Issuu on Google+

TELOS

05

A WILLIAMs Journal of Christian Discourse

success Downtime

Fearless Physics and God

spring 2010


TELOS {Contributors} JUNIOR EDITOR LAYOUT STAFF

David Nolan ’13

Esther Cho ’13

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Yue-Yi Hwa ’11

LAYOUT STAFF

Bianca Brown ’14

EXECUTIVE EDITOR

Inez Tan ’12

Steve Klass Flora Lim Caleb Miaw Amy Nolan Frank Pagliaro Charles Rousseau Adam Stoner Inez Tan Shirl Yang Emily Yu

Daniel Chachu Emily Ciavarella Stuart Crampton Jonathan Draxton Rachel Durrant Felecia Farrell Nicolei Gupit Ebenezer Gyasi Kelsey Ham Yue-Yi Hwa

{Thanks}

We are indebted to the Cecil B. Day Foundation, the Chaplain’s Office, and College Council.

{Definition}

JUNIOR EDITOR LAYOUT EDITOR

Emily Yu ’11

Effua Sosoo ’13

JUNIOR EDITOR

JUNIOR EDITOR

Shirley Li ’13

LAYOUT STAFF

Alyssa Barlis ’13

Rachel Durrant ’13

Telos is the Greek word for “purpose,” “goal,” or “fulfillment.” For us, telos represents a direction that can only be found through God.

{Purpose}

The Williams Telos is a journal dedicated to the expression of opinions and perspectives informed by the Christian faith.

{Contact}

Email williamstelos@gmail.com with comments, questions, donations, or submissions.

{Web}

LAYOUT EDITOR

SENIOR EDITOR

Andrew Chen ’11 BUSINESS MANAGER Tasha Chu ’11 LAYOUT STAFF Michelle Almeida ’13 LAYOUT STAFF Si Young Mah ’14 Samira Martinhago ’13 JUNIOR EDITOR

Frank Pagliaro ’14

Check out our website at: http://williamstelos.wordpress.com Cover photos by Emily Yu. All pieces in The Williams Telos are reflections of personal opinion, interpretation, and understanding of the Christian faith, but do not necessarily represent the opinion of the Telos board or the publication as a whole.

t h e WIL L IA MS

05

TELOS Spring 2011


t he WI L L I A M S

05

inside

TELOS

Spring ’11

KELSEY HAM

03

Letter from the editor

25

FEATURES 04

The individual

30

Felecia Farrell reimagines identity.

09

The measure of man

14

Inez Tan speaks with two alumni about challenges and change.

Redefining success Steve Klass traces the evolution of his perspective on success.

FICTION

Caleb Miaw situates love at the core of success.

Downtime

In all things

18

After touring the Port of Tacoma by Jonathan Draxton

Flora Lim confronts life after Williams. Spring 2011

01


t h e W I L L IAMS

05

TELOS ESSAYS 06

11

19

21

27

28

02

Look above the sun

08

Frank Pagliaro ponders the futility of wisdom.

31 Physics and the idea of God Stuart Crampton investigates spaces of science and the spiritual.

I am not a purebred Pekingese Emily Ciavarella looks at the external and intrinsic value of our bodies.

Behold now Behemoth Charles Rousseau analyzes an engraving by William Blake.

Renewals and misinterpretations Eb Gyasi considers past and present perceptions of Christianity.

fearless/intrepido by Rachel Durrant

Fray by Yue-Yi Hwa

ART 16

Eternal garden

21

Mahadra

24

Three prayers (1)

33

Untitled

by Shirl Yang

by Kelsey Ham

by Adam Stoner

by Adam Stoner

Valentine’s blues Daniel and Sewoenam Chachu discuss faith-centered relationships.

Reflections Amy Nolan responds to recent tragedies in Japan. YUE-YI HWA

32

POETRY

The Williams Telos


Letter from the editor In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. {Isaiah 30:15b} My first attempts to write this letter can hardly be called successes. I had a rough idea in mind, and tried forcing it into type between songs at a gospel choir rehearsal, but the idea wouldn’t budge. And then I decided that, because I was tired but motivated, it would be a brilliant idea to work on this letter while sitting in bed. Evidently I wasn’t quite motivated enough. Later on, with an aggravatingly pristine document in front of me and friends on Facebook to my side, I invested some time in self-righteous contemplations of my wonderful working habits. Thankfully, the Bible offers a far more comprehensive conception of success than my life does. On one hand, there is a thread of injunctions to diligence (Genesis 9:1; Haggai 2:4; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27). On the other, there are equally insistent exhortations to pursue rest and stillness (Isaiah 30:15; Luke 10:38-42) – I never quite understood why God would have to make anyone “lie down in green pastures” until I encountered the obsessively dynamic Williams schedule (Psalm 23:1, 2). There are also reminders that many conventional markers of success – which, for powerful men in the Old Testament, included a strong horse (Psalm 147:10), a large army (Psalm 33:16, 17), and an imposing stature (1 Samuel 16:7) – don’t count for much at all. In sum, we are supposed to work hard all the time, only not all the time, and it may or may not matter. Which makes is about as much sense as underaged girls partying and rhyming “bowl” with “cereal,” yeah. Of course, I’m being obtuse here – intentionally, for once. Part of the difficulty comes from the breadth of literary forms in the Bible – try reconciling the psalmist’s poetry about how God’s delight is not “in the legs of a man” (Psalm 147:10) with Paul’s metaphors of running the race (Galatians 2:2; 2 Timothy 4:7). But quite apart from scriptural renderings, I often inadvertently misinterpret the Biblical notion of success and run with it – like my campaign to Finish This Letter Now. Yet everything makes more sense and less stress when I slow down and remember that we seek discipline not to get more stuff done, but to reflect more of God’s image (Hebrews 12:1-13) – converging to the divine asymptote, if you will. Because I’m so far from His perfection, I have a lot of ground to cover. And because I have such a confused idea of what His perfection is, I need to spend a lot of time quietly figuring out which direction to run in. This issue of the Telos aspires to grapple with the complexities of success by featuring five essays on the theme by a range of Williams people: from a current first-year (Felecia Farrell in “The Individual”) to two alumni with college-aged children (Steve and Elizabeth Nielsen in “In all things”) to a campus administrator (Steve Klass in “Redefining success”). In addition to the feature essays and prose, poetry, and visual art from current students, we are privileged to offer articles by emeritus professor Stuart Crampton (“Physics and the idea of God”) and Center for Development Economics fellow Daniel Chachu and his wife Sewoenam (“Valentine’s blues”). One of the most exciting aspects of the Christian understanding of success is that God is more than capable of turning big messes into bigger triumphs (2 Corinthians 5:17, 12:9). My misguided forays into writing this letter became a lesson, a vaguely humorous anecdote, and a good nap. Who’s to say what He can do with my messy life? Run and tell that, homeboy. love, Yue-Yi Spring 2011

03


The

by Felecia Farrell

Who are you?

In this issue, we are featuring a series of reflections on success by members of the Williams community. They cover a wide range of ages, family backgrounds, and ethnicities, and their perspectives span a variety of disciplines, interests, and goals.

No, really. Who are you?

Series contributors: ∙Felecia Farrell ’14 ∙Caleb Miaw ’11 ∙Flora Lim ’10 ∙Steven Nielsen ’85 and Elizabeth Nielsen ’83 ∙Steve Klass, vice president for operations

Even if no one knew?

How do you define yourself? Is it the number of friends you have? Is it the number of people who compliment you in a given day? Is it your GPA? Do you define yourself by what others think of you? Is it whether the shoes on your feet are brand new? Do you think you have to dress like they do? What if no one knew how amazing you are? Would you still have the confidence to be you?

