Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Songs for Christmas

With the wedding only a few days away, I've not much time for much. But I do just want to mention that, while I've had it a couple years now, I still have found immense joy this Yuletide season listening to Stevens' little collection. Each year, it seems, certain discs (of the five disc set) become new favorites and this year it's been the "Peace" volume that's really been doing it for me.

I happened to read some of the liner notes and was very impressed by Sufjan's insight and intent behind the project. Part of it reads as follows:
ChristmasWhat did the angels renounce in the wake of the shepherds' trepidation? "Have no fear," they petitioned with trumpet blasts and a garnish display of constellations. But that's like waving a gun in a bank lobby and demanding: "Everybody stay calm!" Music, of course, works much differently. The most discriminating of chord progressions can disarm the most arrogant of men, including myself. Christmas music does this to the highest degree. It intersects a supernatural phenomenon (the incarnation of God) with the sentimental mush of our mortal lives (presents, toys, Christmas tree ornaments, snow globes, cranberry sauce), leaving in its pathological wake a particular state of mind one can only describe as "that warm, fuzzy feeling." Was this what I was after? The search for existential significance in all that sentimental oatmeal? Perhaps, but I'm not so certain that "Silent Night" and "Jingle Bells" can be used as an exegesis for the big questions in life.

Or can they? I decided to find out, continuing the tradition year after year, plummeting into the abysmal canon of Yuletide carols, strumming the banjo, shaking the bells, tipping my Santa hat to Saint Nick, all the while assembling a ramshackle mix tape of Christmas "hits" (sometimes adding my own originals), wondering "What does it really mean to deck the halls with boughs of holly?" ...At the very least, I discovered that sleigh bells are, in fact, difficult to play well (there is a technique to these kinds of things), and that Christmas music poses a cosmological conundrum in requiring us to sing so sweetly and sentimentally about something so terrifying and tragic.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's Good to be Greek

If Jesus died for the Mississippians, then he died for their brains too. [source]
Here, here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Lord, in your mercy, Hear Our Prayer

Save us from our "piety," from our neverending, clever complaining of our own wretchedness. Lord turn our hearts away from that wicked self-absorption masked as "contrition." Give us instead, hearts of joy, hearts of belief - that is, give us faith. Give us the strength to be more certain of the Gospel than of trifle occasions past. Give us eyes that believe the future more strongly than we believe the present and the past. Give us eschatological eyes.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Engagement Photos

Linkedy link.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Redeeming Poythress

I may have jumped the gun in evaluating Dr. Poythress. It's not all Van Tillian re-hash. Found this article: link. Based on a couple scans, it looks fairly promising.
Mathematics is the rhyme of the universe. [source]
Maybe I'll make my students read and review it for extra credit.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

All the Things Left Undone

Today was hardly what I would call an "excellent" day at work - nonetheless, I still feel increasingly competent and confident in my role as a teacher. Current frustrations have more to do with the fact that I've been getting increasingly sick over the past few days and less to do with my lack of experience. When I get back to full strength, you might say that "such and such" will occur, and it will be followed by "taking names."

Seriously, I've been obsessively thinking about how to set this class up to make it worth going to. For starters, I need a much deeper understanding of mathematics. I can't take the students any deeper than I've already gone. But also, I'd like some non-textbook material to share with the kids, even something lite, like say a collection of pithy philosophical quotes about math. And yet, I know not where to find such material. The closest I've come is some Vern Poythress articles on the subject, but those are too obviously "Van Til goes to math class" for my liking, complete with rants against Kantianism and plentiful allusions to the rationalist-irrationalist dialectic. I need something with a less apologetic flair. Something more... classical.

One of the most influential courses in my life was a sixth grade course in which I would spend the first five minutes of class each day transcribing and meditating on a quote from Marcus Aurelius or Plato or Aristotle or some of the Pre-Socratics. Potent stuff, that, for a group of twelve-year-olds. But the scope and depth of my reading of everything, let alone ancient writings on mathematics, is so thin, so shallow, that I don't even know where to start. Perhaps meditations of my own would suffice. I'm not sure. There is always Holy Scripture, but that, that is a sticky widget isn't it? We may start with Augustine.

There is more: How will I seat them? Presently, lacking better descriptors, my students sit arena style, focused on me and the board. How can I lead them away from seeing me as the C.E.O. of Pre-Algebra studies, and guide them towards a self-guided mathematical discovery of their own? The thoughts are churning, my friends, but I've yet to chart the proper course. Know this, though: never ever did I picture myself taking this job so seriously. I'm glad for it. I kind of have a purpose or something. My most pressing and present goal is simply not to get fired, but as I begin to let my guard down, whatever speck of creativity I have may begin to flourish.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Truth Be Told

It is secretly my plan to, over the next few years, develop my Pre-Algebra curriculum so as to eventually convert my little pagan students into blossoming neo-platonic wonderers, all awe-inspired by the infinity of God.

That's the plan anyways. First, though, I've gotta learn how to teach. And maybe even before that, I've gotta learn how to learn.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Rock me, Zizioulas

Read this today (pp. 97-8):
zizioulasHis knowledge is nothing other than His love. If He ceases to love what exists, nothing will be. Being depends on love.

...The incarnate Christ is so identical to the ultimate will of God's love, that the meaning of created being and the purpose of history are simply the incarnate Christ. All things were made with Christ in mind, or rather at heart, and for this reason irrespective of the fall of man, the incarnation would have occurred.

...Christ becomes the "principle" and "end" of all things, the One who not only moves into history from within its unfolding, but who also moves existence even from within the multiplicity of created things, towards the true being which is true life and true communion. [source]