What World Do You Live In? Part 2

(Read Part 1 first.)


Source: the LAMP at flic.kr/p/ejNXiW

Having read his book, I had expectations about which theological world(s) W. Paul Jones’s Theological Worlds Inventory would place me in. World 3—that of T. S. Eliot’s “hollow men,” of people who feel like they might be wearing a mask over a personal emptiness—had most appealed to me in the book. Immediately on reading about it I felt an overwhelming recognition that I felt when reading about neither World 1 or World 2. (This was itself a bit of a surprise: based on the book’s introduction, World 3 did not look promising.) I had expected World 2 (animated by a conflict between violent chaos and small bastions of peace) to follow it fairly closely, and then World 4 (concerned with personal sin and forgiveness) a bit after. I did not expect to have much in common with World 1 (haunted by the universe’s apparent meaninglessness) or World 5 (characterized by unremitting suffering and endurance).

So while I was not surprised that the Inventory placed me high in World 3, I was surprised that it placed me just as high in World 5. (World 2 followed close, and Worlds 1 and 4 were equally and very far behind.) Indeed, the results are a bit flat and I think there might be problems with the Inventory itself, but on reading the descriptions in the Inventory I’m inclined to agree that I’m just as much an inhabitant of World 5 as World 3. I’ll discuss this in detail toward the end of the post; first, I want to look at the Inventory itself and the reasons I think it has problems.

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Kegan-Chapman Developmental Model

One of my various hobbies is collecting models of human development, either on an individual psychological basis or a social civilization basis. In particular, I’m interested in the move between what I once would have identified as modernism (or absolutism) and postmodernism (or pluralism). I very recently stumbled on another example at David Chapman’s “Developing ethical, social, and cognitive competence,” written in October 2015. I’m not wholly convinced by it, but it does seem intriguing. Moreover, it seems to mirror, with significant differences, various ideas I’ve had on this subject; for instance, a while ago I was worried about academia’s ability to shepherd people into the final ideal stage of personal epistemology.

I am writing this post mostly to a) mark that it came into my attention and b) share it with you, in case you want to follow along with my stumbling attempts at improving my epistemology, ethical philosophy, and political philosophy.

Related topics:

Selves as systems
Categories as patterns (and, using Chapman’s terms, nebulous ones)
Ethics as ungrounded

Revisiting: Book-Eaters and Titanomachy

Every third Saturday of the month I intend to re-post something I wrote for one of my assorted old blogs or tumblogs. This time I look at “Book-Eaters and Titanomachy” from The Thinking Grounds, which concerns some metaphors for reading and learning I was exploring at that time.

Image source: Harris County Public Library at flic.kr/p/fksxun

Image source: Harris County Public Library at flic.kr/p/fksxun

Book-Eaters and Titanomachy

TW: a brief discussion of cannibalism

Back in November, I posted the following to Facebook:

Does anyone else find themselves, at times, thinking, “I ate that book,” rather than, “I read that book”?

Eating a book, for me, is different from reading it. If you read a book, you look at the words, understand them, and recognize the whole book as an object. If you eat a book, you do all of that, but then you also internalize it, assembling its ideas and perspectives into yourself. Moreover, you bring those perspectives into yourself as one perspective among many, and you do not take it as is; you fix it, alter it, improve it, nuance it, cut out the stuff that doesn’t work, fit it into your framework. It may challenge you, but after you’ve responded to its challenge, you then challenge it. You internalize it, but you also tame it. If you merely internalize it, and you let it take you over, you did not eat the book, but rather the book ate you.

(Today, I was thinking of a book, and then imagined telling someone, “I ate that book,” and it was weird but also made sense to me.)

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Lifting the Comment Ban and Imposing a Ration

At around the same time that I started Accidental Shelf-Browsing, I banned myself from commenting on any blogs or articles except my own.


