Wednesday, December 31, 2003

I woke up at a relatively decent hour today. Then I took Isaac for a walk. I think he was very happy for it at first. He trotted around happy as hell to expend some energy. He barked merrily at a passing Amish buggy, and relieved himself in various other dogs’ yards along the way while the poor buggers barked and whined, miserable at having to watch. But eventually I had to pull him out of somebody’s yard because he was digging it up. That made him angry, and he kept shooting me dirty looks for the rest of the walk back.

Tonight, I have sort of vaguely formed New Years plans. I feel almost guilty about them since I think my family wants me to stay home with them. I think in a way, I’d like to, too.

Mom: Sarah, you’re bad to your mother.
Me: Oh? What’d I do?
Mom: Running around on New Years Eve, instead of celebrating with your loving family.
Me: heh, loving family.
Mom: No one will have any fun without you. The only fun of New Years is beating you at Trivial Pursuit.
Me: Nobody beats me at Trivial Pursuit!
Mom: Yeah, but it’s the challenge.
Dad: Jeanette, you forgot the part about disappointing her poor sick mother.
Mom: Damn! That was a good point too.

But I’m 21, and ought to be doing things with my friends, I think. Though I’d probably get drunker staying at home. I don’t really know what we’re doing, except that Angela and I are meeting at five to get Mike. I’m sure that, whatever it is we’re doing, it’ll look like we’re having much more fun in the pictures we take, than the fun that we actually have. Which, consequently, isn’t a statement on how much fun we have; it’s a statement about how cool our pictures are.

My walk with Izzy was almost surreal at points. When we passed the Amish buggy, a young woman pressed her face against the window with no little curiosity, and smiled broadly at me and waved. I felt, for a moment, like a tourist attraction. I’m sure it’s something they feel a lot. But I suppose I wouldn’t mind being a tourist attraction if it was a bit like living in a zoo, and despite the signs dictating otherwise, visitors fed the animal.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Vacation has made me slightly topsy turvy. My random sleeping has made it so I'm having difficulty establishing exactly what day it is I'm in, and even, more practically, what part of the day it is.

I haven't anything very startling report. I've mostly been sleeping and reading, which, while making for a very nice life, rarely makes for a particularly interesting blog.

I'm considering my future. Normally, this freaks me out. But I've felt so calm recently. I'm trying to concentrate less on the what than the why, and that's nice. It's terrifying to grill myself on all of the jobs I could do which might give me some sense of meaning and purpose in life whilst providing social status, moderate wealth and an ego boost. It's comforting to remember, as I wrote yesterday, that my meaning and purpose aren't centered in how I earn my living. The point of it all is that I am someone, not that I have to behave as someone; my doing has to follow my being, if that makes any sense at all.

In any case, tomorrow I'm really going to make myself wake up at a decent hour. Decent in my own eyes anyway; sometimes I think it's sin to get up before dawn when you haven't any non-essential reasons requiring you to do so.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

I am interested in cultivating a dispassionate love.

What is dispassionate love?

I don’t really know, as yet. But I want to find out what it really means, in practice rather than theory.

I don’t usually pretend to know a lot about passion and love in the terms that most people use those words. Emotions, outside of alienation and anxiety, are not usually subjects counted to my expertise. But I believe in love and that love is the salvation of man. That, as St. James was reputed to have spent his last days repeating: “Little children, love one another. If you could do just that one thing, it would be enough.” And I am glad to resign myself, as Virgil, who wrote: “Love conquers all things; Let us, too, surrender to love.”

What I have understood about emotion has always made me regard it suspiciously. Emotion is greedy; it is desire. Emotional love is the most potently alluring form of desire for most human beings. Emotion is self-pleasure. It gobbles up the beloved for the sake of the satiation of the lover. And the lover is never satisfied.

Emotional love is a perversion. And there are differing levels of its perversions. There is the lust which overtly seeks to possess the beloved, using them for sexual pleasure, discarding the loved when its sexual purpose has been served. And there is a less overt, if not more dangerous perversion, which seeks after the soul of the beloved. This false love often masks as charity and romance, subjecting the will of the beloved to that of the lover. It subverts the identity of the beloved, attempting to recast the beloved in the image of the lover.

Both forms of false love stem from a misunderstanding of our own identity and function in the universe. These false loves, these passions, seek to steal from the beloved what does not belong to it. Man’s most ardent wish is his own justification, and all men intuitively understand their inability to provide that justification for themselves. Though conceived in the image and likeness of God, from their earliest days men are content to blind themselves to their true identity. They seek justification first in themselves, and when they fail, they look to their fellow men.

God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, created men to live in common with other men. It is axiomatic of our nature that it is, as the Lord said of the first man, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” And so God created society for men. Through society, we learn how we shall live. We learn to live by learning to live in society. We become independent by imitating those around us. And society is so central to the functioning of man that it forms the second of the great commandments. Christ taught that we must love God with our whole hearts and minds, and that we must love our neighbors as ourselves.

These commandments are linked and inextricably bound. It is impossible to love God without loving our neighbors, and the love of mankind is the love of his creator. We cannot serve man without serving God, or God without serving man, which is why Christ told his apostles that “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

This is because of our true identity and function in the universe. We are the body of Christ. We are bound to one another because we are all, wittingly or no, acting out the will of God. We are, as St. Paul wrote, “members of one another.” Our actions are not our own – they belong to the body of Christ, just as the movement of the thumb or finger do not belong to themselves, but to the entire body.

I do not belong to myself, just as my thumb does not belong to its self. My efforts are not my own; they are the efforts of the body of Christ. And my failings are not my own but the failings of all mankind. I am mystically responsible for not only my own sins, but for all man’s sins, because I am inextricably bound to all men. I am not my own possession, but the property of God. Because I am not my own possession, I cannot possess anyone else either. I cannot own anyone else because everyone has their own purpose and function in the body of Christ, and all men belong to Him.

A false love perverts this principle, seeking to misuse the beloved for the sake of the lover instead of the purpose of God. It steals because it seeks to possess what is rightfully God’s alone, and in its greedy passion, calls the beloved “mine.”

What men must ultimately love in loving one another is God living in every individual. We must not love passionately, for our selves and selfish pleasures. We must love dispassionately, doing what is right and best for one another, so that the will of God might be revealed through us. We are the body of Christ; His functioning on Earth. We must love with this in mind.

If we love as members of the body of Christ, we will love rightly. We will love as a function of God’s grace, enacting the best interest of the beloved and of ourselves, by making straight the paths of the Lord. We must love others in order to best reveal our true identities as children of God. We must never love to satisfy our own lust. It is necessary that we cultivate a dispassionate love. To love, as Christ loved, acting out His part in God’s plan, without seeking satisfaction for Himself.

