Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Translating the Bible Is a Waste of Time!

This morning I went to lay down a very straightforward thesis: pastors should never learn to translate! Quite simply learning the languages for the purpose of translation is counterproductive. There are many great, clear, and sufficient translations of Scripture. Those who simply learn Greek only for the purpose of providing another translation among many are Wasting Their Time! Why then should prospective ministers subject themselves to the task of learning Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic? The reason is because it helps in the task of understanding the text. Reading the Bible in the original languages provides a first-hand glimpse at the human words of revelation that God has chosen to use to communicate to these people. Anyone who is able to read these texts in the original languages is able to analyze them without the interference of any secondary interpreter. In other words, reading in the original languages provides an overall understanding and comprehension of the text in a way that is fresh and personal. You see, the pastor is concerned about how he is going to communicate God's word to God's people and is not primarily concerned about the further establishment and the publication of new translations of the Bible. A translation is a conclusion of a scholar/pastors understanding of a text. In other words, the purpose of a translation is to demonstrate how one understands the meaning of the text.

Does this mean that we should not learn how to translate? Absolutely not! The purpose of translating is not just pushing out a final product. That is just one kind of translation. There actually to other kinds of translating that one should be aware of. The first kind is "whole glimpse" translation. This is the first translation that one will make of the text to the best of his ability. In other words, the translator is not concerned about pushing out finally polished and scholastic prose, rather he is merely concerned to try to get a sense for the whole. This task asks the question: what is this entire text about – what does it basically say? The second kind of translation is what I call "dirty" translation – this is the task of simply making sure that you have translated the whole text and included all of the parts in your translation, even if they don't make sense. Your task is to find everything that which is initially untranslatable. In this task you are looking for all of the points of ambiguity, which you will need to spend more time on in order to understand clearly. These two tasks ideally won't take you that much time – depending on your level of competency. Even if you aren't extremely competent, the point here is not to spend a lot of time on the text! The final translation is your final product – this will take more time to produce. This is the translation that is produced out of all the work that you put into understanding the nuance of every word and the significance of every grammatical piece.

I would conjecture that many students of the languages get to quickly frustrated with themselves when they discover they are unable to push out a highly polished translation in a single act of translation. The problem here is a misunderstanding of the purposes of translating a text and the purpose of understanding the text in the original languages. If one can keep in mind of the larger goal of understanding the text, then one can become comfortable with the rough and dirty translations that must be produced in order to attain a higher goal. Otherwise you'll be wasting your time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Choosing A President of Peace

The topic of leadership is extremely controversial largely due to the fact that it is a necessary component for the function of any given society but it is rarely openly discussed as an issue. In other words, everyone has an opinion about leadership but few people actually realize or clearly defined their opinions about leadership. The first question that must be addressed getting clarity on this topic is: what is leadership? What is the nature of leadership? What is the purpose of leadership and what tasks are required for the accomplishment of that purpose? I would suggest that leadership is: the intelligent, intentional, and rightful use of power for the establishment and preservation of an orderly and harmonious society. In other words, a leader can be an individual person or group of persons who has been given authority on the basis of his/her/their ability and moral apprehension of reality. A leader works toward a clearly defined purpose: to establish and preserve order in a given society. Another way to say this is that a leader seeks to establish peace.

Now, "peace" can be defined negatively or positively. Negatively peace can be defined as the absence of war, conflict, or hostility. Positively it can be defined as a state of tranquility.
A leader should be clear on the extent of peace that he is assigned to achieve. Some leaders are merely put in place to restrain conflict or hostility in a given circumstance. An example of this kind of leadership could be the presence of a police officer or perhaps when a city has been declared a state of martial law. Who would ever argue that martial law is put in place in order to bring about a tranquil condition for society? Many leaders are often put into a position of power not just to restrain conflict but to exemplify, encourage, and (insert circumstances) demand unity. In other words, some leaders are put in place to bring about the right conditions for a tranquil or free society.

So what do we mean by tranquil condition? Let's put this thought experiment into context. The president of the United States is a specific kind of leader. He is a leader put in place to exercise force of the law. His primary task is not to write new law, although he is able to do this (and theoretically any American citizen is able to draft up proposals for law). So the question pertinent for the office of president is: what kind of peace is he to bring about? Certainly no one would argue that the president had the authority to restrain evil or disorder, but what is his positive leadership goal? Is the president somebody who is merely put in place to ensure the conditions for tranquility or is he someone that is supposed to bring about tranquility itself? In other words, is the president responsible for not only sustaining the conditions for proper living or welfare but is he also responsible for sustaining life itself? The way one answers the question demonstrates how one understands the administration of justice as it should be practiced from the White House.

