The Kit kids had a lovely Saturday morning cartoon, thanks to Mummy! I cycled to town returned a DVD, and did some necessary grocery shopping. The trip back was a bit of a work out, but I guess that’s the kind of exercise I’m getting these days.
The last couple of weeks has been pretty intense. There were the after work hours Norwegian classes on top of a couple of ‘open’ lectures, and a PhD seminar. All in all, a full schedule. So, I think it’s time to slow down a little for some spaced out thoughts.
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During the last week, my thinking was occupied by ‘Naturalism’ and ‘Humanism’. On one end is the more vague, ‘religious naturalism’, on the other, the more concrete ‘Christian humanism’. What interest me is how one arrives at these positions, and especially the choices someone makes in whichever direction.
A confession at the outset. I must credit my good friend Dion Forster for introducing me to the world of ‘South Africa’. I recall fondly our drive to the seminary during his last first visit to Malaysia, and I appreciate the ongoing friendship that we have. Through Dion, it’s been tremendously rewarding to connect to the theological thinking and reflections coming out of the struggle against Apartheid and all that’s after it’s fall.
So much of the thicker academic discussions I find myself thinking through overwhelms a novice, and and easily drown the uninitiated. No wonder, it’s common to hear that so much of these discussions appear to me ‘arm chair’ or ‘ivory tower’ ramblings unconnected to ground realities. But, to be fair, even for some dense articulations, this is not necessary the case. Perhaps, what makes it harder for the ‘outsider’ to academic dense reflections, is first, the unfamiliarity with the ‘academic language’ and ‘modes of argument’ which is wit in a world of itself. Second. often the the academics tend towards jumping into the discussion proper and not explicitly stating where they are coming from, and their implicit assumptions. The demand for greater transparency in academic discourse is most welcome, and in a way, brings what was perceived as a wide gap much closer. Because, so much hangs on this kind of transparency, which leads to greater accountability, and keeps hierarchical intellectual elitism in check. I suggest all will benefit in the long run.
This doesn’t mean that we’ll spend too much time ‘clearing throats’ and enter an overdose of ‘biographical discloser’, but a few lines of relevant bio-historic content, with an additional few lines of the starting point assumptions usually the kind has ontological and epistemological flavor helps. Some will even add the particular disciplines or few disciplines they operate from and the audiences they wish to speak to. In the light of the ‘situational’ comments on South Africa, where we come from keeps us modest.
All this seems so obvious, that I feel a little stupid highlighting them. Shouldn’t we assume all this? I guess, we should. ‘Should’, ‘ought to’ .. loads of normatively here. But perhaps, we can’t assume too much these days.
However, I do see the danger of people immediately writing someone off prematurely, and then we don’t even ‘listen’ because of ‘party’ lines. The politics is as real as it is even in so called ‘pure intellectual circles’. So, this complicates everything. Life is complex, or life is difficult, we’d like to say. So, the responsibility lies with us, on how we make those adjustments when confronted with ‘transparency’. Admittedly, many of us struggle with responding with a critical openness due to loads of baggage from past experience.
The way forward, at least to me, or more precisely for me thus far, has been learning keep the ‘dialogues’ alive in my mind often after a conversation, or formal lecture. A certain guardedness is not a bad idea. Because at times we might detect, an ‘evangelistic’ element in thinkers, especially when we’re making promises which sound like the solutions to many impasses (I know some might not like the analogy but then this is random). The fact is we all do make promises, and learning to keep them is an ongoing challenge. In the context of research, some promises will be grand, others more modest, both are welcome as long as we are clear in what we’re promising.
Sure, how many of us have been surprised by under promised promotions? One can cite from the examples of movies to guest speakers whether for religious meetings or academic settings. The value of what we get is often distracted by an initial promotion when what we originally were aiming for was the ‘actual’ content of a movie or a presentation itself. So, the link between the ‘promise’ and the ‘product’ requires some attention. But taking a step back, and tying it back to where we started earlier on assumptions, or some might prefer to say ‘presuppositions’, it’s good to lay these out clearly, then we’re making ‘progress’. Ah … nice. ‘Presuppositions’-'promises’-'process’-'product’-'progress’ … may ‘promotion’ is there somewhere LOL.
As usual these random thoughts are random ramblings, but perhaps there’s something in there which my ‘open reader’ might find useful. For me, it’s good to unload a little. I think after that, it’s not a bad idea to write some ‘refined thoughts’ from these ‘random thoughts’.
The burger is calling now. Yes, back to more concrete matters.