Monday, December 3, 2012

An Unexpected Forum, 12/13/12

Today is the feast day of St. Francis Xavier, one of my favorite saints. So yay!

This post is actually about The Unexpected Forum, unlike the previous one, which merely contained my reaction to the news of said Unexpected Forum and various other drabble-y remarks about my day. This one will actually contain my reactions to said Unexpected Forum and my philosophical ramblings thereabout.


I was at forum every night. Do I get some sort of extra credit? No? Rats.

Dr. Brewton told us that the benefits of classes we hate now may only appear years, even decades later. I realize that. I know that, however horrible it may have been, taking speech is a good thing and it has improved my communication skills. It's also helped me be a little less nervous about getting up in front of people and talking. (I still zoomed through my speech on nuclear energy, though. I think I was so worried about going over the time limit my mouth went into overdrive and I finished up at just over 5 min.) As a bonus fact, I have really talked to a bunch of other people in that class, learned some names, and generally met people. As I am terrible about talking to people and meeting people, this is a big deal. Hanging out in Lafayette beforehand has certainly helped, too.

Dr. Brewton also told us that fulfillment doesn't necessarily come from a sucessful life and career. I understand that, too. We have to find the purpose for which we were created and brought into this life, our destiny (if that term can be used seriously anymore), and work towards that goal in order to find fulfillment.

Then Dr. Brewton went a little quote-happy with stuff by some Robert K. Greenleaf. Honestly, the first then I could think of when I saw that name on the PowerPoint was Legolas Greenleaf. *Insert completely pointless picture of Legolas here.*

