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Friday, December 29, 2006

Is God Messing with my Ipod?

I got my first Ipod (Nano, 2nd generation) for Christmas -- well, for some unidentified winter holiday (my folks didn't specify) -- and I'm a little weirded out right now.

(Sorry, somewhat lengthy) background: I'm a Jewish agnostic. I have a certain emotional tug toward belief in some sort of Involved and Caring Presence. I see no compelling intellectual justification for believing in the tenets of any religion I know of (despite the smooth and occasionally tricky arguments of C.S. Lewis).

One reason I'm not an atheist is my awareness of the dictum that you can't be angry at God without in some way believing in him. My parents are, by some definitions, Holocaust survivors (they fled just barely in time, and most of their extended families didn't make it). From the holocaust to tsunamis to horrendous diseases, I have a hard time believing in a God who is both good and anywhere remotely close to omnipotent. My own life, while not trouble-free, has been a very good one so far, and I sometimes feel, in relation to any God there might be, the way the favorite niece or granddaughter of Josef Stalin might feel. Grandpa Joe has always been loving and generous with me -- in between starving millions of peasants to death and so forth. How should I feel about Grandpa? How is it right to feel?

I must acknowledge the argument (was it Lewis who made it, or Jonathan Kellerman in Conversations with Rabbi Small?) that free will allows people to choose to do evil, and evil hurts the innocent -- that's what makes it evil. One can certainly find enough free-will choices behind the Holocaust, and various individual choices made the havoc wreaked by the 2005 tsunami worse, etc., etc. . . . I'm still not entirely won over.

So, finally, to the Ipod, which I'm playing mainly in my car (with a neat gizmo that uses the cassette tape player). I'm still learning how to use it. I accidentally turned off the volume during Tom Paxton's "Home to Me", and missed a few bars. I felt briefly wistful about it. Then I left the car and turned off the Ipod while Simon and Garfunkel's "Benedictus" was playing, and somehow messed things up so that when I got back to the car, the shuffle started over with something else. I was thinking about going home and playing "Benedictus" on the computer when the current song ended and up popped -- "Benedictus". Oy. Coincidence, or a tap on the shoulder?

A song or two later, along came -- "Home to Me". Alright, already! And the next song -- from Handel's Messiah, "I Know that My Redeemer Liveth." ALRIGHT, I GET IT!! Although, of course, I still don't know whether I do.

I have to admit that along with fear of being irrational, there is the fear of the implications of belief. . . .

The next song was Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" -- which could be interpreted theologically, I suppose, but I don't hafta.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Note to Elder Daughter

To my teenage daughter:

On those occasions when I kick myself in the butt hard enough to make myself vacuum, it would be helpful if I could actually gain access to some appreciable portion of your floor, without needing to move papers and clothes about (possibly, in the process, noticing something you'd prefer to keep private).

(No, I didn't find anything interesting -- this time....)

Puppy and Puppy

When my younger daughter was about 9 months old, and going through the trauma of being required to sleep through the night, she attached herself to a stuffed dog. With our usual minimalist approach to naming things, this toy was named "Puppy". We have since acquired a backup called "Puppy's Sister", but Puppy reigns supreme to this day. Puppy is naturally somewhat threadbare, and stuffing-bare, and generally worn -- but is still recognizable and basically whole.

Our real live dog is now well past one year old, but we still tend to call her "the puppy" and to address her as "Puppy". She used to sleep in her crate in the guest room, but when we actually had guests coming for a change, we put her in my daughter's room, where she sleeps on the bed. The other morning, when I came in to wake girl and dog, Puppy was curled up next to Puppy. They looked very sweet together.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Our assignment from God?

My husband, the Hoosier Gadfly, has an interesting take on the question of life after death. He suggested the other day that if there is a God who in some manner created homo sapiens sapiens, he might be expecting us to figure out how to become immortal. He/She/It got us started -- the rest is our job. An exercise for the student, as it were.

We might, for example, figure out feasible procedures for the electronic storage of personality and memory, in programs able to interact with each other, with the outside world, and with other data storage banks. You can see this idea explored in depth in Frederick Pohl's Heechee Rendezvous and The Annals of the Heechee.

I thought my husband should blog about this, but he hasn't been blogging much these days. He has an excuse at the moment -- the all-too-common cold.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Morning conversation

On weekday mornings, I get up just after my 15-year-old daughter, mainly to make sure she makes it out the door on time. She has to be at the bus stop down the street by around 7:05 a.m. We often have a few minutes to chat while she drinks tea, though she is not always awake enough to talk.

One morning recently, we had an exchange something like this (I'm K, daughter is L):

(L) It was pretty spooky waiting for the bus yesterday. I thought there was a swirling vortex of death behind the trees. There was a lot of movement.

(K) It was probably a deer.

(L) Would a deer make loud moaning and hissing noises?

(pause)

(K, brightly) It might if it was caught in a swirling vortex of death....