Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mitchell Heisman: (if only there was a word to describe him)

Preface: The story I describe below (of the man pictured above), has really grabbed a hold of my mind since I found out about it yesterday afternoon. I don't know what to think. I really don't. Definitely Sad. I am not intending to glorify the story, nor demonize his suicidal act a metaphor for our brutal century. When you read about it, there is nothing gory about the story. Pretty basic suicide (if a suicide can be "basic."). But the event that surrounds the suicide, that makes it newsworthy. That is what I am miffed by. I guess I am left here with you, trying to figure out my thoughts regarding it and using this blog as kind of a therapy. What word do I use, in my own head to classify this man's suicide? I want this story to make sense. That is what this man was trying to do with his life...and it just gets, so.....

Story: The pictured man's name is Mitchell Heisman. I have known of him for one day. He is dead now. He died on Saturday, September 18. He committed suicide. He shot himself on Harvard's campus. He ended his life on the steps of the infamous Harvard Memorial chapel. In front of 20 tourists. I was (enthralled?) by his story.

Because the man published 1,905 page suicide note on a website whose link was automatically sent out from his email address to 400 recipients four hours after he shot himself. Yes, 1,905 pages. (note: the actual suicide note has some inappropriate language issues within).

And I can easily say that "suicide note" is not the proper summary of it. It's so much different. It's more like a philosophical inquiry. He had been working on it for five years. And by philosophical inquiry, i mean, here is a sentence I pulled at random, "After Darwin and the cosmological frame of reference gleaned from astronomy, the provincialism of humanism was revealed as a mere prejudice towards the human race."

In short, the note aims to provide a rational basis for his suicide and argues through the primary philosophical ideologies that stand opposed to his suicide (primarily the presupposition that "life" is good). As you can see from the quote above, it's very dense writing, and here and there he adds a bit of dark humor. But all in all, the most perplexing thing about the book is it's entirely academic (over 1,400 footnotes). There is minimal sense of his own self within the book except for the closing chapter where he describes his own life walking through the philosophical struggles he had been discussing in his book, ever since the death of his father at the age of 12. No good byes to family. No "I love you." No mention of battling a depression. He is concerned about logic (or the inability for man to be logical

So why am I so interested with Mitchell? I think it's the fact that no one knew about what his book was about. 5 years he wrote. Told people he was nearing completion a week before he died. 5 whole years, and it's not clear if when he started writing, if suicide was his desired ends. The openness about his arguments displayed in a public website for scrutiny. And when read, it's like the individual is gone (one section he argues about the necessity to a lose a sense of the individual, but I could not cipher what his conclusion was).

So how do I describe it? Is fascinating too optimistically obsessive of a word? Enthralling? Disturbing definitely seems apt, but I think that would too easily forget the sincerity or honesty he was trying to write with? Captivating may do but that seems to infer a kind of enticing attraction to him, to which I would say there is no attraction to what Mitchell did. Arresting? Engrossing? Maybe engrossing. I find his entire process engrossing. Which infers that he is more of a side show I guess...but maybe that's what he is. An academic suicidal sideshow for all to weigh in on. An object, now ceased, that we can talk about. Forget about soon enough. Mention our regret (it really is tragic).

And in my quest for labeling, I am trying to find meaning. Significance. A word to properly portray why I even took the time to read some of his note.

 Was Mitchell doing the same with his life? Trying to find meaning through philosophy and argument. And in the end, found "suicide" as the best answer? Or was suicide always his answer, and he looked to fill in the gap between the act and his existence. Define the story so he didn't look so crazy?

While far from suicide, aren't we all doing this a little? Determining our end result and then filling in the pieces between now and the end? I don't know.


