Monday, March 31, 2008
My faith earned me infrequent criticism in social settings, but more often it was a source of curiosity and amusement, an outlet of comic relief for my friends who took delight in introducing me at bars or at parties as “the oldest living virgin” or “Jenny the Catholic school girl.” So long as my personal beliefs remained personal, an understanding of sorts existed within our circle, facilitating a kind of unspoken truce: I wouldn’t judge their Saturday nights, they wouldn’t judge my Sunday mornings.
This arrangement worked out nicely for the majority of my college years. Once the initial culture shock of entering into the secular, hyper-sexualized environment of a college campus wore off, I eventually succeeded in numbing my conscience sufficiently in order to avoid the unpleasant side effects of guilt. The right combination of alcohol and socializing did the trick, and so I passed blissfully through freshman and sophomore year with hardly a thought given to the cognitive dissonance I might have experienced, had I been sober. I was having fun, and I was still a “good girl” by anyone’s standards. I had adopted a laissez-faire morality that was not only convenient but compassionate, and I was reluctant to ruffle feathers. Live and let live, that was the ticket to peaceful coexistence, or so I thought.
Now that I'm a few years out of undergrad and a whole lot better-read on the subject, there isn't a chance in hell I'd employ the same relativistic rationalization when confronted with contraceptive use in friends. I've learned that a difference of opinion does not two realities make: my denial of something that is true doesn't falsify it, even when I deny it really loudly. And passionately. With signs and t-shirts and petitions and everything.
When I hear about another patch, a safer pill, a new way to keep what's working properly from working at all, I can't help but wonder... who do we think we are? Yes, we've found a way to successfully suppress ovulation... some of the time. And yes, we've found a way to dispose of the unwanted products of pregnancy (people).. some of the time, but we have yet to discover that elusive switch that completely divorces sex from babies, effectively suppressing - every time - the generation of human life through heterosexual intercourse.
And we've yet to guarantee that when a woman habitually ingests a foreign chemical substance, the effects aren't going to predispose her otherwise healthy body to different forms of cancer, heart disease, infertility, stroke, high blood pressure... We've yet to figure out a way to guarantee that contraceptives aren't vouching for pedophiles and abusers, covering up the evidence of sexual use and abuse of minors. We've yet to figure out a way to guarantee to a woman that, hey, I do respect you and value you as a person, I just want to use you for a few minutes of your time without consequence or evidence. If you fully consent, agreeing to this mutual use? Even better! We can have guilt-free, mind-numbing sex without consequence.
Except there are always consequences. When two people engage in this most intimate act, something happens, no matter how drunk or how indifferent or how professional one or both parties may be. It is impossible to divorce the generation of life from the sexual act. This does not mean that every time two people have sex they are going to conceive a child. But when they do conceive through sexual activity, it should come as no great shock: that means something went right, biologically!
We aren't surprised when we successfully digest our dinners, and vomiting after eating isn't the most effective method of weight control. (Bulimia has actually been known to have adverse effects on the human person, but that's another post entirely.) The solution is not to purge what has been consumed, to undo what has been done... the solution is temperance, restraint, self-control, and a whole host of other strange and unsavory words that induce a collective cultural shudder.
We. (gasp) Can't do that! That's restrictive and oppressive. That will interfere with my plans, my happiness. My reality.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Oh there's a fortune... in abortion
Just a twist of the wrist and you're through.
The population... of the nation
Won't grow if it's left up to you.
In the daytime... in the nighttime
There is always some work to undo.
Oh there's a fortune... in abortion
But you'll wind up in the pen before you're through
Now there's a gold mine... in the sex line
And it's so easy to do.
Not only rabbits... have those habits
So why worry 'bout typhoid and flu?
You'll never bother... the future father
And there are so many of them, too.
Oh there's a fortune... in abortion
But you'll wind up in the pen before you're through.
