Monday, February 25, 2008

"Sundays" are for Volf - Chapter 5: Oppression and Justice

Volf begins this excellent chapter with an illustration borrowed from Peter Berger about "competing, indeed clashing, justices":
In 1843 General Charles Napier conquered Sind and installed the order of British colonial rule, no doubt to bring the blessings of civilization to the 'inferior races.' When the British came, one of the colonial impositions they instituted was the prohibition of sati--of widows being cremated on their husbands' funeral pyres....The Brahmans of Sind, however, defended sati as an age-old custom. General Napier's response was as simple as it was arrogant: 'My nation also has a custom. When men burn women alive, we hang them. Let us all act according to national custom!' (193)
What to do in the face of competing claims to justice?

The problem with the claim that there is one universal justice, says Volf, is that we don't have access to it: "Unlike God's knowledge [Christians'] knowledge is limited and distorted. Their judgments about what is just in concrete situations are inescapably particular....We must therefore distinguish between our idea of God's justice and God's justice itself" (198-199).

But it won't do to adopt the postmodern defence of difference and opposition to a universal conception of justice: "Postmodern thinkers have difficulty in thinking about justice without entangling themselves in self-contradictions, and they are hard put to explain how, on their understanding of human beings, struggle against injustice is possible" (205).

Volf has more sympathy for the concept of justice within a particular tradition, but even this won't solve disputes between rival traditions.

In the end, Volf does not suggest that we should attempt agreement on what justice is. Instaed, he proposes "how we should go about seeking and pursuing justice in the context of plurality and enmity." His solution, not surprisingly, involves embrace: "[A]greement on justice depends on the will to embrace the other...justice itself will be unjust as long as it does not become a mutual embrace" (197).

N.B. These excerpts don't do justice to the richness of Volf's proposal.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Colossians Remixed and Gender Hierarchy Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts on Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat's book, Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire (InterVarsity, 2004). To consider what follows in its context, please take a look at part 1 and part 2.

Unlike many of his fellow Jews, Paul believed that God had already begun to intervene decisively in history in the person of Jesus. His ethical instruction develops the social and political consequences of this intervention. Through the death and resurrection of the Messiah, God has brought into being an alternative community whose new life together already stands over against the kingdom of darkness—as Walsh and Keesmaat rightly emphasize (cf. 156).

But Paul also affirmed that the end had not yet come. In this respect Paul adhered to an apocalyptic eschatology like that of many of his Jewish contemporaries who knew that all was not yet as it should be and waited in hope for the redemption of creation (Rom 8:18-25; cf. Col 1:27). In the meantime, there are political and social implications of the “not yet”: On the one hand, the fact that “the day has drawn near” (Rom 13:12) and that Christ is Lord (13:14) qualifies submission to the governing authorities. On the other hand, Paul still affirms that in this in-between time, at the dawn of salvation, the political authorities that exist remain servants of God (13:1-7) to whom it is necessary to submit “because of conscience” (Rom 13:5). The Paul of 1 Corinthians 7 commends the unmarried life in light of the impending end (1 Cor 7:25-35); he also counsels slaves to remain in the condition in which they were called for the same reason (1 Cor 7:20, 24). The fact that “in the Lord” relativizes hierarchical relationships does not, for the Paul of 1 Corinthians 11, entail the eradication of the natural order. Paul still expected his instructions about appropriately gendered behaviour in public worship to be observed by the church in Corinth even though he added that women are not independent from men or men from women “in the Lord” (1 Cor 11:11).

Near the end of their book, Walsh and Keesmaat ask:
Does Paul’s teaching about the structure of a Christian household stand in fundamental tension with the rest of Colossians? Are the injunctions to wives, children and slaves legitimated by a language of transcendence that is oppressively hierarchical? And if so, then does our whole reading of Colossians as a text subversive of empire—both ancient and contemporary—come crashing down under the weight of a repressive household ethic? (202).
These are rhetorical—and loaded—questions. Walsh and Keesmaat, obviously, answer them with a resounding “no.” I am persuaded that we should answer a qualified “yes” to the second question: “Are the injunctions to wives, children and slaves legitimated by a language of transcendence that is oppressively hierarchical?” Yes, Paul’s instructions are hierarchical, although I would not say they are oppressively so. It seems to me that—whether or not Paul was conscious of it—Colossians 3:11, and its fuller expression in Gal 3:28, stand in tension with the instructions in the household code for wives to be subject to their husbands and for slaves to obey their masters (Col 3:18, 22).

