Friday, June 29, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday, #4

1. Hard to believe, my son Samuel, is going to turn eleven next week.

(Samuel a couple of years ago)

2. Samuel has an encyclopedic mind. He has voraciously read, over the years, books on mythology from various cultures, magicians, dinosaurs, war, animals, religion, weaponry, knighthood, world records, you name it. And he remembers much of it, in surprising detail.

3. He also has an incredibly facile and flexible imagination, playing and acting out games alone and with his best friend. Usually these games involve improbable wars (he is up to World War XI or XII, I think) somewhat inspired by the game "Call of Duty" which we let him play only sparingly.

4. He and his friend also often act out scenarios involving his society or club called "The Craven Little Cowards" I think this is very loosely based on the "Mysterious Benedict Society" which both my kids love, and which all of us enjoy reading together. We highly recommend the series.

5. Samuel also has had plans to dominate the world with a multinational monolithic corporation called "Jack of All Trades." Even the name is very clever, as he intends to take over all aspects of society, providing products and services that everyone needs, and that no one can refuse!

6. He (like his father) enjoys word play, has a sharp and clever wit, and is developing his sarcasm, which for the most part, is more amusing and mild than cutting. He has yet to develop his father's gift for puns, however, but that is a rare gift, and who knows, maybe it'll come eventually. Sadly, this is not a gift much appreciated by his mother.

7. For the most part, he and his sister, Evangeline, get along very well. They often play together, despite the fact that she's a girl, and about 2 years younger, but I think I see signs that their mutual play is becoming less frequent. It depends on the situation, and the availability of their other friends. I have an ardent hope that, playing together or not, they will always be best friends, and will be loving and supportive to each other throughout their lives. They are both good kids.











Live long and prosper -

(Samuel likes to give me the Vulcan hand signal when he leaves me), and be sure to check out Jennifer's quick takes - and Branfordgirl's - if you haven't already.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Forgiveness

Humanly speaking, we often have a very limited idea of forgiveness. We often expect some sort of payment, restitution, reparation, punishment as part of forgiveness, but this is not the example God sets for us.

God forgives all sins, asking only the barest minimum of reparation. Since his dignity is infinite, the penalty of even the least sin ought to be infinite. What God really seeks is a purification of love. No reparation is really needed at all, if the love of the repentant one is purified. Such a love will usually make reparation voluntarily, but God is not sitting there, waiting for an exact balance to be paid for an offense. He'd be waiting forever, otherwise, because no one, except Jesus, is capable of paying remotely to the full.

Which is why Jesus died on the cross.

Wikipedia has this:

Forgiveness is the renunciation or cessation of resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, disagreement, or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution. The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as 'to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt'. The concept and benefits of forgiveness have been explored in religious thought, the social sciences and medicine. Forgiveness may be considered simply in terms of the person who forgives including forgiving themselves, in terms of the person forgiven or in terms of the relationship between the forgiver and the person forgiven. In most contexts, forgiveness is granted without any expectation of restorative justice, and without any response on the part of the offender (for example, one may forgive a person who is incommunicado or dead). In practical terms, it may be necessary for the offender to offer some form of acknowledgment, an apology, or even just ask for forgiveness, in order for the wronged person to believe himself able to forgive.

And the Catholic Church has this:

The Fifth petition begs God’s mercy for our offenses, mercy which can penetrate our hearts only if we have learned to forgive our enemies, with the example and help of Christ. – Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2862

The best way to obtain mercy is to be merciful. As Jesus taught us, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7).

Failure to forgive others is a major human problem. Holding grudges is common. Failure to forgive routinely tears apart families, neighborhoods and even nations. Jesus stressed mercy and forgiveness in numerous ways such as when he asked the Father to forgive those who crucified him (see Lk 23:24). We pray to God that we may be able to forgive as much as we are forgiven.— U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults, pg. 488

The Lord's prayer has us say, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. This is the main thing the Lord asks of us: if we hope to be forgiven (when we clearly cannot make full restitution to Him) then we must forgive, and try, at least, release our offender, to not make demands for restitution or reparation. Waiting for that from our offenders could just make us crazy.

It is something we have to pray about, asking God to give us the grace to truly forgive, without expecting payment, all who hurt or offend us, without exception. In the end, it affords the greatest possibility of healing, and will be of greater help toward our receiving God's mercy.