Source: Rico S at flic.kr/p/8RjcsM

I did this for two reasons: first, I did not trust myself to represent myself in public to a standard high enough for my tastes (especially as I’m coming into the job market looking for a career); second, I could tell that worrying about discussions in comment spaces had a negative impact on my productivity and mental health. Of course, I have replied to comments here and in specific social media venues, but those were not part of the problem.

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Three More Daydreams

As with previous daydreams, feel free to contact me if you feel like helping make any a reality.


Photograph my own, 2015.




Image source: Stephen Topp at flic.kr/p/99k7v6

I like collaborative projects, so long as the participants have a high degree of autonomy and have earned one another’s mutual respect. For instance, I have long had daydreams of participating in a group blog, especially an interfaith blog. I think that would be fun; it would be more fun, too, if we created for ourselves characters in the style of tabletop RPGs. I could be an Anglican druid, for instance, while other participants might be atheist paladins, Muslim bards, Roman Catholic warlocks, or Buddhist clerics, according on our temperaments. Every other week one person would pose a question—“What role does confession play for you, in your tradition?”—and the other participants would have two weeks to respond, or something like that. I also have a habit of starting collaborative projects before I have more than one or two collaborators, which goes about as you’d expect.

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Revisiting: About Dreamtigers and Silent Skies

Every third Saturday of the month I intend to re-post something I wrote for one of my assorted old blogs or tumblogs to help readers get to know me better. This week I am sharing “About Dreamtigers and Silent Skies” for my current reblog tumblr, Dreamtigers and Silent Skies. It had formerly been called The Neglected and the Changed, but for certain reasons I chose a new name and wanted to explain it. If I were to summarize my feelings in this post, it would be with these two lines: “Whatever has captured you about the world, especially the world of childhood, cannot quite be made again by art. Yet we try”; and “I exult in the world’s indifference.”

About Dreamtigers and Silent Skies

Why did I rename this blog Dreamtigers and Silent Skies? I’m glad you asked! Both are references to the writing of Jorge Luis Borges, but it might take a bit of explaining.

Image source: Susanne Nilsson at flic.kr/p/fD9a1N

Image source: Susanne Nilsson at flic.kr/p/fD9a1N

Dreamtigers refers to the poem/short story “Dreamtigers” (the original Spanish poem has this English title). In this piece, Borges describes his childhood fascination with tigers. His love of tigers has faded with age, he writes, but they still prowl his dreams. The story (or poem) ends thus:

As I sleep I am drawn into some dream or other, and suddenly I realize that it’s a dream. At those moments, I often think: This is a dream, a pure diversion of my will, and since I have unlimited power, I am going to bring forth a tiger.
Oh, incompetence! My dreams never seem to engender the creature I so hunger for. The tiger does appear, but it is all dried up, or it’s flimsy-looking, or it has impure vagaries of shape or an unacceptable size, or it’s altogether too ephemeral, or it looks more like a dog or bird than like a tiger.
from Collected Fictions, translated by Andrew Hurley

I take “Dreamtigers” to describe and lament the difficulty of capturing in art the particular enchantment that reality has over you—or, I should say, the particular enchantment that you have draped over some favoured piece of reality. Whatever has captured you about the world, especially the world of childhood, cannot quite be made again by art. Yet we try. Our dreamtigers are our attempts. Continue reading

Three Daydreams


At the moment I am picking through Gary L. Comstock’s Religious Autobiographies, an anthology of abridged examples of the eponymous genre. It has made me want to write my own religious memoir, since my own story is one I wish I could have read ten years ago. I therefore wrote a rough draft for NaNoWriMo; I don’t know whether I’ll have an opportunity to publish it anywhere. More than this, however, it has made me want to read other people’s religious autobiographies. I dislike novel-length autobiographies, which I find tend to bog down in details which I cannot link together or tend not to warrant their length, but these briefer and more focused autobiographies are much more revealing. At least, I am better able to make sense of them when they are more specifically curated.

