Sunday, April 27, 2008

In which I am a heretic

Ecce Homo (Behold the Man!), Antonio Ciseri, 19th c.: Pontius Pilate presents a scourged Jesus of Nazareth to onlookers: a very popular motif in Christian art.Image via WikipediaAs an undergrad, I was a Theology minor. The first college theology class I took was pretty basic intro-level stuff; I was already familiar with much of it, so I could engage and had a really good time.

One day, there was a small debate. The question: assuming (if you would for the moment, please) that God is perfect, why did God give the Israelites the Law and have to send Jesus? After all, if the Law was good enough, Jesus wouldn't have been necessary, but if God knew the Law wouldn't be good enough, why bother? Why not skip right to Jesus?

Two of my classmates got into a pretty heated discussion. I don't recall what the exact positions were, but they were doing a pretty good job of splitting up the opinions of the class. At this point, I had an idea.

I used a parable. See, the professor tended to use Sausage and Pepper Sandwiches in his metaphors, so I followed suit. "Let's say that God wanted to reveal that Sausage and Pepper Sandwiches are the best sandwiches," I said. "Human understanding is limited, so this revelation wouldn't make sense unless the people knew what a sandwich was. So God gives us the revelation of sandwiches, then once we've had time to absorb this information and assimilate it into our society, God reveals the Ultimate Sandwich to us. Likewise, God had to reveal the Law so that Jesus would make sense. It provides context."

There was a moment of silent though. The professor asked each of the debaters if this satisfied their points. It did. He asked the class if they had any problems with it. After asking a few questions to clarify, they were satisfied, as well. I was happy. The professor seemed happy too. He was smiling as he said, "Class, this is how heresies get started."

So I'm a heretic.

But you know what? I'm not actually convinced I'm wrong.

The good
Proof that I'm a free thinker who can come up with solutions to ancient problems is always nice, of course. And I have to say, it's kind of cool to be a heretic.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

In which Greek Life fears me

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in ParisImage via Wikipedia

Freshman year of college is pretty much universally rough. Living away from home didn't bother me, and I adapted to the academics. I did suffer from the unfortunate coincidence of being enrolled in Introductory Philosophy the semester of 9/11 (cue the obnoxious existential crisis), and that was all compounded by the fact that I was having a hard time making friends. Most of the people I knew were forming those first-semester cliques that rarely last but at the same time are impenetrable while they do; I didn't fit in with the girls in my suite; most of the people in my classes were tight with the people in their suites. So I decided to rush a sorority.

I was told that in about four years, only one candidate had not made it into a sorority, and she had not bothered to participate in the process. Pretty inclusive group, don't you think?

In this process, the three sororities that were on campus at the time essentially advertised themselves to the candidates, giving us a sense of their personalities, values, and social habits. At the same time, they subtly judged the candidates in turn, looking to see exactly who would fit in best.

I was meticulous, carefully weighing each against the others, taking notes and asking detailed questions.

This process ended when the sororities announced which girls they were interested in. Each girl was issued invitations to parties thrown by the sororities that chose them; if all three liked a girl, she could attend up to two. After the parties, both girls and societies re-evaluated and made a final choice.

Does it surprise you at all that the day of this announcement, I got a phone call to warn me (for the sake of my feelings) that I had not received any invitations?

Oh, but I could be put in reserve and join up should anyone drop out and leave a vacancy! Please. You don't want me; I won't burden you with my presence. But why, I asked, did this happen? Was any feedback given?

It turns out the sisters were intimidated by my note-taking.

That's right.

My rational, sensible decision-making skills made them uncomfortable. Red flag, much?

In retrospect, the girls who were sought after by all three sisterhoods were the kind of girl I don't really get along with. In fact, my closest friends have always been guys. So this worked out pretty nicely, overall.

Except, I didn't exactly have high-status guys chasing me. Or, you know, guys, plural. There was one low-level stalker, but I've seen him at work on other girls and he has pretty low standards (those standards being: they have a conversation with him). But let's use a metaphor...You wouldn't go to the Lindt store for ice cream. You might be convinced they'd have amazing ice cream; you may really wish they had ice cream. But going to the Lindt store and trying to buy ice cream is just stupid. Won't do you any good. So even though it's inferior chocolate, you settle for Dairy Queen. And now, I'm engaged to a man who really knows how to appreciate a special edition truffle.

