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On Love, Fear, and Trembling

By Tim Butler | Posted at 10:21 PM

I've been debating whether to just ignore my last post or write something about it. My style on this blog is generally not terribly personal. There were two things bugging me over the last week, one of which I'll completely ignore at present and the other is a bit more personal than I usually write about — love (of the romantic sort) — but if you'll bear with me, I'm going to muse on it a bit in this post before I return to my normal posting schedule. I am going to go at it somewhat abstractly, just because that seems more comfortable in this medium. I did broach the topic a few weeks ago when Mark's meme inquired about a “significant other.” As I noted then, there is someone I wish had that status to me, but I, in my very Prufrockian style, have failed to act on what I think. Whether that's for good or ill, I'm not sure. The problem was when, last week, I believed I had allowed my inaction to linger too long and I was too late to say something to her, even if I wished. I think I was wrong about that now, but it was a little too close for comfort for me.

Inaction may be too strong a word. Over subtlety may be better. I am doing more than nothing at all, but little enough that she could very well believe, if she read this post (and, as I said before, I think she is a reader of this blog), that I am here writing concerning an entirely different person. Subtly is my art and my enemy. My affinity with Kierkegaard, as well as Dostoevesky's Underground Man, Eliot's Prufrock and Shakespeare's Hamlet largely draws from this. Reading Fear and Trembling made me want to post on the subject even before last week, as I think it is clear that Kierkegaard is expressing not only (and perhaps not even primarily) his religious epistemology but also his theory on love. He is obsessed with metaphors relating to love and marriage in his book and I think it is hard to argue against tying that to the autobiographical fact that the book is in near proximity to the breakup with his fiancée. Off the top of my head, I can think of no less than four major metaphors used in the book that are based on love and marriage. Kierkegaard tried an extremely subtle approach of expressing love to his fiancée, paradoxically in the midst of his bold rejection of her, since we know from the perspective of history that he actually did love her. In a sense, I think Fear and Trembling can be read as a letter to her, explaining what was happening.

If I am sounding analytical and I suspect I am about to sound even more so, I think that is my attempt to sort out myself, I don't feel analytical, so I'm trying to make sense of this thing by at least trying to be. C.S. Lewis comments in Surprised by Joy that one cannot feel a feeling while simultaneously thinking about that feeling; perhaps that is why it seems comforting to write at this moment — it is a reprieve from a sense of despair concerning my own inaction.

So with that said, let's turn back to the thinking: it dawns on me (and this may not, and indeed, probably is not, a new thought) that the stage between falling in love and actually trying to reach out and express that truth to the beloved is a liminal stage, particularly in modern society, since the our modern arrangement hinges on the extremely difficult, risky procedure of revealing this to the beloved. The liminal stage is a stage in which a person is set off from society to allow a new relation to society to be formed. The process of falling in love itself perhaps is the initiation of the liminal stage to some extent, but I would suggest the real core (and perhaps rapid end) of the liminal stage is the revelation of love to the beloved.

First, it is often (usually?) a revelation of absurdity, to sound Kierkegaardian. If the beloved is actually the beloved, it seems likely that she must necessarily seem more worthy to the one who loves than he sees himself. Moreover, for the love to be more than mere emotion, it seems to me that there should be some basis of friendship between the two persons. This sets up the paradox and absurdity. The lover must believe that he is unworthy of the beloved — otherwise would the love truly value the beloved? unworthiness is probably universally true — and the revelation comes as a possible threat to something deemed extremely valuable: the friendship with the beloved. If the friendship is not valuable, then it cannot be love yet, it seems to me. Therefore, for the comfort of taking the unbearable burden of the so far unrequited love out into the open, and the potential for being able to be closer to the beloved, the one falling in love must essentially gamble the entire relationship with the beloved. This seems an absurdity since there is probably a greater chance of rejection (and hence potentially damaging or destroying the friendship) than there is of acceptance.

