creative discourse

The creative impulse is kind of funny. I've been reading a lot of philosophy from the Medieval period, and they talk a lot of discovering truth, and how there's a certain way to go about it. They develop complex systems of ideas that would take years to follow, just to understand, before even considering if they're right or not. That seems like a bit of a pain. And as I was sitting in Logic class last night, I realized that an education in philosophy is really kind of a drop in the bucket. I was sitting there, just listening to the discussion and I realized that I had no idea what anybody was saying. Maybe it's just that I'm a little bit dumb, but everyone was saying stuff like, "Well, considering Russell's conception of truth, it seems that he is relying on logical monism, which suggests deviation." And that might make perfect sense. That might be all fine and dandy. A few minutes later in class, the punchline to someone's joke was, "That's Wittgenstein for you." And people laughed. I had no idea what it meant or why it should be funny. I laughed anyways, mostly because this whole thing seems so ridiculous. And it occurred to me that there was this very specific type of language that grew up around any discipline. You know, a psychologist will have words that only another psychologist will understand. A theologian will have terms only another theologian can understand. A doctor has a whole language built up around saying what are the proper names of body parts and diseases and types of treatment. A philosopher will speak in concepts that only another philosopher can understand, and make references to Derrida's early work that are intended to clarify things. The thing I'm getting at is that each language system is closed, it excludes people. Foucault came up with the term "discourses" to describe the body of knowledge that encompasses the practices, assumptions, language, and behaviour of a particular group. I think the big problem is when a discourse does exclude people, does keep truth from someone else. I've heard it said that the theologian's job is translation; trying to interpret God for each generation and try to show how he is relevant. But in order to do that, in order to make any headway in any discipline, you have to learn the language. And this realization bugged me because I think there's a lot of people who think about pretty brilliant things, but they just can't communicate it. I might try to explain God, or at least how I understand God to be, to a philosopher, and they might jump back and yell heretic because I said that God exists. And the problem isn't my saying God exists. The problem is that the philosopher has climbed this precarious ladder into the heights of philosophy and "discovered" that strictly speaking, God does not exists, but rather God is. And once you're teetering on this magnificent ladder, the only thing that's keeping you upright is your careful use of language, the use of very specific and defined terms and concepts. So it seems perfectly legitimate and understandable to most everyone what "God exists" means. But it just gets in the way if you're not able to step outside the language. I think this is why people are so convinced that philosophy is just posturing and defining words. Just kind of kicking the can around the parking lot. Because in order to gain any ground, you need reliable terms that you can work with.

And so, in the last fifteen minutes of my last logic class, I was no longer able to pay attention. Instead, I wrote a little song at the bottom of my page. It went a little something like this: "Say logic, it's pedagogic, you can't dodge it..." That's just the beginning, but it went on. And then I drew these little stylized lines, with an ornate kind of circle thing. I spent a few minutes shading it all, and making sure that the shadows all went the same way. And then I wrote "End of Logic" in stylized letters. And then it felt finished. (Then the stifled buzzer went, and if you've sat in any classes at University of Winnipeg you'll know what it sounds like: the sound comes from the clock on the wall and always makes me think that there's a couple hundred volts pulsing through the wall.)

Finally, this brings me to where I started: the creative impulse. Being faced with all these discourses, ways of making sense of the world, I couldn't help but do something creative. And I don't necessarily think that these two things are directly connected. They are related, because any type of making sense of the world seems to be a creation, a kind of making up. But I just want to abandon any attempt at discovering the truth of the world as it is, at trying to reveal how people have wrong conceptions simply because they don't use words the same way I do. I want to find those connections. I want to give the benefit of the doubt, and have it given to me. I don't want to lose myself in some closed system. I want to create something. Dorothy Sayers talks about the creative mind a lot, and how humanity has this need to create because we are made in the image of God the Creator. And I like the idea that any time I make something, I'm becoming human. In some way, I'm being a little bit more who I was meant to be.

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." -TS Eliot



On Sunday, March 12, 2006, my Grandma died. And while we kind of knew it was going to happen soon, it was still pretty tough. I've been thinking about Mom a lot lately because she was very close to grandma. Kind of like best friends, which is a pretty beautiful thing.
Every Sunday after church for years, we'd go over to Grandma's house for lunch. And we'd always spend most of the day there after eating the best food. It was the kind of thing where you ate so much you felt like your belly would split open. She always had mashed potatoes (and they were so smooth and creamy and I'll never know how she got all the lumps out) with the thickest and tastiest gravy, and she'd make broccoli with cheese sauce (which was my absolute favourite), and always some kind of meat - sometimes a roast, or a chicken, or this great meat pie that was amazing when you poured gravy all over the crispy crust... Yup, it was all very nice. And there were rolls, and she would put out pickles on this little ceramic dish with a handle that could easily be passed around. And candles would be lit in the center of the table which would burn down thru the meal and, at the end, would be extinguished with this classy little candle snuffer. And when we'd finish eating, we'd run to the TV room where Grandpa would watch curling or golf, and we'd play card games (ie. war), or build card houses, or roll around on the little footstools they had. And when Grandma had cleaned up (usually with Mom and Dad's help) she'd come join us by the TV. Of course, in summertime we'd go outside to climb the crab apple tree and sometimes help pick the tiny apples so Grandpa could make jam. Or we'd run around playing tag, or stealing raspberries off the front bushes.

