As I mentioned in this book’s introduction, by tragic historical coincidence a period of abysmal under-educating**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
As I mentioned in this book’s introduction, by tragic historical coincidence a period of abysmal under-educating in literacy has coincided with this unexpected explosion of global self-publishing. Thus people who don’t know their apostrophe from their elbow are positively invited to disseminate their writings to anyone on the planet stupid enough to double-click and scroll. Mark Twain said it many years ago, but it has never been more true: “There is no such thing as ‘the Queen’s English’. The property has gone into the hands of a joint stock company and we own the bulk of the shares! – Following the Equator, 1897. It hurts, though. It hurts like hell. Even in the knowledge that our punctuation has arrived at its present state by a series of accidents; even in the knowledge that there are at least seventeen rules for the comma, some of which are beyond explanation by top grammarians – it is a matter for despair to see punctuation chucked out as worthless by people who don’t know the difference between who’s and whose, and whose bloody automatic “grammar checker” can’t tell the difference either. And despair was the initial impetus for this book. I saw a sign for “Book’s” with an apostrophe in it, and something deep inside me snapped; snapped with that melancholy sound you hear in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, like a far-off cable breaking in a mine-shaft. I know that language moves on. It has to. Not once have I ever stopped to feel sorry for those Egyptian hieroglyph artists tossed on the scrapheap during a former linguistic transition (“Birds’ heads in profile, mate? You having a laugh?”. But I can’t help feeling that our punctuation system, which has served the written word with grace and ingenuity for centuries, must not be allowed to disappear without a fight. (p. 184).
“I can scribble the word “bomb” barely legibly 18 times in one minute and “bom” 24 times, saving 25 per cent per minute by dropping the superfluous b. In the British Commonwealth, on which the sun never sets, and in the United States of North America, there are always millions of people continually writing, writing, writing … Those who are writing are losing time at the rate of 131,400 X x per annum … -George Bernard Shaw on Language, 1965 (p. 186).
You will know all about emoticons. Emoticons are the proper name for smileys. And a smiley is, famously, this: :-) Forget the idea of selecting the right words in the right order and channeling the reader’s attention by means of artful pointing. Just add the right emoticon to your email and everyone will know what self-expressive effect you thought you kind-of had in mind. Anyone interested in punctuation has a dual reason to feel aggrieved about smileys, because not only are they a paltry substitute for expressing oneself properly; they are also designed by people who evidently thought the punctuation marks on the standard keyboard cried out for an ornamental function. What’s this dot-on-top-of-a-dot thing for? What earthly good is it? Well, if you look at it sideways, it could be a pair of eyes. What’s this curvy thing for? It’s a mouth, look! Hey, I think we’re on to something. :-( Now it’s sad! ;-) It looks like it’s winking! :-r It looks like it’s sticking its tongue out! The permutations may be endless: :~/ mixed up! <:-) dunce! :-[ pouting! :-0 surprise! Well, that’s enough. I’ve just spotted a third reason to loathe emoticons, which is that when they pass from fashion (and I do hope they already have), future generations will associate punctuation marks with an outmoded and rather primitive graphic pastime and despise them all the more. “Why do they still have all these keys with things like dots and spots and eyes and mouths and things?” they will grumble. “Nobody does smileys any more.” (p. 193-195)....more
“I want to have kids,” she says. “Hey, who said different?” “But not right away.” “No, I know. We’ll have kids, but**spoiler alert** My Favorite Quotes:
“I want to have kids,” she says. “Hey, who said different?” “But not right away.” “No, I know. We’ll have kids, but when we’re ready.” “Right …” Beat. “But I don’t want to wait too long …” “No, we won’t,” I assured her. “We’ll wait, like, you know … just the right amount of time.”
I’m well aware that not everybody gives the if-and-when of having kids this much time and deliberation. A lot of people have kids who, frankly, didn’t mean to. Many people choose to have no kids at all and live quite happily. But most people have kids simply because you’re “supposed to.” The rule book says once you get married, start churning ‘em out. It’s just “the next step,” part of that nonstop momentum that keeps us all sprinting through life. (p. 8).
