My Christmas

This Christmas season was quite enjoyable all things considered. It started out with a bang by producing this wonderful film, spreading Christmas cheer and cookie dough with Justin and Peter Brown:

Around the middle of the month, I flew to Colorado to visit my family. As I mentioned before, I had not seen most of my family members in that region for over a year. It was really good to catch up with everyone. The first thing I noticed right away was that I am short. As you can see by this highly unflattering picture to all parties,  my nieces, Katie and Constance, have surpassed me in height by at least a good inch or two.

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However, I was somewhat mollified to note that my oldest niece, Kristen, is still shorter than me:

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IMG_0566I enjoyed meeting my sister and brother-in-law’s new dog, Gretel. If Gretel could speak, she would probably introduce herself thusly, “Hi! My name is Stop That. Sometimes they call me Stay and Get Back Here. Mostly they just call me, “Awe, You’re So Cute!” She is very cute and enjoys hanging out on my niece’s comfy bed.  IMG_0571Or really any place that involves cozy blankets and padding.

IMG_0554I had my heart warmed by the gifts my nieces thoughtfully bought or made for me. They don’t have a lot of spare money lying around and having them spend what little they had on me showed me what generous and kind young ladies they are becoming.

Remember in my last post, how I said that for all I knew, I could be walking into a trial next week? Well, I found out what it was already. A number of years ago, probably five or six, I had almost constant abdominal pain which my doctor told me was irritable bowel syndrome. I’ll spare you the gory details, but IBS is pretty miserable. Through some supplements and tender loving care, I became symptomless, to my great relief. This last month, though, most of my symptoms came back with a bang, and I found myself feeling pretty under the weather throughout my entire Christmas vacation. Thankfully, I had a few hours each day where things subsided enough to enjoy my family and go on a couple of outings. But I still don’t feel quite right and I would appreciate your prayers. I’ve got to return to my full work schedule next week, and I don’t especially look forward to dealing with all of my current problems while teaching. At the same time, I was encouraged by the growth I saw in myself by the way I responded. No, I wasn’t completely cheerful and grumpy-free and I could have responded better, but over all, I did respond to my situation far better than I would have five years ago. I’m praying that the Lord will help me to grow even more through this return of symptoms.

In spite of all that, I enjoyed this Christmas vacation so much. My nieces and nephews are growing up so much and it is tremendous fun to see how much they’ve matured.

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Or something like that. Happy New Year to all!

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Sing!

nativityI don’t know how much overlap there is between those who read my blog and those who follow me on Facebook. If there is, some of you may have noticed that I’ve been putting up videos of myself singing Christmas carols every evening for over a week, and I promised last time that I would tell you why. (If you’d like to watch them, you can scroll to the bottom and have a listen.)

Well, the short answer is that I wanted to give you something for Christmas, and a video of some sort seemed the best possible way to reach as many of you as possible. The long answer is a bit more complicated and only just came to me in a fuzzy way after I began my Twelve Days of Carols project.

The last couple of years have been difficult for me. Without dwelling too much on details, I can say that I experienced heartache a couple years ago, which seemed to color most everything. Life looked pretty bleak, lonely, and uninspiring. After that happened, I more or less stopped singing. Sure, I sang at church, but I didn’t sing much of my own accord. Where before songs were on my mind and in my mouth just about all the time especially as a teen and in my early twenties, they just weren’t there anymore.

Right now, I feel almost back to normal. Emotionally, that is and however you define “normal”! God has given back the joy of living. And while I doubt anyone completely “gets over” heart pain, mine has to a certain extent scarred over and sunk to the bottom instead of waiting to boil over at the least hint of a memory. I have begun to sing again. At home, in the car, washing dishes, and even at the store (not loudly mind you)! Much of that has been born of self-discipline, but now I do have songs randomly coming to mind often.   That’s a nice phenomenon.

As I began to post my Christmas carols last week, I began to ponder. I know that life is a series of testing, trials, and temptations. Some are easier to deal with than others, but it seems that we grow the most through the hardest. God wants us to grow, so it shouldn’t be surprising when hard trials come. I know I need to be prepared for the next round. One of the few constants in life is that they will come. For all I know, I could walk into one next week. Next time, though, I don’t want to stop singing. I want to sing through it, even if my heart is breaking. God deserves to be praised whether I am happy or not. In His mercy, obeying Him through praise is one of the most comforting tools for people in distress. Singing about Him reminds us of who He is and that He keeps His promises to provide for us, never leave us, or forsake us.

