Saturday, December 31, 2011

How Wisdom Gave Wit & Whim Indigestion.

12:48 AM Posted by Patrick 2 comments
I think that college has come very close to teaching me a very bad lesson. In academic writing everything must be significant, analytical, and structured. The only topics worthy of attention are "serious" topics; the kind one spends countless hours researching, and agonizes about how best to present them. In short, you begin to confuse yourself into thinking that writing can only be worthwhile if it is well thought and pertinent to the plights of mankind. Poison.

I have written some excellent papers, thank you very much, but I like best the silly things that I have written for the sake of writing; for the love of a good phrase, and the simple joy that comes from using words well.

This is such an easy thing to lose sight of, and it is coming back into focus, and has been these last couple weeks. The difference is that I have been reading again, not purely for knowledge, or for an assignment, but for a story. I have a book full of clever little sayings about books, taken from men who wrote books. There is one in particular I enjoyed which was to the effect that reading a book is like making a friend, and that rereading a favourite is like meeting an old friend after a long absence.

I was feeling more than a little somber toward the end of last semester; heavy doses of philosophy and history--wholly undiluted--makes poor medicine for one such as me. The outlook is not good people but I digress. Let us not go down that road.

It is from this darkness that my friends are rescuing me, and I am afraid to say that there is something in me my paper friends can heal, where my flesh and blood friends cannot touch. Things (objectified people) like Evan and the Shewoof are also helpful, but the other cure is specific to the ill. I feel more myself, and work does not seem the same interminable chore that it really is--no joke. To this end, I actually have been in relative good humor at work--smiley, etc--despite needing to fold 800,000 dress shirts a shift.

I am definitely going to need to keep pleasure reading in my schedule for next semester. I think this last semester, with its piles of very important reading nearly made me, prematurely, into an old man. But no, I am too young--and beautiful--to be old, so I will read novels.

Yes, I know you are all terribly bereft, but I like me better when I'm not trying to be profound.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

POTUS.

6:54 PM Posted by Patrick 3 comments
Beg pardon, but all the campaign related nonsense that is floating around right now has me snarky. There is almost certainly negativity to follow. Godspeed.

I don't think I want to vote for any of the Presidential candidates. The Republican selection is the absolute scrapings of the barrel--wholly unappetizing. But the present POTUS, with his weekly promises to act (in lieu of laws allowing him to act) as he desires, will probably drive me to vote for one of them.

I will not vote for Perry, Paul, Bachmann, Huntsman, or, most likely--it pains me to say--Gingrich.

Perry is an idiot savant. I don't care how effectively you balanced the budget of your state; I do not desire a President whom I feel a burning desire to muzzle every time he gets up to read his next list of ill considered remarks. On top of that, his particular brand of Christianity makes me bristle. Give me a nice staid catholic or something; not an ecstatic.

Ron Paul. It's funny to watch his followers lick their chops after they say his name, much like I imagine Grishnakh doing after he mentions the Nazgul; kind of savoring the taste of the name. Ron Paul campaigns tend to run like Nazgul campaigns; lots of men get attacked, and if one did not bother to read the appendices, then one might believe that the attack was the whole substance and purpose of his campaign. Paul has no apparent understanding of compromise, and even less of dignity.

Bachmann and Huntsman, thankfully, are well out of the running at this point. I think both--perhaps in childhood?--contracted the same disease as Perry resulting in diarrhea of the mouth.

And my dear, my very dear, Newt. He's like some sort of ADHD leprechaun; pointed in every direction at once and seemingly always purposing mischief. The man cannot hold a position for longer than 20 minutes, and then goes on to hold the opposite position next. Sure, I like his books. I like that he has cleverness and charisma; that he does not have the same hoof-in-mouth syndrome that so many of his peers display. I think he has more than enough promise to win the presidential election, and then proceed to total the Republican party...again. The one constant with Newt is his Ego: omnipresent and powerful.

The thing that sucks...if it comes down to one of them versus Obama; I will have to vote for him/*gulp* her. Lunacy, viciousness, and mediocrity are preferable, in so far as their personifications are less likely--I believe--to abuse executive power and act in a manner that usurps the power of Congress. A substandard piece that fits its place in the machine is better than the piece that believes it is a machine unto itself, damaging the machine by its action. This is called compromise. I might have to forgo ideological purity in order to move away from a greater evil.

