Sunday, December 8, 2013

It Snowed in the Desert Last Night

It snows in Arizona, at least in the high desert it does...



We got maybe an inch of dry snow and a light ice glaze last night.  The locals are fond of assuring us newcomers "As soon as the sun comes up it will all melt."


No TV, No WiFi

Means I have time to catch up on my reading...


Since my arrival in Prescott my book list has been about half serious, half SF.


Ancient Angkor, by Michael Freeman and Claude Jacques


A Layman's Guide to Protestant Theology, by William E. Hordern


The Black Swan: TheImpact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb


Original Sin: Origins, Developments, Contemporary Meanings, by Tatha Wiley, is very readable book about a pretty inscrutable topic. Author Wiley is erudite and even-handed in her examination of topics Christians have killed each other over.


In Deep, by Damon Knight, is a collection of short stories. The first, "Four in One" is an absolute hoot!


The Upanishads, translated by the late Eknath Easwaran, is delightful and rich.


The Black Death, by Phillip Zeigler, is an eminently readable history of one of the turning points of Western civilization.


Downtiming the Night Side, by Jack Chalker is intricately paradoxical and deftly plotted. It's among the very few time travel stories I've read or seen that didn't make me roll my eyes and shake my head. I haven't read any Jack Chalker before but I will be happy to try him again.


Modern Man in Search of a Soul, by Carl Jung, is an interesting time capsule from the interwar years when Freudian and Adlerian methods were still in play. Chapters 9, 10, & 11 were the best in a very chewy read.


The Eye of the Monster, by Andre Norton, is a quick and unspectacular read. About the first time I didn't get my money's worth from the dollar shelf.


Pebble in the Sky, by Isaac Asimov, was an example of his early work. He got much better as the years progressed.


Calculated Risks: How to Know When Numbers Deceive You, by Gerd Gigerenzer, is thought provoking stuff that demands close attention and critical thinking.


To the Stars, by Harry Harrison, is three novels rolled up into a single volume. Turns out I'd read two of the three stories in their solo iterations. Oh well.


I have not made time to read or listen to the Quran, but I'll get back to it after the Solstice...

Seriously, having no TV and no internet is fine inducement to appropriate literary habits. Try it.

Friday, November 29, 2013

My School Has An F-104N Starfighter...

...does your school have an F-104N Starfighter?


In the month or so since I began my cool new job at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - Prescott Campus, I've encountered sights didn't quite expect.  I posed in front of the school's F-104N Starfighter NASA chase plane (N811NA) on static display.  I've seen a solid fuel liquid oxygen hybrid rocket come apart during a test at the school's rocket motor test stand.  I attended a public lecture on the history of the U2 spy plane presented by a former U2 pilot and retired ERAU professor.   I've been on three observation flights, complimentary ride-alongs with student pilots and their instructors offered to staff and faculty.  Two were in Cessna 172 aircraft.  One evening earlier this week I got to take a IFR flight in a Diamond 42.  Quite the ride!  Quite the school!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Monument Valley or The Monument Valley?

There is only one and I visited it Sunday, October 20, 2013: Day Four...


After visiting Arches National Park I drove through Moab, which suddenly seemed crowded and noisy.  I drove south on U.S. Route 191 until I arrived at Monticello, UT.  I passed the night at a roadside motel operated by a Hindu family.  Sunday morning I continued south.  As I crossed into Arizona I chose to not pass up the chance to visit Monument Valley like I had Arches 28 years ago.  It's quite the rugged and time consuming thing to drive into the valley in your own vehicle so I didn't see all of the sights.  But I snapped a few pics before returning to the pavement.  As the hours passed and I closed in on my goal I drove through Flagstaff, Sedona, and Jerome.  Yes, once again I chose the scenic route, this time State Route 89A.  Scenic?  Yeah, mountain goat scenic...


Purple Mountain Majesties

Leaving the fruited plain behind, October 19, 2013: Day Three...


