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Pondering the South African Memesphere – Looking for the Good in Everything

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Repent! Repent! No, not you, me!

December 29th, 2007 · Posted by Hugo · 5 Comments

Hehe, surprising how much fun it is to shout “Repent! Repent!”, like a manic street preacher. At least Johan Swarts claims there’s one difference between bloggers like me and a manic street preacher: some people supposedly listen to me? (Apologies to Johan — and Leon — for having grown up English, educationally speaking. My home language and mother tongue remains Afrikaans, but when I need to communicate “seriously”, the fact that my entire school education was in English as a result of living in The Netherlands during my formative years, I resort to English. In order to rationalise this, I usually claim I have an international audience. ;) )

There is one thing a street-corner preacher (blogger) really ought to keep in mind, but never does: before you try to help your brother with the splinter in his eye, it might be a good idea to first check for beams in your own… (it is written…)

(Note: this post is somewhat self-centred. Originally I intended to write it on my birthday, 24 December, as that could serve as an excuse for this self-centredness. Oh well, too late now. Or otherwise way too early, but this cannot wait that long.)

So what does “repent” mean? I have heard, in church, that it could be translated to “rethink”. According to that wonderful scholarly source (intended somewhat ironically):

In the New Testament, the word translated as ‘repentance’ is the Greek word μετάνοια (metanoia), “after/behind one’s mind”, which is a compound word of the preposition ‘meta’ (after, with), and the verb ‘noeo’ (to perceive, to think, the result of perceiving or observing). In this compound word the preposition combines the two meanings of time and change, which may be denoted by ‘after’ and ‘different'; so that the whole compound means: ‘to think differently after’. Metanoia is therefore primarily an after-thought, different from the former thought; a change of mind accompanied by regret and change of conduct, “change of mind and heart”, or, “change of consciousness”. One of the key descriptions of repentance in the New Testament is the parable of the prodigal son found in the Gospel of Luke 15 beginning at verse 11.

That sounds good. As such, Repent! Repent! is accurate enough for this blog post. (I have not read more of the article than just the intro, as I was just looking for confirmation for the idea of repentance I already have in my mind.)

So… what do I have to repent about? What do I have to rethink? Many things, of course. I think I will use the comments on this post for further ideas as they cross my mind, but for now, these are the most significant “sins” on my mind:

Hypocrisy

In Homosexuality and Broken Families, I made the following statement:

Or I can sit back, throw my hands in the air and just call you hypocrites. What would be the most effective course of action? (And yes, I’m also a hypocrite. Please point out my hypocrisy to me, as you might be able to see it more easily than I.)

Since then, I’ve been pondering my own hypocrisy. I knew it was somewhere, I just wasn’t sure where, at the time. Some comments from a couple of friends, and an automatically-moderated comment from someone I don’t know, helped me find an answer. I don’t know if this hypocrisy was excessively public, but it existed/exists.

I get very frustrated when people talk about things they know nothing about. I accused Richard Dawkins of writing about something he does not really understand. That very accusation is hypocritical, as I have not yet read any of his books. I’m basing my judgement of what he understands and what he does not understand on other people’s reviews of his books, the Richard Dawkins video clips I’ve watched, and the odd Richard Dawkins article I read.

While I think we inevitably have to rely on some third-hand knowledge to survive in this life, the problem here is less the case of me having an insufficiently informed opinion than it is a case of hypocritically lambasting others for insufficiently informed opinions.

Now this is not an excuse, this is me looking to the future: the reason I have been unable to read much, is the time-sink that was my thesis stress. (As all procrastinators know, more the worry and stress about the thesis than the thesis itself.) With that out of the way, it is time for me to start reading like a man possessed. ;) I have been stalling the commencement of my education in these matters, as I want to have tools in place to tag excerpts and to keep notes. I don’t want to get caught in yet another “now where did I read that again?” situation, where I have to re-read all my books because I didn’t keep adequate notes. Nearly there, nearly there…

Abusive “Speech”

Looking back at some of the stuff I wrote can make me cringe. Nevertheless, I’m still glad I did it. I did it selectively and intentionally, typically in an attempt to demonstrate a particular point. I didn’t mean for it to be directed at an individual. It is unfortunate if/when an individual takes something like that personally, so I tried my best to make amends afterwards. (Sometimes privately.)

