial monks teachings is buddha kerfuffle.
Don't you just want to run out and start a God rumpus? There's a name for a theological discussion forum if ever I heard one!
I would not be sad if the Patriots beat the Colts, but I'd love Peyton to get his chance and think they can do it this time.
As for the Bears v. Saints: I just don't like the Bears. I've really disliked them since the Cardinals collapse on Monday night football. And who can root against the Saints this year? I mean, really?
So I'm hoping my prognostication magic works this weekend too, though I feel less confident than I did last week.
What about you?
Our first class of the new semester got canceled so Margaret and I got silly. After a long day, and then 45 minutes of traffic en route to P. F. Chang's, Margaret and I settled down to some plum wine and tasty Chinese fare.
We're both doing Project 365 and therefore took pictures. Obviously.
Edited to add: We look a heck of a lot prettier in Margaret's blurry, dark, bad camera photos. What does that say about us, Margaret?!?
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Evangelicals entered the mainstream of American life during the late 1970s and "almost immediately" lost their ability to define themselves theologically. Modernity's separation of public and private has limited evangelicals' beliefs "to matters of private experience, increasingly shorn of their distinctive worldview, and increasingly withdrawn from what was external and public." Ultimately, "being evangelical has come to mean simply that one has had a certain kind of religious experience that gives color to the private aspects of daily life but in which few identifiable theological elements can be discerned or, as it turns out, are necessary." The theological wheel has turned again in the same circle: "Evangelicals, no less than the Liberals before them whom they have always berated, have now abandoned doctrine in favor of 'life.'"
Wells find this surprising, given the fact that evangelicals have always defined themselves as a "doctrinal people." On reflection, the real surprise is that it has not happened sooner, for his criticisms cut more deeply than Wells seems to realize. Evangelicalism is, after all, often defined as a branch of Christianity that gives particular emphasis to certain aspects of Christian experience: spiritual rebirth, conversion, and a personal relationship to Christ. Spend a little time among evangelicals, and you are sure to learn about people who believe all the right doctrine but are not "real"-which is to say, born-again- Christians. Long before neo-evangelicalism, long before the rise of the Christian right, long before the "Toronto blessing," revivalism gave American Protestantism its distinctive experiential shape, as wave after wave of anti-intellectual New School, New Light, and New Whatever movements were accepted and, paradoxically, accorded theological legitimation.
Wells notes that evangelicals are drawing "increasingly injurious" conclusions from the appropriate emphasis on a believer's personal relationship with Christ: "They have proceeded to seek assurance of faith not in terms of the objective truthfulness of the biblical teaching but in terms of the efficacy of its subjective experience." Not only in the use of testimonies but in hymnody as well, evangelicalism is "changing direction to reflect this experience-centered focus." To anyone who has sung nineteenth-century revival hymns with their sentimental lyrics set to syrupy melodies, however, it is scarcely credible that these represent recent developments.
Ring true? False? What do you make of his conclusions?
Monday, January 15, 2007
"Julie, this is terrible. You're a much better writer than this. I don't like it."
Huh. Guess I'm a reasonable judge of my crappy writing after all.
So I scrapped the entire draft (which had six drafts prior to it) and sat across the kitchen table from Jon while he pelted me with questions and pushed me to tell my own story (rather than schooling the world in my Profound Insights). Ah, yes - the old, tell on yourself first.
So that's what you have today. Thanks for reading. And thanks, Jon, for real feedback. I need it like a clonk over the head... which apparently I needed today.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
So now.... will the Patriots put me at 4 of 4?
I just want to point out that in play-offs, I am now five of seven. Ahem.
Edited to add: Four for four. :)
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Thanks so much for all your comments about which article to pick for the compilation book. I reread many of my articles suggested by you, and was all set to use the black theology series, when I reread the Haggard piece one more time. As it turns out, I think I can manage the time bound aspect of Haggard's fall while highlighting the central critique which is less time-bound. The Haggard article deals with a very specific issue (evangelicalism promising what it shouldn't) which I feel is important in a book like this.
