Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Rescuers Down Under

I found this wonderful site called MercatorNet, which "offers lively news and articles promoting human dignity." What I like best about this site is that the news comes from Australia; the perspective they offer is invaluable.

I wanted to share this article I found as a whole because it is one of the best defenses of the traditional, normative family unit I have read recently, most likely because I can see natural law theory in her arguments. I also like how she uses the UN to support her arguments. Oh snap!

Please tell me you have all seen this movie...!

"12 things your MP never told you about the family…" by Rita Joseph

As the same-sex marriage issue surfaces again in the Australian Parliament, a seasoned human rights advocate and expert on United Nations texts reminds politicians that they have international obligations relevant to this debate. Here Rita Joseph sets out “12 facts your electorate has a right to know before you consult them on same-sex 'marriage’.”

1. Our Federal Government has a solemn obligation, under international human rights law, to ensure that all domestic marriage laws comply with universal obligations in the International Bill of Rights to protect marriage and the family. Under Article 50 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Federal Government has primary responsibility for ensuring that all State and Territory laws comply with universal human rights obligations to protect marriage and the family.

2. Article 23 of the ICCPR guarantees, first, protection by society and the state for the family as "the natural and fundamental group unit of society" and second, "the right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family".

3. In the event of the introduction of State or Territory laws that tamper with these protections, the Federal parliament has a constitutional external powers authority (and duty) to enact a general overriding law restoring marriage and family obligations originally promised in Article 23.

4. This article, according to the UN Human Rights Committee (General Comment 19), "implies, in principle, the possibility to procreate". (A General Comment is the most authoritative of all the prescriptions that may be issued by the UN human rights monitoring bodies.)

5. With specific regard to "the right to marry and to found a family", there is, of course, no requirement to procreate but rather a more exacting requirement for the two rights holders of this right to have "in principle, the possibility to procreate" through their marriage. This term, "in principle, the possibility to procreate", rules out definitively any genuine legal right of two persons of the same sex to marry.

6. The "in principle, the possibility to procreate" requirement relates back to the original protective concept of "special care and assistance" for motherhood, childhood and the family in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 25.

7. This obligation to protect motherhood, childhood and the family is codified in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 7 where our Australian government has promised to ensure and protect "as far as possible, a child's right to know and be cared for by his or her parents".

8. There are no credible grounds for claiming that current Australian laws protecting marriage are discriminatory. International human rights instruments have long recognized the concept of a "special protection" that "shall not be considered discriminatory" (e.g. Convention on the Elimination of All Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Article 4). The significant legal distinction that acquits any Covenant law from the charge of being discriminatory is that it "aims to protect"—the child, the mother, the family...

9. Having ratified CEDAW, Australia is obliged under human rights legal principles codified in this Convention to promote full recognition of "the social significance of maternity and the role of both parents in the family and in the upbringing of children" and to enact laws that acknowledge "that the upbringing of children requires a sharing of responsibility between men and women". The formal human rights language of Article 16 of the Women's Convention links the term "parents" definitively to "men and women" and to "husband and wife".

10. Promoting same-sex "marriage" contravenes international human rights obligations for governments to provide "the widest possible protection and assistance" for the family, "particularly for its establishment" as "the natural and fundamental group unit of society" (International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Article 10).

11. Domestic opinion polls cannot legitimize contravention of the legal protection promised for marriage and children in the foundation human rights instruments. When public opinion is at odds with universal human rights law protecting marriage and children, it is public opinion that must change, not universal human rights law. Public opinion must return to respect for marriage and for every child's right to know and be cared for by his or her parents, in as far as possible.

12. Finally, public opinion, grievously deceived by relentless propaganda, is no basis for changing universal human rights protections for marriage and children solemnly agreed in the Conventions to which Australia is a party. Creative attempts, however popular, to tamper with those protections, are invalid because they contravene the "ordinary meaning" test required by Article 31 (1), General rule of interpretation of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969):

A treaty shall be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the treaty in their context and in the light of its object and purpose.

