- Discursive – Not always straightforward; truth between the forms:
Many essays and reviews read like recipes on how to bake a cake. The goal here in some of these reviews is to try to dig deeper then what it just presented in the movie on the surface and to explore its implications, historical meanings, and philosophies in such a way as to use the movie as a jumping off place to talk about other things. Would you be offended if you came here to bake a cake but wound up enjoying a well-cooked steak? I hope you aren’t.
- Organic – Allow creativity to flow in its own natural direction:
Some writers/bloggers are still trapped in High School English class. Somewhere in the back of their minds there is surely a teacher tapping a ruler on their desk, insisting that they ‘stay on track and stay structural’. There is a time and place for that. But for now – lets leave all that for another time and place. Some of the best writing comes from the flow of the writer’s own innate creativity – their “writer’s voice” as it has been called. The best way to stifle that voice is to muffle it with an agenda and a structure – out of which it cannot go and must not speak. The goal of these reviews is to allow for maximum felicity in creativity and form.
- Pedagogical – Possessive of the Power to Teach:
It is the goal of these reviews to sometimes entice you into putting your thinking cap on. There is enough pablum elsewhere. I don’t want to contribute to any more if it; the goal being – that rather then just going though a quick run of the mill rambling wine-review-like review – these actually make you think. I once had an organic chemistry teacher who was often heard to make the assertion that ‘if you are not confused – you are not learning’. Sometimes – before knowledge can be grasped, understanding must be lost. I was often confused in that class – but I passed it, and I was much smarter for my confusion in the end. Some of what you read here will make you think. Too much of what we read today is facile and flimsy. This stuff might take time to work though – but it is written with the goal of getting you to the end – and with a deeper, more complex understanding of the topic or ideas presented. Sometimes that comes easy. But more often then not – it just takes some mental elbow grease;)
- Dialectical – Not afraid of opposites:
(Wait – did you read the first sentence of number 3? If not, read that – and then come back here.) The word ‘dialectic’ has meant several different things throughout the history of philosophy. In classic philosophy, it means the artistry and passion involved in asking questions and investigating the truth and accuracy of presuppositions and assertions. How can we know that something is true? How can we know that the questions that we are using to get to truth are effective? These are elements of the classical dialectical thinking. A fellow by the name of G.F.W. Hegel reinvigorated this definition when he argued for a Weltgeist or world spirit: what one should speak of when speaking of ‘truth’ as is revealed by history – to man. Hegel argued that the most important advances come from the collision of opposites (‘thesis’ intersecting ‘antithesis’) and that from this resultant conflict something new arose called a ‘synthesis’. This thinking impacted many theologians and an entire ‘dialectical theological tradition’ arose from Hegel’s influence. Of more recent vintage, a fellow by the name of Jacque Ellul made a slight innovation on Hegel’s dialectic – arguing that the thesis and antithesis did not always mutually resolve into a resultant synthesis – but sometimes, potentially retained their unique ontological-teleological identities – but that the full truth of their respective ‘truths’ could only find its full expression when held in tension with its corresponding opposite. If Hegel’s dialectic is ‘synthetic’ then Ellul’s is ‘tensive’ as the tension between the two is never teleologically resolved – but remains in place as a mutually referential self-identifier for each respective thesis/antithesis. Again – this idea has been very influential – especially in Christian theology. Think Sin/Grace & and concepts of Love/Justice; in most main-stream (especially evangelical thought) a mature understanding of these ideas can only be apprehended when it’s opposite is also understood to also be true. For instance – some churches are essentially ‘antinomian’ (against the law) and they essentially have no rules – they teach love and open acceptance of everything and allow for virtually any kind of behavior, and in extreme examples disallow the concepts of sin and even repentance. This ‘love Gospel’ as it is called is a kind of inverse legalism. Many churches err on the opposite side and constantly preach hellfire and damnation to themselves and consider everyone else to already be completely and forever lost. They revel in endless legalisms and prohibitions – God is angry and ready to damn you to hell at and instant. Both of these extremes represent two sides of the same coin – but with each side denying the actual existence of the other – and like a plane that has lost a wing, mid-flight – they can’t fly. And there you essentially have it. If a hunter shoots a bird in one of its wings and it can no longer fly- the hunter will soon have its quarry – as a bird can no longer fly with only one useful wing. Many obtuse and unbiblical theologies resolve into this same kind of ontological self-injuring; whereby they deny the necessary complementary opposite. It has been said in a different way – ‘that love without the truth is too soft and the truth without love is too hard; this proverbial aphorism is rooted in this same understanding: some ideas need each other to be fully understood. It is the goal of these reviews to at times represent all of these forms of the dialectic; to ask questions about our own capacity of self-knowledge and the ways of getting there and how some of that truth involves the necessary intersects and collisions – both at times tensive and at others, synthetic – of truth.
