The End of the Beginning

If we never read the next chapter, we’ll never know how the story ends, and the only way to appreciate a book is to know its entire story. Continue reading

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A Natural Recommendation

Last night the world watched as the sky put on a dramatic yet understated show. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, on the evening of September 27th a lunar eclipse occurred in conjunction with a supermoon, which means the moon appeared to be larger than normal due to being closer than usual, and was red because of the way sunlight refracts around the Earth during a lunar eclipse. I’m not a science person, but I can definitely appreciate when natural phenomenon like this happens.

Somehow I managed to convince a few of my friends who tend to spend their evenings glued to a TV that this was something we needed to see, and it turned into a very enjoyable evening of deep thinking and just hanging out. We loaded up blankets, candy, and homework and found a relatively open space to camp out for a few hours. To our surprise, a significant amount of people from our university had the same idea. I ended up learning more about some of my classmates on this random night than I had in over two years of classes together. This is just another reassurance of how good it is to unplug every once in a while, and pay as much attention to the physical world around you as to the virtual one of social media and electronic entertainment. But I digress.

As the moon shifted through the multiple colors associated with an eclipse, my mind turned to my latest philosophy class. We are discussing various arguments regarding the existence of God, currently tackling the argument from design, or Fine Tuning. Staring up at the red moon with no clouds in sight, a soft breeze making the temperature perfect for lounging outside, and not even being bothered by bugs, I couldn’t help but consider exactly that topic. I know that not everyone had as convenient or enjoyable a viewing experience as I did, but, for God to make such a perfect environment for my friends and I…how could I not acknowledge and praise Him? I can only see such an experience as a blessing; the fact that lunar events like this one happen often enough that we are able to mostly understand them and to a degree predict them, but not so often that they are commonplace, is so in tune with humanity’s reality it has to be seen as intentional. If the moon changed size or color every week, we wouldn’t go out of our way to watch it, and by consequence would not experience the atmosphere of last night. The world stood together to look up in awe at God’s handiwork.

If you’re like me, and enjoy reading about things like this when they happen in the real world, you should check out Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass. I’m still in the process of reading this book, but it’s so good so far. The story follows three middle school-aged students over the course of a summer in which a significant solar eclipses is supposed to happen. They each have various levels of interest in the actual eclipse, and vastly different lifestyles are represented. It is aimed at a lower reading level than I typically read, so there have been points where it has briefly lost my interest, however the story as a whole and the characters especially are very well developed and sustain the story through the sometimes-predictable plot. That said, I have no idea how this one is going to end. I am a little over halfway through, and I cannot pick a theory on how everything is going to be resolved. I’m expecting something big.

I wasn’t able to get any good pictures of the Super Blood Moon, but I made a memory worth more than any pictures. Whether you were able to experience this or not, I hope you can get something out of my experience. And, if you have any interest, check out Every Soul A Star!

Conversing Through Books

“The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the most honourable people of the past”. Some variation of this quote by Rene Descartes has come up several times this week, in more than one of my new classes. My History professor described his class as continuing a conversation that anyone who has ever looked into and spoken of history has been a part of, my American Lit professor explained that by reading these books we were becoming a part of a conversation about that class’s topic, and then I read this specific quote in my philosophy textbook. By the third time hearing it, I took note and decided to really look into this concept.

My initial thought on the topic was, how is it possible to be in a conversation with someone who may be dead and definitely is not physically present or even aware of this conversation? The easy answer is that reading someone’s words is like listening to their thoughts. Any good author, on any subject, can only write what they know. Even in the realm of science fiction or fantasy, an author can only write what they imagine and therefore ‘know’ within themselves. In a person’s writing we can see how they feel towards certain issues, what they are like, and perhaps what they believe, all without them having to say anything directly on the subject. As Ally Condie’s character Cassia says in the book Matched, “Every minute you spend with someone gives them a part of your life and takes part of theirs”. This applies to everything a person writes as well as their time. When we read a book, be it a fiction narrative or a nonfiction instruction book, we take in some of the author’s thoughts and allow them to mingle with our own. We add our own interpretations to their words, and our personal worldview offers a perception not quite identical to what the author envisioned. In this, we may not be having a conversation of voices, but we are participating in an exchange of ideas.