My black theology series means a lot to me too. I just realized that I had best save it for the book I want to write. The other articles (especially those that detail my faith journey) will be good foundations for that book. (Hope to get to that later this year.)
And may I just say for the record: you all are a bunch of football sluts! The divisional play-offs post got more responses than my last UPI article on the ::ahem:: Very Important Topic of Postmodernisn! Ha!
And I love that about you all.
Now to get my taxes done before the games start. Who else uses Turbo Tax? :)
Friday, January 12, 2007
Bears or Seahawks?
Colts or Ravens?
Saints or Eagles?
Chargers or Patriots?
I'm taking the Bears, Colts, Saints and Patriots.
I don't know that the Colts can beat the Ravens, but the Bengals did and I'm hopeful that the Colts are just that much more hungry to prove something than the Ravens are. I am rooting for those Saints—the little engine that could. And while there is no one in the NFL who can stop LT, Tom Brady might be the one guy who can outscore him down the stretch. I don't actually care about the Bears or Seahawks... but it's a home game for the Bears.
So who are you picking?
Edited to add: Rats! Ampersand did already ask for picks. So if you posted there, no need to post here. I read both places and will hold you accountable regardless. :)
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
In the spirit of a true postmodern, putting a camera in my hand is already making me see differently.
Tonight as I was driving around (without my camera - and will not make that mistake again!), I was paying attention to everything.
Have you noticed, for instance, that when dusk is gathering, tail lights and stop lights are luminescent? Ohio has big sky sunsets. The colors deepen the closer it gets to pitch black. The water towers and bare branches and old farm houses light up as the sky changes color. So beautiful! I didn't pay much attention before. Suddenly even old store signs look like interesting photo subjects.
When I drove home from taking Jacob to a youth group meeting, I drove behind a Toyota Prius. The license plate said "NO 2 OPEC." And then I thought: Rats! No camera. :)
At the YMCA today in the pool, I wanted a waterproof camera to capture the way the reflections rippled on top of the blue water. We have blue and white triangle flags hanging over the clear water and the gentle waves made the flags fragment into dozens of flags... really pretty.
I keep noticing reflections, contrasting colors, angles and how even modern life can be framed to show off something.
I wonder if a worldview course could benefit from silent observation through the lens of a camera. There is something to be said for patiently observing and appreciating what you see.
If you haven't joined up to take a photo a day, it's not too late. You can start with any date and just go for an entire year. If you do, let me know because I'll add you to my blogroll.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Click on the photo to see larger picture and click here to go to the website and then, I'm not kidding, spend the next fifteen minutes clicking on all the things the new iPhone can do and watch the most amazing future of iPods, cell phones, Google earth, portable Internet, photo album, television and movies... You name it, it does it.
Troy Smith is one classy kid, though. Here's what he said after taking all the blame to himself:
"I have an understanding that not everything in life will go the way you want it to," Smith said. "Florida is a great team. I have no regrets, though. We came out and fought. If this is the worst thing that can happen in life, I'm cool."
This article calls the Heisman a jinx and shows how many Heisman winners don't go on to win the National Title the same year (Matt Leinart is one notable exception).
I'm not a Buckeye so it wasn't as painful to watch their demise as it was watching UCLA lose in the basketball finals last year to the Gators. And actually, what is striking about both losses is the way the Gators authored blow-outs of number one ranked teams. That school must be NUTS this year. I can only imagine the student store and all the t-shirts and schwag. How can you fit National Champs in Basketball and Football on one hoodie?
I'm glad football is almost over. It's just been brutal these last few weeks.
Even basketball. UCLA lost its first basketball game after being undefeated for the first months of the season... No, please...
Monday, January 08, 2007
A Brown Creeper!
It's as satisfying to go Googling as it is to go birding, I'm telling you.
There are many reasons why the Virgin Mary became popular in Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, but the early Church initially used the myth as a theological bone which they threw to the women of the Church to distract them from noticing that the Church fathers were systematically eliminating every vestige of the divine feminine from Christian theology. More importantly, by also denying Mary Magdalene's apostolic authority as the first apostle of Christianity, the patriarchs were able to deny power and authority to all women in the Church. When the votes were all in, God the Mother had been replaced by the Mother of God.