Up before the sun I drove south on Interstate 25 to Denver, where I had breakfast with two friends of my younger days, both named Steve.  Steve Jacksteit was a peer at Signetics in the days before 811 E. Arques, Sunnyvale, California, became the parking lot of a Home Depot.  Steve Belecky was my tenacious investigator during my stint at Silicon Graphics Inc in the days when it still made the go to UNIX box for 3D graphics and other computationally intensive applications.  We enjoyed breakfast and coffee and the retelling of our best and favorite stories.  Then I was back on the road this time headed west on Interstate 70 over the Rockies (and through the Eisenhower Tunnel) to Grand Junction.  There the helpful fellas at the Chamber of Commerce suggested I take an alternate route to the goal of my day's excursion.  In 1985, when I drove from Minnesota to California, I passed the sign marking the turn to Arches National Park, telling myself I'd be back some day.  Well, 28 years later is some day I guess, so this time I made up my mind to visit the park.  The scenic drive the volunteers at the visitor center recommended was Utah State Route 128 and boy, is it scenic!  The nondescript two lane road crosses over land for a time before descending into a deep, winding canyon cut by the Colorado River.  This route through weathered red sandstone treats the sightseer to steep turns, steep cliffs, and blind corners without shoulders.  Scenic indeed, especially if you like watching white knuckles on the steering wheel.  It let me out in Moab, Utah, a few miles south of Arches.  The sun was approaching the horizon as I entered the park so I did not have time to visit the entire place.  Still, I encountered some arches.  I am in the desert now.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Arizona or Bust

Friday, October 18, 2013: Day Two...


There were still cattle carcasses in the fields along the interstate due to a recent early blizzard so my plans to travel south through the Badlands National Park via secondary and tertiary roads were quashed by several concerned locals.  Since I'd be sticking to the interstate that meant I could visit the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, just a few minutes west of Kadoka.  The Visitor Center and the above ground portion of the Launch Facility Delta-01 were open, but the Missile Silo Delta-09 was closed due to the recent storm.  Sobering stuff for those of us who lived through those days...  My version of Blast From The Past completed I drove almost to Rapid City, South Dakota before turning south and then west on a route that took me into Wyoming.  A couple more hours...and then a couple more...put me in Fort Collins, Colorado, where I reconnected with my college room mate, Tim Clouse, whom I had not seen since 1997.  The local dining was tasty and his sofa was quite comfortable.





Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Drive to Arizona

Thursday, October 17, 2013: Day One...



The drive from Bloomington, Minnesota to Kadoka, South Dakota took me southwest along U. S. Highway 169 until I linked up with Interstate 90 westbound.  I stopped for mug of dark roast at River Rock Coffee in Saint Peter, where Cassandra attended school at Gustavus Adolphus College.  While doing so I passed Treat Site History Center that Cassie and I promised ourselves we'd visit some day while she was attending school.  We have yet to do so...  But for the marketing efforts of Wall Drug and various other tourist traps along the way there would be precious little to look at other than 380 miles of rolling prairie.  The picture above is of a rise covered with a variety of iron sculptures.  Uh...thanks.  I called it day when I reached Kodoka.  We stayed there in July of 1999 while I rode with my brother Steve for two days of his American Lung Association Big Ride from Seattle, Washington to Washington, DC.  It has not changed much.  By the way, if the picture on the Kadoka website reminds you of scenes from Paul Verhoeven's 1997 classic Starship Troopers, that's because the movie was filmed in the area.  


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Where in the World is Eclectic Breakfast?

Waldo is right here...


At Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, in Prescott, Arizona, USA.

Michael Brady, MA, CPP

Director of Campus Safety & Security
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
3700 Willow Creek Road
Prescott, AZ 86301
928-777-3333 dispatch
928-777-3738 desk
928-442-6867 cell
bradym3@erau.edu 

How I got here and what I saw on the road between Minneapolis and Prescott will be detailed in a series of future posts.  In the mean time I still have unpacking to do...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Good Friend's Rifle Is Back On The Line

Eric Ching's "Chingring" scout is back in service...


Before I knew I'd be leaving Minnesota I had one of the rifles bequeathed to me by our late and much lamented friend Eric Ching sent to me here.  This Remington Seven (blue synthetic) is chambered for the 260 Remington cartridge and wears a Burris 2.75x scout scope. What makes it especially Eric's rifle is that it's fitted with his Chingring - a sleeve attached to a cylindrical section of the barrel just ahead of the receiver.  Cut away most of the bottom of the sleeve and affix a Weaver rail and your rifle is ready for a forward mounted optic.  Back in the day of hopelessly expensive pedestal barrels this innovation allowed a fella to inexpensively install a scout scope on a skinny barrel.  This idea was borrowed, improved upon, and commercialized by Ashley Emerson and currently offered as the XS/Clifton Scout Mount by XS Sight Systems 

The neat little rifle arrived with some of Eric's mild deer loads (125 grain Nosler Partitions at ~2700 fps) and several boxes of factory 140s.  I took it to the range the other day to double check the zero, just because.  I will not chase whitetails this year; too many balls in the air, what with the new job, moving to Arizona, and all.  This very sensible scout rifle shot only one pair wider than an inch in 30 rounds and is now zero'd three inches high at 100.  We are going to be very good friends.  

