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Racial Construction and the Job Market

Thomas Whitley

Meyers_b11_s0476a

As most of you know, I am in the midst of applying for jobs. That means that my life looks something like this. It's a blast. Really. I have noticed an interesting trend, though, particularly among those positions which use their own website for applications (as opposed to third-party services like Interfolio). There are voluntary self identification questions to help each institution gather data about just who is applying for their jobs. I think this is great, but the categories offered leave a lot to be desired.

Besides the obvious fact that "race" is a completely constructed and contested category in the first place, I've never given much thought to my personal racial classification/identification - "white." That is, until my recent experiences with these job application sites. Here is a question I encountered today.

Affirmative Action Voluntary Self Identification Form-Race Question

As a person of European origins, I selected "white," but as I have noticed on other questions of this nature, those who have origins in the Middle East or North Africa are included in the same category. The problems with the categories of race used by the US Census Bureau have been apparent for some time now (see here and here). On the face of it, it is difficult to see how someone from Egypt would be in the same racial classification as someone from Germany or how someone from New England with Irish ancestors would be classified the same as someone who emigrated from Tunisia. Also not adequately represented in the above options are those who identify as "black" but have origins from any of the Caribbean islands.

If these categories are so flawed and clearly constructed, then why do we keep them? Why do we still engage in such a process of classification not only of our citizens, but of all humans? Why do we so obviously leave out certain groups?

The "Black or African-American" category seems to be based solely on skin color, for why else would those who have origins in a white racial group of Africa be excluded from this group? How should white South Africans respond to this question? The "White" category, conversely, does not appear to be based solely on skin color, as I (someone of Germanic origin) do not look like a Libyan or Egyptian. Yet, according to these categories, we are the same "race." Why the need to separate the African continent? It is not completely based on skin color, even though there is an idea that North Africans are lighter-skinned than other Africans, or else white South Africans would somehow be included with North Africans. Why, when asking for someone's race, is racial included in the response (e.g., "a person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa")? This begs the question. Further, if "black" is a "race," then what exactly are "black racial groups"? Are there also "white racial groups"?

Further, why the focus on "origins" and the "original peoples" of an area? How exactly does where my ancestors lived a few generations ago affect my "race"? Why does my current location not affect my "race"? Also, how far back must we go to find the "original peoples" of Europe? Should we look back to the "Middle Ages"? Should we go back to Romans living in modern-day Europe during the Roman Empire? Why not go back further to those who lived in Europe before Roman expansion, e.g., the "barbarians" of Britain? Have we not yet learned that there is never such a thing as pristine origins?

These racial categories are obviously problematic, but they serve merely to highlight the problematic and arbitrarily constructed nature of "race" on the whole. It is most disappointing, though, to see institutions of higher education allowing such acts of classification to go unchallenged.

Image: Map of races in the Meyers Konversation-Lexikon of 1885-90 by Herman Rudi Julius via Wikimedia Commons.

Thinking and Writing About Ferguson as a White Academic

Thomas Whitley

Hands Up, Don't Shoot - HowardAs many have I have been following the news out of Ferguson, Missouri closely. I was and remain deeply saddened by the death of Michael Brown. I was shocked at the utterly inept and Constitution-defying response of the police toward citizens, protestors, and journalists. I also recognize the privilege I have as a white male to simply “follow” the news, the privilege I have as a white male of never having had a negative encounter with police, the privilege I have as a white male to not have to wonder how I would be portrayed by the media #IfTheyGunnedMeDown.

I can follow as closely as possible what residents of Ferguson and St. Louis are saying. I can hear their cries for justice. I can support their protests. I can be dismayed at how cops and some white citizens of St. Louis have talked about the protestors as “animals” and “beasts,” trying to strip them of their humanity. I can share the racial profiling statistics of the Ferguson police. I can talk about the alarming racial disparity in our country’s prison population. I can talk about white flight. I can struggle with the racism that lives inside me.

I can and have done all of this, and continue to. But I’ll never really know what it’s like to be embodied in a black or brown body. I can’t give up my privilege and pass it on to someone else. We have talked a lot about Ferguson in my home over the past week and a half. I have talked about it on Twitter and Facebook. But I’ve been less outspoken than I would like because there are simply so many other people who are smarter than me, more informed than me, and wiser than me doing the talking. I occasionally retweet them, but I also just sit back and try to learn from them. This is the privilege I have.

