Saturday, April 30, 2005

I officially graduate in five days, at which time I head home to resume living there full time for the first time in nearly ten months. That is to say, nine months and two weeks minus 22 days I took off for leave. In honor of this occasion, I will act very silly indeed on my blog until I get home. The title "Did you shave this morning, devil?" will remain until then, at which time my original title will resume. I wrote an amateur paper on the Da Vinci Code, but since it is not silly, it will have to wait for it's due season. I'm also working on a Homeric epic about two kids in my class who almost got into a fight a few weeks back, and since it is most silly indeed, it will be up as soon as I finish it.

Today I went to the San Diego zoo and saw those pandas. It wasn't hard, since all they ever do is sit around and sleep.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

On the other hand, perhaps it's a good thing I had to miss blogging for a couple of days, because it gave me more of a chance to reflect. I was reading some of Mark Shea's recent posts, one in particular about how both those who like and those who dislike the new pope may be in for some surprises.

I see a lot of giddiness on the blogs, and the Old Oligarch's
initial post on the subject did not escape my notice, most especially because included among the "positively frolicking students" were probably some of my personal friends and acquaintances. Some people may wonder why they don't hear the same tone from me.

Many people are acting like their team has won the World Series, and that is to a certain extent what Mark was talking about. Don't get me wrong, I am very glad he was chosen over some of the media darlings like what's his name. I agree with Mark that we shouldn't think of this as a matter of "our guy" winning what Mark calls "the raffle for Power in the great historical process of warfare between race, class and gender."

Truth be known, I was much more relieved to hear of the election of George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 than of the election of Pope Benedict for the simple reason that unlike the papal conclave, the presidential election could have produced the wrong man. The very wrong man indeed. I was never worried that we would get bad pope, much les the "wrong" pope, because whoever we got, we got from God. I suppose that the jumping up and down could be attributed to happiness that God had given us whom we wanted, but are we really supposed to be deciding ahead of time who we really want and then hoping he gets chosen?

From what I can gather, no one I know has been doing this. They have almost all said that they had never dared to hope for Ratzinger, and if they indeed tried to expel their feelings of wishing and hoping, that reflects credit on them.

The words "Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum" struck a cord with me at least, because I was simply so happy to have a pope. The "gaudium magnum" is that habemus papam in the first place, not who papa est. One of the things I liked seeing and hearing in that half hour of coverage before he finally came out was hearing the crowd shout "Viva il papa" without even knowing who he was. I was near tears of joy, watching people running, police trying to control crowd, crowd not giving damn, and imagining what I would do if I were there (probably trying to climb a wall or pillar and get on top of the collonade itself).

I'm not accusing anyone, but this is just my attitude toward the whole thing. The worst that could have happened is that we might have gotten a pope like Arthur Anchovie from Monty Python: "unimaginative, timid, spineless, easily dominated and irrepressibly drab and awful" who nevertheless upheld Church doctrine whenever he was asked to change it. Instead, we got a pope with a proven record of strong leadership who will continue in the path of John Paul II. It's not as though we narrowly missed a Church of women priests and liberation theology.

Just to be extra sure I don't get misunderstood, let me close by saying this: We thank God for giving us gifts from His bountiful hands through Christ Our Lord, even though we had no doubt He would. That is exactly the same way we ought to thank Him for giving us one strong leader to follow another, even though we had no doubt He would ultimately give us the right one.

Your Linguistic Profile:

50% General American English

30% Yankee

15% Dixie

5% Upper Midwestern

0% Midwestern

Friday, April 22, 2005

And the blogging world has run wild with the stories and discussions of the new pope, and I had to leave it at one post for an interminable two or three days. I've kind of had my own problems recently. I have a question for all the Yaleies out there. What is the key to staying sane as a smart person when surrounded by complete idiots?
It started when one of my classmates asserted that we all know darn well that Ratzinger was chosen so that there will be another conclave in a few years, and the Vatican can make more tourist money. I did not know where to begin. First of all, every year the Vatican gets millions of pilgrims and only a few tourists. Secondly, they were completely incredulous when I told that the Vatican City has no hotels, restaurants or public transportation to benefit from tourism. At that, they tried to explain to me that they somehow benefit from the 'local economy' by having a conclave in which hotels and restaurants in Rome and outside of the Vatican do a brisk business. It didn't seem any use explaining to them that conclave cost the Vatican quite a bit of money, and that contrary to their belief, the Vatican collects no money at Papal masses because, well, they collect no money. Even if they did, beatifications, canonizations and WYD's would be far more cost effective.
Then came the subject of the Da Vinci code. They must have had a bet for who could use the word 'documented' the most times before I earned my MCMAP grey belt in one afternoon. I think by 'documented',they must have meant 'alluded to in the book itself'. It all reminds me of the famous study conducted by the Lovestein Institute of Scranton PA, finding that Bush had the lowest IQ of any recent President. It was an excellently conducted study with one major flaw: The Lovestein Institute doesn't exist. I'd love to read the Da Vinci code and see his impeccable sources in all their historically accurate majesty and glory.

