Friday, September 20, 2002

Matt Stahl (steele) and I are going to meet in the Frankfurt Bahnhopf (train station) around noon local time on Tueday, when most of y'all will be asleep. Then we'll head to Heidelberg and stay there for a time, until the zeitgeist (time ghost) chases us away.

So far, Alles ist gut (everything is okay).

The 'fun' really begins when we get to Munchen (Munich). We have no place to stay, but one purpose of this trip was to experience the centuries old practice of Oktoberfest. So we'll go and maybe end up sleeping in a park or at the train station. We shall see!

After taking in Munich and environs, Matt and I will part ways. I suspect Matt's way leads back to Heidelberg. My way leads to Paderborn in the region north of Frankfurt. I think it's called Westfalia-Rhineland. Yippee!

Auf Wiedersehen! And be safe.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

For those concerned about holiness, this is my preliminary answer to the question, "What is holiness?"

Holiness is one of those Big Religious Words which I encounter a bit more than I'm comfortable with, like transgression, communion, sanctification, sacrifice, etc. Big Words, they are. But what is behind them, if anything? In particular, can we untangle the mess that holiness seems to leave us?

On one level, I think that something is holy if anyone considers it "holy" or sacred. For example, there is ground that Native Americans think is holy, ground somehow connected to the spirit of their ancestors, whom they believe still inhabit the place. For years or generations to come, I'm sure the site of the World Trade Centers will be considered holy ground, for political and religious reasons publicly, and for deeply personal reasons privately.

On a deeper level, holiness to me is related to the Judeo-Christian
God. In particular, I take the definition "set apart for the service or worship of God" from the 1913 Webster's Dictionary.

I am a Christian, having based the decision to become one on a reading of Jesus' life and words some time in the early 1990s. Ever since that moment, it was as if I said, "okay, in general I know some of God's will, which is that I live and spread this good news, and I'm going to follow it." I decided to be set apart to the service and worship of God, and so I decided to be holy. This did not change what I was doing at the time, necessarily. I may have been performing horrible atrocities-- raping and pillaging for example-- but still, I had decided to be holy.

This makes it sound like I believe holiness to be an individual choice. Which I partly do. Another Christian perspective is that for me to be holy, God would have to set me apart for his service and worship; it's not my decision. For instance, Matt has pointed out to me that God said to the people Israel, "I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God." So He decided to set them apart for his service and worship. Other passages in the Bible suggest that God has used reprobate unbelievers to do his will, which sounds like they are being set apart for his service (though not his worship), but I don't wish to go there just yet.

Suffice to say that I believe this is also true. But I cannot comment with authority on what holiness is from God's point of view because I'm not God. But this is an important question. Assuming God exists, the question of what holiness is from his point of view is the most important aspect of holiness for the believer and unbeliever alike. Jesus, whom I consider to be an authority on matters pertaining to God, may have commented on this, but I cannot recall what he said right now.

So for the moment, let's get back to holiness as a choice. In general, I've decided to try to be on God's side. This is quite different from saying he's on "my side." If I'm raping and pillaging, I wouldn't say "I'm not a Christian." I'd say "I'm a very bad Christian," for I certainly wouldn't be serving God and my fellow humans the way I Know I Should. Though I may in general be saying that I am following God's will, I would be going against his will if I continue to rape and pillage. I believe that anyone, anyone, who knows what God expects of him and does not do it, is saying "I know God's will and I'm not going to follow it!" with all the defiance implied by the exclamation point. All Christians fall into this category. As do all humans. Committing one's will to be in line with God's is not the same as actually doing God's will at all instances.
Perhaps people don't say it out loud or publicly, but by their actions, everyone expresses this. It is the self-righteous one, the hypocrit, who fails to recognize this.

(By the way, why is self-righteousness so repugnant to everyone-- the faithful and unfaithful alike? Is it because it is a denial of reality? When we see someone denying reality, it can be very irritating.)

(Another aside; the fact that God doesn't do anything about it, meaning he doesn't stop me from choosing to do go against will at all instances, is precisely what gives my moment by moment decisions any meaning at all. I don't think God wanted a bunch of pedantic automatons. His reasons for this are still unknown to me, as are a great many other things.)

As to degrees of holiness, the which side is holier question, I am ignorant. Billy Graham and Mother Theresa didn't (as far as I know) rape and pillage, so does that make them holier than the bad Christians who do? I don't know, and I don't care. Fussing over that unknowable question is what in my opinion leads to the judging of others which we are told not to do (by Jesus).

Regarding an experience of holiness, I don't know what to say. I've argued here that holiness is an individual choice, and haven't seen it as an experience, like a religious experience or anything. However, others may disagree, and I'm open to that.

There is more that could be said, but I'll leave that for another time.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002


September the 11th is now upon us. I'm not sure what I'll do today. I might go see the procession of firefighters and policemen this morning near Pasadena's City Hall.

At Caltech, the staff and faculty are "hosting a Reflection Room in remembrance of September 11th." Not sure what will be going on there.

The prophet
lamented the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. (See Lamentations.)

Do we now lament the fall of Babylon?

Here're some reminders, in case you needed any...

  • September 11, 2001 headlines:

    America attackedsrc="">
    America attackedsrc="">
    America attacked
    America attacked

  • Reaction to 9-11-01:









  • Monday, September 09, 2002

    You didn't ask, but I'm going to tell you anyway.

