Random musings on several things.

30 04 2007

Sorry I’ve been so lax about posting lately, classes are getting hectic, since this is the last week before reading period.  I don’t have a lot of time to be writing things that arn’t for class, and I hate the idea of writing junk just so I have something to post.  Hopefully I’ll have more interesting things to say later this week.  🙂  

One of my closest friends at college is a lapsed Catholic, religion major. He’s wonderful to talk to about religion (for me at least) because we can talk about it on both a personal “I believe this” level, and on an academic, intellectual level. 

We had a really interesting discussion the other day prompted by this video:

Ok, yes, it’s sort of going for cheap jokes, but it brings up a good point.  Yes, the are plenty of horrible, evil things in the world, and we can think about that, and wish it weren’t so all day long.  However, as Larry said “We’ve decided that they can’t hurt each other with just their thoughts.”  There are evils that could exist, but don’t.  A line was drawn somewhere, and yes, it could have been further along, but it could also have allowed so much more.  As another one of my friends (who, rather impressively wants to be a pediatric oncologist) put it, if we want to be able to live and grow, we need cells that divide, and with that, sometimes we will have cells that don’t know when to stop dividing.  Cancer is the price we pay for being alive, and being able to grow.  Evil, people making bad choices, is the price we pay to be able to make any choices.  Yes, it is horrible that people kill other people, but better that than we have been created without any empathy, better that than we be created unable to love and care about others.  I’m not going to go so far as to say, as Candide did, that all things are for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds, but things are not always for the worst.  We have the power to make things better, to improve our situation, even the things that seem so clearly to be “Acts of G-d.”  We can now build buildings that will stay up in major earthquakes, earthquakes that used to, and in some parts of the world still do, flatten whole cities.  We can treat cancer, we can vaccinate children against childhood illnesses.  It’s now the norm, the vast vast majority of children will reach adulthood.  Our concern is no longer will our children live, it’s how to give them the best education.  How amazing is that?  We are fixing the world, not quickly, no, and we have a long way to go, but when you look back and see how far we’ve come?  It’s an amazing journey.  True evil would be if we couldn’t do that.  This world is not inherently evil, not by a long shot.  It’s not perfect, but it is far from evil. 

I also talked to another person who asked me why I know so much about different religions.  Honestly, it was never really something I considered, but it is perhaps an odd thing to know about.  Having a reasonably deep and broad knowledge of various religions is certainly unusual.  Having thought about it, I’ve realized that at the root, religion is people at their most basic, at the deepest level.  It is what people hold dearest about the world, and what they believe most strongly.  Atheist, agnostic, or religious, whatever you choose to believe, you are playing for the highest possible stakes.  What motivates people on that level fascinates me.  What people believe, why they believe it, what they do because of those beliefs.  Especially at a time when people with increasingly radical beliefs are gaining more and more power, understanding where they are coming from matters.  If we can’t see what is  similar between their believes and our own, we can’t hope to communicate with them, we can’t hope to change things, and to change their perspective.  What could matter more than that? Religion is about what makes us the most human.  How can anyone not be interested by the fact that the 4 largest theistic religions currently being practiced are all (internally) monotheistic, that almost every culture has some flood story.  So cool. 

In an only slightly related subject, I saw a really wonderful production of King Lear the other night.  It was Lear as the deconstruction of the American Dream.  Brilliantly staged, a fascinating, and intelligible interpretation of the text, and some wonderful performances by the actors.  Shakespeare really did an amazing job of writing stories that speak to all of us, in whatever context they are placed in.  What a genius.

And now for some shameless bragging(Feel free to stop reading here): I had my voice jury for lessons.  Basically, it’s where you stand up in front of all the secondary lesson teachers, and sing for them, and they judge you and decide if you’re good enough to continue taking lessons.  It’s not that big a deal for secondary lessons, since if you’re making any sort of progress at all, you’ll get lessons, and my teacher doesn’t care about the jury for our grade, but it’s still nerve wracking for me since I hate performing, and having people judging me makes it that much worse.  Anyway, this year was the first time I’ve really felt that I did well at my jury. I came out of it feeling like I had done my best, and that I was happy with how I had done, regardless of what the jury sheets said.  Well, the good news is that I got my jury sheets back, and they were so incredibly flattering it was almost embarrassing to sit there while my teacher went over them.  The head of the voice dept at the conservatory (one of the top ranked music schools in the country) said I lovely clean voice, and that this semester showed I’d done “Fine work!!” (as my teacher pointed out, with TWO exclamation points!  TWO!! EEEE!!)  Anyway, it’s really exciting, since for the first time I really believe that I am actually talented at singing, rather than just having it be something I enjoy, but am not that good at.  🙂  Finally, years of work are really paying off.  Yay! 

Anyway, have a good week, and I’ll try to post a bit more regularly. 

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