"Doubting, But Still Following"

A couple of weeks ago I gave a sermon at our church titled "Doubting, but Still Following." I think it encompasses well a lot of my beliefs. If you want to give it a listen, there's a recording of it at https://stpaulswaldorf.org/testimonies/ ; the text of it is at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1wwlpvFhzA6wyZiFaD_pVbgzi390RzBuMy07EENLglFg/edit?usp=sharing

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Anthony F. Gryn (January 10, 1935 - January 15, 2018)

My dad's obituary.
Anthony F. Gryn, 83, of Telford, passed away on Monday, January 15, 2018 at his residence, husband of Mary Anne (Walsh) Gryn with whom he celebrated 53 years of marriage.

He was employed as a chemist at Rohm and Haas in Philadelphia for about 30 years prior to his retirement.

Mr. Gryn was a member of St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church in Hatfield. In his free time, he enjoyed biking, serving as a trail keeper for 18 years at Peace Valley Park, being a part of the Socrates Club, and playing chess at Encore.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons: Andrew Gryn of Telford, and Thomas Gryn and his wife Donna of Waldorf, MD, as well as many nieces and nephews.

A Memorial Mass will be scheduled at a later date in the St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church, in Hatfield, PA. Interment is private at the convenience of the family. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in his memory to The Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, 654 Ferry Rd., P O Box 2049, Doylestown, PA 18901. Arrangements are by the Sadler-Suess Funeral Home, Telford.

via http://www.suessfuneralhome.net/memsol.cgi?user_id=2060831

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Thoughts on long-form critique essays, maximization self-help, etc.

(modified comment originally written to https://siderea.dreamwidth.org/1333601.html)

Typically long-form critique essays have a bad tendency to devolve quickly into strawman arguments and misrepresenting the side they're criticizing; contributions on Medium seem notorious for this. Its also one of the weaknesses of the unedited author that they typically can't see when they're going off the rails, or don't care, as long as they find what they're writing to be satisfying and cathartic.

So, based on past experience, that's pretty much my expectation I open an essay or blog entry and see something of any substantial length. The worst offenders are what I call "the wall of text," where it seems like the author believes that flooding the reader with words will bludgeon them over the head enough that anyone reading it will be forced to come around to their way of thinking...and are apparently oblivious that it has the opposite effect, and that parsimony is by far the better method. I sometimes wonder if the WoT writer is using it as a kind of freeform therapy, because it doesn't seem like these excessively long contributions are being written to persuade anyone else.

Even for the decent long ones that are out there, I still think that fairly representing a side or view that one thinks is wrong is very hard, and frankly beyond the capabilities of most writers; that's why I tend to learn more in a back-and-forth between two persons who genuinely hold opposing viewpoints, as opposed to having a single writer try and summarize what they think another person *might* say.

I also would like to have seen a lot more in the essay Siderea cites on how the version of pop-Stoicism that it mentions (Holiday, Ferriss, etc.) is using a generally solid philosophical viewpoint to promote the contemporary self-help underlying mantra that one must MAXIMIZE at all times: MAXIMIZE productivity, MAXIMIZE happiness, MAXIMIZE potential, etc...which helps sell books, seminars, and so on, and so seems at its heart just a way to maximize profit and promotion, a symptom of the gig economy.

A more philosophical asking of >why< and >whether< this hunger for maximizing in all ways is a good or worthwhile pursuit (or who it truly profits) probably wouldn't sell nearly as well. I also think the recent interest in mindfulness and meditation-light that seems much more prevalent today than pop-Stoicism suffers from the same limitation of focusing more on technique and usefulness, rather than asking the deeper "why" questions that philosophy is supposedly there to address.

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Thoughts on the Syrian air strike

The narrative the opposition seems to have settled on for why the Syria strike was wrong is that it cost too much (each Tomahawk costs $~1 million), and that that money should be used at home instead. Thing is, there's been a universal principle in place since WWI that chemical weapons were out of bounds in any conflict, and allowing their use to go without anything except a stern talking-to - which was our reaction the first time they were used in Syria - risks that boundary/"red line" getting erased, with terrible consequences for future conflicts.

What this does is to signal that further use of WMD runs the risk of waking the dragon, i.e. drawing the U.S. into the conflict. Being the "dragon" may make a lot of folks uncomfortable, since it goes against the USA's vision of itself as a city on the hill and a step removed from everything beyond its coasts...but a lesson from history is, never be the side with the weaker military. We're #1 there by a considerable margin, which for better or worse means that we're the dragon that no one wants to face, and will continue to be...and can say, which is how Jerry Pournelle put it: "The message is clear: You had six air bases, Now you have five. Do you care to try for four? Or fewer?."

