Sunday, June 19, 2005

This will not be my last post ever, or even for the whole deployment, but it will be for a while. I expect to be home briefly for a few days around July 4th. Will be trained on the Small Unit Riverine craft, and I hope there are radio folks there who are more eperienced than me. I'm never sure about exactly how thoroughly a guy fresh out of his first school is supposed to know his job, if he's supposed to wow the Colonel or if he's just supposed to study under the Sergeant like a medieval apprentice. I'm sure I'll find out. Past worrying and experience have taught me to value Matthew 6:27, "Which of you, by worrying, can add one cubit to his height?"
"Mr. Morris- Who's to say that the founders weren't wrong? This is what we call thinking outside the box. Try it."

The difference between "thinking outside the box" and "being a perfect ass" is that those who think outside the box actually perform the dignified act of thinking. He who does this utters the above quote with the hope of arriving at a conclusion on the subject matter involved. Someone who is being a perfect ass is not interested in finding an answer or exploring the subject. Those who ask questions like "who's to say what is or is not moral" do so not because they want to know so they can consult him. They do so because ultimately they want the answer to be "no one" so that the matter will drop for lack of direction. No matter what the issue is, this is a cowardly way of avoiding discussion. If the answer actually is "no one", anyone who believes that should be ready to demonstrate it.
My older brother observed this morning that it is a unique brand of foolishness to talk about taking the Church into the outside world and yet to encourage people to spend such a large portion of their time doing parish activities to build a sense of communiy within the parish. Throw that observation back in time and apply Chesterton's vocabulary and word idiom to it, and you have a genuine Chesterton quote, which just goes to prove what I've believed for a good while.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Why do people do it? I just don't understand it. Maybe it's just the books I've read recently picking apart the Da Vinci Code, but I have just about no patience whatsoever for people who put lies and made-up statistics into opinion pieces. Today on MSN, there was an article about what 30-year-olds should say to people who dare wonder why they are thirty and unmarried. I'll leave other people to pick it apart (if they see it), but I wanted to focus on one main thing. (As an aside, I note this: she claims that the practice of getting married before 25 is a carry over from the days when life expectancy was really short. Sorry to interrupt her pontificating fantasies, but when life expectancies were much shorter, girls got married at around 16, not "25". And people did not live to "40-something. Maximum." unless you're talking about the caves.)

But that's not my main point. She mentions that we don't use the phrase "happily single", and then claims that nevertheless "those words are 100% certified by the US Census Bureau." She doesn't, of course, mention any numbers, preferring simply to claim that "statistics" show us married men are happier than single, but single women are happier than married. It would be fair to point out that she doesn't claim that these are the statistics found in the U.S. Census Bureau which she mentions, but the juxtaposition of the two claims was not accidental.

Whoops! Turns out the U.S. Census Bureau does not keep statistics on how people feel about their marriages or lifestyles. If it can be believed, the U.S. Census is only for ethnic backgrounds, income levels, number of kids, age group cut-offs, employments and other similar things. Of course, it mentions marital status statistics, but only in a yes-or-no respect, with no reference to how people rate their marriages. And of course, although we may not be able to nail her directly on the giving false statistics, her claim that the U.S. Census Bureau even kept such statistics was a lie. Besides, whatever you can argue from technicalities in order to absolve her, remember that people don't usually make such misleading comments in print unless they do so deliberately. Oh, by the way, the website of the actual U.S. Census Bureau is open to the public examination.

In the Marines, we sometimes make reference to "raising the b-lls--t flag". Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please. Please remove your hats and place your hand over your heart as we do honor to truth by debunking another e-charlatan. Those in uniform salute.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Marines pack well. Good Marines pack really well, so if you ever open you purse or book bag and find an elephant or a symphony orchestra, it's a good bet some Marine is playing a joke on you.

Just a seemingly random thought brought about by today's unpacking, checklist, and repacking experiences.

I think the Marines have changed me in a serious way. I didn't always have the guts to sneak into the main admin office when it was temporarily unoccupied and steal some glue from the desk of the company clerk, but when the iron-on nametag in the collar of my blouse came unstuck less than fifteen minutes before an inspection, what else was I supposed to do?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Read Who, Me?

It's a perfect exposition on how Jack Chick and his people view evangelism, the Great Commission, and themselves.

"Most of us are not real witnesses to those we buy from or sell to". I can't understand this. I love buying from and selling to people who are constantly asking me if I'm saved, because I can be if I read this tract.

