Tuesday, November 16, 2010

i finally learned how to read 2

The Wire is the greatest novel I've ever read, except it's a TV show. This recommendation may be indicative of my diminutive literary acumen, I'm aware of this, but I've never quite experienced a protracted sprawling epic of a story that held my interest before. Remember I like reading comics (not that there's anything wrong with that, and there are exceptions in the medium e.g. Watchmen). The Wire has multiple characters, multiple story threads that tie together, moral ambiguity, hyper realism, corrupt officials, sympathetic villains, and by the end of it all, it feels like it was worth the time that it took to watch it (that's a lot of it's). It gave me that greedy feeling where you can't stop watching, but where you hope it never ends*. After the final episode was finished, I reluctantly ejected the DVD. I was sad it was over, but happy that I'd experienced a masterpiece. The Wire is the greatest TV series of all time. The internet would have you believe that this assessment is based on my being white, but don't let my pigmentation fool you, I'm only 4/7's white (depending how many generations you go back). No, I think I like The Wire because it's good.

me being white

Stephen King, prolific hack or evil genius depending on who you listen to, once said something to the effect of (warning I have about as a reliable a memory as most people): how can you expect some one to be moved by what you've written if you've never had that feeling yourself. Well, now I've had that feeling. Sort of. The proof is in pudding as they say, but what if you want cake? I think you see where I'm going with this. Eat it too. I opened a book not long after the completion of my fondly remembered greatest TV show ever, and it was also good (it's the Atonement by Ian McEwan, almost finished).

Wow, could it be The Wire was my sitting under a bodhi tree while on the road to Damascus moment? I've gone to church for 30 years and never had a revelation like this before. My brain has been totally re-wired (ha). The secret I think, as corny as it sounds, is that I now care about fictional characters as if they were real people. A sign that my deep and abiding misanthropy (perhaps a residual relic of my aforementioned 30 years of piety) is fading. This can only bode well for humanity at large. Do you know what this means? I can read. Watch out when I start writing.

*some one else made up the greedy feeling quote, but I can't remember who


Justin said...

Hi Loren, just finished my second reading of the Book of Mormon the other day, and although it probably wasn't as addictive and thrilling as The Wire, it was at least twice as deep and impressive as the first time I read it.

Just for a laugh here's my review of it:

"The BoM has multiple characters, multiple story threads that tie together, moral ambiguity [just a pinch, it's mostly black and white], hyper realism [maybe just realism, the writing style doesn't use many fine details], corrupt officials, sympathetic villains, and by the end of it all, it feels like it was worth the time that it took to read it (that's a lot of it's). SOMETIMES it gave me that greedy feeling where you can't stop reading, but where you hope it never ends*. After the final chapter was finished, I reluctantly closed the covers. I was sad it was over, but happy that I'd experienced a masterpiece. IN SOME RESPECTS, the BoM is the greatest Book of all time. The internet would have you believe that this assessment is based on my being white. Well, I'm 100% white, but my direct offspring will be only 50% white. No, I think I like The BoM because it's good.

Now that you know how to read, maybe you can try the BoM again ;)

I've only seem the film adaption of Atonement, pretty good. I see Amsterdam sitting on the book shelf though. Might give it a shot one day.

Oh, I really really recommend Captain Underpants if you still feel you are making the shift from comic to novel... sheer brilliance!

Loren said...

Hey, there you are. I think you're starting to get a feel for the spirit of the blog. Well played. I don't understand why the BoM doesn't go over better with more white people in general. It's overtly racist in parts. Openly stating that the American Indians dark skins are a curse from God. I love captain underpants.

Justin said...

"Openly stating that the American Indians dark skins are a curse from God."
I always, read it as a mark rather than a curse, but under certain social/political circumstances I suppose it could be a curse. Care to reference specific scriptures?

Loren said...

1 Nephi 2:23, 2 Nephi 5:21, Alma 3:6. Trust me it clearly states it's a curse. There's a famous quote by Spencer W. Kimball where he talks about the American Indians skin becoming fairer in the latter days, and how this was fulfillment of prophecy (perhaps referring to 2 Nephi 30:6). Implying that righteousness is associated with white skin. Just a wee bit racist in my mind.

Justin said...

I wih I could make it super short, but I can't so...
time for another episode of obfuscation!

Alma 3:7 seems to explain that the curse is not simply the dark skin itself, "and their brethren sought to destroy them, therefore they were cursed,"

Alma 3:8 reads "And this was done that their seed might be distiguished from the seed of their brethren, that thereby the Lord God might preserve his people..."

In fact Alma 3:6-19, gives a pretty good explanation about the mark and curse and what it really means. I find it quite unracist.

The curse and mark also makes sense when you consider the possibility that it involved the Lamanites being the result of mixing with another culture/race/religion on the American continent. To mix with another race and lose ones faith is a theme that can be found in the old testiment. The Jews kept their identity and traditions by not mixing with others. Laman, Lamuel and their group lost their religion and their racial identity. It that sense it can be viewed as a curse, particularly for their lost descendants.

In the case of the Nephites, they may well have been a minority race from the time they landed in America, hence the greater need to preserve themselves as distinct from others.