I don’t think it likely that I will employ that level of verbal abuse again. It has served its purpose. It was an interesting experiment, possibly not the best course of action, but it seems it may have borne some fruit. I’d love to hear some feedback about it. For the foreseeable future, I must try my best to avoid letting my passion run away with my writing (and speaking, but there I’m never (?) abusive, as the time constraints in speech often make it impossible to carefully consider the level of abuse employed). I am busy shifting my gaze towards a new target audience that would likely be driven away by abusive speech and swearing (next section), so I need to adjust my writing-tactics accordingly.

By the way, I did draw some inspiration from “turning over the tables in the temple”. Hmm…

Swearing

Swearing is an interesting thing. The post-modernist I supposedly am, I care more about the intention behind the words, the ideas communicated by words, than the formal definitions. Words are employed too diversely. In some circles, “Jesus” is much more of a swearword than “fuck”. In these circles, using the word “Jesus” would cause the exact reaction that “fuck” could cause in other circles. So which is the swearword in such contexts? Some highly religious friends have started employing “hallelujah” in much the same manner as “secular” friends might employ swearwords, on the grounds that its “definition” supposedly makes it “acceptable”. From my cultural viewpoint, I consider the word-choice irrelevant, and consider certain usages of “hallelujah” to be identical to certain uses of “shit” or “fuck”, a perspective that could potentially consider such behaviour hypocritical.

I hope to do a post about swearing some time. It is not likely to happen too soon, as it requires some research — research into swearwords from centuries ago, research into different meanings of the same words in different languages or cultures, etcetera. I could write it off the top of my head, but I feel it won’t do the idea justice.

Nevertheless, I will continue to try my best to critically evaluate the necessity of my use of what my readership may deem “swearwords”, and attempt to do so only in cases where I feel it is a more efficient way to communicate the idea I’m trying to get across.

Modernistic Post-Modernism

Some of my recent comments about post-modernism (particularly in real-life) could possibly be labelled “fundamentalistic”, or worse, “modernistic”. ;-) I’m thinking I should be more careful about throwing “modernist” and “post-modernist” labels around. For all I know, I might even be misusing the labels in some cases. (My definition of “post-modernism” is simply recognising and avoiding some of the pitfalls and dangers of modernism.)

Another interesting thing about being post-modern: if you are trying to be post-modern, you are not post-modern. (The source of this idea was probably the post-modernism chapter of Adventures in Missing the Point, co-authored by Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo.) Calling yourself a “post-modernist” is in some ways similar to calling yourself “1337” — let other people do the name calling, don’t label yourself.

Throwing “modernism” and “post-modernism” around like I was prone to do, may at times have been an attempt at rapid communication and sharing of ideas. This is not conducive to accurate communication, as “we post-modernists” (lol) should know. Good communication requires shared contexts and healthy relationships. Good communication requires a time-investment beyond what is typically found in “single-serving culture”.

(At other times, I threw these labels around in a humorous sense, with my tongue firmly in my cheek. I hope people didn’t take me too seriously, or try putting on a shoe not designed for humans…)

Excessive Verbosity

The most embarrassing thing in the past thirty days, was a bout of excessive verbosity flowing from my fingers (tapping away at my keyboard). This verbosity was brought about by excessive stress and intense frustration with the state of humanity. This verbosity was me throwing my toys out of my cot, throwing a tantrum, and in the process, failing miserably at effective communication. In the process, I may have inadvertently burned some bridges I had hoped to use. Oops.

Some of you should know what I’m referring to. If you don’t, it does not matter (too embarrassing). This is just me flying some of my laundry, “putting it out there”. In the future, I will know to avoid attempts at communicating with people that don’t know me well, if I’m stressed and frustrated.

More

There was more, but I have forgotten what it was. Please feel free to point out things I missed. Thanks!

Categories: Personal
Tags: · · · ·

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Al Lovejoy // Dec 29, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Thinking aloud and taking the chance of making mistakes or worse still, being wrong – is far better than death, which is not thinking at all…

    Like it or not, life will impose its vagaries upon us and cause us not merely to re-think, but to change the very way we think, because that is what life does. What direction our thoughts lead our opinions next – is entirely our own prerogative. And that is our cerebral adventure.

    When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child…

    If each of our individual reasoning’s had lead us to consensual opinion, we would all live in a state of perfect harmony and never need to hone our clumsy semantics in an effort to exchange models and symbols, because we wouldn’t need to talk.