Rita Joseph is a Canberra-based writer, lecturer and human rights advocate, specializing in philosophy of the language of human rights. As an adviser to various delegations, she has extensive experience in negotiating the texts of numerous United Nations human rights documents. She is author of 'Human Rights and the Unborn Child' (Leiden & Boston, Martinus Nijhoff, 2009)

I suppose one of my few issues with the article, however, is the "possibility to procreate" clause, since in vitro and artificial insemination, while contrary to specific Catholic teaching and Christianity in general regarding human creation and dignity, is becoming increasingly common with married couples, non-married couples (heterosexual and homosexual) and single persons alike. This idea that having children only when one wants one and by any means is, frankly, selfish and disturbing. Children are not pets, nor are they playthings. They are humans, with little bodies and bigger souls, which carries a heavy and awesome responsibility.

For other good articles from MN, I suggest Melinda Selmys' "Reorienting Sexuality" and Tim Cannon's "Marriage to no place for me-too-ism"-- both are wonderful reads.

Also: Friday, Mom and my five siblings went shopping on the secular high holy day that is Black Friday, then came out to the office with Heidi. We had a family lunch at Skyline and then got back to work. Sort of. After all, Heidi was at the office:

Happy first day of Advent!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ah, Oui- J'taime Le Frog Prince

I love this!

"Waiting" by A.M. Juster

The other frogs consider me aloof
And mock each out-of-season mating call,
But I regard my plight as living proof
That faith can foster something magical.
So crouching patiently above the scum
With chin uplifted, eyelids low and still,
I wait for my redeeming love to come.

With numbing numbers cruelly reduced
To caviar for snacking perch and trout,
Dessert for weary birds before they roost
Or toys that idle boys have caught for sport,
It all confirms my sense of destiny.
Someday she will appear to grace this plot
And recognize the manifest in me.

(From Davey's Daily Poetry, which is really wonderful and started by an '08 Hillsdale grad. I recently subscribed to Davey's upon recommendation from a fellow Hillsdalian after describing my growing dissatisfaction with NPR's Writer's Almanac, which I used to read daily and now do not miss an iota. If you are in the market for a poem of the day or week, Davey's is a fantastic resource.)

In tandem, here is a fantastic article from Parabola entitled "Beauty Redeemed" by Trebbe Johnson, who says,

"But in other tales from diverse lands and traditions, beauty is redeemed not by the gods, time, or an antidote, but by another human—like the imperious princess. Those rescuers don’t have superpowers. They can’t turn the tortured victim into some other creature, and, in fact, it would not occur to them to try to do so, since the magic they enact is seldom deliberate. What they can do is change the ugly one back to his or her original—and beautiful—form through purely human behavior. In the process, two people transform: the ugly one whose beauty is redeemed, and the redeemer him- or herself. It is not with the petulance of a princess, but with a knight’s sense of honor, that a human act restores lost beauty in the Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell."

Have y'all heard of or seen the movie 'The Human Experience' by Grassroots Films? Here is the fantastic trailer:

My dear friend Karen and I drove to Ann Arbor our senior year to see a special showing of it and were not disappointed. It follows three guys from Brooklyn on their search of what it means to be human, spending a week homeless in NYC, time down in Lima, Peru with these little, physically deformed kids who have so much joy in their hearts and lepers in Ghana, Africa, as well as sorting through their own personal issues, with Christ at the center. It is amazing, amazing, amazing.

The reason I mention it is because Grassroots Films is offering free shipping for the movie if two or more copies are bought today and/ or tomorrow. I am definitely going to buy at least two: one for me and one for Karen, who is currently a Sisters for Life postulant in the Bronx, which is where Grassroots Films is located. Maybe one more... Grassroots Films have made other fantastic and shorter films like 'Fishers of Men' 

and 'God in the Streets of New York'

I think I watch these short films every couple weeks to months. They are phenomenal, and serves as a witness to the secular culture.

Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to yours! We're having both sides of my family over to my house this year, so that should be a rollicking good time! My favorite parts of Thanksgiving are mass, pumpkin pie, the people time and the nap time. I was going to run in the Turkey Trot this year with a few friends but let's get real: 30+ people at my house does not equate time to frolic for 3.1 miles.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's business, It's business time!

First order of business: Just when I think Fr. Barron couldn't win any more Julie points, he opens his mouth: 

Secondly, my friend Scott wrote/ sang this song and it is haunting and beautiful. I love it and y'all might too:

Thirdly, my big in Kappa, who is also a very dear friend of mine, is moving to South Korea tomorrow. She will be teaching ESL for at least the next year. Please pray for her safe travels and safety, especially since North Korea is now showing aggression towards the South. She will also be keeping a blog called Gaudete, if any of you are interested in following her adventures.