But I have noticed a trend of “calling out” people for not saying enough. I have seen this happen by numerous people and not just of politicians, but people in education calling out white educators for not speaking out, some calling out certain leaders in black communities and black music artists  and, more close to home, people who study religion calling out others of us who do the same to speak out. I recognize the importance of a multitude of voices on this and how important it is to incorporate things like this into our thinking, our scholarship, and our teaching. Brooke Lester has already written about how he’s trying to do just this. But I am troubled by the apparent need to defend myself - “Look, here are my bona fides as a fighter of racial injustice. I’ve been tweeting about it” - and the utter smallness of that defense. But I cannot help but also think about the normative nature that this “calling out” has taken on and the process of classification that goes on when some think that some others have not done X, Y, or Z enough. It is interesting to watch. But again, all I have to do is watch - and I don’t even have to do that.

Brooke Lester’s question was how non-Black biblical scholars write about Ferguson. This is my first attempt at writing about Ferguson not on Facebook or Twitter and I have a distinct feeling that it’s woefully deficient. I too am curious how other non-Black scholars of religion are writing about Ferguson, though I’ve seen a lot more than the question would suggest. But I am also curious about peoples’ ideas about why and how we should be writing about Ferguson. On Twitter Brooke Lester said, “Don’t Get It Right, Get it Written.” That may be the best advice.

Summer Plans

Thomas Whitley

Since I know that some of you appreciate updates on what I've been doing and what I will be doing, I thought I share my summer plans with you. I have just finished my first year as a PhD student in FSU's Religions of Western Antiquity program and have really enjoyed this past year. I have learned a lot and am glad to be in the FSU atmosphere where professors and colleagues are encouraging and always pushing each other. Thus, even those of us without summer funding have full summers planned. I have five main academic endeavors planned for this summer. 1. Learn Coptic I, along with a mix of graduate students, professors, and one undergraduate student are learning/teaching ourselves Coptic this summer. We are using Thomas Lambdin's Introduction to Sahidic Coptic as well as Bentley Layton's Coptic in 20 Lessons. Also, we will be taking a bit of an inductive approach as we read through the Gospel of Thomas in Coptic. I am very excited to finally be learning Coptic, as it opens up a whole new world of ancient texts.

2. Write a book review I am reviewing Emmanuel Tukasi's Determinism and Petitionary Prayer in John and the Dead Sea Scrolls: An Ideological Reading of John and the Rule of the Community (1QS) for the journal Dead Sea Discoveries.

3. Improve my classical Greek I will be reading book 6 of Josephus' Jewish War with a few students and Dr. Levenson to brush up on my classical Greek and prepare myself for reading Xenophon's Cyropaedia in the Fall.

4. Prepare NT Lectures I will be teaching an Introduction to the New Testament Course in the fall, so I will spend time this summer preparing lectures, presentations, assignments, and handouts. I am particularly excited about teaching NT, though I suspect my students will be a bit less enthusiastic about the course.

5. Learn French  Part of my program's requirements (along with many other religion departments) require doctoral students to show competency in German and French (aside from the numerous ancient languages). I already have competency in German, so I will spend this summer and fall learning French to then take the university reading competency exam in December.

Aside from these plans, Trinity and I have a few trips to NC planned and I hope to get back on the bike a lot this summer (that is, after my broken ankle heals).

Inhumanity in Religious Studies

Thomas Whitley

In his brilliant little book, Drudgery Divine: On the Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late Antiquity, J.Z. Smith argues that the entire enterprise of comparing "Christianity" with religions of Late Antiquity has been, from its inception, not one of scholarly and academic pursuit, but rather one of apologetics. In his chapter "On Comparing Stories" he has this to say about how material for comparisons is chosen.

It is, to put matters bluntly, poor method to compare and contrast a richly nuanced and historically complex understanding of Pauline christology with a conglomerate of 'mystery texts' treated as if they were historically and ideologically simple and interchangeable; to treat the former as development and the latter as frozen. As long as we identify recognizable humanity with historical consciousness and openness to change with critical thought - as we do - the usual treatment o the religions of Late Antiquity, as well as the bulk of the other mythic traditions of humankind, is inhumane.

In other words, we can not, in our quest to be scholars and not mere "cheerleaders," as Bruce Lincoln would say, we must make sure that we are doing our sources justice. If we start out to compare "Christianity" with other religions, for example, in an attempt to show how "Christianity" is "unique," then our end necessitates that our means will be unjust to that which is not "Christianity" and even to that which we label as "Christianity," because we are, at best subconsciously, projecting our own normative view of "Christianity" onto the vast landscape of Christianities and declaring as "essential" or "true" Christianity, that which happens to be the form of "Christianity" that we happen to subscribe to today in light of our historical, social, economic, and political circumstances.