The book, I suspect, is out of print, but is absolutely riveting:
Aborting America: A Case Against Abortion
Bernard N. Nathanson, M.D. with Richard N. Ostling
Friday, March 28, 2008
My message? Bush Cheney 04. The receptivity of my captive audience? Best evidenced by the key-gouges along the driver's side door. Isn't free speech wonderful?
I was asking for trouble though, pushing that agenda in the halcyon People's Republic of Boulder where they have a different understanding of "the B-word" and babies get eaten while dogs sit at table in cafes and coffee shops.
I did not fit in, and that was evidenced not so much by my behavior, (which was inexcusable, particularly on weekends) or my dress (equally regrettable, but hey, I was undercover...) What was glaringly evident, and what no amount of cursing and keg-standing could conceal, was the blatant ideological discrepancy between my actions and my beliefs, and those of my water-bonging comrades. At least they were practicing what they preached, or, er, what their Nalgene bottles and sweatshirt pins proclaimed.
Anarchy, chaos, tolerance, diversity, co-existence... all euphemisms for "Anything goes... don't judge, me bro." Anything, that is, except for Christianity. God(s) forbid anything reeking of patriarchy, crusades, or misogynistic male-dominance should influence modern thought. It is especially abhorrent to be a woman and to be oppressed by the Man and the Man's religion: I am basically an embarrassment to my gender.
Anyhow, having escaped college, shreds of dignity intact, I began to experience a curious side effect from those years of defensive, machine-gunned retorts to incredulous professors and classmates: I had forgotten how to think. Maybe that's not entirely accurate, but somewhere along the line, it was clear that I'd become somewhat reactive in my reasoning, so accustomed had I become to fighting a losing battle of ideologies.
For four years, there were precious few opportunities I had to reasonably and rationally dialogue with another human being. Rather, I trudged through the requisite lesbian feminology 101 courses, completed my advanced studies in revisionist history of the evil capitalist, and spent the majority of my library hours pouring over texts outlining various deviant sexual behaviors of the 20th century (I was a psych major, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.) For nearly half a decade, I kept my head down and my mouth shut, at least when not being directly provoked. It was easier, I realized, after a semester's worth of naive effort, to write the desired paper on the appropriate topic spewing the acceptable rhetoric, than to explain the grades I received when I ventured outside the lines.
But after college, finding myself thrust back into reality blinking and slightly stunned, it was some time before I returned to any sort of mental equilibrium. I'd venture to say I'm still not quite there, (as evidenced by the blood pressure spike that accompanies commercials for birth control or anything on MTV) but I'm getting there.
"There" being that magical place where ideas are debated freely and reasonably, and everyone is sipping a cappuchinno or a glass of wine as they ponder the merits and logic of a given argument. The place where CS Lewis met Sheldon Vanauken and company for cigars and brandies and vigorous discussions of Hedonism and Atheism and ultimately, Catholicism, (whether or not they recognized it as such) bidding each other fond farewells not with curses and raised fists, but calling to each one as he departed "Go under the Mercy."
That's where I wanted to be - still want to be - and where I thought I was going when I put my first 10 grand down that summer between graduation and orientation. But I didn't find college to be quite the meeting of the minds and the marketplace of ideas I had anticipated. What I found, rather, was a culture in crisis, imbued with the depth and integrity of one of those blaring bumper stickers. What I found was a whole lot of showy activism, lots of protesting and waving of signs and chanting of mantras, but very little... substance. (Not to be confused with substance abuse, of which there was plenty.)
No, here in America, on the hallowed grounds of the University, is where we find the most debauched, deranged, and depressed symptoms of an ailing culture that is gasping its last. As we crumble, intellectually and morally, we're going down from the inside out, and nowhere is that more apparent than within the walls of academia.