Though I still refuse to rule out a miraculous showing from the Petersen Party.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Real Reading.

I cannot wait to get to break. Not only does my poor over-taxed little brain need a while to chill, but I have some really serious reading to do, having only completed five novels since the outset of the school year. Was something wrong with me? Have I become lazy in my old age?

I was wondering why I wasn't reading as many books as I normally do. Something had to be amuck. I could not remember another period on record when the number of books I read was so low. It was only tonight as I was sifting through piles of school stuff, gathering together all of my research materials for both of my papers--you know, to take stock--that I realized the truth.

I figured out that I've read 16 complete books for school over the last three months; this number not even reflecting on the fact that a large portion of my assigned readings have been excerpts, and that I have read bits and pieces of countless tomes for my papers...It hit me that I've been doing a ton of reading.

For some reason this did not compute to me as being "real reading." Real reading is the kind you engage in just because you want to. Not for a grade, not because so-and-so said to, not because you need the knowledge, but just because you want it. Mandatory and semi-mandatory reading never seem to count for me, for it is a kind of forced virtue. I take more satisfaction from reading things of my own volition. Who knows why.

I suppose that I am fortunate that the reading I have needed to do this semester is reading which minds greater than mine would probably term real reading. In preparation for one of my papers I have read a book by Amartya Sen, two by Thomas Sowell, a collection of excellent essays on wealth and poverty, Democracy in America, Washington, Dubois, the complete Federalist, Suetonius, Polybius, the Politics of Aristotle, and--once more--The Discourses on Titus Livy. The other works, while not as notable, include a cursory overview of the history of economic theory, a book on the fall of rome, a book on Nero, and one on the relation of the emperor to the Roman army.

I also reread some Dalrymple, but that hardly counts. *nom nom*

Regardless of whether or not I have been reading good stuff, it has been leaving me too tired for Prague cemetery, which is simply not acceptable.

On the bright side, everything will be resolved shortly. There are two possible outcomes. One, I get all of my papers in on time and do not botch my German presentation or Arabic orals. Or option the second, all of the above does not happen and I throw myself on my sword.

It will be interesting to see how this falls out.

Friday, November 4, 2011

On the Idiocy of Arguing Traditional Marriage from a Lockian Liberal Point of View, and the Family

12:10 PM Posted by Patrick , , , No comments
There is no element more important to society than the family. A strong family is necessary to teach children morals, moderation, virtue, and care for their fellow man. The strongest familial education is one that includes religion, which is the ultimate arbiter of perspective; that is, we are each but a small part of the whole, and our greatest good comes from outside the self.

The family must be strong for a nation to have longevity, because there must be a structure in place to educate people to be good citizens, to place value on something other than the individual.

Many might say, there was not such a strong emphasis on the family in early American writings, and I would respond that it was because the family was extraordinarily strong. They did not speak of the necessity to strengthen the family because it was a non-issue.

There is no question in antiquity of the need for strong families. Augustus primary reforms and laws were aimed at restoring and strengthening the family and Gods to a position of reverence after all of the damage done to them in the chaos of the late republic.

The family is the basic building block of society. It is the fundamental unit through which citizens are produced and educated. It is necessary to have a full and traditional family, made up of a parental role model of each sex, and a larger extended family.

You cannot make such an argument from a purely Lockean perspective. If marriage is merely a contract for mutual advantage and pleasure; then there should be no real problem if those two ends are not being achieved. Further, if a contract is all it is, why not marriage between two women, or even three men? What grounds have you for garnishing their contract rights? As long as they are not transgressing another man in their contract; their is no sound argument from this perspective.

Much though it might pain many people who wanted to be sophisticated, have their cake and eat it too, as it were, a strong argument can only be made from an older conservative, largely religious, tradition.

The family must be strong to teach virtue, moderation, and how men and women ought to behave toward one another (I have no patience for those who want to pretend that men and women are basically the same outside of societal pressures; that doesn't jive with the chemistry, let alone with the possibility of the soul). The family is there to teach love and traditional values, without which, you wind up with materialism, greed, hedonism, Warren Buffet and his billion dollars in back taxes, and this occupy infestation, not bathing and despoiling parks.

