Thursday, January 3, 2013

An Inadequate Tribute to a Fantastic Woman

        Today was my paternal grandmother's funeral. I just wanted to post the eulogy that i read during the service:

        My grandma was a very generous person. She loved to buy us gifts; beautiful clothes for my mother, many toys for my brother’s and me when we were young, books when we got a bit older. Mom actually had to ask her not to buy so many presents for us for Christmas one year when we were kids, so Grandma saved some of them and gave them to us throughout the following year. She would also often give us money for various reasons; $100 here and there toward our family vacations, monthly checques while Dad was attending Bible School, to help Sean buy a car, or put Matthew and me through private high school. Her generous nature also extended to her home. She let Matt live with her while attending university and when he started working as a high school teacher, and then opened her house up once more when Mom & Dad moved in with her four years ago.  And everyone who visited them felt her warm welcome as well.

        She was also gracious enough to put up with what she saw as a lack of grooming in us boys in the family. Sean’s hair is too long (She said at one point that if he didn’t cut it before she died she would drop things on his head from Heaven). She didn’t like my beard as it is now, or when i just had a goatee (at one family gathering she pointed out to me how my cousin had a good example of a well-groomed beard).

        In spite of our lack of polish, Grandma and Grandpa would always come to our school band and choir concerts. Once even, when Matthew was on tour in England, she arranged her own UK trip so she could attend. Grandma loved music, and played keyboards for her own enjoyment, as well as accordion, when she was younger. She never performed for anybody else, although she had a very good musical ear.

        Grandma had a wealth of knowledge and experiences that many people didn’t know about, because she was not the type to trumpet her accomplishments. One particularly intellectual young man said that she was the only older woman who could challenge him intellectually in conversation.  She had the ability to carry on a conversation with almost anyone because she knew a lot about many subjects, yet never expressed that knowledge in a way that made you feel dumb.  But, oh how she hated bad grammar, especially in menus and on signs.

        She had a great sense of humour and even appreciated Sean’s somewhat “earthy,” in her words, nature. She was our primary introduction to the wonderful world of British humour with shows like Mr. Bean, Monty Python, Wallace and Gromit. While she was in hospital, she told some of the nurses that they were glamorous enough to be on General Hospital.

        We found something she had written about nine years after moving to Winnipeg, which said: “I know that as long as I live the arctic...will be the image evoked by the word home”  We often heard her speaking Inuktitut on the phone with friends from Northern Qc.  We also often heard her talk about how she loved roaming the Northern tundra.  She was inspired by the visual beauty of nature wherever she went.  She especially loved the countryside of rural England.  And here  in Winnipeg she delighted in the many different shapes of our trees.  Recently, she rode two buses in order to take pictures of a particularly beautiful tree that she remembered seeing years ago.

        Squirrels were Grandma's favourite animals.  She and Grandpa both enjoyed throwing them peanuts for years.  She kept the birds fed in her back yard too.  But we would frequently see her scolding the blue jays for eating the squirrels’ peanuts, and adamently shooing away the pesky rabbit who insisted on eating her flowers.  She exulted over her little roses and throughout the summer there were always little vases of freshly cut flowers all over the house.

        She had pictures of Grandpa everywhere and often went to visit the cemetery where he was interred.  Although no marriage is perfect, she would say that with time “you forget about the bad moments, and are left only with good memories.  It seemed she thought of Mom more as a daughter than a daughter-in-law.  And Yok, was just as much her grand-child as us boys. When Yok started dating Matthew, she called our Grandma “Countess” because she already referred to Mom as “Mrs. Knight.”  She tried out a few other regal titles for Grandma, but “Countess” was Grandma’s favourite.  After Matt & Yok got engaged, she specifically told Yok that she hoped she could still be called “Countess." Matt & Yok often went on one and a half dates with Grandma to Ballet at the Park or restaurants she wanted to try out.

        Mom will really miss watching Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank with her.  They had such fun trying to predict how the millionaires would respond, and often discussed and reviewed scenarios throughout the week.  Mom is also worried about what she’ll do now that she has lost her live-in fashion consultant.

        When she found out she had cancer, Grandma said “Don’t worry about me.  I’m not too young.  I’ve had my 82 years."  We certainly are not worried about her, because of our belief that God is richly rewarding her for the many lives she impacted positively. That being said we are deeply saddened for having lost such a wonderful and beautiful member of our family.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Materialism vs. Spiritualism, or, Gnosticism and the Eternal Soul: A Confession.

For quite some time i've been wrestling between two opposing views, trying to desperately reconcile them with each other and with the hodgepodge collection of views i refer to as my "faith." In one corner of the ring is Materialism (i.e. philosophical idea that all that exists is material, that is it can be observed in some way, energy is included), in the other, Spiritualism, or the worldview that includes the...well, the spiritual side of things.

One area that has been the focus of most of this inner debate is the concept of the Human soul. This is where Gnosticism enters into things. In a nutshell, Gnosticism is the dualistic belief that says the physical is bad, the spiritual is good. And, it's no wonder this belief has so thoroughly insinuated itself into Christianity, with passages in the Bible talking about "my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak" and so forth. I don't like Gnosticism. I think it has done more damage to Christianity than almost any other outside influence. It has led to the "sins of the flesh" being treated with far more hate and ruthlessness than the more subtle and often more damaging inner sins such as pride and greed.