As I shot through a partial box of Eric's handloads marked "2006" I remembered that I watched Eric drop a North Dakota whitetail at last light with ammo from this very carton on his last hunt the year before he died of brain cancer in 2007.  I miss our friend, but I will be honored to return his deer gun to the field - whether in Arizona, North Dakota, or Minnesota - at the very earliest opportunity.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Hey...Something New At The Deer Rifle Sight-in

Not at all a deer gun, but cool...


Make that mighty, awesomely, wickedly cool.  When the day's activities were completed at the gun club's annual public deer rifle sight-in this past Sunday a fellow club member brought out his Shrike "uppered" AR15.  A belt-fed 223; what's not to like?

Otherwise, success and failure came in most of the same flavors as past years.

Success

Ruger American bolt action.  Easily the finest looking entry-level bolt-action rifle I've ever seen.  Shoots fine to.  Très Elegant, Très Chic!
Most any scope that cost more than $125...especially Redfield, Burris, Leupold, Zeiss, and Trijicon.

Failure

Any scope that cost less than $99...especially Simmons or TascoAack! Thpt!
Scopes on shotguns...especially when attached to pump guns using saddle mounts
Doodz! When the iron sights work better than your cheap scopes or their flimsy extruded alloy mounts that's called a clue!

This was my last hurrah at the gun club, seeing as I'm moving from Minnesota to Arizona for a new job.  Hanging out with other civic-minded shooters at our annual deer rifle sight in has made for for some shining times.  Fare thee well!


Friday, October 11, 2013

Another Guest Post At The Eclectic Breakfast

My father, Larry Brady, aged 79 years, is very fond of telling stories...

My grandfather Owen Brady and my aunt Patricia one cold North Dakota day the 1930s

For Christmas of 2012 he made a gift to the family of these memories from his early life in North Dakota.


One of the thoughts that has been floating through my head as snow arrived in Minnesota was the way children were taken to school in those days.  I was too young to go to school but I do remember riding with our dad in a kind of shed on skis, with a little stove to keep everyone warm.  I really don't remember going to school as much as the ride home.  I think I remember him talking about next year when I would be in school.

Another memory that keeps coming back is about a time Mom and Dad left my sisters on the farm to take care of my younger brother Jimmy while I got to go to Devils Lake with them.  We didn't leave Devils Lake until after dark.  I got to sit on front with them.  Our mom was unhappy about something and Dad was trying to cheer her up - he was very happy about something else.  When we got home Dad had to go out to the barn to milk the cows and do the chores.  They had bought me a pair of white farmers gloves in town.  Mom let me wear them as I went out to the barn to help with chores.  Being it was dark I ran into the barbwire fence and got blood on my new gloves.  I can remember crying a lot, not because of the scratches but because I got blood all over my new "farmers gloves."

The last memory on the farm was when Dad was so sick he couldn't get out of bed.  There was a snowstorm but Mom thought she should call someone to come to the farm to get Dad to a doctor.  Dad said not to that.  Harvey Rice, the mailman, would be along any minute and eh would get the help that was needed.  Dad was taken by sleigh to the closest train station to be transported to the Veterans Hospital in Fargo.  I was told they had to put my Mom and Dad in the mail car.  It was heated. But he could not be in the regular part of the train because they didn't know why he was so sick.  That all happened during the winter of 1939-40, which started a whole new life for all of us in the little town of Crary.

Jimmy and I loved Crary; our sisters didn't feel the same way.  I didn't mean for this to end on such a dark note...but that's the way memories go.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Days of War, Nights of Love

I feel their pain but I cannot commit to joining them where they are...


