Saturday, April 28, 2012

I thought this was very amusing and some of you might like to see it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Most Astounding Fact

At the request of Tina and Professor Berry, here is the video that was played in the 2:20 section. The words Tyson used are quite poetic.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Sparrow and Science, Religion, and Pop Culture

The Sparrow, written by novelist Mary Doria Russell, is a book that, I believe, is written in a manner that forces the reader to learn to love it. The story starts out dense and rather slow, and, if you promise to devote it its due time and cognitive capacity, will attach itself to your mind and heart, and feed off human's basic desire for understanding and explanation. At times, I found myself getting caught up in its beautiful use of lengthy descriptors, or dense paragraphs surrounding the complex science behind the methods employed in the discovery of and journey to Rakhat, but if you were able to look past that and instead focus on the core themes of the text, it was easy to identify some major themes that we previously discussed in class.
One of the first works we analyzed for homework, and in class was Ian Barbour's "Ways of Relating Science and Religion." This work talked about the four approaches to dealing with science and religion: Conflict, Independence, Dialogue, and Integration, some of which are represented in The Sparrow. The first one I picked up immediately is Integration. Jesuits are inherently in favor of integration, as demonstrated in Emilio, the Jesutit priest's interest in the Aribeco telescope. Integration is also present in Emilio's idea that the mission to Rakhat was to meet and learn to interact with "more of God's children," and the somewhat uncommon crew came together through God's selection and good will. Are any more of these lenses present? In what ways? Is integration present in any other circumstances?
Even larger, however, I believe is the way in which Russell's characters are made to find, question, and lose their faith throughout the novel. While this class was not intended to be a class in which we discover our personal faith, I believe each one of us would be lying if we did not incorporate personal belief and experience into our class contributions, and the challenging material we were given to read and analyze in class did not succeed in shaping or refining our own view of religion and what it means to be religious. In The Sparrow, there are characters that find their faith (like Anne Edwards,) and people who question their faith, and come close to losing it all together (Emilio Sandoz.) These characters are faced with incredibly taxing situations, both mentally and physically, that stretch the boundaries of what is and isn't conceivable by God's hand. Can you think of any instance, whether in class, for homework, or during research where sometime seemed so inconceivable, but could be proven in some way by God? I know when researching for my WPII, I was looking into the possibility for panic attacks to be controlled using belief in a higher power. While the case in my film was an exaggerated extreme, my research led to the conclusion that the perception of a slowed, controlled reality was in fact possible. Also, throughout the novel, Emilio admits to believing that the circumstances leading up to the arrival on Rakhat, and the events that took place there were determined by God. Has this book, or any other readings we went over in class, made you believe that events that may seem circumstantial can in fact be very targeted acts from a higher power?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Tree of Life

This time watching The Tree of Life again, I was struck by the dichotomy that Jessica Chastain’s character makes at the beginning of the film between nature and grace. In a sense, she is articulating an old theological battle. But what I find interesting about the film is that it seems to acknowledge the dark aspects of nature, death and selfishness being primary among them, but also seems to clearly suggest that it is through nature that one comes to know God. The characters prayers are always accompanied by visual imagery of nature, sometimes as in the long sequence near the beginning, with the origins of the universe and images that show the creation of the earth and the process of evolution. So my sense is that Terrance Malik is attempting to say that this division we place between nature and grace is in some ways false. Nature is graced. It is the means by which we learn of God. St. Bonaventure, in the Catholic tradition, has a similar idea when we called nature “the book of creation” that we had to read as if it were another, and our first, bible. One does not need to look too deeply into Native American religions as well to see nature as somehow connected to a higher power. And I think this is what is so striking to me about this film. It is not a choice that we make between nature or grace as the film initially suggests. Rather it is that nature is graced, in spite of all of its pain and tragedy and impenetrable suffering, and this film, without a doubt does not gloss over that suffering. In many ways, suffering and pain are the heart of this film. It is not incidental that it opens with a quotation from The Book of Job, a text from the bible immersed in the question of suffering and the problem of evil. And I think that is also what I like about it. Malik could have made a happy film about how nature reveals the divine and it would have been sappy and we would have hated it  and thought it banal (maybe some of you hated it anyway J). Instead, he chose to confront the nature of pain and death head on and still say, somehow, that this glorious, troubled universe reveals something of God to us, and that maybe, part of that revelation is in our own experience with suffering…and so with healing and redemption. And yet suffering and death are never pretty, never anesthetized here. The oldest boy fights with God over the drowning of a friend and over a boy maimed in a fire…and the mother keens for her dead son.
But somehow, even through those bits of nature that are loss, the conversation with God keeps going.