It becomes a matter of which self-centered impulse you want to service; the need to be free and unencumbered now, or the need to secure yourself a caretaker to whom you can be a huge encumbrance later. “Let’s see … we’re going to need someone to put our things in order, someone to take all our junk when we die, and someone to take care of us and worry about us before we die … I don’t know anybody who’s going to do that … I know – let’s make someone. Let’s manufacture a whole new person, and then that’ll be their job.” (p. 10).
New parents always sound like hucksters in a pyramid scheme. Anyone who has kids and then gets you to go and have kids gets a check from Huckster Headquarters. They’re like newly converted religious fanatics, these people. They’re not only hooked, but they won’t rest till they bring you into the fold, too. (p. 11).
When you’re trying to get pregnant, you both take a veritable crash course in biology and anatomy. Names of procedures and body parts that were once faraway places on that big map in your doctor’s office become second nature. But for men, this transformation is even more remarkable, because before this, they knew next to nothing. It’s remarkable –sad, but still remarkable – how little they know of the actual mechanics operating within women’s bodies. The whole business is referred to simply as “Down There.” (p. 21).
So where do these cravings come from? I concluded it’s the baby, ordering in. Prenatal takeout. Even without ever being in a restaurant, fetuses develop remarkably discerning palates, and they are no shy about demanding what they want. If they get a hankering, they just pick up that umbilical cord and call. (p. 38).
In addition to cribs and cradles, you also have to consider playpens, which at first impression struck me as no more than brightly colored, miniature jails. Is this really how we want to treat a brand-new person? Poor thing spends nine months cooped up in the womb, and first thing we do is toss him in a cage like a zoo animal. At least zoo animals get shrubbery and little ponds and schoolchildren tossing them peanuts. (p. 45).
Once you go ahead and buy every piece of merchandise with the word “baby” in the name, you still have another problem: How do you get all this stuff home? The answer, of course: Get rid of your car and find yourself a big ugly four-wheel-drive/trucky/sport utility/”just-throw-everything-in-the-back” vehicle. Suddenly you understand those behemoth station wagons your parents had. But because we are, as a group, so much more clever, we now surround ourselves instead in hulking tanks – uglier by far than anything we sat in the back of when we were five. But this time they have much cooler names, Outback, Range Rover, Land Cruiser, Four Runner, Trooper, Pathfinder … Where do we think we’re going? We’re picking up diapers and dropping off a video. We’re not bagging a cheetah and lugging it across Kenya (p. 49).
Observing my relatives with the baby, I realized they fall into a few different categories of adult-to-infant communications: There’s the Greeter: “Who’s that? That’s your mommy. Who’s that? That’s your daddy …” Who works hand in hand with the Tour Guide: “This is the living room, can you say living room? And this is the foyer! You don’t want to spill anything in the foyer …” Who’s not quite as annoying as The Embarrasser: “Did you make a stinky? I think you made a stinky. I’m going to tell everyone you made a stinky, even though we’re not a hundred percent sure …” Or the Entertainer: They just lean over the baby and make amusing noises. “Ha-cha-cha-cha … Ha-cha-cha-cha … Boo-ti-boo-ta … chook-chook-chook-chook …” These of course, are all derivatives of the quintessential and official baby-speak noise – “Coochie-coochie coo.” I’m not sure how that became the industry standard, but it is. I imagine that at some point there must have been a meeting. “Coochie coochie coo” beat out perennial favorite “goo-goo-gah-gah” and the straightforward but too-literal “Greetings, Small Bald Round One.” (p. 86).
When you’re the parents of a new child, all the craving and desire you’ve ever felt for sex is transferred over to sleep. It’s like somebody sneaked into your brain, found the wires going to the sex button and the sleep button, and just switched them. I didn’t realize how extensive the change was till I found myself one day staring at a lingerie ad with a photo of a beautiful, seductive, young woman sprawled practically naked across a satin-sheeted bed, and all I could think was, “Man, that bed looks comfortable.” (p. 106).
