Eyes Open

A place for my thoughts, and the thoughts of those I read about, specifically relating to philosophy, life, God, literature, music, and pop culture. Let me know what you think

May 21, 2012

"Where there is no questioning, where a frozen certainty reigns, there let Christians break the orthodoxies and be a living questioning. Where trouble reigns, despair and incessant questioning, there let them be the response of hope and of living love. Thus their participation can be of reinforcement, of concordance with the others, but also even of refusal, of rupture, of tearing apart."

-Jacques Ellul, in "On Christian Pessimism" (Sources and Trajectories)

May 4, 2012

"In his essay, “Notes on Liberty and Property,” Allen Tate gave us an indispensable anatomy of our [economic] problem. His essay begins by equating, not liberty and property, but liberty and control of one’s property. He then makes the crucial distinction between ownership that is merely legal and what he calls “effective ownership.” If a property, say a small farm, has one owner, then the one owner has an effective and assured, if limited, control over it as long as he or she can afford to own it, and is free to sell it or use it, and (I will add) free to use it poorly or well. It is clear also that effective ownership of a small property is personal and therefore can, at least possibly, be intimate, familial, and affectionate. If, on the contrary, a person owns a small property of stock in a large corporation, then that person has surrendered control of the property to larger shareholders. The drastic mistake our people made, as Tate believed and I agree, was to be convinced “that there is one kind of property—just property, whether it be a thirty-acre farm in Kentucky or a stock certificate in the United States Steel Corporation.” By means of this confusion, Tate said, “Small ownership . . . has been worsted by big, dispersed ownership—the giant corporation.” (It is necessary to append to this argument the further fact that by now, owing largely to corporate influence, land ownership implies the right to destroy the land-community entirely, as in surface mining, and to impose, as a consequence, the dangers of flooding, water pollution, and disease upon communities downstream.)"

-Wendell Berry, in his recent Jefferson Lecture

Apr 30, 2012

"Sullivan is right that Christian churches, as fallible human institutions, have often been obstacles to the fruitful understanding of Christ’s moral message. But these churches have also been central in sustaining the traditions of thought and practice that transformed Jesus’ passionate but enigmatic teachings into coherent and fruitful moral visions. They have been the air — however polluted — that has fed the fire of his message."

"Read alone, the Sermon on the Mount will either confuse us or merely reinforce the moral prejudices we bring to it. To profit from its wisdom we need to understand it through traditions of thought and practice within or informed by Christianity. This does not require membership in any particular church, but it does require immersion in the culture and history of the Christian world. In this sense, to forget the church is to forget Jesus."

-Gary Gutting, on Returning to the Sermon on the Mount in response to Andrew Sullivan's Time Magazine article

Oct 5, 2010

Lake District

Some more recent photos from the Imperial War Museum in London, and the Lake District:

Two paintings depicting two different parts of war. The top is of a line of soldiers temporarily blinded by mustard gas, being led into the camp of wounded soldiers. The bottom is of the Battle of Britain.

Ambleside pier, on the northeast end of Windermere Lake.

Windermere Lake, in the south-central area of the Lake District. It is the longest lake, measuring 20 miles.

A well-worn walking path above Hawkshead, past Walker Ground.

I felt like I was back in the Northwest, with the rain and wind.

But you don't see this too much in the Pacific NW. Sheep were all over the countryside. I enjoyed a lamb stew the night we went out to the pub in Hawkshead, knowing right where my food was coming from.
Hawskhead parish church, sitting on a hill above the town. Adjacent to it, the grammar school that Wordsworth attended for several years. A cemetery surrounds the building, and extends along the hillside for an acre.

Both roommates and Micah and Elisa climbing the long slope through surrounding dead ferns that colored the hillside red.

The dry-stone wall extending along the crest of the hill, and continuing all the way to its base.

A rocky landscape.
Striding edge, the arete that leads to Helvellyn, our destination for the hike. In winds of 50 mph, the 'scramble' was a bit treacherous.

A look out point, with the clouds moving in.

From the summit of Helvellyn, where incredible winds mixed with a surrounding fog made for an amazing environment. Wordsworth climbed the mountain regularly, and wrote in a poem of a man who died on the summit, and his dog who guarded his body for the next three months. Here is a well-known painting of Wordsworth on Helvellyn:

This is the view of Red Tarn from near the summit. The tarn (a high altitude lake) lies in the valley that striding edge and Helvellyn cover on the south and west. It looks blue to me. For 90% of the day, this view was blocked by the clouds passing along the mountain.

The map of our route, circling the tarn in the bottom-left. The hike began form Glenridding, a town along Ullswater.

Lindsay (left), Rosalyn, and Simon at the pub in Hawkshead. Simon, who is a tutor in the SCIO program, led the trip for twelve of us. He's Australian, and has two young kids that he neglected for the long weekend. He has great taste in music (Fink, Elbow), and brought a good selection of movies to watch (including Brick).

Our whole group outside the pub. Michael and Tim are to my right, bent over a bit.

Sep 25, 2010

Oxford, and Bath

Some more recent pictures of my trip to Bath, and other sites around Oxford:

The beginnings of Fall, from a brick building in an Oxford neighborhood.