Warning, this next paragraph may bore you and is unnecessary. The essay is in it's completed form exists above. What follows is a brief summary of what I was able to glean from my spot readings of his book in terms of themes, and purpose. I tried wading through some of the selections (the ones that had section headings that intrigued me) and read his opening and closing  chapters (about 40 pages in all. Not even making a dent in it). One thing that interested me was how he started the suicide note not believing in God, and had unexpectedly come to believe in God. Though I could not find what his definition of God was (definitely not Jesus). He does come to see artificial intelligence (which he thinks is the next evolutionary step of man) as a kind of soon to be physical representation of the Jewish idea of God (a conscious being completely distinct from man). Overall, Mitchell is wrestling Nietzche's nihilism (meaningless world where we are to act on our urges) vs. his "boundless" move to really enact on the meaningless of life: suicide. Or...because there can be no value found in life (or a rational explanation that life itself is good), then it's opposite, "death," and it's limitlessness cannot be declared a negative. That is the argument in short (obviously, he ends up siding with suicide).  Monotheism (Judaism especially) vs. Polytheism (Greek paganism), and then paralleling those two being precursors of democracy vs. Nazism is another key element (there are many many more points obviously, but after skimming and reading a few topic sentences then the intro and conclusion, those seem to be the focal point (he believes that because of democracy, and the absence of eugenics such as advocated by Nietzche and Hitler, man will not evolve except to become robots (i was put off too, but this suggestion, but there is much more to it and was actually a fascinating theory). While there were countless paragraphs I had difficulty with comprehending, the stuff I was able to grasp I thought was very interesting. 

UPCI General Conference Voting - UPDATED (Again)!

Bro. Randy Keyes resigned as Assistant General Superintendent - Western Zone before the United Pentecostal Church International's General Conference this week in Houston, so that position was open.

Earlier today, the nominating ballot's top 3 names were:

Stan Gleason--234 votes
Ron Mullings--229 votes
Anthony Mangum--69 votes.

Mangun then withdrew. Gleason, the District Superintendent of Missouri, then won in the run-off.

Otherwise, all the secretary positions of each division were re-elected, with Michael Ensey moving into the vacated General Youth Division Secretary position.

1. The Media Missions Division was closed.
2. Word Aflame Publications was moved under the Sunday School Division from PPH.
3. Allow "assistant to the pastor" to move from local to general license in the process.
4. Express appreciation to everyone.

No, I don't exactly know what #4 means, but thought I'd pass it on from my informant anyway.

BTW, this was all electronic voting for the first time, with about 1400 voters.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

He's Back!

If you love great football (and basketball) analysis, then you need to be visiting sister blog "Momo's Musings," as you'll get a full slate of insight that has been copied on ESPN radio and other blogs.

No higher praise need be added. Check it out, then leave a comment!

Think on These Things

"Everyone wants progress, but nobody likes change." -Rex Ryan, NY Jets head coach.

On Franzen


There’s been a lot of press lately about Jonathan Franzen’s latest book. Oprah, NPR, Time. All that and more.

There’s liberals, and then there’s real liberals. Franzen (admittedly) falls in the later category.

I caught a snippet of a broadcast yesterday on my way home from the grocery store. I hate it when I have to turn off the radio but sometimes I get so offended or so irritated my only recourse is to click it off. I think it was both yesterday. There was a moment (40,33) when Franzen mentioned 9/11 and referred to it as a “terrible, terrible disaster . . . attack.”

Really? 9/11 was a disaster? No, it was nothing of the sort. It was a terrorist attack. Franzen’s slip of the tongue belies the incredible power of words and how they shape our view of the world. For a person to view 9/11 fundamentally as a disaster, first, and as an attack as an afterthought shows how far we have come and how far we have to go in the battle for ideology.

Don’t listen to the interview. It’ll just make you mad. Take my word for it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

TED's Chris Anderson and Pentecostals

TED's Chris Anderson has a mesmerizing video presentation on how YouTube is driving artistic and philanthropic innovation around the world.

The concept is simple: If someone in Japan sees a cool dance video, they not only want to imitate it, they want to individualize it and make it better. Then someone in Denmark sees the Japanese video and does the same. Then someone in Chile sees . . .

This has happened in Christian circles, especially in one much-imitated video that has probably been individualized in more churches and related videos than any other. This one has been seen 10m times over and used in churches worldwide.

It's a strong argument for developing the visual arts within our Pentecostal circles. One effective skit can share the gospel to the ends of the world.

The 18 minute talk doesn't seem long enough.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why Are So Many Things Broken?

Technology Guru Seth Godin offers fascinating insights on why certain things in life are broken, stay broken, or should remain broken.

