Friday, October 30, 2015

Augustine had it right!

As a young student, I shook my head when reading how St. Augustine would interject prayers into his exegetical writings. Is this not bad scholarship? Based on my understanding of the book of Job today I would say: No! This is the very foundation that allows true interaction with the text and the reality contained in it.—Job's Journey, page 99 n. 41

<idle musing>
I've got to read this book! Isn't that a wonderful sentiment? Reminds me of something I read (and posted) back in 2013:

[T]rue theology ought to end in prayer. If theology is the study of God, the knowledge of God, and if God is God, then the end of our study ought to be worship. If it is not, if it has been only a study about a subject and our thoughts on that subject, that is idolatry; I have made God a thing. It does not matter how accurate my thought is; if it does not bring me to Him as a living Person, I have only found a substitute for Him, a knowledge of something other than God. When one comes to know the true God, the only response is, in the language of the Old Testament, fearful worship.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, pages 15-16
Good stuff, indeed!
</idle musing>

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Why is Job praised by God?

Thus I come to the conclusion, based on an analysis of the Masoretic Text and supported by the ancient versions, that God does not praise a specific statement made by Job (neither the patient sufferer of the beginning, the passionate rebel of the middle section, nor the individual who rebukes himself in the end). God does not justify a specific teaching about himself but rather the direction of Job’s speech, his internal stance, his knowledge of the place to which and from which his thoughts proceed. God praises Job’s speech as a speech to God. In contrast, the friends are not scolded for what they have said, but for their attitude toward God. It is their distant stance toward God that incurs God’s wrath: Job’s friends are studious and earnest theologians. They use their full cognitive competence and produce an impressive system of thought. Yet their mistake lies in the foundation of their theology: “You have not spoken well to me, not toward me, not in personal relation to me. Instead, you only spoke of me. In this, all theology is perverted, becomes sinful, and incurs God’s wrath.” Job may speak against God and perhaps even make mistakes, but he speaks to God and thus receives God’s praise. We can describe the paradigmatic form of Job’s speech with a phrase coined by Martin Luther: “contra deum in deum,” to speak against God to God. The friends’ error lies in their objectified speech; they never speak to God! Instead of prayerfully speaking to God and wrestling with God, they practice theology as speech about God. Instead of praying for Job or with Job, they theorize about God. In this manner, they completely miss God, even if they do make theologically correct statements.—Job's Journey, pages 98–99 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Isn't that great? He defends the reading in the preceding two pages, based on the MT, LXX, and Vulgate, but you'll have to wait for the book to be published to find out : )

As for me, I can't wait to read it! Jim shared that snippet with me and I can't help sharing it with you. Here are all the details:

Job's Journey

Job's Journey
Stations of Suffering
Critical Studies in the Hebrew Bible - CSHB 7
by Manfred Oeming and Konrad Schmid
Eisenbrauns, Forthcoming, Nov. 2015
Pp. xiv + 110, English
Paper, 6 x 9
ISBN: 9781575063997
List Price: $29.95
Your Price: $26.96

</idle musing>

The same but different

Theories that have defined ritual activity as first and foremost the reenactment of historical or mythical precedents, such as those formulated by Eliade, risk a certain blindness to a group's constant reinterpretation of what constitutes these precedents and the community's relationship to them. As I indicated earlier, the evocation of tradition differs significantly in the early Christian eucharistic meal, the Roman rite codified by the Council of Trent, and the post-Vatican II folk mass of liturgical renewal. These liturgies display not only different formulations of the significance of Christ's last supper but also different understandings of the relationship existing between the ritual and the original event. Similarly, in each case a different type of community is constituted around different values and forms of authority—and all within a relatively stable liturgical tradition that presents itself as quite fixed.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, pages 123–24

<idle musing>
There's a saying in anthropology that two people doing the same thing aren't necessarily doing the same thing! This illustrates that truth. The actions might look the same, but they aren't being done for the same reason or with the same understanding of what is happening.

I love reading Eliade; I find him stimulating—even though I think he is wrong about 80% of the time! I think part of the reason he's wrong so often is because he offers a "flat" reading of the rituals, which is what Bell is getting at here. The community is formed by the rituals, sure. But, just as importantly, the community forms the rituals. It goes both ways, and that is something Eliade never considered. For that matter, do we?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

End of another season

Well, we closed the cabins for the season (our third with Max & Sherri, fourth overall) on Monday. The last guests left Monday morning and we began the chores of shutting down for the year.

