Monday, September 11, 2017

Reputation and Judgment

Apparently yesterday morning several older ladies were talking about how brave and strong my wife was for bringing the kids to church after I had abandoned her and left the church.

At the time, I was in the sound booth in the back. I made the PowerPoint song service go.

Of course, part of me felt hurt—did they really think of me like that?—until I realized that these older ladies had seen generation after generation of people disappoint them. Not just that, but they had seen generation after generation of surprises in general. Some stuff just happens. Certainly it made me want to judge other people.

Mostly, it made me aware of myself: my own reputation and how jealous I am of keeping it. Reputation is a tenuous thing, and when I was younger I arrogantly rebuffed people who wanted to pin their expectations on me. But this is merely how all human society acts—to be, is to be regarded, conceived, imagined, and judged by others. That is what makes society society. If I want to walk upright, blameless before God and Man, then I must accept the judgment of others especially those older and more experienced.

Per Lamentation 3.40, 1 Corinthians 11.28, 2 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 13.5, and Galatians 6.4, my responsibility is to test myself. Per Imlac in Samuel Johnson's Rasselas, “Every man may by examining his own mind guess what passes in the minds of others”: it is no shame that in my own awareness of my frailty and human frailty, others are likewise aware of frailty enough to see it in me: truth is by its very nature objective and self-evident. People judge me, just like I judge other people, so I must first judge myself, as is normal and expected and built-in. But as a result, I must judge myself more strictly.1

There's nothing wrong with those older ladies. They're keeping me on my toes and trying to show love to my wife and children. They thought they saw a bad situation and wanted to wrap my family up in their love. They didn't even mention my “sin” to her out of their sensitivity! I thank God that he has molded me to consider my own flaws during a time like this rather than, as I would have in years past, felt indignant or angry. I thank God all the more for such love in our congregation. They loved me and my family, and felt sad, and wanted to help. In this very real world where people have very real problems, that help is the model of service. If I see someone suffering, loudly or quietly, I want to be as loving as those wonderful Christian ladies, those pillars of faith.


  1. For example, before publishing this, I must agonize over every word to make sure I don't offend or cause someone to stumble. If I can't avoid those, I should scrap the whole thing. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Edges and Coverings

The book of Ruth is truly amazing. There’s no part of this story that doesn’t impress me. Most of my life I thought of it in the standard Sunday-school way we know much of the Old Testament: a person went somewhere and did something, which shows God takes care of us. This is not wrong. However, when it came my turn to be the volunteer Bible class teacher for the week, we’d been going through Ruth, and chapter four was on the docket. In my studies, I’ve found this little book to be deeper by far than I once thought.

Background

First, “levirate marriage” from Deuteronomy 25.5–10:
If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. And if the man does not wish to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.” Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, ‘I do not wish to take her,’ then his brother’s wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And she shall answer and say, “So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.” And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, “The house of him who had his sandal pulled off.”
This doesn’t apply directly, but it’s good to keep in mind. Also, as a brief summary of Ruth to this point, Naomi and her husband Elimelech moved to Moab during a famine and married their two sons Mahlon and Chilion to two Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah, but then Elimelech, Mahlon, and Chilion all die. Naomi can’t take care of her daughters-in-law, and as both the brothers and their father are dead, there’s no levirate marriage to be had, so she sends them back to their families. Ruth won’t go: apparently, Naomi has made a good enough impression that Ruth pledges to follow her in that most famous passage, Ruth 1.16–17:
Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.
They both go back to Naomi and Elimelech’s hometown of Bethlehem in the territory of Judah, and (chapter 2) as they’re gleaning[1] the fields, this man Boaz is nice to her. He tells Ruth that everything will be okay, and if she wants to gather grain, that his servants will take care of her and protect her. In chapter 3, Naomi tells Ruth to approach Boaz about this protection. He offers to protect her, but he says that he can’t do anything official because, as per verse 12, “there is a redeemer nearer than” him. So even though Boaz has been set up by 2.1 and 2.20 as a close relative of Naomi’s husband Elimelech, 3.12 clearly shows that even though Boaz is a prominent man in Bethlehem, a man who has a field big enough to employ multiple young men and young women as reapers and gatherers, he is not the closest relative, and Boaz is either so well-connected or had been thinking about this beforehand so much that knows who that man is.[2] That’s what brings us to chapter 4.

