Nobody’s making you read this svithe


I was struck by one of the Divine Miss A's recent posts and I want to riff a bit more on the comment I left her.

She said:
    . . . . it's hard to negotiate with "role." I am the teacher. A position of authority . . . . I constantly am asking myself, "Is this okay to say?" Take religion for instance. Before class students were having a discussion about a friend that was investigating this religion that most people refer to as Mormonism. I pretty much kept quiet, just because I know that religion in schools can be a sticky subject (particularly in this community) [note: Miss A, like me, is Mormon]. That is, I kept quiet until they called it a cult. And then I felt the need to at least tell them a couple of things. Not preaching. Just setting the record straight. I was scared to death, though, that I was going to get called on the carpet. I'm always trying to negotiate my role.
I said:
    In one of my credential classes I was told that admitting the existence of religion should pretty much get me fired.

    I decided that I'll have the same policy for religion that I have with sex: I give straight questions straight answers and I tell people to shut up when they need it.

Now to elaborate on this topic of religion and schools.

What I said in that class was that if a kid asked a question about religion versus science I would answer it with a discussion on epistemology and the different ways we have of obtaining and understanding knowledge. I believe that answer would allow me to be honest without promoting or denigrating either religion or science.

Ultimately, the point I was trying to make is that students deserve straight answers from their teachers and that we should respect them enough to give them to them.

Ultimately, the point made by my teacher is that I should pretend religion does not exist lest I get fired. Because not getting fired should be my highest aim in life.

I guess this is what Pope Pius X was worried about a hundred years ago--that the legal separation of church and state would result in a divorce between sense and sense in the name of sense. (The pope was reacting to changing French law--and within a year of his encyclical, it was a crime in France to wear a crucifix to school, so I guess he wasn't underconcerned.)

What I see now in America's schools is that divorce of sense from sense in the name of sense--a creation of a purposeful ignorance and it disturbs me. What good is an education if that education will be purposefully cut off from large sections of human knowledge? Why should the only religions legal to discuss be ones that died out >1500 years ago? The logic is bewildering. I understand and deeply agree with bans on proselytizing on school campuses, but to tell a teacher they cannot answer a simple question because to do so undermines Western Civilization? What is that all about?

It is impossible to understand the human family without at least addressing religion. Science and religion may in fact form a truly distinct dichotomy, but you cannot similarly divorce the understanding that comes from religion when you read Romeo and Juliet or The Scarlet Letter or My Last Duchess or The Inferno or even The Little Prince. You cannot divorce religion from history without rendering it nonsensical.

You cannot divorce religion from humanity. Even humans without religion define themselves by its absence.

What is this svithe about? Am I calling for instating religious indoctrination in America's high schools?

Are you kidding?

All I'm saying is that we can't terrify teachers if we want them to teach. We can't threaten them if we want our students to be with teachers from whom they can learn.

What I'm saying, if you read very closely, is that we should trust our children with knowledge. And we should trust the people we pay to deliver that knowledge.

What I'm saying, is that we should not be afraid.

Not parents, not teachers, not administrators, not legislators and least of all not students.

Nobody made you read this svithe.

Yet are you any less human for having read it?

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last week's svithe


The state of the svithe (one year later)


This is the one-year anniversary of my inaugural svithe. Now, granted, there was a stretch of some months wherein we did not have internet access and so svithing was put on hiatus, but still, it has been a year.

So much to say....

First, I want to update my definition of a svithe to reflect current usage:
    Svithe: a spiritually themed blogpost on a blog generally less concerned with spiritual things. Also, must be called a svithe to really be a svithe.
I think that's accurate. But, since the word has left my care and has made its own way in the world, it needs more of a wikidefinition--so feel free to alter it to make it more accurate.

Second, self-evaluation:

My personal goal when I started svithing was simply to set aside one day of blogging in seven on the altar of Better Things. Although some of the svithes have been shameless copouts, I have not missed even one Sunday when we have had internet at home. In the future, I will try to adjust the proportion of copout svithes to decent svithes in decent's favor, but overall I feel pretty good about how things turned out. Accomplishing goals is not something I usually do.

Third, known svithers:

A number of people have taken the concept of svithing and brought it into their own homes. As part of my fifth svithe, I wrote that "The problem of course [with svithing] is that I am one person. What if more people would, now and then, write something the only purpose of which was to spread faith and beauty? Or to ask questions of eternal import? Or to spread heart-wrenching but patently false stories about baby angels? ... a witness or testimony ... [or] lists of unanswered questions that weigh on the mind, a tally of hopes and fears, a desperate cry for understanding from beyond, a simple statement of heartfelt fact."

To me, svithing was never meant to be jingoistic, but an opportunity for honesty--and honestly addressing or discussing God (or doubt) (or the Great Fish Named Boolah)--no matter one's feelings toward him (or her) (or it) (or them).

To my joy, a number of people have found svithing to be worthwhile--and some have even made it a regular practice. In many ways, I want to divorce myself from the origins of svithing lest people think svithing=Theric rather than svithing=Who I Am & What I Think.