Even if you wouldn’t be recognized for it? What if you were at the top of your class? Would you want everyone to know or would you be fine keeping it to yourself? What if you were an amazing athlete or a great musician? What if you could crank out a crazy rhyme? It seems as though in these times we try to find a way to trump the rest, but often come out feeling nothing more than second best. We look around attempting to be the smartest, we try our hardest to mirror this image of effortless perfection, we want others to have the perception that flawlessness comes easily to us. And throughout this entire quest the question of who we truly are goes unaddressed and we remain scared to take off the mask that we have worn so long. What if we stopped singing that same old song?

04

The Williams Telos


2014

individual What if you epitomized your definition of success? I know it’s hard to digest, but we will never be the best.

EMILY YU

There will always be someone smarter, more musical, more athletic, more … something. So what does that mean for those successful futures that we amazingly driven Williams students have planned for ourselves? What if we’re doing this all wrong? What if we just tried to be ourselves? What if you just tried to be you, I just tried to be me, and we just tried to be we? What would it look like if we embraced each other’s weaknesses and praised each other’s strengths? What if we stopped trying to climb to the top so fast that we knock others down? If we keep going like that we’ll all end up on the ground. What if we smiled at each other more often? What if we actually stopped to hear how someone really was instead of accepting the standard “I’m fine”? What if we took the incredible, beautiful talents that God has blessed us with and used them to the best of our ability for His glory? What if we stopped trying to outdo everyone else and just decided to be the amazingly beautiful, wonderfully talented, handcrafted individuals that God intended for us to be? What if that’s how we define ourselves? So I’ll ask you again … Who are you?

Felecia Farrell ’14 is from Springfield, Mass. She loves white chocolate and the color brown and is in love with Jesus. Spring 2011

05


Look above by Frank Pagliaro

What makes our lives valuable? Why do we think life is worth living? A reading of the Book of Ecclesiastes reveals a surprising school of thought in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Ecclesiastes 1:2 cries, “Utter futility! All is futile!” The author of Ecclesiastes outlines a world governed by principles that seem to contradict conventional faith. The retributive justice system characteristic of the Old Testament has fallen by the wayside. According to Koheleth (identified as a “son of David,” and traditionally understood to be Solomon), whose words make up the twelve-chapter book, human life has no purpose. We strive for nothing. Ecclesiastes frames existence as a cycle. The image of the circle, with no beginning and no end, carries special significance to Christians. God has no opening and no closing, but declares simply “I am that I am” in Exodus 3:14. He has and will always exist infinitely. However, Ecclesiastes 1:4 presents a more cynical circle. “One generation goes, another comes,” says Koheleth. He appears to see humanity as only a perpetual cycle of death. Because of this, Koheleth concludes that we need not bother pursuing anything – not riches, not wisdom, and not righteousness. Indeed, Ecclesiastes has a low opinion of wisdom. “For as wisdom grows, vexation grows,” says Koheleth in Ecclesiastes 1:18. The book presents knowledge as something that leads to pain. It seems to affirm that old maxim, “Ignorance is bliss.” The more we know, the sadder we become. Ultimately, for all of our time spent learning, we face the same fate as the fool. Ecclesiastes 2:15 reads, “The fate of the fool is also destined for

“Ecclesiastes 2:15 reads, ‘The fate of the fool is also destined for me; to what advantage, then, have I been wise?’” 06

The Williams Telos

Ecclesiastes

me; to what advantage, then, have I been wise?” Indeed, we all die. Even if we have all the wisdom in the world, tragedy may still befall us. Calamity does not discriminate. We do not even have a better lot than the common animals that crawl unknowing across the earth, according to Ecclesiastes 3:20. Our deeds matter no more than theirs. Not only do we go unrewarded for good works, but we may even receive punishment for them. “[S]ometimes an upright man is requited according to the conduct of the scoundrel; and sometimes the scoundrel is requited according to the conduct of the upright,” moans Ecclesiastes 8:14. If we do all the good we can, we may still face unhappiness. God has determined that our lives mean nothing, according to this cursory reading of the book. Opportunities for success, then, remain elusive to


the sun

reveals the source of success

NICOLEI GUPIT

our human grasp. We can build up our stores of wealth and wisdom as much as we please. In the end, we all fail. Even a pious reading of Ecclesiastes can yield this conclusion. However, the Talmud has something much different to say. The book of Ecclesiastes uses the phrases “under the sun” or “beneath the sun” a combined 27 times. This might seem like nothing more than a poetic flourish. However, when the book slips the words “life under heaven” into Ecclesiastes 2:3, we get a clear understanding of the author’s intention. Indeed, Koheleth speaks the truth when he proclaims that we have no real and lasting success in any of our worldly ends. Yet when we turn our eyes from the earthly and focus them on God, the entire cosmos shifts in a favorable direction. The Talmud argues that Ecclesiastes can act as a manual

for a meaningful life. When we acknowledge that all the things we know will eventually pass from being, then we can fully surrender ourselves to the will of God and find our meaning as His children. The Almighty has destined us for a supernatural end. This physical world that we know does not contain our final objective. As Christians, we know that God has already given us the greatest gift: “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life,” in the famous words of John 3:16. We have succeeded when we have achieved eternal life. To believe in Christ, and thus to believe in God, remains the only success that we can have. Though it may seem like a letdown that heaven only allows for one kind of success, we find comfort in the knowledge that we only need this one thing. Only Christ, who rules from heaven, can give eternal joy. Jesus, one and the same with God the Father, became man and experienced man’s suffering so that He could give us that joy. Even the One who “made man’s mouth … made him dumb or deaf or seeing or blind” (Exodus 4:10-12) experienced pain, loss, and death. Therefore, He sanctified man’s suffering. If we offer all of our pain to the Lord, then we take a small part in Christ’s Passion. Jesus’ horrible death led to the greatest success of human history – our redemption, our salvation from sin, our newfound capability to enjoy the beatific vision in the next life. Because God so loves us, we can succeed even in our suffering. Ecclesiastes reminds us that everything we may achieve in this world affords only fleeting pleasure. We cannot find true wisdom or true wealth “under the sun.” Rather, we must look above the sun, to the heavenly court. Every piece of the universe derives its meaning from God. Even suffering has its place in the divine order. The successes we achieve in this world leave no lasting mark on our souls or on the souls of others. However, the successes of God – faith, hope, and charity – last eternally.

Frank Pagliaro ’14 is from Cape Cod, Mass. He lives in Dennett 2. Spring 2011

07


fearless

intrepido

by Rachel Durrant

the murky unknown of the water threatens to drown me with its magnificent waves I can’t breathe I can’t see but before my last breath escapes before I shed another tear through shut eyes His loving hand reaches out, taking my own. and though the waves violently collide though the sun refuses to shine again though the winds shriek against the darkness though the thunder roars ferociously at the rain He never lets go the storm fades into the background and I emerge from the wreckage unscathed and fearless. l’oscuro sconosciuto dell’acqua minaccia di affogarmi con le sue onde magnifiche non posso respirare non posso vedere ma prima che il mio ultimo respiro scappi prima che mi scorra un’altra lagrima dagli occhi chiusi la sua mano amorevole si stende, prendendo la mia. e anche se le onde si scontrano violentemente e sebbene il sole si rifiuti di splendere di nuovo e se i venti urlo contro l’oscurità e anche se il tuono ruggisce ferocemente alla pioggia egli non molla la tempesta passa in secondo piano e io emergo dalle macerie illesa e senza paura. Rachel Durrant ’13 is an English major from Long Island, N.Y. She likes Gilmore Girls, soft-serve ice cream (with rainbow sprinkles), and all things Disney. She is currently in a relationship with Jesus.