Redistribution of Wealth.

From the standpoint of one looking for economic and political stability, it is not a good thing that there is such a tremendous spread in wealth. A large, independent, middle class is indisputably the basis for a stable and moderate society.

That being said, income redistribution is an insupportable evil. Why would I say such a thing, if indeed it would be better for wealth to be spread more equally. My reasons are hardly simple, but let us touch them briefly.

In the first part, a redistribution of wealth requires a sacrifice of political liberty and equality in exchange for a possibility of greater social equality. Men are not equal under the law when the law is specifically constructed to take from some to give to others.

Next, government stepping in as the arbiter of financial support weakens the role of the family and community. Where caring for your elderly parents, your children, and day to day needs, used to be an action of the family and the community, it is now shunted off as a burden of the state, with the result that communities and families play a much lesser role in caring for one another.

Further, the machinations of government act as a barrier to the creation of wealth. Do not take my word alone on this; it is clearly demonstrated in Gwartney, Holcombe and Lawson's "The Scope of Government and the Wealth of Nations," which surveys the correlation between the interference of governments in the economy and economic growth over a 36 year period.

The answer is not to force the rich to give up their goods. This attitude alone is exacerbating the problem, by placing the goods of economic choice over the good of political equality under the law. Greed is a product of our society; a society that measures a man by his material success.

Yes, material success is good, but a rich bastard is still a bastard, and a good portion of the best men I know are poor; they are also thoughtful and as virtuous as I can expect of my fellow men.

The same people who are infuriated that many of the wealthy live epicurean lifestyles are the same people who oppose the traditions, mores, and social restrictions which would discourage selfish wanton behavior. When a libertine preaches absolute freedom and radical individualism, why does he look for others to take responsibility where he does not?

That is the ultimate casualty. Tocqueville knew it would come. We are a nation of radical individuals, each feeling a general good will for his fellow Americans, but never touching them in any real way. Even our families must be shunted aside, because their demands restrict our individual freedom. Do not bother us with the problems of our extended family; we are responsible for ourselves alone, and material freedom and social equality are not just a civic religion; they are our Gods.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Conservative Ninjas!

8:51 PM Posted by Patrick 3 comments
Life in our house goes on much as it has this past age. The bothers and I are still energetic gluttons with hair growing on top of our feet, and while none of us has taken to pipeweed, we are looking forward to dealing with dragons in the near future.

Sickness takes it out of you. I missed a bunch of work and school, and it just took so long to feel as if everything were back on track, hence the long time since my last blog post. But that is over now, my goals are in cite once more, and my average German grades have improved on three consecutive items. Things are rolling.

I found out today that I missed a very important person on campus when I was giving status updates on the Shewoof. A one S. Roberts hadn't the fuzziest that she was married. Oh well, can't be expected to remember everyone all by myself.

For those who don't know, my sister and her husband have received priority orders from the conservative Illuminati and are currently stationed in the hostile bastion of Madison, where they are working quietly to affect commonsense and intelligence amongst the populace; a difficult and dangerous task.

Meanwhile, I hold the home front. I am currently tasked with passively collecting information and quietly spreading the message. I am seldom engaged on serious field missions, but for those stupid enough to challenge me, they find themselves eviscerated at the hands of an intellectual ninja.

I'm looking into ISI to help with my goals; I had a professor suggest them as a possible place to obtain scholarships/possibly get some of my future writing published.

Also, I talked earlier with one of my professors about staging an invasion of a certain foreign nation, which needs to give up on the Euro and return to the Mark. I have been put on the scent of things that I must do and people with whom I must speak to begin putting together the logistics of such a campaign. Such a campaign likely would have to wait until fall 2012/spring 2013, but it is, I'm assured, a realistic goal. The early plan would have my goal as Tübingen.

Three! Three blog post! Ah Ah Ah!

Postulates.

There are times when there is no point in even having a conversation. I find nothing more aggravating than people standing in the campus green and debating the existence of God. There will be no winning on either side, and it almost always seems to end uncivilly. This argument bugged me more when I was younger than it does now, because I previously did not realize that it was indeed a futile conversation.

