Excession was… alright.

I just finished reading one of Iain M. Banks’ “Culture” novels, Excession, and I have to say it was profoundly unsatisfactory. Rather boring. Self-involved, as if he was so fascinated with the space opera he was creating that he forgot to actually make it interesting. When you get to the end, you’ll understand that the book wasn’t about the Excession itself, but rather about the drama that surrounds it. The problem, of course, is that the drama surrounding it is rather boring. I can relate to a ship mind, or at least revel in imagining it, but the minds have to, you know, do things and stuff.

The Algebraist on the other hand has the same sort of ending with a semblance of a climactic sequence, but is much, much more involving. It is, in fact, quite a good scifi novel.

Even Consider Phlebas was better than Excession, and that’s not saying much.

The problem, I think, is that while the Culture and its foes are a great backdrop to what could be a great space drama, Iain M. Banks just can’t follow through with very much story. This is in direct opposition to Kevin J. Anderson’s Saga of Seven Suns which has, if anything, way too much story. Or to put it another way, Iain needs a little bit of Kevin, and vice versa.

Also, on a book-related note, I’m still waiting for the next Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen (very cumbersome tagline, that, but I like it). The preceeding novels were simply too dreadfully marvelous to not have a proper sequel.

dan (has written much about books)

Westminster Shorter Catechism 4

And we forge ahead…

Q. 4. What is God?
A. God is a Spirit, [7] infinite, [8] eternal, [9] and unchangeable, [10] in his being, [11] wisdom, [12] power, [13] holiness, [14] justice, [15] goodness, [16] and truth. [17]

I’m not sure what more I can add here, other than to note that this is probably the definitive question of all human existance: what is God? And of course the Westminster Shorter goes on to also define who God is in the subsequent questions, though that of course takes a bit more involvement to answer.

dan

I was reading a book…

And in this book, it was talking about leadership. Specifically leadership in a team, where all the team members are pulling together, whether they agree fully or not.

It left me thinking: no group of leaders – exectutives, church councils, charity boards – is ever going to be in full agreement all the time, right? But decisions still have to be made. The question isn’t, then, isn’t whether or not we fully agree all the time, but whether or not we can get behind a decision even when we don’t like it all that much.

Reaching a constant concensus in a group of leaders is essentially paralyzing. Not only that, any group that tacitly or otherwise insists on it isn’t showing the sort of wisdom one would expect from leaders – at least successful leaders.

dan (there will always be situations where someone will have to do the right thing, and the tough thing)

Nothing and everything, again.

There are some questions that tapdance a figure-eight around my head, and this is one of them. Of course, it’s not in me to give out the question like the sun gives out light: the question seems more important than the answer.

The answer is a road, and how to travel it. Which is, in itself, more a question than anything else. If a road, then how to walk?

The answer is also a bird, and how to sing. The questionable science of minor keys always enters here, but that’s hardly the point. Once again, the science is not the answer to the story’s question; and whether or not our narrative is biography or fiction hardly enters into the equation.

Yet, the answer is wine going sour in a bottle. Somehow, this reminds me of a ship. Wine was meant for the stomach, and a ship for tongue and stomach of an ocean by degrees. But whether the wine goes sour or not isn’t my concern, or yours. We drink and are happy and sad by degrees. We see, we hear, and it brings us to both the sun giving out light or a question in the dark. Again, by degrees.

The answer, finally, is a fig tree. It flowers in the oddest of seasons and bears fruit when it shouldn’t. The axe is always laid at its root, but the axe is held by a woman, or a man. Either will do, because she is he and is both.

I lied, because the answer is another thing, or ten. It’s that thing you hold tighter, but that – like oil – slips between your fingers and runs to a thirsty earth. It’s that bird you let go, only to see it returning later with an olive branch or bright future in its beak. It’s when to sow, and when to reap. But more than that, it is more.

A short prayer for mid-day.

God, grant me patience with the people around me; the stupid, the smartassed, and the lazy. Give me grace to deal with those who store up their grievances so they can shoot them at people when they’re angry. And since you apparently won’t change anyone else, change me into a more loving person. More to the point, if you won’t stop throwing curveballs, at least give me a glove.

Also, remind me often that I’m all these things and more; that publican guy is me, just with a shorter prayer.

Help me to be brief.

Dan

Westminster Shorter Catechism 3

Onward and upward!

Q. 3. What does scripture primarily teach?
A. It teaches what mankind is to believe about God [5] and what duty is required of him. [6]

Note the “primarily” – that’s of course not all that scripture teaches, but it’s the Big Thing. And isn’t it odd to think in terms of duty? It’s not really a concept that enters our headspace much these days. But there it is.

I’ll be brief on this point: notice how it says what I need to believe (what goes on in my head), but also what I need to do (what goes on with my hands). The point is that scripture isn’t just a bunch of propositions that you can affirm – it’s something that requires revolution. And no revolution ever happened because a bunch of people sat around a table drinking beer and eating pretzels, chatting about how their minds had all been changed about the government, if you get my drift.

dan (what a great way to start the afternoon)

Nick Guestblogs…

Hi, my name is Nick. Daniel and I have been friends for a long while, and one of the things we do from time to time is take pictures. Here are some of the pictures I have taken that relate to both Daniel and myself. Both he and I are in them, as well as his sisters.

Let me tell you something.

I called my sister a knob back in the day (you know, Elyssa) – but I’d like to publically retract that.

In fact, let me tell you something she does at work: practically every morning, she goes out and buys me a coffee. Sometimes she even pays for it. Isn’t that sweet.

Really, when I’m not mad at her, she’s almost too good to be true.

dan (not lying… really)

Westminster Shorter Catechism, 2

So, we continue:

Q2. What rule has God given us to show us how we should glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God (which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments) [3] is the only rule to direct us how we should glorify and enjoy him. [4]

Here you go, and germane in to our “what does God want me to do” discussion, it’s the scriptures that measure whether or not what we do – in spite of what we say – is actually glorifying to God. Not only that, the scriptures point out how to enjoy God, or as the psalm-writer put it (over and over and over and over in Psalm 119), God’s law is a “delight”, though of course we’re used to thinking of it as a “burden”.

In the light of this, looking for a sign becomes meaningless because even your sign is subject to the word of God. For instance, if you get a “sign from God” telling you to sleep with your secretary, your sign is not from God. But also, if you’re enjoying the Lord, what you want tends to – un-naturally, I might add – fall into the rut you’ve worn into your life. Personally, I’m still waiting for that day. I don’t know about you.

dan (wait… I may know about you more than you know…)