However, I wonder whether the tension between “there is neither male nor female” and “wives, be subject to your husbands” needs to be preserved in our twenty-first century context. Since we stand closer to the end than Paul did, perhaps we can let our union in Christ relativize the hierarchy of the household code to a greater extent than was possible in the first century. Perhaps we can say with Jesus, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment” (Mark 10:5) and move on to live out in our context the mutual self-giving love that Paul was calling for.

Update: I should add that my wondering is more than rhetorical. Comments, questions and other (friendly) challenges are welcome.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

When Dead Tongues Speak

Only two chapters in, and I can already agree with the gist of Eric Sowell's comment and review of When Dead Tongues Speak: Teaching Beginning Greek and Latin (John Gruber-Miller, ed.; Oxford, 2006). The book should be required reading for all those who teach ancient Greek and Latin; Hebrew teachers will benefit as well. Here is a selection from the first chapter to whet you appetite:
When I was first teaching, I was more concerned to 'cover the grammar' and 'finish the book,' and then, I thought, my students would know Latin and Greek. After all, time is short, so it was best, I thought, to focus on what the book had to offer....Somehow, I expected my students, after memorizing forms, studying vocabulary, and practicing sentences, to be able to read and understand--almost magically--Latin and Greek. And if they could not read yet, I usually gave them more of the same: exercises that focused on sentence-level syntax rather than the strategies needed for reading chunks of discourse....I was practicing a theory of language teaching and learning that did not fit with my goal of helping students to read Greek and Latin fluently and accurately, of appreciating it as 'living' language. What I needed to do was to reexamine these assumptions in the light of what I hoped my students would be able to do after they had studied beginning Latin or Greek.
Even better than a book of essays on teaching Greek and Latin as living languages, why not sign up for Randall Buth's Immersion Greek Schole this summer in Israel? ...The book is, of course, a bit cheaper.

Glory Resides in the Complexities

In the same web interview (see last post) about the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament D.A. Carson has this helpful reminder:
One of the most complex hermeneutical issues is the way that the gospel itself, or some part of it, is, on the one hand, sometimes said to fulfill that which has been prophesied, and, on the other, said to disclose that which has been hidden. Glory resides in these complexities, of course, but it sometimes takes a bit of unpacking to begin to see them as something rich and wonderful, and not simply as a "problem." One could easily add other challenges. Yet it must be said that the really "hard cases" are relatively few in number compared with the large number of fairly straightforward uses that nevertheless open our eyes to the way God in his mercy has graciously given us his Word.
Part of reading faithfully is remembering that "God in his mercy has graciously given us his Word" and that "Glory resides in these complexities."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sticking up for the "Wild and Crazy" Essenes

Christianity Today recently published a web interview with G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, who coedited the generally excellent Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (BakerAcademic, 2007). Near the beginning of the interview Beale remarks that "Jesus was not a wild and crazy Jewish interpreter like those at Qumran or elsewhere, but he interpreted the Old Testament in a very viable way."

If you agree with Beale's evaluation of Jewish interpreters at Qumran, I suspect it is (1) because you have not taken the time to study the interpretation of Scripture at Qumran carefully or sympathetically and (2) because you agree with the presuppositions shared by the early Christians and reject those shared by the inhabitants of Qumran (commonly identified as Essenes).

