The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to be grateful and make the best of it
 
 
Monday, December 26, 2022
Art & Entertainment ... Personal Reflections ... Religion ... Spirituality ...

My own spirituality here in my old age is rather complex. I’ve left Catholicism and Christianity behind. But I haven’t left God behind (or at least I hope that God hasn’t left me behind!). I can’t say that I have a strong “belief” in God, but I really want there to be a God. So maybe my belief is riddled with doubt, but my faith is still in play. I tried Zen and Buddhism, and I love the meditation. But I missed God too much.

Well, so that’s God from my perspective. What about Jesus? OK, I’ve been studying the historic Jesus scholars since the 1990s, and I’m convinced that Jesus wasn’t born through a miracle and escaped death through a miracle. I don’t see Jesus as “The Christ”. I don’t hold to the Nicene Creed. But I’m still hooked on Jesus, I’m still searching for him. It’s still clear to me that Jesus, in a non-miraculous way, was “God soaked”. The miracle came after his death, in that history never forgot him, but made him one of the best known historical figures ever.

Right now I’m reading the late Maurice Casey’s tome on the life and times of Jesus, “Jesus of Nazareth, An Independent Historian’s Account of his Life and Teachings”. This book is NOT easy to read, the going is slow. But Prof. Casey is going out of his way to tell you not only what he can about Jesus, but he details and justifies almost all of his logic and sources. I’m not even half way through his book yet, but I’m learning a lot not only about Jesus but about his followers and how their remembrances about his came to us today in the New Testament.

So between what Dr. Casey is providing to my own “picture” of Jesus and what has been left in the past by the likes of other great scholars such as E.P. Sanders, Dale Allison, Gerd Theissen and Paula Freidreksen (with honorable mentions to the late great John P. Meier and the still-very-much-with-us Dr. Bart Ehrman), I can get a very comprehensive picture of Jesus and his surroundings, including the powerful government and religious institutions that he interacted with (and which eventually killed him).

The only problem with that picture is that it’s static, it’s flat. Most of the scholars miss the fact that Jesus was a very dynamic preacher who attracted the loyalty of large group of his peers. He must have been very charismatic. And more, he must have reflected something real, something good in the world. Unfortunately, the scholars miss this.

As to The Chosen, however — this is where The Chosen shines. I must admit that Dallas Jenkins and his fellow producers do take historical accuracy and realism very seriously, as they say they do. The Jesus of The Chosen, along with his followers, do do certain things that I recognize from the scholarly books as practices that rural Jews from the villages where Jesus preached would typically do. This is minutia not noticed by most viewers, but I see it and I appreciate their concern for historical accuracy. (One example, Matthew may well have been the only disciple who wrote notes about Jesus during his ministry, given that Matthew may have been the only one with the ability to write — which was necessary to his job as a tax collector).

HOWEVER, Dallas & Company do not hesitate to throw aside the historians when drama and plot requires it. For example, they make a lot of use of stories from John’s Gospel, and all of the fourth Gospel is considered unreliable by Prof. Casey and many other Jesus scholars. Also, for drama they have Roman soldiers and an administrator in Capernaum — sorry, that is very unlikely. That part of Galilee was still run for the Romans by Herod Antipas at the time. Various scholars have said that Roman troops regularly stationed in Capernaum is unlikely. Herod would have forces and tax collectors in that part of the world. The Romans were several hills away up in Syria. It adds a lot of drama to the plot to have duplicitous Romans watching Jesus, casting down the shadow of what was soon to come in Jerusalem. But it is not historically accurate as per all of the Jesus scholars that I follow.

BUT — what The Chosen gets right is the HUMAN factor of Jesus, his magnetism, the hope that he brought so many, the feeling of restored faith in the goodness of the world. The scholars don’t dwell on that. The Chosen does.

And actually, the scholars should pay more attention to this. Most of them don’t dwell much on why Jesus attracted such a strong movement, why his followers would not give up on him even after death, and why Jesus was remembered by history against all odds. The Chosen is to be praised for capturing that with a Jesus who seems to be real, a Jesus with some human features and not a pious, next-worldly Jesus who really should be called “Mister Christ”. The Chosen helps you to imagine that the whole Jesus phenomenon was centered around a human being, not a God-in-disguise. But this human being had an extraordinary capacity to reflect God’s love and goodness. This was a prophet, but a prophet of all prophets. This was a man that gained not just respect and obedience from his followers, but gained their love.