Text

In 4.1–8, Boaz meets with the kinsman[3]. He does it in the open, at the city gate, in front of the elders of the city. This shows just one aspect of Boaz’s virtue: there is a law, and he does things by the book, in the open, with witnesses. Now, Deuteronomy 25 doesn’t apply directly in this case, because it’s only about brothers, not cousins, but because there are strong parallels, we can infer that even if Deuteronomy 25 isn’t an applicable law, Boaz is acting in his present murky case using it as a precedent. Again, Boaz doesn’t just go and do whatever he wants—he wants to rest his actions on something solid. Notice what happens:
Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, “Turn aside, friend; sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. Then he said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.” Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.” Then the redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal.
Note how Boaz crafts his words carefully to see the kinsman’s interests: “do you want to buy a parcel of land?”” “Sure,” he says. But there’s a catch: it comes with a wife. “Maybe not,” the kinsman says, “lest I impair my own inheritance.” What does that mean? I’ll tell you, I had to re-read this section several times and think on it a bit. He was willing to buy land, but it’s a risky investment if it comes with a wife? Here’s my guess: he would have marry Ruth, take care of her as a wife, father a child with her, and, if Boaz is using Deut. 25 as a precedent in front of witnesses, if that child would be legally considered the heir of Mahlon and then Elimelech, so the property that the kinsman buys from Naomi for would then go to that child rather than to him. Here’s the deal: get married to a woman, take care of her mother-in-law and her land, and let it pass to her child, not any of your other children or your own family. Use your own resources to tend it for her as a custodian, not an owner. And because it was done (per Deut. 25) in front of the city elders, he has to take the deal all-or-nothing, with no cover for weaseling out of it later. So we get verses 6–8: “Too rich for my blood.“ But also note that this is done without any malice or anger! Ruth isn’t spitting in anybody’s face (per Deut. 25), and it looks like the sandal business is less a sign of theft or inappropriate action than just signing on the dotted line.

Done and done. Now what? Verses 9–12:
Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.” Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.”
Boaz marries Ruth in the presence of witnesses—not just the ten elders, but “all the people,” and they make some specific references in their blessings:
  1. “May she be like Rachel and Leah,” that is, may she have a whole mess of kids to establish a major dynasty, in a way that connects her to the matriarchs of the entire land of Israel.
  2. “May you act worthily”: of course, sure.
  3. “May your house be like Perez’s”: May your son have a big family himself, yes, but as we welcome you in, let’s connect you with Tamar, the wife of Boaz and Elimelech’s ancestor Judah in a not-exactly-by-the-books levirate marriage
That last one is kind of an embarrassing story for their patriarch Judah, but here’s what’s happening. First, yes, it’s from Genesis 38, the most famous levirate marriage in the Bible: Judah marries Tamar to one son, who dies, then to another son, who God kills for avoiding fathering a child, and then with two dead sons and only one left, Judah tells Tamar “wait until he grows up a bit.” Tamar waits on her thumbs for a few years, and after it’s clear that Son 3 is really truly grown up, she pretends to be a prostitute, gets Judah to sleep with her in exchange for his signet ring, then later when he gets mad that this woman “intended” for his son seems to be pregnant on her own, Judah accuses her, only to be presented with the ring. Judah says, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah” (Gen. 38.26) praising her and disclosing his own dishonor—after all, Tamar earnestly strived for a place within Judah’s family when he wanted to send her back to her father. This is kind of an awkward story—and I can only imagine it would be more awkward in a time when, as per verse 24, she would have been burned to death for adultery. But this is the story that the people of Bethlehem dredge up to emphasize the worthiness of Ruth. Yes, she’s a foreigner in an very exclusive ethno-religious part of the world. But the people welcome her in and knit her into their community. Ruth isn’t a Moabite woman who married an Israelite when he was traveling abroad. She’s in the family of Naomi, of Boaz, of Bethlehem Ephathrah, of Tamar and Judah and Rachel and Leah. Ruth will be a Fine Upstanding Member of the Community, not just some dead man’s Gentile wife. Ruth wants to be with them, and they want Ruth right back.