Hence comes the question: what does the wise man do? Does he bear in silence his feelings, creating a de facto state of unrequited love, but in doing so guarantee the preservation of his friendship with the beloved? Does he state his feelings to escape the terrible oppression of not admitting them and also accepting that while he may wish to not say anything to protect the friendship, she might ultimately feel obliged to end or reduce the friendship when she does find someone? How does the Kierkegaardian Knight of Faith respond to this challenge?

I think he would say something. Here's how I expect Kierkegaard would respond: To not say something is tragic; the one who loves becomes the tragic hero who falls on his own sword, a victim of his tragic flaw. This is highly aesthetic, perhaps, but it seems that it is more important to chase absurdity in faith than to spend time fashioning a tragic fate.

Hmm.


Update: I'm reading the the Daily Bible, and it just so happens that what I read just now, less than an hour after I posted above, is rather fitting: “Better is open rebuke / than hidden love” (Prov. 27:5 ESV).

Hmm.

My First Things

By | Posted at 10:24 PM

Mark posted an interesting TQ meme on “first things,” so if you've been wondering about when I first did/saw/thought/whatever, read on and learn all there is to know about me (abridged)! Even better, respond with your own answers afterwards.

1. What was your first job ever?

That would probably be some programming work I did for a camera shop up in Seattle. I did work for them on and off for a couple of years. Just as now, however, I was a consultant, not an employee, so one could almost say I still have that job. :)

2. What was your first vehicle?

A Jeep Grand Cherokee. It served me well until I retired it last year when it was retired in favor of my little Bug.

3. What was the first day that you met your current significant other? (For those of you currently between relationships, pick a past one and tells us about it if you'd like)

Ah, I wish I could say, but that would mean I had previously had a significant other, and at the risk of perhaps sounding rather sad, I'm sorry to say I have not. So far, I've lived a good monk's life (but not Monk's life — fortunately!). I'll venture to say there is a story I'd like to tell here, but that would require me to say something to a certain person and I've not had the nerve as of yet. Notably, that person has read this blog occasionally — I wonder if she'd ever guess this was referring to her? I wonder if she'd think it good or bad if she did guess?

Well, that was a bit more answer than Mark was probably bargaining for.

4.What was your first major (you flew, drove more then 2-3hrs, etc etc) trip? Ok, the first one you can remember. ;-)

Ah, that would be a trip to Indiana, to see my grandparents and great grandmother. My great grandmother died in 1990, so it would have been sometime before that, but I'm not sure precisely when. That was a five hour or so trip and would be the only time I met my great grandmother on my dad's side.

5.What was the first website that you ever saw?

Prodigy.com, I guess. I was on Prodigy, and that would have been the first page to load when I tried out their web browser (pweb.exe). Nothing too grand there, I'm afraid to say. That would have been in 1994, I think. That browser fascinated me and led me to design my first web site by 1996 (my first site that was actually hosted online went live on August 26, 1996).

6. What was the first book you remember reading that you were proud to have read by yourself without any help?

You know, I'm not really sure. You'd think I'd remember that, but I can't really recall. I guess I wasn't very proud about it! I think the first time I can remember being really proud about a book was one of the Goosebumps books — I read the whole thing in one sitting and impressed myself that I could do that! I know there were other books prior to that, though. Hmm… I wish I could remember the direct answer to this question — what a sad Literature guy am I!

Note: The questions on this page written by Mark are governed by the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.5 license. I believe my responses are allowed under fair use and therefore are not licensed under the Creative Commons license (I don't want people messing with adapting my personal opinions, thank you very much).

Friday Feast on Sunday

By | Posted at 9:24 PM

Michael did this today, so I thought I would too.

Appetizer
List 3 emotions you experienced this week.
Joy, melancholy and loneliness.