The most important (and usually urgent) task is draining the water lines. This year it has been warmer, so it wasn't as urgent as some years, but you never know what the weather may hold. Blowing the lines out is a bit of a complicated process. First you have to install bypasses at all the water heaters, then drain them. Water heaters don't drain very fast—about 1/2 hour per tank—so you need multiple hoses.

While the tanks are draining, you can begin blowing the lines out. Dave had created a nice system whereby he plugged an air compressor into the line (after shutting off the water main! You don't want to inject air into the city water line!), opened and shut a few valves, and voila! You can open the faucets and blow the water out. Of course, you need to remove the aerators or they plug up with all the junk the air breaks loose in the lines from 60 years of use.

Did I mention it's very messy? The compressed air shoot water out at you and around you. I've taken to wearing a rain jacket and carrying a few hand towels to block the water. It seems the sinks are shaped to direct the water right up at your face!

Dave learned from experience that just blowing the lines wasn't enough. There was always a low-lying spot in the mains where the water would pool. Add -20ºF temperatures in the winter, and you have broken mains. Not a good way to start the spring! So, he added a 30 gallon holding tank for RV antifreeze. Turn a few more valves, and go back through the cabins, turning on each faucet again until pink stuff shows up.

Here's where I learned a few tricks, too. If you aren't careful, the pink stuff will puddle in the bottom of the tubs or sinks. Add 5 months of sitting there, and in the spring you have a pink stain. Believe me, with 50+ years of use, the tubs don't have much protection over the enamel anymore. They soak up that pink like a sponge. Guess whose job it is to get it out in the spring? Yep, mine.

Here's where the towels come in handy. Let enough pink come through so you know the pipes won't freeze, but not too much or you'll have a pink sink/tub. Take a towel to that little puddle ASAP before it can soak in. Works like a charm. You still have to use cleanser in the spring, but not a bucket of it!

Oh, did I mention that each toilet needs to be drained, too? The bowl has to be empty or you'll be replacing toilets. Not on my list of favorite (or cheap!) things to do. So, you need to bail out the majority of it with a cup, then siphon out the last bit. Dave used a drill-powered pump—you know, one of those little portable things. But I found that to be too unwieldy, so I just us a turkey baster and suction it out. Don't worry, it doesn't get used for anything else : )

Then it's the laundry. All the blankets, shower curtains, bath mats, and mattress covers need to be washed and stored. In the case of the mattress covers, they go back on the beds right away and we put the bedspreads over the top. The bedspreads get washed in the spring so that all the dust from the winter doesn't matter.

And then all the lawn chairs and lawn furniture needs to be stored. And the grill needs to be put away. And the gas turned off. And the electricity gets turned off in each cabin. And the signs get put away. And all the soap bottles need to be brought in or they will freeze and separate. That's a funny looking sight, but it sure makes the soap (actually detergent) unusable. Learned from experience: The windows need to be screwed shut or the winter storms will blow them open. This happens gradually, as the rattle of the wind slowly loosens the latches. Eventually, the window blows open and you get a pile of snow everywhere. Or, as happened the first year, the window blows open and knocks a lamp on the floor, which then shatters and scatters everywhere, mixed with snow, of course! Not a pretty sight. So, we learned to screw the windows shut.

Well, today is Wednesday, and all I have left is washing the mattress covers. Not bad for 2 days work. But it's raining today, and I don't want to track dirt, leaves, and grass into the cabins, so they probably won't get done until tomorrow...there's always tomorrow : )

Problem? Simple, redefine it and conjure it away...

What does ritualization see? It is a way of acting that sees itself as responding to a place, event, force, problem, or tradition. It tends to see itself as the natural or appropriate thing to do in the circumstances. Ritualization does not see how it actively creates place, force, event, and tradition, how it redefines or generates the circumstances to which it is responding. It does not see how its own actions reorder and reinterpret the circumstances so as to afford the sense of a fit among the main spheres of experience—body, community, and cosmos.

