Monthly Archives: February 2014

Consensus of definition


 noun, often attributive \kən-ˈsen(t)-səs\

Consensus of Definition

As someone who was raised in the social sciences with a hefty dose of the physical as influence, this is a mantra of mine when trying to engage with others in discourse. Most seem to agree that establishing some basic common definitions of the topic to be discussed is vital, if not rather important… then, there are those who refuse.

Most of those who refuse to find these base agreed-upon-points-that-are-to-be-used-to-develop-an-argument tend to fall on the side of our more nubilous intellectual pursuits. I mean that the topics are often about God, various aspects of religions (most usually western though I have had this happen in discussing eastern ones as well), and philosophy.

I realized today that many people take this whole area and come to it from faith and faith alone (or perhaps I should write Faith and Faith alone).

I really don’t have a problem with Faith.

However, it is really hard to talk to people about Faith when they come to it from faith (and I don’t, in the same fashion anyway).

I come to Faith from my background in science, and I must admit that there are really not a lot of us out there that come to that place through this means… but what it creates is an absolute problem when trying to discuss things like the idea of God as Being.

I am very intellectually happy where I am, in terms of where my place is in the world and how I fit in to a divine cosmos….but, I find it terribly frustrating to talk to those who seems to find it ridiculous that my mostly rudimentary understanding of biology, physics, microbiology and such are all things that bring me to Faith.

I think, though, that what surprises me the most is that once I arrive at the end… what I tend to worry about most is that the way I understand God is so completely off, that those others who believe and who also come to God somehow find me lacking.

Why do I care?

Because, I suppose I just want to feel like I can officially belong to a cohort that ends up in the same place as I do, and do so in a manner that does not make me feel judged. And also, because I am so humbled by the things that bring me to God, and that I find them so incredibly magnificent and fabulously amazing that I want to be able to share them, and one can’t when one is considered a heretic at the start of a conversation.

Squink – day 12

My dear Squink,

It is such a joy to get to chat with you a bit over FaceTime (or if the weather is not good and the connection is poor over Skype or something).

I am so delighted that you are having such a great time there, it is really very exciting for a mom to see her child so delighted with their experiences.

When we FaceTime, I will occasionally take screen shots so I can remember how delighted I am by you. It also helps that I get to see your dad’s face too. I miss you both so very much!

I heard that tonight Opa made pizza for dinner tonight, I hope it was as yummy as it looked. He is such a good cook, how yummy for you!

I love hearing about your day, and am so glad you are making friends… and learning Croatian (in your math books)!

I look forward to our daily chats!



grave goods and other solemnities

One of the first things you learn as a student of Anthropology is that grave goods are a sign of the importance of the deceased to the community that they left…. one case which is most notable is that of the neanderthal burials in the caves in Shanidar in Northern Iraq.

It can, to someone like me, be an amazing piece of information to process.

The burials are dated and are said to have occurred around 60.000 years ago. And appeared at first to be just some burials… however, a soil analysis was done and what resulted was astounding,  The analysis claimed a large amount of pollen in the soil.

These items can appear rather unremarkable to most. So, there are a bunch of bones and some dirt with a lots of pollen in it… but when one begins by asking why there is so much pollen at a grave site in a cave a picture begins to emerge that was surprising in so many ways.

What most assume happened is that the man who died was of some import, that flowers were placed in his grave. While new postulates contend that it was some sort of gerbil or other fauna that placed the flora there.. the truth is that we will never ever truly know what went down when this man died,

I tend to think that I prefer it have been grave good, that folks that loved him placed flowers over him because it seemed like a nice send off to another world, a gentle goodbye with blooming plants (they had pollen) strewn about his body.

I may be homosapienpomorphizing the event, but I think that my reverence for my deceased ancestors is great enough of an instinct that it is something more ancient than something that was started to help feed money to the Chinese (who by reputation own all our cemeteries).

Whenever I drive past the cemetery when my own maternal grandfather is buried, I (and the rest of my immediate family) say “Hi Grandpa Honey, we love you”. I consider that a grave good. One which is not tangible enough to be picked up by modern day archaeological methods, but is one none the less. It is ritualized, recurrent and rhythmic.

Which brings to mind requiems, another grave good that in some cases are purchased to commemorate a loved one. I take a particular fancy to them. It may be that as a woman raised by Ecuador I am sensitive to the glorious withing the sad or it may be that I understand the sentimental withing the mundane. I know that my family has had this tendency to ritualize those who have passed away in various ways; through creating museum quality collections that are donated, paintings, and other assorted kinds of grave goods… because in the end, it is about celebrating within the sadness. Isn’t it?

And you can’t have the joy without the grief – it’s why we listen to Mozart’s ‘Requiem.’

~ Andre Dubus III

Fewer Child Deaths, but what about the long term consequences?

Click here for the story on NPR

Listen to it, probably should listen to it first… it was playing as I was headed in to work this morning and I was so struck by something I thought I heard that I had to look it up and listen again.

Did you hear that part about how the biggest problem were mothers-in-law? and that in follow up sentences they said mothers?

Oh dear, this could prove to be so problematic!

I love humanitarian work, but I have seen so many places and people destroyed by people who seem to think they know better.

And the way that this one was reported scares me.

The way I understand as how I heard it told, informed me that they Save The Children, tend to think that the elder generation of women are stupid and that the problem is in re-educating the young women to not listen to them.

So, we may have solved the first part of the survivability of children in harsh environments… but what about the long term?

IFF I understand the project correctly, we now have women who have successfully given birth to their children in a clinical setting (which I would argue against in some circumstances)… we now have a disenfranchised family because the young mother was taught that her mother in law (and possibly even her mother) are stupid and don’t know what they are doing!

Considering that in Afghanistan the young female tends to stay with her husbands family, this can be highly problematic and I didn’t hear that being addressed.

And I feel helpless because;

a) I don’t know if STC is doing the right thing in trying to preserve these family relationships (I searched their website and was unable to find any specifics about this program).

or (and)

b) what do I do to make sure that it is well understood that keeping a balance to family relationships in the case that STC isn’t considering the longer term impact on children (and their mothers)?

I am moved to skeptical caution as it is by the part of the story about the birthing kits… that alone should have been handled better with an eye to long term consequences.

(a portion of this post is a comment on the link)

Egg foo yung and other life lessons

Dear Squink,

There was a time when I was a friendly sort. So, when Nana and I were going to a conference (before she was even a nana) in Chicago I arranged to meet a friend there for lunch. They suggested a Chinese place and off we went.
The thing is, I wasn’t sure what to order. Chinese was never a cuisine that I knew… in Ecuador the dishes are mainly variations of a rice dish we call chaulafan… so, on American menu’s there were all these super fancy dishes that I was not familiar with.
So, I decided to order something I had heard of via classic black and white Hollywood movies (a Charlie Chan movie I believe)… something called egg foo young.
I thought it was terrible and hated it and felt some sense of culinary disappointment (that means I really was not happy that it was what I had ordered).
Before and up to the time you were born, your dad and I would go to a Chinese restaurant near where we lived and one night I saw this amazing dish pass me by. I asked what it was and when I was told it was egg foo yung, I was beside myself! What I had just witnessed was nothing like what I had tasted so many years before that was such a disappointment and I was so sad that my being bound to the idea that I did not like egg foo young had prevented me from trying it again… because,  I ordered it and it was the most divine Chinese omelette that I had ever tasted.
So, Squink… as you head off on the exciting new adventure please know that you are going to taste (and experience) things that you will initially dislike, But don’t give up on things, because the next chance you have with it might be magical!