So I complain about the many compromises and short-cuts that Dallas and Company take relative to the best historical evidence that the scholars now have regarding the life and times of Jesus. Their Jesus is still a Jesus that will be miraculous enough, Christ enough, to satisfy most any observant Catholic or Baptist. The Chosen Jesus is still playing too fast and loose with the “Son of Man” moniker, that is a very complex and subtle historical issue. It’s still a matter of controversy amidst the scholars, but on The Chosen, no problem, Jesus is The Son of Man, which is short for Christ in Training.

Also, the Chosen gives us an Apocalypse-Light Jesus, so as to not upset any modern Christians who don’t put a lot of emphasis on awaiting the Second Coming (in my years as a Catholic, I hardly ever heard it discussed by priests or catechism teachers). The best scholars, IMHO, are “Apocalypse-Heavy”, they conclude that Jesus really did believe that God was going to change the world very quickly, not in the distant future. And Jesus’ followers kept that view alive for many years. But most Main-line Protestants and Catholics today hardly ever talk about it. All of that “Kingdom of God” stuff was metaphorical to them, about forming a community of sharing and equality that Jesus would have liked. The scholars certainly admit that Jesus was indeed forming a community of goodness, but not as an end unto itself but as a catalyst to spark the imminent coming of the Kingdom on a world-wide basis, which only God could have done.

But nevertheless — the Chosen shows us what the Historical Jesus must have been like in terms of how he dealt with followers and the communities they interacted with on a day-to-day basis. The Chosen shows the strong response of love and loyalty that Jesus inspired from many people. That is something that the scholars and their books mostly miss. But it is necessary to answer a question that the scholars should be concerned with — i.e., why wasn’t Jesus forgotten like all of the other religious preachers who offered their views and visions to others? Why did Jesus change the world (even though not through a set of events that he would have envisioned) and write his name indelibly into history, whereas a figure like “Honi the Circle Drawer” didn’t?

So don’t go to Dallas Jenkins for accurate historical information (although give him credit for what he does get right). But don’t go to the scholars for the personality factors and dynamics that made Jesus famous. Go to THE CHOSEN for that!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:35 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Thursday, July 14, 2022
History ... Personal Reflections ... Religion ... Web Site/Blog ...

Looks as though I’ve given up on this blog. I haven’t posted anything since May, 2021, 14 months ago. I gave up on it. No one reads it anyway. To the degree that I write anything on this blog, it’s through some vain home that someday, somewhere, somehow it will be of some interest to someone. Maybe I myself might read it someday in the future, sort of like writing a diary and then going back to a chapter or two many years later. But thus far, even I haven’t been interested in doing that!

But maybe I do have some things to say about an interesting entertainment phenomenon that arose maybe three years ago and has attracted some popularity in some quarters. Obviously I myself have been attracted to this form of entertainment — although of course not without certain disagreements about many of its stories and depictions and presentations. Maybe that might be of some interest to someone else who has become familiar with this entertainment, right here in modern America in the 2020s.

Or maybe not. But I have some things to say about this interesting show, and I’d rather keep my thoughts organized and well-presented, rather then cast them widely across the broad expanses of social media. So what show am I talking about?

THE CHOSEN. It’s a very modern-ish and really hip historical version of “The Life of Christ”. But don’t worry, this is still about a Jesus that most Christians are comfortable with. Its produced by a young TV director named Dallas Jenkins. There have been two seasons of eight episodes thus far, and the third season is now in production for release in December (of this year). Jenkins is trying to mimic the success and the verve of modern cable channel shows such as Game of Thrones and West World and Station Eleven. And yet, stay true to the Gospel of John at the same time.

Most interesting! But of course, I myself am not particularly beholden to the Gospel of John. I myself hold a complicated view of Jesus, a Jesus who is not the Son of God, a Jesus who is not the Savior, a Jesus who is  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:56 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Monday, May 10, 2021
Current Affairs ... Photo ...


 »  continue reading …

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Thursday, May 6, 2021
Current Affairs ... Economics/Business ... Technology ...

