Monday, April 25, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Studying Religion

As most of you may well know by now I have chosen the immediately post-Seminary period of my life/early years of marriage/late-twenties/early-thirties/however-I-end-up-labelling-the-last-two-and-next-five-or-so-years pursuing [more] higher education. This educational journey is: (1) inspired by my wife’s similar pursuits and a vision for our shared future in our respective fields of academia and (2) a result and continuation of a period of doubt and skepticism in my own religious thought. I’m hoping to add some insight into these two aspects of the decision to work towards a PhD in Religion at FSU.

(1) If I had a nickel for each person who said either “don’t do it.” or “why would you want to do it?” or “you can’t know how frustrating/difficult/trying it will be unless you do it” when I asked advice about applying to and beginning a PhD program I wouldn’t have to take out loans to pay rent this fall. While it does take a special breed of intellectual masochism to go down this road, I feel like I have somewhat of a unique perspective acting as housecleaning arm candy for Abbey’s doctoral journey for the past half decade. We are both excited at the prospect of a change of scenery as well as the eventual hope of teaching at the same university. This would likely work out a lot better than Abbey being on the schedule of whatever institution of higher learning is fortunate enough to have her on their faculty while I am on a quite different career-related schedule (which might include spring break easter week and December Christmas things). This first aspect of the decision made the most sense in both the short and long term planning of the Carrico, Jr family.

(2) Doubt and skepticism in Tommy’s religious thought. This sounds much more serious than it is (unless, of course, I wind up on the wrong side of judgment day in which case I guess I’ll at least have some certainty). One needs look no further than the esteemed winner of the Fall 2009 Semester American University of Paris Quotable Quote contest which was "The beauty of theology is that we are just going to sit here and argue about it until we all drop dead or doomsday happens." There are those who will tell you (and have told me) that there is a right and a wrong answer and a big, bold line between orthodoxy and heresy within the Christian tradition (and within other religious faith structures). The truth is there are a lot of Christians who read the same Bible and come to different – valid – interpretations. This is my religious-thought-related starting point – that even if there is “one correct interpretation” of this collection of books from different times and places written for different audiences, even if this correct reading exists, the realist in me sees many people interpreting – and acting on their interpretations in the socio-political sphere – differently – same goes for another text-based tradition that I study. The fun part of comparative religious study is that you are always being told you are wrong by someone you are reading – and therefore always learning about how people perceive God acting in the world and, in the realm of comparative religious ethics, how they believe they can and should join in. Religious thought, religious textual interpretation, and religion-inspired-action (be it evangelism or violence) doesn’t occur in a social, cultural, or political vacuum but rather ends up being one element among a conglomeration of factors (race, gender, socioeconomic status, among others) which shape a religious person’s worldview. So the doubt/skepticism would be that I don’t know that there are purely religious motivations for action and extreme doubt that there is only one valid way to interpret a religious text or to live within a religious system – though there are both helpful and harmful ways to interpret and live. I believe that undertaking the study of religion and teaching religion at a public state university will be the most appropriate venue to explore the interactions between religious thought and society (Go Noles!).

While there are many factors that went into this decision, these two were the most recurring and prominent in mine and Abbey’s deliberations. Hopefully something amusing will happen in the near future so I can unburden you faithful readers with blog posts that aren’t particularly funny.

As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Picking Up Heavy Things and Putting Them Back Down

To date I haven’t really delved into the intricate depths of meatheadedness on this blog. (note: meatheadedness refers broadly to actions and mannerisms typical of those who spend more time in a weight room than out of it (note: these folks are typically known as meatheads, hence, meatheadedness)) At least based on my experience last year, I don’t believe that this type of lifestyle has really caught on in France due to lack of space (referring both to real estate space for weight rooms and metro space for those attempting to get larger by picking up heavy things and putting them back down over and over again) as well as an overwhelming bounty of delicious pastries and vin rouge.

Before moving to Paris, I was able to lift some very heavy things and put them back down again without serious injury to myself and others. By November of 2009, French Tommy weighed in at about 20 pounds less than American Tommy – this was fine, French Tommy was never particularly unhealthy, but was no longer able to move around things that were much larger or heavier than what would fit in his purse. Upon returning to the land of the free and the home of the whopper French Tommy and his slenderfit jeans were surrounded by SUVs with flames on them and individuals who were much larger and more boisterous than the average French folk he had become accustomed to interacting with. In order to remedy this, upon moving back to Atlanta, reunited with an old friend and started the long trek back to picking up really heavy things once again.