08

The Williams Telos


The measure of man Recognizing and nurturing the success God gives us by Caleb Miaw

EMILY YU

Affirmation is at the heart of what it means to be successful; when somebody recognizes what you’ve done, you achieve a measure of success. Regardless of its source, all affirmation is meaningful at some level because – let’s face it – it just feels good to be affirmed. If a complete stranger approached me and told me that I was awesome, I’d be pretty pleased, and I bet that you would too. (You should try that one day.) Obviously, compliments are much more meaningful when they come from a person who knows you, especially when that person is someone whom you value and who values you. Hence, an ideal affirmer would be somebody who values you, and an ideal affirmation would be about something that you value. What if that ideal affirmer were God, and what if He affirmed your entire existence? In Psalm 139, the psalmist writes that God knows everything about us. He has searched us and knows us; He is “familiar with all [our] ways” (Psalm 139:3).

He has known us since eternity past, knew us at birth, and knows us better than we can know ourselves. Given that He knows everything that we have done, both good and bad, what is particularly amazing is that God declares that we are “wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Similarly, in Genesis 1, when God creates the world, He calls everything that He creates “good,” but calls human beings “very good.” This is somewhat surprising – we are the apple of God’s eye, the crown jewel of an already perfectly created world. And here is what’s beyond amazing: we receive this affirmation simply because we were “created … in [God’s] image” (Genesis 1:27). We are valued because we inherently reflect God, not because of anything that we have done and despite anything that we might do. In fact, we do much to render ourselves even less deserving of it. We’re like Woody the cowboy in Toy Story 3 (minor spoilers Spring 2011

09


2011 ahead). He has all sorts of adventures in the muck and mire (read: baby spit and paint), but he is nonetheless valuable. Why? It’s that super cheesy moment that happens over and over in the Toy Story series but remains incredibly moving. It’s the moment when Woody lifts up his boot and sees “Andy” scrawled on its sole. Woody is valuable because he belongs to Andy and because Andy values him. The same is true of us. God says, “You are mine.” Mine. That’s what God calls me, and that’s what God calls you. Listen to the power of that word. Mine. He identifies us as belonging to Him; He affirms our identity as “His” and needs no other reason to love us. We may be broken and hurting and worn down by life, but we are still loved and valued by God because we are His image-bearers, and that’s all that matters.

“Our love for others should be the highest expression of our love for God.” When Woody returns from the junkyard, however, he doesn’t just plop back down into Andy’s room on the basis that he is valued regardless of his condition. No, he pauses to wash himself with a garden hose before finally returning home. He isn’t content with his dirtiness, and we shouldn’t be with ours either. Like Woody, when we’re dirty, we should want to clean ourselves up for the person who thinks that we’re valuable. But how clean should we aspire to be – by what standard are we measured – and what actions might we take? Let’s take a look at Mark 12:29-31. “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Jesus brings the two greatest commandments together via their joint exhortations to love. The relation between loving God (Deuteronomy 6:5) and loving others (Leviticus 19:18) is not merely semantic, however, but also theological. The Deuteronomic command to love God is conjoined with a call to social justice (24:10-22), and the Levitic command to love others is clinched with the resounding refrain “I am the Lord.” In this

10

The Williams Telos

context, the word “love” does not only concern the attitude but is also manifested in concrete actions. The foreigner is “loved” by being provided with food and shelter (10:18-19), and God is “loved” through the observance of His commandments (11:1). Thus, both commands remind Israel that the ethical demands of the Torah are linked with the divine claim to wholehearted devotion. Furthermore, Jesus explicitly underscores their simultaneous indivisibility and individuality with the phrase “There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31). Our love for God should be the impetus of our love for others, just as our love for others should be the highest expression of our love for God. In God’s eyes, this is precisely what it means to be successful. Nevertheless, it remains helpful to explore some practical applications of what it means to love God. Although Mark’s notions of heart, soul, mind, and strength seem to denote four distinct human functions, given their frequent overlap in Hebrew thought, we must conclude that they actually denote different aspects of the general human capacity to will and do the will of God. According to the traditional Jewish understanding of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5), “heart” referred to the human inclination toward good or evil, “soul” to a person’s life, demanding loyalty even unto death, and “strength” to one’s property. Mark’s addition of “mind,” which refers to the rational faculty that governs reasoning, life, faith, and self-control, accentuates the “mind” as an essential element of devotion (Mark 12:30). However, the repetition of the phrase “with all” places the emphasis not on the variety of human faculties but on the totality of human faculties that ought to be directed toward God. This requires much more than external orientation; it demands internal transformation.1 You and I are successful because God has already declared us to be so. The caveat: the immensity of His declaration demands that we strive to act in a manner worthy of our success. Even though we have already been labeled “successful,” we should strive for excellence because our success will ultimately be measured by how we love God and how we love others. ______________________ 1. Exegetical work, Shawn Woo.

Caleb Miaw ’11 is a Chinese major from Centreville, Va. Word on the street is that he will be the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff representative at Williams and MCLA next year.


Physics and the idea of God by Stuart Crampton

ANDREW CHEN

Empirical principles echo supernatural truths

“He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17 We often invoke the idea of God to deal with questions we cannot answer in any other way, questions such as why there is something rather than nothing, or why things happen the way they do.1 But in an age when science explains so much of what happens without supernatural intervention, where is the evidence for a transcendent God with a plan? What powers can God have to act on that plan, other than those governed by the natural laws? Surprisingly, the way physics describes the deep universal interactions of matter and energy may provide a clue as to how God can act in and through the ordinary objects of this world – both in ways that we partially under-

stand and in other ways for which we have only religious intuitions. Long ago, many people imagined that the way things happened involved supernatural agents – much like humans, but more powerful – calling the shots in the areas under their control, whether wind or fire, love or war. An overall god-in-charge, God with a capital G, created and ruled over everything through lesser gods in a great chain of being. Humans occupied a place somewhere between the immortal gods and the rest of the transitory created world. As the recipients of whatever good or evil trickled down according to the whims of those above them in the hierarchy, humans were careful to placate the gods, while at the same time lording it over everything else. Gradually, however, physics and the other sciences have discovered natural explanations for things originally thought to be the Spring 2011

11


work of God or lesser gods. For example, thunder is no longer thought to be the sound of gods bowling in heaven. Things fall to the earth as they do because their vertical speed always changes at approximately the same constant rate. An arrow finds its target by ways that can be understood mathematically, if not always very precisely, not because some god has it in for some unfortunate warrior. Many of the lesser gods have simply disappeared, remaining only as metaphors in stories, leaving God with very little to do on a day-to-day basis. Indeed, as physicist Paul Davies has pointed out, natural laws now seem to be invested with the qualities once ascribed to God: absolute, universal, infinite, eternal, and omniscient.2 Some choose to abandon the idea of God altogether. Others think of God as having created our universe and its natural laws but now being essentially absent. Perhaps we can instead think of God as continuing to work in ways resembling the ways in which we currently think the natural laws work. What sort of thing is a natural law? Take gravity. It is not a “thing” at all. It has no mass or energy of its own, yet it directs the behavior of objects that possess mass and energy. The result is that the velocities of things change as if pushed by forces. For example, in an elevator accelerating upward, you feel a strong downward force, but without looking out a window you cannot tell whether the force of gravity has grown stronger or simply that the elevator is accelerating upward. In the extreme case of free fall, you feel “weightless.” Indeed, the principle that the effects of gravity are indistinguishable from acceleration lies at the heart of Einstein’s theory of gravity. It is as if every concentration of matter is constrained to accelerate towards every other concentration of matter. This description, which has so far passed every experimental test, is absolute in that it does not depend on who is looking. It is universal in that it applies in all situations, with a few extreme exceptions. It is infinite in that it applies everywhere, or almost everywhere. It is eternal in the sense of not varying at all with time, and it is omniscient in the sense that nothing can escape its grasp. Gravity is also creative. On a large scale, it draws matter together into galaxies. In galaxies it pulls matter into stars, holding the stars together as they cook up the heavy elements needed for carbon-based life and radiate energy to drive the processes that develop on planets. The description provided by Einstein’s theory of gravity is enormously useful in describing what gravity does, but it cannot be

