Thursday, December 30, 2010

Engagement post (Facebook redux).

This is long-overdue, I realize. But I figured the Facebook version was largely sufficient for informing our general circle of our engagement; this post (like all of my posts, really) is, on the whole, for posterity (until the computing cloud collapses, of course. Then I'll just have my Microsoft Word archive copy).

So one weekend in October, Daniel told me we were going on three dates (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). I had a little inkling of what this meant, and admired his ingenuity. Friday night, we had Thai in Coronado, and Saturday morning, we helped with distribution and cleaning up the children's room at church. Then picked up lunch and headed out to La Jolla. I was in a somewhat dour mood, having had a much larger than usual pile of newspaper articles to plow through before we could leave, and being just generally unable to relax and enjoy myself. Even the coffee we got didn't do much to alleviate my moodiness. But I gave it my best shot, and soon I didn't have to try to fake it.

We tiptoed among the tidepools. I was dressed like a Scottish highlander, so Daniel gallantly held my purse.

Last picture before we got engaged!

First picture after we got engaged!

Daniel proposed in quite possibly the most low-key way ever, rolling over next to me on our blanket in the park after our picnic lunch and grinning, "So . . . will you marry me?" Instantly, my moodiness drained away, and a flash of some of the most intense happiness I've ever felt replaced it. It was a little unreal, and it lasted for weeks. I can still channel some of the glow I felt.

Daniel, sweetheart that he is, had scouted out the area and found an alley where we could finagle some self-timed shots.

We're both wearing rings (Daniel's here was temporary; his real one came a couple of weeks later). We had previously discussed the diamond issue at length before deciding we felt most comfortable with something else, and so we found a white sapphire seller on Etsy that satisfied our ethical, economic, and aesthetic concerns. The final choice was Daniel's, and I think he did quite a good job:)

Our day was, adorably, a recreation of our first date, and we ended it at the first restaurant we ever went to together, a little Italian place in La Jolla. We spent the rest of the night making ecstatic phone calls and celebrating with our friends at a little party back at my apartment. It was fairly wonderful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Life grab bag [August to October].

A lot happened in the end of summer and first half of the semester, but here's what I've got pictures of.

Daniel and I went on a lovely date in Balboa during the summer, stopping by to peer in the telescopes of the weekly astronomy group that meets among the museums Wednesday nights.

The twins came to campus for their seventeenth birthdays. We hit the town and had dinner at Sushi Deli.

I think it was the first time at a sushi restaurant for all three of them. Best. miso soup. ever.

We did some hardcore thrift store shopping and also had a pleasant lunch at Con Pane the next day.

For Constitution Day, Daniel and three other debaters formed a panel and held an audience-friendly debate on the issues surrounding immigration law. Daniel was surprisingly witty and comfortable in front of a large group. I deeply enjoyed it, but I also think Constitution Day is one of the best days of the year, regardless of its state compulsion.

On Free Museum Day (a Smithsonian production, I think), we printed tickets for both the Natural History Museum and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. Mac and Daniel gleefully explored the hands-on exhibits.

We spent some quality time in the wood block building area.

Angelica and her friends constructed edifices as well.

The optical illusion section. The Natural History Museum's gemstone exhibit was by far my favorite part of the day, but pictures were not allowed, so the brilliance of the sapphires, amethysts, diamonds, opals, and precious stones I've never heard of will have to be imagined floating in my head in this picture.

Daniel has a knack for finding periscopes.

My advisor asked some literature students to participate in a music/poetry night held by music department faculty in October, and I gladly agreed. I drafted a short introduction to William Blake and read a couple of his poems as a preface to art songs of his works. I'm not on stage very often, so that look on my face is a little excitement and mostly relief at having dispatched my duty adequately.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day 9: Home by way of the 1 (and 101, and 60, and 215...).

After maybe four hours of sleep, we rose at 6 and departed within a half-hour. We stopped in Santa Cruz and Monterey, catching coffee at the little bagel place we had visited the summer before on our first road trip together.

Our plan the summer before to take the 1 up the coast had been derailed when some maintenance issues set us back. This time, though, we were determined to make the drive.

And of course it was totally worth it. Click on this panorama to get an idea of the scope of the view.

We tried to stop whenever we could. There was some traffic and construction, but it still flowed pretty well.