So here is the daydream: I would love to read more collections of shorter autobiographies on a common theme. Religious autobiographies especially appeal to me, but I am sure there are other types which would satisfy me even if I cannot imagine the genre now. A variation or specification on the religious autobiography occurred to me a few days ago as I read Richard Beck’s post on his recent spiritual shift: it might be interesting if autobiographers oriented their pieces towards what they imagine or hope their future might entail, what things they need or want to work on. Let me know if you have any recommendations; let me know, too, if you want to be part of an autobiography project of some kind.

My nine Friends on Facebook.

My nine Friends on Facebook.

Biographical writing in general is on my mind lately. On Facebook, I look at the nine Friends to appear on the side of my Profile page to assess whether those nine people would make good interview subjects for a hypothetical biographer writing about my life; if I could choose nine people myself, which nine would I choose? My friend Jon Wong used to talk about chain-biography projects: Jon would write my biography, I would write Alice’s biography, Alice would write Bob’s biography, and so on, until Eve writes Jon’s biography, and then all of these biographies are published in the same volume. Is there a way to write a biography in a more experimental fashion than is typical: out of order, maybe, switching between the subject’s life and the subject’s precursors, as in Wade Davis’s One River?

I keep coming back to the biography subplot in the third season of House of Cards, where author Tom Yates is fixated on his commission to write President Frank Underwood’s biography. House of Cards’s third season was not a very strong one, but that plot thread fascinated me: I suppose I had somehow believed authorized biographers were mercenary writers, and that might often be the case, but I suppose it is as good a genre as any for authors to push their craft.


Today my aunt asked where I would live if I somehow came into sixteen million dollars: enough to buy and maintain a house anywhere I wanted, without any worries about work. I am sure she just wanted to know whether I’d prefer to live in Vancouver or Toronto, but sixteen million dollars is a lot of money and I’d have bigger dreams than just one house…

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Collection as Identity

While I work on a post about self-expression, face theory, and William Blake’s mythopoesis, I’d like to share another of the posts I wrote for my library class blog. It was (by my standards, anyway) more of a stub, but I’m hoping you can make some connections on your own. The themes it covers will relate to the themes in the Blake post, but not explicitly. Again, I’m hoping you can tie them together yourself.

Identity as Collection; Collection as Identity

A photo I took of a bookshelf in the home where I grew up.

A photo I took of a bookshelf in the home where I grew up.
CC 4.0 BY-SA

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Worrying About Armchair Philosophy

Lately I have been wondering whether I ought to have ideas or opinions at all.

Source: Ashley Van Haeften at flic.kr/p/qHdSBt.

Source: Ashley Van Haeften at flic.kr/p/qHdSBt.

In the winter and early spring of this year, I was reading excerpts from existentialist philosophy—works like Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Ethics of Ambiguity. The experience was illuminating, or perhaps the opposite: I had managed to convince myself that I knew something about Continental philosophy, and as I was reading that whole edifice has come crashing down. I was chastened. I realized I had not only been ignorant, I had also been flatly incorrect about, for instance, Sartre’s views on morality. There is a cognitive bias called the Dunning-Kruger effect in which people who aren’t good at a task tend to believe they are good at it while people who are good at a task tend to believe that they aren’t good at it. I learned that this cognitive bias is true by learning I had been victim to it. I thought I knew philosophy exactly because I did not.

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A More Direct Introduction

Considering the first introduction, I think I owe a second one.

Any relevant biography is in the About page. Here I want to tell you why I’m blogging and what you can expect. For the first time in a while, I am out of academia with no plans to return in the foreseeable future. Considering how much I relied on school to provide intellectual stimulation, and how much I had to rely on blogging and other activities even then to get as much of that as I need (or feel I need, or what have you), I’m a bit worried. Of course I can read, or try to talk with friends, but that’s never really enough. So, to fill that gap, I will blog.

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