But hasn't the myth of the Virgin actually helped women in the Church? It has certainly helped to keep them docile. For many modern Catholic women, mother Mary has become the "Queen of Heaven," even part of an expanded Trinity. But the women of the Church are still just as powerless today as they were 2,000 years ago.
It's easy to understand why the earliest Christian women were sold on Mary. The image of a Virgin holding a divine (male) child is an ancient archetype. Besides Jesus, nine other (male) divine beings were also born of virgins. The Hindu avatar Krishna was born of the virgin Devaki. Gautama the Buddha was born of the virgin Maya. The Egyptian god Horus was born of the virgin Isis. The Phrygian Attis was born of the virgin Nama. The Babylonian Adonis was born of the virgin Ishtar.
His take above fits with some of what I learned in my doctrine class when we studied the Council of Ephesus.
Hooper doesn't pull any punches nor does he allow for much ambiguity (speaks with confidence about his position). I don't mind if someone wants to make an apologetic on behalf of Mary that takes his assertions to task in the comments section. For my part, I find his research and thinking persuasive.
The titles are challenging to come up with so this one comes from my editors. This is Part Two in the series on Postmodern Virtues. Part One can be reread here.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Saturday, January 06, 2007
"Mind of Christ." Why would Christ have a mind focused on salvation? To me, the mind of Christ must have to do not with the theology of how we come to him, but rather with his mind! ...
I can't think of the last time someone spoke on letting the mind of Christ be in us so that we become humble (humiliated), less significant in the eyes of men, not regarding equality with church leaders as something to be grasped, humbling ourselves to the point of being misunderstood and possibly left out (by our own--not the world out there, but by the very members of our communities of faith), loss of influence and deliberate turning over of our power to those less capable than ourselves and trusting God to work it all out.
I'm working on my next article for UPI and it's interesting for me to see that over six years later, these themes are very important to me, even as they've developed along new lines.
Friday, January 05, 2007
I've watched my group of women cyber-friends attempt to sort through how they will exist online now that my website that hosted our conversations will be closing. It's been an odyssey to watch them discuss what they value, to see each person's vision come up against someone else's, to hear what some wanted all along and didn't get when I ran the board.
I've learned so much as a moderator. And as you'd expect, I have more questions than answers at the end of it all. One of the most oft preached values in grad school has been the aim for dialog between differing viewpoints. I came to grad school suspicious of the term, having been trained to believe that dialog was a code word for manipuating people with strong convictions into watering down their beliefs to be more like the liberal elite. Sometimes, I don't think I was too far off the mark!
Still, the way many online conversations go, I can't say that the alternative to the lofty idealism of dialog is much better. I have been on more forums than you can imagine - everything from politics, to religion, to ex-fundamentalism, to schooling styles (home and un), to homosexual activism, to arts, to sports, and your basic assortment of groupie sites like U2, Bengals, Bruce Springsteen and more. The fun breaks down when someone becomes vitriolic or hostile about someone else's comments.
Ranting about the topic doesn't have to be a problem. In fact, it is welcomed if the group is ranting together at a shared target. In fact, fan sites do more ranting than religious ones! You should have read how fans ripped U2's last CD that ended up winning the Grammy for Best Album of the Year! And of course, Bengals fans were positively dangerous after last Sunday's game - posts detailed how $32K basements designed to honor their team were about to be jackhammered into oblivion! So yeah, just being angry online is not enough to create problems.
The real problems start when a poster decides that another poster should go take a flying leap off a three-story building. Personal attacks are the most egregious, but it's possible to feel attacked without ever being called a name.
