Thursday, May 08, 2003

Academia Nuts, cont'd

The following definitions are taken from the Mirriam-Webster College Dictionary:

Worry - a)Mental distress or agitation resulting from concern usually for something impending or anticipated: anxiety b) an instance or occurance of such distress or agitation.

think - from (L) tongere - to exercise the powers of judgment, conception or inference: reason, 2a) to have the mind engaged in reflection.

Please keep these in mind while reading the following post..

Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema thinks women think too much. Now, of all the problems we are faced with in society today, the last one I would have suspected was too much thought. Dr. N-H has done a study though. In her study she found that 57% of women and 43% of men are "constantly brooding about a boss' remark, an argument with a spouse or a child's C+ in school. Overthinking can lead to an increased sense of sadness and an inability to solve problems." This quote comes from a story in the Colorado Springs newspaper which apparently takes all of this seriously. However, keeping in mind the definitions above, most of us would call this situation worry, not thinking. Worry, if one takes the dictionary definition seriously is an emotional problem, anxiety, while thought involves the use of the mind -- it involves reason. We are describing two very different situations. One of which is apparently unknown to the good doctor.

But, in modern politically correct terms, it sounds better to say that one is overthinking, rather than that one is over wrought. It sounds better to encourage someone to stop thinking than to tell them that they are likely to pop off the twig from apoplexy brought on by an anxiety attack. You see, we are afraid to call things by their right name. This is why we can call partial birth abortion "intact dilation and extraction."

Presumably, the cure for "overthinking" is "underthinking" but it seems that there is quite a bit of that going on here already and no cure in sight. I have to wonder though, if this trend continues, if we won't soon have a generation of people living in this world who are so deluded as to the real state of things that they won't be able to think at all. Perhaps then we will have a state of reverse evolution and the term "Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle!" might be truer than we'd like to feel, uh, think.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

A Thank You

I would like to issue a thanks to some folks that is long overdue.

As you may know, this writing idea came upon me suddenly about a year ago. One of the first things I did, other than just start writing stuff in a notebook, was attend the Writers Conference at Franciscan University in September last year. There, two of the speakers were especially helpful. Bert Ghezzi was very encouraging and an all around nice guy; his session was worth the price of admission. The other was fellow blogger Mike Dubriel from whom I first learned that there was such a thing as a "blog". Thanks to both of them.

Also thanks to my other fellow Catholic bloggers. So many of you have also been nothing but encouraging, Steven at Flos Carmeli, Cathy at the Minefield, The Barrister, and a number of others. I'm grateful to you and just wanted to let you know, I think we should do that once in a while.

Thank you

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Coaches Foul Out

In the last few days 2 coaches, Alabama's football coach, Mike Price and Iowa State's basketball coach Larry Eustachy were fired for "embarrassing" their schools. The acts that resulted in their respective terminations were, in Price's case hanging around strip joints, and in Eustachy's case partying in inappropriate ways with college girls.

I imagine there have been a whole range of reactions to these events in the sports press, I don't know since I'm not a big sports fan. I did read the reaction of a sports columnist in our local newspaper that I thought was perfectly stunning in its thick headedness. The column is so obtuse as to be almost funny, except the ideas presented are really quite dangerous.

The sports columnist takes exception to the firing of the coaches and gives, basically, three reasons for his position. First, he says that their actions were not illegal which he seems to assume means they should therefore not be considered immoral. Second, he says that the rules governing coaches’ behavior in these types of situations are subjective and unclear, and therefore, the coaches should not be held accountable to these vague rules. Third, he seems to be saying that the coaches, when presented with these types of temptations should not be expected to be able to control themselves. This line of reasoning is remarkably wrong headed.

Let’s consider another type of situation that was once legal in the United States -- slavery. Early in America's history slavery was legal; would our homegrown sportswriter say that such a situation was morally correct? I don't think he would. But then one must ask the question, if slavery is immoral, why do we think it is immoral? Can it be that slavery, which was once legal, was then moral and only became immoral because the laws were changed? I don't know many people who would make that argument. But then why is human slavery considered always and everywhere to be immoral?

