The Taser's Edge

Tuesday Reading Roundup 12: Anything but School, Please Edition

1. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller–Finished it off.  Kind of like Superman finished off Batman in that brutal fight.  You’ll have to read it to believe it.  And you knew they would have to fight some time, so no whining about spoilers.  Bruce Wayne has gotten vengeful in his old age, and that just goes plumb against the American Way (at least when that vengeance is carried out by a masked vigilante).

2. A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle–The series continues as Charles Wallace saves the world from nuclear annihilation by traveling through time (via unicorn, of course, which flies on the wind, which goes where it pleases), aided by Meg, married and pregnant, kything with him the whole way.  Such good imagination at work.  Favorite scene at this moment’s recollection: seeing a baby unicorn hatch and get its first taste of moonbeams.

3. Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle–Now the Murry twins, Sandy and Dennys, are thrown back into the time of Noah by an experiment they happen to walk into while searching for the Dutch cocoa in their mother’s lab.  Ever wondered what nephilim (see Gen. 6:1-4) were?  You are not alone, and Madeleine L’Engle has a better imagination than most of us.  Even as the wonderful imagery is still here, it seems like some of the writing is of lesser quality than the first three books.  (Although I would still be happy to claim authorship.  Well, authorship of at least some parts.)

4. Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue by Edwin H. Friedman–You know I am next-to-incapable of giving my energies to schoolwork if I can’t read this amazing and raveworthy book.  The most insightful teacher since fill-in-the-blank, and I am having to force myself through its pages.  It’s just not right.

5. On the Genealogy of Morals by Frederich Nietzsche–We only read a couple chapters for my Hauerwas class, but I think I might be in love.  Such a lively writer, and he doesn’t take himself so seriously that he can’t have fun.  (Refreshing, especially after Kant.)  My take-away: here is an atheist who really seems to understand the interior of Christianity and then reject it on its own terms.  I can respect that, truly.  While I admit I haven’t read the most recent crop of atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, et al.), I think they would have a hard time keeping up with Nietzsche.  His strength is that he takes Christianity seriously; from my admittedly little contact with videos of more recent atheists, they fail to do so, and so fail to move the conversation forward.  One more thing: no matter how badly misread or misused by the Nazi agenda, it is hard to read this philosopher on this side of the Third Reich (and the horrors of the 20th century in general) without at least wondering what part his ideas, and ideas like his, played.

He’s a jujitsu rabbi with surgical skills

Maybe it’s because I’ve read so little psychology, or maybe it’s because I’ve had such a long relationship with a family (my own), but I seem to be treating Edwin H. Friedman’s Generation to Generation as if it were the Gospel.  It’s hard not to.  He just seems so wise and insightful:

“When it comes to ‘psychological’ conditions, there is an additional, more subtle reason why diagnosis inhibits change.  Analyzing another person’s being is a very slippery affair.  It is not that the traditional interpretations are wrong; it is that, at any given moment, it is almost impossible to know if one has guessed right, because, in emotional life any cause can produce exactly opposite effects, and any effect can come from completely opposite causes.  Worse, individuals are most likely to resort to diagnosis of others when their own anxiety has gone up.  In fact, a good rule of thumb is that if you catch yourself diagnosing someone else, there is probably something in you that you are trying to hide.  Recognizing these problems of objectivity, no psychiatrist would ever take his or her own spouse into therapy, yet every day husbands and wives are doing just that in the kitchen.” (Edwin Friedman, Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue, p. 57)

If you’re like me as I re-read this, you found yourself trying to sort out what he was trying to say for a while in the abstract, and then all of the sudden he was talking about you.  That’s how this guy works.  He’s a jujitsu rabbi with surgical skills.