What can I suggest for other grads in recovery? A healthy dose of skepticism- real skepticism- a stepping back and examining from afar the ideals and values accumulated over your years of study. A calculated evaluation of the results of actually living relativism, not merely espousing it from behind the podium. Observe people who are practicing what they preach, read some books that are 200, 500, even 1,000 years old... and reintroduce your mind to rational thought. Logic is not dead, it's just been hiding for a few years while you buried your nose in bad philosophy and discovered your own brilliance (while simultaneously realizing your parent's idiocy.) It's not too late for us, the few, the proud, the public-schooled...
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Relativism sucks. And we suck at it. A cursory examination of the above statement is sufficient to demonstrate to even the most ill-formed mind the sheer idiocy and contradiction inherent in a relativistic moral outlook.
Let's break it down, the "expert" is saying:
1. You need to be truthful, however,
2. happiness trumps fidelity, but you must
3. be faithful to "your truth," even though
4. fidelity is impossible, so honesty will have to suffice.
I would argue:
1. Truth cannot be purely subjective. Otherwise, we're dealing with opinion or preference.
2. Happiness is always relative unless it is measured against an objective standard. Even then, free will facilitates differing interpretation of happiness. Happiness, in its subjectivity, cannot function as an objective absolute.
3. Fidelity requires adherence to objective truth. Fidelity to subjective or relative opinions or preferences is better defined as "habit."
4. Human beings posses inherent and objective worth. Fidelity is therefore not only possible, but most fitting.
5. Our society is crumbling.
There is a snarky-ness to the media of late that is more pronounced than usual, more palpable. In wake of former Gov. Spitzer's fall from grace, the coverage on every major network has been relentless, leaving our collective ears ringing with the opinions of "experts" and "specialists" on matters of morality and sexual ethics. Are humans "biologically predisposed to infidelity?" Have we, as a society, unconsciously persisted in the perpetuation of a collective myth surrounding marriage that hearkens to our Puritanical roots? Can I get your number?
One thing is clear, although methinks Jim Cavuto doth protest too much, media figures and celebs are leading the charge to abolish and redefine "marriage," "romance," and "love" to something trendier and trashier, more accessible to the MTV generation. Because only in the normalization of perversity (see Freud's ironic quote from yesterday's post) can the perverse find refuge. It's imperative, then, for those who seek to redefine reality to get other people on board, because there's a reassuring strength in numbers.
That's the reason why laissez-faire morality can't - and doesn't - work. People feel a deep need to justify their bad behavior, even if they deny the very existence of "badness" (or goodness, for that matter.) That's why our TVs insist on informing us that the archaic notions of fidelity and love are DOA, and invite us -nay, incite us- to open wide the doors to change and tolerance and progressive acceptance of anything and everything except for the truth.
Because we are enslaved to our passions. We are in bondage to our bodily functions, and so blind to it that few even desire freedom. Therefore we eschew the truth, embracing comfortable complacency and rejecting even the possibility of freedom. Rationalization is our rallying cry, and we march onward arm in arm, patting each other's back's with the reassurance that "every one's doing it" and "it's completely natural."
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I had to laugh when I read this, and you will too when you discover the man to whom it is attributed. To "serve the pursuit of gratification alone" is perverse? Wow, guess modernity didn't get the memo.
The immorality of contraception is intrinsic, because the irrationality of contraception is intrinsic. No Church doctrine nor medical definition has defined it as such; rather, they reaffirm existing truth, providing clarity where obfuscation has become the rule rather than the exception.
Contraceptive sex is nothing new, and neither is the human propensity toward disordered desire. What is new, however, is the normalization and widespread acceptance of what is a fundamentally unnatural and illogical practice. What other animal frustrates its natural procreative end in pursuit of greater pleasure, possibly at the risk of future fertility? If we're all products of evolution, that makes very little sense indeed.
And if we are more than mere animals? If we, as rational creatures, fall into another category entirely, able to discern and discriminate between behaviors and choices... well then, our decision to contracept selected sexual acts is an act of free will, chosen freely and acted out intentionally!Except, we can't quite control the outcome. Or at least, we've yet to perfect an idealized and absolute control.
