So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish

Don't Panic

Post by nebcanuck, Stephen’s son.

After joining in on the blogging world here at i, Pundit last summer, it would seem that it is time for me to move on. So when you don’t see any more posts around here from me, don’t panic… it was a thought-out decision.

It’s come about as a result of a couple of factors. The first — chronologically — was that Dad decided not to focus on his book. The initial reason for my joining the blog was to ease the burden on Dad, so that he could spend some time writing larger material. The plan shifted over time, partly because I wasn’t really that great at keeping up with his phenomenal writing pace, and partly because Dad let go of the idea of the book he had in mind.

The second factor is one of shifting tastes. For some time now, I’ve been moving away from blogging as a medium of expression. My hockey blog has been stagnant for some time, and my posts here have largely been short ones. Perhaps it’s because I’m fairly limited on time, and perhaps it’s because of the heavily-saturated blogosphere, but I never felt that I had found a true niche. As I came to accept that, the motivation to blog decreased. Truth is, when it comes to the blogging world, I’m just as happy to be a reader and commenter, instead of a person who is followed. Thus, in a move to minimize my faux commitment to blogging, I’ve removed my hockey blog and will be ceasing my role here.

There was one other factor worth mentioning, though I don’t wish to dwell on it overmuch at this point. When my dad posted two commentaries on Robert Wright’s views on religion, this decision of moving away from i, Pundit became much more important to me. The simple fact is, I belong to that class of people that is referred to as the “religious right” nowadays. I believe that Truth, by nature, is (at least somewhat) exclusive, and that Jesus Christ as a figure spoke directly to the point that he was the only means to reconciliation with God. Now, I am happy to distance myself from some figures within that movement, in that I don’t believe in creating a homogeneous Christian society, and neither do I believe that there is always a clear cut-and-paste answer to every one of life’s questions. There are substantial questions — including the most-prominent Problem of Evil — which I don’t claim to have an answer for. But those differences do not negate the fact that outside of Christianity, there is no other religion which speaks truly to the nature of God, the damage of sin, and the only means by which God can accept men into his presence — Christ.

With that being said, I know that my religious opinions are far more conservative than most of the readership here. I respect and encourage a diversity of opinions in the world. Do I think it’s wrong to express that God is only a means to a happier society? No. Do I think the concept itself is wrong? Yes. And unlike political differences, which are of secondary importance, I consider God’s nature to be the most important thing a person can ever consider. So, I can’t in right conscience promote anything but, either directly or indirectly.

Rather than attempting to sway readers’ opinions in a series of posts — something which I don’t pretend I have the power to do — I would rather step back from the blog, and focus on other means of evidencing Christ in my life. I would hope that people who know me can attest to my desire to show how much of a difference God has made in my life. I can’t support the thought that God is simply a concept to a better world, because of that difference. Neither can I fight it on such an impersonal forum.

Thus, thanks for the time that you’ve had me around. But it’s time to say “Good bye.”

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GWDCS: Episodes 2 and 3

Post by nebcanuck, Stephen’s son.

Some delay in the video production, since our main man Carlo was away last week. Two episode are ready for your viewing pleasure.

First up: Week Two — Bottle Rockets! Caution: Contents may include extreme coolness and loud music.

A tough weak on the ego, as the video makes clear. But a good one for bonding. We had a blast failing at the bottle rockets, and still have tons of cokes left over. After the attempt, Mike bought pizza for the three of us and we went back to the Bridge, where we talked about what it means to be a godly version of a manly man. I brought up Stu Weber’s Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart, an excellent read for the last few generations, since one of the clear struggles is finding the balance between strength and love.

The next week: Potato Launchers!

I was absent for this particular episode (as well as this week’s), but the guys still had a great time, and it looks like their experiment actually succeeded. Hopefully with all the success, the male egos were able to be kept at bay.

I’m looking forward to being back in the mix next week. We’ll see how progress comes on the videos, as Carlo is in Italy for the next few weeks. Enjoy these, and keep on keeping it real!

The Disappearing Male

Plastic Soldier

Yesterday, a fascinating documentary by CBC on a topic I’d never encountered outright before was passed on to me by a friend. It is entitled The Disappearing Male and refers to an incredible increase in male infertility, and links it to synthetic chemicals that are a product of fossil fuels. Check it out here. A note: It’s 45 minutes long.

Some thoughts:

  1. Plastic is going to be the end of the world.
  2. It is fascinating, although unsurprising, that this has received virtually no attention from the media, despite the large amount of research. They’re far too busy talking about Michael Jackson.
  3. Part of the reason I’m sure it’s received so little attention is our social structure. Whether it’s people living near Sarnian factories or people using an excessive amount of plastics, those most exposed to these chemicals are the poor. Wealthier citizens live in more sanitary areas and can afford wood, glass, or metal products that are more attractive and seen as status symbols.
  4. Another part is the fact that plastic is so pervasive in every part of our market that no business would want this to become mainstream.