Speaking of debunking, I realize this is a little late, but I was at boot camp when all this was going on. Time Magazine's end of the year issue mentioned all the important things that had happened in the year, and Swiftboat Vets for Truth got a mention. Time claimed "although their claims were widely debunked, Democrats never knew what hit them". I wasn't able to follow that part of the news. Were their claims widely debunked? Or am I right in my suspicion that by "widely debunked", they mean "vehemently denied by the Kerry Campaign"?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

And to think I almost decided to sleep in this morning. I deeply regretted waking up at 9:30 or 10 on September 11.

I'm really lucky I happened to be in the middle of a phone call home and was thus able to proceed immediately to the lounge to watch it live. I chose Fox since they were the only ones I trusted to cover it like a conclave rather than a watershed election that might drastically change the direction of the Church. I love live TV, and watching the broadcast, I felt like I was really there. Eventually I could no longer stand the suspense and began to say the Rosary. I only got to the beginning of the second mystery when the procession came out onto the balcony.

I have a bit of an appointment at 1415 or perhaps 1430, so this might have to be short. Some women from Michigan were interviewed in the crowd before the name was announced, and one of them astutely observed that the shortness of the conclave showed only that the cardinals were united and had little disagreement.

But what are the progressives going to do. I feel so sorry for them. They shall have to cope without their long hoped for and precious 'dialogue'.

I'll still miss our last pope. His is still the image I summon up when I hear the words 'the pope', but that will probably change.

Well, there is nothing much left to do for now but look forward to the papacy of Benedict XVI.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Finally, the Lord has sent us something to fisk.

One of the most frequently offered arguments by proponents of same-sex marriage is that it is not gays wanting to marry a member of the same sex that threatens the institution of marriage, it is the high divorce rate among heterosexuals.
One reason this argument is so often made is that it appeals to the religious as well as the secular, to conservatives as well as liberals.
This is too bad, because the argument is a meaningless non sequitur.
First, while divorce ends a given marriage, it does not threaten marriage as an institution. Of course, many marriages fail and end in divorce -- while some other marriages fail and do not end in divorce -- but why does this threaten marriage as an institution? Simple, an individual divorce threatens an individual marriage, the institution of divorce threatens the institution of marriage.
To understand the foolishness of the argument "divorce threatens marriage," let's apply this principle to other areas of life. Let's begin with parenthood. It is undeniable that vast numbers of people fail -- and have always failed -- as parents.
Yet, no one argues that the many parents who fail to raise good children threaten the institution of parenthood. Parenthood is now an 'institution'? Why, then, do marriages that fail threaten the institution of marriage? Why then, would the economy be in trouble if people could simply walk out of contracts and agreements because they got bored or did not like the party of the second part?
When we think of parents failing, we think of ways to improve parenting, and we discourage people from becoming parents before they are ready. Why, then, don't we do the same regarding divorce -- think of ways to improve marriages and discourage people from marrying before they are ready? How do you "improve" marriages as a society? It is what they make of it, not a roll of the dice.
There is a second reason the divorce-rate-threatens-marriage argument is disingenuous: If gays marry, they will divorce at least as often as heterosexuals do. That is why the divorce issue is entirely unrelated to the question of whether we should redefine marriage. The divorce issue is a matter of redefining marriage. The only reason the argument is even offered is because gullible people will buy it. And because, as we just mentioned, it is a very old argument which has been vindicated numerous times. The gullible include well-intentioned centrist Americans who think, "Hey, that's a good point. Straights sure haven't done such a great job with marriage; why not let gays have a crack at it?" And the gullible include well-intentioned religious Americans whose loathing of divorce overwhelms their critical thinking. Or perhaps those whose loathing of divorce is a result of critical thinking, not a cancer on it, thank you very much, oh wise and enlightened one.
A third flaw in the argument is that it presupposes that every divorce constitutes a failure of a couple's marriage. If it constitutes a success, then marriage has already been redefined almost beyond retrieval. Sometimes this is true; sometimes it is not. I know a couple married for 30 years who made a beautiful home for their three now-married children. The couple divorced last year because they had both concluded that they had drifted too far apart to continue living together in any meaningful way (one aspect of the drift was one partner's increasing devotion to religion and the other's decreasing interest in it).
Who has the hubris to call their marriage a failure? I do. Their children surely don't think their parents' marriage was a failure. It produced three wonderful married adults, and it provided them a beautiful and loving home in which to grow up. They split up because their marriage was no longer perfect, not because some unbridgeable gap occurred. One can only wish all marriages so "failed." Or one could wish they all succeeded, if for some reason one doesn't look highly on dying alone.
It is simplistic to maintain that the one criterion of success or failure in marriage is permanence. There are marriages that provided years of comfort to a couple and a fine home to their children that eventually end; and there are permanent marriages that have provided neither comfort to the couple nor a loving environment for their children. If the end of something renders it a failure, every one of our lives is a failure, since they all come to an end. Failure is a relative term. If lives were meant to go on forever, then death would indeed be a failure. Marriages are meant to last until the death of one or the other, so a marriage that ends before then is a failure. If I run three miles, my success or failure depends, among other things, on whether it was a three mile run or a five mile run.
Finally, marriage is threatened not by divorce, but by people not marrying in the first place -- as is increasingly the case in the two European societies that have redefined marriage to include couples of the same sex. Marriage is not threatened by people who stay away from it, it is threatened by people who legally bring it down to a level of parity with something of their own imagination. The economy is threatened by people who counterfeit money, making the fake worth more and the real worth less until one can barely tell the difference. Our present high divorce rate is not stopping the vast majority of Americans from wanting to marry. Nor should it. Nothing provides the antidote to narcissism, or the environment for the healthy raising of children, or the way for people to take care of one another, as does the marriage of a man and a woman. And while most divorces are terribly sad, divorce itself no more undermines the institution of marriage than car crashes undermine the institution of driving. The right to crash whenever you feel like it would indeed put driving in danger. In any case, put driving up there on the list of newly discovered 'institutions'. In fact, the vast majority of people who do divorce deeply wish to marry again; Wonderful, now marriages can be like cars; painful divorce has not undermined marriage even among those who have divorced. Which is why divorcees have such overwhelming success rates in their subsequent marriages.
There may be honest reasons to support the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples. The argument that heterosexuals divorce a lot is not one of them. It is, in fact, demagoguery.
Am I being too picky a linguist? It's just that recently I took a little bit of issue with people who translate the title of the Pope's second to last book as "Rise, let us be on our way".