Thankfully, that has not happened. The following is a list of people known to have written a svithe none of whom--or so it appears to me--have been pandering for Theric's favor (which, let's face it, is worthless anyway) but instead have been writing from somewhere personal and all their own. This is relieving and satisfying. And makes for much better reading.

Behold, the known svithers:Fourth, the future:

I will keep svithing every Sunday. I will continue devouring every other person's svithe I come across with the ravenous hunger of a bear who has slept through honey season. (Please keep me satiated. I am hungry.)

Fifth, today:

Today I am happy. Sure, I'm tired and no, nothing remarkable happened, but I feel the world is a good place all the same.

My opinion--often expressed--is that God hopes we will be happy. And for all my friends in the ether, that is my hope for us too. May we all be happy.

I'll see you next week.

And all next year.

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last week's svithe


Music, Talents, Wyote, Today, Futurity, Svithes

Gimme! Gimme!

I have joined the church choir. This is not a particularly interesting fact to anyone other than my parents to whom it should give great joy. For all my failings, the one thing my parents always believed I could do and do well is sing. And so when I very purposefully left that particular skill behind it was heartbreaking to them. But I haven't sung now for many years and am only finally ready to come back.

The consequence of so long an absence is, of course, a serious erosion in talent. Which I expected and even wanted but is still frustrating. I am used to being the one the director can count on to sight read, learn the notes on the first pass, stick to the proper notes when everyone else is screwing up, etc. Not so anymore.

A fair question is why did I purposefully lose these skills. But I'm afraid I haven't a very satisfactory answer. My honest reaction is to blame the party of the first part (meaning of the preTheric contract), but that's not really fair (though it may be correct). Blame also relies on my sickandtiredness re: getting roped in to sing.

In other words, I was lazy, felt misappreciated, and simply wasn't that into it.

But I still love music and so, all these years later, I am back.

This seems apropos because today my brother Wyote, who recently returned from a mission, spoke today to his congregation about this and that and frankly I don't quite know what but I'm sure it was good.

He and I were chatting earlier this week about the craft of writing. Like me, Wyote is a writer, and it is my goal to get him to success much more quickly than myself. In our chat he told me that he has "started work on [his] first post-mission writing . . . [and he's] kinda rusty."

I understand. I too left writing behind during my mission, looking at it as one more thing laid on the altar. Then I came home and had to relearn everything I had once known.

Where I'm headed is this (and here comes the svithey part): There is a difference between letting talents decay for selfish reasons and allowing them to decay while doing something of greater importance--an importance not centered on the self. In both instances skills do decay. But I have no grand expectations of ever being a singer again--that is nothing I deserve. And the road back will be long and rocky--if I ever even make it.

But that example means nothing to Wyote's writing. God gives us talents and expects us to make the most of them. But he is not so capricious as to punish us for sacrificing to him. Forget about it!

God did not make us to fail. When Elder Russell M. Nelson visited our stake recently, he said that each of us was created to be successful during mortality. Implication: we are given everything we need and can expect to be given everything we will need.

So long, I suspect, as we don't squander what we already have.

Let that be a lesson to me.

this svithe on thmusings
last week's svithe


Eccelsiastical Svithery


Someday I will go through the book of Ecclesiastes and write a long, long essay--maybe even a short book--on why I love it so much. Someday is not today, but I feel like touching briefly on its themes so I'm going to go ahead and do just that. For I am a wild-eyed libertarian.

What drives me crazy is how people dismiss Ecclesiastes as a bunch of pessimistic drudgery. Not so! First of all, people who say that don't really mean pessimism at all--they mean fatalism. Like here:
    . . . and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.
Trees fall.

Where they fall, there they are.

This is not pessimism. And it's not precisely fatalism either. If anything, it's kind of taoey. The message here is relax. Don't worry about things you can't control. The tree fell? So what? The tree fell and there it is. Move on. Only worry about what you can control.

Following immediately after Proverbs as it does, with all its maxims of be good be strong be able do your duty do your best do more et cetera, Ecclesiastes is a breath of fresh air. The Preacher is not relieving the Bible-reader of any responsibility, but he is giving permission not to despair when things don't turn out just right. Yeah, you should follow the good advice in Proverbs, but you know what? Even when you do,
    . . . the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
And that's frustrating. If I work the hardest, shouldn't I get the heftiest reward?

Sure you should. But it doesn't mean you will. And that's why the Preacher is always going on and on about vanity and death. Not because he's depressed or "pessimistic"--but to remind us that placing all our eggs in the basket of brilliant mortal success is nuts. Because we can't control that success.

What can we control, then? Is anything we do of worth? If I can work all my life and die a pauper, what's the point?
    Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment . . . .
In other words, the point is to forget about these short term rewards--what Jesus terms "that which moth doth corrupt and which thieves can break through and steal"--and let's just do the best we can and stop worrying so much about consequences. After all,So forget about the wind and the clouds and just do what you can.

That's not pessimism. That's a relaxed realism and I dig it.
    Rejoice . . . and let thy heart cheer thee . . . walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh . . . . Remember now thy Creator . . . .
And he will remember thee.

this svithe on thmusings
last week's svithe