A cobblestone passage through downtown Oxford, separated from the streets.

A street I walk down each day towards the SCIO offices or Bodleian Libraries.

The Royal Crescent in Bath. The stone wall behind me is called a "ha ha". Look it up.

Bath Abbey, where musicians were rehearsing for a concert later that night. It was amazing. Perpendicular gothic style architecture, built in the 16th Century primarily.

Overflow from the spring that supplied water to the baths. Thought to be sacred by the ancient Celtic people, as well as the Romans who built the large baths.

Stone-work from the Roman temple.

Bath Abbey with Claudius in the foreground.

The public bath. Don't drink the water. Everything up to about waist-height down there is almost 2,000 years old, but the rest only 300, including the statues.

The Radcliffe Camera, one of the Bodleian Libraries, and an amazing building.

Sep 17, 2010


It's officially been two weeks. I'm feeling much more at home here than I was, say a week ago, and than I expected to. School has officially begun, and I've already finished my first of many weekly papers. It's still hard to believe that I'll be here for almost three more months, and I have no idea of how that will feel.

Here are some annotated pictures of some new things I've experienced here:

My roomates and I, at Stonehenge. Michael, on the left, is from Wichita, Kansas, and goes to Tabor College. Tim, on the right, is from the Seattle area and goes to SPU. This past week we all worked on the same case study, and our room was a mess of books on English medieval philosophy. Tim and I whipped our papers out working from our desks, and had some late nights and early mornings working on our first real paper here. Michael went with the couch downstairs, and one night didn't make it back up the stairs (we live on the third floor). I think they're both funnier than I am.

We actually went to Stonehenge a little over a week ago. We did it as a part of the British Landscape and History section of the program here, which makes up the first 4 weeks. This means that the full term hasn't begun yet, and the students aren't here. My tutorials with Oxford philosophy professors will begin in early October when the full term starts. Until then, we meet (our entire group of 60 students) in the mornings for videos and lectures on various topics, and in the afternoon are expected to work on 3 case studies that cover significant persons, places, and events in British history. On Fridays, philosophy students meet like a regular American seminar class and discuss some reading. And on Thursdays, we take field trips. And Stonehenge was the first stop on our first one. I really liked it. It's mysterious. It's beautiful. It's simple. It's ancient. No one knows why it exists. But Britons in the Stone Age made unimaginable efforts to construct it. It's incredible.

This is at Old Sarum, a hill fort that now consists of the ruins of the 11th Century palace that held William the Conquerer's imprisoned wife. It was nearly impenetrable, and only needed 20 men to hold back an army coming against it. Almost all of the ruins were made of rock identical to what's in this picture. Old Sarum was one of the centers of Rome's presence in Britain, and marked an important crossroads. It wasn't the most exciting place, but I like this picture, taken by Robin, who is a housemate in Crick.

Salisbury Cathedral. Amazing building. It was built in 27 years, which is incredibly fast for a cathedral, in the 13th Century. It is built all in the new gothic architectural style, which has high pointed arches that draw lines as you look down the ceiling. In the Cathedral there is the oldest working mechanical clock, dating from the 14th Century I think. There is also 1 of 4 original copies of the Magna Carta. It was a bright sunny day there, and we lay in the grass as well. We also got to take a tour into the tower of the cathedral, where we could walk above the ceiling, and look out from the base of the spire towards the town. We could see Old Sarum, sticking up a bit form the surrounding countryside.

This was my desk, maybe Tuesday or Wednesday night. The first case study was somewhat overwhelming, since I don't think I've ever written an 8 page research paper on a very complex subject I knew nothing about before hand. The first was on the philosophy and theology of John Duns Scotus and William Ockham. I was researching how Ockham challenged Scotus's work. I only had two late nights working on it, and feel like I did a good job, though I know it won't be good enough, and the ending was very rushed. But I get to do it again. And do things differently. And do them better. And learn about other topics. My next two case studies will be on Thomas Hobbes and Thomas Malthus. I think they're a bit more related to my interests, so that will be good. Malthus particularly writes about poverty, and how it should be considered politically.

The day before the paper was due, we went on a field trip to Hampton Court, where there is this palace. It is also surrounded by incredible gardens and a maze. The palace is most famous for it's relationship to Henry VII, who lived here, as well as many other nobles and important historical people. Not as much one of my interests, but some incredible art and architecture.

And most importantly, the gardens were beautiful, and there is a grove of yew trees that is the largest and oldest in the world. They were really cool.

Okay, those are some things. I'll put up some more soon of things around Oxford. Unfortunately, I haven't made much time to go around town, and stick to a pretty steady route.

I hope you like the pictures.

Sep 5, 2010

I was looking at international calling cards online today, and one of the websites selling them had this insightful description:

Mankind would never be able to pay back for the good work done by technology for them. It's only due to technology that we are leading such a luxurious life. You can easily travel from one place to another through cars or other vehicles, heaters won't let you feel cold whereas air-conditioners protect you from the scorching heat. Just like all other gadgets, the importance of mobile phones can also not be underestimated. This small palm sized device acts like a bridge between people separated by a distance especially those people who live abroad and don't get even a single opportunity to meet their near and dear one's for months. For them, the voice of their loved one's is everything.