The actual title in Italian is "Alzatevi, Andiamo", which literally means "raise yourself, let's go". The Italian, as you see, consists of just two words and seven syllables. I'm inclined to believe he chose that title specifically because it is short, pithy, and to the point. I would probably have translated it as "Get up, let's go".

Friday, April 08, 2005

I'm reading the Iliad again, and this time I'm taking notes that I think are interesting. I came upon this one the other day which I had missed every other time I read it or listened to it:

Athene is granting Diomedes request to give him enough strength to continue with the battle, despite having been hit by Pandaros' arrow, and maybe even get lucky when throwing a spear at Pandaros.
Book Five, Lines 129-132.
"Therefore now, if a god making trial of you comes hither,
do you not do battle head on with the gods immortal,
not with the rest; but only if Aphrodite, Zeus' daughter
comes to the fighting, her at least you may stab with the sharp bronze."


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The colors on the general's lawn run at half mast these past few days, and on Sunday there was a small white pennant underneath it with a blue cross on it symbolizing the navy chaplaincy.

I went down to the base sports field Sunday evening to see what all the noise was about, and it turned out that the 3rd LAR unit was returning from Iraq. I stuck around to get some pictures, including (if it develops properly) a picture of Brigadier General Zilmer, commanding general of the base, personally congratulating Marines as low as Lance Corporal. I had never seen the general in person before, and it was only after a double-take that I noticed it was not a silver oak leaf on his collar (Lieutenant Colonel), but a star.

Interestingly, this unit returning has coincided with the PX being sold out of Purple Heart ribbons.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

It felt so awful going to class last night. I had a gut feeling, without a complete certainty, that he would die sometime in the night. I had finished my dinner in the chow hall but stayed for quite a while just because the news was on.

It's marvelous that he lived this long considering some people doubted his assertion that he would lead the Church well into the next century, and many people suggested he retire, I guess as CEO of CatholicCorp International, as they saw it.

The media have lost a major source of glee now, namely the giddiness with which thy showed pictures of him bent over or staggering and being held up by a Cardinal. It always seemed they went to great lengths to show pictures of him yawning or going red with his mouth hanging open. How unfortunate for them that there is no sadness, sickness or death where he is going. Not only that, but when things are done and this generation moves on, we will not remember the old sick pope who could barely stand up, but will instead remember the vigorous, enthusiastic young pope, who was so loved that even to the day he died, hundreds of thousands of people would stand up for hours just to hear one of his masses or addresses

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