17 Feb 2013, 1:11pm
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alone in the woods

I returned one of the pairs of shoes I posted at the end of my last entry, went for a 6.5-mile run in the other, cleaned off the soles, packed ‘em up, and returned them too. They made my foot all tingly and felt weird and heavy (forgive the technical jargon). Last Saturday I ran 14 miles in my Merrell Pace Gloves with no problems. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?

However, after six months running exclusively in minimalist shoes (and a little time before that running short distances in huaraches or barefoot), my toes bump right up against the end of my Pace Gloves. I have gained at least half a shoe size! More toe spread? Bigger foot muscles? Falling arches (I hope not, and I don’t think so)? They are still comfy enough to run in, but between that and the wear on the soles, I told myself yesterday when I went out for my run that if I could run 10km in less than an hour, I’d buy myself a new pair. And:

Don’t worry, I won’t make a habit of sharing screengrabs like this. I was pretty psyched, though; notice I didn’t even pause the app before taking the screengrab! The internet says this means I should in theory be capable of running a marathon in 4 hours and 33 minutes. Hah! Hah! — Assuming my phone didn’t mess up the distance too badly. That 14-mile run? My phone said it was 15 and a quarter! False. I want a GPS watch for my birthday. Anyway, it’s good enough for me, and regardless, new shoes are on the way.

Last Monday I went for a hike-slash-trail-run in Marin; I did a loop from Stinson Beach as recommended in this post: Dipsea Trail to Steep Ravine Trail up to Pantoll Ranger Station, then Matt Davis Trail back down to Stinson. Steep Ravine was so beautiful, you guys. And yes, pretty steep. It is a stretch to call what I did trail “running.” But I didn’t mind, because I felt like I was hiking in the Shire. I am thinking about it now and daydreaming about being back on that trail. I would do it every day if I could, until I could run the whole thing, but I’d walk anyway to make it last longer.

The Matt Davis Trail was all right, too ;) –

I don’t think I’d ever really gone on a substantial (this one was 7.5 miles) hike by myself before, and it was really nice to be able to move at my own pace and take as many silly timer self-portraits as I wanted. Which I did, clearly. When I got back into town, I had some time to kill before I needed to get back on the road to meet A. for pizza in Berkeley, so I went to my favorite secluded beach near the farm where I lived and worked in 2011… which resulted in this, which pretty much sums up how I felt about the day:

29 Jan 2013, 12:04pm
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coyote hills half marathon (and some other stuff about running)

Hello, long-neglected blog o’ mine.

No one in my real life wants to hear all the details of my running hobby, which is currently consuming vast swaths of my time and even vaster swaths of my braintime. When I am not running, I am thinking about running. When I am running, I am thinking about absolutely nothing. Or, I seem to have some kind of running-induced amnesia. When I finish a run, I have no idea what was occupying my mind while I ran; I just know that I feel good. Yup, all that cliché shit about how forcing one foot in front of the other until your legs ache and you’re breathing hard is “amazing” and “addictive” turns out to actually be true.

So, on this blog that I originally intended as a “travel blog” in the loosest sense of the word, I’ll write about this kind of travel, too. Moving myself through space — albeit often in circles.

ANYWAY, dear blog, I ran my first half marathon on Saturday! It was awesome. It was the Coyote Hills Half Marathon, at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont. The course included paved path, dirt road, a little bit of singletrack, and some wooden boardwalk, and probably two-thirds of it or more ran right along the bay. Very pretty. Sarah drove me there and she and Jack were great moral support, took some photos (I guess that part was more Sarah than Jack), and greeted me enthusiastically at the end of my first loop (of two) and at the finish line.

(at the start line)

(that pretty wooden boardwalk I mentioned. I took this photo on the second lap, by which point everyone was pretty spread out; this section was at the beginning of the course and our first time through was pretty crowded.)

(there were several volunteer photographers out on the course snapping photos, which were later uploaded for anyone to download for free! I skimmed for my turquoise shirt and found a couple photos I like. Note that photo on the right ’cause it’s relevant to discussion of the awesomeness of singletrack later in this entry!)