I note that Pournelle and others on the further right are of the opinion that it made no sense for Assad to use chemical weapons when his star is on the ascendant in the civil war, and what is more likely is this was a "false flag" by ISIS or the opposition to try and draw outside powers into a fight they're losing. At this point, I think that's supposition without any hard facts to back it up, and I'm willing to give the NSA/CIA/etc. the benefit of the doubt that the evidence indicated that the chemicals came from an attack out of that airbase until otherwise indicated.

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Moved over to Dreamwidth

As with many folks, I've moved over to Dreamwidth in the light of the most recent changes to the LJ TOS (see https://mdlbear.dreamwidth.org/1592457.html for more details). My journal there is https://tagryn.dreamwidth.org/ . Posting will probably remain infrequent, as these days most of my online activity is limited to posting garden pictures on Facebook along with a few links to neat pages here and there, and occasionally reTweeting on that platform. Longer posts, which are what DW and LJ are really tailored towards, are harder to put together for time and other reasons.

If you're in the same boat, I do recommend DW. The process to copy your content from LJ to DW is fairly painless (see https://cellio.dreamwidth.org/2002597.html). If you are going to make the switch, also see https://mdlbear.dreamwidth.org/1592824.html for instructions on claiming your LiveJournal OpenID. Even if you're not sure that you want to make the switch, I'd highly recommend at least taking these two steps, in case LJ suddenly decides without warning to disallow copying over of your content to DW...which, given how the TOS change was rolled out, would not be at all surprising.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - initial thoughts (with spoilers)

Overall, I liked the movie, and plan to see it at least one more time. I didn't have the sinking "oh, no, they messed this one up" feeling I did with the prequels, and it was fun to watch.

Some general thoughts:
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Mid-august garden update

Garden harvest
Our vegetable garden (in southern Maryland) is doing its usual August thing of putting out cherry and Roma tomatoes on an almost production-line level, plus one or two peppers every week. We have a couple of raised beds, which is good enough for our 2-person family size. I've lost a lot of the Roma and most of the full-sized tomatoes so far to cracking, which I suspect is because we had a long stretch where it rained or thunderstormed every day, then the last few weeks has had barely any rain at all, and AFAIK that combo is a big contributor to cracking even with the timed irrigation watering system we use.

The lettuce was coming up gangbusters when we were getting a lot of rain, but then just started to tail off and bolt when a groundhog visited and decimated it; we have a couple of old apple trees which are having good years, so we think it was attracted by fallen apples and decided to diversify its diet while it was at it. My squash was also heavily chewed sometime in the past week, I'm suspecting the same fellow. But, on the plus side the leeks are doing very well, and there's a rogue watermelon that sprang up from my experiment last year at growing a small globe variety (but too seedy for my tastes), so we may get an unintentional watermelon or two this year as well.

I'm also trying South African gem squash in three different places, so far so good (they're still too small to make good. I'm hoping I'll get something off of those before the first freeze.

Finally, this is a Cosmos bipinnatus, its the first flower to come up in a new butterfly garden that I seeded in the spring. I'd worried that the whole bed had been taken over by weeds without any flowers coming up, but this is a hopeful sign.

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The need to write

From an interview with playwright Michel Tremblay, circa 1982.
This resonated with me, in both good and bad ways:
"The need to write? You can say what you want, you write to be loved.
It's very silly, and it's very basic. But for myself, I know that I write to be loved.
When you do something creative, even when you are insulting everyone, it
comes from a need in you to be loved. Even with the most insulting poetry,
the lowest form of theatre or the craziest novels! Just trying to attract
attention shows a need to be loved. Especially when you live in a sterile
society like ours. Writers can't deny that they have that somewhere in them.
Unless you are Fernande from L'Improptu d'Outremont and you never publish
your work. There are certainly geniuses who have written for themselves
without ever publishing. But that is something else. And if you publish, it
is for people to read you, to be read, to be loved."

I've had an internal belief for a while that the primary purpose of art is to communicate; that may be with oneself, but if it stops there, is it really art, is it really self-expression in any meaningful way? I think that's been contributing to my reluctance to write, though, as well. It can be a problem, because whether one's expression ever finds an audience is to a large part out of your hands. That's not to say one shouldn't do one's best, I think one always should for its own sake because one is able to, but expecting to reap what is sown in any measure is a sure way to a broken heart. In a way, I suppose its like love, in that how well you love is no guarantee that you will be loved back; that's the tragedy of unrequited love (and the Wizard of Oz has it completely wrong, in my opinion, when he says "A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others"). But laying aside the expectations is hard, since a lot of motivation tends to be tied up with those expectations, at least for me.

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