Soup
Name a car you’d love to have.
Hmm, that's tough. I'm really very happy with my Volkswagen Bug. But, if I were going to select something different and more expensive than what I can afford, maybe a VW Eos — I love the combination of the hard top convertible with a moon roof, plus it has V-Dub's absolutely lovely 2.0T (turbocharged, that is) engine… as a rule, I don't speed, but I love how the 2.0T purrs along and begs for speed even more than my Bug's quite peppy 2.5L 5 cylinder. If I were to go for something with a different marquee, I'd probably go for an Audi A4 Quattro (ok, yes, I'm still in the Volkswagen family) or maybe a BMW 3-Series. The big thing would be that it would be a German car.

(More than likely, I'd go with another Volkswagen — they all have their charm. I wouldn't mind a New Beetle Cabriolet, Jetta 2.0T, Passat, Toureg, or — hey, if someone wanted to give such a beautiful and expensive car away — a Phaeton. I have sat in a Phaeton and it is, well, impressive. A nice VW TDI engine in any of those, so that I could enjoy the great fuel milage and lower average per gallon cost of a diesel, wouldn't be bad either.)

Salad
Describe your typical morning routine.
I don't have a completely typical routine because my schedule changes from day to day. I usually will try to get up early enough to read the paper for awhile before I head off. I am methodical about the paper: I start with the lightest section (e.g. I get my daily dose of Pearls Before Swine) , read through the business, then the front page, and then the op-ed's as the cherry on the sundae. Then I get ready, pray (I probably should do that earlier, but I find my concentration is better if I wake up first) and off I go.

Main Course
Have you ever emailed someone famous? If so, who, and what did you say to them? Did they reply?
Depends how you define famous. I have e-mailed editors of magazines and received replies. Nack in the heyday of the old OFB, I conversed fairly frequently with key figures of the Free/Open Source Software movement.

Dessert
Do you listen to podcasts? If so, which ones?

Nope, I sure don't. Call me old fashioned, call me an literature guy, but I prefer my RSS feeds to point to text. If I want radio, the legendary 50,000 watts of KMOX 1120 beckon. Although most of their programming is now podcasted for those interested…

TQ: So whatya doing??

By | Posted at 12:58 AM

Mark provides the following interesting TQ meme with eight interesting questions:

1. So, what are you currently reading?
Well, so far today, I've read some good excerpts from Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics for Church History class (go Barth!) and another set of excerpts from A. A. Hodge and John Murray for another class. I'm about to resume Getting the Bugs Out, an interesting history of Volkswagen by David Kiley. It focuses on the Volkswagen of America, it's marketing strategy and how it made a comeback after almost becoming irrelevant in the early 90's. It has a lot of nice insights into the New Beetle and a good history of the origins of the Beetle and Volkswagen from Porche's dream.

2. So, what are you currently listening too?
I just opened Jeremy Camp's Restored a few days ago. I've also been listening to Evanescence's the Open Door and Plumb's Beautiful Lumps of Coal.

3. So, what are you currently watching?
Nothing.

4. So, what are you doing for exercise?
Enjoying the nice weather by walking.

5. So, what are you surfing?
My usual blogs, news web sites, Facebook and Wikipedia (which I used to refresh myself on meta-narrative tonight).

6. So, what are you doing to relax?
This meme.

7. So, what are you writing?
In my head, I'm working on my book, which I'm not quite ready to reveal the subject of… yet. Otherwise, I just finished some book reviews for a class, and I'm currently working on a paper for a class. I'm writing it in the form of a dialogue (in the style of David Hume's dialogues).

8. So, what are you praying for?
Lots, but here's one that I should post here: my uncle and a family friend, both of whom have cancer. Your prayers are coveted for them. Some other prayers I think I'll leave off my blog, but I can explain by e-mail if anyone really wants to know.

Note: The questions on this page written by Mark are governed by the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.5 license. I believe my responses are allowed under fair use and therefore are not licensed under the Creative Commons license (I don't want people messing with adapting my personal opinions, thank you very much).

Still the One: I'm Barth!

