Kyle French

Jul 262015
 

“So his mutual commitment with Takver, their relationship, had remained thoroughly alive during their four years’ separation. They had both suffered from it, and suffered a good deal, but it had not occurred to either of them to escape the suffering by denying the commitment.

“For after all, he thought now, lying in the warmth of Takver’s sleep, it was joy they were both after—the completeness of being. If you evade suffering you also evade the chance of joy. Pleasure you may get, or pleasures, but you will not be fulfilled. You will not know what it is to come home.”

Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed

Jul 212015
 

Knowledge would be specific facts or procedures – hard reliable data. Understanding would be the ability to assemble knowledge into a cohesive interworking structure. What’s interesting is that you might think that understanding can only be developed upon a base of knowledge, but in reality they tend to float freely. You can’t get understanding without first working closely with a lot of base facts, but a generalized understanding can be transferred over to a new knowledge base and anticipate information you haven’t acquired yet, and so pick it up faster. It also scales upward: understanding at one level can be evaluated as a kind of knowledge in order to achieve a higher level of understanding. So knowledge is more foundational, but understanding is more desirable.

ON THE OTHER HAND, nothing can be more frustrating than a conversation in which knowledge and understanding don’t match up. Understanding that ain’t so is much harder to fix than when what you know ain’t so. So when a person with superior understanding (or supposed superior understanding) comes into contact with someone who has a more shallow understanding and a hard grip on the facts…! Let’s just say nobody is going home happy.

… I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me-
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,…

Jul 212015
 

Assumptions are so hard to identify. They only seem to become evident when they run into one another.

I’m starting to think of assumptions as something like subatomic particles. You know they’re out there, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what they are, but you can’t really see them clearly enough to prove what they are until you get something worked up with a lot of energy and ram it into something else in such a way as to create an underground explosion at high cost to the government.

Jul 112015
 

Just got done watching Home. It was surprisingly good. I felt like they were aiming for a high B movie, and kinda failed. Lots of happy tears. I only really had one problem: This is a movie in which a girl is searching frantically for her mom in a time when every human being on earth has been displaced. Dude. Where is Dad?

Jul 082015
 

So he worked.
He lost weight; he walked light on the earth.  Lack of physical labor, lack of variety of occupation, lack of social and sexual intercourse, none of these appeared to him as lacks, but as freedom.  He was the free man: he could do what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it for as long as he wanted to do it.  And he did it.  He worked.  He work/played.
Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed

I saw a piece of a TV show today, in which a talk show host was asked by someone in the audience how to explain to her 10 year old son what sex was like.  Oh, my!  What a show he put on, rhapsodizing over how it was literally the most wonderful thing in the world.  I have to admit I was kind of surprised.  Here was an man in his late forties, apparently successful, who seemed not to know anything at all.

I’m a married man.  I have four children. I’m not exactly unfamiliar with the experience.  Sex has been a lurking bogey for most of my life, either the act or the niggling desire.  I have to say it has not fulfilled as advertised.  And I don’t meant that I’ve had some sort of disappointing experience. But my love for my wife is wider than just the right sort of caress.  Our kids are small: a long walk alone in a quiet park is a far grander experience together (and far more rare and costly!) than an evening alone in the bedroom.

But moving beyond interpersonal relations, sex is just too narrow to be the final all-consuming joy.  John Stuart Mill was right when he broke with Jeremy Bentham and said that there were different tiers of pleasure, and that the pleasures of the mind and the spirit were to be valued on a qualitatively higher level than the pleasures of the body.  As Paul said, physical (er…) exercise is of some value, but godliness…!

I shouldn’t be surprised.  I know.  But honestly, it saddens me to think that so many people are manacled to the idea that desire, especially sexual desire, is identity.  I suppose that most people go through a phase around puberty where that feels like it’s true. But they used to learn differently, by culture and experience, so that an adult who talked that way was an obvious embarrassment to himself. Not so any longer. 

Jul 042015
 

Mark Oppenheimer at Time Magazine, writing about ending tax exemptions for churches.

