An Illusory Intertwingling of Reason and Response

Musings: “Cogitations of an Addled Mind,” one might call it, or “Mr. Toad’s Adventure,” for that matter. Most of what I write stems from a long brooding process, and here I present to you, raw and untamed, the results. (Some musings are on a devotional note, and others are seasonally-oriented.)

Tafel :: musings

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Monday, April 14, 2008

I'm Just Really Picky

"I'm just really picky."

My standard answer to the many variations of "Why don't you have a girlfriend." I was at the lake with some church friends yesterday (written June 2007), including one woman who sees herself as an adoptive mother to me (not that that's necessarily a bad thing . . .)

When pressed to explain (and in the face of accusations that I was waiting for a Stepford Wife), I said something about wanting someone who would do the dishes and have deep intellectual conversations with me.

"You're not going to find someone who can have deep intellectual conversations that wants to do the dishes." That was "mom's" husband. She concurred.

I can't believe that. In fact, I categorically refuse.

Anyhow, the evidence is against it. Heck, if I believed that, I'd give up on the idea of marriage altogether and settle for various sushi and coffee dates (intelligent eye candy) for the rest of my life. Or suicide. Something like that.

Have feminists really won so much ground that even conservative Christians are believing the farce that housewifery1 is a lesser task for lesser minds, and women who think are above it?

No. He's wrong2. Simply because he has to be.

1. "Huswifery", by Edward Taylor. By a common synecdoche from the days when spinning and weaving were household tasks, Edward Taylor likened God's work in our lives to that of a housewife producing homespun cloth. The task of seeing the irony in this case I leave to you, gentle reader.

2. q.v. "High Standards and Perfect Sisters".

Friday, February 08, 2008

Life Is Pleasing to the Touch

Life has always overshadowed the Shadow of Death:

I've never really respected Death. I don't mean merely "invincible youth", either: I've simply been too alive for the idea of death to seem anything but vaguely amusing.

reality to its unseen, point to its counter,

The reason I say it's not merely "invincible youth" is that it's not merely my own death I find absurd. The death of anyone — friend, loved one, stranger — seems a phantastic concept: one that doesn't bear cogitation simply from sheer farcity.

pleasing to the touch, making me chuckle.

I've never cried at a funeral.

Death has always made me laugh a bit:

Not out of callousness, death just never had a hold on my imagination. Life has always been too real for Death to be worth consideration. And besides, I've always believed — even before reason confirmed it — that the body is not wherein is Life.

not an uncomprehending, uncomfortable giggle,

I've never cried at a funeral.

I tried to cry at my grandpa's funeral. I really did. I was nine years old, and I knew that's what you were supposed to do. It didn't work.

but a chuckle, patting a child on the head,

When a childhood friend committed suicide, I tried to cry. But even at the funeral, I couldn't see sorrow in the situation. Foolishness, yes. Waste, of course. But sorrow? It didn't work.

telling him to show his mother.

I've never cried at a funeral. Life distracts me. It's pleasing to the touch.

Monday, October 29, 2007



They say men are afraid of commitment. I'm not sure how I feel about that characterization, especially regarding the rash of studies, both formal and informal, that have put women on par or above men in commitophobia.

Cartoon: 'Cartoon: Wedding.'

That women are afraid of commitment is nothing new, either: Shere Hite (Women and Love, 1989) revealed that eighteen percent of dating women in the adult single bracket (thirty to fifty years old) were admittedly uninterested in marriage. The same book reported that over a quarter of young single women (twenty to twenty-nine) intend never to marry (while remaining the dating "market"), and over half of all unmarried women express a fear of commitment — a bit more even than the most cynical statistics for unmarried men.

Such recluctance — on either side of the fence — is generally traced to a fear that they'll find someone better after committing. As with many aspects of the gender divide in our contemporary culture, of course, men's reluctance to commit is painted in darker tones: "anti-monogamy", Hite says, on the one side contrasts with "celebration of life on our own" on the other.

Cartoon: 'I understand now. There's no choir of angels when you meet the right person. It's about growing out of your fears to realize what you have is what you want.'


With that out of the way, and working from the premise that both men and women are equally wary of commitment, let's take a look at the underlying issue: knowing that you've found The One (if you subscribe to that idea) or reasonable facsimile thereof (if you don't).

Exhibit A: myself. Time was, I wasn't wary of commitment. Quite honestly, I had a failure-proof attitude that any commitment I might enter couldn't possibly be the wrong one. I probably (read: "You'd better believe it!") could've been considered under-cautious. Regardless, I'd never have fit the "men are afraid of commitment" stereotype.