By | Posted at 2:19 PM

I took this quiz almost a year ago. When I ran across it again, I decided to see if things had changed. I ran through it once and it had, Barth was second to Calvin. I tried it again, this time doing it all at once and reading closely rather than fooling with it while doing something else, and I ended up having to pick a tie breaker between Barth and Calvin. The first time I read a few things wrong, I realized. I seem to be less Anselmic these days. Maybe I need to go read about the being that than which none greater can be conceived again. Otherwise, this is unsurprising. Barth loved Anselm and is reformed, so it makes sense that these three rank at the top of my list.

My only qualm about it would be that some of the questions are nearly direct quotes from theologians. Hence, I can respond in one of two ways: (1) select what I think about the doctrine, (2) select how I feel about that theologian's interpretation of the doctrine. I favored the second method, rejecting statements not so much for the doctrine behind them, but the particular manifestation of the doctrine. Is God the Ground of All Being? Well, sure. But, is He the Ground of All Being in the Tillichian sense? No, if I can figure out what Tillich really thought (which would be no small feat), I suspect I'd say no. It seems I was fairly anti-Tillich today, whereas I was feeling a bit more Lutheran after spending a few weeks studying the Reformation, I guess.

You scored as Karl Barth. The daddy of 20th Century theology. You perceive liberal theology to be a disaster and so you insist that the revelation of Christ, not human experience, should be the starting point for all theology.

Karl Barth

87%

John Calvin

87%

Anselm

73%

Martin Luther

67%

Jonathan Edwards

67%

Augustine

53%

Charles Finney

47%

Friedrich Schleiermacher

40%

Jürgen Moltmann

20%

Paul Tillich

0%

Which theologian are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Hat Tip to Carl Jung

By | Posted at 11:39 PM

For my Spiritual and Ministry Formation class, we did a packet of “diagnostics tests” to determine our personality type, evangelistic style and other interesting things. Later this semester, Dr. Douglass will then talk with each of us and help formulate an idea of where best to aim in ministry.

At any rate, one of the first tests was none other than the famous Myers-Briggs test. I know I've done that before, but I cannot recollect what my personality type was. Whatever it was, this time I came out INFP. I was probably something similar before. I had always been skeptical of the personality type test, although listening to how well Dr. Douglass seemed to be describing me when he talked about typical INFP traits, I've gained a new respect for the test. Here's the actual breakdown of my “score:”

If you'd like, take the test here and then post what result you received.

Five Things

By | Posted at 10:31 PM

Cranium Leakage's resident teacher and all around great guy Christopher tagged me about a week ago to do a meme where I list five things that are little known about myself. Let's have at it.

  1. I don't like mint. This isn't something that people discuss much, because mint seems to be an almost “neutral” flavor — like vanilla — for many people. Not me. I don't like it. I don't mind the chocolate mint cookies from the Girl Scouts, but other than that…
  2. I collect snowmen. I have a little wooden snowman who appears to be dancing and a small snowman candle sitting on my desk, for example.
  3. I do not like to fly. Planes make me somewhat apprehensive and my ears do not get along very well with them.
  4. I can do rhymes and meters without too much effort, but for some reason my mind has trouble working with limericks. I usually end up adding too many syllables or something like that.
  5. My favorite book growing up was Everybody's Business, a book of profiles on the top 500 companies.

Incidentally, ahem, it seems that some certain teacher did not do his homework that I assigned him. But, I've done mine. So there. ;)

A-Z of Me in 123.

By | Posted at 12:51 AM

From Jason.

A- Available or married? Available.

B- Best Friend? I'd rather not pick one.

C- Cake or Pie? Pie. My pick for my birthday is chocolate cake, but there are more pies I like than cakes.

D- Drink of Choice? Water, Tea, Coffee (I want some Starbucks!). Speaking of which, the Sumatra coffee beans from Starbucks are really pretty good. Be bold and give 'em a try.

E- Essential Item? Pen.

F- Favorite Color? Green

G- Gummi Bears or Worms? Bears.

H- Hometown? St. Louis/St. Charles.