Fourthly, today is my bestest Bear-Bear's birthday! For those unawares, this is the song we've danced to every time we've turned twenty-something:

Finally, keeping my fingers crossed that this paper will be done by tomorrow... then uncrossing them, because that is a terribly difficult way to type. But as a bonus, I changed the background of my blog. I like the updated templates. You like?

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Betsy and Zach, Sittin' in a Tree

For all college friends who couldn't make it to the wedding, and all other gentle readers, here is the missus and the mister, post-wedding ceremony:

Kappas at the cake and punch reception:

Sight-seeing between the reception and dinner:

I definitely sat at the cool table:

All the Kappas!

We're so excited! And we just can't hide it!

Bonus picture: action shot of Heidi licking Muffy's face after she got back from her last performance of The Sound of Music; so adorable.

Today is one of those miserable days in which I am literally bursting to write 16 different articles and must instead content myself to one topic, the one being actual work I get paid for... oh well. Happy Monday!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Volume One! (not the book store in downtown Hillsdale)

On Wednesday, I was sitting at my desktop reading and editing work stuff when I needed a break. Whenever I need a break from reading work stuff, I go read something else.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I usually find some neat things, which presents me with a dilemma: how best to share. I am a big believer in sharing. (I'm the oldest of six kids; sharing is second nature.) Sometimes I post it to FB or my Buzz; sometimes I e-mail a couple friends; other times, I'll just add it at the end of a post. I try not to over-share, though, because life is more than updating the interwebz.

I have come up with a solution to my problem of wanting share all the cool stuff I find: I follow a blog called Conversion Diary, which is written by a woman named Jennifer. She was an Atheist her entire life; then she and her husband started exploring Christianity, decided to look at every Christian church EXCEPT the Roman Catholic Church and so, because God has a wonderful sense of humor, found themselves increasingly drawn to it and became orthodox Catholics. Every Friday, she does a 7 Quick Take Fridays and invites her readers to join in too. I enjoy reading hers but it always seemed a little bit more of a time investment than I was willing to give. I already do the Poem of the Week, which is very enjoyable, but I do not like commiting to something and then not follow through. Life, remember, happens outside.

Nonetheless, today is my inaugural post. I am stoked. I hope you are too! And, in the spirit of sharing, if you my dearest readers decide to do this too, please leave me a link to your post in the comment box. It'll be like a giant game of leap frog and tag at the same time!

1. On Tuesday, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York was elected President of the U.S. Catholic Council of Bishops (USCCB). This is very exciting because Dolan is the second Archbishop not to have first served as VP before being elected President. It is also fantastic news because, as Greg Erlandson wrote at Our Sunday Visitor,

"Archbishop Dolan is, of course, highly popular among his brother bishops, and is recognized as a genial conservative with a strong sense of Catholic identity and a willingness to engage robustly in the issues of the day."

These are important times for the Church, especially with the increasing hostility towards the sanctity of marriage and human life, and it is a blessing to have Dolan in leadership. (Bishops, by the way, have jurisdictions over their Priests and are under Cardinals, and thus answer directly for their diocese to the Pope.)

2. Lis made Cuppy and myself a Thuper Three Homecoming cd and I've been listening to it fairly consistently the past two weeks. This is one of my favorite songs on it: "What I Wouldn't Do" by A Fine Frenzy

It starts, "If we were children I would bake you a mud pie/ Warm and brown beneath the sun/ Never learned to climb a tree but I would try/ Just to show you what I'd done..."

3. My friend Bess is livin' it up in fancy NYC, nannying and blogging about being an [aspiring] writer. She is giving away two moleskins in a CONTEST! Seriously, check it out. Why would you not want a moleskin notebook? They are the bestest!

4. My little sister Muffy is in her high school's production of The Sound of Music. We saw it last night and, of course, she was amazing and hilarious! She is playing Sr. Berthe, the nun who hates Maria. Maybe I am biased, but they needed a whole lot more Muff. I can't wait till her Shakespeare production in March!

