Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Killing My Brain Cells

Last Friday, went out for dinner with my dearest faith-fellows: Eve, Kevin, Mario (known only on that day), Zhen Hao, and Nalika. We had Japanese food at Waraku (or something like that). That was my second time there. My first visit was with my dearest clubbing-fellow Angie Babydoll.

Food was nice. Expected that.

Then we went to Coffeeclub at Clarke Quay to chill and hang ourselves out. In the middle of the conversation, i shared the bit about the Philip Hefner's idea of Human Becoming with them. I'm not going to blog my sharing here because it's good to leave you to read from Hefner himself because it worth grappling with such unconventional yet stimulating perception.

Anyway, after my short sharing, all who were present were shocked by the idea. Zhen Hao said it is bizarre. Well, I cannot agree more. It is bizarre when I was first exposed to it, and it is still as bizarre now. But the idea is sinking in slowly.

After sharing all these really amazing ideas with my faith-fellows, do you know what was the main response?

"Joshua, you have been reading and thinking too much. It's good to read and think but you are doing it too much. You should do something else..."

This is not the first time I was told to toned down, to shut off my mind, to make myself suiting to those who are around. That means I have to read only the newspapers or magazines or, at most, the Daily Bread, which everyone else reading everyday, so that we all have the share the same perception of reality bla bla bla.

My mom is another one that always discourage me from reading, learning, and thinking. Think about it: what kind of mom (in this case, faith-fellows) that discourages her son (in this case, another faith-fellow) who are making much use of his brain? Doesn't this forbidding gesture reminds anyone of the Magisterium in The Golden Compass? Human's mind should be encouraged to be utilized, productive, and performed by the Church! (Think Augustine of Hippo or Athanasius or Rowan Williams!)

And this is not my first time getting this nonsense from faith-fellows. I remembered visiting Wesley Methodist at Butterworth, Penang, where the preacher exhorted the congregation to "leave their rationality" at the door before coming into the church. He went on to said that the number one vice that prevents Christians from edification is "logical thinking". Hey preacher, you are shitting on the pulpit! These are the creatures that help Philip Pullman to sell his books.

Anyway, my point is this. The very next time whenever someone ask me to stop reading, learning, and thinking (or something along this line), I will just reply "That's why I frequent and drink at clubs a lot. Drinking coupled with dancing help to hasten the alcohol to kill brain cells."


The Inquisitor said...

At the same time, everyone is not given the same capacity for thought. It is not reason per se that is to be avoided, it is that reasoning, logical and rigorous thought may not be for everyone. Some are given to be street-smart and extremely practical, some are given to live in their ivory towers and wrestles with concepts. Are all able to operate with infinite dimensions? Is everyone able to grasp the intricacies of Einstein's Relativity? Or understand the game theoretic interpretation of social contract theories? As humans, we can only have specialized capacity of thought. The hubris of the enlightenment that tells everyone to dare to think is just silly. Not everyone is capable of such thought, or capable of such intellectual freedom. As The Grand Inquisitor of Dostoyevsky wisely observes, when the masses are crushed by the burden and weight of such freedom, they will come crawling to the Cardinals and say, enslave us but only feed us.

To force everyone to be able to think, to be able to reason on such technical matters is hubris and pride. Yes, there are Augustines and Thomas Aquinas, but the rest of Christendom are your normal humble peasants, who will be confused and bewildered if crush by too much information of cheemalogy.

I think you have to recognize your own limits to speculative theoreticizing. For example, I believe if you want to get into the Calvin's epistemological issue, reading Plantinga and contemporary analytic philosophers is a must. But then again, they write their articles in such a horribly technical manner that even I am put off. Otherwise, to attempt to give a lay critique would show yourself to be misunderstanding the issue.

Just do not bite off more than you can chew yar?

Anonymous said...

Wesley Methodist? Strange that you mentioned it, but I think you can pray for the poor pastor fellow's health - that is, if you logical types believe in prayer.

Or is prayer to you, irrationality?

Little bird from Butterworth, Penang.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi inquisitor,

There are two groups of people in view here. First one are those who are intellectually inclined. The second are those you called 'peasants'.

From the stand point of view in the first group, i totally agree with you that we should recognize the diversity among Christians. Yet one thing that i dont want to miss is the intellectual imperative to all Christians who are able (Roms 12.1-2). We can do our best to encourage and educate, but we cannot force people to like this kind of intellectual stuffs if they are not keen.