(Jack waiting for me at the finish!)

Some notes:

* I slowed down at the second aid station to check out the offerings. There were m&ms, which looked great, so I grabbed one of the little dixie cups they were in and tossed it back, expecting just a few. Ended up with a mouthful of candy and chocolate that I had to hurriedly chew and swallow before I choked. Whoops.

* For reference for future me, this was my Fueling Strategy (can I say that with a straight face?): I carried my handheld water bottle and refilled it once at the end of the first loop. I should have refilled it more than that or carried a slightly bigger bottle; even so this worked way better for me than just drinking at the aid stations would have, since I could space out my sips. I did also grab and toss back a cup of sports drink at almost every aid station (every few miles). In the pocket on my bottle I had some ginger chews and some mango-flavored chewing licorice; I ate a little of both of those in addition to the rather unfortunate mouthful of m&ms and a few fig newtons from another aid station. I was hoping for pretzels (salty!) and might bring my own next time. Even better, peanut butter pretzels.

* I spent the whole first lap leapfrogging with a guy in a blue vest, until the little bit of uphill singletrack towards the end of the loop, when I stayed right on his tail on the way up, passed him at the top, and didn’t see him again until after I’d finished. On the second lap, I came up behind some folks walking on the singletrack, pushed them up by breathing on their necks (I remember warning, “coming up behind you!” since there was no place to pass — they started running again), passed them at the top and bombed towards the finish line. The short section of singletrack was my favorite part, twice. I want to do more trail running! In fact, I can say with a certain amount of surety that the San Luis Obispo (or, SLO(w)) Marathon will be my first and last road marathon. Why pound the pavement on paths designed for cars when you can run surrounded by trees and nature and beautiful views and all that good stuff? Plus, I hear road races just have goo at their aid stations; no m&ms and fig newtons and orange slices or delicious ice cream sandwiches at the finish.

* There were delicious ice cream sandwiches at the finish.

* I finished in 2:24:45 (chip time). This means I beat my stated goal/expectation of 2:45 (I had never run the distance before, but my first ten-mile run took just under two hours) AND my secret goal of 2:30, but not my even secret-er goal of 2:15. I was worried because my recent runs had been (and, honestly, continue to be) super slow, but race energy is a great motivator! I didn’t feel like I was working harder — I was just having so much fun! Even had a kick at the end and spent the last half mile or so picking people off (see above re: singletrack). Awesome.

* The weather was SO PERFECT. The forecast a few days before was for showers, and it looked that way until about a mile into the race. After that, I was actually overdressed (though not by too much) in my long sleeves.

In conclusion, I had so much fun (OMG!).

I have been excitedly dreaming up new goals and lists of races I want to run, and kicking myself for getting excited about this thing with, like, the exact same season as wedding photography (summer weekends). The other day I turned down a wedding photography client for the first time ever… because I will be in Portland running this (the marathon, hell yeah) on her wedding day. So, in the interests of prioritizing BOTH this new awesome thing that makes me feel so good AND the well-being of my little growing business, I thought I’d make some plans and stick to them. Here is my, uh, potential Race Calendar (can I say that? Am I a “real” enough runner?) for summer 2013:

April 7th: SLO(w) Marathon.

May 19th: Bay to Breakers. 12km. A San Francisco institution, as they say. Costumes and drinking and I guess some running or something. I’m shooting a wedding the night before so I don’t expect to take this one seriously, but I don’t think anyone does anyway.

June 9th: the Dipsea Race, if I can get an entry. 7.4 miles from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach; the oldest trail race in America. Lots of hills and lots of stairs. They have a cool system of handicaps whereby everyone gets a certain head start time except, like, the 20-something men, so kids and grandmothers have all won the race in the past.