Let me explain, taking the second point first. The Pesher Habakkuk commentary from Qumran cave 1 (1QpHab) famously applies Habakkuk 2:2 to the Teacher of Righteousness:
"God told Habakkuk to write down that which would happen to the final generation, but He did not make known to him when time would come to an end. And as for that which He said, That he who reads may read it speedily: interpreted this concerns the Teacher of Righteousness, to whom God made known all the mysteries of the words of His servants the Prophets" (1QpHab vii 1-5; Vermes's translation).
In Acts 2:16-21, Peter declares that Joel's prediction of widespread prophesying was fulfilled among the ecstatic tongues-speakers at Pentecost. Like the author of Pesher Habakkuk, Peter assumes that Joel's prediction applies to his own time, which he identifies as the "last days" (Acts 2:17 contrast Joel 3:1). Paul's eschatological take on Scripture is similar:
9 For it is written in the law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Or does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was indeed written for our sake, for whoever plows should plow in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop. (1 Cor 9:9-10; NRSV)

These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Cor 10:11; NRSV)
If we believe that the Holy Spirit was poured out on "all flesh" at Pentecost and deny that Habakkuk 2:2 was fulfilled in the Teacher of Righteousness, it is because we share the early Christian assumption that the end of the ages did come with the death and resurrection of Jesus, not because the Essenes were "wild and crazy."

To be sure, Beale's main point was that the contributors to Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament found remarkable attention to the context of OT passages cited in the NT, and there are passages in the Dead Sea Scrolls where the writers seem to reject the original context entirely. (Pesher Habakkuk is a fine example.)

However, there are also passages in the NT where the original OT context appears to be ignored. In Acts 2:25-32, for instance, Peter seems to exclude the possibility that Psalm 16 ever referred to a situation in the Psalmist's life because "David both died and was buried" and, on Peter's reading, the Psalm clearly refers to the resurrection from the dead. As a result, the Psalm can only apply to Jesus who "was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption." Most commentators on the Psalms beg to differ. Take, for example, Willem VanGemeren's comments in the evangelical Expositor's Bible Commentary: "The primary significance of the text lies in the confidence of the psalmist that his relationship with God will not end with death."

Now there may well be an explanation that makes sense of Peter's use of Psalm 16 in Acts 2--although all I. Howard Marshall can manage is “Peter’s interpretation in a wide sense in 2:30 is sufficiently plausible” (Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 539). But before calling the Essenes "wild and crazy" we should consider whether there are explanations that can help us make sense of their own exegesis of Scripture. In many cases, such explanations are not hard to find. Certainly, those responsible for the scrolls often interpreted Scripture in an awareness of its literary context.

Much as I appreciate Carson and Beale's accomplishment, and have benefited from Beale's previous work on intertextuality in Revelation, I have to say that calling early Jewish interpreters "wild and crazy" is bad form--even in a popular magazine. Good historians take seriously the golden rule: interpret other traditions as you would like your own tradition to be interpreted.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The difference three months make

A 13+ pound Shoshana on her three month birthday (Feb 15, 2008):(The red suit was pulled out of retirement for this picture. Fortunately, it stretches.)

Shoshana on her two month birthday (Jan 15, 2008):We were surprised she still fit her red suit.

For the sake of comparison, this picture was taken on December 14th, one day shy of her first month-day:
This picture was taken on November 21st when Shoshana was 6 days old:

Friday, February 15, 2008

In the Mail...

The wonderful New English Translation of the Septuagint (Oxford, 2007) is available online for free here, but I thought a printed copy would be handy:My own experience studying Modern Hebrew and the repeated injunctions of Randall Buth on the B-Greek list have convinced me that ancient Greek and Hebrew are best learned as spoken languages. As I am scheduled to teach Introductory Greek again next year, I ordered When Dead Tongues Speak after John Hobbins mentioned it in a post on teaching Hebrew as a living language. According to the publisher's blurb, the book "introduces classicists to the research that linguists, psychologists, and language teachers have conducted over the past thirty years and passes along their most important insights." Sounds interesting (to me)!
I'll know I am really a "biblioblogging Jedi Master" when publishers begin to send me free books in the hope that I will mention them on my blog.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Colossians Remixed and Gender Hierarchy Part 2

I explained in the last post that Walsh and Keesmaat interpret Colossians over against a reconstructed first-century context in which the Roman empire and the imperial cult figure prominently. But although the the imperial cult was popular in Asia Minor during the first century,[1]
and Acts 17:7 suggests that Paul's opponents presented the Christian message as seditious, I think it is misleading to imagine an authoritarian regime in which any alternative lifestyle would be considered dangerous. To be sure, serious challenges to the social order, such as slave revolts, were forcibly repressed, but at least in the hinterland of the empire, considerable diversity was accepted.[2]