The Greatest Country on Earth?

Thomas Whitley

I woke up today feeling jaded and cynical about the claims that some Americans make about our country, so I thought I post a short rant. Enjoy. Americans, especially American politicians, have goten quite comfortable that America is the "greatest country on earth." In short, many believe in "American Exceptionalism," the idea that America is qualitatively different from every other country on earth; i.e. there is something in the "essence" of America that makes it better than every other country.

At the risk of With almost certainty that I will be labeled "unAmerican" or as someone who "hates America," I have to say that I fundamentally disagree with this sentiment. This disagreement lays on numerous foundations, chief of which is the fact that America claims the moral high ground in almost every situation, yet cannot seem to adhere to those same moral codes itself.
Civil Disobedience During the Arab Spring earlier this year, cable news outlets gave 24 hour coverage of the events in Egypt and Libya (though not as much in Tunisia) and yet when our own citizens engage in civil disobedience, we largely turn a blind eye. Don't know what I'm talking about? It's called Occupy Wall Street, a movement calling on people to peacefully protest the greed that runs rampant on Wall St. and the financial collapse of 2008 that was largely caused by practices of those on Wall St. Sounds like a fine, democratic right that they should have, even if you disagree with their message. Yet, some of these protestors have been the victims of alleged police brutality, a theme which dominate media coverage of the events in Tahrir Square, but which is getting minimal coverage when it happens to our own citizens. See this video where protestors, who have been corralled and penned against a building by a mesh barrier, are pepper sprayed by an NYPD officer (caution contains explicit language. Note one officer saying of the other office, "I can't believe he just F***in' maced her):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMoKsZp5iao&feature=player_embedded

Read Jeanne Mansfield's, the videographer here, piece, Why I Was Maced at the Wall Street Protest.

To give you an idea of the attitude of some of the NYPD, NYC Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne had this to say about the protestors:

Protestors who engage in civil disobedience can expect to be arrested. Those who resist arrest can expect some measure of force will be used.

I understand that if someone breaks the law, they can be arrested and that force can be expected if they resist, but is this the legacy of civil disobedience we have inherited? Further, from the videos I've seen and the reports I've heard I haven't seen large scale law breaking, though NY has gotten creative, using a 150 year old law banning masks to arrest some of the protestors.
Torture Next, let's talk about the Geneva Conventions, those pesky pieces of paper that "establish the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment for the victims of war." America expects other countries to fight according to these standards, but doesn't think it has to itself, specifically when it comes to torture. Dick Cheney, former Vice President, has consistently upheld the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques," what everyone else in the world calls torture, such as waterboarding. He did this while he vice president and even in his most recent book, In My Time, yet the Geneva Conventions expressly forbid the use of any form of torture.

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.

American Exceptionalism, though, means that we don't define things like torture the same way for us as we do for other countries, specifically our enemies.

These are only two examples of hypocrisy I see in our country; there are plenty more. But, does all of this mean I hate America? Absolutely not. I love this country, but I love other countries as well. I think there are great people in America and I think there are great people all over the world. Is America exceptional? Of course, in many ways, but there are other countries that exceed us in many areas too. We now only rank "average" in education:

The three-yearly OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, which compares the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in 70 countries around the world, ranked the United States 14th out of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics.

Other countries have more affordable health care, more equal civil liberties, and we now have 46.2 million people living in poverty in this country, the highest number on record.

We are great, but the greatest? I don't think so.

//Rant. End.

The Ideal Greek Man

Thomas Whitley

The following post is rated PG-13. The question arose earlier in the week during a class I TA for of why ancient men would not have showcased themselves with larger genitalia (the specific instance was when looking at casts of body parts taken to the temple of Ascelpius, the god of healing).

I knew I had read something along the way about how being well-endowed was actually a negative trait in ancient Greece. I tracked down the passage in Aristophanes' Clouds:

This is the right way for you, my lad, and if you do what I say you'll be eternally blessed with a strapping body, a gleaming complexion, huge shoulders, a tiny little tongue, big buttocks, and a small cock. Should you choose to follow the fashion currently in vogue amongst the young men of this city, then it'll be pasty skin, round shoulders, concave chest, an enormous tongue, no arse, a great hunk of meat, and a very long . . . turn of phrase!