Ritualization sees its end, the rectification of a problematic. It does not see what it does in the process of realizing this end, its transformation of the problematic itself. And yet what ritualization does is actually quite simple: it temporally structures a space-time environment through a series of physical movements (using schemes described earlier), thereby producing an arena which, by its molding of the actors, both validates and extends the schemes they are internalizing. Indeed, in seeing itself as responding to an environment, ritualization interprets its own schemes as impressed upon the actors from a more authoritative source, usually from well beyond the immediate human community itself. Hence, through an orchestration in time of loosely and effectively homologized oppositions in which some gradually come to dominate others, the social body reproduces itself in the image of the symbolically schematized environment that has been simultaneously established.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, pages 109–10

<idle musing>
That's a bit complicated, isn't it? But I think she's spot-on with it. It all boils down to control. We respond to a problem of some kind by redefining it and then dealing with it in a way that has worked in the past...

That's why walking in the Spirit is so difficult for us; we're not in control. And that's why legalism appeals to us so much. We're in control; even if we fall short, at least we have something to hang on to that's shows us where we stand.

At least, that's my take, but maybe it's just an
</idle musing>

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

But what are you doing?

Ritual practices are produced with an intent to order, rectify, or transform a particular situation. Ritualized agents would see these purposes. They would not see what they actually do in ritually ordering, rectifying, or transforming the situation. Foucault implies a similar principle when he notes that people know what they do and they know why they do what they do, but they do not know what what they are doing does. For Althusser, this constitutes the intrinsic "blindness" of practice. For our purposes, it is a strategic 'misrecognition' of the relationship of one's ends and means.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 108

Friday, October 23, 2015

Why all those verb forms in Greek?

From a book I'm editing: Why are there seven verb-forms in the indicative mood and only three in the nonindicative moods? The answer is simple: the forms in the indica¬tive mark both aspect and tense (the future forms may mark only tense and not aspect); outside of the indicative they mark only aspect. Since there are only three aspects, there are only three verb-forms outside of the indicative.

An explosion

Last Saturday put an end to the garden for the year, except for the kale, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, and kohlrabi. They're a bit more cold hardy than others. But the tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans, etc. all bit the dust as the temperature plunged to 21ºF. Even the stuff in the hoop house got bit.

So this week has been garden cleanup. The tomatoes have all been brought inside to the basement to ripen slowly. Last year I ate the last one the week before Christmas. Sure, they don't taste as good as fresh from the vine, but they're still better than those red things in the store that they call tomatoes.

Quite a few of the tomatoes were almost to the point of being ripe, so last night I canned 7 quarts of stewed tomatoes. For those of you who don't know, part of the process of canning is processing the quart jars in a pot of boiling water for about an hour. The instructions say 50 minutes, but I usually prefer to err on the side of caution and give them an hour. Then you pull the jars out and let them seal. Debbie loves to hear the "pop" when they seal.

As I said, I was canning 7 quarts of tomatoes last night. After they went into the boiling water bath, I went into the other room to do some editing. About 50 minutes into the processing, there was a huge Boom! Debbie yelled at me to come quickly because the pot was boiling over.

That's an understatement! I've been canning now for the better part of 40 years, and I've never seen anything like it before. One of the rings holding the lid on had let loose. The jar was intact, but the boiling tomatoes inside had acted like a cannon, shooting the lid and ring into the lid of the pot. The lid had actually moved over about an inch, and tomato was all over the top of the stove and down the front of it, onto the floor, and all over the rug!

Sometimes a jar will have a weak spot in it and break, but then you just get tomatoes (and glass) in the canning water. Sure it's a pain to clean up, but it isn't a mess like this! It took us the better part of 1/2 hour, working together, to clean it up.

The jar is still intact. But I threw that ring away! In feeling it after the fact, I could tell that the threads weren't as deep as normal. What a way to discover that, though! Gardening, hazardous to your health!

Endless iterations

People do not take a social problem to ritual for a solution. People generate a ritualized environment that acts to shift the very status and nature of the problem into terms that are endlessly retranslated in strings of deferred schemes. The multiplication and orchestration of such schemes do not produce a resolution; rather, they afford a translation of immediate concerns into the dominant terms of the ritual. The orchestration of schemes implies a resolution without ever defining one.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 106

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Esoteric knowledge

In sum, ritualization not only involves the setting up of oppositions, but through the privileging built into such an exercise it generates hierarchical schemes to produce a loose sense of totality and systematicity. In this way, ritual dynamics afford an experience of 'order' as well as the 'fit' between this taxonomic order and the real world of experience.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 104

<idle musing>
OK, looking at the page views, it's obvious that this book isn't appealing to people! But I find this stuff fascinating. It helps explain why we do what we do—and why we don't even realize that we are doing it! But, you see, that's the "magic" of ritualization! We hide it from ourselves. We convince ourselves that we are doing something. So, again, as always, it is about control. By ritualizing something, we create the illusion that we are actually influencing the outcome. Can you say sin? Can you say pride? Can you say rebellion against God?

