Thursday, 31 January 2013

Theology for the Rest of Us

I have an idea. We will take all the old, dusty philosophers and theologians that nobody wants to read anymore, and we will make them relevant to the average lay person by translating them into current language that muggles can understand. We have done it with the Bible - please see the Message and Da Jesus Book. We have updated out-of-date devotional material - please see My Utmost for His Highest. Why shouldn't we do it with Descartes and Augustine?

It's not like we'd be damaging the integrity of the material. In the grand scheme of things, very few famous theologians and philosophers have written original material in English and none, I repeat none, of the Bible's writers were English speakers. Almost all of the important material we have now has been translated before and it hasn't suffered for it. Yet, for some reason, we falter now when all we have to do is make a few more tweaks?

The English language is always evolving. It is not the same today as it was ten years ago, six months ago, or even yesterday. We pride ourselves with being progressive, but our treatment of old academia is decidedly not progressive. If we fail to interpret the old works of incredible minds into this new English as it evolves, then we lose something precious to the vaults of history and the linguistically fanatical few who can still make sense of them.

And we should add pictures. Philosophy would be so much better with pictures.

I'll translate a segment of Anselm to give you an idea of what I mean.

(from the Monologian's ontological argument for the existence of God, §4)

In a nutshell, there's one best thing and it bows to nobody and nothing, 'cause it's the most awesome thing EVER! I mean, there's got to be something out there that's the best. But this best thing, if it's really top dog, doesn't need help from nobody. Stuff in general needs somebody to make it, or else it's not real, but this best thing doesn't even need that! The best thing has always just hung out and it makes all the other stuff, 'cause it's the best! It's only logical. 

But it has to be true backwards, too. The best thing makes all the other stuff and has always just hung out, because it's the best thing EVER - or else there's tons of best things! Pfft! You can't have more than one best thing! That's just stupid. So, clearly there is something or other that rocks, is totally top dog, and has always hung out.

Hey! We could make Anselm's Why God Became Man into a comic book, like the Manga Bible!

Scholastic theology goes mainstream.

"We don't necessarily disagree with each other or agree with each other. Mostly we just get confused." My dad, explaining to company how theological debates go in our house

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


When we pulled out of my little town to go home for Christmas, I was very happy - giggling, almost bouncing-up-and-down-on-my-seat kind of happy. I was not that happy when I had to return again for the semester. I wasn't depressed or grieving, exactly, but I am glad for the bad weather that delayed my return by a day. I spent that extra day watching, for the second time that month, the latter half of The Two Towers. And also finishing the latter half of the book by the same name. And losing multiple games of Sequence to my parents.


My friend came to pick me up for the trans-provincial trek back to school. Having been teased for the bulk of my fuzzy blanket on the trip home, I downsized for the way back. I still had a fair bit of stuff, though.

"Well," said Chuck, "It's my car, so my stuff gets first priority. Your stuff gets second priority because I've picked you up first. Jaynette's stuff gets last priority because she's not joining us until we hit Brooks."

"I hope she doesn't want to bring much," I said. "There's no room."

We agreed that since Jaynette backpacks a lot, she must also be good at packing lightly and efficiently and drove off without another thought.

Somehow the three of us managed to stuff everything but her laundry rack into the car, though Jaynette and I had to do all of Chuck's right-handed shoulder-checking for the remainder of the trip, what with how packed the vehicle was.

Also, we totally yodeled the William Tell Overture together in the car.

And then... we arrived. We reentered our little village and our semi-rigidly regimented lives.


I dyed a few streaks of my hair green over the holidays. When I got back to school, Miao Yu and I chatted about frogs, the Tower of Babel, and Canadian inheritance customs. In the middle of her sentence, Miao Yu stopped, reached out to grab some of my hair and gasped with wide eyes.

"What happened?!" she sputtered.

"Oh," I replied. "I dyed it green."

Miao Yu resumed her former train of thought without comment. But my quaddie, Joie, liked it.

"I've never seen someone dye their hair a green as nice as that," she said.

"No?" I said. "I think it's looking a bit seaweedy at the moment."