12

The Williams Telos

“Deep universal interactions of matter and energy may provide a clue as to how God can act.” trusted at very short distances because it is inconsistent with the quantum theory of how things behave at very short distances. Like most of our theories, our theory of gravity is tentative and approximate, but nonetheless trustworthy in describing a wide range of behaviors. For example, we believe that gravity plays a role in the signaling within the cells of our bodies. It is only our current understanding of gravity that seems unreliable at the very short distances at which the tiniest particles combine and are held together to form the atoms and molecules of ordinary matter. At those distances, a theory of “strong interactions” describes the way particles called quarks are combined and held together to make the heavier elementary particles, while a theory of “electroweak interactions” describes the interactions of light with the lighter elementary particles. On the larger scale of atoms and molecules, these theories themselves give way to ordinary quantum mechanics. On an even larger scale, and as more and more atoms and molecules are involved, other ordering principles come into play. One of the most striking of these larger scale ordering principles describes the relationships that persist among atomic particles long after they seem to have separated from each other. A common thread throughout all these descriptions is the suggestion that at one level or another, everything seems to be related to everything else. There are other examples from physics suggesting a profound unity underlying the organization and behavior of all matter and energy. The patterns of wavelengths in the light from distant stars indicate that all ordinary matter is made of the same elements obeying the same force laws. We believe that the light from distant stars has traveled for billions of years before reaching us, so we seem to find precisely the same material and natural laws throughout all the space and time accessible to us. The strengths of the different kinds of interactions among elementary particles seem to be intricately related to each other. For example, if the strength of the strong interactions had differed by the minutest amount, less than a billionth of a percent, relative to the strength of the electroweak interactions, stars would produce far too little carbon to support life as we know it. Even such disparate quantities as the strength of gravity and the original rate of expansion of the


universe seem to be delicately balanced. Had gravity been just a little weaker, the stuff of the early universe would have blown apart without creating galaxies; a little stronger and the universe would have collapsed back on itself well before life could have developed. Moreover, there is a mysterious similarity in the deep mathematical structure of the elementary particle and gravity theories as we understand them. It seems that everything is related to everything else and holds together for our benefit in ways that we do not yet fully understand, as if there is indeed an underlying unity in some way responsible for the fruitfulness of our universe. That could be just good luck. There might be an infinite number of ways it could have been otherwise, but in our universe, everything happened to turn out just right. We drew the winning lottery ticket. But from a religious point of view the underlying unity and fruitfulness of our universe could reflect the will and work of God. In that case, the way in which we think the natural laws work suggests a new way of thinking about God and how God may act in the world: energizing, guiding, and holding all things together. Notice that the interactions we have been discussing work from within. If they represent ways in which God is working, they are not top-down from “outside,” but bottom-up from within, intricately involved in every earthly process. As we have said already about gravity, these interactions are not ���things.” The descriptions are like information that is active, words with consequences. It is as if the word of God breaks in from another dimension, creating and holding things together. Notice also that our current understanding of the interactions we have been discussing does not tell it all. There are inconsistencies. There is order and behavior we do not yet understand. If we think of what we know as describing what God does, it is as if we know a few of the ways God breaks into our world, a few names for what God does. There may be many other ways in which God works that we do not yet understand. This way of thinking is not intended as an argument for the existence of God. Nor is it intended to put God in some kind of box defined by our current understanding of physics. It is intended only as a way of thinking about how God may work in the world, if there is a God working in the world, that seems to be consistent with current physics. It may also have something to say about how God may be involved in other areas for which we have religious ideas but do not yet have scientific descriptions. Consider, for example, the efficacy of prayer. Spending a few selfless moments praying for others is surely beneficial in

helping the person praying to express deep concerns. There is also a chance that when you pray for someone, you may find something that you or someone else can do for that person, be it only to write a note of encouragement. But beyond that individualistic way of thinking about prayer, consider how everything is related to everything else. Everything you do, even what you are thinking, is part of the whole, and what is the whole but the interactions of parts in a mix greater than their sum? If God underlies everything – guiding, activating and holding everything together – perhaps we can think, in anthropomorphic terms, of God hearing and acting on what we pray. What about judgment and the afterlife? If everything is somehow related to everything else, then nothing that is done is ever lost. What we do affects everything that happens next. What we do may not completely determine what happens next, but it sets parameters and has consequences. Once done, what we do cannot be undone. Our actions pass outside of time, becoming eternal. In a sense then, you become what you are eternally by what you do in your relationships with others and with the universe as a whole, for better or for worse, with the plan or against it. Plan? Life on our planet does seem to be developing towards greater complexity and consciousness. Some think of that as inevitable progress, drawing us forward to some kind of perfection. Yet, astronomy and physics suggest that the kind of life in play now cannot persist forever in this universe. If our universe does not eventually collapse back on itself and disappear in a big crunch, its energy will eventually cool to temperatures too low to support life as we know it. If we are being drawn forward, it is not to an existence like this one only better. If there is eternal significance to what we are and what we do, it will follow from what we contribute to the well-being of the world as we find it. If so, we would do well to pay attention to the rules of fruitful engagement as revealed by intuitions of God’s will that are consistent with science. ________________

1. This essay is based on an interview with Charles W. Fox at the First Congregational Church in Williamstown on Sunday, November 21, 2010. 2. Paul Davies, The Mind of God, New York: Orion Publications, 1992, p.82.

Stuart Crampton ’58 attended Oxford University on a Williams fellowship and earned his Ph.D at Harvard before coming here in 1965 to teach Physics. He and Chaplain Rick Spalding direct the North Berkshire Center for Religion and Science. Spring 2011

13


Downtime

by Flora Lim

Learning to trust God after graduation

FLORA LIM

Lead me, Lord Lead me in Thy righteousness Make Thy way plain before my face For it is Thou, Lord Thou Lord only That makest me dwell in safety. – Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876)

14

The Williams Telos

It’s been a tough nine months since graduation. I have spent a lot of that time trying to figure out what I should do with the rest of my life. Initially, I was too overwhelmed to make a big move because everything about the future seemed so uncertain. I envied my friends who went on to attend graduate schools because they had a tangible goal to work toward. I wished I could do the same, but I lacked the certainty to pursue a particular field. I did not want to jump into something just so I could be a part of the busy grownup world that many of my friends had transitioned into smoothly. So I remained in Williamstown, waiting for some signal from God.


2010 The first couple of months went surprisingly well. My little sister and I held daily prayer sessions, during which we prayed for our family and friends. This prayer group allowed me not only to establish my identity firmly in Christ, but also to stay more connected to friends and family whom I could not easily

“These were feelings that I could not get rid of by relying on myself.” see. My unemployment did not worry me much because I had faith that God would provide for me at the right moment. Two months after graduation, in answer to my prayer, I landed a part-time job in Williamstown. Work was sometimes boring, but because I was hesitant to commit to something more serious, I was content to do miscellaneous office work for the time being. The job paid well and I was thrilled to have free time to read, hike, bake, play the piano, and practice the guitar. As soon as my daily life fell into a comfortable rhythm, I succumbed to the temptation to settle down into complacency, relying too much on myself and forgetting my daily prayers. Last winter was probably one of the most depressing times of my life. I wasted many evenings shut up in my room, tucked under the blanket, looking up meaningless articles on my laptop, and watching movies. When I was not doing those things, my mind dwelled on the topic of Me. All sorts of negative thoughts about the future entered my head, and I started to feel lonely, worrying about negative things that did not even happen and becoming pessimistic about life and the world. These were feelings that I could not get rid of by relying on myself. Life was not miserable; I had my ups along with my downs. But one thing was certain: there was something the matter with my situation.