July 6th: the Dirty Dozen 6- or 12-hour endurance run. So, I have this idea about running 28 miles for my 28th birthday (on July 9th). This event is “how far can you go in this much time?” rather than “how quickly can you go this distance?” which sounds really fun — you do a 3.xx-mile loop over and over again and can see your friends every lap and run with all kinds of people and take breaks if you want and the whole thing sounds like a big party + awesome physical achievement. I think I could probably train for this post-SLO, except that a few weeks later I will be running the following…

July 27th: the Wildwood Trail Marathon, in Forest Park in Portland. Perfect to plan a mini-vacation to Portland around, plus running my first trail marathon in (not near, in!) my favorite city sounds great. I am already registered for this.

So! In the meantime, my training for the SLO Marathon is progressing, my fundraising is not so much (uhhh), and I am trying to decide which of these running shoes to keep and which to return (both are cushioned zero-drop shoes, which I want for long road runs in the interests of my body holding together for this marathon — one more reason I want to RUN MORE TRAILS!) –

(Altra Zero Drop Intuition 1.5’s, Merrell Bare Access Arc 2’s, and awesome dinosaur socks that my mom gave me for xmas)

11 Dec 2012, 9:41am
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so, i am training for a marathon

Friends and family,

On April 7th, 2013, I will be running the San Luis Obispo Marathon — all twenty-six point two miles of it — as part of Team In Training, to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I have been training already since early November, and every week I am able to run a little longer and farther!

In 1999, my dad, Jay Torborg, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He went through a round of chemotherapy and entered remission for a few years; in 2002, the cancer returned. His second round of chemo included Rituxan, a targeted drug whose research the LLS helped fund. During his recovery from chemo, he joined Team In Training to train for a 100-mile bike ride and never looked back. Over the next few years, he was involved with TnT as a participant, mentor, and coach, and in the summer of 2004 he rode his bike more than 3,000 miles across America in 26 days to raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, another worthy organization dedicated to improving the lives of people affected by cancer. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Team In Training not only helped my dad beat cancer, but helped him make major lifestyle changes that have made him healthier than ever.

I was inspired by my dad to begin cycling, and in the summer of 2010 I completed my own cross-country ride, albeit much slower than his! In October 2010, after three months, ten states, and 4,700 miles, I arrived in Yorktown, Virginia, where my dad had finished his ride six years before. I kept riding my bike after my trip was over, of course, but I missed the way my body felt when I was using it all day everyday; running, I’ve discovered, helps me get that feeling with a bit smaller of a time commitment. I’ve joined TnT in order to commit to running a marathon (just like committing to my cross-country ride got me on my bike every morning through the Portland winter), get training support, make friends, and, of course, follow in my dad’s footsteps in raising money to support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s research and patient services programs.

My goal is to raise $2,620, one hundred dollars per mile I’ll run on April 7th. Please consider joining me on my marathon journey by making a donation. More than 76% of your donation will go directly to research, patient services, and education. The remaining 24 cents on the dollar go to LLS management and support for fundraising programs like Team In Training — itself a program that clearly makes huge differences in the lives of those affected by cancer, like my dad, and ordinary people like me and my teammates.

Thank you very much for your support in all my adventures, and I hope you’ll consider visiting my fundraising page at http://pages.teamintraining.org/sf/snlomara13/stacia to make a donation to help me out (and see some training photos, if you’re into that). In addition, if you’re local to the SF Bay Area or will be visiting in the next few months, I’m offering portrait sessions in exchange for a donation — get in touch with me to discuss details if you’re interested! Thanks again, and happy holidays!


3 Nov 2012, 5:32pm
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[holy daze] building altars & digging wells

It’s Dia de los Muertos here in San Francisco — and everywhere else, too, I suppose. I don’t live too far away, so tonight I walked down to the crowds and made my way to Garfield Park, where altars of all shapes and sizes were set up to honor and remember the dead. Around the park, the atmosphere was surprisingly reverent considering the thickness of the crowd, though further away it was more of a party for party’s sake. Got me thinking about cultural adaptation — this holiday has its origins in the Catholic All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, but according to Wikipedia, “scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl.” Here in the Mission, it’s been adapted many times over, then, to meet the needs of participants. First, Mexicans converted by Spanish Catholics adapted All Souls’ Day; then, the holiday was adapted by Chicanos living here in San Francisco; and now (and always) it’s adapting again to suit the city and the neighborhood’s increasingly diverse population.

