As Weebly has transformed from a blogging platform into more of an e-commerce platform, I've been less and less comfortable using it as a home for my blogging. I have no interest in selling products online; I just want to blog about things I find interesting. And I want it to be simple and easy to use.
To that end, I am moving Corybanter to a newer, simpler home on Medium.com. If you've been following me at all here on Weebly, please update your bookmarks accordingly. I will keep my old Corybanter posts here on Weebly for the time being, as a sort of Archive. Check it out!
[The following was a short essay I published on Facebook Notes (remember those?) back in 2009. I don't remember exactly what caused me to write it, but I think it holds up pretty well.]
I’ve recently been reflecting on the popularity of “self-help” philosophy in American culture. You’ve seen it on TV, in bookstores, all over the Internet. Heck, I would venture to say that many churches and other houses of worship have pretty much adopted the language of self-help (Joel Osteen and Rick Warren leap immediately to mind). From Wayne Dyer to L. Ron Hubbard to whoever wrote “The Rules” for relationships several years back, it seems like Americans will grasp for anything that promises to make them wealthy, happy, healthy, better adjusted, sexually potent, et cetera, ad infinitum. And they all claim to be sure-fire, easy, common sense approaches to life. You know the kind of thing: 30 days to a better <fill-in-the-blank>.
I know we’ve all heard the old saying: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And yet, it often seems to me that very few people are applying that principle, when it comes to all of these self-help “programs.” Of course, all the really good self-help gurus (or leaders or experts or whatever they are) are pretty good at mixing a little of the truth with a lot of…well, not the truth. For example, I just picked up a book (for free) by Og Mandino, who was a popular self-help guy for many years. The book is called University of Success, and it mixes Og’s principles with all kinds of “wisdom of the ages”: everything from Ben Franklin to Norman Vincent Peale. In this book, Og lays out his system in ten “semesters,” which he equates in his introduction with four years of college, plus two years of graduate work. Will it take you ten years to get through his semesters? Of course not! He recommends about a week per semester, for a total of ten weeks. At that point, presumably, you will have achieved all your dreams. Bingo.
I’m also reminded, of course, of the ever-popular L. Ron Hubbard, and the “Church” of Scientology. Hubbard was more brilliant, in a way, then Mandino or Dyer or any of those guys ever were, because he mixed in all the trappings of a religion with his bizarre self-help philosophies. If you read even a little of the voluminous writing of Hubbard, though, you will see much of the same claims made by all of the self-help people: 100% effectiveness, tremendous success, unlimited potential, blah, blah, blah.
As I mentioned above, though, you see the same thing in churches all the time. I can’t count how many people I’ve talked to personally who sound like they’re describing a self-help philosophy, when they talk about their faith: “I’ve been reading this Prayer of Jabez, and it’s helped me find my purpose” or “When I started listening to the Lord, everything just fell into place, and I feel so much happier.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that being happier because of faith is a bad thing. However, when we reduce faith to a system that will bring us success or happiness or anything that is just to make us better, I think we’re not really talking about religion any more, or faith, or God. We’re talking about ME, I, the ever more important SELF. And that’s just the same thing as all the self-help stuff.
I know there are those who will read this and think “What is he complaining about?” Believe me, it’s not meant as a complaint, but rather as an observation. I think there’s a tendency that we have (especially in America) to always be looking out for Numero Uno. Maybe if we cared about others a little more, we’d be heading in a better direction.
Wow, last time I posted here on Corybanter.com, I had just run my first half marathon. Now it's about half a year later, and I have a second half marathon under my belt, and I'm registered for my third half marathon next April. So I've been running a lot, and I think my health is better than it's been in a long time. So that's good.
My blogging has been pretty scattered. I still maintain several blogs that you can visit from the links at the top of the page, but I don't have any regular schedule. My interests come and go, as they have for a long time. For a few weeks, I'll be super interested in Shakespeare; a couple weeks later, it's The Book of Mormon; and a few weeks after that, it may be the Bible, or my dictionary collection. I still haven't figured out how to make my blogging on any given subject a regular thing. Someday, I hope to be able to do that.
What else is going on? My girls are almost done with their first in-person school year after the pandemic: Su is finishing up her freshman year of high school, and Lucy is finishing up elementary school. I know it sounds cliché, but the time really does go too fast. I wish there were some way to be able to savor it a bit more, but life happens, and pretty soon a decade has passed. And you barely notice it...
I don't really blog about politics, because it's not an interest of mine, but I will say the political situation in America is looking pretty bleak. I will still vote in 2022 and 2024, because I think it's my civic duty, and I want to be a good role model to my kids, but I don't have any high hopes. I recently created an account over at TruthSocial.com, just to see what the landscape looks like for people with whom I vehemently disagree. The site is just a Twitter knockoff, but the political opinions are pretty much what you'd expect. All kinds of "Biden is a criminal" and "Let's take the country back" stuff. I probably won't hang out there a whole lot.
Summer weather has begun here in Nashville, even though the summer solstice isn't until June. I wish I were able to enjoy summer like I did when I was a kid, but the hot weather just wears me out. My girls hate the hot weather too, so for the next few months, I'm pretty sure we'll be huddled inside with the A/C, except for when I go out running. I guess I'll be figuring out what my threshold is for hot weather running pretty soon.