A few weeks ago, I had a very unpleasant day at work, when my boss yelled at me. The personal accusations he made hurt my feelings and the self-esteem that had already suffered from the long and depressing winter. I decided that something was wrong with me, that I was just incompetent – and that life would always be this hard no matter where I went and what I did. But as I sought help from friends and family, it occurred to me that perhaps I need not have allowed myself to be hurt by my boss’s words. I had become weaker since losing track of God in my life. The incident challenged me to actively seek out God and enabled me to reevaluate my priorities. I know that God will lead me when I completely trust in Him. I also know that one can never live to the fullest extent without God. Now I am able to praise God for my weaknesses. My imperfections allow me to rely on Him more. The first Bible verse I memorized for Sunday school tells me how I should live: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path” (Proverbs 3:5, 6).

Flora Lim ‘10 majored in Art History and Japanese at Williams. She was born in Gainesville, Fl., lived in Korea for ten years, and returned to the U.S. as a high school student. This is her eighth year living in Williamstown.

COURTESY OF FLORA LIM

Spring 2011

15


But his delight is in the law of the Lord, an He is like a tree planted by streams of and whose leaf does not withe {Psalm

Shirl Yang ’13 is an English and Biology double major

16

The Williams Telos


nd on his law he meditates day and night. f water, which yields its fruit in season er. Whatever he does prospers. m 1:2,3}

from Hsinchu, Taiwan. She is no good at gardening.

Spring 2011

17


After touring the Port of Tacoma

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rebarros/4812885393/

by Jonathan Draxton

Jonathan Draxton ’ 12 is a Theatre and English major from Park City, Utah. He is currently enrolled in the Williams-Mystic program and will spend the summer in Boston.

18

The Williams Telos

Sometimes I marvel at our own sense of the past, of sins, of what we have committed against Nature, and how we can be absolved. I think that we pushed our way to the edge of the oblivion and stopped, not because we were afraid, but because there is nothing to destroy in the void. So we shrugged, turned around, and started condemning, leveling, and destroying what ourancestors had made before us. In the new world, undoing the work of the past is the work of the present. We call those people who came before us proud, uninformed, superstitious, greedy. But this is just a way to justify the undoing, just as they justified the building. We are kings in our time, and the ghosts are our subjects. What we forget is that we will be ghosts too, one day. And what will our children say about us? Exactly what we said about our ancestors. “They were greedy kings, foolish men who sought to erase history, as though the earth and flesh could be wiped clean of blood.” History is written by the victorious living. I was a king once. In the wilderness, I was a king. But here, in this place, I am small. I am only a child here. Please tell me your stories about the men who searched for God, who killed for honor, who died for love. Make me remember that the world is not an oyster, but a mirror. I am very lonely without you, and sometimes I pretend to be in love with someone else just to spite you. But you are the only one who makes me remember that I once was a king. Together, you and I, we can see God. Alone, I am blind.


I am not a purebred Pekingese Body image for human beings

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maltanczyk_

by Emily Ciavarella

I’m going to make a confession: sometimes I check myself out in the mirror. Most of the time I do it in a private space, but once in a while I get called out on it. Awkward. In that situation, the only solace I get is from knowing that one of these days I’m going to call out that same friend for checking him or herself out – because we all do it. Sometimes the pot needs to call the kettle black. I have various techniques for checking myself out: the staredown, the Tyra posing, the turning my head as far as I can to get a view from every angle. I usually mix and match according to my mood. I must always end, however, with some conclusion about myself. On great days it’s “Helloooo nurse!” On bad days it’s “I am the most hideous creature that ever emerged from the swamp!” On “okay” (read: most) days, it’s “Oh. Look, it’s me. Wish I didn’t have that zit right in the middle of my forehead, but I don’t think I’m going to be victim to a mob of offended villagers singing ‘Kill the beast!’” One day, I caught myself frowning deep in thought as I checked myself out in my bathroom mirror. I realized for the first time something that should have been painfully obvious: I had just judged my body. And I don’t mean “judge” in some metaphysical, moral, or even psychological sense. I mean I was two steps away from getting out a square of poster board and a marker and writing, “Thighs 3, Calves 4.5, Feet 5.5.” At this point I might as well hire a color commentator: “Yes, ladies and gentlemen, she’s going to have to make up some real points in the upper body division to make up for this deficit and go on to the final round.” Almost immediately after thinking this, another image popped into my head: The Westminster Dog Show. I’m not Spring 2011

19


a dog show aficionado by any means, but I’ve watched a few (and have seen the fantastic movie Best in Show). From what I can see, those dogs are stared at, poked, and prodded, all in the hopes of being deemed the best specimen of dog breeding at the show. The handlers proudly lead them in an elliptical promenade to show gait, and the judges stare at tails as if they were dangerous explosives needing to be defused. That’s how I was looking at my body, as if every aspect of its shape and appearance all determined whether or not I was an excellent – or even adequate – specimen of a human being. Of course, I’m not the first person to come up with the idea that an attractive exterior is an indicator of excellence or success. Movie stars are revered as royalty in our society – at least, according to the media. They have the lives we should all want, with ample amounts of fame, fortune, and most of all, beauty. What else are we supposed to think when we see some of the wealthiest, most beloved figures in our society spend their days with personal trainers and fashion designers? That physical appearance is crucial to success, of course! So in response, magazines instruct women on how to put on makeup just right, or how to get toned abs for bikini season, so we can look like (and therefore have the life of ) Gwyneth Paltrow. Beauty is not a fact in our society – it is a goal. Funnily enough, although our society resembles a dog show, we do not say to a pregnant woman, “I hear you’re breeding – congratulations!” We expect parents to raise their children to be kind and conscientious members of society, not just to make sure they’re in top physical shape and grooming to win a ribbon. When one takes a step back, it seems absurd that human beings would be judged in the fashion of a dog show. The devil’s advocate of course asks, “Why not? Why shouldn’t we be judging our shape and form in this manner of detail as an example for excellence?” For that answer one only needs to read the words of Saint Paul: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you

have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19a). Taking care of your body shows that you respect the contents inside, but it cannot begin to truly express what makes us human. God gave us life in the spirit through the body like a man would give a ring to his fiancée inside a little velvet box. Just looking at your body on the outside is like the fiancée taking the box, closing it, and evaluating the box’s velvet texture and color, seeing if it’s an exemplary box. Come on, guys, we’re better than that. Not to say that our bodies don’t matter; the Church teaches that we will be raised from the dead with both body and soul intact after the Second Coming. Our bodies then complete everything we as individuals are. In the meantime, Saint Paul tells us to “honor God with your bodies (1 Corinthians 6:20b).” Sure, you can honor God in non–physical ways (praying, for instance), but why limit yourself? If you want to judge the success of your body, think about all the things you can do with it: sing, walk, laugh, dance, hug, feed the hungry, etc. In addition, I like to imagine that with every breath, my body is succeeding in its ultimate goal of keeping me alive for as long as possible. Heck, the bodies of pregnant women have the ability to sustain multiple lives at once. Bodies are powerful. Saint Paul tells us, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).” We have our bodies because of the Father; we’ll keep our bodies because of the Son; and we thrive in our bodies because of the Holy Spirit. Overall, we get a pretty good deal. The next time I start doing a judgmental mirror dance, I’ll try to remember: I enjoy the gift of life that has been given to me, so I should enjoy my body. Case closed.