But as miraculous and moving as this is, I can’t get past the fact that food is coming out of my wife’s breasts. What was once essentially an entertainment center has now become a juice bar. This takes some getting used to. It’s like if bread were suddenly coming out of a person’s neck. Wouldn’t that be unsettling? Let’s say you’re a woman. If you were nibbling your husband’s ear and came away with a piece of toast, wouldn’t you be a tad skittish? That’s all I’m saying. (p. 133).
And again the accepted convention is: Lie. For all the sharing and being open and vulnerable, the truth is that all new parents are Big Fat Liars. We lie about things that don’t even mean anything. Like Sleeping Through the Night. You wouldn’t think your newborn baby’s ability to sleep or not sleep consecutive hours would be potential grounds for ridicule. But you’d be wrong. “Our daughter came home from the hospital, and from that night forward, she slept perfectly. Went down at eight-thirty, woke up the next morning at nine.” Lies, lies, and more lies. Because if you told the truth, it might make you look bad. If your baby doesn’t sleep through the night, it’s a cultural stigma. It’s like The Scarlet Letter –where the “A” stands for “We’re still Awake, thank you very much.” So even if you both have bags under your eyes the size of steamer trunks –lie. (p. 180-181)....more
Sometimes God is like the blacksmith who takes a rusty, bent-up, twisted piece of metal out of the junkyard. He**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
Sometimes God is like the blacksmith who takes a rusty, bent-up, twisted piece of metal out of the junkyard. He lays it on the hot coals and begins to heat it up. Then he takes it off the fire, lays it on the anvil, and beats it into a truly useful implement. After that he thrusts it into cold water. When he takes it out of the water it is no longer a rusty, bent-up, twisted piece of metal but a strong, tempered horseshoe, usable for an important purpose. If you are seeking to grow as a Christian, life is not all health, wealth, and prosperity. Sometimes God wants to conform you to His image. And sometimes that means putting you in the fire, laying you on the anvil and putting you into the cold water. You may not understand why, but when you don't understand, trust in the Lord with all your heart. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3: 5,6). "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when ever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4). (p. 208)....more
And secondly, I think we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
And secondly, I think we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold. So long as we write and talk about them we are much more likely to deter him from entering any Christian communion than to draw him into our own. Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son. (p. 6).
One reason why many people find Creative Evolution so attractive is that it gives one much of the emotional comfort of believing in God and none of the less pleasant consequences. When you are feeling fit and the sun is shining and you do not want to believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, it is nice to be able to think of this great mysterious Force rolling on through the centuries and carrying you on its crest. If, on the other hand, you want to do something rather shabby, the Life-Force, being only a blind force, with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you like that troublesome God we learned about when you were children. The Life-Force is a sort of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you. All the thrills of religion and none of the cost. Is the Life-Force the greatest achievement of wishful thinking the world has yet seen? (p. 35).
Very well then, atheism is too simple. And I will tell you another view that is also too simple. It is the view I call Christianity-and-water, the view which simply says there is a good God in Heaven and everything is all right – leaving out all the difficult and terrible doctrines about sin and hell and the devil, and the redemption. Both these are boys’ philosophies. It is no good asking for a simple religion. (p. 46).
Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making I up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. (p. 47-48).
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. (p. 56).
A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but one that can to some extent repair itself. In the same way a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble – because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out. That is why the Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or – if they think there is no – at least they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it. (p. 64).