Friday, December 26, 2003

I was just beginning to feel a little over-insulated when I realized it was a transient thing.

People tend to build up shelters of security around them largely based on false and questionable ideas. We imagine the sun will rise tomorrow because, so far as we’ve seen, it always has. We assume that the people we usually talk to are our friends, based less on fidelity than familiarity. And we imagine that the lives we live will continue on uninterrupted somehow simply because we’re used to them having done so. We continue to exist largely because we’re accustomed to existing and changing the fact would upset our sense of order and require that we acclimate to something new.

I have become increasingly aware of my own false security as late. Though it has distressed me at times, I’m slowly becoming accustomed to even a lack of custom. Human adaptability is less adaptability, after all, than a genetic impulse to declare anything we do sanctified by tradition. If we’ve done something a certain way even only once, then that’s the way we do the thing ever after, particularly if we got a desired result from the method. No manner of proof can convince us that a method isn’t working anymore if we’re used to believing that the method works. We imagine that the fault lies not in the method, but in the individuals or circumstance the method is being applied to.

In my own life, the method has been unclear. My method I mean; my direction. My temperament is naturally idealistic, and though I’m ashamed to say it, moralistic. Born in another family, I could have easily ended up a minister, or a public school teacher, or heaven forbid, a psychologist. A century ago, in a middle- to upper-class family, I might have easily found myself a higher up in some respectable ladies organization. I might have been a temperance lady, or worse a prohibitionist, or saving bums with the Salvation Army.

Merton wrote that what all men seek is their own salvation and the salvation of those around them. And that urge was among the first urges I remember clearly experiencing. I remember even as a small child having nightmares in which I had to sacrifice myself for my loved ones. I would weep for the loss of life, which I naturally loved, but I wanted to serve the people I loved, and redeem them. Among my first crises of conscience was the realization that there were some people in the world I wouldn’t happily die for; and then, later, the realization that perhaps I would hesitate to die for any person, no matter how beloved.

Part of my American Protestant heritage was a lack of ethical direction. I might have been a Salvation Army lady in another life, but I never would have been a Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I was not raised with religion, but with the sense of religion. I was never catechized, though I was raised with catchphrases about “me and Jesus,” “personal relationships with Christ,” and “getting saved.” In all that, I was left to flounder about what life really meant, who I was and what I was here for. I had the occasional Protestant sermon about Jesus loving me, but Protestantism came across with all of the appeal of a K-Mart. It was serviceable and convenient, but somehow disfiguringly bourgeois and ultimately expendable..

Instead, I chose to chase after what I perceived to be the great ideals. Before I ever uttered a prayer to Christ, I had self-consciously appealed to Zeus, to Artemis and Athena. Before I ever heard that Christ was the only door to heaven, I had learned to mumble about all religions being about the same thing and serving the same psychological purpose. Being the naturally religiously inclined child that I was, denied any formal religious training, I tried my hand at all of the secular gods. I embraced anarchy and libertinism. Alternately, I considered even communism because I thought it meant the saving of all men. I would have gladly become a neo-pagan had neo-pagans looked less silly; I would have been an atheist had atheists been less offensive to my taste.

American Protestantism is about sensualism, and so I was about sensualism too. If it felt good, I wanted it. If it looked good, I wanted it more. And if at the end of the day I could give myself a pat on the back for being a nice kid, I considered myself okay. I could deny myself a sensual pleasure if I thought doing so would bring me a higher pleasure; so, I never ended up a drug addict, even if it was a temptation, because I knew that drug addiction was ultimately displeasurable. I could suffer endless insult and degradation if it meant I could consider myself a humanitarian at the end of the day. But all of my gods were made of tin, and by the time I was fourteen I recognized it enough to have given myself permanent health problems from stress and bad living.

I consider it a wonder that I made it through my adolescence. I lacked close, healthy relationships with anyone. I lacked any religious expression and was tortured by the impulse for it. I was, as all teenagers are, obsessed with myself and terrified that other people would find out how young and unconfident I really was underneath my bad attitude. I had no conception of how other people viewed me, except I imagined that it was poorly. I had no conception of self except a stunted instinct for self-preservation which battled incessantly against and with my mounting self-loathing.

At the end of it all, I emerged approximately as well-adjusted as Gollum. I don’t know how I made it through at all, except that I know that I didn’t deserve to. Starting college meant the forging of a new life, tainted by the old one. And I was quick to keep up most of my old awful reactions to things. I maintained my bad attitude, expected to make no new real friends, figured I’d learn very little important information, and secretly hoped I’d die somehow before I had to suffer through another massive shift in life; the last one, the way I figured it, would be growing up and having to be an adult. It meant joining the bourgeois world and succumbing to the values which, though I espoused them myself and hung myself by them, I intuitively understand were poison and death.

Over the course of the past year, I had begun to ascribe to that system more than I consciously realized. I had begun to congratulate myself on social mobility. I had begun to accept American axioms like debt is life, and experience is all that matters, and that the business of life is business. I was preparing myself to get very, very practical. And I could imagine my future self. I would be moderately successful in terms of finance and social standing. I would be respectable, though not so rich as to arouse my own sense of shame, and not so poor as to prevent my doing the things I wanted to do. I would give money to charity to maintain my own egotistical need to understand myself as a humanitarian, keeping a much larger portion for myself, understanding that a little selfishness is normal, human and very practical. I would have a comfortable life that many people would envy.

But recently it’s all been falling apart. The comfortable social relationships I’ve built have been deteriorating. Small betrayals from old friends, and the ulterior motives of new ones, ruined my vision of a comfortable social future. Realizations of my own ambition ruined my vision of myself as someone who was largely ethically sound, or even advanced. For the first time in my life, I found myself guarding my pocketbook, and the realization of it was almost as shocking as the realization that perhaps I wouldn’t gladly march off to my death for someone I loved.

I have uncovered how false my ideas are. It’s come to me with all the force of someone who, considering themselves a meticulous housekeeper, has just moved their refrigerator for the first time and found the piles of dust, refuse and mouse droppings that have gathered underneath for decades. But I am unclear, so far, as to how to clean up the mess I’ve made of myself and my life; how to dislodge myself from my bourgeois rut, while keeping myself firmly planted on earth, with no utopian fantasies.

What a lousy morning. I had really intended sleeping in. I was up until three this morning reading The Seven Storey Mountain, one of the books I got for Christmas. I had wanted to sleep in a bit, then take up reading as soon as I woke up this morning.