The now somewhat hybrid American-French Tommy is almost able to move heavy things off and away from of his person at the same level as purely American Tommy and has begun engaging in what may be referred to as next-level meatheadery. Looking at options to tinker with some aspects of the art of heavystuff lifting, it seemed that chains or large elastic bands would be the most beneficial given AmeriFrench Tommy’s present state of physical fitness. Not wanting to end up on the wrong end of a 250 pound slingshot, AmeriFrench Tommy donned tight French jeans and a French button-up short-sleeved shirt and made the trek to quite an American establishment – Home Depot – in order to purchase large, heavy, loud chains to hang off of heavy things and pick up and put down several times. The bearded southern gentleman in charge of cutting said chains to a specific length stated “whatever you put these things on ain’t movin no where.” I assured him that was the opposite of the goal and went on my merry way.

After working out with the chains twice, and hanging various metal objects from the chains, they are incredible. As the bar lowers and the chains hanging from it also descend, more of the chain rests on the ground (and more of the heavy things hanging from the chain rest on the ground) causing the lower portion of the lift to be lighter than the “lockout” portion of the lift. This, in theory, will help train one to accelerate one’s motion more so at the bottom of the lift in order to get over “sticking points” (points in the motion where one is unable to move the weight – for AmeriFrench Tommy on the bench press this sticking point occurs approximately eight inches from his chest) and/or move beyond “plateaus” (when one is unable to increase the weight of a given exercise for some time). I am optimistic that the chains will achieve both goals and, if not, they are a lot of fun to play with. Many thanks to everyone who was in the NCAA bracket pool that AmeriFrench Tommy placed second in for donating to the slush fund from which money for these chains was taken.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Announcement Number One

First off – I would like for all to know that one of the top reasons people visit this blog is because they are searching on google for a picture of gnome a l’escargot (gnome on a snail) and are directed to my post about my brother, sister, and my visit to the Louvre. Word has spread far and wide of my gnome-related knowledge and this blog’s prestigious place in the pantheon of Louvre-gnome-related resources is now documented.

That was not the big announcement.

The big announcement is that Abbey and I will be moving to Tallahassee, Florida this August. While I don’t think that the folks at FSU will take too kindly to my Hokie Snuggie® I am very excited to begin a PhD in Religion, Ethics, and Philosophy in their Dept. of Religion. After visiting FSU, learning more about the program as well as meeting students and faculty, Abbey and I believe that the REP track is the best for my career and opportunities abound for an extremely well-qualified French scholar. Additionally, we felt at ease in Tallahassee, realized that we know a lot of people who know a lot of people there, and look forward to spending the next few years there.

Look for upcoming posts detailing my thought process on studying religious ethics, a meathead/gym related post, as well as the other announcement regarding the future of [TBA].

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Terry Jones Can't Burn My Blog

Warning: The Following is Not a Funny Blog Post

In the last couple of days 16 people have been killed and nearly 100 injured in protests in Afghanistan because of the imbecilic actions of a Yosemite Sam look-a-like “pastor” from Florida. As someone who hopes to make a living studying and teaching about religion I find myself wholly incapable of approaching this situation with anything remotely resembling “scholarly distance” (if there can be said to be scholarly distance in the field of religion…but I digress). It makes me mad. It makes me upset. It makes me want to throw heavy things at inanimate objects. There isn’t one part of it that particularly interests me or makes me want to learn more about the nuances of the religious belief structures of the instigating party – due to the fact that the Manichean, us versus them, nonsensical mentality being displayed leaves no room for nuance. Here is what is going on in this situation that I disagree with.

Response. I’m writing a response to Terry Jones. He is an imbecile and doesn’t deserve anyone’s attention and I don’t like having my emotions manipulated by stupidity. 16 people are dead and counting because a pastor burned a holy text. My attention is here. I am upset that a lunatic standing on a soapbox spewing excrement has elicited anything more than a passing eye-roll from me. However, while I claim that he doesn’t warrant a response here I am…because he does. I have just finished being annoyed with Rep. Peter King’s xenophobic hearings titled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response.” So the shoe is on the other foot – Here is my response offering a testimony of “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Christian Community and that Community’s Response.” Everything Terry Jones did was wrong and he can’t light my blog on fire.

First, he announced “International Burn a Qur’an Day” to commemorate the anniversary of the world trade center attacks of 2001. This was met with disgust by most and condemnation from local pastors, from Obama, from General Petraeus and many, many others. Terry Jones is exactly like Osama Bin Laden and Fred Phelps in that his extreme words and actions garner attention disproportionate to his influence, thereby creating an illusion of widespread influence. There are better ways than terroristic threats to commemorate the anniversary of terrorist attacks.