So that is my goal for the coming years—to keep singing. As I’ve been putting up my Christmas carols lately, it occurred to me that putting up videos might actually be a practical way of making sure that happens. One a day would be a bit much to sustain, but I may commit to one a week. How does that sound to all of you?

I know that what I’m writing isn’t exactly Christmassy, but in another way it is. What better season to sing than at Christmas time? I hope you will carve out some time during this festive day to gather your family around and sing some Christmas carols. The Incarnation is something to sing about. Sing through the pain, the tears, and the disappointment, because Jesus is here with us. Without His coming there could be no time to look forward to without any pain, tears, or disappointment. Merry Christmas!

Christmas Travels

A few hours from now, I’ll be on a plane to Colorado. It’s been a year since I’ve seen my parents and over a year since I’ve seen most of my nieces and nephews. Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to spending time with them, meeting my sister’s new German Shepherd puppy Gretel, reading good books (my brother-in-law always has a good supply of them), eating lots of food, and taking goofy pictures with my nieces and nephews. Last time I was there, a huge wildfire got started. I don’t think that’s liable to happen in the middle of winter, so I’m hoping for a less eventful visit in that regard.

One of the aforementioned goofy pictures...
One of the aforementioned goofy pictures…

One thing I’ve especially enjoyed about being an aunt is filling up stockings for nieces and nephews. If you haven’t shopped for stocking stuffers before, you really should. It’s tremendous fun. The last time I was in Colorado for Christmas, we couldn’t find the Christmas stockings. After searching high and low to no avail, my dad and brother-in-law volunteered their own socks for the cause. (They were freshly cleaned.) Aesthetic appeal lost out, but a good time was had by all.

My dad is the ultimate stocking-stuffer guy. He was the one who shopped for my brother and I most years. He was never content merely to fill stockings. He had to wrap each object before it went in. And when I say wrap, I mean wrap—colorful paper, tiny bows, and the whole nine yards. Nothing, not even a pack of Black Jack gum, escaped the treatment. Throughout the years, I unwrapped tiny packs of Kleenex, chapstick, boxes of Boston Baked Beans, Good and Plenty, and trinkets of all sorts. Stockings were my favorite part of opening presents and I usually saved that for last. In fact, I am of the mind that one never gets too old for stockings. Did you hear that, Dad? Hint. Hint.

At any rate, Tuesday was my packing day. Who am I kidding? I just finished up about ten minutes ago because I’m that disorganized. I approached it in the most disjointed fashion. I had clothing strewn all over the bed, trying to make sure I didn’t forget anything important. I tend to forget important things like pajamas, toothpaste and the like.

I wonder how much bigger they'll look?
I wonder how much bigger they’ll look?

I should finish up here because I need to clean up after the packing mess, throw another load of laundry in etc… But before I do, I wanted to mention that I’ve been posting videos of me singing Christmas carols every evening, and I intend to do that until Christmas Day. I hope they are a blessing and an encouragement to you. Hopefully next week, I’ll write and explain how the idea came to me and why I decided to do it. In the mean time, enjoy!

Dad Said I Was Pretty

the-princess-diaries-miaA few days ago, I was talking to my sister, Monica, on the phone about our bringing up and how thankful we were for the many things our parents did right. The context for this discussion was a memory I had. A girl I heard of who had grown up in a loving, well-intentioned home where the father, thinking he must prepare his daughter for what her life would inevitably amount to, told her that she would probably never get married because she was not pretty. Just thinking about that makes my gut sink to the floor. He meant well, but it was such a damaging thing to say. I also mentioned an article that I’d read by a woman whose husband, contrary to all her protestations, told her she was beautiful every morning before they got out of bed. She went on to describe in humorous terms what she usually looked like every morning—messy hair, sweatpants, stretch marks from carrying three children, extra girth around the waist…you get the picture. Yet to her husband, she was a beautiful, beautiful woman. I scrolled down through the comments, and most of them were lovely. But there were also a few that smacked of the “spirit of the age.” “Seriously, there’s no reason to let yourself go like that. Your husband would probably like it if you lost some weight. He’s just too nice to tell you.” Most heartbreaking to me was the woman who wished her husband would act towards her like the husband in the article. Her own husband was distant and had lost interest in being close to her emotionally or physically. He was, in fact, saving up his money so she could get a tummy tuck.