Last night was so wonderful. My dad had taken Izzy so I didn't have to deal with his whining and barking all night. And I had curled up with a nice book, in the heat of my mother's absence - which is to say, she never lets me have to the heat up past 64 at night, and while the cat's away the mouse will play, replete with holiday treats like honest-to-God wonderfully caffeine-filled Mt. Dew. I simply read for hours, which, I think, may be the closest resemblance of earth to heaven. I finally collapsed at three thirty or something, from pure pleasure and exhaustion, and had to sleep.

This morning, my mother came home with a vengeance. She's clearly in one of her moods. Outside of insisting that the house be cleaned from top to bottom, she's freaked out about Isaac and wants to take him to the pound. One of the least pleasant aspects of my childhood was this rift in my mother's and my outlooks on animals. It's true that I'd take all of the dogs in the world in if given a half a chance, and that there's no animal I wouldn't save. But my mother thinks that animals exist for the immediate pleasure of humans, and if they cease to give immediate pleasure, they should be done away with. So some of my worst memories from childhood are those awful days when I'd get off the school bus in the afternoon, immediately go searching for one pet or another, only to be told that my mother had had it hauled off to the pound while I was away.

What was so infuriating about it was how cowardly she'd go about it. She wouldn't tell me that the pet had to go so I could make proper peace with it, or whatever semblance of making peace with it I could manage. Instead, she'd wait until I was gone and helpless to have it hauled away - mind you, she could never sully herself by putting the animal in its probable last abode personally. By sneaking it there she managed to avoid messy emotional scenes in which she'd: a) possibly be swayed by my arguments, or tears anyway, and we'd have to keep the animal; b) very clearly look the bad guy to anyone who might see it, and most obviously look the bad guy to herself. And, it was easier if you could tell the kid that you're not allowed to have the animal back because of imaginary laws which exist preventing the re-getting of dogs from the pound that you've dropped off, no matter how much you'd like to. She always told me that she didn't know I'd be so upset about getting rid of the animal. Which was, of course, like the entire matter, utterly bullshit.

And so, this morning, six hours into the sleep which I had hoped would mark the first time I got to sleep in this vacation, I awoke to the sound of my parents bickering. I walked out into it half-asleep, blind to the awful subject at hand, and immediately embroiled myself therein.

I took on this stupid paternal tone, and tried to give my best battle cry for Isaac. "He's our dog! You have a responsbility toward him! He's been our dog for eight years, and he's defended us faithfully and never been any real trouble before. You know these things can happen with dogs; you know that before you ever get a dog. And eight years ago, you committed to riding out whatever may come with Izzy until the end of his life. If you don't like it now, and even I don't like it this very second, that's a shame. But you have to show a little respect toward his life. For the past eight years, you know he would have died for you, and you can't just act like that isn't worth anything."

For the moment, I have the upper hand, but I don't expect it will last long. I'm petting Izzy goodbye every time I turn my back or leave the house from now on. It's hard not to anticipate that I'll head off to school one day, and when I return, he'll be gone for good.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Having such a white Christmas is making the holiday strange.

My nephew Robbie and niece Jessica and her boyfriend Ryan came out for a while today. It was somehow awkward for them to be here without their mother. I didn't see my other nephew and nieces or my sisters because, at least ostensibly, the snow kept them from driving out. It makes me happy to think that next year when everyone comes out there'll be a baby, too.

I don't exactly thrive on family parties. But holidays are strange without them.

Things are difficult anyway right now. We usually let our dogs run, which occasionally has the effect of pissing off our neighbors. Sometimes it's deserved, and sometimes it's not. Yesterday, a guy came and threatened to shoot my dog if he steps on his property again. I suspect, in this instance, the enmity is deserved. I think my dog knocked up his. heh, well, at least Izzy had some fun. Nevertheless, keeping Isaac in is hell. He barks constantly. I slept for about 20 minutes last night between barks, and I think I'll get less than that tonight, since he's more desperate today than he was even yesterday. It's too nasty to tie his ass outside, though the little bugger deserves it.

There was a happy coincidence today. My father had bought my mother two pairs of slippers for Christmas. Usually, he'd only buy one, but they had some kind of two for one sale, so he sprung for a second pair. Both pairs he bought were in the small bin, but when mom opened the presents today, one was a larger size. This was fortuitous because it happened to be my sister-in-law's size, who had just so happened to have been unable to find her own slippers this morning. So both mom and Denise got sorely needed slippers for Christmas.

My mother has been staying in at my grandmother's house while my grandfather's in the hospital. She's there now. So that's different too.

It feels like there's something missing this year, though I can't really say that I'm depressed about it or anything. It just feels like something's gone. White Christmas' are supposed to be romantic, but I think I would have preferred that this one was a little more green.

Good yield for Christmas this year.

I got a tuner for my guitar, a removable floppy drive, a Robinella and the CCStringband cd, a monopoly game, lots of candy, and some cd cases. I wish I would've gotten new shoes though. I would classify myself as being in dire need of those. I also got the obligatory annual Christmas gifts: FarSide calendar, pens (as typical, the only kind I don't much like - my family enjoys repeating the old bad jokes) and sour balls.

I also got a couple of books. I got Dostoevsky's The Idiot, Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain, and a replacement copy of J.D. Salinger's Nine Stories, which was only necessary since I traded my copy to my friend Lily that I met in Europe this summer, since all she had was Jack Kerouc's mediocre On the Road. She thought that maybe, being an Aussie, she didn't get it. But as an American, I can say that I don't much get it either. Maybe it's a generational problem.

Anyway, I liked the stuff I gave more than the stuff I got. I gave my brother Sennheiser wireless headphones. My mom got mostly low carb, diabetic candy stuff. I gave my dad a compass for his truck and a MagLite. I got my sister-in-law Denise this caller ID globe thing, which blows up the number calling so you can see it from across the room. I sent my brother Tony money, which, given his circumstance, was all I could give him. I gave my sister Donna slimline cd cases. My sister Denise got some pots she wanted. I felt pretty unoriginal buying them.

And my friends got stuff too, of course.

Meh, I don't think I escape the family party any longer, so I'd better go.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Existential thinker

Existential thinkers:

• Like to spend time thinking about philosophical issues such
as "What is the meaning of life?"
• Try to see beyond the 'here and now', and understand deeper
• consider moral and ethical implications of problems as well
as practical solutions

Other Existential Thinkers include

The Buddha, Gandhi, Plato, Socrates, Martin Luther King

Careers which suit Existential Thinkers include

Philosopher, Religious Leader, Head of state, Artist, Writer

Good cheer!

My Christmas Holiday Horoscope courtesy of the Onion:

Nothing can stop you now that you have reached light speed and your mass has become almost infinite.