“It seems absurd that human beings should be judged in the fashion of a dog show.”

20

The Williams Telos

Emily Ciavarella ’13 is a Philosophy and Theatre double major from Short Hills, N.J. She’s hoping those majors will suddenly become marketable in 2013.


Mahadra

Kelsey Ham ’12 is a Biology and Religion double major from Bozeman, Mont. Spring 2011

21


Behold now Behemoth

by Charles Rousseau

Finding divine geometry in William Blake’s Illustrations to the Book of Job

22

Combining passages spoken by Elihu (Job 36:29; 37:11-12) and God (40:15; 40:19; 41:34), William Blake’s 15th plate in his Illustrations to the Book of Job depicts God’s inscrutable sovereignty over creation. The passages Blake selects for the illustration describe a grandiosity of scale that humbles human aspirations to comprehend God’s power to create and control the forces of nature and the giants of creation, such as the clouds and the sky, the star-filled heavens and the earth, and the beasts of land and sea that are Behemoth and Leviathan. Each of these testaments to God’s generative and sovereign power is present in the picture and represented with a wonderful and strange serenity: the ordered and symmetrical arrangement of the illustration gives it an elegant, restrained simplicity that is almost too tidy for the intensity of what it represents. Yet this sense of order deliberately reinforces God’s sovereign control over creation, for God and God alone is the only being in the picture who connects its three distinct spheres. Blake’s illustration is divided into a heavenly realm, a human realm, and a creaturely realm. The heavenly realm is demarcated by a ring of clouds that frames the parameters of the scene proper, and God, two of His angels, and the stars of heaven are the only things that exist above (or even outside) of this ring of clouds (excluding the content in the borders of the engraving). Underneath the topmost part of this ring, Job, his wife, and his three friends are all kneeling on what appears to be some terra firma, some earthlike plane that is both separated from God’s heavenly realm and yet connected to it, as evidenced by the fact that the stars of heaven are visible in both the sky of God’s heavenly realm and in the sky of the human realm. Additionally, the clouds that form a barrier between these two worlds also, it seems, imply their connectedness – insofar as Job and his human counterparts can see the stars and the clouds of the sky, they are reminded of a heavenly realm which is both conSpring 2011

nected to their world and yet remote from it. The third sphere in the illustration is the earthlike, globe-shaped circle wherein Behemoth and Leviathan are represented with yin and yanglike symmetry, dividing this world of creation into that of the land beast and the water beast. Due to the gigantic size of both creatures, the world in which they inhabit is virtually filled by their massive size, as if they are a world unto themselves. And yet, their massiveness is counterbalanced by the degree to which they appear circumscribed by the limits of the circle that surrounds them. Crowded and almost immobilized, the greatness of their power, as it is described in God’s words to Job (though not as explicitly in the quotes Blake uses), seems diminished, or at least checked, by the degree to which Blake represents them http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/ as confined, as circumscribed by God’s own power. While the eye naturally gravitates to the circle that encloses Behemoth and Leviathan, they are not the most important feature of the picture. Indeed, one of the reasons why the eye is drawn to them is that the directing line of God’s left arm reaches down to point to (and touch?) the realm of Behemoth


and Leviathan. Consistent with God’s words in 40:15, Blake’s physical depiction of God enacts the very words of His command – God’s arm descending from heaven and pointing towards Behemoth and Leviathan tells the eye to “Behold now Behemoth which I made with thee” (40:15). In so doing, God’s arm (and the command it embodies) connects the three different spheres of this illustration as if to demonstrate His presence and control in each. And yet, it seems important that, while God completely penetrates the human realm, the extent of His arm and His outstretched pointer finger come just short of touching the realm of Behemoth and Leviathan. This decision for God to appear unable to touch these powerful beasts of chaos could imply a limit to God’s own power to control the giants of His creation. After all, Behemoth and Leviathan are represented in the text as volatile and destructive creatures who could potentially be uncontrollable in their powers. Such an interpretation could be an ironic rejoinder to the claims of God’s omnipotence present in Job and depicted by Blake, but I am more inclined to view the fact that God does not touch the realm of Behemoth and Leviathan as an artistic choice that allows God to point them out and direct the viewer’s eye to them in a clearer way (indeed, the apparently casual way in which God reaches down through these realms does make /commons/0/00/Blake_Job_15.jpg it look like He could reach further if He wanted). In pointing out Behemoth and Leviathan, God is also pointing out His power and the magnificence of what He can create in order to reveal himself to Job and testify to His sovereign power over the world and His activity in it – He is the one who controls the clouds of

the sky, the rain that falls to the earth, and all that is in the world. After 35 chapters wherein Job pleads for God’s intervention and wonders at God’s seeming absence from the world He created, Blake’s 15th plate describes the theophany of God as He responds to Job’s words. It is interesting that in depicting this scene, Blake deviates from the text of Job by choos-

“God’s arm connects the three different spheres of this illustration.” ing not to represent God in a storm or a whirlwind. Instead, God appears as a man and, moreover, as a man who looks very much like Job himself (who is located immediately to the left of God’s arm from the perspective of the viewer). Of further interest in Blake’s representation of this theophany is noticing who, in fact, seems to see God. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, the people huddled underneath the clouds, are located on the right hand side of God’s arm and, even as God’s arm appears to be right in front of them, they do not look at His arm but look downwards, as if observing the letter of God’s command to “Behold Behemoth.” On the left hand side of God’s arm from the perspective of the viewer, Job’s wife is also looking down, but not as much as Job’s three friends. The gaze of Job himself, however, is the least downward-directed of all. Instead, following his eyes (which are also the most open of anyone in the engraving), it seems clear that he is not looking down at Behemoth and Leviathan; rather, he is looking at God – at the arm of Him who he has hoped to see throughout the course of his tribulation. What’s more, not only is Job looking at God, but God Himself is looking at Job. Hovering right above Job, God looks down on him with a kind of tenderness. Therefore, the 15th plate not only demonstrates God’s sovereign power, but also shows His ability to see and be seen by Job and, in the gaze of these two central characters, Blake’s testament to God’s sovereignty also becomes a testament to God responding to Job’s desire to see Him, even if only through a glimpse of the terrifying work and downward reach of His hand. Charles Rousseau ’11 is an English and Religion double major from Richmond, Va. The Williams Telos

23


Adam Stoner ’11 is an Art Studio major from North Carolina. His recent work explores human spirituality and Christian iconography.