We traded [awkward] pictures with another couple.

Daniel being coy.

We stopped for sandwiches in Cambria and asiago cheese bread in San Luis Obispo. The bread turned out to be one of the best parts of the day. I'm not even kidding. It was delicious and wonderful and we definitely ate the entire loaf for dinner.

Daniel drove and ate the bread and I took pictures of the bread. Barbara and Ciera, taking the eight-hour route, called us for a Lady Gaga dance party via phone when they were in San Diego County and we were just leaving SLO. Daniel and I started to flag once we hit LA, and by the time we neared Fallbrook, at hour fourteen, we were pretty punchy. But it had been a really good nine days—desert, mountains, forests, wine country, cities, beaches. And asiago cheese bread.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Scientists as Theologians by John Polkinghorne.

In my ongoing effort to look like I know what I'm talking about with a minimal amount of commitment, I checked out the shortest book in the library by a man visiting campus for our lecture series next month. John Polkinghorne is a physicist turned Anglican priest who stands in the space of tension between science and theology. I care about very few things more than this very intersection. I think it's this borderline obsession that saves me from intellectual hipsterdom. Here, anyways.

My cheat sheet of compelling ideas:

Polkinghorne describes the failure of the Enlightenment project in terms of good-enoughness:
We have to stick our necks out if we are to be able to see anything. The Cartesian and Enlightenment programme of the search for clear and certain ideas as the basis for unshakeable knowledge has simply proved to be a failure. It would have been nice if it could have succeeded, but we have discovered painfully that it has not. I am sufficiently postmodern to recognize that this is the case.

This acknowledgement, however, does not lead me to intellectual despair, for my second observation is that our minds are so constituted, and we live in a world itself so constituted, that intellectual daring in the pursuit of a strategy of cautious circularity proves capable of yielding reliable knowledge. I say that not because the world had to be that way, but because, as a matter of contingent fact, it has proved to be so. The defence of critical realism depends upon an appeal to historical experience rather than to metaphysical necessity. We do appear able to gain knowledge of what is the case. (16)
Pardon the extended extract, but my science-theology fixation extends to epistemology, and I often find it hard to function intellectually because I get struck by these moments of existential-postmodern despair, often right in the middle of class, and this often because I'm thinking through a response I never actually say out loud because I've been sucked into the "but how do we know that Heathcliff represents intuition and Linton represents socially constructed culture? Isn't that an anachronistic application that cannot apply to the meaning of the text because Brontë could never have attempted such? Aren't you presupposing a Platonic ideal? How can we assert a transcendent meaning without first establishing a philosophy of the human? What are you even talking about? What am I talking about? How can we ever say anything about anything?" (There are more steps in a brain rant like this, but I'll spare you.)

Polkinghorne locates his own philosophy of the human in the very striving for the transcendent that humans exhibit. Suicide, sadness, and a protest of death are, in Peter Berger's phrase, "signals of transcendence," bespeaking what Polkinghorne calls "that dimension of openness to something beyond us which I have called spiritual, and which carries in the midst of time a hint of eternity" (26). Polkinghorne links this to the emerging perception of the universe developing throughout the twentieth century, the viewing of the world "in terms of dynamic becoming rather than static being. . . . The God of the Bible is One who is active in and through the unfolding drama of history" (27).

Polkinghorne also attempts a deft working-out of the implications of chaos theory and the manner in which a non-deterministic universe at the atomic level can be understood to be non-deterministic at the macroscopic level as well: "Chaotic systems are not totally disorderly; their future is contained within the confines of possibility" (35).

The manner in which God can be understood to be involved in creation, on Polkinghorne's view, has much to do with the actual existence of the universe. The why does anything exist, the Hawking "What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?" must be answered this way: "The central concept of the doctrine of creation is divine ordaining and sustaining, not divine initiation" (44):
A concept of central importance in relation to an evolutionary world is that of creatio continuua, continuing creation. . . . One could summarize the theological significance of an evolutionary universe as its being a world allowed by its Creator to make itself. Doubtless, God could have produced a ready-made world, but he has done something cleverer than that in allowing creation's history to be the exploration and realization of its God-given fruitfulness. (44-45)
Theodicy has much to gain from the scientists, Polkinghorne argues. Suffering is a necessary contingency of divine openness: "Exactly the same biochemical processes that allow cells to mutate and produce new forms of life will allow other cells to mutate and become malignant. . . . The happenstance of the world can be extremely painful and diminishing, but it is at least delivered from being seen as the express imposition of the divine will" (48).

