Monday, August 31, 2009

How Should We Then Live? (Part Two)

Schaeffer goes on in Chapter 11 to describe our society.  Remember, he was writing in 1976, but he had a very keen understanding of the trajectory of change in the society, in that so much of what he says seems even more true today.

    "We see two effects of our loss of meaning and values.  The first is degeneracy...
     "But we must notice that there is a second result of modern man's loss of meaning and values which is more ominous, and which many people do not see.  This second result is that the elite will exist.  Society cannot stand chaos.  Some group or some person will fill the vacuum.  An elite will offer us arbitrary absolutes, and who will stand in its way?
    "Will the silent majority (which at one time we heard so much about) help?  The so-called silent majority was, and is, divided into a minority and a majority.  The minority are either Christians who have a real basis for values or those who at least have a memory of the days when the values were real.  The majority are left with only their two poor values of personal peace and affluence.
    "With such values, will men stand for their liberties?  Will they not give up their liberties step by step, inch by inch, as long as their own personal peace and prosperity is sustained and not challenged, and as long as the goods are delivered? ... Much of the church is no help here either, because for so long a large section of the church has only been teaching a relativistic humanism using religious terminology.
    "I believe the majority of the silent majority, young and old, will sustain the loss of liberties without raising their voices as long as their own life-styles are not threatened.  And since personal peace and affluence are so often the only values that count with the majority, politicians know that to be elected they must promise these things.  Politics has largely become not a matter of ideals--increasingly men and women are not stirred by the values of liberty and truth--but of supplying a constituency with a frosting of personal peace and affluence.  They know that voices will not be raised as long as people have these things, or at least an illusion of them." 

Abu Tulip

Friday, August 28, 2009

How Should We Then Live? (Part One)

I just finished a book written the year in which I was born,  How Should We Then Live?:The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture by Francis A. Schaeffer, he of the goatee before it was trendy.  He's up there as one of my personal heroes for his thoughtful way of expression the evangelical truth in contemporary culture.  I often wonder how he would respond to some of the phenomena we see today if he were still around.
This book is worthy of more than one post.  He pretty much marches through history using philosophy and the arts to show how humanity has at times embraced the living God who has spoken and at other times rejected Him, declaring humanity autonomous and reaping disastrous results.
Near the end of Chapter Nine, he speaks of the failure of contemporary liberal and neo-orthodox theology, which attempts to preserve religious language but denies much of the content behind that language:
"One is left with the connotation of religious words without content, and the emotion which certain religious words still bring forth--and that is all.
The next step is that these highly motivating religious words out of our religious past, but separated from their original content and context in the Bible, are then used for manipulation.  The words become a banner for men to grab and run with in any arbitrary direction--either shifting sexual morality from its historic Christian position based on the Bible's and Christ's teaching, or in legal and political manipulation." 
He says we are left where Nietzsche found himself:  God for all intents and purposes is dead.
"Neitzsche knew the tension and despair of modern man.  With no personal God, all is dead.  Yet man, being truly man (no matter what he says he is), cries out for a meaning that can only be found in the existence of the infinite-personal God, who has not been silent but has spoken, and in the existence of a personal life continuing into eternity.  Thus Nietzsche's words are profound: 'But all pleasure seeks eternity--a deep and profound eternity.'
     Without the infinite-personal God, all a person can do, as Nietzsche points out, is to make 'systems.'  In today's speech we would call them 'game plans.'  A person can erect some sort of structure, some type of limited frame, in which he lives, shutting himself up in that frame and not looking beyond it.  This game plan can be one of a number of things.  It can sound high and noble, such as talking in an idealistic way about the greatest good for the greatest number.  Or it can be a scientist concentrating on some small point of science so that he does not have to think of any of the big questions, such as why things exist at all.  It can be a skier concentrating for years on knocking one-tenth of a second from a downhill run.  Or it can as easily be a theological word game within the structure of the existential methodology.  That is where modern people, building only on themselves, have come, and that is where they are now."
Well-put.  We distract ourselves with our jobs, hobbies, or do-goodism so we don't need to think about a deeper meaning to it all.  Perfecting the golf swing.  Finding the perfect place to shoot the big buck.  Pouring ourselves into environmental volunteerism, political action, working with the youth group, home-schooling the kids, etc.  So many things can provide this distraction for us.  Are we really willing to acknowledge the "infinite-personal God, who has not been silent but has spoken" and build our lives upon the foundation of those words from the mouth of God?
-Abu Tulip 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Baby Food and Imported Items

On purchasing imported products in town: I’m kicking myself for not bringing back more baby food from our recent trip to the states. It’s not that I mind making my own. I just pureed a whole batch of peas and carrots. They’re in ice cube trays now, waiting to freeze. I’ll then remove them and have perfect serving size baby food for my growing 6 month old baby bulb. However, we do have a pretty active lifestyle. It’s a bit tricky to try and thaw a cube of baby food on the go. Baby food is extremely difficult to find, with the exception of honey flavored cereal. The nice little Gerber packs, if around, are insanely expensive. In a culture that values babies, why is baby food not more readily available. Hmmm, maybe because the moms are not valued. Is my time important?