24

The Williams Telos


1983

In all things

by Inez Tan

COURTESY OF ELIZABETH NIELSEN

An interview with two alums about life after Williams

Steve Nielsen ’85 and his wife Elizabeth ’83 met in the Williams Christian Fellowship when Steve was a first-year. “Naturally, she paid no attention to me,” he quipped. But eventually, finding they shared a love of music, they led a small group focused on singing and studying hymns and related passages from the Bible (members included physics faculty member Bryce Babcock and his wife Phyllis). The Nielsens married soon after Steve graduated. Today, Steve is president and CEO of Dycom Industries Inc., a Fortune 500 company, and Elizabeth is in seminary while keeping active in volunteer work. They live in Florida and have two sons. I was one of several students who heard Steve’s story last March when he visited the current Christian Fellowship. Most of us went awww. I’m pretty sure just as many of us began dreaming of the day we too could have CEO as our job description. The Nielsens’ life together is one any of us would be happy to land after Williams. But we’ve all heard from successful alumni before. In particular, we flock to listen to those who have made it to the pinnacle of their fields. However, what struck me about the

From left: Eric, Elizabeth, Tim and Steve Nielsen Nielsens was their remarkable outlook on success. Over and over again during his talk, Steve repeated Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Steve held that “all things” had informed his life, including the nadirs – having to sell his family’s company and coping with the loss of their young daughter. The Nielsens’ expansive perspective on success – that it included the good and the bad – steered them through times of uncertainty, such as Steve’s career switch and the family’s move across the country. They continue to affirm the reality of Romans 8:28 – that God can bring good out of hardship. As Romans 8:24 asserts, “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” The verse refers specifically to the Christian belief that the present life is not all there is; Jesus died so that mankind could inherit the eternal life we were meant to have with God. At the same time, I’m reminded of the criticism of certain Christians in Harper Lee’s Spring 2011

25


1985 To Kill a Mockingbird – “so busy worrying about the next world that they’ve never learned to live in this one.” In contrast, the Nielsens continue to balance success and uncertainty in this life with hope for the next. I had the chance to interview Elizabeth to hear more from her perspective. ______________________ When you were a Williams student, what was your concept of success? My idea of success was always rooted in family. I envisioned a career teaching high school English, my major at Williams, partly because I felt it would be compatible with caring for children. I was turned off by the publish-or-perish atmosphere at the university level of teaching as well as the long years of schooling and work to reach the doctoral level. After we were married I spent a year getting an MA from Rutgers and then two teaching at a Trinity Pawling School in Pawling, N.Y. I found teaching to be much harder than it seemed – a very humbling experience.

Has your idea of success changed over the years? Our second child, Meg, who was born with Down syndrome, changed us greatly. I found The Siege, a book that Clara Park had written about her autistic daughter, to be a great comfort to me.1 For both the Park family and for ours, part of the challenge of our children was their mental handicaps. We have always been a bookish, studious family, and accepting that our daughter would not fit the mold taught us to love her and others who do not fit our narrow standards of success. Meg was sick much of the time because of a heart defect and died in open heart surgery at eleven months old. When you face the unexpected – the birth of a handicapped child, the death of a spouse or child, a major illness or professional setback – it is a temptation to think, “But this isn’t part of my plan. How can I get where I am going with this circumstance in my way?”

What else did you do? I became involved in volunteer work at the boys’ school and our church instead, eventually discovering that teaching the Bible was my calling. I found that it utilized all my training in literature and that I loved it.

How has your Christian faith informed the way you live? To be Christians is to accept that God knows what we don’t and to trust that He has our good in mind at all times. I have found that His plans never take the straight route from point A to point B. God’s way of leading you to point B will be circuitous and scenic, dramatic and frightening. You will find yourself walking through the valley of the shadow of death. But in the end you will find that His way has been the best and that you are better person for all the twists and turns of the trip. You will probably find that many of the goals you had set for yourself were foolish to begin with and that God has been faithfully leading you by a winding path to higher ground. Trust Him! My idea of success still places great importance on family, but the highest value to me is to find the mission that God has for you, the thing for which He has equipped you and that He is calling you to right now and do it. This mission will change over time, but the calling to be used of God for His kingdom does not change. ______________________

Now that your sons are grown up, what are you doing? Now I am back in school earning another MA, this one in theology. My Williams training has helped me to aim for the

Inez Tan ’12 is an English major from New York City and Singapore.

You and Steve married soon after college. How did that change your life? Steve was commuting all over the northeast working for his grandfather’s company. I realized that we were so busy with our jobs that we had little time to enjoy each other. I hoped we would have a baby soon and couldn’t imagine the two of us continuing to work so many hours and have a baby too. When I got pregnant, we looked for a house and I left teaching, temporarily, I thought. But as Steve continued to work long hours, I never found that it was the right time to go back to work. I knew he would not be available to help me if one of the kids was sick, so I felt I could not make the kind of commitment an employer would need.

26

highest standard of scholarship even as I teach many whose formal education has not been extensive.

The Williams Telos

1. Clara Claiborne Park was a senior lecturer in English at Williams. Her daughter, Jessica Park, is an artist who works in the mailroom, and her son, Paul Park, is a lecturer in the English department.


Renewals and misinterpretations

http://www.flickr.com/photos/richardsummers/269503660/in/photostream/

by Eb Gyasi

Seeing Christianity for what it is in the Bible, U.S. history, and current academia

The beauty of Christianity is that your past has no substantive bearing on the potential of your future. Consider the story of the apostle Paul, whose life was radically altered when he submitted to Christ’s sovereignty. Not only was he a sinner (as any Christian should be the first to admit), but his sins were especially egregious: he was persecuting and sentencing to death the very people he would come to identify with and ultimately lead. Despite Paul’s terrible actions in the past, Christ still gave him an opportunity not only to redeem himself, but also to dramatically inspire and change the lives of all those who came into contact with his letters.

In his book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the late Malcolm X wrote that Christianity was the “white man’s religion” that had been imposed upon African-Americans by their masters. He saw it as a tool to keep the black race compliant and falsely content. While Mr. X was not completely off the mark with this claim (given the misguided attempt by some slave owners to justify their deep-seated racism with the Bible’s account of slavery), he completely missed the reason why African-American slaves became Christians in the first place. First, the Bible was the only source of education available to blacks, and reading the word of God was the primary way through which blacks became literate. Second and more importantly, the book of Exodus conveyed the idea of a

bright future despite a dark and gloomy past, as captured in the struggle and eventual liberation of the enslaved Israelites. The idea of the last becoming first and the weak becoming strong pervades the Bible and deeply resonates in the hearts and consciences of many who read it, not least African-Americans who lived through slavery.

In Euroamerican academia today, organized religion, particularly Christianity, gets a bad rap for developing intolerance of other’s views. It’s as though Christianity has been declared the most dogmatic viewpoint in the world. While such claims about Christians’ intolerance are not unfounded, they must be honestly and meaningfully reconciled with the fact that Christians throughout the globe are perhaps the most diverse demographic in the world in terms of gender, socioeconomic status, culture, and ethnicity. Dismissing organized religion and Christianity as more harmful than beneficial to our society seems to be not only intellectually dishonest, but also just as dogmatic as critics claim Christianity is. Ebenezer Gyasi ’13, affectionately known as Eb, is a Philosophy and History double major who enjoys playing football and socializing with a myriad of people from different walks of life. Spring 2011

27


Valentine’s blues

by Daniel and

PHOTOS COURTESY OF DANIEL CHACHU

A CDE student and his wife share thoughts

Our hearts go out to all who felt alone during this year’s Valentine’s Day. Perhaps you saw all the notes, roses, and gifts that were showered on your neighbors. Perhaps you felt jealous, left out, disappointed, angry, or just indifferent. Perhaps you decided that you were going to start dating. Whether or not you are planning to begin a relationship, prayer is an essential element. God has a plan for everyone. We believe He is kind enough to die for us, protect us each day, and provide us with what we need. Could He not also help us find the right partners (Proverbs 18:22) given that He orders the steps of the righteous? Like our pastor suggested to us long ago, as soon as you become a Christian, you need to start praying about your life partner – that is, if you want to get married in the future. If not, you still have to pray to ask God what He wants to do with your life. Certainly not everyone will get married. You could well be an Apostle Paul or a Mother Teresa. Praying about your life partner need not necessarily push you into starting a relationship. It is just an acknowledgement that

28

The Williams Telos

it is one of the most important decisions that you have to make and help is needed. There is a time for relationships, and we need to ask God to guide us to enter into them at the right time. There is certainly a time for everything, including dating. Nonetheless, we also believe that Christians should enjoy their singleness. This includes having as many friends as possible, both male and female. Part of cultivating healthy friendships is being able to spend time with friends, be it for conversations, involvement in sports, studying together, eating together, praying together, etc. The friends we spend time with surely do have an influence on the character we develop over time. Proverbs 27:17 puts it this way: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” But if the time comes today, who should we date? Christians sometimes complain that their counterparts are not romantic, caring, funny, etc., like non-Christian men and women are. A lot of Christians are therefore attracted to relationships with non-Christians. No matter the length of arguments adduced to


Sewoenam Chachu

on healthy romantic relationships 2 Corinthians 5:17, if anyone is in Christ, that person becomes a new creation. Old things have passed away and all things have become new.