We still have "unplanned" pregnancies. The Pill still causes mood swings, weight gain and the occasional cancer. Condoms break, relationships fail, diseases spread... and human beings are reproduced. Against all odds and despite our best efforts to the contrary, sex still equals babies. At least, when everything is operating in proper order. But just as a stomach flu can upset one's digestive system, and a dose of ipecac can induce vomiting, so too can a chemical substance ingested or a sheath of rubber unfurled frustrate the natural end of human copulation: conception.
So I'm guessing I've lost a few readers at this point, no doubt shaking their heads and wondering how such a fundamentalist worldview can possibly even exist in our post-modern, post-enlightenment, post-anything-resembling-reason world.
But I'm just trying to understand this thing from a different angle, wondering if a different point of view can be achieved simply from a different point of reference. Forget the morality and the spirituality of the thing, and ask simply, does it make sense? Does it work? Is it good for us? Is there an objective rightness or wrongness, biologically speaking, which it stands in violation of?Because when it comes down to it, what we're messing with here is far beyond our scope of comprehension, and well outside our area of expertise. For a society so steeped in readily-available information and so accustomed to rapid technological advancement, we ask frighteningly few questions and know precious little about our own bodies.
Just some food for thought: you might want to think twice before you swallow that. An open mouth, like an open mind, tends toward indiscrimination in times of famine.
1. Sigmund Freud, A General Introduction to Psycho-Analysis, trans. By Joan Riviere (New York, NY: Liverwright, 1935), p. 277
Saturday, March 22, 2008
I ask myself this a thousand times a day, though more often in the reverse: fool, why don't you embrace your cross?
The contradiction, the irrationality, the scandal of the cross goes against our fallen nature. There is nothing so unsavory and so uncomfortable as the embrace of suffering, indeed, it is our common striving to avoid suffering that often unites us in our failure to live as He did.
This theology of suffering belongs to that aspect of Christianity (and Catholicism in particular) which is most easily dismissed and misunderstood as sadism. What kind of a God are we worshipping here, anyway? If He's not personally causing our suffering, then He is, at the very least, standing back in grim satisfaction observing our reaction to hard times, extracting remedial obedience for the sins of our ancestors.
Right? This is a reasonable and concise explanation of Christianity, is it not? I mean, as Catholic Christians, we don't just accept suffering, we invite it! We throw our arms open and welcome it, shouting "bring it on, is this the best you got?" And the more hell we go through on earth, the less we have to fear of that hot place in the afterlife.
Except that's not it at all. Our suffering, borne with whatever level of decorum or indignity we choose, is not efficacious on its own. We can't "earn" our way into God's good graces by suffering admirably... our suffering, on its own, is meaningless.
Divorced from the redemptive and restorative suffering at Calvary, human pain and hardship still sucks, but that's all it does. You see, He didn't step into the drama of human history simply to pay a debt to the demanding Father who's keeping tabs from up above. He restored balance to the universe we threw off kilter in the Garden, repairing the tear we rent in the fabric of reality. Our suffering, however great or small, has no meaning of its own apart from the Cross.
Jesus suffered because He had to and because He wanted to, knowing that only His perfect and sinless acceptance of the burden of the natural consequences of sin (disorder) could restore reality (order) to creation. Jesus didn't suffer because God the Father is a sadist. Jesus suffered because something happened in the Garden; in our rejection of reality we distanced ourselves from the God who loves us, preferring our way to His, and embracing an alternate existence of pain and heartache which He never intended but which He will allow us to persevere towards, should we so choose.
It all comes back to free will- ours and His -and that beautiful collision when they intersected in a Man 2,000 years ago. On that cross, on that hill, His free choice redeemed our free choice, restoring order to the universe.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Recently the California State Board of Education adopted a new policy regarding sex ed in their public school system:
"...fifth graders will learn about sexually transmitted diseases; middle school kids will learn about the physical and mental anguish of sexual assaults; high school teens will learn about the morning-after pill and condoms."