The video is entertaining, funny, and perhaps a tad long.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Excuse me, I have an interest here in logic and atheism. I want to talk to you about it.

Caption: Anyone who studies the "black and white" atheists on the top (Nietzsche, Freud, Marx from left to right)  and the New Atheists (Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins from left to right), will know the point about them being the same as the old atheists is absurd. Hint: Old Atheists, tend to understand that a godless world infers chaos at least in it being permissible. The New Atheists argue for a Moral law inspite of a godless universe.

There are a couple points I enjoy reading up on that I have to caution myself on posting too much of a subject that enthralls me but may be dull to you. I personally think the issues which interest me have very large ramifications for our children and grandchildren (but that could just be my ego trying to say "I HAVE A PROBLEM AND IT'S IMPORTANT!). The issues: Cognitive science (brain), Evolution/Creation, and the New Atheists.

I just posted about a book against the new atheists from Tomas Halik earlier this week, and I will post about Christopher Hitchens next week (an all too relevant article I found). So with great hesitation, I post the following link, but I think it's quite an interesting, fast article. It's ten propositions of the New Atheists. It's a website for theologians so it may at time go above your heads (there were a couple points that were blurry to me), and it's because the author is somewhat assuming you are familiar with the people mentioned and the issues discussed. That said, I don't think you can get a better summary of the illogical fallacies of new atheism in a shorter time frame than this article. I would be delighted if, after reading the article you left a comment here of disagreement or question of confusion about a point made.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Corn, Sugar, Fructose . . . Syrup?


For a while now there's been a lot of press about evil food. The evil food du jour seems to be High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).

It’s evil. You don’t have to take my word for it. There’s a general consensus. It’s evil, plain and simple. The big news last week was that the Corn Refiner’s Association wants to change their image. They want to tell you that it’s fine. It’s not evil. It’s just . . . sugar. Maybe we could all call it “corn sugar”? If more and more people are starting to really believe that HFCS is evil maybe we can simply call it something else. Sin is still sin, people. Calling it by a different name doesn’t change its nature.

Anna Lappé reviews the issue here and argues for maintaining the status quo. Personally, I think they should just call it sin.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

And my heart goes "Hurray for Tomas Halik!"

You know how people say that "you should never judge a book by it's cover?" And yet, when you go to the book store, you find yourself doing exactly that and you hate yourself for doing that?

Well, my dilemma is simply judging books by their amazon reviews and wikipedia. So many books have been recommended to me, but when I do a search online, and the summary doesn't thrill me I will forget about it.

Well, I found a book review tonight that did just the opposite. Click here for the review. It's about a recent book from a Tomas Halik called Patience with God. In short it is discussing the atheist position (Halik is a Christian). His argument moved me something right well in terms of analysis (and i haven't even read the book but I will)....

" the real difference between faith and atheism is patience. Atheists are not wrong, only impatient. They want to resolve doubt instead of enduring it. Their insistence that the natural world doesn't point to God (or to any necessary meaning) is correct. Their experience of God's absence is a truthful experience, shared also by believers. Faith is not a denial of all this: it is a patient endurance of the ambiguity of the world and the experience of God's absence. Faith is patience with God. Or as Adel Bestavros puts it (in the book's epigraph): patience with others is love, patience with self is hope, patience with God is faith. "

When I read that paragraph, and more so that last sentence, it was one of those moments of revelation for me. I would not have been surprised if at that moment a light could have broken through the ceiling from heaven onto the computer screen that held the paragraph. I even had to turn on the theme song from 2001: A Space Odyssey, "Thus Sprake Zarathustra" to just add to the moment. 

Who needs books for these moments? We got book reviews. Soon we'll need "Book Review" reviews just to keep us safe from finding yourself preached to in the midst of the reading for possible future reads.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"We are going to Australia!" We ...are....going Australia!"

This video is real. They are going to Australia. The rumor is John Travolta will be flying the plane (unconfirmed) over.

I don't even know how to tell you what this video does to me when I watch it.  I could maybe start by telling you that since I first saw it  last night, I have seen it probably about 30 times. Most of it revolving around trying to figure out why it's so memorizing. What is so addicting about it? Is it the sight of 30-60 year old suburban mothers acting like children because "THEY ARE GOING TO AUSTRALIA?" Maybe. 