And that is why I find books like this fascinating and important. But, I don't expect the page views to increase just because I find it fascinating and important! Let me assure you, I don't blog for page views! If I did, I certainly wouldn't have chosen to blog about obscure things like this! And Hebrew and Greek grammar. Instead, I would be using words that scream for hits; you know the ones I mean. Every time I use them, the page views climb, but the interaction is usually mean-spirited. I don't need or want that. So, I'll be content with obscure stuff that only a few people care about. I've been doing this for nearly 10 years now; I'm not about to change : )

Just an
</idle musing>

Now those are real books!

One of the Eisenbrauns employees (Michael) forwarded this to me. This is real bookmaking. Wouldn't it be fun to work there?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Subconsciously effective

The strategies of ritualization are particularly rooted in the body, specifically, the interaction of the social body within a symbolically constituted spatial and temporal environment. Essential to ritualization is the circular production of a ritualized body which in turn produces ritualized practices. Ritualization is embedded within the dynamics of the body defined within a symbolically structured environment. An important corollary to this is the fact that ritualization is a particularly 'mute' form of activity. It is designed to do what it does without bringing what it is doing across the threshold of discourse or systematic thinking.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 93

<idle musing>
In other words, it sneaks through the backdoor to be effective...Interesting thought, isn't it? And I think she's correct. What about you?
</idle musing>

Monday, October 19, 2015

But it's informal...

If ritual is interpreted in terms of practice, it becomes clear that formality, fixity, and repetition are not intrinsic qualities of ritual so much as they are a frequent, but not universal strategy for producing ritualized acts. That is to say, formalizing a gathering, following a fixed agenda and repeating that activity at periodic intervals, and so on, reveal potential strategies of ritualization because these ways of acting are the means by which one group of activities is set off as distinct and privileged vis-a-vis other activities. Yet in a different situation, informality might be stressed to dominate other ways of acting. For example, the formal activities of gathering for a Catholic mass distinguish this 'meal' from daily eating activities, but the informality of a mass celebrated in a private home with a folk guitar and kitchen utensils is meant to set up another contrast (the spontaneous authentic celebration versus the formal and inauthentic mass) which the informal service expects to dominate. It is only necessary that the cultural context include some consensus concerning the opposition and relative values of personal sincerity and intimate participation vis-a-vis routinized and impersonal participation.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 92

<idle musing>
An excellent insight! An informal gathering can be just as much a ritual as a formal one—and to think otherwise is just deceiving ourselves...which we seem to be only too good at!
</idle musing>

Friday, October 16, 2015

It works!

Viewed as practice, ritualization involves the very drawing, in and through the activity itself, of a privileged distinction between ways of acting, specifically between those acts being performed and those being contrasted, mimed, or implicated somehow. That is, intrinsic to ritualization are strategies for differentiating itself—to various degrees and in various ways—from other ways of acting within any particular culture. At a basic level, ritualization is the production of this differentiation. At a more complex level, ritualization is a way of acting that specifically establishes a privileged contrast, differentiating itself as more important or powerful. Such privileged distinctions may be drawn in a variety of culturally specific ways that render the ritualized acts dominant in status.

For example, distinctions between eating a regular meal and participating in the Christian eucharistic meal are redundantly drawn in every aspect of the ritualized meal, from the type of larger family gathering around the table to the distinctive periodicity of the meal and the insufficiency of the food for physical nourishment.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 90

<idle musing>
This is getting interesting, isn't it? We elevate certain behavior by the way we enact it. This in turn makes us think that it is more effective in some way...
</idle musing>


No, freeze! It didn't just frost last night, if froze. There was ice on the puddles this morning as I went for my bike ride. It got down to about 27ºF, so we are definitely into late fall weather. The wind is from the north and blowing hard, too, so it's not going to get much warmer today. The sun is shining, though, so the hoop house plants should be good. The broccoli, carrots, and kohlrabi should be fine. But the beans are done. I did manage to get one last picking out of them yesterday, just enough for a meal for us.