This got me thinking about the ridiculous mark-up on imported items in general. Case in point: a friend of mine saw a pair of overalls she loved at Forever 21 in the mall. They were priced 45 JD. That’s 64 dollars. What did we do about it? We went online and found the exact item on the Forever 21 website. Identical piece for $19.99. Even with the cost of shipping, it was 35 dollars cheaper to buy the item and have it shipped from the states. Somebody is getting rich off this scheme, and I suspect it’s those guys in the black SUVs driving down Gardens Street like maniacs.

My last random thought. Can you tell I'm in a ranting mood these days? Maybe it's the heat, after freezing in Michigan I'm still adjusting. Maybe it's the cockroaches hanging out in our bathroom. Abu Tulip killed five in one night. I was reading about smoothies on Kabobfest. Why can't I find fresh limes (not green lemons) here for cheap? Not that I'd trade the conveniences here for the suffering in Gaza, but I did find it ironic.

Well, I better go and enjoy the rest of the hour I have to myself before the day starts. A quiet house is amazing! ~ Um Tulip

Saturday, August 22, 2009

walnuts and harassment

I’ve been following Kinzi’s talk about sexual harassment, and the JO article that makes a big deal of a small sex tourism market and glosses over the gross treatment of women.
I was talking with a friend today. She said weekly, if not daily, she has a man say to her under his breath, but loud enough for her to hear, “ma ahla ilbzaaz” which roughly translates to “how attractive are your breasts” although it's actually more crude than that. Mind you this is an Arab woman who is pregnant, dressed moderately, and in West Amman. She has considered breast reduction surgery simply to avoid the harassment of Jordanian men.
I was at Safeway the other day and treated very poorly by several employees. I asked in clear Arabic where I could find walnuts. No, they were not in the aisle with the almonds, peanuts, and pistachios. The man I asked kept telling me I was looking for coconut juice. The word for coconut ‘jawz ilhind’ has the same first word as walnut ‘jawz’. Then he joked with the other employee next to him and refused to help me find any walnuts. As my Arabic is quite good, I could tell they were trying to confuse me and tease me because the Arabic word for husband is ‘zawj’. I was certainly not looking for a husband, and any Western woman I know who seriously considers dating an Arab man gets quite a talk from me!
I’m quite fed up with having to arrange so many errands and tasks of daily life around times when my husband can be around to protect me from the stares, leers, and harassment. Enough is enough. I hope these men, while they go about their fasting and prayers, take some time to consider the treatment of women in this society. Please, let Ramadan be Kareem (generous) to the women as well.

~ Um Tulip

Monday, August 17, 2009

What Are They Teaching Kids These Days?

So today the kids were watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, which by the way, is a wonderful show which they love--much better than most of what we receive on "SpaceToon". Anyway, in this episode they were finding objects that were the colors of the rainbow--Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple. So apparently the official pronouncement that indigo is really the same as blue has found its way into the mass media.
But, I wonder, how will kids remember these colors and their order without Roy G. Biv?
And since Pluto is no longer considered a planet, I want to know what my very earnest mother just sat upon? Nine what? I want to know!
Scientific inquiry is great, but you really can't beat clever mnemonic devices.

--Abu Tulip

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

An Illustration of What Driving is Like Here

Tonight I got out of the car with the engine running to check the turn signals. I was pretty sure one of the rear turn signals wasn't working. Wrong. They work just fine. Gotta get used to driving in Amman again!

--Abu Tulip

Thursday, August 6, 2009

New Teeth

It was an eventful week in the Tulip household. Oliver lost his first tooth, and Baby Bulb got his first tooth. Amazing to see my boys grow.

I've composed many a blog in my head this week, mostly while up in the middle of the night with one of our three jetlagged boys, who of course could never wake up at the same time of night, ready to play.

Most of my imaginary blogs have been nasty letters to Delta, as our flight was delayed and we spent 19 hours in the JFK terminal in New York, without a couch, bed, or rest. This was from about 5 pm until noon the next day. The kids were troopers, but I landed home with approximately 6 hours of sleep over a 48 hour time period. I was not a happy camper. I have never appreciated a mattress more!

Fortunately I never actually posted as I've been often incoherent this past week. Now that we are regaining some normalcy I'll try and post often.

Well, off to dinner to celebrate Abu Tulip's Birthday. Limon ma3 na3na3 and mashaawi here I come.

~ Um Tulip