Backtrack with me about seventeen years. Thirteen-year-old Amanda stands in front of the mirror. Staring back at her is a huge pair of thick glasses, a smattering of pimples over whatever face isn’t covered by the glasses, a smile that reveals some crooked teeth, clothes that stick out in every awkward direction because she’s too skinny for most of them to drape nicely, a flat chest, and…oh, those glasses. Just like Anne Hathaway in the Princess Diaries, she finally sighs and mutters, “Well, as usual, that’s about as good as it’s going to get.”

She walks out into the kitchen where her family is gathered for breakfast. Her Dad looks up, smiles, and says something along these lines, “You’re so pretty, Amanda.”

Incredulously, she shakes her head, sits down at the table and begins to eat.

Talking to my sister on the phone the other day, we remembered how similar events played themselves out over and over. In spite of our protests, Dad told us over and over again how pretty we were. Often, he upped the ante and told us we were beautiful. Monica said, “Of course, I never believed him.” Neither did I. Why? Who knows. We silly females focus on one or two features we don’t like and forget everything else, I guess. We want, so desperately, to believe that we are lovely, but will contradict anyone who tells us we are. It’s a way of curbing disappointment before it happens, I think. Still, I could see the sincerity in my dad’s face whenever he told me I was beautiful. And even while I shook my head, I still thought to myself, “Well, Dad thinks I’m pretty, so maybe I really am.” Sometimes a little glimmer of hope is all you need.

Now that I’ve been out of my “awkward stage” for quite a few years, I’ve just realized how important my dad’s words of praise were and how they protected me. Those words enabled me to reject the desire to seduce that I believe every girl is born with and every girl, physically plain or beautiful, is capable of. When I am loved and found beautiful, there is no need to seek out the attention of short-sighted men with alluring glances and clothes designed to draw their eyes where they don’t belong. Later on, those words kept me immune to the men who make a practice of flattering in exchange for favors. I can tell the difference between sincerity and lust.

Dads should always tell their little girls that they are pretty. Even if the physical symmetry is not there, a good dad knows a secret—the image of God makes everyone beautiful and love can see that beauty. A human being is so much more than the sum total of his brains and body parts—it’s a soul, and that’s where its beauty resides. I would suggest to you husbands who cannot see the beauty in your wife’s tired body that the fault is not in your wife but in your ability to love. I would suggest to you wives who are secretly pining for a six-pack and gigantic biceps that the problem is not in your husband’s limited muscle tone. The problem is in the quality of your love. The good news is that while we may have a very hard time staying in shape, there is no limit to the ways our love can grow. And you may be very surprised to find how little buds can bloom when love is strong.

When We Are Rude

Grumpy_learning_Thai_cultureA few days ago, I got in my car and drove to the local Discount Tire store in Benton Harbor. I had been putting off the inevitable for quite a while. The car I bought last summer had some worn-out tires on it. After slipping and sliding round during the first two snowfalls of the season, I decided I needed to buy all-season tires. So off I went with my laptop in tow. I knew I’d have a long wait, because there are always plenty of poor suckers like me who don’t think ahead of time and clog up such places of business at the last minute. So I decided I’d work on a writing project while I waited.

I got in line, waited a while, talked to the nice man at the desk, and sat down to wait for my car’s turn for service. It was a very long wait. About two hours, in fact. The guys in the garage were doing the best they could, but they had too much business to keep ahead of. I was far from bored. I had my work to do and sailed along just fine until…Mrs. Crabby-Pants walked in. I shall call her MCP for short. MCP had been in earlier, dropped her car off, and gone away to do some errands. She was scandalized that her car had not been attended to yet. She regaled all of us in the sitting area by raining caustic comments at the poor service man at the front desk, which he handled very well.

MCP: Where’s my car in the line up now?