I think there is no religion without cultural context. That doesn’t mean that no truth is true — I think it would be closer to the truth to say that every truth is true.

I am still working my way (ex-treme-ly slowly) through the big book (see what I did there?) that is Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years. One of the points that the author’s been really hammering home is this:

One always has to remember that throughout the New Testament we are hearing one side of an argument. When the writer to Timothy insists with irritating fussiness that ‘I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent’, we can be sure that there were women doing precisely the opposite, who were probably not slow in asserting their own point of view.

The surviving text exists not because it was always the only possibility, but precisely because it was one of many possibilities. If women weren’t teaching and holding authority over men, no one would have to tell them that they weren’t supposed to.

So, it would seem, in the absence of universality and certainty, our cultural adaptations and baggage and environments are all we’ve got.

But the plight of the middle-class kid with areligious parents who moved around a lot, of course, is cultural alienation. Also capitalism? Can I blame capitalism? It feels ridiculous to write about. We all have culture. We are all creating culture. If we don’t have culture that meets our needs, do we have anyone to blame but ourselves? I’m actually not sure.

The problem with all this mess and confusion and stuff is that I have a really hard time figuring out decent conclusions for these entries. Yup.

The past month or so has been pretty rough for me for reasons that I can’t really write about here. I know that’s basically the most annoying sentence to read on a blog, ever, but the relevant point is that I’ve been crying a lot at just about everything in the whole world (except my kittens, who are completely amazing). The other day I cried about the idea of praying to God. If I were telling this story out loud, I would raise the pitch of my voice at the end of that sentence, like a question. The idea of praying to God?

Questions of religion have been on my mind with more than the usual urgency and emotional weight, is I guess what I mean. A few weeks ago when I was talking with him about this blog or about the big book, my husband asked me how exactly Jesus dying saved us, again? And I couldn’t answer his question because I’m fuzzy on the details myself, so I emailed my friend Ben (of Parables NYC). I’m still a bit confused about the point of Jesus’s death, but Ben did include a pretty amazing Lutheran explanation of sin in his email back to me. He says Martin Luther described sin as “the heart curved in on itself,” preventing us from loving God and our neighbor because we’re too focused on ourselves. Sin is a state, not an action, and it’s a state in which everyone exists, though why is unclear — though everyone is also a saint, “loved by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do good” (I’m quoting Ben here). Fear and its permutations (anger, greed, depression, etc) cause the heart to curve more in on itself — and Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection allow us to be unafraid. That’s the last little leap I don’t get; Ben says that since Christ was resurrected, we don’t need to fear death, but wasn’t Christ resurrected because he was, you know, the son of God? And fully divine? Which we are clearly not? (Unless we are?) The rest of what Ben wrote on this point, though, I can get behind:

We don’t have to be afraid for our self-worth because while he was alive Jesus went around telling the marginalized and fucked-up that they are part of God’s kingdom and in his death Jesus proclaimed God’s love even for those who killed him. And if somewhere along the way we got hung up on some shitty theology that says God needs to punish people, well, Jesus took enough punishment for all of us, so let’s move on already.

He then goes on to talk about how less fear means more love, and how experiencing love can help us feel God’s love, and how the church helps build on these experiences of love so that we can turn around and love others better. Then he sums it up as “believing [that we are loved and need not fear] is hard, but baths + bread + wine + friends = help.” In my experience, baths and bread and wine and friends help just about anything, so no argument here.

He also included this awesome tidbit:

In some liberation theologies “sin” is nailing Jesus to the cross and leaving him there to die, which we do every time we oppress people. In these theologies, the cross does not free us from sin, it merely reveals it and calls us to take the oppressed down from the cross… so maybe it will eventually free us.

… which is definitely another path to follow here. I’ve got a bit of a maze going.

More from Ben coming sometime in the not-terribly-distant future, I hope. I want to interview him and ask a bazillion annoying questions and talk to him about his own experience with Christianity.