I've got 20 lettuce plants growing in the south window right now; they're just little seedlings right now. I'm planning on moving them into the basement under lights and then transplanting them into 3 gallon buckets of compost. Part of my never-ending attempt to get fresh produce year round : ) I'm also going to try broccoli again. Last year I didn't start it until later, so it didn't give us broccoli until I put it outside in May, but we had fresh broccoli in early June!

Stay tuned for the results!

Thursday, October 15, 2015


Ran across this (HT: Irene Hahn on FB). Here's a good excerpt:
Abuse does not arise in a vacuum. A healthy mind does not (need to) abuse. Abuse is created of trauma, and it is the traumatized mind which abuses. Whether to externalize, bury, escape its anger and frustration — the abused mind must purge it’s hurt in some manner, or risk being broken, split apart by it entirely.

But the troubling fact is this.

We have created an abusive society. We have normalized, regularized, and routinized abuse. We are abused at work, by the very rules, norms, and expectations of our jobs, at which we are merely “human resources”, to be utilized, allocated, depleted. We are abused at play, by industries that seek to prey on our innocence and literally “target” our human weaknessses. And now we are abused at arm’s length, through the lightwaves, by people we will never meet, for things we have barely even said. We live in a society where school shootings are the rule, not the exception, where more people will have taken antidepressants than not…and now one where nearly everyone will have been abused on the web…for a random, off-hand, throwaway comment, an idle thought, something trivial, unremarkable, meaningless. (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Yep. And only the Holy Spirit can change us. Even so, come Lord Jesus! Change us and transform us into a people worthy of your name.
</idle musing&ft;

Slug motels!

Still no frost! But tonight is forecast to be a serious, hard frost at 29ºF. I'll probably get a last picking of beans today and that will be the end. But my broccoli and cabbage will be fine. The tomatoes are in the hoop house, so they will be ok too.

Yesterday I dug the potatoes. What a disappointment! I think I was growing slug hotels! I lost probably 10 pounds to slug infestation. Yuck! I hadn't thought of it, but straw potatoes make the perfect environment for slugs. Last year I grew them in a gravelly bed, which slugs hate, so I didn't have an issue. This year, I grew them in a bed that I had just built the year before and had filled with fresh compost. Perfect habitat for slugs once you put down 6 inches of straw. Oh well, now I know. Next year I'll try convention potatoes and see what happens.

That's the fun (and at times frustrating) thing about gardening. You're always learning, experimenting, and succeeding—or failing. But the point isn't the success or failure, but the experimenting. Our lives don't depend on my garden, so I can take the failures in stride. That's a major difference between gardening here in the opulent western world and the 2/3 world. For them failure is a matter of life and death. For me, it's the difference between fresh garden produce and a trip to the co-op or grocery store...

Sleight of hand

We can say that practice sees what it intends to accomplish, but it does not see the strategies it uses to produce what it actually does accomplish, a new situation. Althusser shows that practice will give an answer to a question that was never posed: the effectiveness of practice is not the resolution of the problematic to which it addresses itself but a complete change in the terms of the problematic, a change it does not see itself make.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 87

<idle musing>
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! Right? We do it all the time; it's self-delusion, but I think it is a sanity play on our part. We can't live with uncertainty, but we can't live with the knowledge that we forced certainty on uncertain circumstances. So we employ ritual (she calls it "practice" here).

Think about it. And let me know if you agree or disagree...after all, this is just an
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Hike in the woods

Well, we went for a hike yesterday to Oberg Mountain. It's about a half hour from us along the lake shore. It was a beautiful drive, the clouds had broken up and the wind had died down. It was crisp, in the low 50s F, just perfect for a fall hike.

As we feared, most of the leaves were on the ground. Of course, that makes for some great leaf-crunching! I've always loved kicking up the leaves in the fall while I walk; I'm almost 60 now, but I still love it! It was still beautiful; there were a few really bright red maples that stood out even more against the mainly bare trees.

If you ever get up here, this is one of the premiere hikes in the fall. Well worth your time.

By the way, it still hasn't frosted here. Got close last night and there was some frost on the shop roof, but the ground was wet but not frozen. I might get another picking of beans yet! And that Delicata squash plant is working hard at maturing those late babies!

