In the business of theology it is hard not to be controversial - Jurgen Moltmann

Wednesday, 30 June 2004

Sleepless in Edinburgh (as usual)

A sleepless night it was.
I got ready to go to bed at almost 3am, but then did not want to sleep. Then finally went to bed at 6. Waken up by 2 phone calls from Jee in the morning, but fortunately I was able to get back to sleep. Got up at 2pm, finally. How about that!
I told myself not to think about it and let it cool off for a while. But last night I found myself replaying clips from the board meeting over and over again in my mind, especially the conversation with Michael Northcott. L

A good sleep does help, somehow. Watching Wimbledon quarter final in the afternoon and Euro Cup semi final in the evening, and a long walk to the meadow and residential area beyond are good things to do. The meadow is really a nice big piece of grass. Admirable for somebody who has grown up in a crowded city. It’s the first time I ever walk there in daytime; the previous times were when going to Elisabeth Koepping’s place at night with others.

Thought on the meadow – a dialogue with my own self: It’s already a tremendous thing to be able to do a PhD in Edinburgh. It’s something that I have not even dreamt of. Now I am here. Now I have attained recommendation for full PhD candidate status. What’s the big deal of making alterations in the research proposal? After all it’s a good challenge to reflect more deeply theologically. I just need to make sure that it is a theological study of the cinema, instead of (what I fear) becoming an a priori theological statement, or simply (the original idea) a cinematic cultural studies with a theological appendix / packaging.
And I (sort of) figured out why I liked Michael Northcott. Perhaps it’s because of our similarity – he likes to make strong statements about things, and his strong statements, for good for bad, find resonance in me. Except one thing: he is a great fan of Stanley Hauerwas and I am not. No way. That would be the major point of departure in our theology. So it’s not surprising that he is so critical toward my whole approach.

I am glad to see Jolyon’s email this afternoon. (But it was sent last night! Haha!) Well, the ‘well done today’ is somehow encouraging – though I knew I performed pretty okay in the meeting. Even better, he offers a debriefing meeting time of next Monday (5 July), which is exactly what I need.

Right now I am looking forward to the Yale-Edinburgh mission study conference from tomorrow onward. What an opportunity!

(from my personal journal > 30 June 2004)

Tuesday, 29 June 2004

Meeting the PhD Board

I have gone through my postgraduate review board this afternoon.
I was not as happy as I thought I would be. Only feeling relaxed. After all, that’s what the past 9 months of work is up to.
In fact I am pretty puzzled. I am still trying to digest what the board suggested / recommended, and over the last few hours I have developed a stronger and stronger feeling that it is going to involve a big shift – and that’s what I am afraid of. I am not sure I want that, or whether I can afford that in terms of time and energy. (But as Gtom says, it’s better to have happened now and not 2 years later.)

The session took almost 2 hours. From about 3:10 to 4:10 I was being questioned and had to ‘defend’ my proposal, then I waited outside the Senate Room for 5(?) minutes, then they told me their decision and recommendations. After everything it was almost 5pm.
Elizabeth Koepping was mainly concerned with my possible subjective bias as an insider and the methodology on reception context, as expected from an anthropologist by training.
Michael Northcott is truly a theologian. As expected, at several moments I found it hard to argue back at him though I did try to – well, maybe I was only clarifying my position and thinking. As I jokingly told Casey Barton afterwards, Michael was almost giving a half hour lecture – with some sporadic talking back from me. His were fair criticisms though, because the theological aspect is my self-identified dead point anyway. I agree with many (or perhaps even most) of the points he made, but I never thought of putting them in a thesis, and I am still not sure I should do so. They are big statements – about Chinese Christianity, about HK Christians, about the nature of Christian mission, or even the nature of Christianity, etc.
Yes, I surely have to do a lot more rethinking / reflection on these and related things. But I am not sure I should / can put it in a doctoral thesis. I was told by Jolyon early on that this is not to be my magnum opus, so throughout the months I have moved away from attempting to make any kind of ‘theological statements’.
Still, I am glad that I did clarify my refutation of Tillich’s method of correlation. That Michael reads that from my proposal means that I have not spelled out my theological perspective clearly. Niebhurian, perhaps a bit; but Tillich, no way.