This very special and challenging book was a gift from my dear friend David, whose life much more closely adheres to the philosophy championed in this earnest volume.  Days of War, Nights of Love: Crimethink For Beginners by CrimethInc is like reading about a different species; an uncannily familiar species we might admire despite its awkward alien-ness.  Its angry anarchic, rejectionist, contrarian prose exhorts us to an garbage-grubbing interstitial life at the margins subsisting on the leftovers and leavings of modern, capitalist, industrial society.  Were we all able to return to the egalitarian, communitarian, small group societies the authors aspire to we would find ourselves in a hunter-gatherer economy with no technology more sophisticated than "stone knives and bear skins."  Call me bourgeois, but I kinda like the internet, iron, penicillin, and beverages extracted from coffee beans grown on other continents. Still, we should endeavor to understand and learn from the authors' pain, ennui, and weirdly compelling aspirations.  They're not wrong...exactly...they're just 10,000 years too late to put up or shut up.  Damn you, agriculture, Bronze Age, and civilization!


Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Terror: A Novel

By Dan Simmons, master storyteller...


Anyone who has read Dan Simmons' classic Hyperion Cantos, or his more recent Ilium and Olympos will tell you this gifted author knows how to spin a yarn that is completely realized, utterly uncanny, and amazingly literary.  Of all Simmons' writing talents the one I enjoy the most is the way he draws deeply upon classic, modern, and popular literature, culture, and traditions to inform his story.  In the Hyperion Cantos he called upon Roman Catholicism, medieval history, and The Wizard of Oz to color his canvas.  In Olympos and Ilium a future earth is shaped by the Homeric epics and Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

In The Terror: A Novel, Simmons uses the history of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition of 1845 as his stalking horse.  The story of the Sir Franklin’s lost expedition to find the fabled Northwest Passage is horrifying enough, but to the crushing ice, bitter cold, endless night, numbing hopelessness, privation, want, exposure, the stench of scurvy, gangrene, and suppuration that actually occurred, Simmons adds A Monster stalking the ice intent on their destruction.  Simmons summons Edgar Allan Poe to make scenes of shattered bone, torn off limbs, and freezing sprays of blood magically surreal.  To call it Master and Commander Meets The Thing would be glib, but such a description might get you into the ballpark visually.  This wickedly clever mash-up of historical fiction, arctic exploration during the age of sail, and horror chilled me instantly and left me so for all 766 pages.

The Terror is one of those novels you can't quit reading for fear the story will leave you behind. I knew the Franklin Expedition ended badly but loved being dragged into Simmons' even more hopeless version.  I’m glad I did not read it when it was first published in 2007.  Those were especially dark days in our house and this horror story would have made the gloom even worse.  Five years on I didn’t want this carefully crafted world to end, leaving me to find my own way back to a safe and slightly banal reality.

In The Terror, Simmons is a gory-minded storyteller with a heart made of grinding shards of ice.  Not for the squeamish, but I loved every minute of it.  The Terror is bloody, brilliant, and bloody brilliant.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What Better Day

To remember we usually get risk wrong...

click on image to enlarginate

As a society - perhaps 21st century Americans especially - we’re strongly inclined to get risk wrong. We worry about different things for different reasons, depending on our temperamentsWe worry about rare events we cannot control and ignore mundane hazards we can avoid.  As individuals - especially those of us in the resilience trade - we need to resist all the cognitive short cuts that make that possible.  I am reminded of a funny and challenging 2008 Op-Ed by Lenore Skenazy, the silly media firestorm that followed, and her refreshingly sensible blog.

Image credit: http://www.yalescientific.org/2011/05/cultural-cognition-and-scientific-consensus/

Mourn The Past Or Prepare For The Future?


I much prefer the company of those who dedicate themselves to prepare for the future... 


The 11th Annual Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance has arrived.  The flag is lowered, we bow our heads, and are inclined to look back to mourn the past.  Arnold Bogis, a writer at the excellent Homeland Security Watch blog, recommends rather that we honor our heroes by training new ones.  I agree with him.  

As the most social of all primates, humans will follow the group, for good and for ill.  The herd, the troop, the tribe will choose compassion or cruelty.  Leadership creates the direction.  The able response mounted by emergency services at the Boston Marathon modeled appropriate action and made it easy for witnesses to become rescuers.  Like most all animals, we have three responses to threat: flight,fight, or freeze.  As individuals we do not rise to the occasion, we default to our level of training.  Effective training and frequent drill can create the difference between evacuation or rout, resistance or riot, a moment of evaluation or mindless panic.  As leaders we instill in our team members, communities, and families the habits they present to the world and the reflexes they will apply under stress.  Whether we model habits mindfully or carelessly is up to each of us, every day.


 


 







Sunday, September 8, 2013

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

It wasn't all just sleeping in, sipping dark roast, and reading...