I absolutely love the picture of the chinese spy. No one will spot him in his blue Mao suit with a red star on his hat, because he took the trouble of hiding behind the magazine rack. In case his superiors at central control don't believe his story of kids reading comic books at the drugstore, he's taking pictures to prove it.

What's stupidest about it is that they assure us "Chick tracts make witnessing easy!" Of course, after twenty centuries of persecutions in different lands at different times, we've finally learned that missionary work was never meant to be an inconvenience; it was meant to be easy! That must be why Christ specifially warned his followers not to expect welcome or comfort. "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted and shall put you to death: and you shall be hated by all nations for my name's sake." (Matt 24:9) "If the world hate you, know ye that it hath hated me before you." (John 15:18) along with many, many more examples.

Then again, Our Lord also warned us about Chick. "And many false prophets shall rise and shall seduce many." (Matt 24:11) He didn't say anything about stupid prophets.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Oh, I almost forgot to mention. I leave home in ten days for the preliminary training in Camp Lejeune. We expect actually to go to Iraq in September.
Your IQ Is 135

Your Logical Intelligence is Genius
Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius
Your Mathematical Intelligence is Genius
Your General Knowledge is Exceptional

I especially like that picture of me. I look so happy with my big brain clearly visible through my skull.

Friday, June 10, 2005

There were a couple of things I thought were missing from Amy Welborn, Carl Olson and Sandra Miesel's books dealing with the Da Vinci Code. On the subject of whether or not Christ was believed to be a "mortal teacher" prior to the council of Nicea, I think both books missed a valuable pair of sources. Gaius Suetonius Tranquilus, in The Twelve Caesars mentions that the Christians were practicing a "new and mischievous religious belief". What that belief is, he does not say, but it's a direct hit on the theory that Christianity was at that time (late first century) simply a group of followers of a mortal prophet.

The second is that Josephus writes about Jesus in his histories. He writes that "some assert he actually rose from the dead." This isn't to prove that the resurrection happened, it is to support the fact that early Christians believed in Christ's divinity from the beginning, and the Council of Nicea had nothing to do with it.

What I was wondering is this: Are these passages considered unreliable, or is there some other reason none of those three authors mentioned them?
Andrew Sullivan opines: "Maybe if the Pope voiced a little more charity and listened a tiny bit more, more people would listen back".

Just wondering Andy, no one listens to you; is that because you do listen or you don't?

The usual catholic response to the "listen", "dialogue" or "open" tropes is to say that the Chuch's teachings are not changeable. While this is correct, it misses a few points worth making. First of all "listening" implies someone is saying something that should be heard. Africans whose habits contract AIDS certainly aren't saying anything other than the African equivalent of "dibs on that one", and I hardly think the pope will derive much openness or enightenment from that. The intellectuals, obviously including Sullivan, aren't saying anything that couldn't be put on a bumper sticker, and that they haven't said a million times before. At least a 2,000 year old Church has an excuse to keep on repeating itself. Even if there were a grand symposium between the Church and the dissenting catholics who talk of dialogue, what would they say at it? More importantly, what would they say if they didn't get their way?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

To follow up on my La ci darem la mano post, it's funny how much more you find when you examine the text carefully. Only yesterday did I realize that even though it is often said that Don Giovanni's conquests number eighteen hundred, his list which Leporello reads to Elvira counts not 1800, but 2065 women. Is that singnificant or just a clumsy mistake on someone's part?

A typical Twentynine Palms view.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

"Something missing from your life as a couple?"

Um, the boat? I don't get it.
I just realized that yesterday's post was my 100th. Yet and still, Blogger dashboard insists I have only 50 posts, and I've heard of a few other people whose dashboards suddenly stopped counting the number of posts.

I also recently realized that my post of April 8th marked my blog's one year anniversary. Generally, one's hundredth post comes before the first year is out, but my first year included all of boot camp and MCT, so I get a free break.

Monday, June 06, 2005

"Where you from, soldier?" "Missouri, sir."

"Go get 'em, Missouri."

Sunday, June 05, 2005

I was just listening to "La ci darem la mano" from Don Giovanni, and I was thinking about how later on Maesetto gets angry at Zerlina for this and she takes offense. I was suddenly struck with a thought that I for my part had never considered before: Are we suppose to be sympathizing with her? She seems to think it's perfectly fine that on the day of her wedding to Maesetto, she should run off and and marry a sweet talking nobleman just because he's got lots of cash and a fancy pad nearby. Although she expresses a feeling of pity for Maesetto, she makes it sound as though the only serious concern is whether or not this rich guy will be faithful to her, not whether or not she is being faithful to a certain young man who has just been deftly moved off the scene by an assistant. She eventually reaches the conclusion that since this cavalier cannot be lying, she'll go ahead and run off with him. I understand it must be hard for her to form an opinion of this stranger she just met and who is trying to marry her, but that should never have been the issue, when all she had to say was "er, I already have an engagement."