Polkinghorne continually affirms the deity of Jesus Christ, asserting, "However mysterious and difficult to articulate . . . it seems to me that an indispensable Christian insight is that in Christ the Creator actually shared in the travail of his creation" (70).

He ascribes to the early Christians an almost scientific approach to understanding the person of Jesus: "It is important that early Christian thinking on the natures of Christ arose in the context of a struggle with experience, and not as the result of some unbridled metaphysical speculation. All the scientist-theologians are concerned with a Christology 'from below,' building on the evidence. I believe that a strong incarnational Christology is the best attempt to make sense of the data of Jesus' life and death and resurrection, and the Church's experience of him" (71).

And though our modern secular reasoning cannot countenance the full humanity and full divinity of the Christ, the early Christians' conclusions can still be seen as worthy interpretations of reality: "Divine and human natures in one person, and the coinherence of humanity in Christ, are mysterious ideas, uncongenial to the secular twentieth-century mind. They have arisen in Christian thinking, not from an obscurantist urge to mystify, nor from a fanciful propensity to speculation, but from the struggle to do justice to actual Christian experience" (73).

Polkinghorne gives evidence for the historicity of the Gospels, including one of my favorite arguments: "[I]f the tale were concocted, then why, in the male-dominated ancient world, were women assigned the leading role?" (76).

He also solves, or at least provides an explanation for, a dilemma regarding the bodily resurrection of the saints first brought to my attention by Daniel's math/chemistry major roommate: "[H]e regards it as problematic what will happen to us because that atoms of our corpses will disperse with time. It is difficult to see where the problem lies, since we all recognize that there is nothing specifically significant about those individual atoms. After all, they are changing all the while in the course of our lives. It is the pattern that is me that will be re-created by God in the new environment brought about by his eschatological act of general resurrection. We shall be resurrected, not reassembled" (77-78). Amen.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 8: From Mammoth to Sacramento, and a summer Winters wedding.

We left Daniel's parents and brothers in Mammoth early Saturday to make the journey to the wedding of our friends Jeff and Angela. We paused by Mono Lake for a little breather before the long haul.

Daniel let me drive stick for a while under his careful guidance. I felt bad that I couldn't shoulder more of the driving on this trip, but me driving stick was way more tiring for both of us than having Daniel behind the wheel for most of it.

We passed through Lake Tahoe and through untold miles of mountain roads. It was a long drive. There were a lot of trees. I realized how citified I've become. I used to spend whole summers in the mountains and leave wanting more, but one week in the wilderness now made me crave buildings, cityscapes, people. I started snapping pictures of the edge of Sacramento as soon as we passed Placerville, out of sheer joy. Metropolitan living has ruined me for rural life.

Of course, once we hit the city I wanted nothing more than a cup of coffee. We drove through downtown Sacramento, passed the Capitol building, and found this charming place courtesy of mobile Yelp.

Urban life tastes like dark coffee in a white ceramic cup.

Daniel and I changed quickly in the car on a dirt road among wineries (not recommended) and made it to the county park where the wedding was to be held in plenty of time. Barbara was bridesmaided and ready to go.

We grabbed some votive beeswax candles and helped with the finishing touches on the setup

Barbara had had a total of one hour of sleep the night before, so that she could finish knitting the groomsmen's ties. Best. bridesmaid. ever.

Angela and her father walking down the aisle.

Husband and wife. Daniel and I had spent many stimulating evenings with Angela and Jeff as part of a reading group Angela held in anticipation of theologian William Cavanaugh's visit to campus last semester. We were glad to be able to celebrate this next stage in their lives with them.

My dapper wedding date.

Daniel tested the photo booth that Ciera ran.

Seven hours in a car does beautiful things to your hair.

Daniel and I sat at the debate table, here with Ciera and Kim, waiting for our turn at the carne asada spread.

We danced under the stars. This is my "Oh look! You have a camera!" face.

All danced out.

We saw the couple off to their Duke University grad school adventures in theology, and headed up to Barbara's house for a couple of hours of sleep.