Studying how Asian Americans interpret the Bible differently

I’m curious about GTU professor Kah-Jin (Jeffrey) Kuan, a specialist in Old Testament studies, because of his interest in “Asian American Biblical Hermeneutics”. By the time I learned that he was teaching a summer course this year on the subject, it was already too late to attend. Hmmm….do I interpret the Bible differently from my non-Asian friends because of my ethnic background (yes, I know, as a Canadian, I’m not Asian-American).

Time out on “vulnerable” self-revelation?

Over the last week or so, as I’ve started to writing in much greater detail
about my life, I’ve felt both exhilarated and worried. I’ve kept a private personal
journal (off and on) since my early teens in which I have poured out my heart
and processed my doubts and deep heart questions. I continue to value that private
space — and no one should think that my blog is exactly the same as my journal!
But the problem with my journal writing is that it was sometimes terribly lazy.
I’d write about the same thing over and over again; I make commitments that
I soon forget and to which no one could hold me accountable — since no one
knew of my self-promises.

Continue reading

Have we (I) been massively deceived?

Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraq was reviewed in today’s SF Chronicle. The article caught my eye since I have been having a sinking feeling that the techniques that I have been using to come to a putatively well-considered consideration of political issues are not up to the task of countering the culture and sophistication of spin (i.e., propaganda) practiced in this world. I haven’t come to any conclusions yet about WMDs, the war in Iraq — that is, what the heck is really going on, whom can I trust, am I just being paranoid.

The book goes on my “maybe read” list — not because I don’t think it will useful to read — but because I need to figure out what I need to focus on right now. I’m not sure I should invest the effort it will take to get to the bottom of these issues right now. (It pains me to say that because American foreign policy, not to mention just the core issues of war, life, death, and justice, are so important for us as a society to wrestle with.)

“New Memoir”

From Joyce Carol Oates’ recent review (in the TLS) of Alice Sebold’s Lucky: A Memoir:

Ours is the age of what might be called the New Memoir: the memoir of sharply focused events, very often traumatic, in distinction to the traditional life-memoir. The New Memoir is frequently written by the young or relatively young, the traditional memoir is usually the province of the older. In this sub-genre, the motive isn’t to write a memoir because one is an individual of stature or accomplishment, in whom presumably readers might be interested, but to set forth out of relative anonymity the terms of one’s physical/psychological ordeal; in most cases, the ordeal is survived, so that the memoirist moves through trauma into coping and eventual recovery. Though the literary structure may sound formulaic, exemplary memoirs like Lucky break the formula with their originality of insight and expression. Like most good prose works, Lucky is far from un-ambiguous: the memoir can be read as an alarming and depressing document, and it can be read as genuinely “uplifting”. The pivotal point in Sebold’s recovery doesn’t occur until years after the rape when, ironically, she comes upon her own case discussed in Dr Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery in terms of “post traumatic stress disorder”.

It seems to me that Joyce Carol Oates has a gift for coinages. Last year I noted her explication of what she calls memoirist-reportage in the New York Review.

Chronology: Another Way to Slice the Pie

Two days ago, in hope of ultimately connecting the disparate ramblings
of my blog, I presented a
list of my "life roles"
that I use to conceptualize my life. I
set the expectation that I would come back to this list often, unpacking the
elements of the list. Before I jump into that task, however, I will offer a
chronological presentation of my life. Just like the list of life roles, this
chronological list will be sketchy. However, I hope that it provides a simple
framework to contextualize the things I write about on this blog.

(As I write this list, I have a nagging doubt that I feel the need to acknowledge,
if not fully address. I keep thinking, "Who cares about the chronology
of my life? In fact, who cares about the life roles?" It’s interesting
that I should be nagged by this issue now since the "who cares?" question
should have come up long ago when I started blogging. Who cares that I love
Bach and computers?

But the "who cares" question wasn’t an issue then because, maybe,
I wasn’t trying to be more systematic and had presented no grand pretensions
about my blog. But now, making formal lists somehow raises the level of seriousness
of my humble blog. Am I now writing my memoirs? Why would anyone care to read
that? Again, I come back to the thought that my blog is first and foremost for
me, to help focus my life — and if the product of the process is "useful"
to others, all the better. In the meantime, I shouldn’t let these nags keep
me from continuing….[This tangent reminds me of what
Chris wrote a while back
and the article by Tom Coates ("My
obligation to you
") to which I referred Chris.])

