Caryn’s 23 things – and then some

Racing into Library 2.0 with LOL and others

Theology bunnies?

A friend of mine writes fanfic (and she’s pretty good – check out her Dr. Who-related stories at http://www.whofic.com/viewuser.php?uid=5717), and has a word for story ideas that gang up on her and ambush her in far greater numbers than she can ever actually write: plot bunnies.  Well, that’s applicable to why I haven’t written here in a while – I’ve been set upon by so many theology bunnies that they keep running around in my mind, not leaving any of them room to grow.  So I’m going to dump them here – maybe seeing them written down will help me make connections among them and figure out where I want to go with them.  Or maybe (hint, hint) someone will leave comments which will clarify what I had in mind.  These were noted down over time, and I’ve got bunches more on little bits of paper that may or may not ever turn up again.
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One to a customer

To
Americans, death is always the exception, rather than the rule,
unexpected when it happens, and always someone’s fault.  If an
86-year-old dies in the hospital while recovering from a broken hip,
it’s the hospital’s fault.  If a kid runs out into traffic and is hit
by a truck, it’s the city’s fault, or the trucking company’s, or the
driver’s.  I don’t think there’s ever been any other society so unable
to accept death, no matter what the circumstances.  More and more,
safety seems to be the most important, or even the only, value held by
society as a whole.

Part of the human condition is, inescapably, that death comes one to a customer.  What is it about us that makes us unable to accept this?  Maybe it’s the postwar (by which I mean WWII) feeling that there’s nothing Americans can’t conquer; maybe that’s combined with a more recent feeling that “‘impossible’ just means it hasn’t been done yet.”  We need to recognize our condition and our identity, though, and realize that when someone dies, whether it’s God’s will or not, it’s part of creation and part of the plan.

This wouldn’t be so odd if America didn’t
still consider itself mainly a Christian country.  Whatever their
other beliefs, most Americans believe in Heaven, and have a belief that
they’ll go there when they die.  Why are they so eager to avoid it, at any cost?  Most likely, of course, they’d *like* to believe in Heaven, and hope that saying so will make it true, but they aren’t really sure there is one, or that they’ll get there.  So they’ll spend all their money on lying helplessly in a hospital bed for years on end, or stand in line for 2 hours for a flight to fell like they have some control over terrorism.

They must be like that in England, too, though, because on Dr. Who the parents (with whom Companions are, for the first time, copiously supplied) have only one question when their children leave home: Will they be safe?  That’s not the first question to ask, even for a parent.  Remaining safe is so far from the best thing to wish a young adult starting out.  Life isn’t for remaining safe, and putting off joy as long as possible.
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Ensoulment

Something I’ve thought about for a long time (at least since the first time I read some of Hans Christian Anderson’s stories, like The Steadfast Tin Soldier, or that weepy standard, The Velveteen Rabbit) is ensoulment.  That’s the idea that a soulless creature, like a toy or a robot, can become “real,” meaning, presumably, gaining a soul.  It’s been covered more recently, in slightly different subgenres: Star Trek (both :the Next Generation and :Voyager, with first Data and then the holographic doctor) and Buffy: the Vampire Slayer (with Angel and, later, Spike).  One of the Trek franchise’s best episodes, ST:TNG’s Measure of a Man, was on this subject.  After a very well-written “trial” to determine whether the android Data was a thing, and therefore property, the question was left open.  Is it possible for God to put a soul in something not directly created by God?

Well, for one thing, “is it possible for God” is kind of a stupid question.  The only thing impossible for God is evil.  Even hate has a place within God’s boundless love, and it seems to me that as long as the question isn’t “is it possible for God to do evil?,” the answer has to be “yes.”  All things are possible for God; if we can imagine it, we can be assured that it’s within God’s abilities.  One of my core beliefs is that God’s love is infinite; therefore, I expect it can extend to God’s “grandchildren” – the children of Tes children, us.  By the end of each series, Data, the holographic doctor, Angel, and Spike each had a soul; by the end of the stories, the tin soldier and velveteen bunny did, too.  God is love and creation; it’s our obligation, as God’s children, to try to love and to create as best we can.  If we love our creations, God will too, and they’ll be in Heaven with us.
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God, fearing?

The story of the Tower of Babel has always annoyed me.  Whatever reason God had for destroying the Tower of Babel (and whether the story is literally true or not doesn’t really enter into it), it simply could not have been that God was afraid we’d join Tir in Heaven and be just as good.  Next theory!

What does Bab-El mean, anyway?  Wikipedia says: “The word bab-el can also be seen to mean “gate of god” (from bab “gate” + el “god”).”  The Tower of the Gate of God.  Doesn’t explain anything – what is God supposedly afraid of?
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That had better be it for now – I’ll have to post more of them later.  If you have any comments, let me know!

July 27, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A letter to two kids

I have a 7-year-old godchild, who has a 9-year-old sibling.  The older one has started wondering about God, death, and related subjects, so I wrote them a letter.  I’ll copy it here, and if anyone has comments or questions, they can ask.