Planned Parenthood's Vince Hall likes the new curriculum's holistic approach, "It focuses not just on sexuality as a single item but it discusses healthy relationships, it discusses dealing with alcohol and drug abuse, and it talks about the ways all of those different challenges for our young people are interconnected."
Okay, so now sexual assault is a "different challenge" our young people are facing? What. the. hell... Does no one see how sinister the darkening path of rationalism down which we travel truly is? Normalizing these behaviors, be it premature sexual activity in pre-teens, sexual assault on the playground and in the halls of middle schools, or chemical abortions for promiscuous highschoolers, sends one message and one message only to our kids: Well if you're gonna do it anyway, at least be safe about it.
Except here's the thing, safe sex is a big, fat oxymoron. And it's killing our kids to hear otherwise from the big, fat, moronic adults in their lives. We do them no favors by condemning them to a life of lessons learned "the hard way" or "by necessary experience."
If this is an acceptable and even applaudable parenting style, well then, desiring the very best for my eventual children, I intend to encourage my toddler to eat that and put her finger there and jump off of that, because the last thing I want to do is repress her by my authoritarian suppositions to know and to desire her greatest good.
That being said, if she does want to stick her finger in that electrical socket, well, then as long as she slips on a pair of protective class O electrical gloves first. Not just occasionally, but each and every time she puts her finger in the socket. After all, that's the only way to make absolutely certain she won't get hurt.
Unless, of course, I were to presume to make a judgement on her behavior, deem it unsafe and unacceptable, and dissuade her by any means available to me as her parent from engaging in said unacceptable behavior. Because I am her parent. And because I love her. And because as long as I live, I (along with her father) have been singularly entrusted with her care and upbringing by our mutual Creator, who is probably keeping tabs on the job I'm doing.
And like any other job, parenting has its ups and downs, its days of glory and its nights of terror and tribulation. But unlike any other job, in parenting the worst case scenario does not involve a pink slip, but a death sentence, an immortal soul in peril.
I speak to my future self as much as to any parents who read these words, but your children depend on you for their lives for 9 months before birth, and for the rest of their time on earth following. Don't let them down by buying into the "experience-based," relativistic-anything-goes mentality that our culture exalts... if you know the truth, for God's sake, and for your children's, speak it.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council had the following to say in his March 12th Washington Update: "Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National STD Prevention conference presented research showing that 1 in 4 teen girls (or 3.2 million) have a sexually transmitted infection (STI). In addition, findings from two studies presented demonstrate that of the 15-to-24-year-old women receiving contraceptives, over half are not receiving appropriate counseling, screening, and treatment for STIs. Taken together, these findings represent a simmering STD epidemic among our young people and a tremendous negligence in care for girls most at risk for contracting STDs."
How can this be? We've been teaching a no-holds-barred approach to all things prophylactic, inundating our school-aged children with information on "safe sex," making sure that our girls understand that the Pill "does not protect against HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases..."
But the important thing is that we're not restricting any one's pursuit of pleasure and that no body's beliefs are being forced on anyone else. After all, what 16 year old girl wants to be told by a rigid, sexually repressed authority figure with possible motives involving religion and/or morality that chlamydia is uncomfortable and that the oxytocin released during orgasm is going to bond her to her current boyfriend at a level she may not appreciate 2 or 3 months down the road? Better to let her find these things out on her own, to have the experience for herself.
Because come graduation night, she's going to enjoy sitting in a group with 7 of her closest girlfriends and discussing the increased risk of cervical cancer that 2 of them face, having tested positive for HPV. If only they had gotten the Gardasil shot! But wait, another girl in the group did get the shot, and between that and the Pill she pops every morning, (well, almost every morning) she feels pretty safe. Safe enough to continue sleeping with her boyfriend of 6 months, despite the recurrent "episodes" of physical and emotional abuse he occasionally treats her to. But she feels so close to him, and besides, he really loves her.