I'm quite fond of my mother's too:

You will regret your vote in the recent presidential election when a pack of Corvairs storms your house and kills your entire family.

It finally feels like Christmas time. I think it was the cookies.

But maybe it was my realization of what a multicultural Christmas we have at my house. Yes, even the little plastic K-Mart Buddhas have come to worship our Lord.

And here are some pictures from the trip to Michigan.

The infamous onion license plate.

And the world's coolest pharmacy.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Though it’s probably of little interest to anyone, I thought I’d take this space to talk about the Lord of the Rings today. Now that I’ve seen all the films, admittedly sans extended on the last, I suppose I can offer as valid an opinion as anyone on the subject.

I was raised on J.R.R. Tolkien. The Hobbit was one of the first big kid books I ever read to myself. And my father actually had read to me the entire Lord of the Rings while I was an infant. Having the horrible ear infections I had, I was a terror to get to sleep as a kid, and that was how he passed the time.

In any case, my point in saying all that is to show that I’m really quite familiar with the books, and have a fondness for them. Many of the central values of my life can probably be traced, in one form or another, to an early appreciation of Tolkien. It was certainly one of the early methods my father found of imparting values in me.

But I’m not a Tolkien geek. I’ve never had any interest in trying to pick up Elvish. I don’t split hairs over varying degrees of orc culture. I’ve always found people overly interested in fairies and elves a little bit fairy-ish themselves, if you know what I mean. Even if I make vague references to Gollum to explain my hatred of the sun, you still shouldn’t expect me to show up at the theatre wearing his loincloth and only his loincloth.

On the whole, I was disappointed with the films. I feel a little awkward saying it. There’s a general feeling, I think, amongst fans, that we should just be thankful that Peter Jackson didn’t ruin the story entirely. And I am thankful for that. But not being entirely disgusted isn’t the same as being happy. It’s not even the same as being satisfied.

There are a number of arguments lobbed in favor of Jackson’s films that I’ve struggled with and have ultimately rejected. For instance, the argument that I should be happy that Jackson brought the story to a mainstream audience. I’m not overjoyed about that. I would love for people to share the stories that were so dear to me growing up, but Jackson’s story isn’t the story I was raised on. Jackson changed the very Catholic fellowship into a rather secular epic about Frodo, with a supporting cast.

And then there’s the argument that Jackson’s film did such a beautiful job of capturing the visual essence of the books. Well, the movies are pretty, but my imagination did it better. And when you sacrifice plot for prettiness, well, I’ll take my plot back, thank you.

And, of course, there’s the argument that Tolkien’s books simply can’t be translated directly to film in a manner that the general movie-going public could consume, so substantive changes were necessary. All right, then, if that’s the stance, then don’t make the movies. That, or preferably, make them and understand that they might not make a huge box office smash. It’s anti-capitalist to say it, but I prefer quality over accessibility in matters as grave as these.

It’s true of course, that Jackson couldn’t have made the films in such a manner as to make everyone happy. Like all books, and especially long books, there are a million interpretations to Tolkien’s epic. Jackson took one of the most common interpretations, added a few personal twists, and recorded it on film. I particularly object to the film mostly because I particularly object to the common interpretation.

What I like about the Lord of the Rings are the mythic qualities I was brought up to appreciate. Tolkien certainly wrote in an attempt to give Britain a mythic past that he thought it lacked. In doing so, he wrote about the mythic past in the only way he knew how; that is, as a Catholic. And so Catholicism is weaved throughout the books. In some instances, it’s obvious, as in the momentary pauses for silence before meals in the text. In other cases, it’s more subtle, as in the use of Elvish lembas bread as a stand in for the Eucharist. Tolkien wrote as a Catholic, but Jackson filmed as a secularist, who admits that he cared nothing about Tolkien’s purposely weaved Catholicism.

What’s left in Tolkien’s tale, once the myth is taken out, is mostly what we’re left with in the film: violence, unexplained. I’ve heard the films described as confusing. “Why are the pretty elf and the fuzzy short people fighting with the ugly ones with bad teeth?” And Jackson admits that he made the films because he wanted to play out the action of the battle of Helm’s Deep. But the violence doesn’t make any sense without the mythic ethos. Why are the good guys able to slash ridiculous amounts of bad guys, thousands of dead orcs to the man even, and never get hurt? Because evil is inherently weaker than good and evil’s only power comes from a failure of goodness to act; we understand this intuitively in terms of the myth.

But in the films, we don’t see the myth. We see the action. We talk about Sam’s loyalty to Frodo, but not in terms of loyalty as a positive good. We talk about it because it furthers the action. Frodo couldn’t have gotten there without Sam. And presumably, had Frodo not gotten there, it all would have been for naught. We cheer when we see the elves marching into Helm’s Deep. We talk about how good it is that men and elves are united, but we don’t talk about how important it is that good people, and good elves even, make a stand for good. There’s an attempt, I think, to take all mention of good and evil out of the Lord of the Rings, and to color everything in terms of the light and the dark.

This is most apparent, I think, when Jackson removes the Scourging of the Shire from the films. Jackson, viewing the story in terms of action, of Frodo’s quest, sees the Scourging of the Shire as an afterthought. It’s an anti-climax in an otherwise moving story. Its only purpose is to explain the transition between the darkness of the shire under Sauron and the lightness which it returns to when the ring is destroyed. But rather than some lame afterthought, the Scourging of the Shire is the pinnacle of the text.

Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, and even that fool of a Took, are not ordinary hobbits. They’re extraordinary creatures for the Shire. Though they’re uncomfortable in the world outside, they naturally crave adventure. Shire folk don’t crave adventure. They are, in our words, quite typically bourgeois. They want comfort, several meals a day, a nice warm fire place, and lots of presents. Our hobbits venture out of the Shire, which is extraordinary, but it fits them, being extraordinary hobbits to start. What’s really amazing, though, is when the most ordinary of hobbits, the most bourgeois of the bourgeois, are raised into a revolutionary force. The absolute pinnacle of the text is when a folk most addicted to comfort, leisure, and all of those self-indulgent sins rise up and strike against evil, because in spite of their bad habits, they’re positively good. And, as such, they act.

They don’t do it for action. They don’t do it for each other. They do it because there’s goodness in the world and they’re willing to fight for it. That’s the theme of the Lord of the Rings. And I think it’s the main thing that Peter Jackson, with all of his additions and subtractions, missed in making these films.

My dad and I are making Christmas cookies today. Good times. It's always good to make to Christmas cookies with him, because he's far messier than I am and I don't have to feel so bad about sucking at baking.