Here’s another fashionable article about green energy. It appeared yesterday on the Bloomberg web site, in the “Green” section. Bloomberg.com, as you may know, is the corporate and media aspect of billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s empire. It pretty much reflects Mr. Bloomberg’s world view, which is very pro-business and pro-wealth, but mixed with a tincture of liberal concern and even a bit of corporate “wokiness” of late. So of course there is a “Green” division of Bloomberg Media, which reports on climate change and how business is adapting to modern environmental concerns. And why not, given that there is money to be made by somebody!

Given all of that, I wasn’t too surprised to learn from the title of this article that “Replacing Coal Plants With Renewables Is Cheaper 80% of the Time”. And as if that wasn’t enough, the subtitle goes on to tell us “A new report shows that the economics may not even support running U.S. coal plants, let alone building them.” Wow, sounds like the revolution is under way! If the economics now line up so powerfully in favor of green energy, then who needs AOC (Congresswoman Andrea Ocassio-Cortez) and Bernie (Vermont Senator) and their “Green New Deal”? It’s all over but the shouting (and maybe a few billion dollars of financing deals and construction projects) . . .

In a nutshell, this article reports on the results of a recent report from a non-partisan climate and energy research group called Energy Innovation. The first few paragraphs of the article make it sound like the end is nigh for fossil fuels.  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 5:27 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Friday, April 30, 2021
Current Affairs ... Foreign Relations/World Affairs ... Technology ...

NY Times columnist Tom Friedman just had a very good article on whether a war with China is inevitable, as retired Admiral James Stavridis and former Marine and intelligence officer Elliot Ackerman forecast in their new best-seller “2034: A Novel of the Next World War“.

From the title, it’s obvious that Stavridis and Ackerman are positing a war with China occurring in 13 years. But why not now, given all of the sabre-rattling military exercises that the Chinese have been holding near Taiwan? Some US naval experts predict that China will start the invasion (and presumably a big war with the US) before 2034; earlier this year, US Admiral Philip Davidson, former commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, stated that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) could attack Taiwan within six years – by 2027. Shortly thereafter, his replacement, Admiral John Aquilino, testified before Congress that China might attack even sooner than that — “closer than most think“.

Friedman gives a good reason why it may take over a decade for China to make its move. They aren’t likely to start a fight with us until they are confident about winning. In recent years, they have invested a lot into their military, and many believe that they are reaching parity with the US in terms of military capability. But Friedman makes the point that they still have one area of deficiency; their industrial economy  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:24 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
Personal Reflections ... Sports ...

I’m going to post a really short thought tonight, something that might even fit on Twitter! OK, yesterday I was hanging around with my brother at his house, and we were watching a show about NFL quarterback Tom Brady. Perhaps the #1 QB of the past decade or two.

My brother has an insatiable appetite for professional football, and now uses much of his free time watching game repeats and mini-documentaries about now-retired coaches and players on the NFL channel during the spring and summer months. (He misses the XFL, an off-season football experiment which was killed off by the COVID pandemic last March — although the owners claim they will bring it back in early 2022).

So we were watching the show about Brady’s shaky start followed by so many brilliant accomplishments since 2000, and I couldn’t help think of another tall, thin uber-white male with similar work ethic, physical endurance, soft-spoken personality and technical virtuosity. That would be Neil Armstrong, the famed test pilot and NASA astronaut from the 60’s and 70’s. The guy who figured out how to land the Apollo 11 lunar module after it became apparent that NASA’s detailed plans for the landing weren’t going to work — and with only a few seconds of fuel left! Yes, Armstrong “read the field” just as well as Tom Brady does, and made some split second decisions that won the game. Both were (and in Brady’s case, still is) great quarterbacks!

So, just an odd observation — Tom Brady and Neil Armstrong. White American males aren’t in vogue like they once were. Sure, white males have a lot of bad stuff to answer for. But some of them really did raise the bar with regard to arete, skill and resourcefulness. I’m not much of a hero-worshipper, but I will give Tom and Neil their due. They did get their **** together, didn’t they.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:33 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Sunday, April 25, 2021
Food / Drink ... Personal Reflections ...

