Weekend, You Put the “L” in Lousy

Back from Florida!

Last week I spent four days with 700 teachers at a convention in the Florida panhandle. We stayed on a lovely college campus and had access to an indoor pool, a water park, bowling, ice skating, and exercise facilities. One night I managed to break into the college gym for a solitary run. I was the only person in the entire gymnasium, and it was so relaxing after a long flight! Most of the time, however, we spent our time in college classrooms discussing the ethics of invented spelling and descriptive grammar.

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One evening we heard Australian Steve Ham (Ken Ham’s brother) present on the topic of Creationism and education. I appreciated his academic approach and his use of technology in his presentation, but I thought his presentation was a bit simplistic. He argued that our belief must be based on faith, not on evidence. (And to a point, I agree, but not for the reasons for which he argued. I think we need to be careful here. My concern with the “faith, not evidence” people is that they are arrogant regarding Scripture [“WE are right”], rather than acting in trust [in God] and humility within academic and scientific communities. I don’t think it’s wise, nor realistic, to accompany the trend found among certain Christian groups [or class-based denominations?] to cover up our ears and go all “Na-na-na-na-na,” and have “faith”, rather than to open our eyes to the complex and gritty issues of our modern world. There is a complexity that this black-and-white, simplistic, dogmatic “faith” does not relevantly approach. Yet, on the far side of complexity is found a simple faith, a faith in the Truth, which is a person, who is Jesus.)

Though one point Steve Ham made well. Arguing for the importance of the study of the origins and Genesis, he said:

You can’t divide the Creator from the Savior.

The other sessions included a ton of practical advice for in-service teachers. I furiously scribbled notes and tried not to wince every time the presenters said, “Oh, and first-year teachers… never do this…”

Other than that, the weekend was perfectly LOUSY. I slept poorly because I had no pillow or blanket all weekend. (What? Bring your own pillow? Missed THAT memo.) And I barely got to experience any Florida sunshine. Saddest thing ever: sitting in a college dorm room, clutching a trashcan and a can of Sprite, while my fellow teachers are galavanting at the beach. Sigh. Getting sick was NOT on my to-do list for this summer! So I missed the beach. And swimming. And our flights were delayed for hours on the way home. (I was supposed to get home at 9:00 p.m. and instead I got home at 4:00 in the morning.) We finally got on a late flight from Atlanta to Indy (we being us, minus our bags). Our bags came an hour later on another flight. All except for one. Which had to be shipped here the next day. Then we got stopped on our 3 hour drive home from the airport (whoops, driving a liiiiittle too fast), and then, then

when I arrived home, I realized I had locked myself out of my apartment.

At 4:00 in the morning.

I curled up into a fetal position, wailing ferociously on my steps, but really, just called my landlords like a responsible adult, and they graciously rectified the perfectly lousy situation known as last weekend.

In other news, I visited the second-largest county fair in America on Saturday (give it up for Elkhart!), and I ate my very first elephant ear, and I had stage seats (stage seats!) for the finest redneck event of the season: the Demolition Derby! Woo hoo. My favorite part was where the pink car smoked all the others.

I really hope everyone had a less lousy weekend.

Cynic My Door

My latest, greatest writing assignment was to write poetry inspired by a graphic novel about a Japanese/Canadian Wiccan lesbian who gets into a relationship with her female English teacher. Putting aside my own thoughts on mature content in young adult graphic novels, I was struck by the abject cynicism that pervaded this text.

(As an aside, to those of you who have been following my whiny “identity” narrative, I should tell you that I’m not the only one who breaks stereotypes in this class. In our discussion of this novel, a very animated conversation erupted as future English teachers expressed their extreme distaste of the English teacher character. After nearly everyone had clearly expressed both their disgust and (what they thought universal) ethical standards regarding teacher/student relationships, one girl slowly raises her hands: “Um, just to add to this conversation, I started dating a teacher in high school, and he was fired because of it, and we’ve been together for six years! WHHHHAAAT!” she waves both hands. Nervous laughter. Awkward. Turtles. Floating BELLY-UP.)

Back to the novel: the simplest yet most important lesson I learned (two summers ago) was this:

My generation is cynical.

In class, we study hundred-year old notions of modernism, and we’re depressed for days after reading Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. We’re aware of the constructivist and relativist theories of the postmodern age, and we understand the skepticism of that time period.

But what we do not understand are the features of our own age. We do not articulate how we have moved beyond skepticism and have fallen deeply into cynicism.

There’s a difference of terms. Skepticism is a questioning attitude  toward knowledge, facts, or beliefs. But cynicism goes much further: it pushes beyond healthy questioning until there is “a general distrust of others’ apparent motives or ambitions, or a general lack of faith or hope in the human race or in individuals with desires, hopes, opinions, or personal tastes that a cynic perceives as unrealistic or inappropriate, therefore deserving of ridicule or admonishment. It is a form of jaded negativity.” Wikipedia

These are the features of our time: frustration, disillusionment, and distrust.

And in our Post-postmodern age, I believe we’re on the line between either cynicism… or fanaticism.

So, maybe, does… anyone want to do a Bible study about this? Because I would totally come!
I wrote a sonnet (a nice little convention, I must say) in response to reading the novel. Tell me what you think.

Today the cynic killed his skeptic mate

as questions died on lips reserved for hope

and faith in scientific facts and dates

that reason Him away to breathe and cope.

Today the cynic murders life itself

and massacres the faith of fresh desire,

and smothers breath til death is life and health,

and joyless life is real and fake as fire.

Here lies a cynic jaded; Corpse, beware:

New life is in my intravenous prayer.