Sep 1, 2010

Switzerland and England

This is the view from the hill above L'Abri, the Christian study center in Huemoz, Switzerland that I stayed at for 5 days and nights. Students, primarily in their 20s, come for weeks, months, or years, to live in community and learn and teach and serve. I got to meet wonderful Christians from Finland, Ireland, England, The Netherlands, Australia, Denmark, Romania, Switzerland, and other places, including, of course, many from the U.S. An amazing blend of diverse culture and spirituality, and hospitality, and open hearts and minds.

On a warm, sunny, Sunday afternoon, Nate, a friend made in L'Abri, and I hitchhiked to the train station in Aigle, A town at the foot of the hill that L'Abri lies on, and rode in to Vevey, a town on Northeast shore of Lake Geneva. We had played volleyball in the afternoon, and wanted to go for a swim, so Katrina, who lives near Vevey and comes to L'Abri for the weekends, showed us around and we went for a long dip in the lake, which was perfect, and we sat on the rip rap and chatted and enjoyed the warmth and beauty of the lake. There was a festival in town, and we went and got pastry waffles with chocolate. Vevey and its neighboring town, Montreux, are famous for the artists and musicians who come to compose and record their work. There's a big Jazz festival every July in Montreux.

This castle is the Chateau de Chillon, a fortress East of Montreux that has stood for almost 1,000 years. I had a short hour to tour it, which wasn't enough. It's placement on the lake was strategic in allowing or preventing travel from Southern to Northern Europe. And it was built on an island of jagged rocks, that are built into the cellar walls.

The pastoral Swiss countryside. This was taken from a train from Montreux to Interlaken.

The Swiss alps. This was taken above a restaurant nestled at 9,000 feet in the hills below the Western range of the Lauterbrunnen valley. The cows covered the hillside, their bells making plenty of music. The largest mountain in the background, above the cow's head, is the Jungfrau, which is shown in my other pictures. It was an amazing day, and a really hard hike to get up here. I met a group of nice Germans along the way, who helped me find my way along the confusing trail, but when I passed them I ended up missing the turn-off to get to the top of the Schilthorn, and ended up going to another peak. Oh well, it was an amazing hike.

The bigger picture.

Me in front of the Monch (Monk), up at 11,000 feet. There are three "sister" mountains: The Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau. Where this photo was taken, there is a large station in a glacier field between the Monch and the Jungfrau. I took a train through a tunnel in the Eiger to get up there, on a crystal clear day, so the visibility of the mountains was amazing. You could see NW across Switzerland, and after an hour long hike across the glacier, I got an Eastern view as well. Spectacular views.

Me, in front of the Jungfrau.

Another angle. Jungfrau on the left, Eiger on the right.

Luzern, Switzerland, a city Northwest of Interlaken. A beautiful riverfront, with many old bridges that cross over it. I was only here shortly, which was mostly getting lost downtown, eating a chocolate torte in a cafe on the riverfront, and going to a modern art museum with a lot of Picasso and Paul Klee.

Portobello Market in the Notting Hill district of London. My first London experience. There were several groupings of apartments with multicolored patterns. And there were lots of people. We had some really good Spanish food, and looked around, attempting not to get caught up in a drum line that was marching down one of the streets as we passed.

London London.

Westminster Abbey. This is where all the Monarchs of England are crowned and have been for about 1,000 years. There are I think hundreds, maybe a thousand tombs or people buried in the cathedral. This includes T.S. Eliot, Charles Darwin, Jane Austin, Isaac Newton, and Charles Dickens among others. No pictures allowed inside, because there is so much to see and it would be a zoo. Probably the best part of London.

Trafalgar square, the cultural heart of London. This photo was taken from the steps of the National Gallery, the largest art museum in the city. We spent 3 hours in there the afternoon this was taken. To the left of the direction of this photo is St. Martin of the Fields church, where we went to a free afternoon piano recital of some classical and romantic pieces that were super good. On top of the statues in the picture is Horatio Nelson, British war hero. And in the distance, Big Ben. After this, my Dad and I went to a performance of The Phantom of the Opera at a theatre in the area.

The Sissinghurst Castle Garden. This botanical garden in a small town Southeast from London is actually built in the ruins of an ancient castle. Before arriving here on a sunny afternoon, my Dad and I had spent the last 3 hours driving out of downtown London, with only his two 30-year-old maps to guide us. We got hopelessly lost, and were really only guided by the sun, knowing that we needed to go South. So we brought our little hell to this little piece of heaven, and greedily soaked in the goodness of the garden.


So that's a bit of my past two weeks in pictures and text. I'll get to Oxford on Friday afternoon, and am excited for that. There'll probably be one more post similar to this as I enter into that space and want to share what it's like.
One of the most profound of human needs is for the truth of imagination to prove itself in every life and place in the world, and for the truth of the world's lives and places to be proved in imagination.

-Wendell Berry

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