5. SHAMELESS JULIE PLUG: my first guest post on The Imaginative Conservative, "Even in Ordinary Times, We Are Not Ordinary," was published and well-recieved, which just tickles me. If you read it, I'd love to hear what y'all think.

6. Today is the feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, whom I picked as my Confirmation Name (which goes after my first and middle name and before my last, thus making my initials JMER). When Catholics enter the Church as an adult (usually in the 7th-8th grade), we take the name of a cannonized saint. We pick the name by praying for the Holy Spirit to guide us to a saint whose life we'd like to live in imitation of; Catholic children read about the lives of saints starting when they are very small, so by the time I was 13, I had read about hundreds of saints but always felt especially drawn to St. Elizabeth.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary was a Hungarian princess who married King Ludwig IV of Thuringia at age 14. They had a very happy marriage, but he died in the Crusades when she was 20. The rest of her life was given to service of the poor, much to her in-laws dismay. They tried to stop her, forbidding her from leaving the castle, etc. Once, when she was taking bread to the poor, a soldier ordered her to open her cloak and when she did, roses fell out instead of the bread she had stowed away! She gave away her wealth to the poor, built hospital and is a symbol of Christian charity. She is the patron saint of bakers, brides, charitable societies, hospitals, homeless people, people in exile, people ridiculed for their piety and nursing homes.

7. Tomorrow is Betsy and Zach's wedding!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I AM SO EXCITED. I was helping Betsy and her parents with programs on Tuesday night and we were just rolling laughing over stories from college. Bets graciously gives me a little credit in her relationship with her soon-to-be husband; for example, my good friend Will and I were study buddies our senior year of college, and as Zach was Will's roommate and Betsy is such a close friend of mine, we provided them ample opportunity to spend time together and have enjoyably productive study sessions. :)

The wedding is going to be a huge reunion of wonderful people. Betsy put me in charge of the Kappa wedding song tradition, too. We'll be singing "Sweetheart" to Zach. I know, I know; they're trusting me not to give a speech... but it is going to be a fabulous time! My family is also hosting eight Hillsdale people stay at our house over the course of the weekend, so I've been preparing for that. We're happy to have them, but it has made for a busy week of cleaning!

Also, this is apparently "Post a Picture of Betsy, Zach and You as Your Profile Picture Week" and I did not, for a number of reasons-- the biggest one being that the picture I would have chosen does not look good small. I'll share it here, though, because it is hands down my favorite picture from senior year (fall break; our scavenger hunt team!):

Photo credit to Will!

I am having a frame engraved with Psalm 27:17 and putting this picture inside, as part of their wedding and house warming gift. (The other half is dinner made by moi and monogrammed notecards for the newlyweds!)

Happy Friday, y'all!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Master, to whom shall we go?

I had my first Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) meeting on Monday. RCIA is what non-Catholics (and Catholics who have not been fully inducted into the Church's sacraments) go through as preparation to join the Catholic Church. I am going to be sponsoring a twenty-something girl whom I will call Kelsey. The first meeting (and next week's) is on the Holy Eucharist.

This prayer was included in the packet of papers we got, and, since it rhymes, I thought it fine to serve as the poem of the week:

"Adoro te devote" by St. Thomas Aquinas (translated by Gerald Manley Hopkins)

Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at Thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth Himself speaks truly or there's nothing true.

On the cross Thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here Thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.

I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.

O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.

Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican;
Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what Thy bosom ran
Blood whereof a single drop has power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.

Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with Thy glory's sight. Amen.

The original Latin does not rhyme, but is still beautiful. The tale of the Pelican is that if a mother pelican has nothing to feed her young, she will bite into her own side and feed her young with her own blood so that they can survive.

The Eucharist is the most important part of Catholicism. We believe the host and the wine, by the power of God, acting through the priest, becomes the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. This happens through transubstantiation, which thus allows us to re-participate in the Last Supper with Christ, who acts as both as the sacrifice and the priest, connecting and bringing together the faithful in the unbloody and heavenly meal, shared in the communion of saints as substantially present nourishment for our souls.

This doctrine comes directly from John 6:30-69:

"So they said to him, "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"

So Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

So they said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen (me), you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it (on) the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him (on) the last day."

The Jews murmured about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven," and they said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, 'I have come down from heaven'?"

