Monday, February 09, 2015

Weekend Thoughts

  • What's the deal with vanity meetings for released church leaders? It seems to me this is a last-decade development. If we've killed the mission farewell and open house (although these are still alive in Virginia), can't we kill this, too?

    I'm probably just a jerk. (What do I mean "probably"?) But I don't feel it's really meeting a need of the congregation. It's more a giant slap-on-the-back, and when you consider that these meetings usually have a visiting general authority, they represent a huge wasted opportunity. I'd bet nearly everyone in the congregation would rather hear more from the general authority than to hear how much the released leader loves his wife. (Spoiler alert: he loves her a lot.)

    Maybe the Straussian reason for these meetings is to undermine the constantly-resurfacing Mormon fetish for ecclesiasticism. People come out of the woodwork for a visiting general authority because they think he is somehow going to tell them something God wants them to hear that they can't get on their own through the ministrations of the Holy Spirit. How many times can a GA get up and say, "I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I have nothing to tell you that you don't already know"? So they let these vanity meetings get out of control, and now between the entire old presidency, the entire new presidency, and all of their wives, there's little time for the GA to say anything but, "This new guy was called of God."

  • I've been in China for nearly six months now, and I've never once been stopped to have my papers checked. But when I checked into a hotel this weekend, I realized that the immigration bureaucrats aren't missing, they're just disguised as service employees. The hotel desk clerk checked our passports, our visas, and our most-recent entry stamps, recording all the information. I've read before about the comparatively-small size of the Chinese bureaucracy, but that figure could be deceptive if every hotel and airline worker is doing internal migration oversight.

  • It would be very helpful if Chinese people wore small buttons that declared their proficiency with English on a scale of 1 to 10. At least a few times each week, my wife or I will struggle through whatever Chinese we know, only to have the clerk respond in perfect English. Most recently at a McDonald's, I tortuously put together the sentence, "Wŏmen xiăng liăng gè," only for the woman to respond, "You want two?"

    I know my plan can't be implemented, and it's probably rude and jingoistic of me to even want it. But it really would be very helpful.

  • There are a lot of dudes missing limbs around here. I mean a lot. And they are all begging on the street or on the subway. Contrast this to America, where if you've lost a limb, you're either a veteran getting some amount of basic care through Veterans Administration, or you're a workplace accident victim getting workers compensation or a lawsuit settlement. But here, lose a limb and get used to scooting around on your stumps singing into a tiny bullhorn.

    Now, most of my students' reaction to a regressive tax code is one of satisfaction. "If the poor have to pay more taxes, they will work harder to make sure they're not poor," I've read on many, many homeworks. As if the poor are poor because their lives are too easy.

    Anyway, that lack of compassion carries over to the handicapped, too. Almost every time a limbless person is busking in our subway car, we are the only people to give him money. But what's the Chinese explanation this time? "If we just give him money, he'll never grow back his legs"? Or, "If we just give him money, it'll provide incentive for another guy to make sure his legs get caught in some machinery"? People love to talk up Chinese friendliness, but it seems such praise should be heavily tempered in light of their shocking lack of compassion.

  • If the poor internalize their poverty, as research suggests they do, it seems highly likely that the perpetually unused will internalize their uselessness. Spend all season on the bench, so to speak, and you come to think Coach must know something about you that you don't.

  • My "Thai fried noodle" dinner this weekend came with two shrimp that still had their eyeballs. It was creepy, yo. (But delicious.)

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