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    31st December 2005

    Murderball, Penguins, and Russian nationalists…

    Its the last day of the year, and I think I should update people as to what I’ve been up to. I think I should because life is so incredible and I would love to pass on to all you all reading a sense of how interesting and amazing this world is. Well, maybe that’s overstating it by a lot, but I am enjoying my time at home immensely. (For a page that could increase your appreciation for the world, and also the best place on the net for finding wallpapers for your computer, check out the National Geographic Photo of the Day).

    I have watched two excellent popular documentaries this week – March of the Penguins, about the life of Emperor Penguins; and Murderball, about the life of paralympic quad rugby players. I have had the chance to hang out with my best friends from high school a couple of times. Two nights ago I went out for a little farewell gathering for a friend who is going to go build a timber frame house in Costa Rica. Last night I had the privelege of going to a beautiful wedding and a super fun reception for one of my sister’s high school friends whom I also knew through church and whatnot; it was amazing to get to talk to a number of people from my past at the reception. I have also been able to hang out with all of my siblings a couple of times this week. My Cousin Lisa came up to visit, and we all got together to see her; and my dad came up to visit, so we all got together to see him.

    I am also obsessed right now with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade Suite, especially movement 2…

    Happy New Year!

    Science…

    A few days ago I was all fired up to post a response to an editorial in the Loveland Reporter-Herald – an editorial that praised Judge John E. Jones III’s ruling that Intelligent Design is merely creationism in disguise and therefore not proper fare for the classrooms of public schools. I agree (for an interesting take on this subject see an editorial by Cal Thomas, a Christian who is the most widely syndicated columnist in the U.S.), but there were a few things in the RH article that didn’t sit very well with me, particularly these two stalwarts of the article:

    “Belief that a creator must have had a hand in nature is rooted in faith.

    Faith cannot be verified and it is not science.”

    ” ‘Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect’, Jones wrote. ‘However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.’ ”

    As I take it, the definition of science that seems to be implied in the above statement that “faith is not science” would be the things that are known through the application of the scientific method. The scientific method is the “principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.” (From Merriam-Wester) In other words the science that is taught in classrooms – earth science, biology, chemistry, physics, etc. – is supposed to be based on repeatable experiments and observations and/or continuing and predictable natural processes.

    This last part about continuing natural processes is where most people ground the scientific roots of theories of origination and evolution. There are artifacts and fossils that give us a framework within which we can fill in the missing pieces assuming that natural processes took place in the past as they continue to do in the present. This makes sense. However, even in the fairly recent past – lets say 10,000 years ago – this becomes a process that involves more speculation than science (as we just defined it – and it is safe to assume that this definition is the only one viable in the context of this argument). To reconstruct what was going on with humans 10,000 years ago – humans, of whom we have the most evidence of all creatures – is simply us guessing what what was going on based on the best evidence.

    This process – reconstructing a series of past events and their causes from this best available sources – is what we would call historical inquiry or historiography, or some similar phrase. As soon as someone produces a theory of origination or evolution based on repeatable experiment and observation; as soon as someone reproduces in laboratory the independent origination of life and its evolution from simple single cell organism to human being – we may legitimately call this theory science. But until that day we must place such a theory in its proper realm, the imprecise world of the historian. “Scientific” theories of origination and evolution are historical constructions based on the best available evidence and employing speculation – well-reasoned speculation, but speculation nonetheless – to fill in the story that the physical evidence cannot tell.

    Creationism does the exact same thing. It esteems different items as the “best available evidence”, namely texts implying that some supernatural force must have been behind the origination and development of the whole world and its living members.

    And since I’m sure you all agree with me at this point that these “scientific” theories are in reality historical constructions, perhaps we should apply the same standard to this case as to most cases of historical inquiry: Generally existing texts must be corroborated with any existing physical evidence or any other existing texts. In this case, the texts which describe the origination of the cosmos agree that it was a supernatural force that was the catalyst for all which now exists. There is no physical evidence that remains from the day of creation or the moment of the “big bang” as it might be; what we have for physical evidence is the observable natural processes continuing in this present day.

    These natural processes might point back through a number of links that look like evolution, but the question is still, “What started the chain reation in the first place?” “How could something be moved if not by a mover?” is a related ancient question that still demands an answer. The R-H article says of creationists and in particuular those who adhere to ID, “Its proponents postulate that nature’s complexity cannot be explained by evolution alone, that some divine intervention made the earth’s intricacies possible.”

    As I said, a few days ago I was all hot to write something about this, but now I’m not going to do any such thing…

    23rd December 2005

    At Home and Hyperactive

    The drive home was outstanding. Obviously by the time I had been driving for 17 hours I was getting a little antsy, but the guy who I was driving with – David Hartwell, a freshmen from Colorado Springs whom I had never met before – made delightful company (I hope he agrees that the trip was even a little better than barely bearable).