Before the Supreme Court ruling, there were plenty of churches that endorsed sexual disorder, without threat of losing something. After the ruling, it looks like it’s time for tax exemption to go. Sexual expression has become the primary value of the land, usurping freedom of religion and freedom of speech. If there’s a conflict, guess which one has to bend. So there is no doubt now, that controlling money is the same as controlling religion and controlling speech.

Also, what a strange view of subsidy. Formerly, to subsidize meant to provide money that wasn’t already there, as in school lunch subsidies and food stamps. Now it means that what you have perhaps may not be taken away. So the assumption is that whatever wealth you have belongs first to the government and only to the citizen as a kind of dispensation. It’s rather a religious view, isn’t it? Very well. Render unto Washington what is Washington’s; render unto God what is God’s.

Jul 032015
 

I listened to The Imager by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. on the way to Tennessee tonight, as recommended by Mary Robinette Kowal on Writing Excuses. The pacing is slow, but the ideas… ! they’re on a level with I, Robot, or Starship Troopers.  This proves two things: 1) I have been missing out, and 2) MRK continues to have impeccable taste.

Jun 302015
 

This study-guide style worksheet for children’s Bible study strikes me as vaguely horrifying, a short cut to making it a drudgery. Imagine helping your child learn to love the Chronicles of Narnia by requiring them to fill out study questions.  Hearty analysis of a worthwhile text rises naturally from the familiarity that comes from reading it repeatedly, because you want to.  I don’t see how jump-starting that with homework is going to improve the process.

Jun 272015
 

Bruce Baugh has some interesting observations (here) about different approaches to privilege and disrespect.  Unfortunately, they’re framed in a way that tries to be too universal, and in the process manages to be judgmental.

Two groups: people who think prejudice is an intentional, wicked act or disposition, and people who think prejudice just happens, like accidentally closing a door on somebody’s fingers.  For the first group, an accusation of some kind of *-ism is either a grave insult to an otherwise well-meaning person, or a vile sin to be expunged immediately. For the first group, all that really matters is how quick you are to resolve the situation.

So far, so good.  But the way he frames those categories… !  Wow, prejudiced much?  Yup, the “big deal” category of people are all alike, and in a bad way.

In reality, both the prejudiced and the prejudiced against use both categories pretty fluidly, depending on the situation.

Jun 252015
 

It was ninth grade, my first year back in public school after four years of homeschooling. My parents had made special arrangements for me to attend a school where several teachers were members of our church. Naturally, they also arranged for me to take the classes they were teaching. So, Mrs. Hinkle for choir, Mr. Torbert for history, and Mr. Calloway for general science.

The science class was probably a poor placement. Other kids at my academic level were taking chemistry in ninth grade, but my mom was nervous about her record as a homeschool science teacher, and Mr. Calloway was considered one of the best science teachers in the state. But the thing he won awards for was his ability to inspire at-risk students. I wasn’t exactly at risk; a lot of the information we covered was stuff I already knew. But I did learn a thing.

So the story that sticks out the most involves an airplane. What we can agree on is that unequal air pressure on the wings keeps the plane up. In eighth grade, reading my science book at home, I learned that the air flows faster over the top of the wings. The bottom of the wing is flat, so the air flows straight across. The top of the wing is convex, so that air has to flow vertically as well as laterally, in order to conserve motion as the plane passes through. That extra distance creates a vacuum and pulls the airplane up.

Mr. Calloway got it backwards, lecturing a class of thirty mildly uninterested fourteen and fifteen year olds. He said that the air under the wing flows faster, creating a high pressure system. Either way, the pressure is lower on top of the wing, and the plane goes up, but I caught the teacher in a quibble. So I thought I’d let him know.

It didn’t go quite the way I’d thought. The teacher held his ground and just repeated himself, as if the problem was my lack of understanding. So I started to explain the difference between what he was saying, and what I understood. But there was this look in his eyes.

Fortunately, I realized pretty quick that the conversation was no longer about science. It was now about me running his class. He might have been wrong, but I was now wronger.

So I shut up, and I never did verify on which side of the wing the air flows faster. But I remember that event every time I’m in a military briefing, and some bright young Soldier takes a moment to contradict his commander.