"No, I like it," said Joie. "Seaweed is blacker."

I guess she would know. She eats a lot of it.


Last semester, Jaynette and I worked together on a project for our professor. We spent time with him discussing many things that had nothing to do with our project.

"I used to have no problems ever crossing the border," said Jaynette, "until I cut my hair. I guess I just looked sweet and innocent when it was long and now I look like a criminal with it short. It used to be Carla's length."

Our professor peered at me. "Carla doesn't look innocent," he said. "She looks like a criminal."

"Well, I looked sweet and cherubic," said Jaynette.

"I don't look innocent?" I asked.

"No," he replied.  "For at least half of every class, you look like you're cooking up some scheme. Plotting something. Pranks, maybe. I can see the wheels turning."

"Oh," I said, "Well, I guess I do like playing devil's advocate."

"I knew when I saw that Carla and Jaynette were working together on this project it wasn't going to be a typical presentation," he declared.

This semester, sitting in the first class of Second Language Acquisition, this same professor asked what we did over the holidays. People said they did things like spend time with family and knit hats. I said that my dad had thrown an end-of-the-world apocalypse party for us on the 21st.

"I knew yours would be different, Carla," said my professor.

"Her dad is a nerd," explained Chuck to the class.

 It seems that I have made an impression here. It seems my dad has made an impression here.


For being away at school an entire semester, home with my family still felt like home - almost like I hadn't left. A few things had changed - the shelving in the fridge was organized differently than before. Actually, that was the primary difference.

So when I had to leave to go back to school, it felt a little bit like leaving again, as opposed to returning to somewhere. Yet, when I got back into my dorm... I felt like I hadn't left. In a good way. In an oh-yeah-I-live-here kind of way.

Maybe I am actually growing up.

Grown-ups want to dye their hair green, don't they?


Tanya: You know you're a student when you live on eggs, rice, and beans.
Me, in shock: That's exactly what I've been eating!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Questions that Need Answering

The new year has dawned and the world did not end. I was hoping for a mini-apocalypse - a few alien sightings, maybe a few abductions. Nothing serious, you know. But that failed, and the apocalypse party my dad threw rocked.

At any rate, the lack of the world's ending meant that there was time for me to read The Silmarillion and start on The Lord of the Rings again. With The Hobbit movie being released, I've been on something of a Middle Earth kick recently. I even managed to get my entire family to sit down and rewatch all the extended edition LOTR movies again (though not all in one day).

We ate bag after bag of potato chips while my brother played on his DS. My dad tried to get my sister to stop flashing her phone light every time she texted her boyfriend by flashing his own phone light in her face every time she tried. My mom, at least, wasn't multitasking. And I served as the trusty Tolkien encyclopedia that attempted to answer every question that came randomly springing into their heads in a never ending stream during all the most intense and emotional scenes of the movies. Some of them were easy to answer. Some of them have no answer. See if you could have kept up with them:
Who is Elrond's wife?
Galadriel's daughter, Celebrian. 

Is she dead?
No, but she's left for the Undying Lands already.

Why didn't Elrond push Isildur into the Cracks of Doom?
He didn't want to be mean.

How old is Legolas?
A case can be made for anything between 500 to about 3000. 

How old is Gimli?
Over 100.

How old is Gollum?
Between 500 and 600.

How old is Aragorn?

Regarding Elrond, is he older than her son?
Yes. Yes, he is older than his grandson. 
Why don't they just catch a ride to Mt. Doom on the eagles?
Because Tolkien only appears to use the eagles when he can think of no other way to solve something.

Doesn't Gandalf die now?
Not quite yet.

How does Gandalf come back to life?
God resurrected him.

Who are the gods of Middle Earth?
Eru/Iluvatar is God. He made the Ainur, which are the Valar and Maiar, or demi-gods, that oversee things in Middle Earth.

Isn't Gandalf a Maia? Wait, so Gandalf is a god?
Yes, in a manner of speaking. So is the Balrog and Saruman and Sauron.