Anyway, the stuff at the beginning of all that about sin being a state of the heart being curved in on itself due to self-involvement reminded me of the Buddhist concept of samsara. Religion at its best is a method for killing ego, freeing us up for love. A few weeks ago I stopped by the used bookstore on my way home from work and picked up a stack of interesting-looking books,* including Huston Smith’s Forgotten Truth: The Common Vision of the World’s Religions. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m sure I’d find something about that in there.

I’m sort of hoping I can wrap this all back up into the stuff about cultural adaptation. If every religion has that same ultimate goal, does it matter what you pick? In 2009, I attended a ten-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat and course. On the drive back home, the man we’d carpooled with used an analogy that has stuck with me ever since, though I don’t seem to have followed his advice. He talked about digging wells. If you dig a dozen holes, you’ll never hit water. All the wells potentially have water, but you have to dig in one long enough to reach it. But I think it does matter where you dig. If you pick the right hole, you might have friends who can help you dig. The ground might be better or worse suited to the tools at your disposal. Culture does matter. We can’t do it by ourselves. The baths, the bread, the wine, the friends — all important supplies for hole-diggin’.

I think there are three holes I’ve climbed in and out of, sometimes taking big chunks out, sometimes scratching around in the dirt: Christianity, Buddhism, and Paganism. Those are three really different (or maybe not?) holes. I guess I feel — and I guess the point of this project is — that until I hit water (and I don’t know, and can’t know, when or if I will), maybe seeing the inside of a bunch of different holes will help me uncurl my heart in the meantime. Maybe in one of the holes I’ll find a map to the X where I should dig my own.

* I also picked up two C.S. Lewis books: The collected Chronicles of Narnia, which I had a great time reading for the first time since I was a kid, and his allegory The Pilgrim’s Regress, apparently the first book he wrote after converting to Christianity. There is weird treatment of women and even weirder race stuff in both of these books (but they are pretty old so that is, if not excusable, at least sort of explicable), but what really threw me about both books was that the happy ending of both is, for real, “everyone dies.” Judging from these books, Lewis sees death as the ultimate fulfillment of religion, which to me is creepy.

[this entry was originally published on november 3rd, 2012, at holy daze.]

29 Oct 2012, 1:39pm
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9 Oct 2012, 5:30pm
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[holy daze] origins, stories

Well, I guess there’s been some holy days I’ve missed; I mean, depending on what calendar you’re looking at, there’s been a lot of them. At the very least, the Feast of Corpus Christi, which has something to do with the Eucharist, and the Assumption of Mary, which marks the day Mary was bodily taken up into Heaven. But the first can’t be that big of a deal or I’d've heard of it (right?), and the second sounds mostly Catholic. Are non-Catholic denominations that into Mary?

I guess, to be honest, I’m more into figuring out my own relationship to holidays I have known about and, to a greater or lesser extent, celebrated my whole life. Christmas, Easter, Lent, and so on. They feel applicable, if only due to familiarity. I haven’t been under the illusion that this project wasn’t self-indulgent, but I may as well admit that it’s way less about religion than it is about me. It’s a lens. But, of course — to make a sort of meaningless, obvious statement — religion is also about its practitioners. I dunno; I think I am trying to segue into talking about this huge thousand-page book I bought a few months ago and of which I’ve only made it through the first few chapters, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, by Diarmaid MacCulloch.

So far there’s little mention of Jesus, but lots of fascinating discussion about Greece and Rome and Israel and Judea. The first chapter — Greece and Rome — was a nice review of content covered in Humanities 110, my alma mater’s required freshman course covering, well, ancient Greece and Rome. Actually, some of the Israel and Judea stuff was probably covered, too (I remember reading some stuff by rabbis), but hey, the class was almost a decade ago and I was eighteen and had way more interesting things to be worrying about, like how hungover I was or was not and what I was should major in and how much my boyfriend really loved me. I think a lot of kids should take some time off before they go to college, or at least I should have.