I was fairly close, actually, to that permanent plunge I still long to take — with someone I realized was not "The One or Reasonable Facsimile".

Cartoon: 'Cartoon: Choir of angels.'

That has left me, not afraid of commitment — I still see myself as married before thirty (Given that the median age for men to marry is 27 and for women is 25, I'll not be too far behind, and the standard "half-plus-seven" CreepinessFactor™ would leave quite a few single women in my range, I'm not worried that I'll be too old. Although...) — but treating it with a measure of respect that, in my former hubris, I neglected. That respect comes from a greater personal assimilation of the concept of marriage: while before I considered it an inevitability, and even something which could be not only satisfactory, but transcendant, with anyone matching an objective list of criteria, my views — if I'm honest with myself — have changed.

There's an idea — propounded to me by many people, several of whose opinions I greatly respect — I've tried time and again to believe. The best way it's been phrased, though, is as in the frame above:

I understand now. There's no choir of angels when you meet the right person. It's about growing out of your fears to realize what you have is what you want.


Cartoon: 'Cartoon: Well, crap.'

But that seems only a small step removed from my former, now-rejected view.

And I know there's a choir of angels. I've heard them once before. (That fact alone pushes me towards the "or reasonable facsimile" camp.) My greatest fear is not of commitment — commitment remains one of my fondest dreams — but of wrong commitment. I still believe I could set up pleasant housekeeping with anyone who ticked enough boxes on the list. But it's more than that now. I've heard the angels.

I still have a checklist. I still refer to it with regularity.

But I'm waiting for the choir.

There is no Exhibit B.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

High Standards and Perfect Sisters

I'm told quite often (often enough that it's sure not to be a coincidence) that I'll never get married because my standards are too high. As in, "unrealistic," or "otherworldly." It's not my fault I have perfect sisters. Or a perfect mom, for that matter.

"If you don't stop being so picky," one of my best friends told me, "you're going to die a bachelor."

"There are worse fates than bachelorhood," I replied.

You see, I've lived with intelligent, capable, feminine women my whole life. I'm not willing to put up with stupid (might I steal the phrase "bubble-headed"?), helpless, anti-traditional girls. It just ain't gonna happen.

One of the least attractive things in the world is a dumb girl. Honestly. Who wants someone with half a brain or less hanging off their elbow like some sort of superficially-attractive tumor? (I mean, besides football jocks — by "who" I mean, of course, "who among thinking humans.")

And then one of my (female) friends told me that some girls "play dumb" to attract boys. Well, if they want a boy — an emotionally immature idiot who can't feel self-confident unless the women around him are even dumber than he is — they can help themselves. A pox upon them!

Capability: now there's the rub. I've known girls who wouldn't know which end of the needle to put through the fabric (or who didn't know that the thread goes at the point of a machine needle, but at the top of a hand needle). Now come on there . . . that's just depressing.

What about girls who couldn't boil a pot of water if you turned the stove on for them? Is that supposed to be enticing?

"Go out with me! I can microwave a TV dinner!"

"Ummm . . . no."

If a girl can't out-cook me, well, that's depressing, too. Because I love to cook (and I'm not too incredibly terrible at it either — my momma done learned her son good!) I grew up with home-cooked meals nearly every night of my life, and home-made lunches in my lunch-box. (Breakfast was shift-for-yourself, but, eh . . .) My mom makes ethnic cuisine from any culture you may have heard of (Persian, Chinese, Japanese, Hungarian, German, Norwegian, Jamaican, Portuguese . . .), and one of my sisters makes the best lemon soufflé you've ever heard of. They make fresh strawberry jam once or twice a year (enough to tide us through the non-strawberry season), as well as tomato jam, pies, coffee cakes, (we've never once bought a pre-baked birthday cake), the list goes on.

Now for the skirts. Yes, I know that there's nothing inherently wrong with women wearing pants; in fact, many times it's many times more modest to do so. But what's up with these girls who wouldn't wear a skirt unless [I don't know, insert unlikely event here]? Or girls that cut their hair shorter than I do? (If only for aesthetic reasons, about the only reason for cutting hair short that receives my imprimatur is Locks of Love. Other than that, "Girls, keep your hair on! You're so much prettier that way! Is there something so terribly wrong with girls looking like, well, girls?

Vive la Gibson Girl!

My mom told me (with a bit of a smirk in her voice), "I guess we must have led you to believe that it was realistic to expect that outside of our home."

Well, whatever guys marry my little sisters are getting the type of girl I expect, so I still maintain that it's not too terribly unrealistic.

Just mostly.

