Benjamin Button

Just got back from watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

I cried at the end.

I’ve never thought about death so much as then.

That, and the craft of film making is golden right now.

Jesus concealed something. Laughter perhaps?

Chesterton ends his Orthodoxy with a curious thought on Jesus and his personality as portrayed in the Bible. Others have touched upon this before. It warms me to think of it. Perhaps the scriptures could have used a little more of this (read on). I guess he knew what he was doing though.

The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels [Jesus], towers above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up on a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon the earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.

-G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Ch. 9 (last page)

Social class bitterness in action

Everyone is talking about Malcolm Gladwell’s new book Outliers, where, among other things, he declares that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to actually get really good at something. It turns out that “talent” is mostly just the talent to keep practicing when other people get sick of it. He also declares that being born in the right place and time actually ARE really important. Most rags-to-riches stories never happen because they start with, well, rags. The ones that do happen, it turns out they started out with rags + a heck of a lot, though not necessarily money.

In a blog post at Signal vs. Noise talking about cool stuff Gladwell says/does, this was mentioned:

In the interview, Gladwell also mentioned he meets with Nathan Myhrvold once a month to discuss ideas. Myhrvold sounds like quite a character: formerly Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, began college at age 14, worked under Stephen Hawking studying cosmology, is a prize-winning nature and wildlife photographer whose work has appeared in scientific journals like Science and Nature, is a master French chef who works at one of Seattle’s leading French restaurants, and he won the world championship of barbecue. Talk about a renaissance man!

To which a commentor snapped back:

Allow me to show what this really means about the person (in parenthesis):

“Myhrvold sounds like quite a character: formerly Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft (above average intelligence and more-to-the-point immensely lucky to have stumbled into one of the greatest business monopolies of all time), began college at age 14 (a privileged kid with wealthy and well connected parents), worked under Stephen Hawking studying cosmology (a privileged kid with wealthy and well connected parents – who cares who studied what with whom? it’s what you create/discover/invent/make that counts), is a prize-winning nature and wildlife photographer whose work has appeared in scientific journals like Science and Nature (a wealthy man with money to fund his own obscenely expensive trips to Africa and buy better photographic equipment than top pro magazine staffs) , is a master French chef who works at one of Seattle’s leading French restaurants (he is too wealthy to work for money – this just means he’s an attention whore), and has finished first in he won the world championship of barbecue (again, wealthy enough to have the time to participate and not work, desperate enough to want the attention). Talk about a renaissance man!”

Here’s how I define meaningful work:

Any work that earns me means to provide for my family. Whether one is mopping a stairwell or programming or writing pseudo-intellectual pop culture junk science books like Gladwell, they are all equally meaningful.

Wow, a little bitter about not being born into a situation where you can dink away your days taking exotic trips with your camera and throwing thousand dollar steaks on the barbie? Hey man, I am too!

I remember being similarly annoyed at reading the biography of Shinzi Suzuki who, despite being an orphan and losing everything in WWII, still managed to have enough cash and connections to tool around Europe for eight years studying with great musicians and having coffee with Albert Einstien every other day. And now he comes back to dispense his divine pedogogical knowledge to us from on high. Actualy, lots of his method is really useful. But like I said, his biography is…annoying.

So hey, I’m bitter right? Well, maybe a little less than I used to be though. Waste of time. Good for these guys, but so what? You’ve got to win with the hand you’re dealt. I think I’ll go do that. It’s not too shabby after all.

The charges against Christianity are revealing

Again, a closer look at the historical context of the New Testament will usually reveal that Christianity was NOT a private religious movement. It was accused from the beginning of being in opposition to the secular rulers and world system (and it is!).

Philippi…[was made a full colony of Rome] – the highest privilege obtainable by a provincial municipality. Since their city had this status, Philippians could purchase property and were exempt from certain taxes. When he was in the city, Paul got a glimpse of the Philippians’ pride in their standing as a Roman colony. Paul and Silas exorcised a girl who was being used as a fortune-teller, and as a result her owners became enraged and brought Paul before the magistrates. Their charges are revealing: Paul and Silas, they said, were “throwing our city into confusion” by encouraging “customs (ethe) which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans” (Acts 17:1-9), the apostles were seen as subversives, both of the POLIS and the empire.

And further on:

Paul’s claim that Christians are citizens of a heavenly politeuma [greek – state/commonwealth of citizens] further indicates that the Philippian Christians are to consider themselves a colony of heaven more than as a colony of Rome. Paul imitated Christ by giving up his privileges as Hebrew of the Hebrews, and he exhorted the Philippians to follow his example by treating their Roman citizenship and attachment to the Roman emperor as “rubbish” for the sake of Christ and His heavenly politeuma.

In short: throughout Philippians, which some identify as one of the least political of Paul’s letters, Paul was treating the Church as an alternative to the politico-religious oranization of the city and of the empire.

-Peter Leithart, Against Christianity, Ch.1 Sec.11