But anyway. MacCulloch includes these chapters to underline and explain early Christianity’s roots in both Judaism (of course) and Hellenistic culture (hmm!). Some quotations about Greece that are relevant to the point I’m gonna try to make later in this blog post:

Greek curiosity created the literary notion of allegory: a story in literature must be read as conveying a deeper meaning or meanings than is at first apparent, with the task of a commentator to tease out such meanings. Much later, first Jews and then Christians treated their sacred writings in the same way. (page 25)

In the realm of ideas, philosophy and religious practice, Hellenistic civilization created a meeting place for Greek and oriental culture, which made it easy for Jewish and then non-Jewish followers of Jesus Christ to take what they wanted from the ragbag of Greek thought which any moderately educated inhabitant of the Middle East would encounter in everyday conversation. (page 40)

And some notable things about Israel / Judea:

The coast [of the area now known as Israel or Palestine] has few decent harbors, and other peoples than the Children of Israel tended to dominate the ones that did exist, so the Jews never became seafarers (and generally made rather negative references to the sea and its creatures in their sacred writings). (page 48)

That parenthetical gave me pause, as someone who grew up simultaneously enthralled by and terrified of the ocean (sharks! Dark unknowable depths! Tidal waves!). How much could that have to do with my having grown up in Judeo-Christian culture? What do these biases mean about the potential universality of sacred texts? A fear of the ocean is at least excusable if not understandable in a land-locked people, but in coastal-living world travelers like myself, three thousand years later, it’s almost pathological. At the very least, it’s irrelevant.

MacCulloch says that the Jewish people were formed out of “a social rather than an ethnic grouping [of] people who were uprooted and on the edges of other societies” (page 53). These people “constructed a new identity, sealed by a God who was not necessarily to be associated with older establishments or older shrines. It would be natural for the worshippers of this God to begin a long process of refashioning a patchwork of ancient stories from their varied previous homes into a plausible single story of common ancestors” (page 53)… MacCulloch goes on to elaborate on the origin of Jewish monotheism; it’s pretty interesting but I’d like to get on with it and I think I’ve made my point that (according to MacCulloch) Judaism started out as a kind of pluralism or eclecticism. In the process of putting together their sacred texts, Jews even left contradictory or embarrassing parts in out of respect for their antiquity… a sort of dance of compromise in an effort to both strengthen their new convictions and find their place in history.

From there he talks about the creation of the Tanakh (Old Testament), which involved choosing 24 books as canon and rejecting something like seventy others as non-canon. And of course new writing and thinking was still happening all the time; MacColluch even says that “powerful currents of opinion within Judaism … continued to suggest modifications of aspects of Jewish belief if there seemed to be valuable material in the religions of others” (page 69). And around there is where I wrote in the margin: Religion is constantly adapted to suit the present — names are kept or changed to suit the needs of practitioners, to fit themselves into history or set themselves apart from it — but even Richard Dawkins comes from Christianity.

I know I got that last idea from Karen Armstrong’s The Case for God, in which she argues that Dawkins’ New Atheism requires a Christian fundamentalism to which it sets itself up in opposition; without that, its suppositions are meaningless. There is no God? What is God? What is Christianity? It’s a set of traditions, of which I’m guessing exactly zero are entirely universal among folks who call themselves Christian.

MacCulloch on Christian tradition, from his introduction:

[The Bible] is full of criticism of Church tradition, in the class of writings known as prophecy, which spend much of their energy in denouncing the clergy and the clerical teaching of their day. This should provide a healthy warning to all those who aspire to tell other people what do to on the basis of the Bible. (page 6)

Self-styled ‘Traditionalists’ often forget that the nature of tradition is not that of a humanly manufactured mechanical or architectural structure with a constant outline and form, but rather that of a plant, pulsing with life and continually changing shape while keeping the same ultimate identity. (pages 7-8)

All the world faiths which have known long-term success have shown a remarkable capacity to mutate, and Christianity is no exception. (page 9)

In the early centuries of Judaism and Christianity (and probably other religions, too), there was all kinds of adaptation and creation and re-creation and discussion and reaction going on to and from and between and among all these sacred texts. Now there is this idea of the Bible as the only and infallible Word of God, right? But there are also folks who spend a lot of time and effort understanding the Bible in allegorical ways or in other ways that they find more relevant to their own lives or their modern values. I see value (lots of value, clearly) in pluralism and eclecticism, in finding and/or creating one’s own sacred texts. But I also see value in context — the long history of the word Christian, of some of its texts, of the communities that have grown up around those words and texts. Imagine if each of us had to re-invent the wheel anytime we wanted to get anywhere! It would be lonely, and progress would be slow.