This picture's actually from The Hobbit. If you'll notice, his clothes are different. Ahem. Anyway.
This imposter Greenleaf guy wrote about the mid-life search for meaning and described servant-leadership. I'm not going to rehash the talk about leadership, and instead I'll just post the best definition of leadership I've ever run across:
"Do you understand what I just did for you? You address Me as 'Teacher' and 'Lord', and fittingly enough, for that is what I am. But if I washed your feet- I Who am Teacher and Lord - then you must wash each other's feet. What I just did was to give you an example: as I have done, so you must do. I solemnly assure you, no slave is greater than his master; no messenger outranks the one who sent him. Once you know all these things, blest will you be if you put them into practice." -- John 13:12-17, NAB
The imposter Greenleaf went on to state that the true leader has servant-ly feelings and inclinations first, but arises to greatness because a "conscious choice beings one to aspire to lead". Oh, really? Perhaps it's so in some cases. However, what I've noticed is that generally some of the best leaders are those who do not want to and never wanted to lead at all. Nolo episcopari - I do not wish to be a bishop. Those who do not want power are generally the safest ones to entrust it to.
While I'm thinking of Latin, let's look up the etymology of 'servant'. (I found it privately amusing that Dr. Brewton asked for the etymology of 'passion'. Did anyone else raise their hand, or did I cut them off? I responded with 'patior: to suffer, to allow' pretty quickly...) Servus, of course, can mean either 'slave' or 'servant'. You have a choice of verbs, however. Servio means 'to serve', but servo means 'to keep, to guard'. I find that very interesting. To me, it implies that serving requires a dedication of the heart in order to serve a cause, to keep its flame alit... It's hard for me to put down what exactly the interesting combination of servio and servo means to me...
Anyway, the imposter Greenleaf (yes, I am going to continue to refer to the dude as such) said that a test of leadership is to ask whether the served people benefit, growing as persons, etc., and whether the least privileged benefit or at least are not further deprived. Cannot really contest that test of leadership.
However, I had more of an issue with the next quote. (I did say that Dr. Brewton went quote-happy. I cannot point fingers as I love quotes myself.) It read: "Responsible people build; they do not destroy. They are moved by the heart. They prime test of rightness of an act is how it will affect people; are lives moved toward nobility?"
This is moral relativism, one of the most pernicious poisons affecting our society today. This is arguing a postieri, looking at the consequences instead of a set of moral principles, which are a priori. This leads into dangerous 'ends justify the means' territory. Yes, I know people are tired of that accusation. BUT IT IS BEING LEVELED SO MANY TIMES BECAUSE IT NEEDS TO BE LEVELED SO MANY TIMES!!!! It is entirely possible to do a bad thing hoping for good consequences. But does that make the bad action good? NO. In order to be good, an action has to have: (1) good intentions (2) good foreseen consequences and (3) the act itself must be inherently good or at least morally neutral. It is entirely possible to do a good act with bad intentions, and you can do a good act with good intentions and it have bad consequences...
What are they teaching them in schools these days?
Then the imposter Greenleaf proceeded to his next piece of moral relativism with this little gem: "The ultimate test of entheos (literally, 'being possessed by the gods/God', but here probably referring more to the butchered 'enthusiasm'), however, is an intuitive feeling of oneness, of wholeness, of rightness, but not necessarily comfort of (or?) ease." Oh, it sounds very nice, doesn't it? My problem is with the word feeling. You don't have to watch a few episodes of Princess Tutu straight to get tired of the word "feelings". It's everywhere in modern society. People base all their actions on their feelings. Star Wars isn't helping in this regard, what with all that Force claptrap and "trust your feelings". Blah, blah, blah.
Feelings can err, peoples! I understand intuiton and all that, but intuition can go wrong in a person who doesn't have innocence and grace in them. We are flawed and fallen beings! We aren't inherently evil or inherently good (no matter how much Rosseau may protest): we are good things that have been warped, 'bent', to borrow C. S. Lewis's haunting and evocative terminology. We can err. We can't always trust our feelings. We can be tempted into doing something, our natural human sympathies preyed upon. And then we find out that we should have listened to that nagging voice in the back of our minds after all!
IT'S MORAL RELATIVISM ALL OVER AGAIN, PEOPLES! You cannot make decisions based on foreseen consequences alone. A postieri is bad, very bad! Rules exist for a reason!
Anyway, then there was some quote about having a dream and working towards a goal. At that, my mind went off in lala land about Tangled and the song in the inn where Rapunzel gets all the rough-looking guys to start singing about their dreams, be it tiny ceramic unicorns, interior design, or you name it. So I wasn't exactly paying attention for a few moments. Man, that song is an earworm! I would embed a video of it if I knew how, if only to share it with everyone else.
It also made me think of a passage in G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy, where he states that in order to achieve progress in any sort of effort, there must be a fixed goal. After all, if your goal, the end result your are striving towards, is constantly changing, if the goalposts are being moved farther and farther away, you aren't going to get anywhere. So, yes, you've got to have a dream, and you can't keep changing it if you're going to get anything done. I would suggest a nice period of prayer and discernment and possibly some trial and error in order to discern one's true dream, one's true 'calling' or vocation. (Vocation literally means 'calling', from the Latin verb voco, vocare, vocavi, vocatus, 'to call'.)
After that, Mr. Imposter Greenleaf had another quote. I did not understand it. It had a lot of fancy words and some grammatical acrobatics. Possibly, I did not understand it because I have had logic classes and have read too many philosophy books for me to look at a quote, go, "Aw, what a nice sentiment," and move on. Nooooo. I have to try to understand it. I'm the person who tries to make my own fantasy world make philosophical sense, after all, and writes pages of background material in order to ensure that...
At any rate, apparently the incomprehensible quote means that one must be convinced of the rightness of one's cause and have a faith and passion for it. I only got that out of it because Dr. Brewton discussed it. It was probably around this point that he asked for the etymology of 'passion'. Anyway, having this 'faith' and 'passion' is apparently the hallmark of a true servant/leader.
The NEXT quote from the imposter Greenleaf stated that the real enemy are people who are natural servants/leaders who do not follow their calling to lead or choose to follow non-servants. HAH! I am on the verge of just leaving this quote alone on its little wibbly-wobbly legs so everyone can see how ludicrously teetering it is, but on seconds thoughts there is a tiny kernel of truth to it. (Of course there is, or otherwise no one would confuse it for a moment as something profound.) People who refuse their callings/vocations/destinies do ultimately become the enemies. What did satan do, after all? He was created to bring order to the universe, as a sort of vice-regent for the King of Kings. He refused his destiny... and now he is the great enemy.
Yes, I believe in satan's existence. I haven't explained him away as some figment of ancient imagination standing for whatever mythological or psychological concepts. I realize that he prefers to be thought imaginary, since that leaves him free to work his damage completely unopposed in unwitting people's minds....
No, for once I am not spouting off one of my ludicrous conspiracy theories, either.
Dr. Brewton also mentioned something about a fable with angels and really long spoons. For those of us who had never heard of it before, he told us to google it. I am kinda scared to. People have dirty minds. And I had to read an angel book once that was chock-full of bad theology and various foreign mythologies (it was apparently supposed to be a Catholic book) that looked like they had been written while the author was high on some drug or another. It came complete with equally psychadelic pictures. Needless to say... I disapproved of it.
Dr. Brewton also explained, via a story about himself and a poor deformed guy, that when you don't know what to do with yourself, you should do something non-self-centered in order to recover yourself. Sounds a bit counter-intuitive, right? Not really. It is only when you 'stand outside' yourself that you can properly see yourself and analyze yourself. It's hard to do on this mortal earth, but it's doable. Only when you have completely lost yourself in some good do you truly become yourself. Ecstasy, after all, comes from the Greek ek-stasis, or a 'standing outside oneself'.
I no longer recall what prompted me to scribble this down, but I have it noted to quote this, from Gildor Inglorion in The Fellowship of the Ring. My brother is reading FOTR at the moment, and he likes to hide the books he's currently reading for whatever reason or another (and I REALLY don't want to enter my brothers' room; it's like a war zone), so I can't go get the book and find the exact quote, but I believe it is in Chapter Three: Three is Company. "The wide world is all about you. You can fence yourself in, but you cannot forever fence the world out."
And no sooner had I scribbled that down than Dr. Brewton dragged up Frodo as an example. XD Not quite sure where he was going with it, but he was going. Don't think Frodo wanted to be in 'a happy place' with his Ring, however... Frodo didn't have a clue about the full horrors of Mordor, no. He didn't want to do it, but he did it.
Paraphrased badly (again, since I can't locate my copy of FOTR at the moment): "I wish the Ring had never come to me."
"So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All they have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to them."
Apparently, my evil little crusade to spread everything Tolkien so that it will conquer the world via putting up pictures of it constantly on my blog is succeeding! Mwahahahahaha.
I did feel the need to remind Dr. Brewton that, "One does not simply walk into Mordor," but thankfully I prevented myself from saying that aloud at the last moment. Instead it came out as more of a mumble.
In the spirit of this forum, Frodo was a true servant-leader because he undertook his horrible and arduous journey in order to serve (both servio and servo) Middle-earth and the Free Peoples. However, he paid the price. The Shire was saved, but not for him. He had received a wound that would not fully heal, like Dr. Elwin Ransom in Perelandra. And he had to leave. He wasn't given immortality upon this earth as his reward, merely a place of rest in Aman before passing on. 
In other philsophical news, tomorrow in literature we're supposed to be discussing a passage by Martin Luther where he viciously attacks papal infallibility and other topics. I don't think I would have chosen such an incendiary topic for a literature class, no, precious, I don't think I would have...
More than 18 Bibles will be pulled out of thin air, methinks... It ain't gonna be pretty. It just ain't gonna be pretty.
In Pace Christi,

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