So far we've managed to spill flour down in the parts of the stove which are hard to clean, spill sugar all over the floor, and throw sugar cookie stuff all over the kitchen. Happily, I'm only responsible for the sugar bit. And that was the easiest to clean up. Seriously, old man, wait to turn the mixer on until it's in the bowl.

My father and I had to go into Ashland this morning for a Christmas present for my mom. My dad constantly has conservative talk radio on, which annoys me to no end generally. Not because I'm liberal, but because talk radio hosts are obnoxious. The guy was making a good point today, but I had to turn it off anyway because of how irritating it was to hear him talk.

Basically, some guy called in to complain about how his kid had to sing religious songs at school for a Christmas play. The host went off on him about how being an adult means that sometimes you have to be uncomfortable, and a minority part of the culture, and you have to shut up and deal with it because that's the toll of multiculturalism. The caller had a trick up his sleeve. I think he'd anticipated that the host would agree with him when he said that the particular religious songs his kid had to sing were Kwanzaa songs. He claimed that it was pagan and wrong.

But the host switched things up on him. He said: "What's so awful about paganism? It's been enriching my Catholic faith for two-thousand years!" The caller, clearly a dumb Baptist, replied with: "Yeah, that's right. Your Church has embraced..." and the host hung up on him, proving how obnoxious he was. But it was still a good point. It's precisely the point that the evangelicals miss. In their excitement to bring the good news to savages, they miss the good news that was already there.

Of course, any thinking person hates Kwanzaa because it's a fabricated holiday intended to make money off the suffering of American blacks with identity issues. Still, it's not a hell of a lot worse than mother's or father's day.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

I’m a bit ashamed of myself this evening. I was, what I can regretfully only describe, as grumpy. And grumpiness doesn’t become me. My brother can pull it off. After all, he’s going to be a crotchety old man someday. But as for me, I’m a lady.

I spent the day shopping and sleeping. I enjoyed the latter much more than the former. But I’m almost done with Christmas shopping, which is a relief. Christmas is a hard time for me. I imagine it is for a lot of people. It’s hard to make yourself try to feel reverent when you don’t naturally. And it’s hard to keep a remnant of sanity in all of the consumerism. I know that last bit’s pretty cliché, but clichés usually exist because there’s a bit of truth of them somehow.

My grandfather’s back in the hospital as of tonight. I wish I could feel more about it. It seems I should. Especially on this odd emotional kick I’ve been on recently. But you can’t make yourself feel on demand. I’ll feel it someday I guess.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

For the past week and a half I've been wanting to post something substantial on this blog, but I've been so busy that I haven't had the energy. I'm more in the mood to write just before I go to bed, or just after I wake up. But these days, I wake up to a deadline, or rather, usually I'm running a little late for a deadline. And by the time I get home at night, my only serious interest is going to bed.

Last night, though, I was thinking Merton-inspired thoughts. I wanted to blog about the brotherhood of man and what it means to be an individual.

Individuality is a concept I've had difficulty with. A few times in my life, I've been asked to think about what it meant to be me. Who was I, at core? Not to list the sort of things that I do, or that I like, or that I want. But who I really am when all of those things are taken away.

One of the problems of the modern world, I think, is that we don't give much credence to individual worth. As Americans, we're filled with that liberal spirit of rugged individualism. But that's a different thing from respecting the individual. As largely secular peoples in the western world, we have a problem crediting the person with a soul. It's one of the reasons that we're so quick to discard a "fetus" at its "hosts" whim. We think that a child who's so small that he can't want things, or do things we can visually measure, isn't a someone at all.

But we are given a separate view from religion. As human beings, created by God, and infused with His breath of life, we have an identity separate from anything stemming in our selves. Our identity rests in God, who is always, and always was. So our identity exists for all time, even before we're ever materially conceived, and certainly after we've ceased struggling on this mortal coil.

As human beings, we are individuals, and part of the collective. Though each man is responsible for the saving of his own soul, every day we are helping every one we see to their eventual destination, be it heaven or hell. Though each of us has a distinct identity in God which existed even before our conception of self did, we are members of the body of Christ, and members of one another.

At our best, man is simultaneously his most individual - that is, most in tune with his true identity in Christ - and most a part of human society - that is, fulfilling his role in God's plan through interaction with other men.

More on this later, I have to run.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Extract from sleeping with April:

Schwanny screams goodnight.


April: I think I'm getting a zit.
Sarah: ....pimple.
April: ::echoing laughter::
Rory: ::slams door::
Sarah: Oh God, pimple was bad.
Sarah: I was trying to avoid the word zit. I think acne might have been a better choice. But I went with pimple.
April: ::echoing laughter::

The best bit, though, was April's Gollum noises in her throat.

Yes, this makes little sense. I don't care.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

I'm at Schwanny's blogging right now. April's sleeping in Rory's Bianca Bed.

I survived the trip up to Michigan even though April drives right up everyone's ass. We saw a license plate that looked like it said "Onions" but it didn't really. We also saw a store in which you could buy "Pills and Packages," which we thought was nice. April had to race with a bus and a cop in the 25 mile an hour zone.

In Michigan, everyone moves their hands when they talk. They have to do it to keep the wind from knocking them over. April bought an Ohio State shirt today. When she got pulled over by an imaginary cop from Michigan, he was going to ticket her because she was wearing OSU stuff. But she claimed that she couldn't read it and thought it said Michigan. The cop thought it over and said: "Well, we are illiterate in Michigan" and decided to let her go. Then he asked, "That is a nice shirt, does it come in Michigan?" And then a bus drives by, and sticks out its little hands and says: "Beeeeeeeeeep."

When you drive in Michigan, Michigan welcomes you. And then it invites you to shop at its wonderful Beef Jerky Outlet store.

And on the back of a truck in Ohio, in Monroeville I believe, we saw what I would describe as a shape, but April thought it looked like a boobie purse. That is to say: "It's like you've got a purse, but the bottom of the purse is cut out, and the boobies are falling out of the bottom but the straps are still up there at the top of the purse."

Oh yes, and Clyde, Ohio is the Lime capitol of the world. You can tell because they grow so many limes. It's freakin' green from it.

Celine can sing me "Oh Holy Night" any time.

April has nervous poop and peexiety. She whined about having to poop all the way from Clyde, where she refused to poo, but now that she's here she won't go. On Rory's road though, she freaked out because this guy had to turn and was blocking the road in fornt of her. She screamed "Goddamnit hurry up I have to pee!" then she floored her car and hydroplaned to nowhere. It was great.

I'm going to Michigan today to see Rory and the Lord of the Rings.

So it's unlikely there'll be many blogs 'til Thursday.

