Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

28 June 2007

Denver Week Two

The Jesuit history course is now well underway. Last week we studied the early Society in Europe up to the restoration. This week we're focusing on the missions. I find the missionary activity of the Society particularly fascinating in China where Jesuits were forced to preach the Gospel to an advanced culture. The question of how the Gospel might be articulated in a non-Western context is one which has yet to be sufficiently answered. Early Jesuit missionaries in China, particularly Matteo Ricci, a hero of mine, made great strides attempting to authentically articulate the Gospel outside the context of Western thought.

Other than studies, my time here in Denver has including some wonderful hiking in the Front Range of the Rockies, a chance to explore the city, recreational reading (currently: Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self: the Making of Modern Identity), and social time with the other novices which is just as important as study I would venture.

Finally a food for thought question in relation to my comment on Free Will and John Searle last post: If you saw free will in action would you know it? How does one distinguish free will from randomness on the one hand and determinism on the other? Before we can say whether we have free will or not it is best to know what precisely it is.


16 June 2007

Really ought to give Iowa a try

I spent most of the day yesterday traversing the state of Iowa on my way between Chicago and Omaha. For those of you in internet land who find the title of this post odd, it's an homage to lyrics from The Music Man, a musical from the 1950's set in Iowa. I was pleasently surprised traversing Iowa the trip though flat, it was not as flat as I had imagined. We all ought to give Iowa a try, at least for brief periods.

The trip started Thursday traveling from Youngstown to Chicago and Loyola University where I met up with the rest of my novice brothers. The university community was gracious as always. Yesterday was Chicago to Omaha and Creighton University. Both the university and the town exceeded my expectations. The university is much larger and better kept than I had thought. The city is clean, charming, and more lively than I expected. A future novice of the Wisconsin province from Omaha Ben gave Hung, Christian, and I a tour of downtown. Today was the final leg from Omaha to Denver.

The trip was made more pleasent by Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys which I nearly finished on my way here. In other book news, I'm about half way through John Searle's new book Freedom and Neurobiology: Reflections on Free Will, Language and Political Power. His account is a refreshing change from reductionist determinism on one side and fuzzy dualism on the other. More on this when I finish.

11 June 2007

Cool Blog Find

I was searching for something random on the Inquisition yesterday and happened upon an excellent blog. Bede's Journal is written by a scientist turned historian of science with an interest in faith-reason questions. I highly recommend it for those interested in a sophisticated discussion of religion and science.

03 June 2007

Christmas in June?

Today we had our Christmas in June dinner. Why Christmas in June you might ask... Well, we were supposed to have a Christmas Eve which was canceled so today we finally go around to making it up. In keeping with Loyola House tradition, the staff cooked for Christmas; novices do Thanksgiving. A good time was had by all.

The provincial begins his annual visitation of Loyola House tomorrow. All Jesuits meet with their provincial once a year to discuss their life and ministry in what is called a 'manifestation'. I've never done this before, and I'm a bit excited about it to tell the truth. The nature reaction would be nervousness I suppose, but I'm not really feeling that.

Also, my brother novice Hung just began a blog, check it out. And I just found the Jesuits in Science website which is worth a look.

02 June 2007

Storm Clouds

Current conditions in Berkley, Michigan: Temp: 73, Scattered Thunderstorms, Winds: from the south 16 gusting to 23.

I love thunderstorms, there's something awe spiring about their power, a strange beauty in their destructiveness. Even knowing, in broad strokes, how they work does nothing to diminish their majesty.

Oftentimes I find myself falling into the trap of loosing awe in the face of familiarity. This could be the familiarity of empirical knowledge--once the mighty forces of nature are labeled and explained they seem loose their meaning and mystery. It could be personal familiarity; old relationships becoming stale and predictable.

Our relationship with God can become victim to both of these pitfalls. As science advances and our modeling of nature continues to improve, we loose our awe of nature and the God who speaks through nature. The 1979 Noble laureate in physics, Steven Weinberg, put it well: "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless." We are no longer inspired to gaze in reverence; nature has become simply an object of study which is mostly solved. The universe appears banal.

Similarly in our theology, the systematic study of God's relationship through revelation with humanity, we can become so caught in our scholastic distinctions that the vibrancy of the message is obscured in a mountain of propositions. The experience of faith becomes so abstracted from the experience of faith as to loose itself and become just another intellectual game.

Like a thunderstorm, meaning is a dangerous thing. It has the capacity to be beautiful but also destructive. To live in the vibrancy of meaning is to let go of the control familiarity brings. I cannot write off people I know as predictable, they might be this but as my brothers and sisters they are so much more. I cannot dismiss nature as merely the execution of certain laws; the laws tell me much about my favorite storms but they cannot capture the experience of lightening and thunder. What of my God whose voice is both thunder and whisper? Nothing can capture Him. No idea, model, or distinction can hold the Author of all. So I sit in silence and awe.