I recently came across an copy of a textbook I used in Grade 7, back in 1993-1994. I enjoy history and I fondly remembered the textbook, so I opened it up and read it a little to see what it said... 20 years later.
I found the passages on early Christianity and was a little bit shocked to see how credulous they were about treating the Gospels as useful historical sources for the life of Jesus. Here are the passages that surprised me:
The tone in these passages clearly supports the Bible-as-history narrative, and they do so in a rather sneaky way. On Page 7, the paragraph sequence leads the reader into accepting the Gospels as legitimate sources:
Ironically, this was also the textbook that introduced me to the nature of "humanism," and this confused me greatly. I had heard sermons about the perils of humanism, but when it was described in the textbook, I couldn't help but feel like it was a good thing. And when I tried to confront the textbook with my own beliefs in my head, my adolescent anti-humanism, pro -theology arguments naturally fell flat.
I'm not a die-hard mythicist, but I do find it annoying when historical books treat religious texts as historically accurate or authoritative sources. It puts the author's intention into question when they mash up history with theology.
I don't think many Canadian textbooks do this any longer; this textbook was published in 1984 and I imagine they've been retired in most schools. But it's nice to see that I'm a more critical thinker than I was in Grade 8.
Even before I spent a year living in Egypt, I enjoyed teaching Alifa Rifaat's short story, "Another Evening at the Club." It's a wonderfully dense narrative that's rich in tonal depth and nuance. There's some delicate interplay between active and passive voice, and details are revealed in a pleasing, yet direct manner. After I spent a year living in Egypt, the story only grew more masterful to me; it's a gorgeous snapshot of Egyptian culture and power dynamics.
The book appears in many short story anthologies for high schools, but it's also online. Enjoy.
OK. I can handle that. Good stuff. "Being an adult is hard," and that is normative. No need to congratulate yourself with a hashtag-friendly catchphrase.
But there's another layer to this that's a little more insidious.
Remember, when you were younger, reading those novels where parents and adults were unbelievable messes? Like, both the adults in The Poisonwood Bible, if I remember correctly, were severely unbalanced. I remember reading that book at 24 or so and thinking, "Is this person even real?" It seemed so intense that it was practically campy.
And what about all the depraved cowboys in The Englishman's Boy or Unforgiven? For a while, I could barely believe that they weren't just caricatures. They seemed just too out of step with ethics and morality.
But then I became a public school teacher and—30 of them a class, four times a day—I met the wide spread of the human condition, sprawled all over the political compass.
And then I became older myself and saw more and more despondent, impulsive people all around me, and I realized they weren't over-acting. These were just adults being adults.
And I met the people whose conditions fill up the DSM.
And I found that I have my place in there too.
This is the real tragedy of adulting: seeing the mess adults make, how we ever-so-easily mess each other's lives, how those seemingly exaggerated characters from novels… live next door to you. That's where the hashtag belongs—as a marker of our unhinged, extended, adult reality.
Long live adulting.
I just remembered that, last summer, my wife took a photo of me taking a photo of essentially the same sort of truck that I took a photo of in 1991.
I guess my aesthetic interests haven't changed that much, eh?
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