Guy at the desk: You have four cars ahead of you.

MCP: What!

Guy at the desk: Well, I did say you’d have quite a wait when you came in this morning.

MCP: That was an hour and a half ago. You said it would be an hour and a half.

Guy at the desk: Actually, I estimated two hours.

MCP (huffing): Well…

Guy at the desk: It shouldn’t be too much longer now.

MCP: You should have more people working in the bay.

Guy at the desk: We’re kind of at capacity.

MCP: I only saw four guys out there.

Guy at the desk: There are more than that, but they do a lot of running back and forth to grab parts. That’s probably why you aren’t seeing more all at once.

MCP: Well…

At a loss as to how to proceed after all her favorite objections had been thoroughly answered, she turned to the guy sitting next to me and tried to engage him in a friendly conversation. He complied, and we had a few moments of peace. I returned to my writing and nearly tuned out of the conversation going on to my left until a few words sparked my attention.

MCP: I kept hearing this voice telling me to turn around.

Dude: Seriously?

MCP: Yes, and I wouldn’t do it because it felt so silly.

Dude: Then what happened?

MCP: I finally turned around and felt something whizz by me.

She finished her story by saying that the voice commanding her to turn around had saved her from certain injury or death by a flying, blunt, metal object of some sort. She began to nod her head sagely, while the dude expressed proper amazement.

MCP: God is good.

Dude: Yeah.

MCP: God is good ALL the time.

Over in my seat, I had to choke down an overwhelming urge to laugh. I wondered if the notion that God was good all of the time had suddenly occurred to her while she was inconvenienced at the tire shop, or if He was only good all of the time when He kept her from injury. I had my answer a few minutes later when she approached the desk and made her complaints known all over again.

The wheels began turning as I contemplated what had just taken place. I had heard a self-professed Christian first make life miserable for about twenty minutes, then I heard her give praise to God, and then, not ten minutes later, begin complaining all over again. If the irony of the situation made me, a Christian, laugh and shake my head, what was it going to do for the professed atheist, the skeptic, or your average I-don’t-know-what-I-believe-just-pass-the-beer Joe on the street? If I were one of these, I wouldn’t be able to take her seriously or listen without a smirk when she told me I needed to repent, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. I’d probably say something about cognitive dissonance if I were some kind of intellectual. If I weren’t intellectual, I’d just tell her she was a big, loud-mouthed hypocrite.

And then, I began to think about my own cognitive dissonances–the many ways that I profess one thing and live another. As a matter of fact, as soon as I got back home, my brother and I got into a heated “discussion” concerning our differences (we’re pretty much polar opposites) and had to apologize to one another afterwards. Sigh.

I guess the point of all this is that when we use Christ’s name in connection to ourselves, we become His ambassadors whether we like it or not. Because of that, people get a very distinct impression about who He is by the way we behave. That’s a frightening and sobering thought. Mrs. Crabby-Pants at the tire shop painted a very poor picture of Christ’s beautiful character, and frankly, the picture I painted when I went home was pretty ugly too. My behavior either exalts or lowers God in the eyes of everyone around me. Thankfully, He can still glorify Himself when I fail and even through my failures, but I should always aim as high as I can for Him.

 

 

 

 

Thanking Thee

A few years ago, my sister asked my dad to write a Thanksgiving song for the children’s choir at High Country Baptist Church, a church her husband pastors. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good recording of the song. You’ll have to take my word for it that Dad wrote a lovely melody. But he also wrote the lyrics, and this is how they go:

 “Oh, Heavenly Father, grant that we

May ever rightly thankful be,

Forgive us, Father, when we fuss

And fail to show our faith and trust,

Thanking Thee. Thanking Thee.

When You let troubling times arise,

And bitter tears come to our eyes,

Teach us to praise instead of wail,

And let our thanks to Thee set sail

To the skies, to the skies.

Oh, let us ever grateful be

To Thee, now, and eternally.

And let our voices sweetly ring

When every day we rise to sing

Thanks to thee, thanks to thee.”

