Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Robot love

From an article on the changing attitudes toward robots and consequently toward humans:
Children, in turn, play with more and more robotic and electronic toys. Many, like the Tamagotchi digital pets of the 1990s, and the later robotic dog Aibo, require nurturing, which encourages kids to take care of them, and therefore, to care about them. Some kids say they prefer these pets to real dogs and cats that can grow old and die.
"People used to buy pets to teach their children about life and death and loss," Turkle said. We are now teaching kids that real living creatures are risky, while robots are safe.
Also, this:
In her interviews with people of many ages and backgrounds, Turkle has found that many now are coming to fantasize about robots that could serve as friends who would always listen to us, who would never become angry, who would never disappoint.
"What are we talking about when we're talking about robots? We're talking about our fears of each other," she said. "Our disappointments with each other. Our lack of community. Our lack of time."
This is technology as a replacement for character. With sophisticated enough tools, we won't feel the pains of our lack of patience, compassion, love.

It brings to mind a (favorite) C.S. Lewis quote:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. [Instead, get a Tamagochi!] Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries [such as robot-"friends"]; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
God willing, when I have kids, they will have real pets that scratch and bite if you hold them wrong; shed fur everywhere; chew through your computer cables if you leave them in the wrong spot; sit on the couch with you and eat from your hand at the dinner table; and don't require batteries. My kids will have paper books, which have weight and texture and can be lent to friends. They will not watch TV every day. They will eat vegetables, and not know what french fries are or what coca-cola tastes like. They will be vulnerable and they will learn real love.


Hazel is better! Thank God. After a week of not touching his pellets, he has finally started eating them again--although it seems cardboard is tastier to him at present. I put the egg carton he was munching on back into the recycling bin so he wouldn't swallow too much of it, but he kept fishing it back out, and even took it into his cage.

At sunset, I was curled up on the couch, taking a nap. I woke to the sound of Hazel demolishing yet another cardboard box. A second after I lay back down, plop! Hazel dropped onto the couch, in the curve of my body. What a delight! It had been a week since he jumped onto the couch, and he had never before placed himself in a spot where he would be so easily grab-able. Initially alert, with enough ear-rubs and back-scratching, he closed his eyes. Resting his chin on my arm, he snuggled down into the blanket and leaned against me.

It was a moment of pure tranquility. Looking into those beautiful rabbit eyes just inches from my own felt strangely like looking into the face of God. Blasphemous? I don't mean it to be. God spoke through a donkey's voice once; he can speak through a rabbit's face. In that twilit moment, the rabbit was the face of peace and trust. All the wrestling to force the antibiotics down his throat hadn't ended his affection for me. In this time when O. is so far away, I am not alone. God even provided me with a cuddling partner!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sick Bunny

Hazel is a ravenous beast. Especially at breakfast time. Normally when he hears me coming in the morning, he bounds to the front of his (huge) cage and stands up with his front feet on the door. Sometimes he bangs out it: the picture of impatience. When I do open the door, he starts hopping around my feet and standing up with his front paws on my leg, reaching up for those delicious pellets. Now that he's almost a year old, he only gets a quarter cup in the morning and a quarter cup at night, so he devours every crumb.

Except yesterday, he refused all pellets.

It started when he completely ignored both my approach and the offer of food. This has never happened before in the history of Hazel. He was crouched in the back of his cage with his eyes bulging out of his head. He wouldn't eat. With a rabbit, this in itself is an indication that a trip to the vet is in order. When he eventually hopped into his litterbox, one of his back legs seemed to be dragging.

I freaked out and flailed around the internet for guidance. Then I called the vet. Thankfully they gave me an appointment for that morning.

The vet pronounced Hazel's limbs intact, but said something was indeed wrong, possibly an inner ear infection which was affecting his balance. Hazel huddled where he was placed and absolutely did not want to explore. We came home with antibiotics and a painkiller for Hazel, and he spent the whole day motionless at the back of his cage. I looked up inner ear infections in rabbits and found out they can be fatal. The anxiety mounted.

This morning Hazel refused his pellets again and there were no new poops in the litterbox. Very bad. (A rabbit that isn't eating and pooping is at risk for GI stasis, which basically means his digestive tract shuts down and dies...)