If they're all Maia, who would win in a fight between Gandalf, the Balrog, and Sauron?
Not the balrog, as you well saw.  
Why doesn't Gandalf fight Sauron personally?
Gandalf is supposed to be a guide. He's not really allowed to fight Sauron personally.

Can elves read minds?
Galadriel sort of can.
How do uruk-hai spawn?
Do you actually want to know?

Why doesn't Arwen just stay immortal and leave Middle Earth after Aragorn dies?
Because that would let her have the best of both worlds.
To what towers do the two towers in The Two Towers refer?
Barad-Dur and Orthanc/Isenguard.
Did Faramir actually see Boromir in the river?
Probably not. He gets prophetic dreams sometimes.

Is Aragorn actually dreaming about Arwen?
They probably have a telepathic link.

Why doesn't Wormtongue have eyebrows?
Because he's creepier that way.

What happens to elves when they die?
They're reincarnated in the Halls of Mandos in the Undying Lands, where they wander around for a few thousand years before eventually being released to rejoin their kin. Nobody knows what will happen to them when the world ends.

What about men? 
They disappear for a while and nobody knows what happens in the interim period, but after the world ends, they go to hang out with Eru.

What about dwarves?
They probably share the fate of humans, but the creatures of Middle Earth argue about that.

What about hobbits?
Probably the same as humans.

Since Arwen becomes the species of whoever has her necklace, if Aragorn really died and Legolas kept it, would she accidentally stay an elf?
No. Her necklace represents her choice, it's not the vehicle of it.
Why don't they let the women fight?
They're waiting for a more desperate situation.
How can they all hear what Saruman is saying?
I think he has a Wizard Project-a-Voice

Who is the king in Return of the King?
Aragorn, genius. 

Can you even have real freedom under an ultimate monarch? 
Aragorn can manage just about anything.

In comparison to our earth, what cultures would the various Middle Earth nations represent?
Please just watch the movie.
Why is Arwen's fate tied to the Ring?
It's not really. Elrond just said that to Aragorn so that he'd try harder to kill Sauron.

Is Aragorn hedging his bets with Arwen and Eowyn?
Actually, that IS a good question. He doesn't outright tell Eowyn no until after Elrond shows up to tell him that Arwen is staying in Middle Earth for him, so I'm going to have to go with, "yes". 
Why doesn't Aragorn curse all his army so they all become unkillable? 
The Dead opened themselves up to being cursed by being faithless. All the people currently fighting are the exact opposite of faithless.

Where do the Rohirrim get all their horses?
They breed them.
Where are the dwarves in all this?
Probably mining.

Why doesn't Gandalf do that zap-the-light thing again during the battle at Minas Tirith?
I don't know. But while we're on the topic, why don't Merry and Pippin just go on drinking the ent-water forever until they're the size of a mountain, and then go stomp on Sauron's armies?

Where's this?
The Houses of Healing. 

Is Faramir there too?
He should be.

Are they falling in love?
Indeed they are.

Do Faramir and Eowyn get married? 

Did Aragorn's necklace actually break?

Why didn't Aragorn and the others stay on their horses to fight the orcs?
Because this is a suicide attack. If they stayed on their horses they might actually have a dim chance of surviving.

Why doesn't Cirdan have a beard?
I don't know; he's supposed to have one.

If hobbits go to the Undying Lands, do they still die?
Who's that? (x17) Eomer. It's always Eomer.

Is that in the book? (x26) Yes. No. More or less. I don't remember.


I did preempt a few of their questions, though.

Me, in anticipation of the next scene, where Frodo is mysteriously teletransported from Shelob's lair to Lothlorien: I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S ACTUALLY HAPPENING AND I DON'T KNOW HOW.
My brother: Whoa! What just happened? How did he get there?
Me: I refer you to my previous statement.


Me, as the Eye of Sauron comes crashing to the ground: BECAUSE THE FOUNDATIONS OF BARAD-DUR WERE BUILT WITH THE POWER OF THE RING!
My brother: Oh.
My dad: Is that in the book?

Yet, despite the barrage of questions, I would do it all again happily. Time well spent.

Gimli: What's happening out there?
Legolas: Shall I describe it to you, or would you like me to find you a box?