This was specifically written for children, but when you think about it, Christians are all children to God. And it’s remarkable how like children we can act when things don’t quite go the way we want them to. We adults have more sophisticated ways of wailing and fussing and stamping our feet, but the underlying attitude is the same. We don’t trust and we think we know more than God does. It is hard to see our lives through God’s lens. He doesn’t often let us in on His designs for us, at least not at first. So like my music students who sometimes chafe and grit their teeth when I make them count and play or say their note names and play, we protest and buckle under the mundane, the waiting, and the pain God sends for us to bear. Just as my students don’t understand what the discipline of counting and saying note names is doing for them in the long run, I can’t figure out why God won’t just snap His fingers and make me mature instead of putting me through His paces. Yet, He tells me to give thanks whether I understand or not. But many times I don’t feel thankful at all, and I’m hard pressed to think of anything to be thankful for. How do I do it!

Last Sunday night, I was sitting in a church service listening to a Pastor preach through Psalm 100. He mentioned something about how thanksgiving is closely related to confession of sin. At that remark, I tuned in a little closer. He continued to say that when giving thanks is mentioned in the Bible, it closely follows repentance and confession. Why? Because of God’s forgiveness. The greatest reason for thankfulness is not the car God provided for me, my physical needs being met, my possessions, or my family, though I ought to thank Him for those things. The ultimate reason to give thanks is salvation and the forgiveness God offers when we become repenters—the very first time and all the multitudes of times after that. So, if my dog dies, the car breaks down, someone hacks into my computer and steals my identity, my boss fires me and I don’t know how I’m going to pay the bills, there is still cause for thanks left to me. Because God’s forgiveness is a perpetual reality and eternal life is mine right now, I can give thanks while I’m saying my “note names.”

So, with that I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.

Serve the Lord with gladness:

Come before His presence with singing.

Know ye that the Lord, He is God:

It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves;

We are His people, and sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gate with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise:

Be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.

For the Lord is good;

His mercy is everlasting;

And His truth endureth to all generations.

Psalm 100

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It’s a Cold, Cold Day

imageIt’s a cold, cold day in St. Joe and a lot of other places. The wind is blowing icy breezes off the lake and it’s been snowing most of the week, though not much is accumulating here. Drat this fall! There are still a whole bunch of leaves on the trees in our yard and a whole bunch on the ground under a thin layer of snow. That should be fun to clean up. I had hoped the snow would hold off until late November at least. It couldn’t be bothered to wait my convenience, though. Oh, well. My brother’s little house is stout and warm and doing an excellent job of staving off the wind and cold. I am glad of that. Last winter, the apartment we lived in was cold almost all the time. Makes me shiver just to think of it! Houses are so much nicer.

Last weekend up until today was very busy in a good sort of way. I had the unexpected pleasure of hosting my older sister from Friday until this morning. Pastor’s wife and mom of six kids, she saw a brief opportunity to visit us and took it. I haven’t seen her in the flesh since the summer before last, and it was so nice to have her here even for a little while. We all had a lot of good talks and a lot of encouragement in the faith. Plus Monica got to attend one of my orchestra concerts for the very first time.

Speaking of which, the concert went so well. As I said last week, it was one of our hardest programs. Not THE hardest, but definitely difficult. Our soloist, Jun-Ching Lin pleasantly surprised the violin section by joining us to play the Stravinsky in the second half of the concert. This after giving a stellar performance of Prokofiev’s first violin concerto. That was fun! So now I have one more major violin part more or less under my belt, which is satisfying.

Sunday and Monday, I got to spend a lot of time relaxing and visiting with friends and family. I haven’t been able to do that in a very long time. After being this spoiled, I’m having a hard time getting back to normal. But I must! I have a Conciliar Post article to write and not a clue about the topic. Time to brainstorm.

Until next week, stay warm and don’t be grumpy about the weather!

 

 

Concert!

557706_10151824777009424_470042064_nToday I write to you from a used 325 dollar Macbook Air. For the last several years, I have been doing my work on a faithful Toshiba laptop, bought for me by a friend when I was really, really poor. Well, last Friday it met its end through some dreadful malware and, judging from the way it was acting, an assortment of viruses. It literally happened in the space of two or three hours. So I harrumphed and grumped and groused for the next hour until my friend, Seth Haley, most likely tired hearing about it, took it upon himself to search Craigslist for a used Mac. He located one in Mishawaka for an exceptionally good price that evening. The next day, Justin and I zipped up there, paid for it and zipped back. It works beautifully. I’m so thankful to have found something so quickly and for just the right price. I have wanted to get a Mac for quite a while, but the price of even the refurbished Macs turned me off. So, here’s to the new old computer. May it live a long and healthy life. And may I not do anything stupid with it, like drop it or something.