The term 'white' has a lot of positive connotations in culture and religion, including noblity, purity and glory. In LDS culture and ritual, white garments is one example. Unfortunately, it's very easy for people to extend such positive connotations to white skin pigmentation. Hence, if one is so inclined, I'm sure one can use the BoM as a basis for racist belief.

I haven't read Spencer W. Kimball's quote, I don't know the context, so I won't say much about it. However, I dare to say, I think it's possible that he was wrong.

"Openly stating that the American Indians dark skins are a curse from God."
Your quote ties in with assumptions that Kimball may have also made. Use of the term "Amercian Indians" as a substitute word for "Lamanites" probably isn't accurate. At best, I'm sure it's an overgeneralization; at worst it's completely false. Of course, that's another topic.

Loren said...

Here's the quote: "I saw a striking contrast in the progress of the Indian people today .... The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised. In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos, five were darker but equally delightsome. The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation. At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter we represent, the little member girl—sixteen—sitting between the dark father and mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parents—on the same reservation, in the same hogan, subject to the same sun and wind and weather.... These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and to delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated."

He's racist. We all are to some degree probably. Sometimes it's useful to admit our short comings. What I don't get is how quickly apologists play the "he was speaking as a man and not a prophet" card. How many ridiculous statements are we gonna let these guys get away without holding them accountable. The church was a racist organisation for a long time (I think it's very simple with the BoM God gave the bad guys dark skin, so there's at least a hint of racism in there). It still is, look at the leadership. Old white men. If God was really running this thing, and is not a respecter of persons wouldn't his chosen church be leading the way in race relations (or sex equality). Instead anyone of African decent was a second class citizen in the church until 1978, well after the civil rights movement had reached its zenith. I guarantee the same thing will happen with gays. Long after a lot of society has realized that we're all people, the church will slowly change its tune on that issue too.

Justin said...

Here's a tangent.

A common debate on homosexuality is whether it is a about 'being gay' or about 'behaving gay'.

Homosexuality seems as much to do with nature as it is to do with nurture. However on the nature side, evidence indicates that it is caused by interference with the creatures natural gene expression.

Imagine you have a population of animals (maybe cats?). To my knowledge, there are a few ways of increasing the likelyhood that some of the male animals will behave more like females, while more females will behave like males. And some/more of those animals will engage in homosexual activity in preference to heterosexual activity. It can be done through an epigenetic effect.

In the field of Epigenetics, 'environment' alters the expression of genes. Environment includes emotions, nutrition and toxic chemicals.
When gene expression is altered, it affects everything in the body, from system to system. Therefore it alters growth, health, emotions, sexual function and even, apparently, sexual preference.

This genetic expression (or lack thereof) can actually be passed on through offspring. The good news is that suboptimal genetic expression can be altered to optimal genetic expression, if not in the individual, then at least in future offspring.

Such alteration in genetic expression is evident in humans. In fact if you look at the physiology of the average young male in America or Europe these days, they look quite different to the average males born 120 years ago (particulary those less 'modernised' populations). Stature, masculinity, and skeletal proportions have all been altered... men are more like woman... and the women are less like women. Likewise, fertility has been plummeting for the last 60 years or so. I'd say the percentage of 'naturally gay' individuals has also increased.

If you imagine the breeding from a grey wolf to a chewawa, then I guess it's similar... (wolves and chewawa are actually the same genetic species). Unfortunately, in the case of humans, such alteration threatens our survival as a species.

So what's my point?
Even if a person is 'naturally homosexual', then it's a form of suboptimal genetic expression.

Not that I hate people with suboptimal genetic expression, it's something pretty hard not to have these days. I know I have numerous forms of it myself.

And then there is agency...

Because of the churches stance on Agency... I don't expect them to have any change in stance with Homosexuality. Homosexual thoughts and feelings may well be common in society, but homosexuality is ultimately expressed through actions. Why would the church accept homosexual behaviour when it stems from just another affliction?

Epigenetics gone wrong has been similarly linked to other afflictions. Yup, you can almost garauntee that violent crime would be greatly reduced if the food supply was improved. But of course, violent behaviour can still be viewed as an issue of agency.

Agency means that it doesn't matter whether homosexuality is the result of nature or nurture.
If agency is really all it's touted to be, then there is some choice that such an afflicted person has on how he/she lives his life.

As an extra thought, I wonder how homosexuals would react if it turned out that there was in fact a biological cure for homosexuality?

Loren said...

I think it's problematic defining homosexuality as a disease that needs to be cured. That seems unhealthy, dehumanizing. If somebody could cure me of being myself I'd be rather disappointed. Have you ever tried to be sexually attracted to something that you're not sexually attracted to like a chair? It's quite difficult. There are some parts of the human creature that seem to operate below the level of conscious choice.

Your explanation appears to categorize homosexuality as both a dysfunction of genetics and poor decision making. It can be both, but doesn't the first dampen the full force of the second (agency)? You can choose differently than you are, except that your entire genome opposes you. In the words of Boyd K. Packer: Why would God do that? Perhaps it's better to accept that some us are different, the world would be a happier place.

Also none of this changes the churches history of racism, sexism and homophobia. Why would God do (or allow) that? Because all Gods throughout time have reflected the prejudices of their subjects. Who created who?