This conversation takes place every time someone opens a book, from the youngest of beginning readers to the most educated academic. For every person who can read, there is an opportunity to engage with brilliant people from around the world and almost any time in history. Every time a person writes anything, they are adding to potentially universal conversation of whatever the topic is that they discuss, for what is a conversation more than a back-and-forth sharing of ideas and beliefs? Even if a person only “spoke” once, only wrote one publication, they still contributed. And as I brought up before, reading is just as much a part of this conversation as writing. Listening is at least just as important as speaking, and arguably more important.

All of humanity is a part of some intellectual conversation. There is in me a sense similar to what is often called civic duty, to read and comment on what I read and take part in the facets of these historical conversations which I care strongly about and those which I know a significant amount on. As I learn and grow, I will compare what I know to what others say and know, using my good sense and Biblical foundation as a way to determine the truth. I will not deny my unique worldview, but I acknowledge that no one else shares my specific perceptions. This is how the conversation flourishes.By new ideas being brought in alongside the analizing of existing ones; this is also the very purpose for the university classes where I first heard the phrase. That is the perfect setting for examining ideas and exchanging knowledge. As my professors claimed, as we examine literature, history, philosophy, and perceptions of each, we are continuing and adding to the conversation of each topic. We are adding to our own knowledge about the story of humanity, which as they like to say in the Western Civ department here, makes one become “more fully human”. Whether that statement is true or not, the story of humanity as a whole is being written by every person as they live. The beauty of a book is that a person’s contribution to the conversations they partake of can continue to be heard and contemplated here on earth long after the person themself. I am going to try to make my contributions as worthwhile as possible.

It’s Been a While, Hear Me Out

So yeah, it’s been about three months since I posted anything here. I had a nice summer hiatus, did a lot of reading, some drafting, got an internship, and now I’m back! 

Before I get into the usual grind of writing about books I have read, I’d like to address another topic, one which will likely either instantly grab your attention or cause the bombarded newswatcher to sigh and say ‘this again?”. Either way, please read through what I have to say! You just might hear something unexpected. 

A friend recently challenged me to take part in the ALSA Ice Bucket Challenge. You know the drill, once someone calls you out you have 24 hours to either make a $100 donation to ALSA, or have a bucket of ice water dumped on you. The goal is to raise awareness of ALS and money for researching new treatments. This has been going on about all summer, and definitely has brought a lot of impromptu education on the disease. The modern social media culture has caused this to go viral, showing up on many sites and flooding Facebook feeds. Here’s where I start to see problems. How many of you know people who actually donated to the organization, versus just submitting to having water dumped on them and laughing about it with friends? Yes, people are taking part and raising awareness, but it has gotten as big as it can beneficially, and now people are just doing it so that they don’t feel left out. Which raises the question, does it matter what people’s reasoning is if it’s all for a good cause? Well, maybe maybe not. My biggest concern is that the ethics of this organization do not match my own, and I would expect do not match those of many of the people who have been participating. The ALSA supports at least one trial specifically researching embryonic stem cell research, utilizing electively aborted fetuses to find new treatments. Since taking this stance I have heard many arguments for this, from “giving their short lives meaning” to the ever-popular ‘they aren’t actually alive”, but none of these can possibly justify the truth I believe that life begins at conception, and any action taken to intentionally end that life is wrong. Another thing I have heard several times is that it is possible when you donate to say exactly which studies you want your money to go towards or not go to. That is still supporting the institution, though, and misses the point. 

But, you may say, that is just one study, surely there are hundreds of other research studies funded by the same organization which you could approve of. This might be true. However, I have become convicted that I cannot support a partially good cause, and look the other way when I disagree with their methods. I do not look down on anyone who has taken this challenge and paid either with money or their personal comfort; rather, I am glad they are making an effort to make the world a better place, but I cannot in good conscience take part. I hope that a cure for ALS will be found, but I also hope that charities, foundations, and all organizations would take a look at their standards of ethics, and reevaluate where they stand on the issue of harming one life in order to help another.