The reason is, of course, because it denies a human person, created in the image of God, the right to live his life in a fully human way, as a free being. It denies that person the right to make moral choices and reduces him to the level of an animal. This is wrong because it violates God's law. If there is no such thing as God's law, there is no reason why human slavery should be considered immoral; such things are merely subject to the whim of the majority in society, at any time they can be changed. The weak become subject to the arbitrary exercise of the will of the powerful.

The local sports columnist says that men cannot be expected to exercise self-control when presented with, especially when presented with, sexually tempting situations. He thinks such expectations are unreasonable. But if this is true, then it is impossible to expect human beings to act as human beings, with will and intellect, rather than animals subject to only instinctive behavior. This is precisely the argument used to justify slavery -- the slaves were not human beings capable of acting in a human way. They were, it was argued, only animals who could rightly be bought and sold and who could only be trained to work like animals. Of course, this was nonsense and it is nonsense to say that supposedly mature men are incapable of controlling themselves when faced with tempting situations. These men failed to act humanly. Instead of mentoring the children to become responsible adults under their tutelage they themselves wanted to become like children.

The final argument, that the rules that determine what type of conduct is "embarrassing" are not easily understood by most adult human beings, and especially coaches, is preposterous. If they are such complete idiots that they are unable to figure them out for themselves, all they need to do is consult the 10 Commandments. Our sports columnist asks, "What laws did [these coaches] break?" The answer is that they broke God's law. These laws are not obscure, they are self-evident, and they are written on the heart of each one of us. We know in our hearts that it is wrong to enslave another human being. We know in our hearts it is wrong for adult, married men, to party with college girls and strippers. We recognize these actions as severe character defects in those who perform them. If we try to deny this, we end up denying our very humanity; we become slaves to whatever temptation happens to appear under our noses.

These men deserved to be fired.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Belief vs. Unbelief

I had the chance to talk to my Evangelical neighbor Craig this past week and he mentioned that he had been thinking about a topic that had been occurring to me also. The way I was phrasing it was that we modern scientific Americans have lost our sense of the supernatural; Craig put it more simply – the problem facing Christians today is that of unbelief among believers.

I don’t know how many times I have run across someone whom I know to be a fairly faithful Catholic who has made a statement to the effect that they don’t believe in miracles. They put this in different ways, hardly ever directly, but the meaning is clearly there. They may say, “Oh, you know, Jesus didn’t really feed the 5,000 with just two loaves and a couple of fish, all those people had bread and fish McNuggets with them and they shared.” These kinds of statements reflect a kind of crisis in the Church today, a crisis of faith. If the miracle of the loaves and fishes cannot be believed, how can the miracle of the Resurrection be believed?

Thomas Merton wrote, in The Ascent to Truth, that to believe one must choose to believe. A person can faithfully go through all the motions of worship at Mass, day after day, year after year, but unless one makes the ultimate sacrifice of oneself, all that person is doing is going through the motions. It has no interior effect. One of the reasons for a crisis of faith today, as Merton points out, is that there is a failure to think. People will take the word of Barbara Striesand on matters of faith and morals, but never that of John Paul II. People will listen to the Dixie Chicks, never to their Bishop, unless he happens to agree with the Dixie Chicks. Because people become famous as entertainers in society today, they gain instant credibility in matters affecting the deepest issues of life. This kind of thinking shows a loss of the ability to think.

If we are unable to think clearly, we will be unable to have a real living faith. First, we will not be able to understand what it is we believe, and second, we will not consider our faith important enough to make the sacrifices that Christian faith calls for. Merton wrote “Faith means war.” He meant that to have faith is to die to ourselves and be born again as a new creation; it means giving up the trivial distractions of this life for the eternal rewards of the next. It means living, not as an independent person, reliant only on oneself, but living as a branch of the True Vine, dependent only on Christ. To live in faith means to make war on our very selves.

This is the crisis the Church faces today. It is a crisis because too many people do not know there is a battle to be fought. It is a crisis of belief vs. unbelief.