Elsewhere, October 10, 2010

The New Pornographers, Sufjan, isolation tanks, sexy Sesame Street, evolution, NOMA, and Virb.
Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens

Elsewhere: A collection of interesting links and articles that I’ve come across in the last week or so. Follow me on Twitter for more of the same.

Andy Whitman on Calvin College’s decision to cancel a New Pornographers concert because of the band’s name:

…count me as one of the groaners. I don’t know the specific details behind Calvin’s decision to retract its invitation to the band. I’m sure they weren’t and aren’t pretty. And knowing and deeply appreciating some of the parties involved, I’m equally certain that it’s a decision that wasn’t made flippantly.

But Christians, of all people, should be willing to look beyond the surface to discover the true meaning. We serve a Lord who, at the most superficial level, was an abject failure, an itinerant rabbi who attracted a motley rabble of fishermen, political toadies, and terrorists, and whose life on earth was nothing less than scandalous; God made man who was misunderstood and ridiculed, who was stripped naked and suffered a very public and very bloody execution on a cross as a common criminal.

And in that scandal is life itself. We do our faith a disservice when we allow the prudish and overly sensitive to dictate the terms of cultural engagement. Nor does it help little Joshua or Hannah, now 20 or 21 years old, when they are spared the opportunity to interact with art that may challenge and enlighten them, or, God forbid, bring them joy and pleasure.

Joel Hartse writes about Sufjan, Janelle Monae, and pop music with a ​“spirit-penetrating totality”:

Whatever it is, [Sufjan’s] record — like Monae’s — is the work of an artist is committed to inhabiting the words and sounds they create. This is where I want to perhaps go too far, using words like sacrament and incarnation, but to avoid blasphemy I will just say this: there is something deeply satisfying about listening to a pop record that clearly believes in itself, in all its flailing and incomplete totality, and its source.

Christine Rosen wonders, Can we kill time before it kills us?

I went into the isolation tank to see if it was possible to kill time. Devoid of any stimulation, without the constant bombardment of images, noises, demands and distractions of my daily life, would I still have a sense of time passing? And if I did, would it be like my normal experience of time — harried, stressful, always in scarce supply?

I wasn’t in the tank long before I felt vaguely uneasy, then unnerved. Hectic, rather than sublime, thoughts rocketed through my mind: What is that dripping noise? Has it been twenty minutes? Forty? Why does it feel like it’s getting hotter and hotter in here? I thought of Hudson Hoagland, a physiologist in the 1930s who conducted bizarre experiments involving heating helmets and sweat rooms to judge if changes in body temperature altered his hapless research subjects’ perceptions of time. My agitation grew and I contemplated throwing open the hatch and streaking out of the room.

Instead I focused on breathing. I quieted my thoughts. Soon I was startled to hear a tap-tap-tapping followed by Lela opening the hatch. Her glasses fogged as she peered in and said, ​“OK. Hour’s up. How do you like it?” If you had asked me to estimate how much time had elapsed since I first went into the tank, I would have guessed about 25 minutes, not 60. Later, walking back to my car, I was far more aware of what was going on around me than I had been earlier. I also felt a weird sense of calm. I had what Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer calls an ​“adventure in noticing,” and the experience lasted for the rest of the day.

There are days when an isolation tank sounds like the greatest thing on earth.

The U.S. is often labelled a prudish, sexually repressed nation. And yet, we have sexy ​“Sesame Street” costumes.

She’s blue, she’s beautiful and she’s hungry — for love! This sassy Cookie Monster costume will turn heads at your next costume bash. Includes plush blue minidress, character face headband and bright blue knee highs with white bow accents.

Don’t worry, the link is fairly work-safe.

This article by Michael Spencer — aka, the ​“Internet Monk” — is one of my favorite articles regarding the whole science vs. religion kerfuffle:

Her name is Niki. (Not her real name.) She’s a Japanese student who lived with an American family for a year and attended a Christian school. She took a year of Bible. She attended worship and heard lots of preaching. The Gospel was explained to her many times. She was well liked and sociable.

A very smart girl. A great student, much advanced over the average American student. She made A’s in everything, including Bible.

She left America after graduation and went back to Japan.

She came to America an atheist and she returned to Japan an atheist, and very aware that she had rejected Christianity.

Before she left, she talked with one of her teachers.

I am an atheist because I believe in evolution. When people here explained to me what they must believe as Christians, I always ask them about evolution, and they say ​“You cannot be a Christian and believe in evolution.” So I cannot be a Christian, because I believe that evolution is true.”

Susan Jacoby: ​“The Myth of Separate Magisteria”:

By now, nearly everyone with a passing interest in science or religion is familiar with Stephen Jay Gould’s description of the two disciplines as ​“non-overlapping magisteria” with separate domains — science in the physical universe and religion in the moral realm. On this website, the philosopher Roger Scruton recently made the sweeping declaration that ​“genuine science and true religion cannot conflict.” A 2004 editorial in Nature magazine insists that science and religion clash only when the two ​“stray onto each other’s territories and stir up trouble.”

One might as well say that conflict arises between men and women only when they stray onto each other’s territories and stir up trouble. Science produces discoveries that challenge long-held beliefs (not only religious ones) based on revelation rather than evidence, and the religious must decide whether to battle or accommodate secular knowledge if it contradicts their teachings.

I know both scientists and religious believers for whom the idea of non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) has become an unexamined fiction designed to skirt the culture wars. It is clear, however, that NOMA (a term Gould adapted from Catholic theology; the ​“Magisterium” is the Church’s term for its teaching authority) is not only a fiction but a useless fiction — from the standpoint of both religion and science.

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