Morality, then, seems to be concerned with three things. Firstly, with fair play and harmony between individuals. Secondly, with what might be called tidying up or harmonising the things inside each individual. Thirdly, with the general purpose of human life as a whole: what man was made for: what course the whole fleet ought to be on: what tune the conductor of the band wants it to play. You may have noticed that modern people are nearly always thinking about the first thing and forgetting the other two. When people say in the newspapers that we are striving for Christian moral standards, they usually mean that we are striving for kindness and fair play between nations, and classes, and individuals; that is, they are thinking only of the first thing. When a man says about something he wants to do, “It can’t be wrong because it doesn’t do anyone else any harm,” he is thinking only of the first thing. He is thinking it does not matter what his ship is like inside provided that he does not run into the next ship. And it is quite natural, when we start thinking about morality, to begin with the first thing, with social relations. For one thing, the results of bad morality in that sphere are so obvious and press on us every day: war and poverty and graft and lies and shoddy work. And also, as long as you stick to the first thing, there is very little disagreement about morality. Almost all people at all times have agreed (in theory) that human beings ought to be honest and kind and helpful to one another. But though it is natural to begin with all that, if our thinking about morality stops there, we might just as well not have thought at all. Unless we go on to the second thing – the tidying up inside each human being – we are only deceiving ourselves. (p. 71-72).
You will find this again and again about anything that is really Christian: every one is attracted by bits of it and wants to pick out those bits and leave the rest. That is why we do not get much further: and that is why people who are fighting for quite opposite things can both say they are fighting for Christianity. (p. 80).
“Being in love” first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it. (p. 99).
Most of us find it very difficult to want “Heaven” at all – except in so far as “Heaven” means meeting again our friend who have died. One reason for this difficulty is that we have not been trained: our whole education tends to fix our minds on this world. Another reason is that when the real want for Heaven is present in us, we do not recognize it. Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality. I think everyone knows what I mean. The wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting job: but something has evaded us. (p. 119).
It is not reason that is taking away my faith: on the contrary, my faith is based on reason. It is my imagination and emotions. The battle is between faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other. … Now just the same thing happens about Christianity. I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of the evidence is against it. That is not the point at which Faith comes in. But supposing a man’s reason once decides that the weight of the evidence is for it. I can tell that man what is going to happen to him in the next few weeks. There will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of a blitz on this belief. Or else there will come a moment when he wants a woman, or wants to tell a lie, or feels very pleased with himself, or sees a chance of making a little money in some way that is not perfectly fair: some moment, in fact, at which it would be very convenient if Christianity were not true. And once again his wishes and desires will carry out a blitz. I am not talking of moments at which any real new reasons against Christianity turn up. Those have to be faced and that is a different matter. I am talking about moments where a mere mood rises up against it. Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. (p. 123).
One of the dangers of having a lot of money is that you may be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness money can give and so fail to realize your need for God. If everything seems to come simply by signing checks, you may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent on God. Now quite plainly, natural gifts carry with them a similar danger. If you have sound nerves and intelligence and health and popularity and a good upbringing, you are likely to be quite satisfied with your character as it is. “Why drag God into it?” you may ask. A certain level of good conduct comes fairly easily to you. You are not one of those wretched creatures who are always being tripped up by sex, or dipsomania, or nervousness, or bad temper. Everyone says you are a nice chap and (between ourselves). You agree with them. You are quite likely to believe that all this niceness is your own doing: and you may easily not feel the need for any better kind of goodness. Often people who have these natural kinds of goodness cannot be brought to recognise their need for Christ at all until, one day, the natural goodness lets them down and their self-satisfaction is shattered. In other words, it is hard for those who are “rich” tin this sense to enter the Kingdom. (p. 181)....more
Origin myths among indigenous peoples, of course, neatly fit this description. Landau, however, goes on to show**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
Origin myths among indigenous peoples, of course, neatly fit this description. Landau, however, goes on to show how scientific theories of human origins are no less susceptible to narrative bias. Was it bipedalism that gave rise to tool use, which generated big brains? Or was it tool use that led to bipedalism and then big brains? Were early hominids primarily hunters – man the killer ape, warlike in nature? Or were they primarily gatherers – man the vegetarian, pacifist in nature? More importantly, does the narrative change in response to empirical evidence, or does the interpretation of the evidence change as a result of the currently popular narrative? This is a serious problem in the philosophy of science: To what extent are observations in science driven by theory? Quite a bit, as it turns out, especially in history and social sciences. And this fact supports the thesis that humans are primarily storytelling animals. The scientific method of purposefully searching for evidence to falsify our most deeply held beliefs does not come naturally. Telling stories in the service of a scientific theory does. (p. 149-150).