Not much has changed since the ideal Greek body, but some aspects have. I won't get into the theories as to why this was preferred of Greek men, but most of you can probably guess.

Thoreau on Reading

Thomas Whitley

From Walden"":

To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will task the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem. It requires a training such as the athletes underwent, the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object. Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written. [...] Most men have learned to read to serve a paltry convenience, as they have learned to cipher in order to keep accounts and not be cheated in trade; but of reading as a noble intellectual exercise they know little or nothing; yet this only is reading, in a high space, not that which lulls us as a luxury and suffers the nobler faculties to sleep the while, but what we have to stand on tiptoe to read and devote our most alert and wakeful hours to.

Go read a book and read it well.

Listen to All Sides

Thomas Whitley

Some advice worthy of our attention on this occasion of Walt Whitman's birthday. From "Song of Myself":

You shall no longer take things at second or third hand . . . . nor look through the eyes of the dead . . . . nor feed on the spectres in books, You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.

No Longer Abash'd

Thomas Whitley

From "In Paths Untrodden" by Walt Whitman:

Here by myself away from the clank of the world,

Tallying and talk'd to here by tongues aromatic,

No longer abash'd, (for in this secluded spot I can respond as I would not dare elsewhere,)

Strong upon me the life that does not exhibit itself, yet contains all the rest,

These words come from the same man who said,

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

Was Uncle Walt truly able to celebrate himself and sing himself if he required a secluded spot to respond as he would not dare elsewhere? What will it take for us to get to a place where we need not be in a secluded spot to be "no longer abash'd"?

I Wonder If You Can

Thomas Whitley

Today marks the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's assassination.

Imagine no possessions I wonder if you can No need for greed or hunger A brotherhood of man Imagine all the people Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer But I'm not the only one I hope someday you'll join us And the world will live as one

Is this world that Lennon imagined still even possible to hope for? Can you even imagine a word void of greed, need, and hurt? I like to think that I can imagine it. I hope for that kind of world. I don't just hope passively, though. I also work to bring that world about.

Great is Language

Thomas Whitley

Great is language . . . . it is the mightiest of the sciences, It is the fulness and color and form and diversity of the

earth . . . . and of men and women . . . . and of all

qualities and processes;

It is greater than wealth . . . . it is greater than buildings

or ships or religions or paintings or music.

Walt Whitman, from his 1855 version of what later becomes known as "Great Are the Myths"

What Will Your Verse Be?

Thomas Whitley

From the fantastic movie Dead Poets Society, a little inspiration for you as you head back to school...or not.

We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

So, what will your verse be?

Of Jujasms and Geefoojets

Thomas Whitley

Don't know what a "jujasm" is? You're not alone. In fact, you're in the majority, as the word was created by Gelett Burgess. It means, by the way, "an expansion of sudden joy after suspense;" AKA the feeling you have after you read one of my blog posts. Sharing a love of words, my mom recently gave me a copy of Burgess Unabridged: A Classic Dictionary of Words You Have Always Needed. Burgess is most well-known for what he wrote about a purple cow in th first issue of Lark in 1895:

I never saw a purple cow

I never hope to see one;

But I can tell you anyhow,

I'd rather see than be one.

Burgess understood words, but also saw a need for many new words; words that were precise. Thus, he undertook to write a dictionary of neologisms which he created himself. This is quite an enjoyable read, even if none of his words ever make the cut.

It is in his "Introduction" that he explicates why he thinks English is the language with which to work for this project:

For, the fact is, English is a growing language, and we have to let out the tucks so often, that no last season's model will ever fit. English isn't like French, which is corseted and gloved and clad and shod and hatted strictly according to the rules of the Immortals. We have no Academy, thank Heaven, to tell what is real English and what isn't. Our Grand Jury is that ubiquitous person, Usage, and we keep him pretty busy at his job. He's a Progressive and what he likes, he'll have, in spite of lexicographers, college professors and authors of "His Complete Works."

As I said, an enjoyable read. That is, it's an enjoyable read if you're the sort that enjoys reading dictionaries...literally. This is, of course, no ordinary dictionary. I suggest you have a go at it, even if most of the entries are geefoojets (def.: unnecessary things, articles which are seldom used).

This Is What You Shall Do

Thomas Whitley

This is what you shall do:Love the earth and sun and the animals, Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, Stand up for the stupid and crazy, Devote your income and labors to others, Hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, Have patience and indulgence toward the people, Take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, Or to any man or number of men, Go freely with powerful uneducated persons, And with the young and with the mothers of families, Read these leaves in the open air, Every season of every year of your life, Reexamine all you have been told, At school at church or in any book, Dismiss whatever insults your own soul, And your very flesh shall be a great poem, And have the richest fluency not only in its words, But in the silent lines of its lips and face, And between the lashes of your eyes, And in every motion and joint of your body.