There were also other viable alternatives to the emperor cult—though they receive scant mention in Colossians Remixed. In Ephesus, according to Acts, the silversmiths concerned about the loss of their livelihood rioted on behalf of the great Artemis of the Ephesians.[3] In addition to the temple of Artemis and a temple the imperial cult, excavations at Ephesus have uncovered temples to Hestia and Serapis as well as a sanctuary of Zeus and “the Phyrgian mother goddess.”[4]

Another viable alternative to the emperor cult, supported by a large community in the Lycus valley, was Judaism.[5] What happens when we add first century Judaism to the mix? Walsh and Keesmaat note that the early Christian confession “Christ is Lord” was similar to the Jewish claim that there is no Lord but God,[6] but they do not consider the likely corollary that pagan responses to this Messianic Jewish sect would have been similar to pagan responses to Judaism, a religion that was permitted—if not well-liked—in the Roman world.[7] Even Josephus, who is often derided as a “Roman sympathizer” (204) if not an outright traitor, wrote to defend the superiority of the Jewish way of life—including the ideal of freedom from foreign domination which was shared by both the Maccabees and those who revolted against Rome.[8] We learn from Josephus that non-participation in the emperor cult was tolerated in some cases; to a certain extent resistance was too.

Walsh and Keesmaat find a challenge to empire in statements about Christ’s universal role in the creation and redemption of “all things” (98; cf. Col 1:15-20) as well as in Paul’s warnings against the “philosophy” mentioned in Colossians 2, but their imperialistic reading of the Colossian false teaching[9] overlooks the profoundly Jewish character of the “philosophy.” For example, in Col 2:11 Paul emphasizes that the Colossians were circumcised with a non-hand-made circumcision, verse 14 mentions “legal demands” (RSV; δόγμασιν; cf. Eph 2:11-18), verse 16 warns against those who would judge the believers with regard to observing the Sabbath, and the requirements in 2:21 point to Jewish purity regulations. Here conclusions about the nature of the false teaching become important: If Paul writes Colossians primarily to respond to the possibility that Christians in the Lycus valley might be led astray by attractive teaching in the synagogue down the street (Dunn), or by a “Hellenistic Jewish syncretism” (Lincoln), then it becomes much more difficult to view Colossians as directed primarily against an imperial worldview, however subversive the letter might be.

If you are not exhausted yet, see this post for more on Paul and imperialism.

[1] Cf. S. R. F. Price, “Rituals and Power,” in Paul and Empire: Religion and Power in Roman Imperial Society (ed. Richard A. Horsley; Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1997), 48-9, 57-61.

[2] Cf. Tessa Rajak, “Was There a Roman Charter for the Jews?” in The Jewish Dialogue with Greece and Rome: Studies in Cultural and Social Interaction (ed. Tessa Rajak; Leiden: Brill, 2002), 301-2: “…the later Hellenistic polis may still have reserved the prizes of citizenship or political office for a select number, but it accommodated considerable diversity of population and did not demand conformity. And we know that, with the exception of overt participation in emperor worship, Jews could and did involve themselves in the life of their cities…”

[3] Acts 19:21-40. Note also that a ruler cult of sorts is applied to Herod Agrippa in Acts 12:20-25.

[4] Richard E. Oster Jr., “Ephesus,” ABD 2:544-5. According to Oster, the temple for Dea Roma and Divus Julius probably date from “shortly after Actium” (i.e. after 31 BCE). There was also a temple to Domitian (or possibly Vespasian) which “was apparently the first of several Neocorate temples of the imperial cult in Ephesus” including a temple to Hadrian (so Oster 544-545).

Not all cults would have been “subsumed under the imperial cult” as Walsh and Keesmaat imply (98). Cf. Price, “Rituals and Power,” 64; North, Roman Religion, 61.

[5] Cf. James D. G. Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 21-2.