    I went out cycling today as it was about 55 degrees and dry outside. There are traces of the snow from the weekend left on the ground, but most of it has melted. The last couple days have been some sun with some clouds, which makes for sunsets that look like they were painted over the mountains. I spent the better part of 3 days hanging out at Craig Hospital being “re-evaluated”, which they like to do at least once a year for a fine medical miracle such as myself. They seem to think that I’m doing well, and I concur. And now I’m chilling, writing this update while a four pound poodle named Toby falls asleep curled between my arm and my body (Michael is watching Toby for a friend over the break)…

    I have finished my first semester of school as a paraplegic, and it is nice to have that under my belt – but then again, it was always nice to finish a semester. I would venture that this semester will be my lowest GPA at Calvin – maybe even lowest ever – and yet I’m not terribly disappointed because I’m getting what I earned. Undoubtedly I could have focused more on my classes or written papers which were exactly what my professors wanted, but grades have never been my motivation for doing well in school (except when in competition with Sarah Steen). I learned a great deal from the academic world this semester (just ask my sister who has received several lectures about the things I studied) and this is my only real goal in school – to learn a few things here and there and be able to use them (or at least teach my sister about them).

    But more than school, I have succeeded in finding out what it is like to be a paraplegic living away from the security of family, and succeeded in finding out what it takes to be a paraplegic going back to school. I have learned many more things about life – or relearned a few important things. Three things in particular stick out:

    1) I can’t do as much as I used to be able to – but its alright! I took a full course load (15 credits) and I was able to do it, but it ate away at me because I wasn’t able to do it as well as I would have liked. I’m the kind of guy who feels bad about coming to class unprepared, even if I never show it. It is true that school has always been below people and running and music on my list of priorities – but I still like to have enough time to do my reading. I am a person who lives best when I have a balanced life of different sorts of activities; I’m not really capable of putting all of my energy into school only – I love being physically active and getting to play music and hanging out with people. If I can’t do all those things and take 5 hard classes, than I’m not sure I want to take 5 hard classes. Maybe 2 hard classes and 2 less hard classes… One of the best pieces of advice that I received this semester was from my academic advisor at Calvin, Richard Plantinga. He told me that he knew I was capable of getting the grades and writing the papers, but maybe this semester I could worry about it less knowing that the most important part of my being at school had nothing to do with my report card at the end of the semester. Its also very reassuring to me to remember that its not the things that I do that make me who I am – my identity is first and foremost, found in Christ; and my personality is not something that changes when the things I do change. I will be me whether I’m out climbing mountains or stuck inside somewhere doing paperwork…

    All this, but I have also been realizing more and more 2) the importance of discipline in leading and active and fulfilling life. At the end of this semester I see how much more disciplined I could have been and it might have helped me in classes or to be able to do more of the things that I hoped to do. I’m not kicking myself in the pants or anything; I’m content with the past four months – but that doesn’t mean I don’t see room for improvement in the future. This first semester back I pretty much talked to anybody and everybody on any terms and at any time, regardless of what I could or should have been doing. Part of the reason I often meander through the day is a lack of focus. When I was running, even if I wasn’t running for the team, I still had something to do everyday in the afternoon after classes. Now its like there is a void of space where my body thinks it should be doing something other than homework, but its not quite sure what. In the spring semester, I would like to spend mor time working on rehab – getting in the pool and whatnot – to try to strengthen the oh-so-weak signals that get through to my leg muscles. I know that the only way I will have time to do this is if I am disciplined in my studies and my socialization. I would also love to become more involved with a church in Grand Rapids (there isn’t one in specific right now), but I know that this too can only happen if I am disciplined. In addition to this aspect of discipline, I have been impressed this semester with the notion that I would like to really learn a lot about just a few things – but to know them really well. OK, so all that to say that in the spring I will be trying to be more disciplined.

    And finally, I have been learning again and again 3) the desirability of focusing on the people and situations that are actually in front of you rather than the people and situations that you wish would be. Last summer, my friend Drew Wills (who was in rehab with me at Craig) told me that he tries not to think about the things he can’t do as much as the things he can. Obviously it is appropriate to mourn losses – even losses in ability – but this kind of attitude helps to continue living as full a life as possible. It has actually been fairly easy for me to think this way in terms of my own physical ability. Of course I miss running, but I try to think more of the things I can do, like weightlifting and handcycling. It has always been more difficult for me to apply to people and social situations. It always seems like those other people are having more fun over there, so why can’t I just quit what I’m doing and join them? I asked that question a lot during my first two years at Calvin, thinking about how much fun my friends at other schools were having. Or I am always wanting to hang out with this one guy that I think is really cool, but our schedules never work together, and so I end up hanging out with this other guy that isn’t as “cool” but is still lots of fun. Or I end up getting a huge crush on some girl that I don’t really know that well and we don’t see eachother that much and then I don’t even notice the people right in front of me – or (even worse) I want to be more than friends with this girl and so I don’t let myself just be friends, which would probably be more fun anyways. Remembering to do the best that you can with what you are given each day also means that you have to look at what is actually in front of you and not what you wish was in front of you.