    Fuck jazz, war, Maltese poodles and mediocrity. The world will be a better place without them. And, let old acquaintance be forgot…

    Repent en praat Bliksem (moenie te erg eavesdrop nie)…en voorspoed v almal innie nuwe jaar.

  • 2 Hugo // Dec 29, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    I can agree with just about everything you say, except I’m taking a liking to jazz… ;-)

  • 3 Al Lovejoy // Dec 30, 2007 at 8:09 am

    Each to he own my bro’ver, each to he own…but dis nigga, yo ass may be askings? If it aint jazz, what it be my nigga?
    And I be saying to yo ass – Hey, Yo ass! Hey nigga! Listen up, cause dis badass nigga – he feel the blues. Yessir, Yo ass sir, …way down, ….down, ….down – James Brown down, where there aint no jazz nossir, right there he pull up a chair, and dis nigga – he feel the blues.

    Now my niggas, y’all have a good one inna ’08, feel me?

  • 4 Hugo // Dec 30, 2007 at 9:26 am

    /me tips his hat at you. Have a good one too!

  • 5 Hugo // Jan 1, 2008 at 11:15 am

    Another “sin” (hehe) that has me seriously worried, that someone pointed out to me recently…

    The journey my life has taken, now has me in a place where you can call me names, any names, and it won’t affect me. I’m free from labels, and believe I deflect any name calling with the ease of taking another breath. (OK, while running, breathing becomes a little more strained, but anyway.) In part, I am very grateful to good friends that called me “loser” as a term of endearment.

    The mistake I make is thinking that everyone else is also at that place already, just because I’m there. Or maybe I think they can get to that place by the same route I got there — playing with words in jest, to break down their meaning and remove their sting. But, it doesn’t work that way. Words spoken in jest can hurt people.

    The person that informed me of this “sin” of mine is someone I’ve been calling a “perfectionist”, and also toying with “obsessive-compulsive”. And I really don’t mean it, I know they are incorrect labels. The purpose was to help break through the label and realise “it does not matter”. These are in fact my labels, which I’m throwing around in a sense of irony, effectively consciously and intentionally “hypocritical”. It’s supposed to be “dramatic irony” — with the audience knowing, and the actor knowing, that it is a case of irony.

    While that is how I might perceive it, thinking everyone else experiences it the same way is ego-centric. It turns out this “perfectionist” label is sowing doubts and uncertainty, and causing serious mental anguish. For this I am very sorry, and I “repent” of this behaviour.

    I think further to other names I have called people. I keep calling one friend a “modernist”, I hope he took it well… Nevertheless, I will also refrain from doing so this year. What about labels people apply to themselves?

    I keep on calling one of my liberal atheistic friends an “atheist” when she does anything that might be considered “bad” by some (I’m not giving specific examples, as that might give away her identity without her approval). I also call her a “conservative” every time she has a moral, ethic, or sentiment that is supposedly less liberal than my views. Hehe… I’m sure she takes it well, she’s a strong one. But I’ll double check, just in case.

    I know there are other labels I have also thrown around, but I cannot pinpoint them exactly right now. (Some poor souls believe you have to specify every sin exactly, otherwise you will burn in hell… terrible, aint it? I think my sister recalls having that kind of stress placed on her shoulders when she was a young child. Not by parents, just “through the religious grapevine”. I remember hearing it as well, but I don’t recall specifically being stressed out about it. I did have some serious hell-related stress though, which I will share in more detail some other day. My mother tried to console me, explaining that if I feel that worried about hell, there’s no way I’ll end up in hell. It didn’t help though, because “I knew something she didn’t”, and couldn’t see how it would be possible for me to not end up in hell… Damn religious grapevine.)

    But I digress. I do invite you all to call me whatever names you like though. Bring it on! That should satisfy my need for messing with labels. ;-) Then again, that might get you into a habit of calling people names, leading to name-calling directed at people that don’t take it well. That’d be really bad. Ponder ponder… Hmm, so maybe scratch this idea then?

    (Hmm, now quote some Bible verse stating that it is bad to call people names… ;) There’s one that speaks of calling someone “raka” in the Afrikaans translation. For me, NP van Wyk Louw’s “verse epic” titled “Raka” did similar undermine-the-labels work for “raka”.)

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