The good
Dude, are you kidding me? I intimidated the sisters! If that's not the best rejection I've received in my life, it definitely ranks in the top five.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

In which I outline the Rules

1) All of these stories have to be mine. Other people can show up, of course, but these stories are about my experiences, not someone else's. I am the Protagonist (or Antagonist). If you want to read about the time my fiance went hang-gliding, you can read his blog. Which he doesn't have. Which is the point of this blog: if you want your story told, tell it yourself. Also, no names will be used unless I'm given explicit permission... though if you're a regular reader of Reviewing Whatever, you can probably figure out most of the key players.

2) There are things I will not talk about. My job is one. It's not interesting, for one thing. For another, I don't want to betray any of the people I work with. Also, nothing I say reflects the views of the company or its employees. Another is personal stuff. Will I tell you about how I'm a terrible pessimist? Absolutely. Will I tell you why that is? No, I will not. If you do some detective work, I'm sure you can find my LiveJournal, but I'm not going to make it easy for you.

3) The hard part. Something good must come from everything. Like I just said, I'm a pessimist. So for every story I tell, I have to include the lesson I learned, or the insight I gained, or the really cool picture I took, or something.

I'll likely be updating these as I go.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

In which I give you the background

Several years ago, during my junior year of college, I had a crisis of confidence. In my circle of friends, three (including my now-fiance) went abroad for a semester, one did an internship in Washington, DC, and the last was finishing up his last semester before med school. Meanwhile, I was pretty much left alone in the city where I grew up. I had even gotten accepted into the study-abroad program, but due to some financial difficulties, I just couldn't go. I tried getting in with another group, but it was late in the game, so while they were welcoming, I didn't fit in as well. In-jokes will do that. I tried becoming closer friends with a few acquaintances. For the most part, that didn't work -- there was a reason they were just acquaintances, after all.

I was getting worried. After all, everyone knows that study-abroad is a life-changing experience, right? While the only interesting thing going on back home was that our school's basketball team was doing very well. Now, there are two small problems with this: first, I simply do not care about basketball on any level. I hate playing it, and watching it doesn't entertain me, whether it's kids, high school, college, or pro. Second, my friends actually told me that they'd give up this experience - they'd actually put down the money to come home - just so they could see their team go all the way. Let me repeat that. They would put down money (that I didn't have) to leave an experience (that I would never get) in order to watch a sporting event (that I can't stand). It must be nice.

So that was my life versus theirs. What would happen, I worried, when they got back? Would their lives be changed? Would they have outgrown me? What could I possibly bring to the table anymore?

I'm still close to some of these friends, but I'm also still worried. I met up with some of them recently, and can you guess what the conversation was about? College basketball, and the beers they've had in other countries. Also work, but my job just isn't interesting compared to foiling bank robberies and assisting the developmentally disabled. And, at one or two points, weddings, which was a topic I could speak to... but the one person in the group who isn't planning a wedding managed to hijack those conversations. Usually to college basketball or international beers. Thanks, guys.

So I was heading home and thinking about how boring my life is. I work at a job no one really cares to hear about. I spend my commute either sleeping or reading books no one cares about. I go home, eat, maybe blog about one of those books no one cares about, and go to bed way too late to get a good night's sleep. In between, I may do some wedding planning, but let's face it: the only people who care about wedding plans are the people who have something at stake inthe wedding. The conversation hijack I mentioned above just proves that.

So I decided to do something like what I did back in junior year. I am going to write about my experiences. I'm a writer, after all; if I can't make stories sound interesting, then I'm doing something wrong. Also, maybe by making my experiences sound interesting, I'll attract more interesting experiences. I don't know, but it's sure worth a try.

I mean, just because I don't save a ton of money or eliminate plastic from my daily life or create board games or read the comics for you doesn't mean I don't have a right to tell my stories.

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