A Sad Irony

Fetus

Post by nebcanuck, Stephen’s son.

A newspiece on the CBC website today made the announcement that scientists in England are close to producing artificial sperm:

British scientists say they have taken human embryonic stem cells and turned them into sperm-like cells that have moving tails.

Researchers at Newcastle University and the NorthEast England Stem Cell Institute say the work is in its early stages and the end result, while containing all the essential qualities for creating life, is not perfect.

Newcastle research leader Karim Nayernia said in a statement Wednesday that the technique they used could some day help develop treatments for infertile couples, although current British law forbids the use of lab-created sperm or egg cells in fertility treatments.

How strangely, sadly ironic that this benefit for people unable to have children comes at the cost of fetuses.

British scientists say they have taken human embryonic stem cells and turned them into sperm-like cells that have moving tails.

Prof. Karim Nayernia, seen here at work in Newcastle, England, says the research will help further study the development of sperm and possibly help create treatments for infertile men.Prof. Karim Nayernia, seen here at work in Newcastle, England, says the research will help further study the development of sperm and possibly help create treatments for infertile men. (Scott Heppell/Associated Press)Researchers at Newcastle University and the NorthEast England Stem Cell Institute say the work is in its early stages and the end result, while containing all the essential qualities for creating life, is not perfect.

Newcastle research leader Karim Nayernia said in a statement Wednesday that the technique they used could some day help develop treatments for infertile couples, although current British law forbids the use of lab-created sperm or egg cells in fertility treatments.

GWDCS: Manifesto and Episode One

Post by nebcanuck, Stephen’s son.

GWDCS: Guys Who Do Cool Stuff. It’s the title of our summer men’s program at the Bridge Youth Centre. I’ve been volunteering for the Bridge since this past fall. It is a Christian organization geared around reaching out to “youth” from lower-income backgrounds within urban centres, with “youth” being a loose term that represents people ranging from 10 up to 25. Their tactics are unorthodox, their theology conservative. And often, it’s a stretch for people like myself (middle-class university kids) to get their heads around the world-within-a-world that exists even in innocuous places like downtown Peterborough.

Guys Who Do Cool Stuff is oriented towards young adult men that participate in other programs at the Bridge. It’s a males-only program, as the name implies, which might be politically incorrect in some of the better-off circles in our culture (Cubs is no longer boys only, for example), but hardly raises an eyebrow at the Bridge. And it’s refreshing, in a beat-the-pants-off-that-other-guy sort of way! 🙂

Because of the great time we had with our first get-together this past Wednesday (July 1st), and because I’m stoked for the rest of the summer, I figure I’ll post the videos to the blog, for your viewing pleasure. First, our man-ifesto (and the first taste of the male humour. Sorry ladies, for some of the lame jokes!):

And now the first week’s adventure:

And yes, that’s me, blowing it within three seconds by taking off a friend’s head.

Afterwards, we discussed how men should treat women, and what to look for in a woman. There were life stories, and Biblical examples. Even though we were short on guys, the conversation was solid and the event was great fun. And best of all, we’re reaching out to young people that Sunday morning services simply fail to connect with!

Orwell Versus Tolkien: Good and Evil Part One

Good-Evil

Post by nebcanuck, Stephen’s son: Orwell Versus Tolkien is a series of posts which seek to compare key components of the worldviews presented in Orwell’s 1984 and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings by considering excerpts in tandem.

Having established the core of the worldviews in both 1984 and The Lord of the Rings, it’s now worth considering what some of the implications of these worldviews are. The first I’d like to look at is each author’s depiction of Good and Evil throughout their novel. Each of these depictions bears the mark of the worldview. And each presents a clear difficulty for the respective worldview to overcome.

Running with the idea that Orwell does not intend the reader to ascribe to the Party’s arguments, I put forth that he was actually attempting to advocate for a naturalistic humanistic worldview. Both portions of this worldview are necessary albeit not directly linked. The perspectives established thus far, concerning man and hope, are essentially derived from naturalism. To say that man has a conscious and subconscious mind is not a judgment of character, but a mere observation of natural phenomena. A naturalistic perspective ultimately reduces all fact to the present, which I argued became a hurdle in establishing any sort of hope within humanity. But it is here, in the consideration of Good and Evil that Orwell really begins to demonstrate his humanistic inclination, rather than his naturalistic one. Naturalism in its brute form does not contain morality, as has been pointed out in past comments. But humanism is a moral position. And it holds that certain actions are good, while others are evil.

Consider this excerpt:

“Do you believe in God, Winston?”

“No.”

“Then what is it, this principle that will defeat us?”

“I don’t know. The spirit of Man.”

“And do you consider yourself a man?”

“Yes.”

“If you are a man, Winston, you are the last man. Your kind is extinct; we are the inheritors. Do you understand that you are alone? You are outside history, you are non-existent.” His manner changed and he said more harshly: “And you consider yourself morally superior to us, with our lies and our cruelty?”