Yesterday, though, my dad and I went Christmas Shopping. We went to Millersburg, Amish country that is, to get cheese. The highlight of it all for me was listening in on the Amish kids speaking German to one another. Their dialect is different than what I learned in school, of course, and my German skills suck anyway. But from what I could decipher, listening in on Amish secret conversations isn't as exciting as you might imagine. Or maybe it's every bit as exciting as you might imagine; the Amish aren't exactly ninjas or secret agents or anything.

In short, the kids mainly whinged about their parents. One boy's mother had been screaming at him to clean his room. A girl responded that his room probably wasn't cleanable it was so filthy. The boy laughed and asked her to tell his mother that so he wouldn't have to try.

Anyway, what struck me about the whole trip was gender roles. They're obviously more marked in the Amish community. Boys wear suits; girls wear dresses. Boys have short hair; girls have long. But one thing that I noticed was that, unlike in traditional mainstream society, both boys and girls seem to be expected to work. And not just in ordinary jobs like having boys cleaning barns and girls doing dishes. Both boys and girls operate the little Amish stores. I think the Amish way is actually more traditional. Poor folk have always had to work, gender be damned. It was only the rise of Victorian values which made it so impossible for middle class women to make a living.

Yeah, anyway, five minutes until I'm supposed to be leaving and I've not packed yet. Should really go do that.

Monday, December 15, 2003

This morning when I woke up, I noticed that my dogs were outside. It's cold and snowy here just now, so I went to let them in.

I saw what I took to be Isaac and Tess down by the road. Tess looked as if she were nuzzling Izzy, which I thought was strange. But when I called, Tess reluctantly came slinking across the yard. But Izzy didn't.

Then, much to my surprise, I felt Izzy brush against my leg, trying to get out the door.

I looked at what I had thought to be Izzy again. And it was no dog. The possibility that it could be anything other than a dog hadn't crossed my mind; after all, my dogs attack anything that isn't a dog that stumbles into my yard, and even dogs they harass. Quickly, I reevaluated, what could it be? Fox? No, too dark. Bobcat? Well, maybe, but those things are so rare around here.

And then my eyes focused. It was a raccoon. A giant raccoon. The biggest racoon that I'd ever seen. Larger than Izzy even, by quite a stretch.

No wonder Tess had been sucking up. That thing could've torn her pretty ears right from her head.

My dad was just telling me a great story about my grandmother. When my grandma was a little girl, in the nineteen-teens somewhere-abouts, her father was head of the plasterers union in his part of Buffalo. Remember that in that era of American history, labor unions were still a relatively new, and rather radical, phenomenon. There are a lot of a great stories about my Socialist great-grandfather Martin Britt, after whom my father is named. And this is going to be one of them, so...

At one point during my grandfather's tenure as head of the plasterer's union, there was a huge labor dispute and a charter had to be changed. The problem was that somehow, they'd lost the original copy of the charter. It was a huge problem, complete with threatened violence and pressure from the government and all that.

At one point, even the Pinks were parked across the street from my grandfather's house. Grandma says that it was embarassing for her to have to walk to school every day, smiling politely to the detectives who were watching their house. Especially since she was so sure that her father wouldn't have been involved in any corruption of any sort.

Well, time passed, and eventually so did the labor problems. And one day, the original copy of the charter had even shown up and been restored, sans updating. And in short, all things went back to normal.

But grandma remembers quite distinctly, while the charter had been missing, no one had been allowed to go near the piano. I'm proud of her. 80-years later, and she's still not talking. Like a tomb, we Irish!

Sunday, December 14, 2003

So, the terror of yesterday and this morning alleviated somewhat tonight.

I went home this morning, read a little, and went to sleep. I'd been hoping to sleep until it came time to take Britt back to school. But my mother woke me up before an hour had passed, wanting to know if I felt like going to town to get pizza. I didn't. So, back to sleep. Then more knocking a little later. I didn't have to take my niece back tonight. Yay! Joy! Back to sleep. Of course, I'm getting pretty hungry by now.

So my evening at Jasmin's was interesting. Not peaceful, nor restful, nor sane, nor non-ulcer inducing mind you. Just interesting.

It's hard to know where to begin. Keep in mind that the absolute last thing I wanted to be doing was housesitting for Jasmin. The entire idea made me physically ill with nerves, which, I can't blame anyone for cause I've been freakishly, uncharacteristically high strung all weekend. But anyway, I was really quite not wanting to do this.

Everything that could have gone wrong has totally gone wrong. It all started poorly when Angela managed to make me an hour late. That was compounded by the fact that I had absolutely no clue whatsoever where Jasmin had hidden her key. I imagine she told me, mind you. I just bloody forgot about it, being the idiot that I am. So, we ended up having to call her friend's cell phone. Being as high strung as I've been lately, I didn't want to do it. So it took a long time. Not to mention, I'd forgotten the number at home, so I killed another hour trying to find the damn thing.

Once we finally got in, things brightened up. For a while. But the damned dogs and cats, you see, are the freakin' debbil. Apparently, they've had some kind of open declaration of war for some time now, and Mike's and my presence just aggravated the thing.

We were so tired by 3am that we decided to crash. But all night long, the damn cat had been climbing in the tree to hide from the dog. Every time the cat did that, the dog would go psycho and attack the tree. So it pretty quickly became apparent that the dog and the cat couldn't be together downstairs. No problem, one would think, just stick the cat in the basement.

Well, it appears the cat had imagined this solution as well. It was prepared. We chased that damn cat for an hour. By the end of it, around four at my estimation, the cat had dematerialized somewhere under Jasmin's bed. Okay, we thought, let it be. The cat can remain non-material for all we bloody care, and we went to bed. Around 5:30, we were awakened to a rousing bark that could only mean one thing. The damn cat had decided to rejoin those of us still stuck in fleshy form.

So we got out of bed, chased the cat. We chased it out of Jasmin's room, out of Jesse's room, out of the spare room, out from the tree, out from under the couch. We chased the damn thing until we nearly cried. And then we realized we could just say fuck it, and lock the dog upstairs with us. So we did.

But that didn't work. Because the dog barked. It barked a lot. So around 7:30, I said, fuck sleep and went downstairs to read and play my guitar a while. That shut the dog up, and Mike still slept for a few more hours. In the meantime, I finally got the damn cat in the basement, and like hell I'm letting the little motherfucker out again.

Mike and I chanted to ourselves, as we went to sleep last night, the myriad reasons we hate this place. The ghosts, the damn cat, the damn dog, the damn cold spots, then the damn hot spots, etc.

Jasmin's a good friend of mine, and I'm really quite fond of her. But if she ever suggests this again, I'll kill her. I really will.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Anything anyone said about me taking nudies of myself is total bunk. Lies, I say.

Yeah, so I got locked out of Jasmin's and couldn't find the key.