Grandma was born today, 97 years ago (March 22, 1909), in Sheffield, England. When she was 2, her family moved to Canada. They lived on a little homestead out near Ashern, and later moved to the city, where Grandma started working at Great West Life. That's where she met Grandpa. They were married in 1941. Later, Mom was born, and a bit later after that she met Dad, and they got married. (Of course, I'm summarizing a bit, just hitting the big stuff, which I don't like to do, but I will for the sake of space.) I say all this to try to remember the scope of Grandma's life. The changes she saw in the world were enormous. She had this wonderful way of just being (at least in the eyes of her grandchild - me), and she would keep up with news, do crossword puzzles, play cards, and on and on.
I dunno. I guess I'm just really glad that Grandma was my grandma. It feels right to tell everyone, and just say that I loved her. And it's hard to say goodbye. In some ways it just feels like it's done, but I think it's one of those things where the people you know, who come into your life, tend to stay there. You don't forget. And the best way of remembering is to keep on going with them in mind.
She was the last of the grandparents to die, the last of my parents' parents. That itself feels like the end of an era. These thots run around my mind (not as rampantly as last week, but still, they bump around), and I like to think of them in some beautiful banquet hall, with tall candle sticks and simple, good food. And the windows are open and the warm air is blowing in scents of summer. And they sit and talk and laugh, and they glory in it. This is what I like to think.

For the funeral, which was last Thursday, Steve and Alyssa and I were asked if we would write something for the back of the bulletins. I wrote:
When I think about Grandma, I think of simple and profound love. I don't remember when or why, but one time when I was sick, years ago, I went to stay at Grandma's house for the weekend. She made me a little bed on the good couch in the living room, and made me the best kind of "sick food," like chicken noodle soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I remember I had to take these big, white, powdery pills and I just couldn't swallow them. So when pill time came, Grandma would crush the pills up and smother the powder in syrup. Then she would bring me this brimming spoonful of medicinal sweetness. I guess this is how I often think of Grandma, not just on this one weekend, but all the time. She didn't deny the sickness or the bitter medicine, but she made taking it a little bit sweeter, through her generosity and comforting presence, and always her love.


monsters trucks - good vs. evil

and this past week i went to monster trucks at the mts center, which was pretty good. the coolest part, by far, was when galactatron (who was this transforming car from outer space) entered the arena and declared his war on all that was evil in the universe. and, as it turns out, there was even some pure evil in the arena at that moment. so galactatron commanded evil to "show yourself." and out came another transforming car named reptar (who was a bit of a reptile and a bit of a machine - but i think even the reptile part was painted metal). and he made a speech about how he was pure evil and how he would destroy galactatron. then he started shooting fire out of his mouth and shot his canon-arm at galactatron. "how dare you shoot at me?" galactatron retorted, and then proceeded to shoot off reptar's arm and blow a giant hole in his chest. then galactatron, having defeated pure evil right before our very eyes, asked for all of our help in the neverending battle against evil. so we had to search down deep within ourselves to find that special something with which to join the battle against evil. galactatron's special something was his canon-arm which also shot fire like a flamethrower. i think my special weapon might not be that cool. anyway, it was something else.

it was very nice

Last night I lay awake in bed, the street lamps coming through the window in a soft, orange glow, and I felt calm. I thought about all the reading I have to do and papers I have to write, but it didn't seem to matter. I spent more time thinking about grilled cheese sandwiches and how tasty they were. The stereo was playing Death Cab for Cutie, "Crooked Teeth": "I'm a war, of head versus heart, and it's always this way. My head is weak, my heart always speaks, before I know what it will say. And you can't find nothing at all, if there was nothing there all along. There were churches, theme parks and malls, but there was nothing there all along."

And I was wrapped up in my sheets, but I didn't feel trapped at all. I kind of felt like I was floating along in a big wave that was carrying me to a place of quiet and peace and rest. I could hear the cars outside on Assiniboine Avenue, revving their engines at the stop sign, and trying to find a place to parallel park. I would peek my head out from the covers and look at the snow-covered trees, dark and bare, stretching across the street. Dozens of apartment buildings all around, all with dozens of people falling asleep, next to a frozen river that still channeled water under its crusty top to the Forks, and then north to a wide open lake, surrounded by wide and empty land. And it all felt so still. Despite all the chaos around, all the nothing that is everything to us, it all seemed to fade away in my mind, and my heart didn't feel like it was being devoured. It felt like it was suddenly very free.