Random notions that merit some consideration

Published 10:29 am Monday, March 28, 2011

Some while ago I indicated that occasionally I would present here some random thoughts short of full development, rather than the normal complete essay style. This is the second installment.

I find a serious limitation of digital pages on the screen. I can see only one page at a time. For this reason graphic artists get huge screens so they can have four or so pages displayed at once. It is also why I print out longer manuscripts so I can lay pages side-by-side to look for repetitions, antecedents, consistency, and the like. I did the same thing in evaluating student papers. I like single spacing so I can see more of the text on one page.

I should also apply what I learned from browsing library stacks. Flipping through the card catalog gives one perspective, but there is something to be learned from what other books are on the shelf or same case in a library. I have made some wonderful discoveries this way.

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So, digital files aren’t the final source or resource.

I recognize a difference between knowledge and a notion. Just because a person has a notion of something doesn’t mean it exists as fact.

I have noticed this as we have traveled in various parts of the world with Americans. Some have been unreasonably negative, to the point of determined cynicism, about American life, culture, and thought. But they have been naively critical of these factors in the countries we were visiting. I think they rightly recognize America doesn’t have all the answers, and we are not necessarily the pinnacle of civilization; there is much to learn in and from foreign countries and from other cultures. However, they seem to presume America is largely wrong and whatever country they now visit is largely right. If an idea is native, it must be naïve; if foreign, it must be insightful.

When we have listened to Muslim imam or a Buddhist priest, they hang on every word and ingest it uncritically. They overlook the most obvious contradictions in what is being presented and give indulgent tolerance that is the opposite of their skeptical rejection of American ideas. They think themselves culturally sophisticated but are culturally confused.

Some pastors (i.e., men or women allowed the title “pastor”) are so preoccupied with themselves and their thing, they fail to pastor but merely play the role of a pastor. They have no vision, just self-purpose. More than being preoccupied, they become obsessed with themselves, their thing, and role playing. People have, to their way of thinking, no worth but only utilitarian value. If they fill pews and offering plates, they are tolerated. They are valued only when they contribute to this pastor’s purposes and ignored when they don’t. If they as much as appear to differ from his or her purpose, they are ignored. If, either by their efforts or needs, these people come to attention, they are dismissed as soon as he plays the role of noticing.

Information is not the same as knowledge; knowledge isn’t always understood; understanding doesn’t always yield concepts; and concepts are often not followed through to experience. Information may not be more than the accumulation of data. We know much more than we understand, which concerns the meaning of what we know. Even understanding is inadequate until it is processed and structured into a concept. Finally, concepts, a sense of worth and purpose, remain abstract until carried into concrete reality to be experienced, which is the application of knowledge, understanding, and concepts into the attitudes, feelings, and behaviors of living.

Such thoughts as these are occasioned by living and paying attention to life. Let’s think them through.