There are subtle maneuvers that are unconsciously used by posters to marginalize an unpopular view (and every forum has a popular view - whether it's that being gay is okay, Christianity is God's gift to mankind, the Bengals suck or Republicans are idiots). It goes something like this:
The poster risks stating an unpopular view. A vocal poster immediately makes sure that the popular view is posted as a counter-weight. The unpopular view attempts to re-express the viewpoint more carefully or with nuance or to simply explain why the unpopular view means something to that poster. More posters of the popular view rally to post why the unpopular view can't be the one that is most true. They get angry or express hurt feelings or pressure the poster to recant. They do so with a variety of styles: lengthy essays in three point, statistically driven, terrible and cold logic that is expected to undress the insubstantial view of the unpopular one, or cuddly, affectionate posts that offer warm hugs and kisses intended to gently steer (manipulate) the errant poster back to the right view—and everything in between, including ignoring the new poster.
In some instances, the posting degenerates into name-calling particularly if the first person feels attacked or overwhelmed or judged or picked apart by the popular view.
Here's what fascinates me from the thousands of hours I've spent online in discussion groups. Very few (and I mean a teensy, eensy percentage) people ever actually make contact with the unpopular view long enough to just hear it... without having to do anything with it.
I would be the poorest woman alive if I only got paid for every time someone on a forum said something like this:
What I hear you saying is that you think/believe/feel.... because that thought/belief/feeling adds X dimension to your understanding of Y.
Somehow the presence of an unpopular view most often feels like an attack... even when it is not.
I want to talk more about dialog in another post. I have some difficulty with the liberal notion of dialog, though I believe that some version (hopefully with a different term to describe it) is useful online to facilitate conversations so that people learn things about each other rather than debating and protecting self.
So I'll stop here. I'd love to hear your experiences of online communication and what you make of it.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
For those wanting to put faces to names, I've posted a photo of my family from December to help you see Jon and the kids... and me. :) I'm trying to get my mind into a coherent thought pattern to write a real post. I have all these swirling ideas and they won't come forth when summoned. So I'm taking advantage of my iPhoto cache to fill the void until writer's block passes, as it always does eventually.
Plus, then Steve won't accuse me of being a missing parent in a holiday photo!
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Monday, January 01, 2007
Do you ever face a new year with apprehension? 2005 was magical, in every way. 2006 was good--really, really good. Yet right towards the end, I've felt the wobbling of the tower. It's as if the foundations are shifting, I'm noticing the tremors and I'm hoping that these are merely after shocks of some positive experiences, and not the forshadowing of an emotional earthquake. We southern Californians always do a double take when the earth moves a bit. Is this left over from the last shaking or is it new? Is the big one coming? I hope not.
These are the sorts of worries I nurse when insomnia kicks in.
- I've given up the women's forum that I moderated for seven years. We still do meet online, but the space I created is now empty of new posts and I miss the old context and the dream it represented.
- Grad school ends in May. Xavier is what has made my transition to Ohio especially meaningful. I have loved all four years, every class. To think of not being a student is as though I'm saying good-bye to my youthful self again, only this time for good. I loved college. I love grad school. I love learning. I love being young.
- Johannah will leave for college in the fall. That means we'll have two kids gone. She won't be as close to home as Noah. Her nearest choice is two hours and the furthest is 13 driving. So in any case, she won't be popping home like Noah does.
- Jacob will start full time high school next fall. I feel sadness at watching my little homeschool dwindle to two.
- We have no big trips planned this year. After one summer in Italy and the next in California, 2007 looks bleak of scenery and absent of family.
- I feel internally antsy about my business. It's gone very well in the last two years, but I know it depends on me to take the next step for its continued growth, and I feel unqualified to manage the next stage.... which means hiring people and adding a layer of complexity I am anxious about handling.
- I feel different. There is a difference in my body, mind, personality. Perhaps it is the mid-forties which are causing me to shed layers of pretense, to not have patience for poor writing, to feel cranky about how quickly time goes by, to want to "write that book" already and quit thinking about it, to wish I could exercise more and find time to do it without guilt that I'm taking time away from the kids. There is an urgency in me that is conflicting with the creeping anxiety that I can't or won't or might miss it somehow - that the window is closing.
- I worry more. As our kids get older, I find myself less confident about how it will all turn out. And I love them more than ever.