Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Perhaps you will allow me, on the occasion of the hubbub over the fate of Terri Schiavo, to recommend a couple of books on medical ethics from two thoughtful Christian writers.

First, A Doctor's Casebook in light of the Bible by Paul Tournier. Tournier was a physician from Switzerland who put a lot of thought into holistic ideas of medical care. His faith was not fully orthodox from my point of view (he was a universalist), but his mind was very penetrating about issues of health. It is unfortunate that his works are not very popular in the States. His writing reminds one of CS Lewis, with whom he was friends iirc.

The other is Truthfulness and Tragedy by Stanley Hauerwas. Prof. Hauerwas takes a very sharp look at a number of specific issues, including abortion and the problem of the limits of medical responsibilities. Certainly a more philosophical work than the other, but well worth examination.
My friend Todd has published a very fine Good Friday sermon. Go read it.
Anyone still want to maintain that we live in something called a "Christian nation"?

Apparently there's still one across the pond, though. ;)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

I don't know much about genetics, but this sounds pretty interesting to me. I guess they're doing good work at my brother's university. No coincidence that he is there, I'm sure.
A fairly lengthy but considered commentary on why Terri should be allowed to die. I feel like I'm the only person I know who thinks that position is basically the right one. While ordinarily withdrawing food from someone should be conisidered evil, I think in this case the person involved is already substantially dead and those who have weighed the evidence have felt that Mrs Schiavo would have wished to be able to die in some timely fashion rather than having death prolonged indefinately.

While I tend to dislike the rhetoric and positions of many "right to die" folks, at least when they advocate assisted suicide and such, I think our society, particularly in the area of medicine, does not have any sort of coherent idea about death anymore. Somehow it is seen as both unavoidable as well as needing to be fought tooth and nail at every turn. People don't seem to realize that medicine cannot prevent death, it can only, sometimes, postpone it or make it less painful.
Lenise pointed out to me yesterday that my son's 6 month birthday is the same as Johann Sebastian Bach's 320th birthday.

Friday, March 18, 2005

In our small group meeting this week we talked a little bit about forgiveness. Just got me thinking--I wonder if sometimes we don't harbor some "safe" sins, that is, sins we aren't too embarassed to confess. "Yes, I've been a little lazy this week, and also I ate more dessert than I should have." I'm just thinking that we might treasure these sorts of things as insurance against confessing those things about which we are truly ashamed, the things we really do NOT want to tell anyone. Just a thought.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Sorry, IE has been acting up on my lately. It does weird things like not letting me use links very well. Trying to figure out how to fix it without reinstalling XP altogether.

Friday, March 11, 2005

gggggggggggggggggg64cbh vvv ce [']\\s


--John Sebastian Baxter

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Last week I completed reading through all of the Gene Wolfe series books. I was talking about Wolfe with someone yesterday and thought it might be good to say a word about him here.

Wolfe is in my mind one of the most brilliant writers that the US has yet produced. I would suggest that his obscurity is due to two factors. One is that he writes within the science fiction genre, the other that he is erudite and likes to challenge his readers. His books are generally full of puzzles, hints, allusions and assorted arcana. But I have always enjoyed a good challenge and love see authors who don't feel the need to talk down to their audiences.

In addition to a number of stand alone novels and short stories, Wolfe main work to date has been three inter-related series of "sun" novels. The first set deals with an earth of the far, far future, the second with a generational spacecraft (that is, a large space ship intentionally designed to be a home for several generations of colonists on their way to a new world), and the third with the settling of a new world (or pair of worlds to be more precise). All of these were excellent and tied in so many themes and ideas that it would be an exercise in frustration to even attempt to characterize them further.

In contrast, his new two volume work, The Wizard Knight, is written an essentially an adolescent level. I would not feel hesitant about having, say, an average high school senior read it. The story follows an american boy who unexplainedly finds himself suddenly in another world. This world is the world of Celtic and Norse mythology. If you've read Nikolai Tolstoy's The Coming of the King, some elements will seem familiar to you. The subject finds himself unable to remember his name or much at all of life in america beyond the name of his friend Ben, to whom he relates his story.

The focus of the story is how one becomes an honorable man. Our protagonist, through an encounter with a fairy queen early in the story, finds himself in a large, very muscular body and is give the name Sir Able of the High Heart. He is told by this fairy that he is a knight. He believs this himself and tries to act as a knight would act. Early in the tale this mostly involves bullying people to achieve his objectives. Also early inthe story he meets a "real" knight who demonstrates to Able bravery and other knightly virtues.

As Able travels around the land, his claim to be a knight is constantly challenged. He has no "gentle birth" and many he meets do not believe in the existance of fairies, and thus doubt his commission. Able's only response to these situations is to always act as he thinks a knight should act. Of course this often offends, and also brings Able into a number of dangers, many of which he is unprepared to handle.

I don't really want to summarize the plot, as it is quite a long tale and would be considerably diminished by my retelling of it. It does provide a wonderful picture, to my way of thinking, of Aristotle's idea that to acquire virtue one must do virtuous things. This has always been something of a puzzle. If one is not brave, how can one do brave things? Sir Able answers this by believing he has virtues first, then trying to practice them. He is constantly plagued by the notion that he is "just a boy", and his reflections on his actions often show that he is ashamed of much he has done, but throughout is the recognition that virtue can only be achieved through practice. It cannot be conferred by someone else.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Teething going on, simultaneously hurting John's gums and my eardrums.
Surprise of the day: seeing a license plate on our street that said I R L33T.

Friday, March 04, 2005

I draw your attention to this modern day MacGyver. Not only can she tell you moment by moment the course of the war of 1904-5, but she can also do surgery with an unsterilized fruit knife. Plus, gents out there, she's still single.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Anyone want to try to beat my grammar/spelling score? I'll put my scores in the comments so you can try it before you compare.
It hadn't happened in a while, but blogger ate my last post. It was a wondrous recounting of the events of this past Sunday in which I eloquently described the visit of my friend Sasha from Kiev, rhapsodized about Daniel Kirk's Sunday School class, and poigniantly related a touching incident with one of my firends in the youth group.

Alas, such prose is now lost in the cyber-ether. If you would do me a favor, though--no advise about how I should have written into a text program and copied it to blogger. Thanks.

BTW, John has been very grumpy for the last couple of days and seems incapable of sleeping for very long at any one time. Last night he slept for almost 3 hours before waking up at 1, and 1:30, and 1:50, and 2:15, etc.