- Walt Whitman

Guest Post by Trevar Simmons: The Enlightenment Never Happened

Thomas Whitley

The Enlightenment Never Happened

The Enlightenment never happened.
The modern period didn’t exist.
Postmodernism is a fairy tale.

The Enlightenment, Modernism, Postmodernism, the Romantic Period, the Victorian Age, the Industrial Age. These names are paradigms, particularly worldview paradigms. They are umbrella terms that are heuristic. That is, they group a massive amount of people over a long period of time, allowing a lot of play as to who fits under the umbrella where—who is closer to the definition and who barely fits. And because of the play, no one definition really says exactly what the paradigm “is,” but rather attempts to define the limits, hence it is heuristic, something just for the purpose of learning.

Last night in class, Dr. Berry asked, “what is the Enlightenment?” I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself, not at Dr. Berry, his question, or his teaching methodology. I chuckled, because I knew the answers received from the students and the ones proffered by my professor would be different than what I would hear in my English classes, different from what I might hear in psychology class, and different from what I would hear in a philosophy class, and different from what I heard when I was studying Enlightenment texts in the undergrad (Palm Beach Atlantic’s honors program relied heavily on paradigms—not necessarily a bad thing).

One response was about science. Another was about biblical interpretation—theologians explaining away miracles (demyhtologization, more or less). Dr. Berry talked about the milieu of certainty. The umbrella for the Enlightenment is so large that wikipedia has multiple articles on it.

The problem with paradigms and umbrella terms is that they shoot themselves in their respective feet, they put the nails in their own coffins, they defeat themselves, they include their critiques, they presuppose their own insufficiencies—or however you would like to put it, cliché or not.

Let’s say the Enlightenment is characterized by a new scientific idea of certainty that bled into all disciplines and discourses—by a (Cartesian) foundationalism that led people to believe they could discover absolute truth. Experimentation, reason, and logic in science led to facts. Experimentation, reason, and logic led to the certainty of facts in literature, philosophy, medicine, religion, interpretation, politics, and life in general.

What about the disagreements in the Enlightenment? What about the changing and evolving ideas during this time? And what of the time span? When, exactly, did the Enlightenment begin and end? Scholars don’t agree. They don’t agree because it didn’t happen. A paradigm doesn’t occur. They don’t exist. They are rationalizations we superimpose upon the “shifting phantasmagoria” of existence and they are unfaithful to that which they represent.

We place the label “Enlightenment” over a vast history of “Western” existence, although we sometimes try to be more specific by saying it was a phenomena in the ever-ambiguous concept of “Western Philosophy.” What of the lay person? What about the displaced Easterner existing in the West? What of the mystics? What of the philosopher, scientist, and theologian who was a Enlightened person six days a week, but a mystic on Sunday, on their deathbed, in the presence of the miraculous, or in the presence of loss, especially the loss of death? What about the philosopher, scientist, and theologian who exhibited uncertainty?

What about David Hume’s skepticism? What about Emanuel Swedenborg’s detailed theosophical mysticism? What about the artistic possibilities in William Blake and Samuel Taylor Coleridge? What about Mary Shelley’s hesitancy and questioning in my favorite Enlightenment work, Frankenstein?

The umbrella is an umbrella, because the term “Enlightenment” cannot be specific. So the handle extends to hold the covering that branches out and covers a majority, allowing for some play, expecting play, needing play. Yet, in presupposing this wiggle room, it presupposes its own insufficiency. Anything that does not fit it calls an exception to the rule, but under the magnifying glass the paradigm dies the death of a thousand qualifications. The wind—pneuma, ruach, (zeit)geist—blows precipitation to those under the umbrella, blows the umbrella inside out and away.

The only part of the umbrella that allows the play is the part of the umbrella that cannot exist in play—the handle and limits, the definition, that which makes it what it is. If the handle cannot have the play it defines, then it transcends the umbrella. But if the handle transcends, that it is no longer the handle and the umbrella has no limits, no coverings, no protection from the elements.

All that existed and exists are people and ideas, none of them categorized or completely consistent. Paradigms are fictional. People, events, and history are not theories.