But once we finally got in, it was terrific. Mike, Angela and I sprinted to Jasmin's bedroom, so Mike and I could have sex in Jasmin's bed. We took pictures, it was brilliant.

Then we danced in Jasmin's living room. And spun around in her kitchen. We explored the basement. I licked her Christmas tree and her Grinch. I chased her pussy. We pretended to be animals with her dog. Then I hurt myself and bled all over her floor, and Mike crawled through pee to get away from Angela's nastiness.

And yeah, that's the evening so far.

This morning I was rudely awakened to the sound of Jasmin's serenading.

"Damn," thought I to myself. And I says to her, "What the hell do you want this early in the morning?"

And she replies, "Well, since you're single..."

And I thinks to myself, "Damn..."

Anyhow, somehow I ended up housesitting tonight. Now, how in hell did she decide that I should be the one to watch her house? I know Nikki's out of town, but damn!

Seriously, I should never be trusted with anything of value. At all. If you can't replace it at WalMart, I shouldn't be allowed to touch it. Ever.


Three thoughts I'm thinking, as better expressed by others:

"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another." - Anatole France

"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." - Hesiod

The past few weeks have been eventful for me, and thereby, less introspective than is probably appropriate. I can't decide what I want in life. Do I want to be well-adjusted, or do I want excellence? I'm told that these concepts aren't mutually exclusive; but Jesus wasn't mainstream, and the Buddha wasn't mainstream, and you can bet that St. Francis wasn't a good old boy. And I can't help finding conflict in it all.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about virtue. About how I used to have a touch of it, and how now I haven't. In part, it's a matter of self-realization, and realization about the nature of sin. In part, too, it's a matter of the frequency of temptation. How many avoid sin merely by virtue of having never been tempted! But in part, I think there's something in me which has decayed.

I've strayed. And though the last thing my will is willing to endure is discipline, I've decided to rededicate myself to just that during my break. I have the perfect opportunity to reintroduce myself to right ideas, and to the hard work which bridges ideal and reality.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

I'm having difficulty writing in this thing lately. I just don't have much to say. Which isn't to say that my life isn't eventful, because the reality is that I've been doing much more than I usually do.

Last night, for example, I went to Jasmin's for this post-finals/Christmas celebration sort of thing. It was good, even though I felt like hell throughout. I've managed getting another kidney infection. I'm hoping I can trick my mother into thinking that I haven't got one, though she always figures it out somehow. I think it's the random bouts of looking feverish and being tired that give it away. But if she finds out that I have one, I'm going to have endure hours more perfectly sensical speeches about how I need to go to the doctor. Well, I say nay, mother! I shall suffer silently and never go to the doctor, common sense be damned!

I don't know why the hell I'm so stubborn about some things. But I don't like doctors. Or hugs. Or spiders. Or clowns. And these distates aren't static. They're ingrained. And while I realize rationally that doctors can help you to feel better, as I suppose, theoretically, so can hugs; and while I realize that the likelihood of spiders or clowns really hurting me is relatively low, I'm so not taking my chances on the dirty bastards.

So, it's vacation, though I still have a little work left to do. While I have scores of things to do in one sense, in another, I haven't as much to do as usual. Christmas shopping for my family has pretty much dwindled to nothing. I can remember spending weeks on it as a kid, but now it's usually more like a couple of hours on some lazy afternoon and I'm done. I worry much more about what I get people than what I get. And this year, I'm fairly happy with stuff I'm getting for non-family members. But the family is difficult as hell; I don't know why we have to be so stubborn about some things.

What I'm really looking forward to, is seeing Mike this weekend. I guess we're going to do something fun. Maybe a Mohican Day. The weather, outside of being rainy the past few days, has been sort of nice for it. Much warmer than it had been.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Today has been unpleasant and I’m disappointed with myself for being moody. I don’t feel all that well for one thing. And I’m depressed as hell for another. I had to write a letter to my brother wishing him happy holidays and all that. And I felt pretty stupid about it. Despite my fondest wishes prison isn’t really all that festive.

Anyway, it's break. And that has to be happy news.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Babies put me in a bad mood these days. My niece Jessica lost one two years ago. And this year, of course, my niece Brianne gave her little boy up for adoption. I know you're not supposed to talk about these things, but having the story of the whole mess already sprawled across this blog, I guess it's okay to do it. According to the latest gossip I've heard, the evil aunt has the baby. I'm told that he's called Bryson. Bryson Tackett. Maybe Bryson James Tackett, but I'm not certain about it. And for all I know it could be Brycen Tackett or Brison Tackett or God knows what other silly variant spelling. The whole story is so messed up and stupid that it could only happen in my family. Still, this time last year, I was all excited about the birth of my first great-nephew. I was worried that I would miss his birth while I was in Europe, and I wanted to see all of the important landmarks in the little guy's life. I love kids, and there really aren't any in my family anymore, so I was really quite happy about it. But now I'm feeling a little jinxed.

Still, I'm right overjoyed about this. The first pic of my brand new little great-nephew/niece.

I just had one of those strange sexist revelations people in these modern times have every now again. Like folks in the sixties assumed long hair meant a girl, and folks in the thirties assumed pants must mean a man, I naturally seem to assume that things done on the computer are done by men. The template for this blog was originally designed by Eliza Wee. Until just a few seconds ago, I'd unconsciously maintained the fiction in my mind that Eliza was some sort of Eastern European male name, probably akin to Elisha. It never actually occured to me that Eliza could be a chick name, even though, naturally, outside of this context, I would always assume an Eliza was a girl. And you think you're enlightened.

Here's a little story about Roman history.

See, once upon a time, there was this chick called Lucretia. And see, Lucretia was getting her weave on. Blah, blah, blah....I love Rome. The End!

Yeah, so anyway, I managed an A on my Roman paper. Albeit, an A-. But hell, I know my Prof. can't write an A without a - on it, so I don't complain. I got a 96 A- once, which is scientific proof of the thing.

And I just finished my Roman final, marking the end of my Roman thinking ever more. Forever and ever, Amen, says Randy Travis.

So now I only have German and Ohio History left. And they're not so bad. This is good.

Tonight I shall see my family again, finally. And it shall be lovely.

I'm tired of writing now. The whole purpose of this blog was to include Jasmin's "Lucretia got her weave on" phrase, and Amy's "I love Rome!" instead of writing an essay phrase. Study session the other night was fun.

Ask me later about Easter grass up the ass, and the Ameli-anus family. Yeah. Whatever.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Winter in Ohio is all about relearning things.