I- Indulgence? Debating.

J- January or February? February.

K- Kids & names? Nadda — see “a.”

L- Life is incomplete without? Jason's answer of “God” sounds very good to me, so I'll ditto it. If I go for something material, I'll say books.

M- Marriage Date? Ahem. You just don't listen, do you? See “a” and “k.”

N- Number of Siblings? None of those either.

O- Oranges or apples? Oranges, but I like apples (and Apples) too.

P- Phobias/Fears? Oh, I don't know, spiders, phones… ;)

Q- Favorite Quote? Depends on my mood. Here's what I have on Facebook, most of which have been previously posted to asisaid too:

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” — Jesus (Rev. 3.20 NIV)

“A poem should not mean/But Be.” — Archibald MacLeish

“The Gospel is not a truth among other truths. Rather, it sets a question-mark against all truths. The Gospel is not the door but the hinge.” — Karl Barth

“But, there is one more thing…” — Steve Jobs

“What is honour? a word. What is in that word honour? what is that honour? air. A trim reckoning! Who hath it? he that died o' Wednesday. Doth he feel it? no. Doth he hear it? no. 'Tis insensible, then. Yea, to the dead.” — Sir. John Falstaff (Shakespeare)

“I see your point, but I'm right.” — A friend from church

“You can't fix stupid.” — Jim White (Retired KMOX Radio personality)

“Jesus does not give recipes that show the way to God as other teachers of religion do. He is himself the way.” — Karl Barth

“For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?” — T.S. Eliot

R- Reason to Smile? A good joke, seeing family and friends, no phone calls…

S- Season? Spring

T- Tag three people! Christopher, Eduardo and Mike. All faithful asisaiders can consider themselves tagged, however.

U- Unknown fact about me: I like Take-5 candy bars.

V- Vegetable you hate? Peas out of the pod.

W- Worst habit? Worrying.

Y- Your favorite food? Potatoes.

Z- Zodiac? I'm proud to say I don't know. I've been told before, but I've never cared to remember.

Saturday Six on Sunday

By | Posted at 10:58 PM

From Patrick's Weekender.

1. Are you hoping to lose weight, gain weight or stay the same weight by the end of 2007?
I wouldn't mind losing, say, five pounds. Just a little. Primarily, though, I think I'd like to trade some fat for muscle, but I'm not much for exercise, so… But, my arms look too thin, and remind me of “J. Alfred Prufrock:”

My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]

2. Now that Saddam Hussein has been executed, are you more worried or less worried about possible terror attacks?
More worried. I think it was a very bad decision performed very badly. They should have drawn out the process so that it didn't look like they were rushing to execute him before somebody stopped them. Once they finally took him to an execution chamber, the procedure should have been a modern, humane one; moreover, it should have been conducted in an orderly fashion without chants, cell phones recording video or any other nonsense. If they wanted a record of the event, there should have been one official camera that would have recorded footage that was classified and not made available publicly.

Had they done all thing, would I be less worried about terrorism? Maybe not a lot, but I think it would have done some to persuade those on the edge that we are the bad guys.

3. Who was the last performer you heard sing on television? Did you sing along?
Harry Connick Jr. and no I did not sing along.

4. Take the quiz: What is your career personality?


Your Career Personality: Brainy, Logical, and Efficient

Your Ideal Careers:
Archeologist
Astronomer
Book editor
Business manager
Civil engineer
Designer
Economist
Inventor
Judge
Scientist
The Quick and Dirty Career Test

5. Of the listed careers, which is the most appealing?
(1) Economist, (2) Inventor.

I love economics, as any long time asisaid reader would know.

6. Of the listed careers, which is the least appealing?
Civil engineer. I'm not much of an engineering type (I'd rather spend my time lingering with language than calculating figures), and I don't like bureaucracy. I think I'm perhaps a tad odd in that I can do science/math-related things pretty well, but I'm not happy doing them — I'd much rather stick to creativity (and humanities in general). I can relate to those who are engineers and think like engineers — indeed, I can get my mind to shift into an engineering “mode” that will drive some of my creative minded friends crazy — I just know I wouldn't want to be an engineer… I'd probably end up even more crazy than I already am.