Today is probably the only day this week I’ll have any down time. That’s why I’m writing now as opposed to Thursday when I normally post. The reason being that the orchestra I play in, Kalamazoo Philharmonia, will be performing on Saturday. So, on top of my teaching/writing schedule, I’ll have an extra rehearsal and a concert on Saturday. That boils down to six hours in the car just to drive to Kalamazoo as opposed to my normal two. But it is a worthwhile effort and I’m looking forward to playing our concert repertoire. On the program is a Rondo by Poulenc, a Gymnopedie by Satie, a Prokofiev violin concerto, and last but certainly far from least, The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky. It’s no slouch program, that’s for sure.

One of the things I really like about playing in the Kalamazoo Philharmonia is that, even though only a few of us are professional musicians (by that I mean only some make a living playing in multiple orchestras or teaching fulltime), our conductor treats us as if we are. He never picks easy stuff for us to play. So, each concert feels like a major accomplishment. I, for one, feel as though each major piece we play adds one more piece to the puzzle of my playing technique. Consequently, I believe all the musicians involved grow a little more each year.

Jun-Ching LinLast night, we had our first rehearsal with soloist, Jun-Ching Lin. My stand partner and I let out a little sigh of absolute bliss after only two or three bars of his playing. It was exquisite. He has such a beautiful tone quality and his vibrato is so smooth. I know the audience will enjoy his performance.

So, to all my readers in the Kalamazoo area, I hope you’ll be able to make it Saturday night. I’m including the link to K-Philharmonia’s event, The Ballet Russes, where you will find more details, directions and ticket information.

 

The Barbarians

Potty-Mouthed-Princesses-Drop-F-Bombs-for-FeminismI had intended to write another of “My Favorite Nonfiction” articles this week. My book of choice was Ideas Have Consequences by Richard Weaver. I read this book for the first time last year and ate it up. While I was refreshing my memory on the main points of Mr. Weaver’s arguments, I came across several quotes which unfortunately brought a video to my remembrance. Probably most of you have seen the video or something about it, Potty-Mouthed Princesses Drop F-Bombs for Feminism, floating around Facebook or making the evening news. When I saw something about it the first time, accompanied with the usual rhetoric of “empowerment and equality,” I just rolled my eyes and kept scrolling. One gets tired of having one’s eyes assaulted with sensationalism. Using six-year-olds to get attention albeit for a “worthy cause” seemed an all-time new low. I fully intended to put it out of my mind and go about my business. I realized today that I kind of have to say something about it. So, here I am, late to the party as usual.

Unfortunately, I watched the clip and now wish I hadn’t for reasons I will explain below. But since I have, I’ll give you a few initial comments on the video itself. The things I’m going to list next are what I consider side issues. The main problem runs far deeper.

  • First of all, I find it interesting that in a society where the only thing that makes sexual acts with children illegal is a child’s inability to give informed consent, little girls were given scripts containing the frequent use of the word “f–k”*(in case you didn’t know, this word is a vulgar expression for sexual intercourse), gestures that indicate sexual intercourse, and discussions of sexual assault. Somehow, that just doesn’t seem right to me.
  • Secondly, the first point voiced in the video is so illogical that it borders on absurdity—namely that somehow we find profanity more offensive than sexual assault and wage inequality. I think pairing profanity with sexual assault and then describing both as offensive is a bit insulting to those who have experienced sexual assault. Profanity is offensive. Sexual assault is far, far worse than offensive. Besides that, I don’t know anyone who finds sexual assault and wage inequality less reprehensible than little girls spewing profanity.  But I do know a lot of people, including myself, who find sexual assault reprehensible, wage inequality unfair, and little girls spewing profanity as offensive. I do not need to applaud filmmakers who put filthy words in little girls’ mouths to find rape and sexual abuse wicked and perverted.
  • Third, the claims raised and the statistics used to bolster the claims regarding sexual assault and wage inequality are not entirely accurate. See here and here and here. This is not to say that there is no problem, but inflating the problem doesn’t help anyone.