Now accepting applications. *grin*

Sunday, December 24, 2006

On the Moral Responsibility of Book-Giving

I don't know that I could find a way to classify gift-giving of any sort as a responsibility — moral or otherwise. The very non-necessity of it is one of gift-giving's defining characteristics. But I think I can find room for book-giving as a moral imperative: some things are simply too important — too absolutely necessary — to leave up to random chance and generosity.

This Christmas, I already cannot remember some of the gifts I've purchased for friends and relatives. However, I can easily list the books I'm giving. Here's a selection:

and even a Sony Reader, which has got to be the best thing since Project Gutenberg. (I don't know if you've gotten to see on yet, but it's the most phenomenally paper-like display available — being paper . . .)

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Unique Doctrinal Statement

A friend of mine noticed that on Facebook, I describe my religious views as "unique", and quite understandably asked for an explanation. (Actually, I tend to use such lables to invite queries precisely so I can define my terms, rather than some societal average being foisted upon me and all others using a given label. Try asking me if I think gay marriage should be legal: I'll tell you I don't think straight marriage should be legal . . . guaranteed to give me my nice comfy soapbox for three-and-a-half minutes!)

So, "unique" religious views? Hmmm . . . where to begin . . . Generally, I believe that one should literally interpret the Bible, and one shouldn't write one's own wishes and prejudices into the Bible. This knocks out things such as "Baptists don't dance," "You shouldn't be friends with gays or Muslims," "Nudity is in and of itself wrong," and other such things.

Don't get me wrong: I do believe in separation, both ecclesiastical and secular. However, I don't believe in reading extra restrictions into the Biblical definitions of them.

Ecclesiastical separation I define thusly: you cannot fellowship with or minister with believers who are (a) unsaved and (b) hold incompatible views of core doctrines. Specific doctrines included in said core are open for debate, but generally including soteriology, parts of theology (such as the literal Trinity), most of Christology (especially the diety of Christ), and of course compatible definitions of the two types of separation.

Secular separation I define much more simply: "abstain from all appearance of evil." (I Thessalonians 5:22) And that's "appearance of evil" to the world — if a normal, rational non-Christian around you would see your actions as "un-Christian", they "appear evil". One might well challenge such old standbys as "no dancing" and replace them with more supportable "no salacious dancing" or even the more general, but more Biblical, "no overt public display of sexuality" (that takes the place of a "no nudity" standard as well).

Appearing evil is what I would describe as a secondary sin — the sin of appearing to sin — rather than primary sin — sin that is wrong in and of itself. One might do well to borrow a pair of terms from jurisprudence: mala in se are primary sins, while secondary sins form a kind of mala prohibita defined by milieu. Sin is of course not relative, but there is a specific sin ("appearing evil") which must of necessity encompass a flexible set of behaviours. (The concept of not providing a stumblingblock to a brother (Romans 14:13) is much more narrow, and rather adjures not leading a brother into primary sin.)

You're still wondering about my mention of nudity earlier, aren't you? Well, I believe in modesty (maybe not "skirts down to the toenails", but it wouldn't hurt!) as a separate concept from "number of square inches of epidermis exposed". Of course, lust being a primary sin, under any most circumstances I can imagine, public nudity would be a sin, due to the stumblingblock principle. However, someone whose clothes were on fire, I think, would be entirely innocent in removing them, no matter how publicly.

Moving on . . .

I believe that the central doctrine of anthropology is free will (and its concomitant individual responsibility), and that free will is not compromised by the complete foreknowledge of God. Soteriologically, individual salvation by the blood sacrifice of Jesus, necessary because of individual responsibility for one's sins in their entirety.

I hold to a complete inspiration of the original scriptures, and their preservation in the original form: while the KJV is the best English embodiment of them, and is free of errors of commission, it's nothing magic, and by simple virtue of being a translation, cannot be free from errors of omission.

I also believe the Bible is to be taken literally, except where it explicitly states that it is symbolic or parable. This knocks out that Biblically unsupportable "Church-age" exposition of the letters to the churches in Revelation, as well as equally-unsupportable symbolic views of Genesis.

So most of my core doctrinal beliefs would align me with self-proclaimed "Fundamentalists", but I don't use the term, because it generally also conjures up irrational rewritings and additions of a bunch of extrabiblical doctrines.

So, is that unique? I think it is, since I find few who hold to such a set of beliefs. However, I believe as a whole it's a Biblically-supportable set of doctrines, so it's unfortunate if it is too unique (I know, I shouldn't qualify words like "unique"!), but . . . eh.

Oh, and I don't believe cannibalism is malum in se. Murder, yes, but cannibalism as a whole? Chew on that for a while! (Yes, I used a pun. I am incredibly ashamed of myself.)

