Monday, September 1, 2014

Research In Halle

Son M., today, is doing research at the Halle State Museum of Preshistory, near Leipzig. The photo shows the library. The museum's prehistoric collection is one of the most extensive and important in Germany. He is researching prehistoric elephants and their environment.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Wife's Post

This is a re-post of a popular (perhaps rather, much-read) post on my blog: "At a wedding I recently attended, the preacher said to the bride: 'Stand up, please!' (see the photo). Then he said, among other things: 'You will wash the dishes. You will iron his clothes. You will not leave your post!' OBSERVATION: In my experience, this is fairly standard preaching on marriage in South Africa: Pentecostal, Reformed, Evangelical, Apostolic (in this case, Apostolic)."

Ministry Headaches

One often hears about the extreme pressures of ministry in urban or suburban areas -- the statistics confirm it. It may be little different in rural areas. One rural Church member described it to me this morning. Pointing to houses in a township below us, she said: "Ministers deal with grievous situations -- one after the other. They pick up headaches, and multiply headaches, until their health fails. It happens to the young ones, too. It must go round and round their heads all night! Make no mistake, ministry is an onerous task."

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Eye In The Sky

The "eye in the sky" is typical of South African townships: a super-lamp illuminating a whole township. I took this photo this evening of New Rest (Kareedouw). If not New Rest, then it is close to New Rest. This was a 15-second exposure. You may click on the photo to enlarge to 70k.

Pistol Pastor

I was talking to an elder last night in Kagiso Heights. He said: "They had just taken up the collection in a Church when some tsotsis (thugs) stepped forward and pulled out knives. The pastor bent down behind the pulpit, pulled out a gun, and aimed it at the tsotsis. They ran." He said: "Many pastors have a gun behind the pulpit now."

Friday, August 29, 2014

Kagiso Heights

Today I am destined for Kagiso Heights in the Eastern Cape (pictured) to attend a feast. Whether I shall still be able to post on my blog is questionable. These goats think they own the road there. They may not move aside until bumped aside.

Books Hit-List

One of the best things I did in my life was to draw up a 'books hit-list'. In the course of research, one finds that one comes across certain works again and again. They criss-cross one's reading -- in quotes, bibliographies, footnotes. Many are classics, yet hard to find. I made a hit-list of those works, and set myself the task of reading them all. Curiously, many most-cited, seminal works are not required reading in one's studies. A sample of some authors on my list: Saussure, Capra, Kuhn, Lao Tzu, Lyotard, Polanyi, Aristotle.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wash Day

This is a common sight in South African townships, particularly over the weekends. I took this photo in Thembalethu. A friend of mine said: "In some parts of the USA, that's banned!"

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Photographic Memory

Both son M. and I have been said to have what is called a photographic memory. Recently, for instance, I needed to know where I had read that scientific hypotheses are described as value judgements. I pictured it on the page, among piles of books, and found it instantly. It matters little if I saw something upside down, or in cursive script. Son M. does the same, but he is, I think, much better at it than I am. OBSERVATION: But it doesn't strictly work like a photograph, and it works only in special ways -- so that some say one cannot truly speak of a "photographic memory". In my case, it works best where the subject matter was of interest to me. (I once "brought the house down" at Fuller when someone asked me in a public debate: "Where do you get that?" I said: "Page seven in the Preface, Roman numerals").

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

City Bowl

Pictured is Cape Town's City Bowl, at sunset. One sees here why it is called the City Bowl. On the left is Table Mountain, in the centre Lion's Head -- said to be one of the most spectacular climbs in the world -- and on the right in the distance is Signal Hill. My own home is marked with a yellow dot.

Maintaining A Relationship With God

A Church group called on me out of the blue to help them answer a question. How should one build a healthy Church, and not just “straw”? I said the first ingredient is to magnify the Lord Jesus Christ, or people tend to get fixated with themselves and various other things. I said next to that is Scripture -- to know who God is and how He acts. A young woman said: “But it’s about a personal relationship with God -- and maintaining it!” I sensed some anxiety in the second part of that. I said yes, absolutely, a personal relationship with God is the essence of Christianity -- if you bear in mind that it's not all about what you put in, but also what God does regardless of the (palpable) relationship. OBSERVATION: I see it again and again in counselling: people agonising over the status of their relationship with God, as if the whole universe depended on it and on all that it involves: prayer, humility, obedience, and so on. But God is greater than that. He works beyond that.

Afrikaans Chronolects

Not that long ago, I blogged about a great vowel shift in Afrikaans, which we would seem to be witnessing in our own lifetimes (in English, there was the Great Vowel Shift of 1350-1700). Another interesting thing in this regard is Afrikaans chronolects, which means that different generations of Afrikaners speak different varieties of Afrikaans. It's a very obvious feature of Afrikaans today. But why should these varieties be separated by age? Many linguists call it an "ideological activity", which means that Afrikaans speakers are signalling different ideas and ideals through their varieties of language. OBSERVATION: I don't know much about these things, so these are just some musings.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Steepest Street

A one-time hobby of mine was to discover Cape Town's steepest street. It turned out to be Longmarket Street (pictured). This is the view from the cab of my Mahindra three-wheeler. Longmarket Street has a sustained slope of 17°. There are some streets which have sections that are steeper. The best is Clifford Road with a section 19° steep. That matches the world record for a sustained slope.

Philosophy And Theology

Something few churchgoers understand is the close relationship (for better or worse) between philosophy and theology -- and the power of it. Look at that Church over there -- this probably applies there. Usually theology trails philosophy -- I would estimate by about a generation. That is, if philosophers think it, it will be driving theology one generation later. The evangelical theologian Francis Schaeffer spent much of his life trying to awaken Christians to this fact. OBSERVATION: Some influential philosophers in the field of theology today, to give some examples, were Whitehead (creation as process), Wittgenstein (religion as culture), or Derrida (be aware of constructions), although they themselves were influenced by others. I think culture probably has a stronger influence than philosophy, but that is harder to define.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Chicken Without A Head

This one's not for sensitive souls. One often speaks of someone running about like a chicken without a head. This week I was reminded of an incident in my youth, in the mission. My guardian, a local man named Temeeti, asked me to hold a chicken while he cut off its head. I let the chicken go. Without a head, it flew right over the tops of the coconut trees -- which were tall. We searched for it, but never found it.