But, i'm getting sidetracked here, and a little to preachy.

So, back to the Human soul. I believe that, all along, God intended us to physical beings, and not to just later decide that the Spirit that was breathed into us was suddenly more important than our bodies. So this idea that our bodies are just holding this back, and that this world is not our home, to me is anti-biblical. God created the world as a physical place, and created us to inhabit it.

Here's the confession part: I don't believe in the "eternal soul." At least, not in this dualistic, Gnostic, idea that our true selves are just housed temporarily in these fleshbags waiting to be liberated by death. I believe my consciousness is my soul, and it is as dependent on my body for life as my body is dependent on it.

My good friend/cousin recently sent me this link, and the author does a much better job of expressing himself than i do. Check it out if you've read this far and still care to hear more on this subject.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Neverending Story and the Power of Names

Two days ago i started reading Michael Ende's The Neverending Story and already it has proven to be much more profound a story than the movie adaptation. It certainly appeals to the fantasy-lover in me, and the book-lover as well.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the premise, the land of Fantastica (Phantásien in the orignal German) is being slowly obliterated by The Nothing (which is precisely what it sounds like) and the Childlike Empress (who is the ruler, and sustaining force that keeps the land in existence) is suffering from some unknown illness. She sends a young boy from a hunter-gatherer type clan to find the source of her illness and the way to repel The Nothing and restore Fantastica. In the course of Atreyu's (the hunter boy, not the lame metalcore band) "Great Quest" he is sent to speak with the Southern Oracle, a being that exists as pure sound. Atreyu asks the Southern Oracle what will cure the Childlike Empress, and she tells him that what the Empress needs is a new name. Atreyu then asks who can give the Empress a new name, and here is an excerpt from the Southern Oracle's response:
"...Born of the Word, the children of man,
Or humans, as they're sometimes called,
Have had the gift of giving names
Ever since our worlds began,
...For wondrous new names have the power to save."
While my theological beliefs may colour the line "Born of the Word" with a certain Christian significance. Whether that was the authour's intention or not, we humans certainly do have power when it comes to giving things names. It was the above quote that inspired this post.

According to the second creation account in the Bible (in Genesis 2) one of the first things God had the newly created Man do was to name all the creatures of the earth, and we humans have continued to do so ever since. Unfortunately, the names we are most ready to give out are often not of the "wondrous" variety that "...have the power to save."

Too often we use names (or labels, to use a more "grown-up" term) to distance ourselves from some individual, or group, we don't want to associate ourselves with. We use names to limit, dehumanize, devalue, or simply distance ourselves from, others that we deem as irreconcilably "different" from us. We all do it. Sometimes it's obvious and despicable, using names like "f-ggot" or "r-tard" or "n-gger" (forgive my spelling, it makes me uncomfortable writing those words even in this context). Other times it's a lot more subtle or nuanced. It's this latter kind that is more dangerous, insofar as it's much more acceptable.

While i would never say that we should abandon our individual indentities and work towards turning humanity into a borg-like hivemind, i also think that we too often use the positive labels that we give ourselves pridefully to distance ourselves from others. We must strive for that almost paradoxical balance of maintaining out individuality while embracing the fact that we are all members of the human family. Our salvation as a species is bound up with each other.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

God and Gender: Brief Thoughts on a Broad Topic.

First off, i will obviously not do justice to this topic, i simply want to express my half-baked thoughts. Forgive me for the disjointed mess that is to follow.

The inspiration for this post comes from the discussion we had this morning at the house church i attend in Steinbach. We talked about our gender-bias towards God and the Bible. It was a great discussion and very thought-provoking for me.

Over the past few years i've moved from the implicit complementarianism (both genders are equal, but have different roles in the Church, i.e. women cannot/should not lead) that i grew up with to a more egalitarian veiw (both genders are equal and can serve the Church in the same capacity). I recently came to the place where if God the Father is primarily masculine, than God the Holy Spirit is primarily feminine. I don't think that's necessarily where i'm going to stop, however, since i belive God trancends or human notion of gender.

During the discussion today i had the following thought: If God truly is 3-in-1, why not refer to God with the plural pronoun "they"?

I believe this topic is of extreme importance to the Church, and that we have a long, long, way to go in our understanding of it. I also believe that the patriachy that has sculpted Christianity since its inception has caused us to miss out of many truths that are to be found in femininity and womanhood.

For too long we have operated on a misunderstanding of scripture and forced women to be silent in the Church. This needs to end.

Monday, August 13, 2012

For the Times They are A-Changin'...

A new blog for a new era. The times definitely are changing, and i've felt like rebooting my blog for some time now. So, i figured, what with all the changes coming in my life, now was as good a time as any. I'll keep my old blog up, because i'm too lazy to transfer all my old posts to this one and i don't want to lose them.

I'm not yet sure what i want this blog to be...It could be me reviewing all the low-budget horror films that i love so much. Or, it could be my incoherant and rambling musings on life, the universe, and everything (wink). Or it'll be like my last blog, and the one before, and just eventually peter off as i lose interest. Maybe this will be the only thing i post. Maybe not. 

Here goes nothing.