(If I fit into the sciences at all, it would be in social sciences, not the hard sciences.)

A Meme on Places, Music, Interests and Blogging.

By | Posted at 11:08 PM

Eduardo tagged me for this fun, wide ranging meme.

1. What do you like most about where you live?
I like that St. Louis is a “big little city.” As the RCGA's new slogan for the city says, it is a city that is “Perfectly centered. Remarkably connected.”

I'm not exactly a big city kind of person. I prefer suburbia. But, I like that I have access to all of the benefits of a big city within a short drive. I also like that I'm only a short drive away from farm country, beautiful river vistas, and other areas that look like they are anywhere other than in the middle of a nearly 3 million person metropolis. St. Louis has the perks of the big city (and beyond most big cities): a free zoo (voted #1 in the nation among zoological parks), free museums (including the world class St. Louis Art Museum), huge parks, one of the best symphony orchestras in the nation, the best baseball team in the nation (hello, Cardinal nation!), internationally recognized bio-tech sector, including the beautiful Missouri Botanical Gardens (and related areas also founded by Henry Shaw), nearly every kind of store and restaurant that you might need or want, the largest outdoor theater in the nation (the Muny), the tallest man made monument in the country (the Gateway Arch), significant history (Cahokia Mounds [of the Mississippian tribes], Lewis and Clark, etc.), and so on and so forth.

In other words, St. Louis isn't just some “midwestern city.” While it long ago lost the race of being one of the big five cities in the country, it remains a city with lots of great stuff that rivals much larger cities. With all that in mind, people still generally see St. Louis as a friendly city too. I like that1. :)

2. Is there anything strange about where you live?
Missouri's state slogan or nickname, “the Show-Me State” is kind of odd. The fact that the metro area's namesake city does not belong to any of the counties that envelope the rest of the metro area is also kind of odd. I'm not sure, I don't think we have too many oddities that are occurring to me right now.

3. What’s one of your all-time favourite music albums, and why?
Probably Sixpence None the Richer's eponymous album. I think it has a very nice, even quality to it. I can think of a lot of albums that have favorite songs on them, but what I like about this album is that there are very few times that I do not enjoy listening to this album (even all the way through without shuffling), regardless of my mood. It has a lot of shades and levels to it that allow it to fit most moods. If I'm happy, it has some light airy tunes, and if I'm a bit more contemplative, it has a lot to offer there too.

4. Did you have a passion for something as a kid that you still have now? (If not - what is one of your passions now?)

I'm not sure. I think investigating things, perhaps. I've always enjoyed trying to really understand what this or that really is. As a little boy, I was especially fascinated with the inner details of major companies, and I still find that interesting, though I don't spend nearly as much time researching such as I once did. Nevertheless, I think the basic passion to understand stuff remains.

Like Eduardo and Jorge Luis Borges, I'd agree that Heaven “would be an enormous library.” I've always enjoyed reading, and I just love books. I love being surrounded by books. Even if I don't have time to read all of them right now, I feel comforted by knowing all of that knowledge is at my fingertips should I desire it.

5. What do you like most about having a blog?
Lots of things — I enjoy playing with different writing styles, having a soap box, even answering memes. But probably most of all, I enjoy the community. I consider a lot of you friends, and, short of living in a small town, where we might really have a chance to get to know each other, blogging seems the next best thing. While it isn't a replacement for the brick and mortar world, I would never have met most (or maybe all) of you if not for this wonderful form of communication.

NOW, IT IS MY turn to pass this meme on, which I will happily do. I'll tag Mike, Christopher and Michael to do this meme. I also invite everyone else to participate, should you wish to.

1 No, I'm not paid by the Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA) to talk about the virtues of St. Louis.

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