[6] Walsh and Keesmaat, Colossians Remixed, 97. Cf. Alan F. Segal, “Response: Some Aspects of Conversion and Identity Formation in the Christian Community of Paul's Time,” in Paul and Politics: Ekklesia, Israel, Imperium, Interpretation (ed. Richard A. Horsley; Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2000), 189; N. T. Wright, “Paul's Gospel and Caesar's Empire,” in Paul and Politics, 170: “The mainstream Jewish monotheistic critique of paganism, of all its idolatry and immorality, found in Paul’s day a more focused target and in Paul’s theology a sharper weapon.”

[7] Cf. Rajak, “Roman Charter,” 301-33.

[8] According to Josephus, both religious and political freedom are fundamentally good things that result from obedience to the laws established by Moses. Cf. Tessa Rajak, “The Against Apion and the Continuities in Josephus's Political Thought,” in Understanding Josephus: Seven Perspectives (ed. Steve Mason; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 242; Steve Mason, “'Should Any Wish to Enquire Further' (Ant. 1.25): The Aim and Audience of Josephus's Judean Antiquities/Life,” in Understanding Josephus: Seven Perspectives, 81, cf. 80-7.

[9] At first, Walsh and Keesmaat identify the philosophy as an internal threat distinct from the external pressures of the Roman empire (111), but after an initial discussion (105), the philosophy is treated consistently as an instance of empire. See especially the targum of Col 2:8-3:4 on pages 137-139.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

For the Record

In class the other day, one of my students asked me how far it is from Qumran:
to the fresh water spring of Ein Feshka:

What I should have said is "I don't know." Instead I blathered inanely for a few minutes, which had the same effect. I'm no good at estimating distances.

Google Earth to the rescue: As the crow flies, Qumran is 2.97 km from Ein Feshka, 14.23 km from ancient Jericho, and 22.33 km from (and about 4,000 feet below) Jerusalem:

Here's a close-up:
(Click on the picture for a much larger image.)

Seven Good Years

And I hope we're not living out Pharoah's dream.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Colossians Remixed and Gender Hierarchy Part 1

Back in December I was asked how I approach the "apparent hierarchical gender passages" in the New Testament. My comments about "timeless truth" come out of that discussion, but I realize they didn't actually respond to the question. So this is an attempt to address the question by reflecting on Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat's entertaining and thought-provoking book, Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire (InterVarsity, 2004). (If my review seems only indirectly related to the larger question it is because it originated as a panel discussion response to the book at the 2006 meeting of the Canadian Evanglical Theological Association.)

Walsh and Keesmaat describe their work as an “anti-commentary.” It is peppered with references to pop culture and punctuated by dialogue and fictional narrative. As I began to read, I was pleasantly surprised at how consistently the dialogue sections anticipated and responded to my questions—as any good commentary should; the imaginative reconstructions of the first century context of Colossians also call attention to fresh new ways of reading familiar texts. And to its great advantage, Colossians Remixed has a characteristic that many commentaries lack: it is readable. This is good news because Walsh and Keesmaat draw our attention to the social and political implications of the confession “Christ is Lord”—and this is a message that needs to be heard by a contemporary North American church that has so effectively separated spiritual faith from practical life.

The church’s failure to consider the political implications of Paul’s gospel rests in part on what is at least an apparent tension within the writings attributed to Paul. The one who writes that Jesus is “Lord of all” (Rom 10:12) also says: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” (Rom 13:1 NRSV). The one who writes “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female” (Gal 3:28 NIV; cf. Col 3:11), also says “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything” (Col 3:22) and “Wives, be subject to your husbands” (Col 3:18).

Walsh and Keesmaat resolve this tension by reading Colossians over against a reconstructed first-century context in which the Roman empire and the imperial cult figure prominently. Acknowledging the lordship of Christ would have been “downright dangerous” (52), “nothing less than treasonous, a threat to the empire” (54). Because it was not safe to state his subversive message openly, Paul did not explain as clearly as we might like that the lordship of Christ decisively undermines the institution of slavery and fundamentally subverts hierarchy within marriage.