    Starting Friday, Aug 30, the week went like this: I went over to Kim's
    apartment (from Lake Ave.) and made the frappiccinos as promised for the
    group there gathered. I
    compromised actually and made due without a "frappiccino mix." I used iced
    mocha mix along with milk, some real coffee, and a pinch of Ovaltine for
    that malt flavor so many teens love these days. One takes these
    ingredients and mixes them in a blender and the result is indescribable.
    I also made a batch of
    fraps with Spicy Chocolate Chai from Trader Joe's in place of coffee.
    Then we played a charades-like game that involved me doing gesticulations
    to get ideas like "hailstorm" and "clockwork fuschia" across to my team.

    Afterwards I stayed up until 5am and left for Oakhurst the next morning at
    10am. There was car on fire on I-5. Nobody looked hurt and authorities
    were hosing it down. I'd made plans to meet
    Colin up at my grandparent's place in Okahurst, a small town on Rte. 41 heading towards Yosemite.
    I visit my grandparents (Charles and Doris Hinckley) every month or so.
    It's pretty relaxing. Colin made it up and that night my aunt Joan and
    Uncle Brad came over and we all had dinner. Afterwards, Colin and I
    discussed the future of our nation and things like the U.S. Navy's href="">Marine
    Mammal Program
    which I woulnd't have believed had I not read it on the
    Navy's website.

    The next day, Colin and I talked about going to a bull fight in the central
    valley, but alas, it was not meant to be. We decided that was just too
    much trouble, so we hung out in Oakhurst and I showed Colin around some.
    Then he bailed and spent the next day or two in relative peace, chillin'
    wit da folks.

    That brings us to what, Tuesday, Sep 3? That's the day Stephen had planned
    to take his driver's test. We went over to the Pasadena DMV where he took
    it and passed it. As he took his test, I went over to price CD players
    that play MP3's. I found one at Circuit City for about $50. I don't know
    if they're horrible quality or what. If anyone has advice on this, let me
    know. Then I went over to Cingular and priced cell phones (!). However,
    if you know me, you know that I've been reluctant to buy one and have even
    suggested that I'm against the whole idea of getting one even if I could
    afford it. The guy there recommended I use Cingular's $39 per month plan.
    I said I'd think about it. But I don't think a cell phone is in my stars.

    Tuesday night I met with the regular group of href="">Matt, Truong, Travis, Ryan, and
    John. We prayed and
    whatnot. Then John, Ryan, and I talked about how the world could be made
    more fair. Among other suggestions, I remember Ryan said the U.S. Senate
    should be replaced with people chosen from academia and other
    non-business sectors of society.
    Note that they must not be elected, but
    must be chosen, presumably by executive fiat.
    The real motivation is not to get professors to pass legislation, but
    simply to bring the Senate up to date and do away with the regionalism;
    should Rhode Island really get as many votes as New York or California?
    Everyone should write a letter proposing a new form for the Senate and
    send it to your Senator.

    We also discussed affirmative action, and we (or at least I) came to the
    conclusion that the real goal of affirmative action should be to give every
    child in America an equal opportunity to get a good education. So the
    question is, how do we go about that goal? Is it even a worthy goal?
    Is it legal?
    There is no mention of this kind of equality in the Constitution.

    On Wednesday, I went out with href="">Kurt,
    Jenn, Nate, href="">Seth,
    and Ryan to celebrate href="">Jenny's
    birthday. We went to an Ethiopian restaurant on Fairfax. You know, the
    kinda place where you eat with that bread that feels like a cross between
    an Ace bandage and human flesh. Then we went to W. David Faulknet's house
    in Glendale, drank his liquor, brought him more, ate his cupcakes,
    and played cards. That place is a 24-hour-party, or at least it should be.
    Oh, and Jenny gave all her friends a CD with a bowling theme. She's
    decided to follow the tradition of the hobbits and give other people
    presents on her birthday, and she's chosen to give her own specially chosen
    compilation CDs. This year's theme was "bowling."

    The next day was a Thursday and I worked Thursday.

    Friday I went bowling after buying some buys. The occasion was now
    href="">Stephanie's birthday.
    I scored a 23 or so. I'm not very good, but my bowling throw has
    style some say. Festivities continued at BJ's in Monrovia, where there
    were party hats and fun toys for all the kids.

    Saturday I went to Magic Mountain and rode the Nut Buster, among other
    rides (i.e., Riddler's Revenge). I think my favorite was either Superman
    or Goliath. I went with Alisa, Christy, Katie, Julia, and href="">Matt. The evening ended with a
    look at some of Alisa's dad's href="">KGB paraphernalia
    and discussions of Oxana Baiul, Janet Reno, and other Libras.

    On Sunday, I slept until 1:30pm and realized that my personality is
    changing, just as it should. I won't go far as to say that I'm a million
    defferent people from one day to the next, because that's just plain not
    true. I simply realized that the way I handle and think about things is
    quite different this year than last year. And I'd be hard pressed to tell
    you exactly what I mean. I could say that I'm more sure of myself, but
    then I am also more aware of my faults-- thanks to my helpful friends and
    family who have a knack for revealing my faults. If only I can return the
    favor and be gentle about it.

    So on Sunday I talked to relatives on the
    phone, went to Warehouse, signed up to lead a small group,
    and met a missionary named David, who's currently on furlough, which is
    one of the coolest words ever. Along with lugubrious and pulchritudinous,
    of course.