“Yes, I consider myself superior.”

O’Brien did not speak. Two other voices were speaking. After a moment, Winston recognised one of them as his own. It was a sound-track of the conversation he had had with O’Brien, on the night when he had enrolled himself in the Brotherhood. He heard himself promising to lie, to steal, to forge, to murder, to encourage drug-taking and prostitution, to disseminate venereal diseases, to throw vitriol in a child’s face. O’Brien made a small impatient gesture, as though to say that the demonstration was hardly worth making. Then he turned a switch and the voices stopped.

As one can see, there are some difficulties with concepts of good and evil. Orwell seeks to establish Winston as the better person, morally. The book, in my opinion anyways, genuinely conjures up emotions of sympathy and camaraderie for Winston within readers. When he is oppressed, we, too, feel oppressed. When he and Julia are tempting fate for love’s sake, one cannot help but feel that this is a moral stand against the regime. When Winston looks down upon the prole woman in the courtyard and notes the fact that her hardened, aging body is a good and beautiful thing, we agree wholeheartedly, even as we struggle to reject that part of us that finds plastic surgery and youth aesthetically pleasing. And at this scene, when Winston is in the middle of being tortured for having lived a full life, his courage in defense of the “Spirit of Man” is praiseworthy! How can one not feel some connection with Winston in the face of O’Brien and the Party?

But, inevitably, the entire scene crashes in around us as O’Brien’s logic works its magic. Always with the quiet, perfectly-honed response, O’Brien shatters those illusions which Winston holds dear. The Spirit of Man exists even amongt the collective. (Your kind is extinct). This principle will defeat the Party? (You are alone). Right and wrong, good and evil, exist! (You, and thus they, are non-existent). In a world which is entirely physical, and under the control of one omnipotent force, nothing can be contrary to it. Morality, as a concept, ceases to exist outside of the Party.

The only possible response? Destroy the Party! If it can be destroyed, then surely that is a sign that morality can overcome power! And yet, this hope, too, becomes caught in its own contradictions. Winston, so excited to see the Party fall, agreed to join the Brotherhood in a full-fledged resistance. He was willing to do anything — with the exception of betraying Julia — to see Right and Wrong restored. To have man returned to his peaceful state. To see love, life, liberty, and happiness become permissible again. But, in promising to resort to any tactics necessary, he promised away his moral high ground.

This is an age-old battle for humanism. A classic example: the Black Rights movement in the United States was divided along these lines, with men like Martin Luther King Jr. paralleled by groups like the Black Panthers.  More recently, Obama appealed to the Middle East to relinquish its right to use any means necessary to reject Western influence, and Dr. George Tiller was recently murdered for his abortion practices, which was immediately rejected by Albert Mohler and other pro-life members. For members of each movement, whether Black Rights, Pro-Palestine, or Pro-Life, there is a difficult position to be taken. Do you accept abuse, and potentially jeopardize your ability to see results in favour of your cause? Or do you lose any traditional sense of morality and begin attacking with everything you have in your arsenal?

In each of these cases, though, a limited degree of freedom was still held by the population. Non-violent tactics actually have an impact in these contexts. In Winston’s, on the other hand, it is very clear that even quiet resistance, in the form of romantic relationships, leads to dire consequences.

Will this extreme scenario ever be faced? It’s impossible to say. But this is a premium difficulty for anyone who wants to hold onto both naturalism and humanism, and I believe Orwell himself struggles with this fact. To suggest that there is no good or evil outside of man (no “God”, that is) means that any morality is essentially relativistic. But one man’s relative good (killing a kid to take down the Party) is another man’s evil. And when two men disagree about morality, and there is no objective judge, might inevitably makes right, whether that might is a gun or a simple majority vote.

To keep these posts shorter, the next Orwell Versus Tolkien will consider Christianity’s own struggles with Good and Evil, as in Tolkien’s writing…

Subtle Muslim Politics

Post by nebcanuck, Stephen’s son.

From Slate:

If President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo on Thursday is designed to hit “reset” on Washington’s relations with the Muslim world, the White House may soon find that it is pushing the wrong buttons. Public diplomacy in the lands of Islam is a deeply complicated affair, and Muslims do it much better than U.S. presidents.

[…]

“By addressing the ‘Islamic world’ from Cairo,” writes Goldman, “Obama lends credibility to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and other advocates of political Islam who demand that Muslims be addressed globally and on religious terms.” In other words, the American president is playing into the hands of those who seek to bring down the U.S.-backed order in the Middle East.

The point makes excellent sense. I’ll admit, I hadn’t even thought of the fact that addressing Islam as a whole would be a political statement out of the norm. I tend to take it for granted that the “Islamic World” does exist. Not as a uniform, unshifting mass, of course, but as a general term, the same as European or Western Nations. But since the demise of the Ottoman Empire, technically the term is different.

But does that make it so?

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