It is my intent with this post to get people to think about what they are supporting any time they give money, time, or their word to someone or something. My conscience has grown strong about this issue. I hope you will listen to yours. 

~Amelia

Here are links to some of the articles I have read prior to this on the topic:

http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/blogs/georgia-purdom/2014/08/20/pouring-cold-water-on-the-als-ice-bucket-challenge/?utm_source=aigsocial08202014pouring&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=facebooktwittergooglelinkedin

www.nathanaelk.com/2014/08/why-i-cannot-accept-ice-bucket-challenge.html

www.robertfleischmann.com/archives/140

Also, here is the ALSA website so you can do your own research into what they support: www.alsa.org  

Reputation

The word calls to my mind images of middle and high school childishness, but it applies to everyone. Whether you may try to ignore it, everyone has a perception of everyone else. Politicians vote certain ways in order to create the reputation they want, and parents dress their little children in hopes that they will influence their reputation.

It’s not entirely a bad thing though, or something to make fun of. Reputation is how a lot of jobs are gotten these days. The Bible’s Paul gives advice on how to have a truly Christian reputation. It is not something to be obsessed over, however. Having a good reputation is something that must be honest and earned, or else it means nothing. As with most things in life, there is a balance necessary. In this case it is between thinking about what others will see when you act a certain way, and being comfortable with who you are. Changing yourself just so that someone will like the new way you act, talk, or dress is not beneficial; changing because you want to be a better person and see things that need to be changed in order for that to happen is.

Having a reputation is not something to fear or shy away from. Everybody is known for something. This is how we remember each other and differentiate at some level who everyone is. You are in control of your reputation, and that is a lot of power. Make it count.

 

Perspsective

The distorted sense of right and wrong in the world today is extreme. So much truth is hidden, not allowed to be spoken lest it “offend” someone else…but if it is truth, how can it be offensive? If truth is really what is being spoken, then people need to know and hear and see! Yes, there are many different perspectives on what is truth, and whether knowing it is more important, or being comfortable. I choose to be uncomfortable. I choose to stand up for what I believe, and put my perspective on display for all the world to see.

It is usually one’s worldview that determines their definitions of truth, morality, and the importance of other values. My worldview has been shaped by growing up in a Christian family, in a medium-sized town, attending a large school, and many other things. I have not relied solely on the influences around me to tell me what to think or believe. Also being an honors student in school, a major emphasis was critical thinking, and while I may have scoffed at the topic then, I can see that I did develop it and have used it in everyday life. My beliefs are not a mirror of any one other person or doctrine, they are the expression of my life. Everything I do either validates my beliefs or calls them into question, and both strengthen them. I believe that I have found some fundamental truth in this crazy world.

When I say I believe I have found truth, I mean that I believe my beliefs are justified true beliefs for all people, in all places, in all times. I cannot accept the theory of “what’s right for you may not be right for me”, because then there is no truly objective standard to say what is true! I believe in absolutes in nearly every moral situation because without them, there would be no base on which to build a society. Without natural truths, who are we to say something like murder is wrong? There is no standard for this if truth is deemed subjective or unattainable altogether.

So, what is this “fundamental truth” which I proclaim to have? Salvation through faith. I believe in a triune God, the fallen nature of humanity, and God’s ability and willingness to redeem us. I hold this belief based on personal experiences and its consistency with the world I see. There is not one truth claim of the Bible which I do not see reflected in the modern world. People do bad things when left to themselves, and the only way to turn that around is by coming to faith in Christ and respecting His authority.

I morn when I see the rejection of this throughout the world, and believe it my duty to display my beliefs as I am here. I am not going to try to force my beliefs on anyone, obviously if you read this blog it was by your own choice. It is my job to speak the truth, and I have done that. The rest is up to God (yes, I objectively make an appeal to God, but that may be a discussion for another post). This is my perspective, and in it I stand firmly.