this is promising to be interesting

I am reading E. Anthony Rotundo’s American Manhood: Transformations In Masculinity From The Revolution To The Modern Era and the very first paragraph has me hooked. He writes

…….manliness is a human invention. Starting with a handful of biological differences, people m all places and times have invented elaborate stories about what it means to be male and female. In other words, each culture constructs its own version of what men and women are—and ought to be.

E. A Rotunda, American Manhood: Transformations In Masculinity From The Revolution To The Modern Era

and in this age of I feel in the deepest of my hearts that I am a woman, this should be arsenal in their armory. Maybe I have the cart before the horse here, but this is a bold start.

Keep it tuned here for more.

born to run

A Hidden Tribe, Super-athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall is a book that makes you want to run as you read it. At other times you get tired thinking about the many miles these people run (I mean who runs 100 miles in a day? ) and still have energy to do other things instead of laying dead for 3 days!

It also takes you to a tour to strange places in Mexico where one would to visit not to run, but maybe hike. Who runs in steep hills?

How do you run without injury? Maybe you run fast, tall and happily. I am not making it up. If at the end of a run you are not laughing/ happy you are doing it too hard or wrong. You should enjoy running. So your pace should be such that you can smile during your run. I smile sometimes, especially when I am going fast (maybe because i can’t believe I can run that fast).

You can outrun a horse, if you are fit enough over long distances. And maybe even hunt without a weapon. Just run the antelope to death, literally. It has happened before, so I read.

What Christopher’s argument basically is human beings are running machines. We can outrun almost if not all animals on the planet.

Even if you don’t like running, the book makes for good reading. You may actually disagree with all he says about running injury and all but find the story intriguing, especially about the Tarahumara country and their running.

Get off that couch and get running.

On labels or that kind of thing

A number of the readers here identify as atheists. Some who don’t do so identify as either non religious, agnostic and a few as anti-theist. Yesterday I was reading a paper, An argument for unbelief: a discussion about terminology by Nickolas G Conrad in which he makes the case that the best all encompassing term to use is unbelief. Atheism as we all know is loaded politically and socially and doesn’t cover the nuances of say Barry, who for all intents has rejected the orthodox dictates of religion but still find some relevance or utility in religion (a term that you might realise is not so straightforward by the way) or my friend from across the lands Veracious Poet or Nan.

He also argues, and I think I agree, that referring to some ancients as atheist do not do them real justice. They could have rejected orthodox religion but never did refer to themselves as atheists. They were freethinkers in France, Fouriers, positivists or followers of Saint- Simon but not atheists.

What do you think?

Tomorrow sex will be good again

By Katherine Angel

Is a book I would recommend for those still actively having sex or who plan to get some action in the future.

In it she addresses the issues surrounding consent especially following #metoo and other campaigns aimed at addressing sexual violence against women( especially women because they are overly represented in the number victims of sexual violence) and explored whether that active consent is a sufficient guarantee that women will be safe.

She explores arousal, desire, vulnerability and asks some very pointed questions. Many times men are won’t to say that women when they say no actually mean yes or that their bodies speak a different language which is not said for men. It is argued that the female body is disconnected from her person. And this unfortunately has been used in legal cases to argue against rape where defendants have said the woman was wet and so she must have wanted it, regardless of her protestations.

A very interesting question or theme that runs through the book is how can sex research which claim to be objective give us any results when sex is removed from its very subjective context of negotiation, desire, arousal and all those things we associate with sex?

Sex she argues is political. Especially in the manner in which the female body and desire is policed. And asks whether to demand that women be performative in the sex game will lead to any liberation? Is it the panacea to sexual violence? I don’t think so.

Go read the book. Happy week everyone and have some good sex while at it.

Things I never learned in Sunday School

By Nan Yielding

First, thanks Nan for the free copy. It is an interesting and easy read. I think a revised edition is due especially because I think you have in the intervening period learnt something that maybe was not available at the time of first publication.

This book is not a polemic against religion or an apologia. Maybe we could say it is an argument against taking someone as an authority without good reason. In this respect, I think Nan makes her point clearly throughout the book.

That said, I have a few issues with the book.

On the pentatauch, she alludes to Moses writing the first five books. First comment is that the existence of Moses is highly doubtful but that’s a story for later. On the authorship of the first five books, research that I have read point to a multiple group of writers. My preface to the African Bible( used by the Catholic Church) is explicit that while it is commonly believed Moses wrote those books, this is no longer tenable.

On Jesus, Nan writes in a manner that shows she is convinced of at least two things; he existed and had a message of love that he taught. The interesting question here is which Jesus. And having read several researches on Jesus life, I would ask with Ark, which Jesus? Nan writes we are certain Jesus died but this is putting the cart before the horse.

What can be said of the resurrection? She points out the various contradictions in the narratives telling of this special event. And I don’t think much needed to be added. Maybe we can say with Mangassarian that if he went to the sky it is best to live him there.

She writes a lot on Paul which is understandable because of his influence in Christian teaching. The first question is Paul who? Does the author of Acts know Paul? And while her conclusion is correct that without the Pauline literature, we would likely end up with a different religion today. She takes it for granted that Paul was. And I would think, as the theme of the book is not taking things on authority, a little bit of rigour would not be asking for too much.