First, there was a deck and railings to power wash, scrape, sand, repair, prime, paint, strip, brighten, stain, and re-stain wet.


Then there were ornamentals and stone.  About it I wrote to my friend Jim yesterday: 

Here is our latest completed project. It's been some time since I moved a ton of gravel...by shovel and wheeled barrow.  The tree is a hydrangea, the evergreens are a low growing juniper, and the annuals at the far end are mums. There's a slate paver between the flowers that increased my total weight lifting by 50 pounds or so. Then I tuned the irrigation system to treat its new charges properly. All this for a house in which I no longer live and which we will likely sell before we have time to witness any growth.

Jim, a retired Roman Catholic priest in his late 60s who planted a stand of oak seedlings just three years ago, replied:

"What is planting except belief in the future...that is not our own. We are the planters; others will reap what we have sown." - Oscar Romero

I am not worthy of friends as wise as him...but I am grateful.




Friday, September 6, 2013

Why I Hate DIY Landscaping Projects

Some people do this for fun, others hire it done...


No, that wasn't an old root, it was the main irrigation line.  Yes, that is a shovel inflicted gash just below the clamped splice.  Ack!  Thpppt!


Yes, it is good to live near a Home Depot.  An hour later, I managed to break even and returned to prepping the front yard of the house where I no longer live for some shrubbery.

To paraphrase Greta Garbo, "I want to be in a condo!" 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Alas, Seamus Heaney Is Dead

And more's the pity...


Irish poet and man of letters, Seamus Heaney translated my favorite edition of Beowulf. I made a gift of that translation to my late and much lamented friend Eric S.H. Ching one Christmas not so long ago.  Heaney's passing also reminds me of my embarrassing, odd, and unrequited ambivalence about my Irish heritage.  

Rest in peace, Seamus Heaney, aged only 74 years...gone too soon.

How soon the grave beckons, inexorable, regardless the quality of our contribution.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Homegrown Violent Extremism by Erroll Southers

Brought to our attention by Arnold Bogis at Homeland Security Watch...



Thanks for bringing our attention to Erroll Southers’ new book Homegrown Violent Extremism

Coincidentally, Mr. Southers is currently working for Johnathan Tal, of TAL Global, an associate of mine from the Silicon Valley days.  Southers has a blog where he discussed his book in a recent post in which he reminds us:


Absent a set of specific criteria, we will continue to direct the vast majority of our national security efforts against only one violent ideology (i.e., Muslim extremism).

The federal government has had a legal definition of terrorism for quite some time.


Title 22 of the U.S. Code, Section 2656f(d) defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
 
By that measure most (almost all) of the terrorism we have experienced in the U.S. since 1865 has been the work of angry white men, not transnational Islamist extremists. There was a time when the federal government aggressively investigated the bombing of churches and the assassination of civil rights workers without regard to the skin color of the perpetrators or victims. Unfortunately, these days our frightened neighbors and their political representatives are not much interested in chasing anti-government extremists, white supremacists, anti-semites, tax protesters, violent homophobes, or “right to life” bombers and assassins, especially, it seems, if they happen to be white and nominally Christian. There is some tolerance for tracking down the tree-hugging arsonists, animal-loving vandals, balaclava-clad anarchists, but they’re radical lefties and probably atheists after all. I suppose it all depends on whose ox is gored, or what sort of news coverage sells the most advertising.

I look forward to reading Mr. Southers’ book.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Back to School

At good old iTunes U...


Got some serious drive-time coming up so I'm loading the iPhone 5 with my usual variety of courses from iTunes U.

Bibliology/Theology Proper

Knowing why Bible-believing Christians bestow upon their scriptures inspiration, inerrancy, and authority is interesting to me.  Is there a practical difference between Biblicism and Bibliology as practiced by the fundamentalist? Perhaps I'll find out in the course of 51 episodes.  So far Dr. David J. MacLeod - Dean for Biblical Studies and the Program Director for Biblical Studies, Bible Exposition and Theology at Emmaus Bible College, is earnest but not compelling.

Crass Plagiarism

Instead of Jewish authors cribbing foundation myths from their Babylonian captors, Dr. John Currid - professor of Old Testament at RTS, argues that Moses engaged in a polemical take-down of other Near Eastern theologies.  Interesting spin from the Reformed tradition.  Now where's that Occam's Razor?