Jesus answered and said to them, "Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: 'They shall all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?"

Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."

These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Then many of his disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?"

Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you?

What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.

And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father."

As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"

Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

I love the part where Jesus asks if this shocks them, and how when people turned away, he did not amend his words or say it was just a parable: and this is why, as hard as it might seem to understand, we Catholics accept this great mystery as fact. The accidents of the hosts and wine are completely normal when one looks at them through a microscope, but there is documented proofs of the consecrated hosts bleeding when broken and priests who say that sometimes, while holding up the host, a thin wafer, it grows so heavy that their arms literally shake. St. Padre Pio had to have people hold up his arms during the mass because the Eucharist would get so heavy during the consecration.

The Eucharist is why mass is different than other services. The Eucharist is why I go to daily mass every time I am able, and not just on Sunday. It can mean nothing to people; it can just be a symbol. But believing one way does not make it so. When I was 12, I went to service with my Protestant cousins. Nothing seemed too different until after the service, when the pastor held up the loaf of bread and asked who wanted to take it home. I was horrified. People are supposed to have a personal relationship with Jesus, but he is also meant to be worshipped and glorified. This includes in our breaking bread with him; he gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins-- he gave himself to us, so that we may have eternal life. Who are we to say and preach otherwise? As Flannery O'Connor said, "If it's just a symbol, to hell with it."

Today is Mom's birthday, so we're having dinner and then going to see the opening night of Muffy's play. It's a rainy day and Dad is in Indiana on business. Also, my former OM and myself are starting a campaign against heavy FDA (Facebook Displays of Affection; patent pending). Its slogan is "Write a letter, Not a post!" I know- so catchy! Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Seriously, How am I supposed to work...

...when I have a Heidi at home?!

I really don't know how I have the willpower to leave every morning.

Also, this is my family's latest favorite video:

If only our cats were ninjas too!

Other reasons it is difficult to work: I just found The Decemberists' 2011 schedule. Um, yes please. 

"It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness." --Charles Spurgeon

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fairly High Price for Happiness

This excerpt is from Chapter 17 of Huxley's brilliant 'Brave New World' (as well as the recent addition to the top of this blog).

I always think of Huxley's classic whenever the government starts initiatives to "help" us (especially with this latest concerning the TSA overstep with the man at the San Diego airport); or when Atheists bleet loudly about there being no God in the marketplace and/ or separation of Church and State; or when people start humming/ singing "Imagine" by John Lennon, which is my least favorite song (although perhaps tied with John Mayer's "Waiting For the World to Change")...

The passage is a little long, but chillingly telling and a good read:

"Then you think there is no God?"

"No, I think there quite probably is one."

"Then why? …"

Mustapha Mond checked him. "But he manifests himself in different ways to different men. In premodern times he manifested himself as the being that's described in these books. Now …"

"How does he manifest himself now?" asked the Savage.

"Well, he manifests himself as an absence; as though he weren't there at all."

"That's your fault."

"Call it the fault of civilization. God isn't compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness. You must make your choice. Our civilization has chosen machinery and medicine and happiness. That's why I have to keep these books locked up in the safe. They're smut. People would be shocked it …"

The Savage interrupted him. "But isn't it natural to feel there's a God?"

"You might as well ask if it's natural to do up one's trousers with zippers," said the Controller sarcastically. "You remind me of another of those old fellows called Bradley. He defined philosophy as the finding of bad reason for what one believes by instinct. As if one believed anything by instinct! One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them. Finding bad reasons for what one believes for other bad reasons–that's philosophy. People believe in God because they've been conditioned to."

"But all the same," insisted the Savage, "it is natural to believe in God when you're alone–quite alone, in the night, thinking about death …"

"But people never are alone now," said Mustapha Mond. "We make them hate solitude; and we arrange their lives so that it's almost impossible for them ever to have it."

The Savage nodded gloomily. At Malpais he had suffered because they had shut him out from the communal activities of the pueblo, in civilized London he was suffering because he could never escape from those communal activities, never be quietly alone.

[...] "If you allowed yourselves to think of God, you wouldn't allow yourselves to be degraded by pleasant vices. You'd have a reason for bearing things patiently, for doing things with courage. I've seen it with the Indians."