Jesus himself made it clear that ultimate redemption would come within the lifetime of his contemporaries: “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28). Two thousand years later over one billion people profess Jesus to be the Messiah who not only redeemed Jews from their Roman oppressors, but who will deliver us from ours. (Such is the power of belief systems to rationalize all discrepancies – one being that this is the Kingdom of God on Earth.) (p. 188).
The Jehovah’s Witnesses must hold the record for the most failed dates of doom, including 1874, 1878, 1881, 1910, 1914, 1918, 1920, 1925, and others all the way up to 1975. One of the more novel and audacious rationalizations for failed prophecy came after Armageddon’s nonarrival in 1975. In a 1966 book published by the Watchtower Society, Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God, the Witnesses established the date of creation at 4026 B.C., declaring that “six thousand years of human history will begin in the fall of 1975.” The Watchtower Society’s president, Frederick Franz, at a Toronto, Ontario, rally, blamed the members themselves. Because Jesus had stated that no man will the “day or the hour” of his coming, the Witnesses jinxed the Second Coming: “Do you know why nothing happened in 1975? It was because you expected something to happen.” Undaunted, they recalibrated again, citing October 2, 1984, as doomsday. Finally, in 1996, the leaders of the church learned the Millerite lesson. In the November 1996 issue of Awake!, members discovered that “the generation that saw the events of 1914” would not, after all, be seeing the end of the world. Instead, this oft-quoted line was replaced by a much vaguer “is about to” clause, reducing dissonance indefinitely. (p. 203-204).
Isaiah 65:20-23, 25 – According to The Interpreter’s Bible, in these Isaiah passages “the meaning is not that the present world will be completely destroyed and a new world created, but rather that the present world will be completely transformed … there is no cosmological speculation here.” Indeed, in the Hebrew Bible it is not until the book of Daniel – the latest addition to the canon – that one can find reference to humans ascending to heaven. For mortals, heaven generally meant a new Kingdom on Earth, not a place to go where God resides. The shift from earthly paradise to cosmological firmament began in Daniel and was reinforced especially by Jesus who portrayed to his oppressed peoples that redemption was just around the chronological corner. Yet even Jesus made intriguing references to the Kingdom that “has come upon you” (Luke 11:20), that has suffered violence since the time of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:12), and especially in Luke 17:20-21, where he seems to infer that heaven is a state of mind: “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (p.209)....more
For biblically the church is an organism not an organization – a movement, not a monument. It is not a part of t**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
For biblically the church is an organism not an organization – a movement, not a monument. It is not a part of the community; it is a whole new community. It is not an orderly gathering; it is a new order with new values, often in sharp conflict with the values of the surrounding society. The church does not draw people in; it sends them out. It does not settle into a comfortable niche, taking its place alongside the Rotary, the Elks, and the country club. Rather, the church is to make a society uncomfortable. Like yeast, it unsettles the mass around it, changing it from within. Like salt, it flavors and preserves that into which it vanishes. (p. 175-176).
Most churches are totally dependent on the pastor and church staff. Youth for Christ president, Jay Kesler, sometimes quips, “The western church is like a pro football game on Sunday afternoon: 100,000 people sitting in the stands watching 22 men knock their brains out on the field.” Take away the 22 and there is no game. (p. 178-179).
Beloved pastor and Chaplain of the Senate, Dick Halverson, agrees that “equipping the saints” – which of course means all believers – is the central thrust of any pastor’s calling. “Nowhere in the Bible,” he writes, “is the world exhorted to ‘come to church.’ But the church’s mandate is clear: she must go to the world … the work of ministry belongs to the one in the pew, not the one in the pulpit.” So, he says, the church comes together on Sunday mornings principally to be prepared to carry out its ministry the rest of the week in every walk of life. (p. 179)....more