In life, one must have postulates. For me, the existence of God is the central postulate, and all other postulates extend from there. Without this central postulate, there can be no objective good, and we might as well just accept Thrasymachus justice. This is key difference twixt a Machiavelli and a Aristotle. Both are brilliant and have flashes of insight, but one believes that there is a higher eternal truth, an ideal which is most nearly approached through love and moderation, and the other is interested only in pragmatics, the how and why of power, and his ultimate virtu is not love and moderation, but military virtue.

I love my Machiavelli, but I understand that he is more interested in greatness than goodness, function rather than justice, and as a good little Rudisillian, I do not see how the two might be compared.

If there are no postulates, then all is a vacuum, and the only political matter is the question of what is pragmatic.

Take Darwin; if natural selection is the chief principle of life, then there is no natural right. Natural right presumes that rights are inherent in the nature of things; in human nature and the nature of something higher. But if there is nothing higher, and nature is constantly changing, how can there be any kind of transcendent natural right. You may do what you will to survive, but ultimately, if natural selection is true, then if it is prudent or beneficial for society to sacrifice you individually for the greater good, then that is the right of the masses.

I do not care to allow for any such abominations, so the central postulate is God, with further postulates deriving themselves from that center. Human life has value, because it is God's and he made it and ultimately it should serve him.

Property is similarly good. It is given by God to give us pleasure in this life. Property is best used, not when hoarded, but when used for the good of our fellows. This is not to fall into the myth that it would be good if all things were owned in common. If men held nothing in particular, then they would have nothing particular to give of themselves. Sacrifice and generosity require that there be something to give.

These are just a couple things extracted from postulates and the primary source in which is found the central postulate.

Then one might rightly ask, are we then to ignore these pesky little critters that want to argue about God? No. But do not hesitate to advise them that such an argument can only be fruitless, and that there are better topics to deal with. If there can be no definition of good, then there is no way that you will arrive at a solution that both believe to be good. There are many excellent topics of conversation; just stay away from God. God can become a topic once you have their respect and are not in danger of getting in a stupid fight.

I can toy around and play devils advocate and pretend as if my postulates did not exist, but that is not a serious conversation. It is a game, one in which I am testing my wits and seeing if I can win in their arena, but it is not going to be productive for either side. I used to play the Game with Bryan. We would both play the game, argue the other side, and it was never more than an exercise. Neither of us got anything, other than an enhanced talent for argument.

Along with postulates, there is key element contributing to my worldview: Skepticism.

Everything is taken with a grain of salt, and measured against what I know to be true. This is especially true of ideas. Events or the latest political factoid go in the absolute bull category until such time as I've had it from multiple reliable sources...or Mutti or Evan; that only requires one source.

That is not to say that I disbelieve everyone, rather, that the vast majority of info that is conveyed to me by conversation is half remembered, semi-factual, and highly exaggerated. Some sources are better than others, but people in general have poor memory, and they tend to latch onto the most sensational (often most dubious) aspects, leaving out many of the most important details.

"God is in the details!"

What Goes into a 401 Research Paper

7:19 PM Posted by Patrick No comments
Research papers are coming.

This is not exactly my favourite part of the semester. While the research and writing may not be painful in and of themselves, there is the fact that it must be done to a concrete deadline, and that these papers reflect directly on your quality as a writer and your ability to think critically.

I only have two big research papers this semester, which is mostly because two of my courses are foreign languages, and making you write a long blogpost in German is hard enough. On the one hand, the research topic was niftily provided by the professor, and is on the matter of whether or how the actions of the Caesars impacted roman government as a whole and the day-to-day lives of the Roman people. The other paper is something trickier.

It starts with guidelines. Take a modern issue of your choosing, and examine it in light of the promise and problems of democracy. One must explain how the class has informed their theories on the topic, lay out how it fits, or doesn't, with the great writers of history, and make policy recommendations based on the analysis.

Not content with anything easy like citizenship or economic class, I chose an item that is going to require the most possible research and most difficult structure. I chose welfare.

Now, you might wonder, why in the devil did I choose welfare; it is a completely modern issue. That would be incorrect.

One can find examples of this being hashed out as far back as Plato, and there are few writers dealing with the question of politics who do not address the issue of government aid or stipends.