Thus other paradigms are also broken umbrellas, umbrellas that are not umbrellas. No one is liberal, conservative, fundamentalist, or any combination of the three. No one is extroverted or introverted for those paradigms are not actual. Myers-Briggs is heuristic, but not actual.

The Enlightenment never happened.
The modern period didn’t exist.
Postmodernism is a fairy tale.

Trevar Simmons

GIVE me hunger, O you gods that sit and give The world its orders. Give me hunger, pain and want, Shut me out with shame and failure From your doors of gold and fame, Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger! But leave me a little love, A voice to speak to me in the day end, A hand to touch me in the dark room Breaking the long loneliness. In the dusk of day-shapes Blurring the sunset, One little wandering, western star Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow. Let me go to the window, Watch there the day-shapes of dusk And wait and know the coming Of a little love.

Thomas Whitley

GIVE me hunger,
O you gods that sit and give
The world its orders.
Give me hunger, pain and want,
Shut me out with shame and failure
From your doors of gold and fame,
Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger!


But leave me a little love,
A voice to speak to me in the day end,
A hand to touch me in the dark room
Breaking the long loneliness.
In the dusk of day-shapes
Blurring the sunset,
One little wandering, western star
Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow.
Let me go to the window,
Watch there the day-shapes of dusk
And wait and know the coming
Of a little love.
“At a Window” by Carl Sandburg

The World in Which We Live

Thomas Whitley

In honor of today being Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and because of how busy I am, I am copying below a post I wrote last year on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s death. It was originally posted 4 April 2008.

For those who do not know, today is the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s death. Most of us are familiar with the work of MLK and, hopefully, we respect his work. He was indeed the type of man that we need more of in our world. He had his shortcomings as we all do, but he spoke with wisdom words that must be heard. I have been reading his speech, “Beyond Vietnam – A Time to Break Silence” and came across something quite profound. Part of his speech is pasted below:

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: “Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?” “Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” “Peace and civil rights don’t mix,” they say. “Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people,” they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.



The last line struck me hard and I began to think. Do I truly know the world that I live in? Do those around me truly know the world that we live in? True, times are different from what they were in 1967 when MLK gave this speech, but much is the same. Do I know how much injustice is in my world? Do I know how many children die of starvation each week? Do I know that 84% of the world lives on less than $10,066 a year? Do I know that more than 1 billion people live on less than U.S. $1 a day? Do I know that there are 781 million illiterate adults worldwide and that 64% of them are women? Do I know that more than 6 million children die from malnutrition yearly? Do I know that there is genocide going on in Darfur? Do I know who is working against these evils? Do I know the good work that the United Nations is doing? Do I know how much inequality still exists not only in our world, but in our churches and our homes? Do I truly know the world in which I live? Do you know the world in which you live?

I am not saying that we should all go out and protest the current war because that’s what MLK did. I am simply saying that we need to get to know the world we live in. Our world is in desperate need of redemption. True, we need redemption in the form of salvation, but we need so much more than that as well. We need to care for all of creation the way that God does. The world has a deep need and we have the resources necessary to not only alleviate, but to erase the need and the pain and yet we do nothing about it. On this anniversary on MLK’s death let us remember him for sure, but let us also reflect. Let us see our world for what it really is. The facts are gloomy and can be disheartening, but we can offer hope.

Here are some sites that you should check out:

Note: Statistics taken from Compassion.



I hope that today is meaningful for you as you remember Dr. King and other personal heroes you may have.

Great Encouragement

Thomas Whitley

Merlin Mann has a post about an interview with Leo Babauta. The question asked in the post is:

If, tomorrow morning, you had 60% of the time and resources you needed to start making anything you wanted, what would it be? And, what would you do first?

I encourage you to read the entire post here, but just had to highlight the end of it, as it is a great encouragement to all of us to do what we’ve been dreaming about.

The reason I throw in that “60% of what you need,” is that it’s just enough to make the question interesting and ambitious. Give someone no resources, and they have no imagination. Give them all the resources and they break ground on a Hooters in their garage. But, give someone most of the resources they need, and you have a delightful real-world challenge to the creative imagination.

And, finally, if you’re feeling really ambitious, imagine you have most of what you need today. Because, here’s the O. Henry ending: you probably already have at least part of what you need to get started. On a novel. On a one-person business. On your first gallery show. Maybe it’s only 40% or 25% or .001%. But, it’s something. And something is all any project needs to get started. Don’t believe me? Try it.

Imagine you have almost what you need. Then, just start something.


Consider this my encouragement to you, through Merlin Mann. I hope you appreciate it, since I don’t give much encouragement.