Religious metaphor swan


Image courtesy of Licensed under CC BY 2.0.


I’ve spent a lot of the last few weeks listening to Sufjan Stevens’ “Seven Swans” album, thanks to Spotify premium and a friend who–after getting a tattoo of a swan–reminded me of the thing’s existence. It is a lovely album, spare and Christian-y in the way that Sufjan Steven’s things are. I’ve been listening in particular to “All the Trees of the Field Shall Clap Their Hands.”

The song title, like most on the album, is a Bible reference. Because I was raised a heathen and my Methodist schooling mostly served to teach me about Hindu holidays, I didn’t know the verse. Google helped me out–thanks, Google!–and provided Isaiah 55:12:

For you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the fields shall clap their hands.”

Which is lovely. It is some Disney-level optimistic imagery. It is done justice by banjoes.

I’ve been thinking about the religious implications of the song this week, in part because I’m preparing to fly out of town for a cousin’s bat mitzvah this upcoming weekend. I’m excited to see the relatives, and pelt my cousin with marshmallows, and perhaps see what Nebraska has to offer.

Explaining my upcoming weekend plans has, however, led to multiple conversations about whether or not I am, in fact, Jewish. (Chapman is not, on the whole, a wildly common Jewish surname.)

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What I Found Today (2/9/11)

How Sarah Palin Tortures the Bible: A takedown of Palin’s use of scripture, using more scripture in that magic little thing called “context,” written by Chris Lehmann, the Awl’s religion columnist. The link was found via Ana Marie Cox‘s Twitter feed. She’s also a journalist, and founded The Wonkette, my favorite political site for its focus on politics through a lens of “gin and anal sex.”

Culture in the US vs. Europe: Found via Zadi Diaz’s Twitter stream. A discussion among several women (and the male moderator) about what it means to live in a country where culture is judged by its success at being exported. Also brought up is an interesting discussion about what it means to contain a multitude of cultures–to be Hispanic, East-cost-to-West-coast, southern, in addition to being American. I really liked the discussion of what it means to have a global Internet culture–on some level, what matters is that you’re from the web. Zadi hosts the truly excellent EpicFu video podcast, which is targeted towards teens/young adults and is sort of Rocketboom for teh youths.

Red Panda Video: It’s a group of red pandas, trying to undo a door knob. My ovaries grew three sizes, y’all.

A Vest Pocket Guide to Brothels in 19th-Century New York for a Gentleman on the Go: Found in some archive somewhere, and stuck up by the NYT. It is truly funny, and the commentary by the person who assembled it is just excellent. Worth a read next time one of your professors decides to claim that we are culturally dead because of our obsession with sex/worthless internet media (not that this has ever happened in my classes, golly).

Woodruff Library Undergraduate Research Competition: A totally cool example of what libraries can do well! Undergrads at Emory College can receive $500 for submitting the winning research paper/project. Unfortunately, it does not appear to be open to Oxford College students, which makes me sad because we have no similar contest and our library, though it is staffed by some excellent people, is tiny. All of my sources for my projects come from Woodruff…

Dead Fish and Atheism

My late fish.

RIP, Bertrand. You will be missed.

This weekend, while I was at Clairmont Campus, my fish died. I also won $200 in a trivia competition. Things pair good and bad, I suppose.

So, on a slightly less macabre note: Biological Anthropology tshirts.

“Zygomatic: it’s a process!”

“I was reproductively isolated and all I got was this lousy dwarf elephant.”

Wholphin versus grizzpole, with the text “Hybridize this!”

A hobbit anthropologist uncovering a human skeleton. “They’re so big!”

“Alas poor Yorrick, I drew thee well.”

Anthropology: the most warped of the sexy, sexy sciences.

Other than that, I’ve been enjoying spending my trivia winnings on Etsy purchases–specifically a custom dress from this woman, who sews in Thailand, as part of my attempt to build an ethical, adult wardrobe, and a wine bottle serving tray from this woman as a gift from my mother, which was well-received. The purchases give me hope that I can, as I age, keep myself reasonably well-appointed without tearing my conscience apart too badly. My only worry is shoes. My Sociology course (Social Problems–we spent the first class watching a documentary on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which was super fun) is rubbing off on me.

Tonight also marked the first Interfaith Council meeting. We ate Thai food with a group of 30 students and two professors, and we talked about faith in college. I was asked a question about how I–as an atheist–handle being alone in the world, without a God to pray to. There was also a hint of “how are you a good person without faith?” For the latter, I simply said that I strive to be the best person I can be, and to go to bed thinking that I have done as much as I can to make the world better and done as little as possible which harms anyone. It’s never been a fear of God which kept me from doing bad things–just a fear of disappointing those who love me.

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