Message

Throughout the whole book, I see edges and coverings everywhere. Ruth begins her story on the edge of Israel, on the edge of a family, but she hangs on to Naomi and to God, who cover her in protection and help. Ruth returns with Naomi, who has no husband and is herself on the edge of society, as a single older woman with no husband or sons to protect her. Only Boaz, a relative of Elimelech, is there: but Boaz is a distant enough relative for the nature of their connection to be unclear: not Elimelech’s brother, for instance, but more distant—on the edge of Elimelech’s family. Ruth gathers from the edge of the field, from the leftovers provided by the kindness of Boaz and the laws of God.[4] Ruth gathers at the edge of a group of other young men and women, but Boaz’s commands and Naomi’s advice cover her in protection. Ruth comes in to the edge of Boaz’s bed, an act that is on the edge of propriety, but under the cover of night she finds the protection of Boaz as he covers her in his robe. When he sends her home, he even covers her in barley! Even then, another kinsman is closer, but he himself doesn’t wish to risk himself by extending protection to her, highlighting Boaz. In the end, Ruth is brought back into society by Boaz, by the elders and all the people, covered in their love and protection. She and Naomi are given a son, further cementing them within the society.

In sum, then, Ruth’s story is about how the people at the very edges of God’s earthly kingdom are welcomed, taken care of, redeemed, blessed, and secured. What a message for us all today!


  1. That is, picking up leftover grain in other people’s fields because they have no other way to get food for themselves. They aren’t in the best of situations.  ↩
  2. Though the author doesn’t tell us that name  ↩
  3. Ruth uses the term “redeemer” in accordance with the language of Deuteronomy, but I’ll use “kinsman” to emphasize his familial order of preference  ↩
  4. Leviticus 19.9–10: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”  ↩

Monday, June 2, 2014

Transitions and Questions: iCloud Drive, Compared

I’ve paid $20 a year for the past two years for iCloud storage. I have a 32 GB 5th-gen iPod touch and a 32 GB iPad 2, and between backup space and iCloud documents (including a lot of Keynote presentations for school), I would laugh at 5 GB of free space. Many have noted how ridiculous it is to sell 128 GB iPads when only 5 GB of backup space is free.

Today, Apple introduced Mac OSX Yosemite, which among its rather high number of new features, includes an expansion of the old app-silo iCloud to the new iCloud Drive. The new plan has higher storage capacities and lower prices throughout.

Old (Current) iCloud Pricing Model:

Free 5 GB, plus:

$20 / 15 GB = $1.33 per GB
$40 / 25 GB = $1.60 per GB
$100 / 55 GB = $1.82 per GB

As you can see, each Tier is more expensive per gigabyte than the last. If you pay Apple less money, you get a better deal. Talkin’ fancy, there’s a financial disincentive for more engagement. Not only do you pay more money ($40 > $20), but you’re paying at a higher rate, making the cost hurt even more. Given two extremes, Apple hewed much closer to “Buzz off, I don’t want your money” than “Give me all your dough.” I cannot fathom why the rate goes up as the price goes up, unless Apple wanted to stop people from giving them money–given the iCloud congestion we often hear about As Apple prides themselves on being a profitable company, I’m not surprised they decided to try and make more money in the new model:

New iCloud Drive Pricing Model:

Free 5 GB, plus:

$(0.99 × 12) / 20 GB = $0.59 per GB
$(3.99 × 12) / 200 GB = $0.24 per GB

Things are less expensive across the board—the new most expensive-per-gigabyte plan is less than half the price than the old least expensive-per-gigabyte plan. What’s more, each tier is now less expensive per gigabyte than the last, a financial incentive to buying more space, just like those three-gallon jars of mayonnaise at Sam’s or Costco. It’s also scaled by month, not year, like most in-app purchases, and like Beats Music they recently acquired.

Now, we don’t yet know the pricing of all tiers. We’re told that tiers will go up to 1 TB. If the tiers don’t get any less expensive per gigabyte (which I would recommend against), 1 TB would cost $20 per month and $120 a year (or $19.99 in Apple pricing)

(1024 GB × $0.24) / 12 = $20

Alternately, if Apple wanted to price-match Google on the 1 TB plan (shown below), it would cost $10 a year:

(1024 GB × $0.12) / 12 = $10

Either way, it’s cheaper by an astounding level compared to old iCloud pricing.

The Competition

Because iCloud Drive, unlike iCloud is a more direct analog to other online file-storage services, two built by Apple’s direct competitors, it’s useful to compere them: Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and the independent favorite Dropbox. Certainly they won’t integrate as seamlessly with Apple devices as iCloud Drive will, much like Google Drive on Android and Chrome devices and OneDrive on Windows devices.