A climate of thought

Gramsci proposed that hegemonic ordering of power requires people both to envision and to suppress, to self-censor and to appropriate liberties to themselves. He argued that ruling classes establish dominance not merely through overt mechanisms of control but through a climate of thought to which the oppressed classes subscribe. This theory of ideology suggests what has been called a general "strategy of containment." It also implies what others have made explicit, that ideology is not a disseminated body of ideas but the way in which people live the relationships between themselves and their world, a type of necessary illusion. To maintain and adapt their assumptions about the order of reality persons and groups engage in degrees of self-censorship or misrecognition, as well as legitimization and objectification in the guise of more stable social structures.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 85

<idle musing>
Indeed! We see this everyday, don't we? The leading pundits (right or left) are continually trying to create a "climate of thought" to which they try to get their followers to subscribe. But as Christians, we should subscribe to none but that of Jesus, enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Sadly, we choose our favorite pundit instead...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Quick summary/update

It's fall. Definitely fall. We still haven't had a frost, which is extremely unusual. The leaves are at/near peak, but today we had winds that blew a good number of them onto the ground. That's disappointing, because we were/are planning on going for a hike this afternoon to see the leaves. Oh well, it will still be in the woods!

This morning, at the beginning of my ride, I was going up the hill and against the wind. The wind was so strong that it blew me against the curb and almost knocked me over. At the same time, it began misting and was blowing it at me. I considered abandoning the ride, but when I looked up, I saw a complete rainbow! It was beautiful! It restored my perspective, and I fought the wind for 10 miles; it was from the north, so it was against me no matter where I rode. But, hey, it was along the lake; what more could you want?

On the way back, I saw a freighter on the horizon, a sure sign that the wind is strong and the waves are big. They normally stay out in the middle of the lake, where the route is more direct, but when the winds get strong, they move closer to shore for protection. Another sign that fall is here.

The cabins are beginning to slow down; today is the first day we don't have anyone in a place since June, but we still have 3 to clean and tomorrow we have 4 coming in. We're full on the weekend, of course. On the whole, it has been a very busy summer, but we've enjoyed it.

We close on October 26, so I'll be draining the lines and we'll be doing final cleaning for a couple of days then. All the blankets get washed and stored away; the places get a thorough cleaning; all the freezable items, like liquid soaps, detergents, etc., get brought in. And then the cabins get locked up and the windows get screwed shut—we had a window blow open one winter and...well, let's just say it wasn't pretty inside. : (

The garden has been slowing down, although with the unusually warm weather, the beans are blooming, the potatoes are still growing, and I even have a winter squash that thinks it can get a few more squash to mature before frost! We'll see about that.

Maybe I'll even have time to begin some serious reading again real soon, in which case you'll see a bit more activity here, so stay tuned.

Say that again, slowly this time

A fourth characteristic of practice, closely intertwined with the features situationality, strategy, and misrecognition, has to do with the motivational dynamics of agency, the will to act, which is also integral to the context of action. It addresses the question of why people do something or anything, but in a form that attempts to avoid the reductionism of most self-interest theory.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 83

<idle musing>
I don't have the slightest idea what she's saying here. Do you?
</idle musing>

Friday, October 09, 2015

Let's pretend

The third feature intrinsic to practice is a fundamental 'misrecognition' of what it is doing, a misrecognition of its limits and constraints, and of the relationship between its ends and its means. An appreciation of the dynamics of misrecognition as such goes back to the Marxist argument that a society could not exist "unless it disguised to itself the real basis of that existence." However, the idea has been developed in a variety of ways—in the notion of aporia developed by Jacques Derrida, in Althusser's notion of "a sighting in an oversight," or in Paul DeMan's discussion of "blindness and insight."

Bourdieu provides a clear illustration of this aspect of practice by reexamining the dynamics of gift exchange. To work effectively, the practice of traditional gift-giving presupposes a "deliberate oversight" of the "fake circulation of fake coin" which makes up symbolic exchange. What is not seen by those involved is that which objective analysis takes to be the whole explanation of the exchange, namely, a reciprocal swapping of items with no intrinsic value. Misrecognition is what "enables the gift or counter-gift to be seen and experienced as an inaugural act of generosity." What is experienced in gift-giving is the voluntary, irreversible, delayed, and strategic play of gift and countergift; it is the experience of these dimensions that actually establishes the value of the objects and the gestures. The context of practice, Bourdieu stresses, is never clear cut but full of indeterminacy, ambiguities, and equivocations. Hence, 'theoretical reconstruction,' as a description in terms of general laws, removes the very conditions that afford misrecognition and the social efficacy of gift exchange. By abstracting the act from its temporal situation and reducing its convoluted strategies to a set of reversible structures, theoretical analysis misses the real dynamics of practice.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 82–83

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Say what?