For argument’s sake, let’s suppose that the video’s claims are entirely factual. The bigger problem remains. And here is where Richard Weaver comes in. In his book, Weaver takes us all the way back to where the problem began—William of Occum. He says, “It was William of Occam who propounded the fateful doctrine of nominalism, which denies that universals have a real existence [read: transcendentals and ideals]…The issue ultimately involved is whether there is a source of truth higher than, and independent of, man; and the answer to the question is decisive for one’s view of the nature and destiny of humankind. The practical result of nominalist philosophy is to banish the reality which is perceived by the intellect and to posit as reality that which is perceived by the senses.”

Weaver then lays out the logical progression from that point forward, a progression which modern civilization has dutifully followed, “The denial of universals carries with it the denial of everything transcending experience. The denial of everything transcending experience means inevitably—though ways are found to hedge on this—the denial of truth. With the denial of objective truth there is no escape from the relativism of ‘man the measure of all things.’ The witches [referring to Macbeth] spoke with the habitual equivocation of oracles when they told man that by this easy choice [deny transcendentals] he might realize himself more fully, for they were actually initiating a course which cuts one off from reality. Thus began the ‘abomination of desolation’ appearing today as a feeling of alienation from all fixed truth.”

Because of this lack of fixed truth, Weaver says society is gradually but surely losing grasp of any concept of propriety. And yes, I mean, propriety, not prudery. Propriety is the fading notion that some topics and some situations must be handled with more care and sensitivity than others. The opposite of propriety is sensationalism, shock value and a general disregard for time, place and method. My parents, grandparents and their parents simply did not speak of certain topics within earshot of children or in mixed company. This is not because these topics were inherently wicked or taboo. It just meant that some things like sexuality were too precious and too important to be bandied about lightly. It also meant that children had not reached the mental or emotional maturity to treat those topics with the care they deserved.

But so often, that kind of discretion towards important topics is considered inauthentic by the barbarians as Weaver calls them. The barbarians want to strip everything of its symbolism, its ritual, its protective coverings, and make it bare. The barbarians think themselves very brave and original for doing so and getting to the dirty truth. “Forms and conventions are the ladder of ascent. And hence the speechlessness of the man of culture when he beholds the barbarian tearing aside some veil which is half adornment, half concealment…His cries of abeste profani are not heard by those who in the exhilaration of breaking some restraint feel that they are extending the boundaries of power or of knowledge…Every group regarding itself as emancipated is convinced that its predecessors were fearful of reality. It looks upon euphemisms and all the veils of decency which things were previously draped as obstructions which it, with superior wisdom and praiseworthy courage, will now strip away. Imagination and indirection it identifies with obscurantism; the mediate is an enemy to freedom.”

You see, there are ways to address issues like sexual assault and wage inequality, one of which is not coaching children to be profane. The cause simply does not justify the method.

At the beginning of this piece, I mentioned that the problem goes deeper than profanity and you’re probably wondering when I’m going to get around to telling you what it is. It is this: That there is any debate going on about the appropriateness of this video. There should be no debate. It should be roundly and uniformly condemned by culture as a disgraceful example of sensationalized junk. It should be tossed out by feminists (I’m pretty sure Susan B. Anthony with her eloquent speech is rolling over in her grave at such an exhibition), anti-feminists, conservatives and liberals, to the man and to the woman. To be fair, it has been in some corners. But in other places, it’s been praised as brave, bold, and empowering.

So, how do we bring this kind of tripe to an end? As a society, we’ve already followed Weaver’s progression from denying universals down the line to embracing the sensational. Is it even worth fighting? I say yes. And the most effective way to begin is to stop being a consumer. Don’t hit the play button. Don’t share it. And while we’re at it, let’s do our best to stop the spread of other kinds of sensationalism. For instance, when that pastor of a mega church stands up on his stage with a big bed up there as a prop and with a mischievous glint in his eye says, “Now we’re going to talk about sex,” as if he with “praiseworthy courage” will now get more real and transparent than all those prudish Christians huddling under their hymn books in embarrassment, don’t buy it. Turn it off. Walk out. There’s as much grace, beauty, and discretion in that as there is an earring in a pig’s snout.  Other examples of sensationalism are as follows: News (perhaps not all, but quite a lot of it is); political ads with dark, eerie music (can I hear an amen?); a lot of movies; reality TV shows (yes, even Duck Dynasty and 19 and Counting, though I cringe at the thought of the trouble I’m going to get over this one); those idiotic “camp gyno” commercials, and the list goes on. Of course, these are all sensational to greater and lesser degrees, but I believe the principle still stands.