Is it my amazement at how Oprah, more than any other celebrity I know, has millions of people so locked into her personality, that every time she is giving something away to her audience, everyone knows like clockwork how to act their respectable parts...Like an adult version of the children's backyard game, "Red Light, Green Light." Maybe.

Maybe it's the woman at the ten second mark before the announcement:

No, it's probably the woman at the thirty second mark (video will play at such a point):

I mean, the excitement of this woman...

She is alive. More alive than I ever could be. I wish she was my best friend. Her optimism could make mountains move. I would be happy a lot too. Why is she like this though? Is it because of Oprah? Is it because of the cameras? is it because of Australia? Is it because of the loud noises?

I don't know. But then it hit me. My love for the video and the people in it....They are a reminder...They. Oprah. The fake plane that crashes through the set. The dude with an orange vest acting like he purposefully directed the fake plane to come invade the studios. The repetitions from Oprah about going to Australia. It all reminds me....

The apocalypse is near. And this will all be gone. And I get excited too.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cruise Ship Madness

Did you see this video of below decks on a cruise ship in very rough seas? Due to the stationary camera, it's eerie.

Don't miss it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

David Crowder Band: Try This At Your Church

Here's a simple idea to illustrate a great worship song almost anyone could do some version of at their local church.

Studying...It's not what you think...

You know that whole notion that some students are visual learners, others are auditory learners, some right-brained, others left-brained? may just be all fluff trying to convince teachers and parents a child's ability to retain information is within the power of the educator.

That's right, these theories and others regarding student's learning habits are more old-wives tales than science. See the article here.

As the results pointed out from a group of researchers, "“The contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing,” "

The article does give some interesting results of what may help studying:

Don't study in the same place every time (change locations increases retention).

Also, "Varying the type of material studied in a single sitting — alternating, for example, among vocabulary, reading and speaking in a new language — seems to leave a deeper impression on the brain than does concentrating on just one skill at a time."

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Eskimo Baptism

Go check out more biblical fun, cleverness and even hilarity at!

American Chrsitianity: Equal Parts God & Mammon

New York Times columnist David Brooks reviews a book by a megachurch pastor, and says Americans have always had their Christianity intertwined with mammon. Writes Brooks:

"When Europeans first settled this continent, they saw the natural abundance and came to two conclusions: that God’s plan for humanity could be realized here, and that they could get really rich while helping Him do it. This perception evolved into the notion that we have two interdependent callings: to build in this world and prepare for the next.

The tension between good and plenty, God and mammon, became the central tension in American life, propelling ferocious energies and explaining why the U.S. is at once so religious and so materialist. Americans are moral materialists, spiritualists working on matter."

Sounds a little close to true. What thinkest thou?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Koran Burning: Blind to Your Own Faith

This is yet another example of a citizen being unable to distinguish between his American citizenship and his Christian faith, as if they're the same thing. Some pastor (of 50 people! not a megachurch--50 people!) decides he's going to host a Koran burning on 9/11 and the media can't stop highlighting it.

"How much do we back down? How many times do we back down?" Jones told the AP. "Instead of us backing down, maybe it's to time to stand up. Maybe it's time to send a message to radical Islam that we will not tolerate their behavior."

Honestly, is the best way to share the salvation message with Muslims? What exactly does that accomplish for Jesus? If he wants to make some type of (insert adjective here) statement, then he shouldn't do it at a church that preaches a message the world needs to hear. Do it at home. Do it anywhere else. Don't do it telling everyone you're acting like a Christian, when you're actually just acting like a (insert adjective here) American.

Jesus Loves Pornstars?

Read Here. Think about what Craig Gross is saying. Do you agree?

Craig Gross (pictured top left) is one of my favorite Christian speakers/writers. He has written many books, and continually confronts the whoas of an America addicted to porn. He debates Ron Jeremy (a porn star who is pictured top right) a lot too. He thinks these debates are a good thing. If you read the article he wants to do them in churches. Kind of out there. But he thinks there is good reason for it.

What do you think?