Category Archives: Good old snark

Christmas Movies and Belief

It is the time of season for Christmas movies. Having gotten my way through a number of them, I’m struck by a reoccurring theme. It seems that the most meaningful message North American Christmas movies are capable of is that we ought to believe in Santa Clause. This is the virtue we are called to each Christmas.

Needless to say, I don’t think this is much of a virtue, and find myself rather baffled each time a movie calls me to it. Continue reading Christmas Movies and Belief

Why we still need philosophy

I recently attended a town hall meeting to discuss the future of McGill’s libraries. A presentation was given by the oldest architectural firm in North America. “What would a library of the 21st century look like at McGill” was the focus of the presentation. The presentation consisted of images of libraries (like Harvard, Johns Hopkins, etc.) that have recently undergone construction, paving the way for a new future.

The libraries of the 20th century were “static.” The libraries of the future will be “dynamic,” creating spaces for inter-disciplinary research, access to high definition touch screens, video games, smart-boards, and so on.

A student remarked that there were very few books in the presentation. The student said this is a trend: books are off in some big warehouse and are available upon request. Thus, she said, the spontaneity of browsing, which often facilitates research, is done away with.

An emeritus professor of architecture lamented the fact that the entire presentation was very plastic, open concept, lots of glass and light. Walls with detail, paintings, or sculptures were nowhere to be found. Apparently, the future has no room for that sort of thing in libraries.

But what struck me the most was the fact that there was no mention as to “why” the libraries were moving towards a plastic, technological accessible, non-traditional future. Are they doing it because students are researching better? Is their mental health better taken care of? What kind of research are these dynamic libraries privileging, as in, what kind of research is fostered, what kind of research is hindered?

The question, “what is a library” or even “what is a library for” was not answered. True, there was a lot of talk about “the identity of McGill” and how the library should reflect its current identity. An attempt to define McGill’s identity was also missing, I suppose it was up to us at the town hall to tell the architects about our identity. I suppose that means that there was no way that they could have been informed by faculty or students prior to the presentation. In any case, the question of identity seemed like a gimmick. The focus was on the Ivy league schools that are also updating their libraries. The message? McGill’s identity is defined by its competition.

All of this is to say that we need thinking more than ever. We must erect buildings that foster healthy practices. Practices which are only deemed as such as we examine our practices, and more importantly, as we learn how to examine our practices. If the future hails an ethic that no longer cares for an examined life, a thinking life, then we can confidently say that our future is one where we no longer care, and no longer think.

What’s the difference between feminist theology and good theology?

I often hear this question (stated rhetorically with the expectant answer being “none”) used to dismiss feminist theology, while seeming to legitimize its concerns. There was a time, the argument runs, when all theology was at least accidentally patriarchal, but thanks to feminists in past years good theology has learned its lesson: it will no longer use only male pronouns, it will advocate (if the matter comes up) for equal rights and responsibilities in the church, and while it would be awkward to entirely avoid using male pronouns for God it will at least put in a footnote stating that such use is a necessary evil. Thus, feminist theologians today would do well to give up their unnecessary (and self-indulgent) preoccupation with female experience and concern, and focus instead on just doing good theology. Continue reading What’s the difference between feminist theology and good theology?