Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The trials before and during comps week

I appreciate all the well-wishing and votes of confidence offered by everyone, but especially those offerings of prayers and benedictions. In a week that one would expect to go according to plan, all sort of incidents and story-worthy events began to happen.

The week before comps exam, 4 of us in the family got sick with the flu. (Makes me regret not going for those flu shots, as this is the second time for the winter that we are down with it). To make matters even more interesting, the Friday morning, I lost my dear Jamaican tam (on Jamaica day too). Finally, I had to forgo grocery shopping that same day. With all these events going into the weekend, I just knew that this was the fiery testing before my comps, and I was determined not to let them distract me from my preparations. I switched into spiritual war mode, wondering if this was my 'Job' testing by the enemy.

On comps week, I went to school to print and begin responding to my exam questions. When I printed the paper and looked at it, I almost panicked after seeing the first question, which was a bit longer than I expected. I wasn't expecting to see a paragraph before me, providing context in which I had to carefully underline the questions being asked of me.

However, after a time, my exam taking experience returned and calm was restored. I then did what I used to do as a student when faced with a problematic first exam question: turn to the back of the paper, in hope to work my way back to the front. There I found the more straight forward one sentence questions that I expected, some of which I already knew 2/3rds of the answers. So I began the journey putting down an outline for each question and some of what I already knew.

When I took a lunch break from the process, I browsed the Web and by accident went to my blog statistics. I then noticed a new trackback to one of my professional and scholarly blog from a science blog. Hence I checked out the science blog and found that the blog had linked to the post I had made. The next day, another blog directly quoted me, a first time for me in my recollection. To make it equally surprising was that I was cited along with another well-known personality in LIS. Interestingly, also I also gained a lot gained several Twitter followers that week, moving from 80-something to 91, though this may just be coincidence.

As if to humble me and keep my ego and sense of achievement from being too much, that night, 2 of my daughters health seemed to take a nose dive. One developed a sore throat, after improving over the weekend, and the other also had incessant coughing for what seemed like almost half-an-hour, after improving in comparison to the day before.

Not to forget that on the Saturday night before comps week, my wife and I smelled a cigarette-like fume in our basement but with no smoke that apparently went away on its own. I now in retrospect wonder if there was some escape of gas from the furnace into our house, causing the affliction this second time around. Is there any possible connection?

Anyway, it is Wednesday morning, the beginning of the middle o the week, and I am awaiting the trial and story-worthy incidents to come to a conclusion. I am also thanking God that he did not let last night's trial take any of my family members to the hospital.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Applying Information Science theory to the Word of G-d

As an information scientist, I see that a lot of what I am learning, reading and discovering in my secular studies could very well be applied to understanding Biblical concepts. Take for instance the concept of the Word of God. We in information science have a theory called Shannon's theory of information defines information to a signal sent by a messenger to a receiver. Many times a signal sent is not fully received by the receiver as intended due to the concept called noise. In my view, such a theory can very well be applied to learning about the word of G-d. The Word is the message or information or in Shannon's theory, the signal.
The message or signal is usually carried in a vessel or medium. However, by the signal being carried by a medium, it becomes limited to the constraints of that medium.

For example, in order to convey a message in a book, nonverbal cues get lost. Also, one's act of writing it down, requires it to be expressed in language choices and the system of writing and alphabets, which have a potential to constrain what the writer wants to say to his audience. To explain this, just imagine a man seeing a weird animal that no one has ever seen before. Further, he has no camera to capture what he saw and the experiences he had with the animal. He then has to use language to describe what he saw and his experience. To do so, he has to draw on images and literary devices like similes and metaphors that he and his audience are acquainted with in order to explain and describe his observation and experience. Hence he explains or describes a new thing through use of comparisons to a familiar thing. This is exactly the case with men in the Bible who saw things that we have never seen. Ezekiel, John and Daniel for instance, all saw strange animals. These strange animals they saw, were compared to animals that they were familiar with.

Each medium requires the writer to adapt the signal to the strengths of the medium. For example, in graphic novels, more focus is placed on the visuals and the action taking place in the graphic novel rather than dialogue. As such graphic novels and even movies never tell stories the same way that the traditional printed book does. Hence, something therefore is always lost, when one seeks to convey a message from one medium to another.

The scriptures are the medium that carries the Word of G-d to men. However, what ever God wants to communicate to us gets distorted and a lot of noise comes with the signal and message. Whether it be the limitations of a particular language system or the translation into another language system. Hence, when we final get the message of God, our own understanding and reception will never be perfect. Apostle Paul has this saying that I think could accurately describe what goes on when we read the Bible's message:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV)
In the final analysis, the message that God wants to convey to us always comes with distortions that occur within our dimension of time, space and reality. Even, Jesus, the embodied message and word, came with limitations that made him only communicate with few persons (see a previous blog post where I mention this). As such, we as a people must always recognise that when we read the Word of God, we partake in a communication process that is not perfect, and as such need to depend not on our own intellect and training to handle and interpret the message, but also the Holy Spirit, who reveals what it says and inspired the men of old to record the portions that they have recorded. Hence, like the actors of Hollywood, when we approach the Word, message, script or the simply the Bible, we must approach it with the understanding that we need to invite the spirit that summoned the word into being to enable us to read, interpret and receive the message in it for us.