"l'm sure you have," said Mustapha Mond. "But then we aren't Indians. There isn't any need for a civilized man to bear anything that's seriously unpleasant. And as for doing things–Ford forbid that he should get the idea into his head. It would upset the whole social order if men started doing things on their own."

[...] "But God's the reason for everything noble and fine and heroic. If you had a God …"

"My dear young friend," said Mustapha Mond, "civilization has absolutely no need of nobility or heroism. These things are symptoms of political inefficiency. In a properly organized society like ours, nobody has any opportunities for being noble or heroic. Conditions have got to be thoroughly unstable before the occasion can arise. Where there are wars, where there are divided allegiances, where there are temptations to be resisted, objects of love to be fought for or defended–there, obviously, nobility and heroism have some sense.

"But there aren't any wars nowadays. The greatest care is taken to prevent you from loving any one too much. There's no such thing as a divided allegiance; you're so conditioned that you can't help doing what you ought to do. And what you ought to do is on the whole so pleasant, so many of the natural impulses are allowed free play, that there really aren't any temptations to resist. And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there's always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there's always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your morality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears–that's what soma is."

"But the tears are necessary. Don't you remember what Othello said? 'If after every tempest came such calms, may the winds blow till they have wakened death.' There's a story one of the old Indians used to tell us, about the Girl of M├ítaski. The young men who wanted to marry her had to do a morning's hoeing in her garden. It seemed easy; but there were flies and mosquitoes, magic ones. Most of the young men simply couldn't stand the biting and stinging. But the one that could–he got the girl."

"Charming! But in civilized countries," said the Controller, "you can have girls without hoeing for them, and there aren't any flies or mosquitoes to sting you. We got rid of them all centuries ago."

The Savage nodded, frowning. "You got rid of them. Yes, that's just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether 'tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them … But you don't do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the slings and arrows. It's too easy."

He was suddenly silent, thinking of his mother. In her room on the thirty-seventh floor, Linda had floated in a sea of singing lights and perfumed caresses–floated away, out of space, out of time, out of the prison of her memories, her habits, her aged and bloated body. And Tomakin, ex-Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning, Tomakin was still on holiday–on holiday from humiliation and pain, in a world where he could not hear those words, that derisive laughter, could not see that hideous face, feel those moist and flabby arms round his neck, in a beautiful world …

"What you need," the Savage went on, "is something with tears for a change. Nothing costs enough here."

("Twelve and a half million dollars," Henry Foster had protested when the Savage told him that. "Twelve and a half million–that's what the new Conditioning Centre cost. Not a cent less.")

"Exposing what is mortal and unsure to all that fortune, death and danger dare, even for an eggshell. Isn't there something in that?" he asked, looking up at Mustapha Mond. "Quite apart from God–though of course God would be a reason for it. Isn't there something in living dangerously?"

"There's a great deal in it," the Controller replied. "Men and women must have their adrenals stimulated from time to time."

"What?" questioned the Savage, uncomprehending.

"It's one of the conditions of perfect health. That's why we've made the V.P.S. treatments compulsory."


"Violent Passion Surrogate. Regularly once a month. We flood the whole system with adrenin. It's the complete physiological equivalent of fear and rage. All the tonic effects of murdering Desdemona and being murdered by Othello, without any of the inconveniences."

"But I like the inconveniences."

"We don't," said the Controller. "We prefer to do things comfortably."

"But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."

"In fact," said Mustapha Mond, "you're claiming the right to be unhappy."

"All right then," said the Savage defiantly, "I'm claiming the right to be unhappy."

"Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen to-morrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind."

There was a long silence.

"I claim them all," said the Savage at last.

Mustapha Mond shrugged his shoulders. "You're welcome," he said.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Oh College Days, What Art Thou?

I do not often respond to other posts, but my fellow Happydale classmate Kiernan recently posted a blog subtitled “What I learned (and didn't learn) in college.” It was inspired by a column in The Guardian and an e-mail from her sister, who asked her how to get straight A’s.

I did not go into college ever thinking I would leave with straight A’s. And I didn’t. That doesn’t mean I slacked off in my studies; major au contrair, mon amis! Academics have always been very important and prioritized in my family. I simply decided and did not allow my studies to completely devour or define me. That isn't living, nor is it college.

