Monthly Archives: October 2010

In high school, my sophomore English class required that we write a response to Eli Wiesel’s “Night”. Like any high school paper, and despite “Night” being a powerful book, I procrastinated and threw something together the day before its due.

A few days later my teacher finished grading the papers, and she selected a few papers she felt should be shared with the class. She called me to the front and asked if I would read my short essay. I was surprised because I literally threw the words on the paper just a few days before. I hadn’t felt that I wrote anything particularly awarding.

I squeamishly read my essay in front of the class. Then my teacher asked for the class’ opinion.

The response was incredibly surprising. Either these kids were playing the teacher’s game, or they genuinely interpreted my essay into something beyond a response to a book. I will never forget one girl’s comment.

“I liked how you used the imagery of the Nazi officer sorting the prisoners into separate groups as a card dealer. It makes you wonder whether life really did feel like a gamble or game to the prisoners, and whether the Nazis felt that way too.” I am the Nazi officer, dealing you cards: Life, Death, Life, Death.

I was astounded. There existed no premeditation on my part to include such imagery, nor to elicit such thoughts. I threw this thing together at the last second.

It makes me wonder whether other people experience similar events. It makes me wonder whether an artist’s art can evoke similar depths of meaning when the artist really had no intent. It makes me wonder on the elusiveness of meaning, and whether we can really say what we want to say and only what we want to say.

What if the Bible is like this, a homework assignment carelessly put together the day before it is due? What if Christianity is like the girl’s comment, seeing something of substance when the author had no intent of indicating that substance?

I love seeing girls in bookstores. I applied to Barnes and Noble once, and I received an interview spot. I did not get the job, though. I think it was because I told them I was only looking for a summer job. Now I know never to tell employers you are only looking for a summer job. Had I been hired, I would have used my position as sales associate to talk to girls because I would be in a bookstore, and I love seeing girls carry a book around like it’s their best friend or new lover. I like girls that read.

Even though they did not hire me, I go back to that Barnes and Noble a lot. A habit of mine is to look at their Christianity section even though I probably have memorized the books they have on display there.

One book in the Christianity section has caught my interest because the title is sexy. The title is sexy because I think the the subject that the title is titling is fantastic; that subject is Ideas.

The book is called Christianity’s Dangerous Idea. That is a sexy title if I’ve ever read one.

From reading the back cover, I think the basic idea of the book is that the author, Alister McGrath, is tracing the roots of Protestant Christianity to Martin Luther and his daring expedition to post his 95 theses. His 95 theses, as I infer from the cover of the book, had their start in his interpretation of the Bible.

So, is it dangerous? If we focus on Christian theology, then, yes, maybe it is. Can a human interpret a divinely-inspired text to be read however he or she interprets it? On the other hand, if we don’t interpret it, are we left with anything substantial or comprehensible? Then there is the middle ground: is it enough or correct for the Christian community to come to a consensus on what interpretation is correct, and then admonish all other interpretations? What about in other areas? Is it dangerous to personally interpret music, film, poetry, or any other art form? Surely, most art has an original meaning or purpose. Do we harm the essential nature when we are allowed to interpret as we please?

I don’t think it is that much of a danger. I think, in fact, that it is quite rich for us to interpret anything and everything. Now, of course, there are idiotic interpretations. I think those are dangerous. I find it hard to believe, but some people latch onto those unbelievable interpretations. For example, there is this man who interprets, “You are what you eat,” to defend his belief of the Breatharians. It is absurd.

My conclusion? Interpretation is a dangerous idea, but only if you are an idiot. Otherwise, it is very useful.

I am usually that annoying kid in class that sniffs his nose. Today, I was sniffing my nose, and, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a girl make a weird glance at me. In this class, we all sit in a semi-circle so it is easy to see people look at each other. I assumed she looked at me because I made an awful sniffling noise.

But perhaps I had something growing out of my head — à la Resident Evil. Perhaps my thoracic cavity had been invaded by a seedling, and my body was unfortunate host to an alien parasite — à la Alien Vs. Predator.

A tentacle grew from my head and showered its fleshy limb in front of my eyes. I jumped back aghast, and the entire class stared at me. I stared back with an afraid innocence. I looked at the teacher, and he carefully backed away.

He told me to stay back because I was becoming a dangerous creature. I, however, still possessed my natural mind. I did not dream of hurting anyone in my class; I only wanted someone to help me.

My teacher began to back away quicker, tripping over his steps as he traced backwards toward the door. My peers began running out, and, though my teacher could have left before any of the students, he waited until all his students had evacuated. It would have been a poor quality for a teacher to leave before all of his or her students. That is part of leadership.

It is also incumbent upon a leader to stare at danger and not waver.

I approached my teacher and he stared into my eyes. I wanted him to hug me and tell me everything was alright. I reached out for him, and the beastly tentacle that grew from my head, beyond my control, stabbed him through the heart. He died instantly.

Leaders have to accept that they have to die. If my teacher had ran, that would have reduced the quality of his leadership, and his followers would have questioned his ethos. Leaders have to die, otherwise they aren’t leaders.