I could go on, theorizing about the post-abortive trauma another young woman in their group is struggling mightily to overcome, masking her feelings of loss and grief with an increasing preoccupation with food. Or the incestuous sexual indiscretion in the family of another girl, whose stepfather doesn't need to worry about ever being discovered since she's been on Pill "for medical reasons" since age 12...
Obviously the accounts fabricated above are fictional, but let me assure you that they are historical fiction, based on actual events and individuals I have encountered. These girls are real, their stories are horrifying, and we have failed them in every possible way, turning our heads in feigned ignorance of their plight, so intent are we upon championing and expanding the cherished "reproductive rights" our society holds so dear.
But we're Americans. We're used to our highschoolers under performing a bit in the academic arena. And after all, a 75% is still a C.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Monday, March 10, 2008
Now, if I apply these principles to the natural world, as has been done in generations past, the outcome may well result in the extinction of certain unsavory species which are not immediately advantageous to human survival. Trees, insects, animals... no natural resource is safe once it becomes a valuable commodity or an irritating inconvenience.
But all that's changing, as modern man has begun to appreciate the delicate balance that holds ecosystems intact. We recognize the potentially devastating effect which the destruction of one seemingly insignificant rodent population can have on an entire food chain. And so we conserve. We think long-term thoughts, carefully weighing today's decisions against tomorrow's outcome.
In short, we are practicing delayed gratification, recognizing that the quick fix is rarely without tremendous cost, and acknowledging the value of an investment in the future. We're willing to trade today's good for tomorrow's best, and so we advance as a species, growing in wisdom and strength.
There's one area, however, where shameless consumerism and a mentality of "disposability" is encouraged and even lauded. Ironically, it's the most precious natural resource of all, though one would be hard pressed to find supporting evidence of this in most developed countries.
It's human life. (And before every green hippie who accidentally stumbled upon this sight clicks away in disgust, hear me out.) All that we hold to be good in the natural environment, in creation, takes its goodness from an ultimate good. If not God, than something else, necessarily, must take His place. To be considered good, something must exist in relation to something else, taking its goodness from an objective standard by which said goodness is measured.
I argue that for the godless, humanity is this universal good. Few would be willing to admit differently, and even the most ardently pro-choice environmentalist values his own life over any principle or ideal he might champion publicly.
Abortion is the ultimate proof of this mentality of entitled consumerism that we do so well in America, reducing the human person to a disposable commodity which can be mass produced and discarded at will. If we can demand that the natural world bow down before us and service our needs, why should we not expect similar behavior from our fellow man?
Friday, March 7, 2008
- Barack Obama
Last time I checked, the nebulous principle to which Obama refers, the one he is striving to identify abortion in violation of? How about the right to life? I know, I know, it's a tricky moral issue best left to the careful contemplation of the individual, but you see, when individual autonomy is threatened by, oh I don't know, untimely death, those of us who live must raise our voices.
Yes, even when our "opinions" violate the "rights" of others; even when our "religious convictions" muddy our politics. Because you see, some issues, no matter how unsavory, cannot simply be relegated to the realm of personal belief. By denying the dignity of the weakest members of society, how can we expect to achieve any moral greatness?
How do we generate compassion for strangers dying in deserts a half a world away in a populace that is accustomed to destroying life in its own midst at the slightest hint of inconvenience? We hear a lot of rhetoric about the war in Iraq, about how the truly pro life voter must consider the ramifications of being a dreaded single issue voter and please, for the love of God you simpletons, won't you consider the ramifications of a vote for a candidate who would continue the bloodshed in the Middle East?
Good point. But what about that old adage that charity begins at home, a reality that history has proven time and again? We beg Americans to have mercy, to think of those who suffer at a dreadful cost for our convenience, but we turn away from those in our midst who would inconvenience us by their existence. Abortion is the ultimate entitlement issue, you see, in a world where "individual rights" reign supreme. Yes, by all means, buy that hybrid car and help reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Please, attend that fundraiser in support of war orphans.