This is important to understand when it comes to choosing a presidential candidate. If one chooses a presidential candidate on the basis that he believed that candidate will provide for the continued welfare of his life, then in a sense one has a larger expectation of what a leader can and should be able to do for the order of the society in which one lives. Furthermore, one also believes that it is the president who is responsible for the continued preservation of life and not the subject. This I believe is a dehumanizing and disempowering view of leadership and justice.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Leadership: a call for opinions

Leadership is a topic that no man is neutral about. Some may deny their individual calling as leaders – others may boldly assert their right and position as a leader within a given context – still others may flat out deny the validity of current leaders that are in position – and still others may deny the necessity for the existence of the office of leadership for a just society. Whatever your position may be, it's safe to say that you probably do not and cannot remain neutral on the subject of leadership.

As the presidential election draws closer and closer opinions about the nature of leadership will begin to flare up. In order to be clearheaded about the subject I would like to construct a careful definition of leadership. In order to do this accurately, I'm in the process of gathering as many definitions of leadership as possible. If you would like to help me on this topic, please feel free to submit your definition of leadership by attaching a response to this blog post. Give me your definition no matter how outlandish or imprecise you may feel it may be. Thank you for your participation in this project.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Is Mozart making you smarter?

When it comes to giving out study advice, it is common to hear someone say: "you know, listening to Mozart can increase your IQ average by about a half point!" Where this piece of sage advice has come from I have no clue. The question that I would put forward is this: is it really true that one can increase one's ability to absorb and understand more information while listening to Mozart or any piece of classical music for that matter? I would suggest that it actually decreases your ability on the basis of the fact that it draws your attention away from the subject matter at hand.

Think about it this way. If one were to attend a stage production of William Shakespeare's Hamlet, then is it safe to say that one could increase one's ability to apprehend and make use of English language? Certainly the opportunity is there, but the mere coincidence of attending a Shakespearean production does not guarantee one will be thinking and writing in Shakespearean language when all is said and done. Certainly if one gave do preparation by studying the play beforehand and learning something about stage production, one could certainly benefit to a greater degree.

Now let's put this in another way. Let's grant that attending a Shakespearean production increases one's intelligence level, but could we also say that attending that same Shakespearean production while reading a different book during that production would increase one's ability to apprehend the subject matter within the book? Certainly not. It would not only be difficult to read within a dark theater, but it would also be extremely difficult to pay attention to that book while a play is going on. The same holds true for listening to classical music while studying. I would argue that without a doubt it is beneficial to listen to classical music, especially if one is given due consideration to the arrangement and performance of the music. However, listening to Mozart while trying to memorize geometric formulas or Greek participles is distracting and it gets in the way of learning. Why? Because classical music extremely interesting to listen to whether one has a good ear For it or not. The reason classical music is so detrimental to the act of reading is because it is so beautiful!

The problem is that it uplifts your mood in such a way that you feel more intelligent and to a certain extent it does help you become more intelligent, but not with the process of trying to analyze information. The reality is that classical music can be beneficial for one's thinking but it's a particular kind of thinking. Classical music assists one in the process of synthesizing information and not analyzing information. Analysis is the process of breaking apart an entire unit of information into its component parts, but synthesis is the process of putting that information together in a new or original manner. So, in other words, if you put on a Beethoven record while trying to read your physics textbook, then your brain is the one to try to start synthesizing information rather than trying to analyze information. The music will put you in a relaxed state of mind where you will be able to play with previously acquired ideas, but it will not help you acquire new ideas. You can see how listening to music while studying can be detrimental, but listening in order to relax and think can be beneficial.

Let me put forward one final argument or rather one example. In my experience, I have noticed that there are many successful teachers that habitually listen to classical music. In my opinion, there is nothing more inspiring than passing by a professor's office restore is partially closed and in which there is the gentle sound of Mozart. However, I have further noticed that many of the same professors are not actually reading or studying at the same time. Very often they are cleaning their office for organizing the books! I've also noticed a negative example. When surveying a library, which I regularly study yet, I have noticed handfuls of graduate – yes, not college but graduate – students sitting at their desks with their books clutched in hand an iPods at their side piping in music directly to their ears! Now, I could partially by the argument that they were simply trying to block out the noise, if perhaps they were sitting in the middle the Starbucks, but they weren't. Anyway, you don't have to take my word for it. Just try for yourself. Try to study one hour with music in the background – pick your poison – and then try to see how much you can remember by writing down everything important you try to study on a piece of paper. And then taking another block of time and study without music, and then try to see how much you can remember by writing down everything important on each paper. And then compare the difference – chances are, you'll probably be able to write down more information from the time without music than with.