Early Mornings & Late Nights

I tend to perform my best work in the morning — I organize my patterns of thought better, I write material that is stronger and more polished, and I read complex material better. As a result, I try to do a lot of my most challenging work before noon. I’ll write my papers and read new works. I have discovered, however, that I am not very creative imaginative (Christians should praise imagination — not creativity) in the morning. My productivity is sometimes limited because of my lack of imagination during these times, but since I often think of the project I’m working on I sometimes have imaginative moments during other parts of the day.

Most recently those experiences have all taken place as I’m lying in bed just before going to sleep. For a while, I simply thought I’d remember the idea and try to go to sleep. It would take a while to excise the thought from my mind, but I would eventually go to sleep. Virtually without fail, the vitality and originality of the idea waned as I tried to recover it in the morning. As a result, I’ve gotten into the habit of jumping out of bed and typing out my thoughts in a draft email that I will save. It accomplishes two purposes — first, I am able to get to sleep quicker than I would otherwise. And second, I have the essentials of the idea there to inspire my work in the morning.

‘Beneath the Sheets’

The Moth podcast is one of my favorites right now. It is a podcast of stories told live without notes and without any other safety net. I recently listened to one from a reporter, Jerry Mitchell, who investigated a number of KKK members who were convicted of the crimes they had committed years ago as a result of his efforts. The stories of the KKK victims were quite powerful in themselves, but the end of the story was just wonderful. Only when the KKK guy had told it all, justice had been served, and asked forgiveness from the widow of the man he’d helped kill was forgiveness possible. Isn’t that what’s so hard though? Admitting it when we are wrong, working toward making amends (at least as much as is humanly possible) and then requesting forgiveness too. It was a powerful account of forgiveness and justice.

In Print and Support

I had the opportunity to see my name in print today in a new publication. It is nice to see it on occasion.

I also emailed today about an article I’ve been shopping. 5 months and counting, although that may be a good sign since their rejections happened sooner.

I also was thinking about how much I appreciate the support that my institution provide me today — not only in terms of funding for conference travel but also helping me on the market with recommendations, letterhead and mailing my applications. It really is nice.

Yom, articles, and 24 hours periods

From my undergraduate instructor, I remember hearing the argument that creation must be in six literal days because the Hebrew word for day (transliterated, ‘yom’) always means a literal 24-hour period when it has an article (e.g., ‘the’) before it. This response was intended to undermine the day-age theory of creation which is justified Biblically by appealing to verses like 2 Peter 3:8 and Psalm 90:4. In any case, I was rereading Genesis 2, and it struck me that the entire period of creation is referred to as ‘the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven’ (v. 4 — NIV doesn’t translate it as day, but it is the word ‘yom’). So it appears, then, that my undergraduate instructor was making a claim that involves an interesting distinction but one that doesn’t even bear out in the first two chapters of Genesis.

Station Agent

I watched Station Agent last night. The story is about a dwarf, Finn, who was deeply interested in trains and railroads and he inherits an abandoned train station from his friend and colleague.

As I was watching the movie, I noticed a sharp contrast between the ways in which trains and the depot (though abandoned) functioned in the movie as compared to the use of modern technology (e.g., phones, especially cell phones). The depot brings people together because it is a physical location where people meet face to face whereas the phone always invite conflict, misunderstanding and problems. These conflicts sometimes arise in face to face encounters, but they are more often than not resolved. The train depot brings people together and forms of community whereas the phone precludes developing community and invites conflict. Every scene (the only possible exception might be the conversations between Joe and his father) involving phones are cases of conflict, misunderstanding, and distancing oneself from others.

Sons of Thunder

Three anecdotes:

(1) John visits my office for a couple of hours each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon after school. I’ve been impressed with him when he picks up his toys and lines them up just like they were before we left. He, however, does not like to put away his puzzle.

(2) John and I were playing “Roar” where we growl at each other very loudly. It is a favorite for both John and James. During our game we had the following conversation:

Me: ::beating my chest and roaring:: I’m the daddy gorillas.

John: ::beating his chest and roaring:: I’m the momma gorilla.

Apparently we’ve not communicated the appropriate gender of mommas and little boys.

(3) James has started pooing and peeing somewhat frequently in the baby potty. The first time he did it was earlier this month on September 11, 2009. It was impressed. He is about a year younger than John was when John first went to the potty. I guess having an older brother as an example helps. As a side note, however, John was potty trained relatively quickly after his first potty experience.

“Feelings”

I was reading a Parker Palmer book and he said that a teaching environment should be a space that is open to the expression of “feelings.” I find this idea very disturbing, since (1)  it can hinder the developmental of academic and intellectual virtues, (2) the language of ‘feeling’ is most often used in conversation and in the classroom as a crutch to preclude thought and reflection, and (3) in many cases the claims made about a person’s feelings are simply non-sense.

Students have regularly expressed their ‘feelings’ by claiming, for instance, that ‘I feel that Plato is wrong to say that it is Ok to lie to people in certain circumstances’ or that ‘I feel that Descartes’ argument for God’s existence doesn’t prove that God exists.’ These claims themselves do not make any sense. I can understand what it means to feel happy or sad, to feel concrete, or feel warmth, but there is no similar feeling for ‘Plato is wrong to say that is it Ok to lie to people’ or ‘Desartes’ argument for God’s existence is bad.’ Rather, these claims are simply another way of saying ‘I believe that…”. I have no problem, of course, when students making true expressions of feeling about a subject matter. ‘Hume’s critique of miracles bothers me’ or ‘I did not enjoy reading Kant’s First Critique,’ although this sorts of claims have little or no use in philosophy or academia.

Nevertheless, students often have a predilection for using expressions like the Plato or Descartes comment above. It functions as a sort of defense mechanism in order for the person to maintain their views in the face of strong arguments. If the student is expressing merely a ‘feeling’ then the fact that the claim is false does not undermine their feeling. They can still ‘feel’ in such and such a way even when the ‘felt’ claim is false.

This language is used as a defense mechanism to maintain beliefs in the face of opposition, and as such it also undermines the developmental of intellectual ability and acumen. It is inimical to critical thought and reflection.

I am wary of the claim that the classroom should be a place open to “feelings” for these reasons.