Dear Kids –

This letter is partly to address questions [the older one] has been having about God, death, humans’ purpose in living, and so on.  I don’t know if [my godchild] is interested in these questions or not, but since te’s my godchild, it’s my job to talk to tir about them anyway, so I’m sending this to both of you.

These are often referred to as “The Big Questions,” because people have been wondering about them for as long as we’ve been people.  Frustratingly, there aren’t any cut-and-dried answers; I think it’s because God gave us brains, and wants us to use them to keep thinking, instead of knowing the answers and not needing to ponder them any more.

You’ll meet a lot of people who believe they do have the answers, and you’re related to some of them.  [Some relatives] are what is called “Fundamentalist Christians,” and they believe that the Bible is factually and literally correct in all details.  This can be a very tempting point of view, because it’s very comforting to have The Answer to these questions.  However, other people (including me) believe that the Bible is not so much a list of facts, but an aid to thinking about God and related subjects.

Your [other relatives] also believe they have the answers: they believe that there is no God, and that when we die, we’re dead, and that’s all there is to it.  Some people, though (again, including me), find that impossible to believe, because they seem to see God in all of creation.

I’m somewhat handicapped in talking about God, etc., in that I don’t want to talk you into believing my set of answers.  It’s much easier to talk about anything if you believe not only that you’re right, but that anyone who believes differently is wrong.  However, while I think I’m at least partly right, I also think other people are at least partly right, too.  Whenever I say anything about God, please keep in mind that this is how I see the subject, and pretty much everything I say is open to question and discussion.

There’s an old story called “The Blind Men and the Elephant.”  [Older kid], you said you don’t want stories, but The Answer.  Since I’ve explained a little bit of why I’m not offering you The Answer, though, maybe you’ll agree to read this poem, based on the much older story: <http://godloveseveryone.letterfly.h4ab.net/elephant/>.

I expect you can see why I asked you to read that.  One person has hold of the trunk, someone else has hold of the tail or the leg, and since they’re blind, they can’t see the whole elephant at once.  Obviously, we can see, and we can comprehend the whole of an elephant.  But God is so huge, there’s no way we can get outside of God for perspective, and see all of God at once.  As I see it, God contains everything and everyone, whether they’re on this planet or billions of light-years away; whether they’re the size of people, or elephants, or atoms, or suns.  We don’t have the ability to comprehend a being who can create and keep track of all of that, so we tend to cut the question down to things we can handle.  That’s ok, as far as it goes, because this is how God made us, and God understands that we have this kind of thought processes.  The big mistake, in my opinion, comes from each of us thinking that “since I’m right, everyone else has to be wrong.”  But I think that people with very different ideas about God can all be right – God might be in some ways like a tree trunk, AND like a rope, AND like a wall, and so on.

This is kind of a long letter, and although I’ve tried to make it as non-confusing as possible, I don’t know if I’ve managed it.  One very good way to start thinking about God is to go ahead and read the Bible.  Most people don’t start at the beginning and read all the way through to the end, like you do with most books.  It seems to work better to break it up into small pieces that are easier to think about.  And there is great value in learning and memorizing Bible verses.  I’d already said that I was going to start giving [my godchild] Bible verses to memorize, so I’ll give you one you’ve almost certainly already heard:
1 John 4:8:  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (King James version)
        The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (New American Standard Bible)

This opens a whole new can of worms, because there are a lot of translations of the Bible.  It didn’t start off in English, but in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  So it needs to be translated, and as English changes, it needs to be re-translated so that the meaning stays clear.  When you’re memorizing Bible verses, it’s a good idea to memorize the King James version, because that’s a version that most people agree is accurate.  But as you can see, it uses a lot of words we don’t use any more, so to make sure you understand the verse, you might want to look it up in another version.  Your parents may have some different versions of the Bible which you can compare; I usually go to <http://www.bible.com>, which offers a lot of different translations.  If you can, you should also memorize the citation (that’s the 1 John 4:8 part), so you can find it again when you want it.  That’s not as important now as it used to be, though, because now we can go to places like Bible.com and look up a verse if we don’t remember where it was.

Thank you for staying with me through this whole letter, if I haven’t lost you.  Please talk to your parents about any of this that you don’t understand, or any other questions it makes you think of.  And of course, please ask me!  I love talking about God, and Heaven, and why people are here, and all of that – I just don’t usually do it unless people ask me to.

August 19, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does God need anything?

I did get the little Hegel book from the library that I had last year, and am reading it in concert with The Elegant Universe,
a popularization of string theory.  One thing I didn’t really pick
up from the Hegel last year, though, is that he believed that God
wasn’t really God until Te created something to love.  (I haven’t
actually read anything *by* Hegel, you understand – I’m working from
this little book.)  On the one hand, this kind of fits with my
basic idea that God is infinitely loving and infinitely creative –
creation is one of the attributes of God, and love kind of requires an
object.  On the other hand, though, if God needed anything else,
Te wouldn’t be omnipotent, which is another given about God.  I
guess if creativity and love are coexistent with God, as part of God’s
basic nature, they don’t really constitute needs.  I guess.

March 11, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment