17 October, 2004

It's been one of those weeks

Several topics today; I'll outline them here, and if they interest you, click on "Read More!"

Why this week I abandoned theology
It's a tongue-in-cheek title. I haven't really abandoned theology; if so, I would cease to exist.

Friday morning I had drafted a reflection titled, What if the atheists are right? I was having none of Pascal's bargain; I had a much better take on the possibility of oblivion, and why faith is still worthwhile. (Don't be astonished: my insightfulness is as profound as my modesty!) I had to visit the doctor for an appointment, so I saved the draft and headed out.

On my way to the school's Health Center, I started listening to The Connection. On Friday morning, host Dick Gordon was speaking with Harry Wu, a Chinese dissident who now lives in the United States. Mr. Wu endured 19 years in one of China's infamous Labor & Reform camps, because he expressed public disagreement of the Soviet invasion of Hungary. Now he works on behalf of such prisoners.
[The] Chinese government characterize their system as re-education through labor. They arrest you, you are put into the camp, put in the jail, because you have some "wrong idea." They going to reprogramming your brain, help you become a new Socialist person. How to do it? So the hard labor. So they very being nice, being nice to you. They're helping you from a criminal, and become a good citizen, in their society. Just like, uh, Hitler had the slogan, that, uh, "Labor makes Freedom," China have similar slogan: "Labor makes New Life."

Come on, come on, Dick - forget it! Forget it! If you are thinking about you are human beings, and fighting for your dignity, and fighting for your freedom, it will never come back to you! It only makes suffering! That's why, in the first two years, I crying, I suffering...
(Not an exact quote; I'm copying while I'm listening.)

I didn't get to hear the entire program, but they have it posted online and I will listen to it after I finish this. If you can, dear reader, you should listen to it, too: click the link above to go to the webpage, and take the time to listen to it. Listening to Mr. Wu speak about his experiences was a quieting, sobering experience.

I felt as though the draft I had prepared for the weblog paled in comparison. I don't quite know how to describe it, but when faced with someone else's suffering, it's hard to be proud of my thoughts on religion.

So the draft rests in weblog limbo: maybe I will look at it again and publish it, maybe not. That's why I say that I abandoned theology this week.

Space Station 3D!
In this section, we reach for the literal heavens. :-)

Yesterday, two friends and I watched an IMAX film: Space Station 3D! It's a documentary of the building of the space station and of life inside it. I've watched a number of NASA documentaries in my lifetime, and like most of them, and all of them are fascinating and well-done. This one stands out from the rest, however. As with most IMAX documentaries, it's less than an hour long; unlike most IMAX documentaries, it's well worth the price. Some of the highlights were:
  • watching the liftoff of a Russian Proton rocket; the camera lay too close to the launch pad and debris flew all about (if you see it you'll understand why I wrote "too close");
  • flying through some of the cramped tunnels of the space station;
  • joining the astronauts on a spacewalk;
  • observing the space station and the earth from the space shuttle.
All of this was projected in 3D, and IMAX provides polarized lenses for it (scroll halfway down the page to read about them). It was a spectacular experience, absolutely marvelous.

The film doesn't shy away from the fact that it's an advertisement for NASA. In fact, it's a very good advertisement; I wish they would show this film in schools.

Les Misérables is fun again
Hugo has gotten off his high horse, for the most part, and has remembered that he's telling a story after all, and what a splendid story it has suddenly become, too! Marius has fallen in love, and he tells no one, but he dandies himself up in his "good" suit. One of his friends sees him and observes to other friends,
I have just met Marius' new hat and coat, with Marius inside. Probably he was going to an examination. He looked stupid enough.
Of course, those of us who know the story have a reasonably good idea whom Marius is fawning after, although he is not brave enough to tell her. Instead, he gazes at her from a distance, and when her imposing, elderly-looking father (gee, who could that be?) notices that he is being watched, they stop frequenting the park where Marius sees her. (Gosh, I wonder why he would do that?) I believe I have also met the reincarnate Thénardiers, in particular Eponine. I've pitied Eponine ever since I first heard the musical; I don't know if I shall pity her when reading the book, but so far I find her much more likeable - if "the waif" is, in fact, Eponine.

Lost in the debate...
In all the raging about Iraq, I hear a lot of call for prayer for our soldiers, for their families, and for our country. That's well and good, but we need to pray for Iraq as well, and for her suffering people. Lost in the talk about insurgents and terrorism is the simple fact that most Iraqis want the violence to go away, so they can move on with their lives. Earlier this week, the Washington Post published an article documenting a schism in the Fallujah insurgency: native Fallujans are increasingly horrified by the blind hatred of foreign fighters in Iraq, who (for example) are willing to explode not just one, but two car bombs, murdering nearly 40 children who had come to the grand opening of Baghdad's new sewer line, in hope of receiving some candy that the American soldiers give out.

There is only one solution to the barbaric hatred that has gripped the hearts of so many people, and not only people in the Middle East, but throughout the world. That solution is found only in prayer.
You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. - Matthew 5.43-48

What image are the Chinese seeing of the US anyway?
Since I mentioned China, and since I'm still sore about this since seeing it in an Italian newspaper Friday, I thought I'd pass it on. The NBA is in China:

Scantily-clad cheerleaders and oversized animal mascots, all dancing to thumping music... Yup, that's what they will learn about the US. I'm very depressed.

While I'm at it, I'll also mention that the Italians (and possibly all of Europe) seem to have a fascination with China that I don't understand, but it troubles me deeply. I've read Europeans writing that American foreign policy is guided by a desire to thwart China's rise as the superpower that will supplant the US. I think that's ridiculous*, but it terrifies me that they actually believe it.

*I mean the notion that such thoughts drive our foreign policy, not that China may supplant the US; our days as a superpower are certainly numbered, because God, not man, determines the ages. I also think that the world will regret our passing, much as the Greeks ground their teeth under the Athenians' yoke and helped the Spartans supplant them: only to realize that the Spartans were harsher masters by far.


Anonymous said...

It may interest you to know that Harry Wu is, or was, a devout Catholic.

jack perry said...

That does interest me, thanks :-) I did some searching to determine whether he "is Catholic", but all I can confirm is that he "was Catholic."