    This is a very long post, but I haven’t posted anything this long in a while that didn’t involve the police. Merry Christmas and remember today to tell someone you love them and then give them a big old hug!

    2 comments

    16th December 2005

    Full circle…

    You know how every once-in-a-while someone that you knew or were friends with once-upon-a-time comes back into your life? Maybe someone mentions her name or you see him at the store and its like seeing a ghost.

    It wasn’t at all like seeing a ghost, but last night Chris Hoff came to GR to hang out. Chris was my roomate my first semester at Calvin. He transferred to Grand Valley State University after one semester and I had only seen him once or twice since – and not at all for a the last two years. Maybe a month ago I had heard from one of his high school friends (who is a student at Calvin) that he had been living in DC working, but he was thinking about coming back to Calvin to finish his degree and he was looking for a place to live. I e-mailed him and said that we had room in our house because Peter is getting married and moving out in February. Chris is probably going to be living with us next semester, so he came by last night and it was great, although there wasn’t anything exciting going on at the Madison house because most of us still had work to do for school.

    I love it when people from the past come back to life like this, and it got me thinking about a kid that I’ve been wondering about for three and a half years. He was one of my roomates my second summer working at Covenant Heights – the summer before I started at Calvin – and his name is Douglas Daniels. He was from Texas – Dallas area I think – and we went running, hiking, and climbing together, as well as having amazing rock-throwing workouts on the playground at Covenant Heights and other ridiculous adventures. Some of you out there reading this have undoubtedly heard some of my stories about Douglas and I, but the one that is both funny and relateable is from the time when we got pulled over in his truck. We had just been running so we were shirtless, and we both had long dirty hair and undoubtedly smelled like mountains. The cop pulled us over just a hundred feet from the camp and so a small crowd of kids and counselors gathered watching the ordeal. We had been going 7mph over, but the officer caught us surprise with his line of questioning:

    “Have guys you been smoking any marijuana today?”

    “No, sir…”

    “Do you have any marijuana in the vehicle?”

    “No, sir, we work at that Christian camp right there…”

    “Well, I’ve known kids from Christian camps… Ayways, are you sure?”

    “Yes, sir, we’re sure…”

    “The reason I’m asking is because I can smell it in the car… Do you mind if I have a look around?”

    Of course we let him, and he didn’t find anything so he let us off with a stern warning to make sure we don’t let anyone smoke it up in our cars, but we all know the only thing he “smelled” in the car was a couple of kids who looked like potheads. The story being done, if anyone ever sees or hears from or knows the whereabouts of the Douglas Daniels, you should let me know.

    On a final note for this post, I’m done with finals – though it never really feels like break until I’m all the way home – and I’m driving home to CO tomorrow. The weather looks to be really bad, so say a prayer for us.

    12th December 2005

    Finals Week!

    It’s finals week here at Calvin College and I had the wonderful experience of writing two exams today. I have a few more this week, and then I’m driving home on Saturday with a freshman from Calvin who lives in Colorado Springs. His name is David Hartwell and I’ve never actually talked to him in person, which means we could have an interesting 18 hours this weekend.

    Last night I played at LOFT and today I went out to lunch with Chaplain Cooper and a businessman from Grand Rapids named Doug Nagle. Doug had polio when he was 19 (I think) and recovered enough to just need a cane for walking, but now he’s been in a wheelchair for 20 years I think he said. He’s one of Calvin’s more substantial supporters and just helped fund a new institute for studying Christianity around the world that will be headquartered at Calvin.

    Also from the weekend, my cousins Dave and Elizabeth – who are usually hanging around Calvin Seminary but are currently studying at a library in Emden, Germany – they received the addition to their family of a son, Zechariah Augustine Kao Holmlund. He’s an oldtestament-newtestament-chinese-american-swedish-american-kind-of-guy and he weighed in at 8 lbs 12 oz.

    And I went to church at Caledonia Christian Reformed Church, home (church) of Brian Diemer, Olympian and Calvin cross country coach; but also home to the Rev. Dr. Scott Greenway, who taught a class I had my freshman year here. He came up to me after the service saying, “So the cops broke up your party, eh?…”

    I should put more interesting information on this site, but probably not until after this week, when I am home in Colorado, eating from my mother’s refrigerator and not thinking about what in the world to write on my take home exams.