Second, after he rescinded his terrorist threat to burn the Qur’an, he made an announcement that the Qur’an would be put on trial. I did not read this because I do not frequent the web site of the dove world outreach center. (Caveat – also thoroughly annoyed with his use of the words “international,” “world,” “outreach,” and “dove”…henceforth I’ll refer to his “church” as a “center”) A Trial. Jones was the “judge,” center members was a “jury,” and “lawyers” put the Qur’an on trial. I don’t care about the specifics of this “trial” because the entire thing is a mockery of the US judicial process as well as any interpretation of Shari’ah and doesn’t warrant close examination. I am left to wonder whether the 12 person – all center “church” members – were a jury of the Qur’an’s peers. Who, or what, is a peer of the Qur’an? Did the Qur’an speak in its own defense? Was the book called to the witness stand? The entire process is silly and I believe that Terry Jones the terrorist would disassociate with any peers of the Qur’an if they didn’t now make up 40% of his center’s membership. This “trial” was an exercise in bigoted stupidity.

Third, the punishments for the Qur’an, should it be found guilty, were limited to death by burning, death by firing squad, death by drowning, or death by shredding. This begs the question whether it was only this particular Qur’an that caused all of the misfortunes Terry Jones the Terrorist was accusing it of or if every Qur’an and every translation should be held liable – this “trial” was a farce. Back to the original point of this bulletpoint – death was the only option for something that the fu Manchu terrorist disagreed with or didn’t understand. What a fantastic approach to the world.

All of these aside, what upset me most was the act of holy text burning. As a future scholar in the field of the interpretation of holy texts, their purposeful destruction is an intellectual travesty. It says “I don’t care what is in this book.” “I don’t care that it influences people.” “I don’t care that I may learn something from it.” “I don’t care that some people view it as the word of god and model their lives after their interpretation of it.” It says “not only do I not care, I actively want to destroy this book so that there is no way anyone will ever be able to form their own opinion about it as I have made up their minds for them.” Dialogue is gone and replaced with destruction. Everything about burning a holy book – symbolically, physically, ecumenically, and educationally – has no place anywhere.

I could continue, but the bottom line is that Terry Jones is a Terrorist and does not speak for America or Christianity. But to much of the world, right now, he does. While he shouldn’t warrant a response, here is another one, because closing our eyes and ears to this type of action doesn’t make it go away. While everything he has done exudes asininity it has had significant consequences – 16 dead and counting – and must be dealt with by those who think about religion. Dialogue doesn’t work when one conversation partner burns another one to death. Growth doesn’t happen when an “other” is forcibly silenced. Ideological dissonance has the capacity to foster growth and debate has the capacity to expand one’s own mental horizons. Perhaps the situation was best summarized by Terry Jones the Terrorist’s son: “We’re not big debaters. We’re not very well-educated,” Luke Jones said. “We’re just simple people trying to do the right thing.”

Debate isn’t bad. You don’t have to be educated to listen. You didn’t do the right thing.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Day in the Life

Dear readers, in order to catch you up on my life over the past six weeks or so since I last posted, Atlanta was warm for a few days, now it is cold, I have continued to pick up people’s dirty dishes in order to earn a living, and I have perfected my househusbandry routine which is as follows:

• 8:00ish – Wake up and make coffee

• 9:00ish – Wish Abbey a happy day at school/take Abbey to school

• 9:00ish-10:00ish – Drink coffee, check facebook, email,,, huffington post, themoderatevoice, (gotta get the whole political spectrum), etc. (and watch epicmealtime if it’s Tuesday)

• 10:00ish – do the dishes

• 10:15ish-10:45ish – shower, shave (I received a reprimand at work a while ago because at age 27 I have reached the point of manhood where I must shave every day or be perceived as grungy by my employer’s clientele)

• 11:00ish-whenever – the channel that shows the 700 club and john hagee starts showing jerry springer/maury/steve wilkos (I find this entirely appropriate) so I watch whatever is on this channel while cleaning the bedroom

• Noonish – eat.

• Noonish-Midafternoonish – complete whatever errands need to be run/read a book/continue watching trashy tv

• Midafternoonish MWF – get my swell on at the gym

• LateAfternoonish – Abbey gets home.

• LateAfternoonish-Eveningbedtimeish – hang out with Abbey

While there are certainly variants – sometimes I have to go in to work to pick up people’s breakfast plates and pour breakfast drinks, other times I may go in to work to pick up lunch plates and pour lunch drinks, and other times I may go in to work in the evenings to pick up dinner plates and serve dinner drinks – these are all very exciting variables, but you now have an idea of the typical weekday of your favorite househusband. I hope you have enjoyed this brief glimpse into my life, especially if you may be considering househusbandry as a viable option for your future career.

Stay tuned to [TBA] for some important announcements in the near future.