Thursday, March 02, 2006


The night was far too warm for February. Past midnight, front door open, and a fan blowing a futile breeze through the place, its rough hum imbuing the air with a long-lacking envelopment. It was too warm to sleep. At least, too warm to sleep in February.

Silence has a way of invading the mind in just the same way as an incessant tapping; so the fan served some purpose. Eyes drooping, but sleep still elusive, I opened a small volume of Stevenson. For some reason, the mood was perfect for the murder of an old miser—something of the urgency of Markheim1 lazily livened the slow pace of a tired night. Mind whirling, I finally slept.

1 "Markheim," by Robert Louis Stevenson, is a nice little murder story—not a mystery, since you see everything through the eyes of the murder—just a nice little story. (full text e-text)

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Tomato Jam

One thing I always looked forward to when we visited the farm was Grandma’s tomato jam. It was always so perfectly-matched to a hot slice of fresh-baked bread or a piece of breakfast toast. I remember the first time my mom told me about tomato jam: I couldn’t believe anyone would make jam out of tomatoes! What would it taste like, ketchup? That was on our way to Minnesota one year, and shortly thereafter, I was pleasantly surprised. One slice, two slices, three slices, and more, were simply not enough.

Now, for some odd reason, Grandma’s tomato jam has been the only tomato jam I would eat on piece after piece of bread without even stopping to be full. It’s odd because I’ve had only a few other “brands” of tomato jam, and they’ve all been made by her kids, using her recipe! I think there’s a secret ingredient she’s not letting anyone in on . . .

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Voices from the Gambia

The piercing voice breaks the stillness of the evening, disturbing the solitude. The noise was startling at first, then distracting, as other voices chime in.

Is it an announcement? Some sort of singing? Chanting? The loudness of the P.A. system make it sound like it’s right next to our compound, but it is coming from the village mosque, over one kilometer away.

The voices continue. Concentration is difficult.

We ask: “What is happening?” “Oh, perhaps a ‘teaching’ for a special holy day; or maybe recitations for someone’s marriage or death. It’s in Arabic. Difficult to know what they are saying. Get used to it; happens often.”

The voice returns. It’s still dark. It is 5:30 AM! “It’s a call to prayer:; the first of three over the next hour, each coming from a different mosque. We try to sleep; but we think . . . If they are praying, why aren’t we? We who claim to know the Living God and call Him “Father”.

It’s early Sunday morning: voices of children come drifting into the compound. They seem to be reciting verses and singing songs. What a beautiful sound! Is it a Sunday School class?

“Yes, in a way. It’s the boys and girls attending classes at the nearby Koranic School going through their recitations and praises to Yallah.” We long to teach them about Jesus . . .

A weekday afternoon: we hear the sound of singing. We go outside. A vanload of men passes by on the road, amplifying their songs as they drive through the town. “It’s a men’s retreat. A Muslim version of ‘Promise Keepers’.” We pray: “May it someday be a Christian group.”

Evangelism and training go on almost daily in our village here. But we are not part of it. We are the “outsiders”, the “unbelievers”. How we wish this very religious atmosphere could be one of true worship — not only of God, but of His Son, the One Who came to be the Saviour of the world, the One they do not know.

So wrote Missionary Jim Entner on October eighth, 2003. It raises an interesting question, does it not? Why are so many lost, dying, and yet more devout than we who have the truth? Have we no care for their souls?

The Muslim has no Father God, since Islam teaches of an Allah who is a taskmaster: easily provoked and hardly appeased, capricious, even. We who know the true God, the one who loves and cares for the world, surely can be more devout worshippers of and witnesses for our God than they can theirs — don’t we have it infinitely better?

I read this prayer letter at Mission Prayer Band while at Pensacola Christian College

Saturday, April 09, 2005

On Pied Pipers

Music has a strange power, there is no doubt; and I think a pied piper is not so far off from reality. I’m listening to a Celtic song called “Seacht”. I know not from whence comes its strange power, but I find its odour permeating my mind. Its physical presence in the air around me exerts a strong, steady, and pleasant pressure on my skull.

Music has an odd way about it. I was getting ready for church, and sat down to listen to the song: it has me transfixed. It’s so relaxing I can feel my mind sloughing off all early-morning stresses and cares. I don't know how it’s working, or why. I don’t even understand Gaelic, so I have no idea what the song is about. (“Seacht” is too common a Gaelic word to facilitate finding the lyrics of the song online.)

And the moment is gone. I spoke and was spoken to, and am released from the spell. Such a strange magic . . . I do believe I would have followed such music the the very heart of a mountain.

Scraps, July 28th, 2004.

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