In the next post I will raise some questions about Walsh and Keesmaat's reconstruction, before returning, finally, to a discussion of the Colossian "household code."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Latest favourite blog

Over the past several months, the "blog" I have watched with the greatest anticipation and read even when I should be preparing for class is by Jeremy Kroeker, a former high school class mate of mine, who set out on a motorcycle trip from Germany to Iran in October. He eventually made it to Iran (without the motorcycle). After wandering through Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel--all places I would love to visit in the middle of a Saskatchewan winter--Jeremy is now planning a return trip through North Africa. As well as being a motorcyclist, Jeremy is an exceptional photographer, and a fine (and funny!) writer. Here's a sampling:

I survived the Intifada and all I got was this lousy t-shirt

Secret police, camel meat, and unrelated photos
(from Iran)

Riding with Hisbullah (from Lebanon)

Jeremy's book, Motorcycle Therapy, is also very good.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Egg on my face

Ignore the Greek (in green), faithful English-only reader, and read on for one of my most embarrassing blunders in recent memory...

In Advanced Greek Exegesis last week we stumbled over Psalm 68:32 in the Septuagint (69:31 in English):
καὶ ἀρέσει τῷ θεῷ ὑπὲρ μόσχον νέον κέρατα ἐκφέροντα καὶ ὁπλάς
And it will please God more than a new calf bearing horns and hoofs.
I made no notes on this verse, which means--I'd like to think--that I construed it correctly the first time: The masculine singular accusative participle ἐκφέροντα ('bearing') obviously modifies the masculine singular accusative noun, μόσχον ('calf'). But the participle ἐκφέροντα ('bearing') could also be parsed as a neuter plural nominative or accusative participle, and the appearance of the neuter plural direct object, κέρατα ('horns'), before its verb invites confusion.

As I tried to explain the syntax in front of the class, my hamster fell off its wheel with a thud. I must have assumed μόσχον was neuter at that point, since I tried to parse ἐκφέροντα as a neuter singular participle. This got corrected to a neuter plural participle, the correction was confirmed by a student who had a copy of Bibleworks running in the classroom, and away we went on a non-existent syntactical conundrum: ἐκφέροντα ('bearing') must modify μόσχον ('calf'), but μόσχον ('calf') is singular and ἐκφέροντα ('bearing') is plural. How can this be? I made a note to look into the question and we moved on to the next verse.

Last night I looked at the verse again in Bibleworks. Sure enough, the computer program parsed ἐκφέροντα as a neuter plural participle, so I typed up a clever little query and sent it off to the venerable B-Greek discussion list. A few minutes later I had my reply from the list moderator: "Why do you say EKFERONTA is plural? The fact is that this is the regular form of the accusative 3d sg. masculine participle..."

In short, there is no grammatical problem in the text. My problem was that I failed to slow down and read carefully, and that I relied on a computer program to decide a parsing question.
(For the record, the morphologically tagged LXX in the Logos Scholar's Library has the same mistake.)

In class I can take advantage of the opportunity to join my students as a fellow learner. Making mistakes is a normal part of the language learning process. See, I make mistakes too, etc., etc. On a discussion list the lesson is applied for you. A couple hours later another list member commented:
While Bible Works and other software programs may be truly helpful tools, this little issue highlights that there is no substitute for actually knowing the languages.
Thank you.

The real lesson for me is to give everyone else a break. I've noticed how quick I am to dismiss scholars based on an initial encounter with them or, more often, their work:
  • He's written many books, but the one I happened to read was a dud. Away with him and all his verbiage!
  • He's a big shot, and he sure acts like it too--walking out of the session immediately after giving his paper without staying to listen to mine. How rude!
  • How could the authors not know that Joshua ben Ananias was killed by a Roman projectile instead of by being flogged to death?? It is one of the most fascinating stories in all of Josephus! (See War 6.300-309 for details.)
You get the idea. Of course, people can't be blamed for drawing preliminary conclusions from first encounters, but I hope the lingering sting of my embarrassment will help me remember not to be so harsh when I notice others who should know better making stupid mistakes, and to give the benefit of the doubt when an initial impression leaves me wondering.