I will deal a lot with the ideas of charity, particularly charitos, and equality, with special attention to the distinction between social and political equality. The chief question being whether or not welfare is efficacious to the inducement of charity in society, and its effects on social and political equality. And on the matter of maintenance...I prefer using Machiavelli to modern studies; he has already told us all we need to know about the sustainability of the modern welfare state. "Human beings have endless desires...."

This paper is going to be a beast, but there still is time before December first, and I am already getting into research and bookmarking tasty tidbits for later examination. What I really need is modern pundits. if anyone knows of a source who writes with anything like clarity and elegance on this topic, please tell me. I do not know if I can use my favourite doomsday prophet, cause he is writing about Britain....

Friday, October 7, 2011

Brief Musings

I am not too shy to claim wisdom, at least of a kind. The passing of the last few years has lead through a thorough reading of some of the foundational texts for western political and religious thought. In the course of these readings, I have taken the beliefs and givens which I held as a child and I have filled in beneath them a concrete ground. I can now draw my arguments from church fathers, the ancients, and the great thinkers across history. I am also able to draw from history examples of the consequences of ideas, and also a clearer picture of human nature and interaction.

I am wise, like Socrates is wise, but with a separate final conclusion. I know myself. I know that I am not an individual, untouched and sacrosanct in my inviolate sovereignty. I know myself as I fit into the place of human history; where the society I see around me has come from. I know myself in who I am to my family and friends. And, most importantly, I also have theological perspective, which informs my political perspective. We are all frail, human, and our time on this earth is brief, even as our empires and culture will be brief.

However, the fact that all of this is passing does not mean that it does not matter. We are given the earth, a life to live, and the society of our fellow man. These things are all good; they are gifts of surpassing value and should be cherished and cared for as such. Thus, politics matter. There is no more important earthly concern than that we should live justly, in peace, love, and charity with our fellow men.

Virtue amongst men is not only necessary for earthly peace, but as a curb on the vices that may prove damaging to faith. Politics, from the ancient perspective, should engage the attentions of the citizens outside the self, and interest them more in the good of their fellow men and society as a whole. Government is a terror to hold men away from evil, but in participating in government, the rulers are looking after and caring for the bodies and souls of their fellow men. Even if evil is only held off by terror, still, it habituates the person to the rejection of that evil.

Republican government, where all have a share in ruling and being ruled, but without the danger of mobocracy, is, I would opine, the most noble of the forms of earthly government; where all have the obligation to serve and are served in turn. If engaging in politics and looking after the good of your fellow men is rightly said to promote virtue of thought and action, then a system which encourages the greatest part of the populace to participate is likely to promote virtue and wisdom amongst men.

The constitution is bad.

Haha.

You so did not see that coming.

I argue that the constitution was the wrong choice to promote and maintain the virtue of the American people, and I got this out of extensive reading and a few hours of staring blankly into space. I think, however, that some of the best arguments are to be found in De Tocqueville and the anti-federalist.

"Liberty is to faction as air is to fire." The federalists knew that the great republics of history all destroyed themselves from within, by internal conflict. They had three answers to this question, as laid out in the Federalist 10-12.

First: A representative republic, not a democratic republic.
Second: Large territory.
Third: A bloodless war of commerce.

The first part is probably a good idea, regardless of the size of the territory. It is no good to have everyone governing at the same time. Even Aristotle's best democracy laid out in his politics is one where not everyone is able to attend all the time; one where the farmers are to busy to go into most of the time, and the day to day work is done by a few from amongst them and the more aristocratic contingent that lives in the city. In both cases, Aristotle and Federalist, the government is still answerable to the populace.

The Second part is where the federalist departs from all those who came before. No republican philosopher, ancient or modern, believed that a republic could be an empire. A republic requires an equal share in ruling and being ruled. How can one rule justly over those of whom one knows little or nothing? The ideal of ruling for a common, shared, good or interest flies out the window. That which is common becomes impossibly vague and damn near unknowable to the vast majority. The federalists praise this attribute as a means of holding down faction, but it equally discourages participation, and dissipates one of the most beautiful aspects of republican government.

The third means, the internal tension that will keep the government and society going, and keep faction from gaining sway, is avarice. Hamilton says it point blank. The way to make a strong union is to increase the means of gratification and "by promoting the introduction and circulation of the precious metals, those darling objects of human avarice." Greed is to be encouraged, because there is nothing so destructive to faction as radical self interest. But, notes Hamilton, this is the best way of increasing the overall wealth of the people, and it is here assumed that the common good is nothing more than the sum of individual interests.