They suggested the thematic focus of redemption rather than identity. (Michael says the whole idea of Christianity is about redemption, and has nothing to do with [ethnic] identity.) I can give it some thought, but I would prefer to deal seriously with the theological dimension / significance of identity. I need to argue a strong case for identity as a theological issue.
** Does Christianity really boil down to redemption? Should it not be the Reign of God? What then is the relationship between redemption and the Reign? Shouldn’t the Reign be the end & the redemption of all merely the means?
** If Christianity has NOTHING to do with ethnic or any identity, there is tremendous implications – e.g. there is no (or should be no) such thing as ‘Chinese’ Christianity. But does the Pauline notion of breaking boundaries of Jew / Greek, men / women, master / slave entail this? Then it would be a totally de-politicised and de-socialised version of Christianity. Am I misinterpreting Michael Northcott?

If my original proposal is lopsided toward cinema, their recommendation is making it lopsided toward theology. Certainly I want to do it from a theological perspective rather than a social scientific, cinematic study, or cultural studies perspective; and that is the whole idea why I ‘insist’ on doing it in the context of a divinity school. But as it is now going, with the board being dominated by Michael Northcott, it could be ‘just’ wrestling with important theological issues. And at present, I must confess that I don't have the faintest idea on how to incorporate the cinematic study part into this grand idea. Well, it's too early to make any real judgement, may be. I’ll let it cool off for a while, walk walk walk walk around, eat, sleep … and then approach it again with a refreshed mind.
Let’s hope that Clive Marsh’s Cinema and Sentiment comes out soon. I’d have to grab it and read it ASAP.

Talking really helps. In fact I am happier after talking to the Thai group about it after my post-dinner walk. Nice supportive people they are.

(from my personal journal > 29 June 2004)

Friday, 4 June 2004


Never forget Tiananmen

If human conscience do not fail

and truth persists

justice will prevail

commemorating the 15th anniversary of Tiananmen Incident
Beijing, 4 June 1989

Wednesday, 2 June 2004

Film Stuff: Love is a Many Splendored Thing!

Love is a Many Splendored Thing!

日前跟相識多年的老友 --- 電視機 --- 共進午餐,BBC2正在播影一套關於荷李活老牌影星威廉荷頓的紀錄片。我對此人無甚興趣,但近期很嚮往我父母年輕時看的西片,於是就繼續看那大量精華片段。不料紀錄片之後,竟然食住上播映威廉荷頓當年鉅製: Love is a Many Splendored Thing。

Shot 1 – 五十年代香港海旁高角度遠景。咦!?
Shot 2 – 港島某街道,十字車嗚嗚嗚過鏡。娃哈哈!!!
Shot 3 – 十字車繼續風馳電摯穿過街道。O^O ç 我的眼鏡
Shot 4 – 港島半山,背景見維港和九龍,十字車到達,傷者被抬下車,車門清楚可見:東華東院。嘩!

一個生存於民族與文化夾縫裡的人(中英混血兒),在戰爭與和平交錯的動盪時刻 (四十年代後期到五十年代初期之間),住在中國歷史巨變的門縫外 (香港),每天處身流落香港的大陸難民之間,跟傷痛和患難埋身肉搏 (做東華東院醫生),又戀上了對傷痛患難冷眼旁觀的男人 (記者),自己背負著舊時中國的貞節傳統 (丈夫在內戰中被解放軍殺了),對方卻是個已婚美國男人。

但是荷李活畢竟製作一流,南區海灘、香港仔太白海鮮舫、上環茶樓、醫院病房 … 香港外景與加州片場接合天衣無縫,小道具和室內環境的重造真既一樣。(信我啦,我年紀夠大,細個時都見過呢D野!) 只差亞裔茄哩啡差D,不是流利美國話,就是中文方言亂晒龍,粵語國語台山話大雜匯。

如果我沒搞錯,應該是根據真人 (但不知是否真事) 為藍本的 – 珍妮花鍾斯的角色叫韓素音 (Han Su-yin),有番咁上下年紀又熟識中國現代情況的,應該聽過她的大名。