Genesis Through Joshua

Dr. Richard P. Belcher, Jr. -Professor of Old Testament at RTS, engages in all the acrobatics necessary to explain a literal and inerrant Genesis (even without mentioning non-literal scholarship) without much success.  Seems it helps to believe it before trying to make sense of it.  UPDATE: Finished. It's not a bad course if a person wants to understand a literalist view of the Pentateuch from a Reformed perspective.

Colonial and Revolutionary America

Evolution

New Thinking: Advances in the Study of Human Cognitive Evolution

Thought and Experience

Philosophical Problems

Philosophy of Mind

Religion x3, check.  History x1, check.  Science x3, check.  Philosophy x2, check.

Diet Coke and beef jerky?  Oops, almost ready...

C'mon, open road! 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Whale Rider

An engaging film about the importance of tradition, change, and hope...


Whale Rider is a 2002 film by director Niki Caro.  The story opens with a tragedy that threatens ancient tradition in a remote Maori community. A powerful performance by 12 year-old actress Keisha Castle-Hughes earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in 2004.

I saw Whale Rider when it was first released in the U.S. but not since.  But I was asked to speak this last weekend at the HD690 seminar for the Saint Mary's M.A. Human Development program and I got to thinking about films that resonated with me while I was doing my coursework.  Whale Rider would be a great tie-in for my friend Jim Notebaart's class on ritual.  He and I are going to watch it one of these next few weekends.

On that note, of all the neat surprises I encountered as I dug around for links to Whale Rider is that fact that you can watch it in its entirety, for free, today, right now, via a link to Hulu from the IMDB website.  Very cool.

Another delightful feature of the film is its ethereal soundtrack by Lisa Gerrard which I find to be just about perfect listening while reading.

This thoughtful, finely crafted film is worth your time.





Thursday, August 15, 2013

If The NSA Was Cable TV

Unintended consequences or inscrutable public policy...?


When you fire 90% of your system administrators your system crashes.

When your system crashes you can't spy on anyone.

When you can't spy on anyone there's no sensitive information to leak...

You know, this just might work.

"Don't have a grandson with a dog collar" image courtesy of DirectTV

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Kerygma and Myth

Ooh, crunchy outside, chewy inside...


Like the title of my blog suggests, my choices in reading material are eclectic, if not largely random.  Many of the books on my To Read list are there for no reason but serendipity. More than a few of my favorites were found not only at my favorite used bookstore, Half Price Books, they were plucked from the haphazard clutter of the closeout shelves and purchased for a only a dollar or two.  So it is with my study of religion and its history.  Other than a philosophical inclination to soft atheism and a deep appreciation for the neurobiological origins of the religious impulse, my theological studies lack any sort of orderliness.

Thus we come to Kerygma and Myth: A Theological Debate, by Rudolph Bultmann and Five Critics.  It was edited by Hans Werner Bartsch and translated by Reginald H. Fuller.  The cover looks like it was done by Maurice Sendak but it wasn't.  Judging by the name imprinted on the fly leaf of my copy it was formerly owned by Rev. Dr. Gene Straatmeyer.  A receipt from the University Dubuque Book Store dated 28 January 1965 suggests it was one of six items purchased that day for a total of $8.60.  I so love used book stores!

A reprinting of Bultmann's 1941 essay, "The New Testament and Mythology," including five responses to it, two responses by Bultmann to his critics' essays, and yet another afterward, "Kerygma and Myth" is a gold mine of challenging ideas and most excellent quotations on the merits and demerits of Biblical Christianity as it was taught in the early 20th century. It's a chewy read, like the sort of sticky caramel that threatens to pull your fillings out of your teeth. Bultmann and his peers were deep into a sophisticated and nuanced theology one does not encounter among our current surplus of evangelical apologists or the dominant wing of Roman Catholicism that seem intent on stealing the Religious Right's conservative credentials. 