I was born on March 10, 1967, making me 36 years of age at this very moment.
Major phases in my life so far map (not surprisingly) to the three cities in
which I have lived:

  1. Timmins, Canada (1967-1986)
    I was born in Timmins, a small
    city of 45,000 residents located 400 miles northeast of Toronto. My parents,
    Wayne and Joanne, came from China and arrived in Timmins in the mid-fifties
    and mid-sixties, respectively. My younger sisters, Janice and Shirley, were
    also born in Timmins. I grew up in Timmins and left when I was nineteen to
    attend university in Toronto.
  2. Toronto, Canada (1986-1990)
    I studied Engineering Science
    (physics option) at the University of Toronto,
    where I lived at New
    College
    . The single most significant event of those years — and there
    were many — was my conversion to Christianity during the late summer of 1988
    (a story both complex and simple).
  3. Berkeley, USA (1990- present)
    I moved to Berkeley to start a Ph.D.
    program in Biophysics
    , which I completed in1997. (I studied electron transfer
    in photosynthetic reaction complexes under the guidance of the theoretical
    chemist David
    Chandler
    .) I spent four years living at the International House, which
    I thoroughly enjoyed. I was booted from the House in 1994 so that I could
    get a life. Fortunately, I then moved into the Regent/Lorina House community
    of which I have been a part for the last nine years. After finishing my graduate
    work, I decide that instead of pursuing a career in biophysics, I would worked
    as staff at UC Berkeley, first in the Statistics
    Computing Facility
    and then at the Interactive
    University Project
    (where I am still happily
    ensconced
    ).

    Since the last thirteen years of my life — basically all of my "adult"
    life — has been spent in Berkeley, this period has been profoundly formative.

cogent theological musings

Lloyd wrote about Pepe’s blog entry:

Cogent indeed! That’s simply the densest weblog entry I’ve scanned in a long while… not the sort of writing one typically encounters in this medium, but it’s great. Finally… a philosopher/theologian weblogger! 🙂 Raymond Yee, take note!

I read the post and concur with Lloyd — it was bursting forth with thought after thought. I’d really like to hear a bit more background before attempting to engage the writing (and writer!) What lies behind the questions and analysis? (These days, when I turn to a new blog, I look for an “About” — speaking of which, I need to put in a link to mine….)

Role-Mapping out my life

On Saturday,
I wrote about the intense soul-searching that took place during my plane ride
back to Berkeley:

I pondered and prayed a lot on the plane — because there was much to ponder
and pray about. In the months to come, I hope to share some of what I thought
about. As I become more and more into blogging, one of the filters I apply
in guiding my reflection is whether and how I might write about that matter.
Using such a filter may seem strange (especially to non-bloggers and non-writers)
— but it’s a handy filter for me. My mind is typically racing in too many
different directions, leading to diffuseness of thought and action. Writing
with enough clarity and background to make my thoughts and feelings comprehensible
to anyone who cannot read my mind limits me in a good way.

I’m purposefully trying to come back to the seven pages of notes I compiled
last weekend. Saturday wasn’t the first time I brainstormed ideas, questions,
feelings one after the other. However, I rarely came back to what I wrote —
hence not focusing myself on some key matters. I want to change that behavior.

There was a lot of shorthand in the notes, phrases loaded with meaning waiting
to be unpacked and elucidated. So let me dive in today and see how far I get.
Expect for me to come back to this thread of blogging.

For the last six or seven years, since coming across Stephen Covey’s First
Things First
, I conceptualized my life in terms of about 7-10 "life
roles" that I play. (I’d like to dig up the book, find a rigorous reference
for the concept — maybe in some other post). I won’t attempt a definition here
but rather write specifically about the roles that I list for myself (as a way
of explaining myself but also to illustrate the concept). In some ways, the
notion of "life roles" should be obvious. However, it hadn’t been
obvious to me and its introduction to me changed an important set of mental
boxes I used to organize my life. These days, I wonder a lot about the limitations
of this conceptual framework, the ways it might be holding me back. That’s not
to deny the framework’s usefulness, however.

Enough generalities for now. Here is my list of current roles:

  1. follower of God/disciple of Jesus
  2. son and brother (member of my family)
  3. friend
  4. member of the Lorina House community (my living arrangement)
  5. technology architect for the Interactive University Project (work)
  6. member and elder of the First Presbyterian Church Berkeley; member of the
    Justice Task Force at FPCB; board member of Radix and member of the New College
    Berkeley community; former Westminster House board member (Christian community
    life)
  7. TeleCare volunteer
  8. intellectual/writer/educator/artist/creative person/Bach lover/restless
    person/encyclopedist
  9. "saw-sharpener"

So there….I feel a bit exposed laying out such a list. (There are plenty
of problems with this list, some of which I see but many I’m sure that are hidden
from me but obvious to my readers!) And this list certainly cries out for explanation
(probably lots of it for those of you who would care to hear it). But I think
that from how I’ve already blogged and from what I will want to write, you’ll
start to see the connections between the various, seemingly random, pieces of
writing to the larger framework of how I order different parts of my life.

Memorable words of disappointment

From David Mamet’s adaptation of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya (p. 71) — Astrov says to Vanya:

Oh stop it! (Pause.) Listen to me. People who live after us. In one hundred or in two hundred years, you know? Do you know what they’ll feel? They will despise us for our stupid and insipid lives. And perhaps they will know how to be happy. We, however, but for you and I, there is but one hope. And that hope is this. That when we are dead, lying in our graves, visions may visit us, and that they are of peace. Oh, yes. My friend, we’ve said, in this district we find but two decent cultivated men. And we spoke of ourselves. But the last decade has undone us. Life has sucked us in–this foul, Philistine life–and has corrupted us. What a shocking surprise; we’ve turned out like the rest! But we have changed the subject. Give me what you took.