I find the last means to be repugnant and destructive to the republican ideal. I wholeheartedly support the freedom to advance one's property and position without unjust restraint; that is, so far as your expansion does not transgress against the property or person of another. However, that this expansion of property should be the highest goal of man--or at least promoted as such--is unfathomable to me. I enjoyed Atlas Shrugged, but I found it depressing, unsettling, and perhaps slightly evil. Man is to love God and man; amen. End of discussion. So it is unarguably a perversion to base the form of your government on the encouragement of avarice.

I think the anti-federalists had it right, and I might be a bad pragmatic for saying so, but I think it would have been better to take the risk of functioning as many federated states, each with it's own involved populace, then as a gigantic national entity, with very little commonality. The primary power being concentrated at the state level allows for greater, more meaningful, participation among the populace. Tension and competition among the states, though it leaves them more open to foreign threats, would similarly lend to a feeling of belonging in the state, as a part of a whole more than an individual.

Also, the ties of the confederation proposed by the anti-federalists were something more akin to those in the original Articles of Confederation; those being, a firm league of friendship and brotherhood; each state functioning as a part of a whole for the common good.

Once again, this is all highly idealistic, and perhaps a touch naive. If empire is the goal, then a gigantic national conglomeration, driven by the limitless energy of human avarice, is almost certainly the best vehicle. But look at the problems we are having now. We are the worlds sole super-power, but for how long. We have lost the civic virtue that we once had, we are spiraling deeper into debt, and the public interest in government is how it can benefit their station. This is not sustainable, and it is not good.

The republican ideal is that individuals and culture should be intrinsically tied with government, but now the government has become so far removed from the people, that few would even count themselves as a meaningful part of the process. And for all of this removal, still it has managed to become more democratic the whole while, with popular votes deciding everything, and a populace that refuses to think about or take responsibility for the consequences of their votes.

Americans have become like those dangerous boy kings who lock themselves in with their harems, appoint rulers in their stead, and behead them when their blundering has brought the nation to a crisis point. We hold the power, but we have divorced ourselves from it's proper use. We have our individual interests, our precious objects of avarice, do not bother us with the common: it does not exist. Let us pursue our freedoms as we wish, and do not dare to curb our vices.

We made a mistake all those years ago. Clever men claimed that empire and republic were compatible, and we chose empire. The republican ideal was lost and now, as De Tocqueville said we would, we careen further into mobocracy and away from the things which made us great in the first place.

I suppose I am a true conservative; a better conservative than I am a liberal. I ache for an idea of the common good, something that might rekindle the idea in our society, but it is too far gone. I cannot reconcile my theology or my principles with the central goal of government being the promotion of individual interest rather than the common good. But the reality is, those who think they have in idea of the common good in modern times do not. They have totalitarian ideas about forcing the individual interest to bow to the common good. None of them is looking for a government structure which habituates men to virtue and care for their fellow men, but one that forces them to it.

So our constitution is the best that I can ever hope to find. At least it preserves men from tyranny and allows for some to escape their license in favour of liberty; ours is perhaps one of the few constitutions on earth where true liberty is yet to be found, but it is not found in the majority, and nor would they probably be interested. Serving one's own desires is a lot less work than serving your fellow man.

Perhaps I'm overthinking it....oh, by the way, I ask only one thing: in the future, if I'm staring off into space, just realize, that blank look is not really a blank; I am writing, foo.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Think on Feet...Feetnotes!

10:52 PM Posted by Patrick No comments
Between last night and this morning I had a minor panic thing.

In German, we were assigned to find a German job application, and write a cover letter to hand in with our CV. I had a minor issue. In the course of several hours of hard search, I was not able to find a single job in Germany for which I was remotely qualified. Even German internships require that you have had prior internship or work inexperience in the chosen field.

Later, still panicking, I met up with Dr. Roberts, who laughed, grinned, and said that she should have stressed that our ads could just be made up. It is, apparently, the case in Germany right now, that many young Germans are going through four or five Internships before ever getting a serious job. So someone like me, from the American way of doing things, would be competing for low level internships with 25 year old Germans with B.A.s and two or three internships under their belts.