And consider not turning a blind eye to the terrorism and the social injustice that is being committed every day in our own land. Consider the fact that one in four of our own brethren will not survive until birth. Consider the eugenic arrogance of assigning value to the life of another human person, based on arbitrary circumstances and events beyond that person's control. Sounds familiar, huh?
Our present capacity for genuine compassion for the human person is retarded by the pervasive spirit of utilitarianism that colors every aspect of modern life. So reluctant are we to tread on the toes of someone else's personal opinion, so reluctant to make a value judgement, we've lost all ability to assign real value or to make sound judgements.
So by all means, keep your beliefs to yourself. Sip your latte, read your morning paper, and sigh heavily over the sterilized reports of violence and destruction filtered to us from across the globe. But by all means, keep your religious convictions out of politics. Stand by in silence while those who are deemed "inconvenient" are exterminated for the greater good. This has worked out nicely for us, as a species, in the past...
Thursday, March 6, 2008
This is solid stuff... More young people, men in particular, need to be confronted with the hard truth on issues of sexuality. Enough of the fluffy crap extolling the virtues of normalcy and popular opinion... truly chaste love is possible only when wed to an authentic possession of self. Possession of self = the ability to offer a gift of self.
This has nothing to do with repression. What is stifling and repressing is the modern misconception that every sexual impulse is intrinsically good in and of itself, and that every hint of desire, every inclination in that direction, must reign sovereign over our free will... what kind of freedom are we promoting here? I am not free when I am enslaved to my appetites, and I am not truly loving someone when I do so out of a biological sexual impulse akin to something one might feel for chocolate at times.
Sexual desire is a natural good, but it is not an end in itself! I was not created as a sexual being in order to enjoy sex divorced from the profound dignity and the mystery of the other to whom my desires direct me... that's akin to saying apples were created in response to hunger, and have no intrinsic worth in their own right. A poor example, but a tangible illustration. You (the other, whether in the magazine spread, in my mind's eye, or in my bed) exist to satisfy my desires, and I will use you in order to do so. Thanks so much.
Yeah, that sounds like freedom.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Honor, (or "ahhhh-nor," as Gary Smalley would put it) is a quality we've all but lost sight of, most notably in our dealings with the opposite sex. While watching Jane Austin's Sense and Sensibility last night, I was deeply affected by the sense of integrity that imbued the lives of each of the characters. And it was no afterthought to them! There was no contrived sense of obligation which constrained their passions... rather, it was their very way of living, an act of the will freely chosen in obedience to existing moral realities.
Fascinating. And largely foreign to my modern sensibilities, I found, while waiting impatiently for the main male character to ditch his fiance for "true love," holding my breath and praying he'd make the right choice, that he'd "follow his heart."
Was there ever a more insidious term than that? Where exactly are we to follow our hearts, if they are not conformed to a greater reality, formed in the image of something or Someone greater than ourselves? Think about it. We reverence and respect, often blindly, the emotions, the affections of the human heart. Is there a more changeable aspect of the human person we might base our most serious decisions upon? I would argue not, and yet modern man clings to the pursuit of passion as the greatest and highest good.
This is the rationale with which many affairs are justified, families are broken apart, promises are violated... something has subverted our sense of honor, of obligation to one another and, ultimately, to God, replacing what was once the noblest aspect of the human person with that which is most base. We've traded free will for feelings, and the crumbling state of interpersonal affairs and human relations is testament to this sad reality.
Austin's characters in Sense and Sensibility captivated me, but not only for their novelty. True, I've yet to encounter many men (aside from my father) who would willingly sacrifice personal happiness in order to honor obligation, and I certainly don't pretend I might be able to practice the self denial and composure exhibited by the eldest Dashwood sister. But their behavior, however foreign, was still haunting for its familiarity.