Senior year: I FINALLY got Bear to a football game!
I gave my time to other things, like the Hillsdale Forum, Kappa, babysitting my advisor’s kids, RAing for two years in Mac, coaching a little girls’ soccer team, playing soccer, serving as Social Chair for both Catholic Society and the American Studies honorary, pulling pranks, becoming friends with my teachers, getting published, eating cheese, etc.; all the while, enduring constant, jesting mockery for "never leaving the library" from my fellow classmates. (Or so it seemed; I am rawther partial to libraries.)

I suppose the major thing I noticed missing from her evaluation, however, is the need for perspective. Learning in college does not mean having a perspective but gaining one. Mark Steyn once told me he was going to teach me to shingle a roof because writers need perspective. How can one get perspective, however, without the urgency and adgitation that there is more to do and more to learn? Pushing one's limits, either physically or intellectually, can help one know more, by doing, not simply being.

For example, Kiernan instructs her sister in all-caps to NEVER pull an all-nighter. I say, why not? My sister Kato has only pulled one all-nighter and it wasn't even for academic reasons. (It is also a really, really funny story to listen to.) My college career, on the other hand, could easily be defined by the ceaseless all-nighters my roommate Bear and I pulled and my participation in the infamous “graveyard shifts” of American Studies majors.

This is not an endorsement of all-nighters; they were often painful, and always caffinated. A person has to be mentally prepared for it. My first all-nighter freshman year was horrrible. I felt terribly ill by the end of it. The second one was better, and the hundredth one was second-nature, with typing away at 6 a.m. and hearing the birds chirp always a pleasant surprise, as in, look what I'm doing! But this is what worked for my schedule, and I figured that out by doing it, is my point.

Our room in the last month of college... at least we passed our comps and successfully defended awesome theses!

Secondly, Kiernan defined college as “necessary, interesting, and not-overwhelmingly-pleasant chapter in my life.” She said, “I loved my professors at school, I loved the books that I read, I loved my friends. They were the bright lights that often got me through a dark day. But, I did not love college. It was not everything I expected it to be. Unlike many people, I will never consider it the best years of my life.”

I do not disagree with her description overall; but really, only people like Tom in F. Scott's 'Great Gatsby' peaked in their undergrad years. College isn’t “the” best years, but they are some of the best. I made more mistakes in college than I did in years before. I faced challenges and grew as a person. I was faced with adversity to my faith, and found the courage to stand firmer; I found fellowship and knew truth. I learned not to think, but to think better and more analytically.

College gave me my sea legs, essentially, through joy and sorrow, tears and laughter. It is because of these experiences that I can fondly return to this second, Happydale bubble with a strident step in my walk, and be glad I am gone from the place; for, "we shall not cease from exploration/ and the end of all our exploring/ will be to arrive where we started/ and know the place for the first time." College prepared me to move forward; it is a means, not an end, in life. It is a good, not a best.

Still, it delights me to know Kiernan and I both picked Hillsdale for the same reason: I too “decided that I would go there to learn how to become a writer.” (And a few other things, too!)

Her "don't" list echoed my collegiate career: I got wrapped up in socializing; I took way too many credits; I took classes I didn't feel comfortable taking; I didn't willingly pick sleep; I studied fairly well under pressure; I studied mostly with people. I didn't get all A's, but I did well. My roommate was a Biology/ English double major and Art History minor, so there wasn't much room for slacking during college-- just lots and lots of random dance parties.

Bear and Bird as sophomores
I won’t rehash all of Kiernan’s points, except for this one list—

"Things I Did Not Learn At College (and that you therefore should not expect to learn)":

1. How to be creative
2. How to enjoy literature (or history or art or music) more deeply as a person, not an intellectual
3. How to write, not merely according to the rules, but with my own panache and flair
4. How to enjoy learning
5. How to be a life-long learner

Why do I quoth the raven-haired one? Because it is here that we truly part paths. Because this is the list of things I take from my four years in college. This was my endgame. That was not her's. And that's okay. That's the beauty of a liberal arts education. It gives different people different experiences while using the same system and foundation.