Here are a few that I find most striking:


The cosmology of the New Testament is essentially mythical in character. (Page 1)

To this extent the kerygma is incredible to modern man, for he is convinced that the mythical view of the world is obsolete. (3)

Can Christian preaching expect modern man to accept the mythical view of the world as true? To do so would be both senseless and impossible. It would be senseless, because there is nothing specifically Christian in the mythical view of the world as such. It is simply the cosmology of a pre-scientific age. (3)

A blind acceptance of the New Testament mythology would be arbitrary, and to press for its acceptance as an article of faith would be to reduce faith to works. (3)

The miracles of the New Testament have ceased to be miraculous, and to defend their historicity by recourse to nervous disorders or hypnotic effects only serves to underline the fact. (5) 

It is impossible to use electric light and the wireless and to avail ourselves of modern medical and surgical discoveries, and at the same time to believe in the New Testament world of spirits and miracles. (5)

And to attribute human mortality to the fall of Adam is sheer nonsense, for guilt implies personal responsibility, and the idea of original sin as an inherited infection is sub-ethical, irrational, and absurd. (7)

Moreover, if the Christ who died such a death was the pre-existent Son of God, what could death mean for him? Obviously very little, if he knew that he would rise again in three days! (8)

The real purpose of myth is not to present an objective picture of the world as it is, but to express man’s understanding of himself in the world in which he lives. (10)

Mythology is the use of imagery to express the other worldly in terms of this world and the divine in terms of human life, the other side in terms of this side. (10)  

Myth is an expression of man’s conviction that the origin and purpose of the world in which he lives are to be sought not within it but beyond it -- that is, beyond the realm of known and tangible reality... (10) 


The kenosis of the pre-existent Son (Phil. 2: 6ff.) is incompatible with the miracle narratives as proofs of his messianic claims. (11)

The liberal theologians of the last century were working on the wrong lines. They threw away not only the mythology but also the kerygma itself. (12)

The danger both for theological scholarship and for the Church is that this uncritical resuscitation of the New Testament mythology may make the Gospel message unintelligible to the modern world. (12)
[W]hereas the older liberals used criticism to eliminate the mythology of the New Testament, our task to-day is to use criticism to interpret it.(12)
History may be of academic interest, but never of paramount importance for religion. (13)

Christian faith is not the same as religious idealism; the Christian life does not consist in developing the individual personality, in the improvement of society, or in making the world a better place. The Christian life means a turning away from the world, a detachment from it...Hence the supreme manifestation of religion was to be found not in personal ethics or in social idealism but in the cultus regarded as an end in itself.  (14)

Can the kerygma be interpreted apart from mythology? Can we recover the truth of the kerygma for men who do not think in mythological terms without forfeiting its character as kerygma? (15)

Perhaps [Paul, Rom. 5:12] means to say that with Adam death became possible rather than inevitable. (18) 

Everybody tries to hold fast to his own life and property, because he has a secret feeling that it is all slipping away from him. (19) 

This is what is meant by "faith": to open ourselves freely to the future. But at the same time faith involves obedience, for faith means turning our backs on self and abandoning all security. (19)

The new life in faith is not an assured possession or endowment, which could lead only to libertinism. Nor is it a possession to be guarded with care and vigilance, which could lead only to asceticism. (21)
[F]aith, by detaching man from the world, makes him capable of fellowship in community. Now that he is delivered from anxiety and from the frustration which comes from clinging to the tangible realities of the visible world, man is free to enjoy fellowship with others. (22)
[C]an we have a Christian understanding of Being without Christ? (23)

[A]ll history, not only Christian history, involves transference of power. (24)

For him the chief characteristic of man’s Being in history is anxiety. Man exists in a permanent tension between the past and the future. At every moment he is confronted with an alternative. Either be must immerse himself in the concrete world of nature, and thus inevitably lose his individuality, or he must abandon all security and commit himself unreservedly to the future, and thus alone achieve his authentic Being. [24]

For Heidegger man has lost his individuality, and therefore he invites him to recover his true selfhood. [27]


How then, if the fall be total, can man be aware of his plight?  [29]

Now, it is clear from the outset that the event of Christ is of a wholly different order from the cult-myths of Greek or Hellenistic religion. Jesus Christ is certainly presented as the Son of God, a pre-existent divine being, and therefore to that extent a mythical figure. But he is also a concrete figure of history -- Jesus of Nazareth. His life is more than a mythical event; it is a human life which ended in the tragedy of crucifixion. [34]

The New Testament claims that this Jesus of history, whose father and mother were well known to his contemporaries (John 6:42) is at the same time the pre-existent Son of God, and side by side with the historical event of the crucifixion it sets the definitely non-historical event of the resurrection. [34]

The doctrine of Christ’s pre-existence as given by St. Paul and St. John is difficult to reconcile with the legend of the Virgin birth in St. Matthew and St. Luke. [34]

The cross releases men not only from the guilt, but also from the power of sin. [36]