Here’s one more quotation from the first section of MacCulloch’s book. You know the story of Jacob, who wrestled with an angel and was renamed Israel by that angel? Israel means “he who strives with God” –

Out of that fight in the darkness, with one who revealed the power of God and was God, began the generations of the Children of Israel. Few peoples united by a religion have proclaimed in their very name that they struggle with the one they worship. The relationship of God with Israel is intense, personal, conflicted. Those who follow Israel and the religions which spring from his wrestling match that night are being told that even through their harshest and most wretched experiences of fighting with those they love most deeply, they are being given some glimpse of how they relate to God. (page 50)

All of this is a part of my striving with God. All of this is a part of my worship.

[this entry was originally published on october 9th, 2012, at holy daze.]

7 Oct 2012, 5:29pm
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[holy daze] etymology / explanation

Three really cool etymological truths I learned from the first chapter of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch:


… in the beginning was the Word. The Evangelist John’s Gospel narrative of Jesus the Christ has no Christmas stable; it opens with a chant or hymn in which ‘Word’ is a Greek word, logos. The Word, says John, was God, and became human flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.

This logos means far more than simply ‘word’: logos is the story itself. Logos echoes with significances which give voice to the restlessness and tension embodied in the Christian message. It means not so much a single particle of speech, but the whole act of speech, or the thought behind the speech, and from there its meanings spill outwards into conversation, narrative, musing, meaning, reason, report, rumour, even pretence. [...] So the words ‘logos‘ and ‘Christos‘ tell us what a tangle of Greek and Jewish ideas and memories underlies the construction of Christianity. (page 19)


When Christians first described their own collective identity, with its customs, structures, and office-bearers, they used the Greek word ekklesia, which has passed hardly modified into Latin and its successor languages. Greek-speaking Jews before the Christians had used the same word to speak of Israel. Ekklesia is already common in the Greek New Testament; it means ‘Church’, but it is borrowed from Greek political vocabulary, where it signified the assembly of citizens of the polis who met to make decisions.

So the ekklesia represents the polis, a local identity within the greater whole of Christianity or Christendom, just as the Greek polis represented the local identity of the greater whole Hellas, ‘Greekdom’. Yet the Christian ekklesia has become more complicated, because the word can also describe the universal Church, the equivalent of Hellas, as well as the local – not to mention the fragments of universal Christianity with particular identities which call themselves ‘Church’, and even the buildings which house all these different entities. There is a further interesting dimension of the word. If the ekklesia is the embodiment of the city or polis of God, lurking in the word ekklesia is the idea that the faithful have a collective responsibility for the decisions about the future of the polis, just as the people of a polis did in ancient Greece. This creates a tension with another borrowing from Greek which has passed into several northern European languages, and which appears in English as the word ‘church’ or in Scots English as ‘kirk.’ This started life as an adjective which emerged in late Greek, kuriake, ‘belonging to the Lord’, and because of that, it emphasizes the authority of the master, rather than the decision of those assembled. The tension between these perspectives has run through the history of ecclesia/kirk, and is with Christians still. (pages 26-7)


[Aristotle] discussed abstract matters such as logic, meaning and causation in a series of texts which, being placed in his collective works after his treatise on physics, were given the functional label meta physica, ‘After The Physics‘. And so the name of metaphysics, the study of the nature of reality, was born in an accident. (page 33)


My absence from this blog explained but not excused – I have:

  • three jobs,
  • two new kittens,
  • and one husband in his third year of grad school.

    [this entry was originally published on october 7th, 2012, at holy daze.]