Google Drive

Free 15 GB, plus:

($1.99 × 12) / 100 GB = $0.24 per GB
($9.99 × 12) / 1024 GB = $0.12 per GB
($99.99 × 12) / 10240 GB = $0.12 per GB

At $0.24 per gigabyte, Apple’s new second-tier plan matches Google’s first-tier plan exactly. Of course, Google gives 15 GB free from the start, three times as much as Apple’s 5 GB free plan, so once you start paying, $11.88 a year to Apple gives you 25 GB, but the lowest you can pay Google is $23.88 a year for 115 GB.

I included a tier above what Apple offers to show that the progression after that point is flat—that is, there’s no financial incentive per gigabyte to buying in bulk. Going by the earlier language of financial incentive and disincentive, Google gives you an incentive to upgrade your account from 100 GB to 1 TB, but they don’t incentivize it further. Reading the numbers, they want you to get 1 TB, but they could care less about getting 10 TB.

Microsoft OneDrive

7 GB free (expandable to 15 GB through referrals and bonuses)

$25 / 50 GB = $0.50 per GB
$50 / 100 GB = $0.50 per GB
$100 / 200 GB = $0.50 per GB

Flat progression: all $0.50 per gigabyte. OneDrive is cheaper per unit than the most expensive (lowest-tier) new iCloud Drive and any Dropbox plan, but it’s far more expensive than all other iCloud Drive plans and certainly than Google Drive. They, along with Dropbox (below) don’t seem to want to incentivize higher-tier plans. I guess they only want you to buy as much as you need, neutral to incentive-based rates. This is the one service I have no personal experience with, so I don’t have much to say. Their pricing isn’t as bad as Dropbox, but not as good as Google Drive, either.

Dropbox

2 GB free (expandable to 18 GB through the referrals and bonuses they’re famous for)

$99 / 100 GB = $1 per GB
$199 / 200 GB = $1 per GB
$499 / 500 GB = $1 per GB

Flat progression: all $1 per gigabyte. Dropbox is older and more popular (200m users, to Google Drive’s 150m), so perhaps they have coasted for a while–they last updated their price per gigabyte almost two years ago. They’ve got the install base now, and there’s nothing to stop users from doubling up (note: I use Dropbox and Google Drive regularly), but I can’t see a reason to pay for Dropbox over another service. Most 3rd party apps support Google Drive now, after all.

For those who look at Google and think Apple’s gouging their customers—and I’m not disagreeing outright—look at Dropbox’s pricing plan. Ever since Google lowered their Drive storage recently, people have been saying that they’re too expensive. Now, they’re almost twice as expensive as Apple’s most expensive per-gigabyte plan. The writing’s on the wall, and I anticipate a change in Dropbox sooner rather than later, just to stay afloat. Finally, note the minimum charges you’ll pay for all services: $25 for a year of 50 GB OneDrive, $9.99 for a month of 100 GB Dropbox, $1.99 for a month of 100 GB Google Drive, or $0.99 for a month of 20 GB iCloud Drive. Once you decide you want to pay some money for some storage, Apple doesn’t make it most worth your while, but it lowers the bar about as low as it can go.

Conclusions and Questions Going Forward

As I’m currently paying $20 for 15 GB of iCloud, of course I’m going to opt to pay less money for more storage. I don’t know if I’ll pay for 200 GB, though, barring some amazing change (see #4 below). But, as with many things in life, one answer provokes many new questions:

  1. How much will the iCloud Drive tiers be above 200 GB, and how many of them will there be? Will there be any tier between 20 and 200 GB?
  2. How much will other services change before the Fall release of iCloud Drive—DropBox and OneDrive in particular?
  3. How well will iCloud Drive work on Windows and the Web? (For a crazy thought, will we ever have third-party iCloud apps?)
  4. What does this mean for Time Machine? Will we be allowed to use Time Machine to an iCloud Drive? Will higher-tier iCloud Drive plans obviate the need for Time Machine? Could you put your entire computer (or at least the entire home directory) on iCloud Drive?
  5. Will there be any discount from monthly to yearly? If not, how long does iTunes Match stay exclusively a yearly subscription?

Update:

  1. Dropbox is still mostly forgettable, despite the improvement
  2. OneDrive is now very interesting compared with Google. Parity or better.
  3. Ignore Box unless your workplace uses it
  4. iCloud Drive is only available on Apple products. Online does not count. It's far too expensive, and downright old-fashioned when it's free. Should we be happy it works at all, or should they try to wow us on the price to overcome bad PR?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

On Wistfulness: Final Fantasy VI for iOS

Final Fantasy VI has just arrived on the iOS App Store, and I'm thrilled. There's been a lot of hubbub over the graphical changes, and, playing it on my 5th generation iPod touch, I can see a few problems already–namely that the sprite colors have too much low-contrast pastel, the “high-res” graphics are still pixelly on retina screens that were introduced four and a half years ago with the barely-supported iPhone 4, and, most egregious, the graphics seem noticeably stretched on my wider 4-inch screen from what I've seen in screenshots (especially when the background graphics don't seem stretched at all). The last problem will probably be fixed in a coming release, my other two observations just the price of expediency and taste.