That's pretty much everything on my mind at the moment. I'll try to use this blog a bit more in the future, but we'll just have to see how that goes. Feel free to check out my other blogs from the menu at the top of the screen! Thanks for reading.
Well, I had written a reminiscence of how my first half marathon went, but I made a mistake, and somehow deleted everything I had written! So I'm going to keep it simple: just three days ago, I successfully completed my first ever half marathon. That's 13.1 miles, folks! Even though the training seemed like it would never end, and the race itself was not easy, I did it. And I did it in less time that I thought I would. I was going to be delighted it I made it in three hours, but my finishing time, as you can see below, was 2:47:14! I'm not going to win any special awards, but I earned my finishing medal. I'm already signed up for the next Rock 'n' Roll half marathon in April 2022, and I'm thinking I will be able to shave 10-15 minutes off of my time. I don't suppose I'll ever become a star runner, by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it's been a worthwhile goal to achieve, and it's certainly helping my overall health and fitness.
[The following popped up in my Facebook Memories today. I originally wrote it on October 23, 2009, on what used to be called Facebook Notes (which has since been discontinued). I thought it was worth sharing here on my personal blog.]
With all the recent news about the Conservative Bible Project, and reports of people burning Bibles other than the King James Version, I got thinking about how we read the Bible. All Christians seem to agree that reading the Bible is a good and useful thing to do. But so many Christians read the Bible and come to completely different conclusions about life. Conservatives often complain about liberals "twisting Scripture" to support their agenda; liberals accuse conservatives of the very same thing. I have talked to many Christians who say something like, "Well, I don't know about liberal or conservative...I just base my life on what the Bible says." What does the Bible say, and why do so many people disagree about what it means?
As I pondered this, something occurred to me. We should be suspicious any time we read the Bible, and find that it says exactly what we thought it would say. In other words, way too often, we go to the Bible with our position on a subject firmly in mind, and find Biblical proof to bolster than position. This is the old "proof-texting" that fundamentalists have honed to a fine skill. If the Bible makes us feel comfortable, then I think something is wrong. I'll point out a biblical example to illustrate. When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, I think his audience was already absolutely firm in their belief of what "neighbor" meant: "someone who lives where I live, and shares my values." Then Jesus told his parable, and used an example that his audience would have found shocking--a Samaritan as the hero of the story? Outrageous!
I think we all make this mistake; I know I do it all the time. I have in my head an idea that I'm starting to feel comfortable with, I go to the Bible, and there it is! God is in complete agreement with me! DANGER! I don't think there's a problem with turning to the Bible for comfort, but if we begin to feel comfortable, rather than comforted, something is wrong. The Bible should challenge us, the Bible should make us reexamine our previously held notions, the Bible should make us feel uncomfortable. In short, the Bible should convict us.
The biggest problem I see with the conservative/liberal debates about the Bible is that both sides have already made up their minds, to a certain extent. They hold up the Bible as proof, they beat their opponents over the heads with it, they use it as a weapon. But they rarely listen to the Bible, they are rarely humbled by the Bible, they rarely submit to the God who speaks in the Bible. So, the next time you go to read the Bible, and you're feeling pretty comfy with what you read there, ask yourself, "Am I really listening to what God is saying to me here, or am I listening to myself?"
I recently acquired a copy of Webster's International Dictionary: Second Edition, printed in 1942. I've been reading about the differences between Webster's 2nd and Webster's 3rd, and I stumbled on this excellent article from the National Endowment for the Humanities website. I think it's really well written and absolutely fascinating. The author is David Skinner, and he really nails this one. Here's a little taste of the article...
In 1961 a new edition of an old and esteemed dictionary was released. The publisher courted publicity, noting the great expense ($3.5 million) and amount of work (757 editor years) that went into its making. But the book was ill-received. It was judged “subversive” and denounced in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Atlantic, the New Yorker, Life, and dozens of other newspapers, magazines, and professional journals. Not every publication condemned the volume, but the various exceptions did little to change the widespread impression of a well-known reference work being cast out from the better precincts of American culture.
Read the rest of the article HERE.
I LOVE print dictionaries. Of course, I use online dictionaries all the time, and I have a couple dictionary apps on my phone (American Heritage and Merriam-Webster). But the experience of browsing through a print dictionary, turning the pages and discovering a new word in the middle of all that small type, is hard to replicate on a screen. But I was wondering this morning, are print dictionaries a thing of the past? After all, dictionaries are BIG books, they must cost a bundle to print. Meanwhile, the retail price of the average dictionary is quite low, considering the size of the book. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary only costs about twenty bucks, for a fairly large book of over 1600 pages!
And so I stumbled on an article from the National Endowment for the Humanities website (neh.gov) that I found very enjoyable. It's entitled "If Printed Dictionaries Are History, What Will Children Sit on to Reach the Table?" written by Michael Adams. He doesn't really answer my question, but he does reflect on the history of print dictionaries, and he offers some insight on the transition from print to online form, and what that means for consumers. Here's a brief excerpt:
When Aunt Sophie wanted to reward a niece or nephew for graduating from high school with college in view, she would present the up-and-coming student with a dictionary, but not just any dictionary. It might be linen-covered; it might be printed on India paper; it might have speckled edges; it might be thumb-indexed; it might be all four. It all depended on how Aunt Sophie wanted to be seen by the rest of her family, how much she wanted to spend, and how much she liked her young relative.
(adj.) wild and frenzied; from Greek κορυβαντες (Korybantes)