As a second feature of human activity, practice is inherently strategic, manipulative, and expedient. The logic of practice (and there is a logic of sorts) is not that of an intellectualist logic, argues Bourdieu. Practice, as real activity in time, by its very nature dodges the relations of intellectualist logic and excludes the questions asked by the analyst. Its practical or instrumental logic is strategic and economic in that it remains as implicit and rudimentary as possible. Practice, therefore, is a ceaseless play of situationally effective schemes, tactics, and strategies—"the intentionless invention of regulated improvisation."— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 82

<idle musing>
I think I understand what she's saying here, but I might need to read it a few more times and digest it...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

That dratted Sitz im Leben thing again...

First, human activity is situational, which is to say that much of what is important to it cannot be grasped outside of the specific context in which it occurs. When abstracted from its immediate context, an activity is not quite the same activity. Practice may embody determinative influences deriving from other situations, but practice is not the mere expression or effect of these influences. Indeed, it can be said that a focus on the act itself renders these 'influences' (structures or sources) nonexistent except insofar as they exist within the act itself.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 81

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Good definition

I will use the term 'ritualization' to draw attention to the way in which certain social actions strategically distinguish themselves in relation to other actions. In a very preliminary sense, ritualization is a way of acting that is designed and orchestrated to distinguish and privilege what is being done in comparison to other, usually more quotidian, activities. As such, ritualization is a matter of various culturally specific strategies for setting some activities off from others, for creating and privileging a qualitative distinction between the 'sacred' and the 'profane,' and for ascribing such distinctions to realities thought to transcend the powers of human actors.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 74

<idle musing>
That's a good start; it definitely shows why these particular actions are different than normal actions. Let's see where she goes with it...
</idle musing>

Monday, October 05, 2015

What a deal!

I'm in the process of sending this BookNews e-mail. Thought those of you not subscribed would like to know, too. And why aren't you subscribed? : )
October is Theological Libraries month and Eisenbrauns wants your theological library to celebrate by saving cash. We're offering all theological libraries a one-time chance to save 30% on everything we have in stock. Yes, everything in stock! All the library needs to do to take advantage of the sale is put ATLA in the purchase order field when they order from our web site. The discount will be applied by our customer service reps before the order ships. Remember though, this is for libraries only. Let your favorite theological librarian know!

Shame-based theology

Many evangelicals and progressives today are steamed up about their opportunity to change the world and to be significant and to do something important. For all the “good” this movement can do and is doing, I contend that, far more important, it is largely a shame-based movement masking a shallow gospel and inept grasp of what kingdom means in the Bible. One wonders at times if kingdom theology for many is religious language used to baptize what to most other observers is merely good actions done by decent people for the common good. Is kingdom language, then, the attempt to make something wholly secular somehow sacred?— Kingdom Conspiracy, page 254

<idle musing>
Ouch! Scot doesn't mince words, does he? That's the final post from this book, which took the better part of the summer to get through. Next up? I'm not sure; I haven't had much time to read this summer, between the cabins (which are still extremely busy—we've had a very warm September), Eisenbrauns, and copyediting. But I'll probably start excerpting from Catherine Bell, ; Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. So stay tuned.

By the way, Roger Olson has a good push-back today on Scot's book. Well worth you time.
</idle musing>

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Interesting Greek note

I'm editing a Greek Discourse Handbook right now on 1 Thessalonians. In the course of reading through it, I noticed that the Greek word ἀδελφοί (adelphoi, brothers/sisters/fellow believers) seems to occur more frequently than normal. So, I started Accordance and did a search on the inflected form.
Sure enough, as you can see from the above chart, the density is much higher in 1 Thessalonians than any other books than James and 2 Thessalonians. Wonder what's going on here? Any ideas?

Personally, I wonder if it might be that Paul is trying to reassure the Thessalonians that even though he got driven out of town and hasn't been able to revisit them, they are still dear to him—family even.

What do you think?