There's been a lot of complaining that the graphics are upscaled at all, but really, that doesn't bother me. I'd have loved to see retina-level graphics based on the original character art, but I know that the sprites I'm used to were only based on the original art, not downscaled from them. That's not how pixel art works. I've been playing a lot of Cave Story+ lately, and I feel a similar vibe: the new graphics are higher-resolution from the original, but still pixelly enough to try to satisfy “old school” purists. Of course, those people can never be satisfied, but I'm not complaining. The original release had bugs and the PS and GBA rereleases had bugs, and our notion of perfect art is clouded with nostalgia, that most dangerous of drugs.

But they didn't mess with the music. They didn't mess with the music. Back in 1997 or 1998 I imported the soundtrack from Japan. I love it. It remains one of the best pieces of game music to this day because it is both beautiful and appropriate to the world. Most video-game music is one or the other. I love Keiichi Suzuki)'s Earthbound soundtrack too, but I don't know if I'd use the word “beautiful” to describe it. Yoshitaka Amano's art is the star of the show, but Nobuo Uematsu's score is its soul.

At the heart of Final Fantasy VI is the opera scene. It's poignant, but it's really great because the entire game is an opera. There is a large cast of characters, each with their own motivation. Strong characters with strong personalities and strong motivations go throughout. Much has been written that Kefka, the main villain, acts more like a protagonist than many of the playable characters. Even characters without personalities have backgrounds (Gogo), and characters without backgrounds have personalities (Mog). The stories are epic, not in that bland, overdone “we have to save the world” variety, but “we have to save each other.” The story is epic not in the way that Final Fantasy, say, is epic, but in the way that the Ring Cycle is epic, the way that the Iliad and Odyssey and Aeneid are epic. Even the townspeople, easy to underrepresent as cardboard cutouts, change from moment to moment as the world changes politically, ecologically, and geographically around them. The music is operatic from the notes of the chorale prelude and opening background scene. Then a windy silence, as we overlook a hill, then the opening credits, with a fuller overture of the main theme, Terra's personal theme, and the overworld theme. You can't skip past this section or speed through it, ostensibly so you can appreciate the nice people who made the game, but also so you must soak up every bit of the score as the three soldiers trek slowly through the blizzard. The blizzard is the game.

The main emotion of Final Fantasy VI is wistfulness, as seen in its perfect score, but also in its story. The world is destroyed. Evil is defeated, but lives are still changed, in many cases ruined. People gain redemption and struggle for hope, but it is a ruined world they struggle in, and the memory of a world forever lost is what gives them hope for the future. The world is never remade, just improved. The cataclysm is never undone, merely mitigated. When characters die, we feel for them, but others fight on, make lives for themselves, and care for the next generations.

I can tell why so many people complain about the sprites. The game is amazing, and playing through it the first time changed how its players saw the genre and the medium. The wistfulness that the game employs is close to nostalgia, but what we once felt is gone. Those of us that played it as teenagers or young adults back on the SNES were changed by it. Those that first played on the PlayStation or GameBoy Advance or in emulation feel a pull back to that earlier time, but those of us who played it back in the mid 90s feel something greater–its original North American release was 20 years ago this year, and we are all different people now, with jobs and spouses and kids. We might not be as idealistic as we were in our teens, and the world has changed around us. Yet, transported back to that time, we shouldn't long for those romantic days gone by, but embrace the new world we live in. The World of Balance is a memory, but not all hope is lost.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

My Week with Green Dot

This week I was in in Martin doing Green Dot training. Honestly, I wasn't really looking forward to it. I'm away from my wife and kids and it's a week out of my summer. I know that Green Dot's mission to prevent personal violence is a good one, but what could I really do?

It's crazy how I played directly into their hands.

Before coming, it seemed like a program. I don't really like programsPrograms are zombies: thoughtless, moving only under momentum, slowly, and certainly dangerous in their unfeeling mass. Unfortunately, people act in groups, and if we can emphasize the personal relationships we all have, we can help.