    3rd December 2005

    Cracking down…

    3 December 2005

    Last night the party at our house was broken up by the police at 1:00am. I have no objection to the party being broken up; the party was very loud and 1 o’clock is very late. My friend and fellow tenant, Tyler Zwagerman, spoke with the police as they were still in their cars in front of the house – I was on the porch keeping track of what was going on. The police told Tyler that we needed to do what we needed to do to shut the part down, and so Tyler went to go tell the DJ to cut the music, but word went ahead of him, and the DJ called out the last song. Tyler, though not comfortable with this, thought it would probably be acceptable as long as we shut it down fairly quickly. This was undoubtedly the wrong decision, though I count anyone as very strong who could discount the formidable peer pressure of that moment.

    The police, hearing the continuation of music, parked their cars (not an uncommon sight on our street), and began to walk up our driveway. Worried about the “last song” thing, Tyler was already on his way out to explain that this was the last song. One of the police officers involved began to yell very loudly at Tyler. He made it very clear this time that when he suggests something should be done, he expects it to be done immediately, but instead, he said (of himself and the other officer on the scene), “We’re wasting our time breaking up your stupid party.” He elucidated that everyone needed to leave our house right at that moment. Everyone at the party promptly complied, and the police were gone no more than 5 minutes later – it had been less than ten minutes since Tyler first went down to talk to them.

    The party was very loud, and it was very late, and not shutting the party down right when the officer first recommended it was not necessarily a good decision. I have no objection to the police presence at our house or in our neighborhood. However, I would like to note a few things about the situation:

    1) The initial conversation that the police officer had with Tyler was very vague. Tyler’s a senior at Calvin College, and very intelligent. He picks up on commands very quickly, but was unsure this time. Non-compliance in this case should not necessarily be equated with deliberate disobedience or belligerent disrespect, but rather with misunderstanding the urgency of the situation.

    2) The second time Tyler went out to speak with the officer, the officer made a show of force to Tyler by shouting. While this might be appropriate in some situations, our street was quiet, and Tyler was being neither disruptive nor inattentive. It is important that police officers have the means to protect themselves in potentially dangerous situations by having means of force at their disposal, but there are serious consequences to allowing indiscriminate use of force – even if it is merely shouting.

    3) When the police officer mentioned that they were “wasting (their) time”, I found it to be rather disturbing. If there was any real opportunity cost to their presence there last night – that is, if they were at our house instead of responding to an emergency call – I apologize with earnest for myself and my housemates. If this is the case, of course, everyone should agree with me that there is something seriously wrong with the Grand Rapids Police Departments protocol. Assuming this is not the case, than the time they were wasting really only involved – more or less – potential opportunity costs. They could have been breaking up more parties, or responding to non-emergency calls, or patrolling the streets for drunk-drivers – of which they cannot be sure to find any. Yet, I would apologize for this potential opportunity cost even, for my car was in the shop for four weeks this fall after being rear-ended by a drunk-driver, and I understand this to be the least of possible harms stemming from reckless motor vehicle operation, having become a paraplegic in a car accident last fall – though the guilty party in that case was a deer.

    4) Finally, to reply to those who picture this party like the parties they were probably at in college: Every person at our house was clean and sober as they all walked to their cars at one o’clock last night. Four of us who live together in that house are seniors at Calvin, and we all started our college careers running together for the school’s cross country and track teams. Last year, unsatisfied with the team parties of the past, we decided to invite more people, and make things a bit more exciting. We decided to insist that our parties be drug-free, alcohol-free to show that college kids can still have fun without getting drunk.

    This year, we asked some friends of ours from Calvin, being DJs, if they would be interested in setting up their equipment at our house and spinning some beats. They were delighted to do it, and our parties got a little bit louder, and a little bit bigger. Obviously, kids from the cross country and track team still show up, but we try to invite as many diverse groups of people as possible as an alternative to whatever else might be happening on a Friday night (read: other parties of a decidedly different character). In fact, another of these guys I live with, Jesse Kleinjan, has become very interested in alcohol-abuse prevention at colleges, finding the scholarly research to show that currently used methods are inept. It is his belief that in leading by example and showing that there are other ways to prevent alcohol abuse that has largely led to the expansion of our parties.

    All this to say, when the police officer complained about our “stupid party” he should only hope that when his children are college students they find themselves at a party of the sort we were having. As I looked into the tired but euphoric faces of each kid leaving our house last night, in spite of the intervention of the police – no, especially because of the intervention of the police – I was proud of my friends Tyler and Jesse, and thinking eagerly about our next party.

    5 comments

    Copyright 2005 by Daryl Holmlund - All rights reserved.