{

justify the latter, it makes it much harder to keep the relationship physically pure, as there is a clash of values and of faith. As it says in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be misled: bad company corrupts good character.” Furthermore, Christian men ought to learn to love Christian women in a godly way, and vice versa. 1 Peter 4:8 tells us to have fervent love for one another. Men and women should treat one another as siblings. Christians must take care of their counterparts of the other gender and respect them for having been created in God’s image, rather than taking advantage of them. If you take care of one another’s wives, husbands, sisters, and brothers, God will surely take care of yours. Relationships are not experiments. However, if you have messed up in your relationship, there is no cause for wallowing in the guilt. When you sincerely repent and ask God for forgiveness, you are forgiven. Get up and move on. God can make you ready for a new relationship. To paraphrase

“There is a time for everything, including dating.”

}

Or perhaps you have decided not to marry – maybe because of the way your father treated your mother, or because of the many examples of failed marriages you are surrounded with. Think about it again. You could be different. Time and space would not permit us to share with you about the families we come from, but believe us when we say we are trying to be different. We are committed to this journey. It is not always rosy, but when you acknowledge Him in all your ways, He directs your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). Jesus can heal past hurts and past brokenness. He whom the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36). The pain may not go away quickly, but it will definitely heal. Dating is a challenge. When we were courting, we wondered why we had not been given much information about how to date in a way that pleased the Lord. We were fortunate to have good mentors and friends we could talk to. One issue was abstaining from premarital sex. It was an issue of choice. It was very difficult but God kept us on the right track. The wait was worth it!

Daniel Chachu is a fellow at the Center for Development Economics. Sewoenam Chachu is a translation assistant and an assistant lecturer in French at the University of Ghana, Legon. Their daughter, Raziela, is four months old. Spring 2011

29


2006

Redefining success

by Steve Klass

EMILY YU

Evolving perspectives on the meaning of accomplishment

It’s always been tempting for me to think of other people as being successful based on their excellence in areas that I value or enjoy, such as music, art, writing, and athletics. Those who succeed are the rare and fortunate people who are able to make their living engaged in the activities they’re most passionate about. I think it’s also fair to say that I was susceptible to envying titles, apparent income levels, and even the frequency with which I’d see individuals quoted regarding their professions or related issues. My own notion of success has evolved over time, becoming at once more complex and more simplistic – and more countercultural in the same way that my faith is countercultural. In fact, the metrics by which I value things are now much more informed and driven by my faith. I now tend to measure success based on who people are rather than what they do. These metrics are necessarily divorced from jobs, activities, and incomes. As I understand it now, success is grounded in, and bounded by, adherence to unwavering principles. Success is most apparent to me when I see a life driven by important issues, a EMILY YU life defined by the passionate defense of justice, a life’s work founded on consistent ideals. Are there comfort zones for success? Can we justifiably identify someone as successful if they never venture from those basic things they think they’re good at, attempting only activities that are safe? Or if they only engage in the relationships that don’t challenge them, shying away from experiences that might make them uncomfortable? I find myself attracted to people who display the courage to try, fail, and then try something else – and play out this pattern over the arc of their lives. Assuming that this arc is grounded in the bedrock of Truth and Principle, I would define those individuals as being successful – certainly more so than those who wander aimlessly from philosophy to philosophy without leaving the material comforts of their daily existence. This may seem a bit paradoxical, coming from someone whose professional work centers on an ability to navigate ambiguity. Defining success as adherence to unwavering principles and consistent values may display a discordant willingness to generate tension and heat in the mechanism through which I view the world. I’ll admit to giving in on occasion to a culturally acceptable kind of middle-aged doubt about my value, what I’ve done with my life, and what I’ll be leaving behind that could possibly have any meaning. But now I’m more comfortable admitting that doubt because, at the end of the day, I have a more fully dimensioned vision of success – one through which my sense of self-worth is more genuine, tied to things that are infinitely larger than myself, and harder to measure in their enormity. Perhaps success isn’t meant to be measured at all; perhaps it can’t be captured. Maybe we can only hope to take snapshots of outcomes and articulate our view of that moment captured in time, yet always in flux. And maybe it’s okay for our vision of success to flow, as long as we always return to measure it against our core values, our guiding principles. Steve Klass has been the vice president for operations since 2006. He will take on the new role of vice president for campus life this July. Steve and his wife, Odette, live in Williamstown. They have three sons.

30

The Williams Telos


Fray by Yue-Yi Hwa

How we wound ourselves gripping freedom by the blade our clumsy fear jabs the hilt into the bruises of those we would love. How he loves us easing our fingers from the edge his agile death lights the way to wage the peace we cache in dreams.

Yue-Yi Hwa ’11 is a Political Economy and Arabic Studies double major from Malaysia. She loves good books and bad inside jokes, ha ha. Spring 2011

31


Reflections by Amy Nolan

A meditation from the multifaith prayer service for Japan in Thompson Chapel in Williamstown, Mass. on March 16. How impossible it is to mark life with a figure. How difficult it is to fathom a number. How are we to respond to tragedy? It is so easy to feel paralyzed by horror, to feel insensible in the face of catastrophe. Our reaction could never reverse or diminish the terrible destruction of life that we witnessed as an earthquake and tsunami shook the east coast of Japan on March 11. Yet we cannot refuse to respond to the incredible disaster, the inconceivable loss suffered by the people of Japan. We acknowledge our grief over this calamity by reaching out with relief efforts, by offering our thoughts and our prayers. Shared loss, shared pain, unanswerable questions – why did a wave take so many lives? how do survivors continue? how do we perceive life so easily extinguished? – draw us closer to one another. Enduring one unfathomable disaster reminds individuals, communities, and nations strung around the globe of our one humanity. Considering the fragility of man, John Donne writes, “All mankind is of one Author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language, and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and His hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.”

32

The Williams Telos

Though lives have been scattered and cut short, we can trust that they will all be gathered together, translated into a better language. One Author writes and rewrites every single life with careful intent and profound insight. Though we cannot now perfectly understand the translation, or clearly read God’s plan, we can look forward with sure hope to the day when “every book shall lie open to one another.” God is our Author – His caring perspective far exceeds the scope of any human mind. His is the language, His is vision, His is the narration. Assured of this truth we can lift our voices into one prayer of praise and hopeful petition. In the aftermath of the tsunami, Pope Benedict XVI exhorted those who gathered in St Peter’s Square, to “remain united in prayer.” I would like to conclude with his words: “I want to renew my spiritual closeness to that country’s dear people, who with dignity and courage are dealing with the consequences of the calamity. I pray for the victims and their families and for all who are suffering because of these terrible events. I encourage all those who, with laudable speed, are working to bring help. Let us remain united in prayer.”

Amy Nolan ’11 is an English major from Williamstown, Mass.


ADAM STONER


TELOS SPRING 2011


Telos Spring 2011 Issue