Her exposition on the devil is quite illuminating. But in that chapter she says we are certain a supreme being exists? But does it really? Are we certain about this? What is the nature of this being & though in the final chapter she makes the argument that resembles that of Aviciena( via negativa) that maybe we can’t begin to name or even describe this being, this gives us no light on whether we should assume such a being exists.

I am not convinced the argument about the Roman empire persecution of Christians hold against scrutiny. I will have to dust my books & update this criticism but her position is not tenable.

I am African and it is a pet peeve of mine when I find African deities or religions referred to as tribal gods. This is following Hegel where everyone else has national gods or just religions but the African, no. His is a tribal god. I know it is not Nan’s fault here that most literature sees Africans only through the lens of tribe.

I think on matters where there is doubt, to express certainties must surely take away from the value of the work. To claim a supreme being/ god certainly exists is to stretch credulity a little far. My other general comment that covers the whole work is on miracles. The bible which is the source document for Christian belief is said to be a miracle- that is, it is not of natural production but involves the action of god(s) in unknown ways- is in need of defence.

While reading the book, a thought occurred to me concerning monotheism. Is it a belief in the existence of only one god or the belief in & worship of only one god While not negating the existence of other gods? The israelites are told not that other gods don’t exist, just that they should worship a specific god. Or as Nietzsche put it, the other gods laughed themselves to death when one of them said I am on the only god. Am I missing something?

Happy Sunday everyone. And thanks again Nan for the book.

We learn

In a time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.

The Plague by Albert Camus

This was a good read. And it fits the times we live in. A small happy town has been struck by the plague. First, the authorities are not sure of what to make of it. When the deaths start piling up, measures are put in place to address the pandemic. And it is in the lives of those who find themselves within the city walls that we find we are in sympathy with their situation and wish that it goes away.

Tarrou who has been busy helping the doctor in his work succumbs at the very last moment. And it is such a sad take. The priest dies too. And Othon’s little boy. The old man who’s battling asthma survives the pandemic & such is life. Unpredictable. Cruel sometimes. But also provides room for greatness.

A book I would recommend to you all.

A room of one’s own

By Virginia Woolf is a book(extended essay) I would recommend to anyone who wants something short and interesting to read.

The question she is answering is women and fiction and she argues that to write a woman needs her own room and 500£ a year income(this was 1928).

She should have the freedom to say what she wants and at the same time have an opportunity to observe reality.

If you have no book to read during quarantine, here is a place to start.

Four Arguments for the elimination of Television

by Jerry Mander

is one of those books I would hardly recommend for anyone. I must admit I didn’t read it to the end but read two thirds of it which means I have earned some right to say something about it.

The argument that TV makes it possible to have the masses have almost the same thoughts or be exposed to the same story or image can be said of newspapers or any media that has a wide circulation. An argument can also be made that Jerry makes his people robots, that they can’t chose when to hit the off switch on their TVs or whatevers.

Jerry’s argument against TV is not limited to TV programming but includes the TV as a medium. And it does seem to me that he would not make allowance for using TV to watch youtube or any docuseries. TV is bad and that is the end of story. If he was writing the book today, would he make the same argument against smartphones and many social media apps that have the potential to be addictive. They may not be harmful.

Since I had not made an appearance on the world stage in 1978, I don’t know how ads were done then but as we speak, there is very important function that ads play in our lives. Without ads, I wouldn’t know whether HP has produced a better comp with much better graphics card and that I should replace my workhorse or maybe where I can bury myself in unhealthy meat burger with honey, cheese, onions and I don’t know what else they put in it. While on ads, an argument can be made that some ads cause harm. Should they be allowed to play on TV? I would say no. But that’s me.

TV is useful for education. And I think it can serve democratic ends though this can be difficult when the TVs and newspapers are owned by oligarchs who may not be interested in democracy or as we have seen with the American media engineering consent for war among the citizens.

Jerry talks of bias embedded in the TV medium but i think bias cannot be avoided in any medium. It can be reduced through objective reporting or allowing for the airing of dissent. And there is bias even in newspapers, books and internet articles.

The only thing going for the book is that it is easy to read though I don’t think it needed to have so many pages. His message could have still been argued in fewer pages.

 

Unbelievable? Chapter 9

Living the Christian story

In this final chapter, Justin argues that for one to understand Christianity, they should necessarily become Christian. Sought of the argument that you need to believe first then it will become clear, not I want it to be clear than I can believe.

He says he asked some atheists to pray for 40 days because they lose nothing anyway by trying. It should be noted that none of those who took part in the experiment saw the light. The two he claims came to god, he clarifies did so or were already on the way to religion even before the experiment began and as such don’t count.

He makes a case for divine hiddenness, arguing that maybe god really want us to search for him. He is not interested in making the search easy. God, who is all powerful and all, is interested in you loving and trusting in him. If he were to come again and smote the city of Paris with an earthquake like he did to Gomorrah, you will not believe him. This is poppycock!