The 'peasant' group are more prevalent among Christians. Yet they do not have excuse not to engage intellectually, based on Roms 12 and the 'love God with all ur heart, MIND, soul etc' commission.

My problem is this. Me, being in the first group, never discourage the peasants in the second group to become the first group. But i faced peasants from the second group who are endlessly discouraging me from my inclination. To be consistent, the peasants also need to realize the diversity within the body of Christ, which me and you already acknowledged.

In other words, universally and scripturally it has been agreed that humans who are able should be encouraged to continue develop themselves in their mind etc. For someone who come along to discourage someone else from such development is not only go against the Scripture but also against universal aspiration and value.

P/s: I see the aspiration to develop oneself as an universal value where people across culture and time cherish.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi little bird,

I believe in prayer as much as I believe in action.

The pastor is sick, he needs 2 things: prayers and doctors.

And i dont think prayer is irrational since I am convinced that God and Christ and the Holy Spirit are real.

Send my regards to the pastor, if you know him personally.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps there is wisdom in your friends' advise. I am sure they did not mean to tell you to completely give up ur intellectual pursuits. They probably thought you should take a step back for now.

There is a time for everything as the author of Ecclesiastes wisely put it.

To accuse them of saying u should shut off your brain, to suit yourself to others, as you have implied in your post is groundless and irresponsible at best, prideful and uncharitable at worst.

Maybe you should take heed of the things people have been saying to u lately. If it was just one person saying all this then it could be groundless, but if many around you that cares for you starts to feel the same way about you going astray, then perhaps there is some truth to it and you should humble yourself and reflect about it. No one is perfect.

We all have our blindspots, and it takes fellowship to pick them out, however uncomfortable that may be.

May the Lord break and restore you.

Sze Zeng said...

Dear Anonymous,

First of all, I know deeply that my friends care for me. Everyone of them are the greatest gifts from God. I value and cherish their friendships very much.

Secondly, my post is responding to the general critics which is not only among my friends but to all those who criticize in that way.

Thirdly, I dont see any problem at all with friend disagreeing with friends.

To illustrate further, I have no problem with people disagreeing with my point. I am reacting because I don't think people have the right to impose their own imperative on to others especially when that others are not doing any harm to themselves or to anyone else. The only time that such imposition is allowed is only when the person is suicidal or dwelling in destructive behaviour. For eg. the only time when such remarks 'you shouldn't think so much' only applies in situation when someone is contemplating suicide.

There is no VALID reason for people to impose such remarks to those who are being constructive in their pursue. You can't said to Francis Fukuyama to stop thinking nonsense when you disagree with his idea. The best and the only thing for you is to walk out from the auditorium. Unless Fukuyama is contemplating suicide, then it is VALID for you to ask him to stop dwelling in such thoughts.

My critique towards such attitude is directed against their VALIDITY. Are their remarks such as 'you shouldn't pursuing so much on such matter' valid, when the person is not pursuing something destructive? It is not. If they disagree, they should disagree with my ideas, not with my non-destructive pursuit.

enn@j said...

hi sze zeng,

How r u? I feel I should drop you a line here in this particular post of yours :)

I understand your frustration on getting endless comments from others to ask you to stop thinking so much and do something else. I mean I believe your intentions are right and pure and in itself, there is nothing wrong with that

I'm sure your friends never meant it in a way to insult your intelligience but perhaps, could it be your way of persistent approach that may have agitated some? (as we are all different)

Great thinkers, especially christian ones which have left mark in this world, I believe have their thinking guarded with much Love & Wisdom. When to think out loud, when to withold a thought and when to allow others to speak their criticism yet remain calm. Thinking, IMHO, is not just about the's also about the heart.

Ultimately, Jesus was a great thinker but what was his character like that was more important? How did He make others stop and listen to Him? :)

Take care brother...I believe in your mind. I think God is trying to shape your character to match your great mind. So that hand in hand, you can go further than just having a thinking mind

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Joanne,

I'm fine here. How about yourself?

No, I don't think they insult my intelligence. No friends really do that. But for someone who come along to discourage someone else from such development is not only go against the Scripture but also against universal aspiration and value.

What Jesus said:

Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering. (Luke 11.52)

Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. (Luke 10.13-14)

woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.(Mark 14.21)

Jesus is a very complicated person, so i think it is quite difficult to apply the WWJD pattern here :)