However! Hazel did accept a few stalks of cilantro soon afterward. He followed that up with some hay-nibbling. I worried when he refused subsequent offers of parsley, and when he barely moved all day again, huddling in a box. Worst, he lost his balance so badly as to fall over with a crash. I was not feeling optimistic when I came home and dragged poor Hazel out of his cage for a second dose of cherry-flavored antibiotic. But to my surprise, he responded by grooming himself for the first time all day, and then eating some hay! I also discovered some poops in his hideaway box. And what really has me hopeful is that an hour or so ago he hopped up onto his second story and sat there looking around for a while. He descended without crashing, too. Thank God, I think he's getting better.

Tomorrow morning I'll call the vet; hopefully these are enough good signs that I won't have to further traumatize Hazel by taking him back to have bloodwork done and spend the night.

As I write this, Hazel is grooming himself. I hope the improvement continues overnight. Lord, in your mercy...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My new favorite books!

Two thousand thirteen has already given me three beautiful and mind-expanding books about life with God. These three books examine widely divergent topics but share one huge similarity: they all cite tons of Scripture to back up their points and newly illuminate it with their ideas. I highly recommend for every Christian:
  1. Men and Women in the Church by Sarah Sumner, which I borrowed from my well-read parents. Main points: Most Christians of both sexes need to repent of sexism, and the Bible affirms women's value and capacity to teach, preach, prophesy and lead.
  2. Miracle Work by Jordan Seng. I think O. likes this one even more than I do. The main premise: Just like other forms of ministry like preaching and sharing the gospel, supernatural ministries like prophecy, healing and deliverance ministries require effort and preparation. God empowers us to do "miracle work." Also, God works to ensure that his power always flows in ways that also demonstrate his love and compassion.
  3. Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey. O. bought this book at Urbana 2009 (but hasn't read any of it) and it caught my eye on our bookshelf last week. Honestly it's been a page-turner for me! I have never learned so much about the Bible from one book before. It's very exciting!! All I can say to summarize is that the Gospels really come alive with color and meaning when the cultural context is illuminated.
What I love most about these books is their explanatory power. Reading any of these books unveils the reason for and the implications of seemingly irrelevant or inexplicable events and details in Scripture. Miracle Work and Men and Women especially provide frameworks for a new kind of understanding--alternative paradigms, if you will. Another shared characteristic is the brilliant combination of personal testimony with exploration of Biblical principles and texts.

But enough from me! Go read one of these brilliant books. You'll be glad you did.

P.S. One last note: All three books also share the theme of sacrifice. Sumner highlights the pairing of sacrifice with submission in Ephesians 5:22-33. Seng states that "Sacrifice is the currency of love" in his discussion of consecration (one of the factors through which God empowers us to do miracle work). Bailey speaks of Christ's "costly demonstration of love" to the sinful woman in the house of Simon, for example, and ultimately on the cross.


O. is away, visiting his grandparents across an ocean and a continent. All my recent journal entries begin with the count of how many mornings O. has been away. This morning was the fifth.

After dropping O. off at the airport last week, I spent the evening at a friend's house. Returning home, I opened the door to a dark and chilled house. One rabbit sat blinking in a corner, the other woke up and demanded dinner. A full trashcan waited to be emptied. Over the back of O.'s usual chair was draped his heavy white sweatshirt. I felt like crying when I saw it there. Heartbreak, in his blue towel, his pajama pants lying on the bed, his toothbrush: ripples still wrinkling the lake's mirror-surface, when the stone that sent them has long since sunk out of reach. The pillow was the worst.

Towel in the hamper, clothes in the closet, toothbrush in the medicine cabinet. O.'s pillow off the bed and mine positioned in the center, as if this were a bed meant for one. A bed that, when I lie in it alone, is full, not half-empty. I pretend. I pray.

I talk to O. on Skype (miracle of the internet!). Voice only because for whatever reason the webcams are not working. Closing my eyes I imagine him there on the couch with me, his weight bowing the cushions and unbalancing me so that I can't help but lean against him.

My dear sister came down for the weekend and we were a complete set, the two of us, as we always were in our childhood. But this too is pretend because we are not children living in the same house and sharing a room anymore. On Monday morning she went back to her life, and I stayed here with my half-life.

I don't really mean that. This is not half-living, this is full living: with friends, with books, with sunlight and rabbits and fresh biscuits, with learning and moving, with purpose, with joy. And I am grateful for this time of silence and stillness. This is not half-life but life in a different, and familiar, shape. Still, it is life without O.

Thirteen more mornings.