Green Dot focuses on proactive things, not reactive--healing the wounded is good, but preventing wounds is better. Along those lines, Green Dot hinges on two things. First, it doesn't ask us to identify as a potential victim in need of defense or a potential aggressor in need of restraint, but a bystander who needs to act. It's easier to identify as a bystander than either of the other groups, so it's easier to prepare to act before an emergent situation. Next, Green Dot emphasized the dilemma of a bystander's action/inaction, excluding any middle neutral path. We don't all do the best, but, as Yoda says, we do or do not, although in this case trying is rounded up, not down.

It's a program, yeah. It has a brand--it even has a logo, the eponymous Green Dot. But it focuses on on action more than "activism"; us ourselves rather than "community." I was afraid of a program that focused on keeping women from getting hurt and keeping men from doing horrible things. I discovered a conversation about how bad things happen to all sorts of people, but primarily how all sorts of people can help each other stay safe--most directly, it's about how we protect other people.
We good people outnumber the bad people, and the only way to stop bad actions is to replace them with good actions--interpersonal violence hurts too many people, so we the majority needs to act in each other's lives, to help each other out, even to look out for chances to help.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Gods of Our Amorites

Some hold that the Reformation held within it the germ of modern atheism, as the emphasis on personal choice for God also must allow for the personal choice against God. On a long view, however, that must have been the point from the beginning. God desires that nobody would fall, but desire implies a lack of domination, an acceptance of the possibility or even probability of rejection. In all, we know that the straight path is narrow and the wayward path is wide.

This is what Joshua told the people of Israel. We concentrate on the "choose this day who you will serve," but there's more there. Joshua emphasized choice in serving God, but in particular he was speaking to those who did not want to serve God, those who in his words found serving God "evil" in [their] eyes." Joshua emphasized his own choice of God, but confronted the rebellious, disgruntled Israelites with a dilemma: either serve their fathers' God, or serve the Amorites' God. There are only two paths, after all, and either we must choose to submit to the God who loves us, or submit to the gods of those who hate us and want us dead.

For our Amorites, whether philosophically atheist or simply uncaring, want not to glorify us but to glorify themselves. They don't want to save us eternally, but to prolong the suffering of this world under the guise of "preserving life." Our Amorites praise the man as opposed to the God who has brought us this far. Our Amorites praise the seemingly immortal god Mammon, who shall be destroyed with his gold in the fires that end the world, as our God and his faithful look on, sad for the great loss but safe eternally. Our Amorites worship science but not the Creator of nature, asking questions of the universe that provoke more questions, not seeking solace in the God who satisfies fully in the waters that satiate all thirst.

Our God made this world for us, and brought us into it, but we are here because of him and the service he asks of us. While in this world, it tries to distract, distort, taint, and corrupt, and destroy us. The gods of the Amorites demand death and blood unending, while our God desires clean hearts and loving service. The King of all that is came to us as a pauper, serving us to his own death, and begs us to let him in to our hearts, knowing that he has made the rock he cannot lift: he has given us the keys to our own hearts.

A beast, a monster, a demon might compel us to be his slaves. Our God asks us quietly, in hopeful patience, and the only time limit is our own.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Busyness as Usual

At the beginning of the semester I have everything to do. And right now, a week in, is when it hits me: until December, I won't not be busy. Every second of every day, I've got something to do—something I could be doing. As I write this, I could be grading essays or working on my conference paper or finishing my gradebook or preparing for next week's classes or smoothing out Blackboard.

I'm wasting my time writing all this.

But no, I'm not. It's not because it's almost 2 am and past time when I can competently grade. It's not because this is a form of mental work and mental work is good. It's not so I can build up a body of blog posts or even for me to look back on when I'm feeling the squeeze at the first of next semester or next year.

I'm doing this because I want to, because I find it rewarding. Writing down my thoughts makes me feel good, right now, and feeling good, though it is a tautology, *makes me feel good*.

I'm not getting behind every second I sleep instead of grade. I'm not getting behind every time I watch an episode of Doctor Who instead of grade. I'll get my work done, but what makes me good at my job—if I am—is that I am human, and being human means caring about stuff, doing things because they make me feel good.

It also means not watching *another* episode of Doctor Who, or fussing with my gradebook instead of grading essays, let alone checking Twitter again. Tomorrow, I need to grade a bunch of essays. And really, I'll enjoy it, and feel better with it done than I did before. And then I'll work some more.

But right now, I wanted this time to write.