As impossible as some of the choices, made for the sake of propriety or to honor previous commitments, seemed to my modern sensibilities, there was a recognizable rightness to it all; and with a sense of resignation even I, woman of the the 21st century, was able to accept the difficult truths these characters bowed before.
Yes, difficulties arise in this life - they often do. No, things don't always go the way we plan them to... how frequently this is the case! But the real test of character is here, in the crucible of disappointment, when we decide what our principles are and whether or not they're strong enough to bear our weight.
Monday, March 3, 2008
This legalistic myopia descends as a sort of voluntary blindness on those it afflicts, coloring every decision they make, infiltrating every aspect of their lives. Forget talking about social justice issues; these cretins can't get past the ridiculous notion than an unborn fetus has some claim to constitutional rights. So you see, until they're able or willing to concede on this point, further discussion with them will largely prove fruitless.
At least this is what I imagine one Obama supporter saying to another when, back at campaign headquarters after a long day of pavement pounding, they are debriefing one another and swapping "glory stories." I had the unique opportunity to dialogue with a bright, charming woman on my front porch yesterday afternoon, and it was clear from the expression on her face and the incredulity in her tone, however masked by politeness, that she thought I was a nut job.
Granted, I was flanked by one of my guy friends whom I had entreated to follow me to the door out of fear and curiosity, effectively trapping him in an awkward spectator role for the first 3 minutes of our interaction, and I held in my arms an angry cat who struggled mightily to free himself throughout the duration of our verbal exchange. So in the clipboard-toting stranger's defense, perhaps I did come off a little, well, eccentric.
But the conversation started out so well. She asked for my support of her candidate, and I answered that my pro-life stance was inconsistent with his worldview, thereby disqualifying him from my consideration. She nodded in sympathy and answered that she, too, was pro-life, pointing out the millions (millions?) of deaths in Iraq that the current administration had authorized/caused/underwritten, (it was unclear exactly what her belief was on this point) vowing that Obama would be an agent for change and reform that would improve the quality of life for all people.
All people, we wondered aloud? I asked her about the 42 million American citizens lost during the past 3 and a half decades, and she smiled in understanding and thanked me for being so passionate about my beliefs, acknowledging that abortion was always "a difficult, personal decision on the part of a woman."
At last, some common ground! Abortion is indeed a difficult, personal decision. Ending human life generally is, unless the killer is a sociopath, at which point the difficulty of the decision is somewhat mediated by psychosis.
Throughout the conversation she demonstrated admirable patience and respect for our "divergent world views," but it was the kind of patience one might exhibit towards a dumb animal or a small child. I could almost read her mind: poor, misguided religious zealots. What a shame their black and white morality blinds them to the possibility of utilitarian compromise? Don't they see the greater good that might be achieved for humanity?
Indeed, there are gaping wounds in this broken world of ours, hideous indecencies being committed every day. Children starving, marriages crumbling, rivers and streams being choked by pollution, animals being cruelly tormented.... we live in a continual state of privation. Always there is a good lacking; always there is more to be done.
But where to begin? Here is where our arguments became radically divergent. Because as we encouraged her to consider, unless there is a starting point, an objective moral order governing reality, all else that is good and true is simply a matter of opinion. Reality is not a democracy. It is not within our power to declare that recycling and abortion are simply two of many "issues" on a checklist of causes one might pledge allegiance to.
Until and unless we set the bar for common decency, the ideological battle will continue to rage, and yes, there will continue to be "one-issue voters," incapable of compromise. Real good and real evil are exactly that: real. Nothing that is truly good can come of an origin of evil; it is metaphysical folly and the oldest mistake in the Book.
When will we be able to compromise on the "abortion issue?" Not ever. As long as we live and others do not, based solely upon the calculated or desperate decision of another fallible, created human being, there can be no compromise. Because some compromises are really concessions, and concession to evil is what got us here in the first place.