Anything that smacks of shock value, sensationalism and desperate publicity stunts doesn’t deserve our attention. Anything that offers the “inside scoop,” headlines that blare “*well-known personality* tells all,” anything that handles a serious, beautiful or sensitive topic in a flippant and disrespectful manner is not fit to be seen. So, what happens when we stop paying attention these stunts? Well, like that silly boy on the playground who teases people to get a rise out of them, the barbarians just sort of give up and go home when we stop adding fuel to their fires. Of course, it’s better when everybody stops being a consumer. But one person at a time is better than no one. Little drops of water make up an ocean and so on and so forth.

Speaking of which, don’t watch that stupid F-bomb video.

*Please don’t try to argue that this word no longer carries an inherently sexual meaning. I often hear people say that this word is a general term to express disgust or strong emphasis. The point is, it is  a disrespectful term for the sexual act and that’s what gives it its shock value, even when it is divorced from its original context.

Relaxing Happenings

Last week was so full, I was tired going into this week. Not that it was a bad kind of full. I had people over to my house and made dinner for them, taught lots of lessons, had some more people over, went to two fall parties and so on and so forth. Still, being the introverted soul I am, I have felt in need of some peace, quiet and solitude. Although this week has been busy in its own way, I still had some opportunities to unwind. I hope you don’t mind if I relive them for you here?

Relaxed happening, number 1: On Tuesday, I  didn’t have to teach until 3:30 in the afternoon. So, instead of driving my car around to do errands, I rode my bike. Off I went to downtown St. Joseph’s post office in search of some international postage for a letter I needed to mail. On the way back home, I was peddling my bike along the brick roads and through the leaves on the ground when I heard the church bells close by playing a hymn. I admit it was a bit cheesy because manual church bells aren’t that versatile. It was most likely some mechanized version of bells. Still, it was a lot of fun, whistling along to the familiar tunes as I peddled along. Next stop was the bank where I deposited a check. Money going into the bank has such a cheering effect on me.

Relaxed happening, number 2: On Tuesday evening, Justin and I sat down to watch Beyond the Next Mountain, the story of Rochunga Podaite. I’ve watched the movie close to ten times or more from the time I was a little girl until now. It never seems to get old. In my opinion, it was probably the first independent Christian film that was actually done right. The writing was amazing, the camera work was great, and the soundtrack was absolutely beautiful and fitting. A very surprising treat coming from the 1980s. Besides, the true story it contains is so inspiring. I realized just that evening, how much the film has effected me, my outlook on life, and the way I write. The full movie is available for free on Youtube. In fact, I think so well of it, I’ll embed it here so you can find it easily! The quality isn’t so awesome, but the overall experience is great.

imageRelaxed happening, number 3: While watching the movie, I began a project I’ve been wanting to tackle for a while–teaching myself to crochet. Yes, I know an obscure form of lace-making called tatting, but at the age of 29, I still don’t know how to crochet. So, I looked up a tutorial online and went at it. Here’s my first finished granny square. As you can see, it’s a bit gnarled at the bottom there. Still, I’d say it’s not too bad for a first effort. I have recently discovered the charm of granny square blankets. When I was a little girl, I used to think they were superbly ugly. But then again, all I had ever seen at that point were the ones in my grandma’s house. From the earth tones, I’m guessing they were made in the sixties and seventies. A change of color can work wonders, I’ve found. Now, granny squares just look comforting and homey. Perhaps, I’ll keep at it until I have enough to make a blanket to cover my bed!

 

Well, all the above have been the highlights of my week, thus far. And now, it is time for me to get ready for my three hours of teaching this afternoon. Until next week…