Things like how to drive in the snow. How you have to stay in the ruts that people have already created in the snow since your little neon isn't a four wheel drive, and how hard it is to change lanes in traffic when there isn't a rut to follow. And how to break half a mile before a stop sign so that you don't slide through it. And how you have to use your wipers in the snow just like it's rain. These are things you don't remember when it's nice and you can drive 65 down back roads in the country.

Today I walked into Ovalwood and remembered the other lessons of Ohio winters. How to push down with your toes when you walk, so you don't slip and fall on the ice. How the electric wires buzz when the snow hits them. How blinding the white of the snow is, and all you can do is blink wildly hoping not to stumble into a snow drift as you navigate the path to your vehicle. How much it hurts to stick your bare fingers down into the snow to make a snowball.

It isn't the first snow of the year, but it's the first real snow of the year. And I'm happy. It makes me glad to think of all of the roofs caked in snow which is smoothed over just right. I think I'd like to see a real desert sand dune some day. But I'd still prefer the snow drifts of Ohio and home.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003


My paper's done!

I still have homework to do. Readings for tomorrow, an exam tomorrow, and of course, finals next week.

But in the meantime, weeeeeee!

Paper's done! Joy! Joy! Joy!

Today has been awful. It's really sucked. But everything's comin' up Sarah now.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

I think maybe I'm so sleep deprived that I've turned stupid. I filled out the rest of my outline for my paper tonight, but just couldn't concentrate to write it. Ahh, well, I still have tomorrow. I've decided to sleep instead of finish it. Sleep. Sweet sleep. And to bed a half hour early even. How nice!

Inside April’s Body: A Scientific Explanation of Why Her Taste in Men Has Lessened Since High School.

Hormones: Stop wasting your time on that hot guy! Go for the fucking bald man! Go! Now! GO!

Brain: ::naps::

Hormones: NOW BRAIN, NOW!

Brain: ::scratches brain vagina:: What’s going on?

Hormones: Damnit brain, you always overpower me!

Brain: No, seriously, what’s going on?

April Practices Her Animal Sounds:

Sarah: And Nikki trots by in the background: Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

April: Ooo, she's a rabbit? I didn't know that!

I'm posting this knowing that it won't post for several hours, if I'm so fortunate to have it post at all. Blogger won't be arsed to load again, and I can't complain because I could hardly be arsed out of bed this morning. All that blessed productivity of yesterday has again drained out of me, leaving in its place a well of ambition.

When I was a kid, I remember reading that ambition was a sin. I was baffled by it because my culture is entirely swallowed up in ambition. Even four year olds are instructed to make lists of their life goals. But my readings about the Roman Republic have revealed to me in part the danger of ambition.

It is not wrong to want to be a great person, but it is generally wrong to want to be a person of great personal means. It is particularly wrong if you are willing to steal your position from others, or are willing to trample them to get it, or if you're willing to negate yourself for that less than perfect end. Some people wake up one day and discover that they're rich, or influential. But most people have to work to attain any real power.

I've found that in life, people generally get what they want. Specifics be damned, really. You may really want to get into Harvard and not make it. But if you really do want to go to a good school, you generally will. And you may not want to end up an alcoholic, specifically, but what you do want to do is drink a hell of a lot of alcohol. And you get that too. People generally know that they're hurting themselves and being destructive; moral paths are often very, very clear if we allow ourselves a moment's objective reflection on them.

Ambitious people, too, generally get what they want. Consciously and unconsciously they jockey for position, knocking others down on their way, slithering about to put themself in the right place at the right time. What ambitious people never realize is that the inverse element of their ambition is loneliness, and to accomplish success means the cutting out of all others from your life. "Heavy is the head that wears the crown," moans Shakespeare, a sentiment echoed by our cultural aphorism: "It's lonely at the top."

I thoroughly believe that men were meant to live communally. And that our nature is less competition than cooperation. It's only through our fall from grace that we embrace ambition, competition, etc. And yet, the country which I so thoroughly believe in is based on ambition, competition, rugged individualism. So how can these two value systems exist side by side?

There is a word called eupocrisy, coined by the Catholic apologist Mark Shea. It's related to the concept of hypocrisy and it might be even be well-defined as a positive hypocrite. A hypocrite is someone who tells us that they're going to do one thing, and in reality does another. A eupocrite is akin. The difference is that hypocrite has a negative spin: Joe said he'd never gossip, and look at him now that hypocrite! Whereas a eupocrite has a positive spin: Billy said he didn't feel any empathy for the poor, but look at how he weeps over that poverty-stricken orphan girl!

A eupocrite is someone who espouses a negative, or wrong value, but lives up to a positive or correct value through his behavior. In many ways, America is eupocritic nation. We espouse individualism, but we generally live in communities and cooperate in organizations. We espouse capitalism, but we have an extended social services system and are the most charitable people in the world. And while we have informally canonized the ideal of the ambitious competitor, we tend not to like such types personally, and in our regular lives, we tend to seek out nice guy next door neighbors rather than cut throat types.

Damn, I surely am rambling. Must be because I'm tired of doing my homework. Hrmph.

Damn, I can't believe how much I've gotten done today. Everything that I meant to do last weekend and didn't get done, was easily and painlessly finished tonight. I remember when I used to feel this clear-headed more often. Those were happy days, when I remember what I'd said five minutes ago without having to smack my head on walls to shake loose the menagerie of disconnected thoughts that float around in my cranium.

I got all my discussions done. I finished my article abstract, my source analysis and my extra credit assignment. That may not sound like a lot. But it ended up taking me something like five hours of pretty continuous work. I feel very, very good right now. Nevermind that I still have a paper to write and three chapters to read in the morning, at the very least. And other work I'm behind on to boot. And I haven't slept much lately, and my eyes are starting to feel dried out from being open so long, and so on and so forth about pain and agony and general worry.

I'm blithering jolly right now. Hell, I even went to El Campesino's tonight, and I got Christmas stuff done for lots of people. I'm so fucking productive it's killing me.

I could bitch about my grandfather being in the hospital again. But what's the point? Ich bin fleissig! Ich bin sehr fleissig. Wenn ich nur Zeit hätte, würde ich diese Welt rettung! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Auf Deutsch ist nett und glücklich!

Monday, December 01, 2003

I've been sitting on my ass all day not doing what I was supposed to. I had so many things I was supposed to get done this weekend, that I totally had the time to do, that I didn't get done. What did I do instead? I watched the 80's Strike Back, Bowling for Columbine, CMT's Greatest Women of Country Music, and other crap that totally wasted my time.

On the bright side, I've started outlining my big paper. I finished my document source analysis. On the darker side, I still have two discussions to make up, my paper to actually write, and an article synopsis left to do. That would've been a good project for this weekend, eh? Yeah.