For them the cross was the cross of him with whom they had lived in personal intercourse. The cross was an experience of their own lives. It presented them with a question and it disclosed to them its meaning. But for us this personal connection cannot be reproduced. For us the cross cannot disclose its own meaning: it is an event of the past. We can never recover it as an event in our own lives. All we know of it is derived from historical report. [38]

[B]oth the legend of the empty tomb and the appearances insist on the physical reality of the risen body of the Lord (see especially Luke 24:39-43). But these are most certainly later embellishments of the primitive tradition. St. Paul knows nothing about them. [39]

The eyewitnesses therefore guarantee St. Paul’s preaching, not the fact of the resurrection. An historical fact which involves a resurrection from the dead is utterly inconceivable! Yes indeed: the resurrection of Jesus cannot be a miraculous proof by which the skeptic might be compelled to believe in Christ. [39]

No; the real difficulty is that the resurrection is itself an article of faith, and you cannot establish one article of faith by invoking another. You cannot prove the redemptive efficacy of the cross by invoking the resurrection.  [40]

It is precisely its immunity from proof which secures the Christian proclamation against the charge of being mythological. [44]

Fascinating stuff.

 All that said, I find it striking that these essays were written and presented at meetings in Germany during the Second World War.  It feels strange and somehow incorrect to me that these men of faith applied their prodigious talents and energies to go at each other hammer and tongs while their government was grinding Europe under its brutal boot, building extermination camps, and hurtling toward an ignominious devastation of the German people.  We're told Bultmann and his peers spoke out against some Nazi excesses, but inasmuch as they all seem to have survived the war, they must have chosen their battles more carefully than their coreligionist Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who did not.

UPDATE: I wrote to the Reverend Doctor Straatmayer as follows:

Dear Rev. Dr. Straatmeyer,
I hope you'll forgive an intrusion from a stranger, but you and I have a very particular book in common.  I live in Apple Valley, Minnesota, and enjoy browsing the stacks at our local Half Price Books used bookstore.  Recently I purchased a copy of Kerygma and Myth by Rudolph Bultmann and Five Critics there.  When I opened it I found your name stamped on the fly leaf and a receipt from the University of Dubuque bookstore dated 28 JUN 65.  I finished the book this evening and thought I'd reach out to you to mention our small, strange connection.  I wrote a brief review of the book and the nature of serendipity on my blog http://eclecticbreakfast.blogspot.com/2013/08/kerygma-and-myth.html I don't want to trouble you, but if you have time to tell me what you thought of the book, how you used it in your studies or ministry, and how it came to be resold in my local used book store I'd love to hear from you.  In any case, thank you for consigning your Bultmann. Had you not done so there is no telling when I might have gotten around to reading him.  Be well, Reverend.

Best Regards,

Michael

PS I enjoyed your recollection of Salem Presbyterian Church, Tea, SD. It reminded me of my mother's small country church in Traill County, ND, which recently closed.  Mother converted to Roman Catholicism in order to marry my father, but in my youth I attended several weddings, too many funerals, and more than a few Sunday services at Norway Lutheran Church.

I am excited at the prospect of a reply... 

Michael:
I was taking continuing education at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary when I bought the book. I was raised in evangelical/conservative German Presbyterianism and after seminary (I read, read and read some more), Blaise Pascal started me moving toward a more open, inquiring view of my faith. Bultmann was one of the courses I took and he aided and abetted the process. From there I moved on to Bonhoeffer. And after that I just kept reading and reading and reading some more.

I have no idea how that book got into your neck of the woods. I am thinking I did not give it away but rather loaned it to someone who never gave it back and who unloaded it whenever since I had probably by then moved to Alaska and it was too large a distance for most Iowans to comprehend, even by mail.

I am presently writing a history of the German Synod of the West where I grew to faith and the child it produced, the University of Dubuque - College and Seminary. About 100 churches were a part of this group and I will have a history of each of them when I am finished. I am third generation American from Ostfriesland in Northwest Germany. In 2011, we spent six weeks in the village of my grandfather Straatmeyer in Loquard. We hope to go back next year. The Salem Church is just one among the many others where German was the language of communication until 1942 - the war.

Thanks for the contact.
Blessings
Gene Straatmeyer

Reverend Straatmeyer's long lost copy of Kerygma and Myth - much the worse for wear and highlighted in the extreme - is in the mail on its way back to him.   

I so love used book stores!