C.S. Lewis wrote: Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.

Something to think about.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hypocrisy

In my experience, people often tend to define hypocrisy as not living up to one's beliefs. That simply isn't true. We all fail, in some way, pretty much every day, to live up to our beliefs, but there is a big difference between trying and failing, and maybe even not trying as hard as we should and failing, and real hypocrisy.

According to Merriam-Webster, hypocrisy is about acting, about pretense, about deliberately acting contrary to one's professed beliefs, or pretending to believe what one does not actually believe.

In fact, the word comes from roots which refer to acting.

It is putting on an act in life, when people would ordinarily expect one to be "telling the truth with one's life." It is about perverting communication by communicating by one's actions something other than what one really believes.

As I said, we all fail, and we may even be reluctant to admit that we have failed, but the hypocrite is intentionally lying either with his words (I believe thus, when really he doesn't) or with his actions (I said I believe thus, but if I'm not caught doing the contrary, you'll never know that what I said was a lie.)

I suppose one might be classified as an unwitting hypocrite, that is, not being aware that he is a hypocrite because he is professing a belief that he is making no effort whatever to live out, so it would probably be good for one to sincerely look at one's self and discern the truth about one's self. And it's a good argument for having a friend or confessor or guide who can point out one's unwitting hypocrisy.

Nevertheless, not everyone who fails to live up to his beliefs is a hypocrite. A sinner, yes, but not necessarily a hypocrite.

Gen'l Ardalion Alexandrovitch & the present moment

As my readers may remember, I am reading Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot" and this morning on the bus, I read about a little gathering at a country home, wherein retired (and usually drunken) General Ardalion Alexandrovitch told a young lady that he had held her in his arms when she was a child. Another guest, who knew the general, protested that this was a lie (why she said this you'll see in a moment) and she was quite angry.

But... the girl remembered the general! And her sister piped in that she remembered him too, and they began recalling several pleasurable memories associated with him.

And there was this passage...

"The poor general had merely made the remark about having carried Aglaya in his arms because he always did so begin a conversation with young people. But it happened that this time he had really hit upon the truth, though he had himself entirely forgotten the fact. But when Adelaida and Aglaya recalled the episode of the pigeon, his mind became filled with memories, and it is impossible to describe how this poor old man, usually half drunk, was moved by the recollection."

I had been uncertain, up to this point, whether to believe the General's comments, such as "I held you in my arms..." or "I knew such and such when he was..." and that sort of thing, often boasting. Now I see that they often were vaguely related to the truth, to memories that the General himself vaguely remembered, and that many of these comments and boasts were merely habitual.

It is not stated, so far anyway, why the General became an alcoholic. (He IS a prodigious drinker.) It may be that he is an unhappy man, whose dreams and aspirations and pride have gone unfulfilled, and many of his boasts and other comments merely reflect hopes rather than actual events.

But I wonder if he had focussed more clearly on happy moments, such as those the girls recalled, real moments that he actually experienced, rather than on what he hoped to achieve, or receive (which more often than not disappoint in one way or another) he might have ended up a happier man, a more respected man, more enjoyed by those around him, and not ended up a disappointed, boasting alcoholic.

I do also wonder if this experience might not signal an important change about to begin in the General's life. We shall see.

It reminds me that there is more than one way of looking at life. One can validly have hopes and desires and aspirations and goals, as long as they do not become such a focus that they blind us to the present moment, which very often, in the midst of trials, can be full of happiness and beauty, if we but see it. If we can focus on the present moment, with a certain gratitude and realistic optimism, we may end up all the more happy, hopeful, and more enjoyable to be with, as we grow older.

Something to think about.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Scandal

I read an article about email scams, and forwarding misleading emails; and I read another about a well-known priest who used his prestige and authority to (supposedly) take advantage of a woman who came to him for help. And of course, we all know about computer viruses which are deliberately put out there to infect people's computers, it seems, often, just for the "fun of it."

It is a fact that among a given population, there are always some few who are prepared, whether for malicious reasons, or self-interest, or revenge, or whatever, to do bad things. And some are just stupid. Shall we just chalk it up to human nature, fallen human nature? Maybe.