John Henry Newman said the purpose of a liberal arts education is to "open the mind, to correct it, to refine it, to enable it to know, and to digest, master, rule, and use its knowledge, to give it power over its own faculties, application, flexibility, method, critical exactness, sagacity, resource, address, [and] eloquent expression..." But more than that, this type of education helps each student, if they will so take the path, to understand what it means to be human. To be a human is to be a child of God; and there is nothing less sacred than the undertaking of getting to know him through his children, whom are made in his image. No book in the world can treat a person with compassion like a human can; no book can be a friend like another human can; no book can touch a soul and change a life the way another human can. It was in these ways that I have been conditioned and treated, alongside my mind, at college.

But can I revise number ten? By removing the word "never"?: "Can I repeat - PULL AN ALL-NIGHTER! ESPECIALLY BEFORE AN EXAM!"

Ah, that's better. If you don't know, you're just going to have to trust me on that one. It's definitely an experience worth having!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Some Things Never Change

Because it is Friday:

(From Hannah's tumblr; H/T DF)

A classic-- "The Wild Rover" performed by The Dubliners:

Then The Dubliners and "The Irish Rover":

Don't forget to clap along! :)

Today is Friday, the day I plan to finish the draft of my what-is-to-be my most widely read paper-- a white paper, to be exact. A white paper is a position paper. What am I taking a position on? Oh you'll never guess. I can't think if I've ever mentioned it before...


Oh yes. Please, contain your excitement. Although, really, I am excited. This paper is forcing me to write completely for a different audience: people who own trucking companies. Not academics. Not 10 second attention span news readers. My readers will be thousands of businessmen who do not fiddle faddle with politics and the he-said, she-said. They just want to know how the new laws and regulations are going to affect them. They want to sustain their business and be successful in the short and long-term. 

The trucking industry is getting hit hard these days, especially by the EPA. Do you know the trucking industry is the third largest employer of people in the country? And do you know that 7 percent of trucking companies have gone bankrupt in the past three years? And do you further know that if companies do 1031 exchanges, they do not have to pay one cent in taxes on their like-kind exchanged goods? 1031 exchanges have been around since 1921 but when the economy is good, people are not always looking for ways to save. And that's where my white paper comes in; it's going to be issued to thousands of trucking company owners and their financial advisers, giving them the ins and outs of 1031 exchanges, which is better known in real estate circles.

So that's what I've been working on the past month.

I've also been listening and watching things like this: I love, love, love how this little kid conducting Beethoven-- he gets so excited! (And sometimes stays on beat, too):

Also, the testimony of these two collegians is so encouraging and beautiful:

St. Mary's - College Station, TX from on Vimeo.

(H/Ts to Aggie Catholic)

Today marks one week and a day until half a Baker's Dozen Hillsdale people descend on my house for B and Z's wedding...! I've been dress shopping, because I have another Kappa wedding in December, so DF and I have been pursuing the good and the beautiful at J.Crew. The colors we like best are "spiced wine" and "vintage blue." Something like this:

or this:

Not terribly exciting, I know, but decisions, decisions...

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,/ Little breezes dusk and shiver

Mrs. S and I were talking about Anne of Green Gables this weekend and this poem came up; it was a favorite of Anne's and the first long poem I memorized as a child:

"The Lady of Shalott" by Alfred Lord Tennyson

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow veil'd,
Slide the heavy barges trail'd
By slow horses; and unhail'd
The shallop flitteth silken-sail'd
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early,
In among the bearded barley
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly;
Down to tower'd Camelot;
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers, " 'Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott."

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot;
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad
Goes by to tower'd Camelot;
And sometimes through the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two.
She hath no loyal Knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot;
Or when the Moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed.
"I am half sick of shadows," said
The Lady of Shalott.

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazon'd baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armor rung
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn'd like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro' the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, burning bright,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow'd
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror,
"Tirra lirra," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining.
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower'd Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And around about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river's dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance --
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right --
The leaves upon her falling light --
Thro' the noises of the night,
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turn'd to tower'd Camelot.
For ere she reach'd upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and Burgher, Lord and Dame,
And around the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? And what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,
All the Knights at Camelot;
But Lancelot mused a little space
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott."

Ah-- so beautiful! Here is a video of Anne reciting it...

...right before her boat floods and Gilbert Blythe finds her and says, "Anne Shirley! What in the heck are you doing?" Classic.

Happy 11/11! One more year till the triumvirate!