- Propositional – I’m here to say something:
I once had a ‘shareware’ computer program that I had downloaded from a bulletin board in the early days of the internet; it ran off of the now ancient 8.5 mac operating system ‘back in the day’. The name of the application was “Kant Generator” and it was the brainchild of one seriously bored dude. But what it did was quite simply amazing. The ‘Kant’ in “Kant Generator” is Emmanual Kant, the German philosopher, now recognized as one of the main fathers of ‘modern’ philosophy. You can’t take a philosophy class without touching on Kant in some regard. As widespread as his influence is – likewise as seemly impenetrable can his writings often be found to be – especially for first year philosophy students just starting to cut their teeth on some of the great works of philosophy. The fellow who wrote the program – was no doubt an accomplished-to-some degree philosophy student – or perhaps a student who was just in fact mad at having had to make so great an effort whereas to actually wrap his or her head around Kant’s philosophical ruminations. The programmer had taken much of Kant’s language and many of the more obscure and technical terms that decorate his language – and created an algorithm that followed certain linguistic-grammatic delineations and rules. Essentially – the computer program put together Kant-like sentences of verbose Kantian verbiage in such as way whereas to seem to say something – when in fact they absolutely did not. An unsuspecting reader might actually spend a few minutes trying to understand something – that was not actually ever even created to be understandable to begin with. It was crypto-gibberish – disguised as eloquent, highbrow philosophy-talk. One was constantly tempted to think – this must mean something – but if you had actually created it with Kant Generator – then you would have to remind yourself that you had actually created nothing with a plethora of 10 dollar words that did not add up to a dime. What I (and other writers, potentially) have committed to this space did not come from a Kant Generator. The attempt to say something worth arguing for was carefully thought out in detailed and analytical fashion – there is something here, I promise. As dense as it might be – there are claims to be made and points to be defended – and I will have tried my best to argue for something that even if you don’t necessarily agree with me – you will see the virtue in the effort to stand for something and to argue for the objective truth of a claim that I have been bold to make. Follow me down…it may take a while and a distance – but I’ve got somewhere that I want to take you and something that I want to try to show you…
- Substantive – No fluff allowed:
All of the aspects of these points are meaningless if they are not actually saying something meaningful. Something can be propositional (as discussed in the previous point) but be (essentially) a pointless assertion. That most trees are green doesn’t carry any substantive weight. Many people who are no doubt scholars expend vast amounts of their time committing verbiage to paper that is chocked full of advanced philosophical ruminations that is all ultimately tantamount to asking how many angels can dance on a pin? It might be that many people who read this might think that I and other contributors are guilty of doing a lot of nonsubstantive ruminating about pointless things and more or less asking these same kind of questions. So be it. But the stated goal is to mark down a path that leads to significant destinations for the engaged reader – and if anybody is willing to take the time to invest in the process – there is a reward to be had. I admit that for better or worse I live to write and write to live but I am committed to engaging in substantive issues that have impact. This isn’t a fast food review. There is something here – if you have not found it – you aren’t looking hard enough.
- Analytic – In praise of Complexity:
“Clarity and complexity are not antagonists, but rather allies. The pursuit of clarity churns up unexpected complexity, but it can be tamed by the further pursuit of further clarity.”
– Rebecca Newberger Goldstein(nuff said)
- Engaging – tackling tough issues:
A warning might be in order here: there is a distinct possibility that you might read something here that offends you. The goal here is not to tickle your ears, but to engage your mind and heart – and that always entails a risk. I’m quite willing to do that. I have asked all contributors to also be bold in this regard. Writing fearlessly does not mean to engage a topic recklessly. But it does mean that you will cross boundaries and transgress certain sensibilities that might unsettle certain readers. So be it. I once worked with a minister whose primary objective in most of his sermons was to intially offend his audience at the beginning of each sermon – and then to thread the narrow gate that was opened up in that action; to hold his audiences attention and get a point across but then also not push them past the point of offense whereby they would close their ears, hearts and minds to his further words altogether. Some people had no gate to give – and they were lost to the discourse right off the bat – but such is not the case with everybody sitting in every church pew. He knew this – and worked that often opened gate to its maximum profitability and he was subsequently able to take many of his parishioners to depths of emotional sincerely and teaching intricacy that other ministers who never took such a bold stance were ever able to engage their those who were listing in. There is a potential risk and price to such a kind of engagement. I and others have tried to write boldly and fearlessly here. But all that is useless if you can’t open your own mind and heart to the topics (as complex and nuanced as they might be) that I and others are trying to broach. Its ok to get mad – maybe even offended. But give me just an inch of your attention. I can get a lot through that space. I promise to take responsible advantage of how ever open a gate you can give me – regardless of how much you and I may differ on whatever. Engage me. I first made an attempt to engage you.
- Vulnerable – Open to possibilities and correction:
Many authors write with either an arrogance or a timidity; they run through an essay with what they have to say like a battering ram – or they avoid saying almost anything at all. Both of these are extremes and representational of invulnerable writing. Good writing – especially good essay writing means taking a chance in the exploration that you engage in. It means going beyond your own comfort zone and asking a reader to follow you. There is a chance in that – but there is a greater chance that what you will write and the reader will read will have an impact. A friend of mine recently read a book from an author regarding a certain theological subject that he did not agree with – but he read it (vulnerably) anyway. In the end, he said that while he could not agree with the conclusions, nor the methods involved in the writer’s arguments, the book made him “think, pray, and hurt – just what a good book should do.” Before you can read a book like that – an author has to write it; and being vulnerable on their part is an integral part of that process.
- Diverse – Getting out of the box altogether:
None of these ten points mean anything if everything that follows just goes down the same old paths to the same old places. If you came here once and then came back again – chances are you returned because you found something different here; and that is – after all – the stated goal of these reviews; to innovate and expand that traditional movie review. Have we succeeded? I think however far we have come with this – we are surely just getting started.