But the only difference, on the whole, between a virus creator, an email scammer, a headstone vandal, and a priest who seduces gullible or vulnerable women, is the degree of scandal or harm that is caused.

In other words, we all cause greater or lesser harm and scandal, and when we are part of a cause or a group of some sort, the harm will generally increase in proportion to the size and reputation of the cause or group, and our position within it.

Something else to think about.

Beware

I have noticed, (and this could almost be a rule, it happens so reliably) that when two or more people get together and criticize or complain about another party, the ones who have come together usually end up at odds with each other, perhaps even very seriously at odds.

As the Imitation of Christ says, "We think we get together to console one another..." and maybe this is true to an extent. But the end result is often that we turn against each other.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Not So Brief

It is raining this morning. Thunder and lightning: welcome.

Yesterday I had to kill our sick chicken. My wife and daughter both asked me to do it. The warm water treatment helped temporarily, and we thought that since she was sick again, the treatment could promise nothing permanent, and we didn't have the time to, every week, spend a couple of hours holding her in warm water, and then wrapped in a warm towel. I'm not even sure how much she liked it.

But it is hard to kill a chicken that you've bathed and cuddled. She was clearly sick. She was very calm and placid. I doubt she knew what was about to happen. I hated to inflict that moment of pain, and hoped it was really very brief.

I found myself thinking later last night and this morning that perhaps I should have sacrificed the time to bath and cuddle her, that maybe if we had done this repeatedly over weeks, it would have eventually "taken" and she would have been all right.

But I don't really believe it. So, I am confirmed in the decision I made.

But it doesn't really make it easier.

It does make me wonder how anyone can kill a human being, especially a baby in the womb. What kind of lies, what kind of rationalizations does one need to repeat again and again to harden one's heart enough to be able to kill a baby, at any stage?

I am reading "The Idiot" by Dostoyevsky, and there is a scene in which a story is recounted in which a poor man kills another poor man for his watch, coming up behind him and slitting his throat "like a sheep." Just for his watch. And as he does it, he signs himself with the Cross and prays for mercy! It is a very strange kind of religious devotion that can permit such a perverse combination of actions.

It is partly a failure of catechesis. It is caused by an institutionalization of religion, wherein it is so engrained in the culture that the teachers stop teaching very deeply, and the learners stop learning, and their belief becomes routine and superficial, allowing all kinds of contradictions that are entirely contrary to the doctrines of the Faith.

This is 19th Century Russia, Christian Russia, but it is very much the same today, in 21st Century USA, or Europe, or anywhere else. There is a vast disconnect between our daily behavior and the teachings of Christ.

I have been listening to the audio book, Kisses From Katie, the bio of a very young woman who has given up her very upper class lifestyle to go to Uganda, and adopt Ugandan orphans. She repeatedly makes the point that Christ clearly commanded us to care for the poor, and she repeatedly wonders why there should be so many un-cared-for orphans and sick and poor when so many Christians have more than enough to lead a good life AND help the poor. She makes the statistical point that if 8% of the world's Christians were to take on just ONE of the millions of poor, to give him or her what is needed to live and eat and be healthy, there would be no poor left to care for.

How many iPhones, iPads, DVD players, tablet pcs, second cars, second houses are owned by Christians who barely help the poor?

And, how many less prosperous Christians get up in the morning and scold their children and argue with their spouses, and give each other the cold shoulder, and curse others in traffic on the way to work, or even to Church services, who lie or cheat when it is convenient, who hold grudges, refuse to forgive, judge others, who use birth control, get abortions, commit adultery, practice serial divorce?

This is the witness so many Christians give to the world, and very much because Christianity is institutionalized, and we live our faith very superficially, and we take money from the government and compromise our faith, and we barely inform ourselves of what Christ really taught, what the true teachings of the church are, and so are unable to inform our children of those teachings.

I know Christ said that we would be hated by the world, but there are two worlds that hate us for two very different reasons. The world Christ referred to hates us because, when we are faithful to Him, we, by our fidelity to Christ, point out, by the simple fact of our fidelity, the sins the world is immersed in.

The other world, the world that could receive Christ, hates us because it sees clearly that so many of us are hypocrites. We condemn them with our words, with our judgments, but we condemn ourselves by our actions. If we really lived what we say we believe, this part of the world would believe with us, and only the world Christ referred to would hate us.