If I were Maesetto, the fact that it took Don Giovanni only three minutes and sixteen seconds to change her fidelities would give me serious pause.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Do you know that feeling you get when you know someone is going to complain about something, or make a certain point, and you're just counting the minutes? When you can recite nearly verbatim what the person is going to natter? And then the eye rolling that comes when someone finally says it and acts like this is some sort of epiphany?

Then you must know how I felt when I looked on the back of the most recent issue of Focus on the Family's Plugged In magazine. Ever since I saw Revenge of the Sith for the first time, I was on tenterhooks waiting for some conservative to cry foul regarding the line where Obi-wan says "only the Sith deal in absolutes." It was a little longer in coming that I expected, but it came. Bob Smithouser was the crack journalist who broke the story first. After the obligatory reminiscing, he invited us to "look at those statements", since I had obviously not already done so and required him to draw my attention to them. I had already been thinking about the meaning of those words long and hard before I read his op piece. I also managed to figure out, quite without out the help of Mr. Smithouser, that Anakin's words sound much like those of Our Lord: "If you're not with me, you're against me".

Maybe it's because I don't make a habit of filling uncertainties in with assumptions, or maybe it's the fact that I don't have an upcoming deadline for a column and an editor waiting, but I was not as fast as he was to assume that Lucas meant this as a specifically anti-Christian, indeed anti-Christ, dig.

Mr. Smithouser, get off the counter, roll your sleeves back down, take your insulin and let's examine this carefully.

Star Wars deals in moral absolutes all the time, and has from the beginning. Even Smithouser realizes this. It's abundantly clear from all the screenplays that everyone, including the Jedi, deals in absolutes. Nor can this be explained by a "worldview shift" on Lucas' part from absolutist in the late 70's to relativist today. Five minutes after seemingly denouncing absolutes, we find Obi-wan dealing in absolutes himself. He tells Anakin that the Sith are evil, and the answer he gets is "From my point of view the Jedi are evil." It certainly appears that through his characters, Lucas is criticizing relativism as a tool for rationalizing evil, which has been the main purpose of relativism ever since it became popular, you might say it's "spe-ci-al-ity" (as Obi-wan would put it).

The line in question was a mistake because it goes against what the rest of the screenplays and their underlying plots make very clear. There is however, a way of looking at it that makes sense of it. One can be an imperfect servant of good, indeed no mortal has ever been more than that. However, being a servant of evil requires complete decision and intent. Anakin is right: he has no use for someone who isn't completely on his side. Obi-wan (who does not contradict or disagree with Anakin's statement) is also right: if Anakin were still on the light side, he would not count someone as an enemy simply because that person was not behind him 100%. Recall that Obi-wan and Qui-gon disagreed about the subject of Anakin, but were not enemies.

To equate Anakin's words directly with Jesus' words requires something like the abandonment of context. Jesus was talking about spreading the good news, not about a battle of political loyalties. When you inject the for-or-against logic into political loyalties, what you come out with is more like the mentality of the Communist party and their class struggle than anything else. Christ's words mean only that you're either working for His mission and His Glory or you're working against them. You're not simply sitting on the sidelines. His words do not mean that you're either His perfect ally or His absolute enemy, just that to a lesser or greater degree, you are on one side or the other. Anakin clearly means that if Obi-wan and Padme aren't gung-ho and entirely on board with ruling the galaxy as a junta, then they are his absolute foes who must be dealt with using what he once referred to as "aggressive negotiations". Christ tells us that you're always moving in either one direction or the other, no matter how far you've gone either way. Anakin is telling us that you're either at point A or point B.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Africa, Africa, Africa, Africa, Africa, Iraq!

This just in: In my Batallions collective game of duck duck goose, I've been chosen for the Riverine Assault security mission in Iraq. I will not be on an AAV, nor will any of the people trained to drive and fire AAV's be on them. We will instead be doing our mission on some kind of gunboat. I've seen the pictures, but I forget what they are called. I'm not 100% sure of all the implications, but I will soon find out.

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