Not long ago, someone from my Zen group asked me about an essay that I had allegedly written regarding “the search for the perfect bagel”. Although I may have exchanged some thoughts on bagels when our group had an informal dedication ceremony several years ago when we moved into a new location (where I brought the bagels), I didn’t remember writing anything about a perfect bagel. To me, “perfect” and “bagel” amount to an oxymoron! Bagels just aren’t supposed to be perfect. Bagels are clearly a wabi-sabi kind of food. Their beauty is in their incompleteness, in their variation, imperfection and individual flaws (so long as the flaw isn’t an insect in the dough). Searching for a perfect bagel is like searching for a perfect human life. Bagels are like humans. I.e., flawed, fleeting, but capable of beauty often in idiosyncratic and unexpected ways. Bagels are a food that mimics the Zen enso (the brushstroke circle). So are donuts, but they try too hard to be perfect with all of their sugar and glazes and pretty colors. Bagels are more like the enso simply because they are imperfect and unassuming.

So searching for a perfect bagel is like searching for Zen. The journey and the search are worthwhile, but you will never manage to recognize it and hold the perfect bagel in your hand. Every real bagel has Zen in it. But you can never see just what that is.

If I had to write a story on bagels, I would reflect on how and when they have intersected with the path of my own life. I first tasted bagels in my grandparents’ unheated apartment in Passaic when I was maybe 7 or 8. I didn’t really like them. They were plain  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:47 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, April 10, 2021
Politics ...

[I haven’t posted in a while — been in a late pandemic funk. The world changed so much — and it ain’t going back to the way it was before the pandemic. Gonna have to get used to a whole new world, in some ways better, but in many ways worse. But, the nature of politics won’t change all that much from the sorry state they were in last March. So let me post a thought on that subject.]

Biden’s presidency seems to be paralleling the Obama presidency. Both started out with a Democratic House + Senate, and both got a big economic recovery bill right off the bat. Obama did a pretty good job of dealing with repairing the underlying problems in the US financial system, and Biden is doing a good job of dealing with the underlying pandemic problem.

Then they started working their first big policy-related spending bill — Obama health care, and Biden “infrastructure plus”. Things got bogged down, but with a lot of struggle, Obama got his initiative passed on a partisan basis, and Biden may well  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:20 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Spirituality ... Zen ...

Was pondering Buber’s I and Thou at work not long ago, and had recently listened to Teaching Company lectures on nominalism vs realism in the Middle Ages, along with the Christian mystical tradition of the Middle Ages. The lecturer has a very interesting classification system for mystics — but of course, are those categories “real” or nominal in and of themselves? Probably nominal, i.e. “in name only”. The lecturer himself admits that his classifications are ad hoc, many other academics would disagree.

But as to what is real, what is fundamental: Buber appreciates that existence / being, as we know it, requires relationship, and relationship requires some level of dualism. To talk of “oneness”, of monism, is to talk of an abstraction. Perhaps our minds, tuned as they are to abstractions, can conceive of one-ness in some weak, distant fashion (see thru a glass darkly).

But our lives and everything we know of in the universe lives in relation to something else, we live in a sea of duality. If there is an “edge of the universe”, if the universe is like a ring of connected things, and then  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:54 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Brain / Mind ... Psychology ... Society ... Spirituality ...

OK, let’s get a bit risque and explore the links between human sexual experience and transcendent meditation states / mystical experience. That’s a topic that I don’t see discussed very much, but I believe that it is really important for a better understanding of both human sexuality and meditation states / mystical experience, and their ties to the neuro-structures and processes of the brain. And also in relating all of that back to the ongoing speculations regarding trans-scientific / metaphysical conceptions of “deep reality”.

[Well, actually there is a recent book that relates to this topic called “Transcendent Sex” by psychologist Jenny Wade. Also, an on-line PhD thesis says

That sexuality and spirituality are related has received extensive philosophical and theoretical attention from various disciplines (e.g., Aging and Development—Ammerman, 1990; Medicine-Anderson & Morgan, 1994; Christian Theology—Bilotta, 1981; Chavez-Garcia & Helminiak, 1985; Dychtwald, 1979; Feuerstein, 1989; Grenz, 1990; Moore, 1980; Nelson, 1981, 1983; Sex Therapy–Mayo, 1987; Schnarch, 1991; Psychology-Francoeur, 1992; May, 1982; Moore, 1994).

Well, I sure wasn’t aware of that!]

When we get into the arena of eroticism, we need to define some ground rules. And not only because of my desire to maintain decorum and avoid uncomfortable moments, not only from the fear of “getting too personal” and getting lost in taboo.  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:08 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
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