No wonder it is so extraordinarily hard to change career in Germany. :-/

That said, when I finally had this conversation with her, I had about an hour and a half to write a cover letter and put together a fake ad. It was lucky that I remembered at this time that a local law office seeking interns had sent out a message to the history majors, and I was able to do a quick translation on this piece to make it work for my ad.

The cover letter came to me more easily than I expected, so I'll be eager to get it back and see how many times I just slipped into English for a few sentences. If my German was actually German, then the speed with which i churned out that letter is good, if not....not good. ;-p

Alright, this has been a pleasant break, but soon it will be time to finish off this pesky little Polybius paper, which, although I love the topic, still constitutes a minor annoyance and item on the to do list.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Travails.

12:46 AM Posted by Patrick , , , 3 comments
Tests can be a lot of fun; the equivalent of a high octane Sporcle quiz, dealing only in interesting information. Some tests, however, are more akin to seventy-five minute torture sessions.

I had one of these last week, and it was not a matter of the subject matter being beyond me, but more a function of needing to write out 3 major essays and one minor essay--after the 30 multi choice-- in the time allotted. I felt like my hand was going to fall off at the end, and I had just barely managed to scribble out the last essay in outline form.

After this debacle, I was on my way to German in the language lab, and feeling slightly crumby. There must have been some kind of magic in the upholstery of the chair I chose, because I had just lowered myself into it when I was galvanized into decisive action. I went to my professor, told said professor that I had not finished in a satisfactory manner, and requested permission to type my essays next time.

So far was my professor from objecting to my typing the next installment, he offered my the opportunity to redo the entire test, with more time if needed. I declined to retake the whole test, but did get to finish my essay on Rousseau, which was excellent.

But if I thought that my troubles were over, I was so wrong. Two days later I had a presentation in German. This was not going to be a problem. I had my notes into neat bullets, my info was good, and I had already practiced the entire presentation twice; both times very smooth. Before class I was able to speak in German with the professor and the other students. Everything was going well....

When it came to my turn I was still absolutely confident, until I actually started. To say that I drew a blank would be false. I did not draw a blank, but rather, the entirety of my presentation came crashing to the forefront of my mind all at once, leaving me as stunned as a freshly clubbed baby seal.

I did not really begin to reclaim my mojo until midway through, which is going to be tough on my grade. That thought did not help my recovery, any more than the fact that I was screwing up in front of a group of lovely women--never helps.

Like I said, I did not remaster myself until the latter half, but was able to salvage a bit. On the bright side, mine was definitely not the worst, and I was one of only two people who went along with the instructions and did not read a written presentation. There were also five people who failed to have the presentation ready, so we all get to be mediocre together!

I resumed my seat, and then proceeded to rapidly regain my ability to speak German. It only seems to kick off when there is something at stake, id est, my GPA! ;-p

Friday, September 9, 2011

Vox Polpuli, Vox Dei

We are rapidly becoming a more democratic nation, and this is a most calamitous trend.

The chief desire of the democratic citizen is freedom, or license. The best democracy is where men are most free and equal. Democracy, however, is but a third part of what our republic should be. Ancient philosophers understood that democracy, just like kingship and aristocracy, would destroy itself and evolve into something else. In all three, the principle is the rule of men, the will of men, is supreme. When these rulers follow the law and make themselves subservient to it, then is greater stability achieved in the regime, for a time. But men, it is rightly said, have endless desires and where men are greater than the law the law must eventually fall victim to our desires.

In democracy people want to enjoy freedoms, and this comes to mean the freedom to do what they want and enjoy themselves. Nothing is so useful for procuring luxuries and a good time as money. So the democratic man will come to prize money, even as he covets the pleasures it buys. Men will go seeking riches, and the few best suited to this hunt will find them. The rest of the populace will simultaneously hate these men and desire to be like them. In a pure democracy, these men will be at odds with the masses and there will be blood.

A republic is rule of form, with elements of the three classical governmental styles. It is supposed to have an executive power, a conservative aristocratic streak, and a popular element. No element should be greater than the others, and each should have the power to cancel the others out, so that acts of government require the combined will of an executive (hopefully possessed of integrity of character and judgement), the aristocratic element, and the people. This prevents any attack by one constituent part of the regime against any other. This is to make it so the form cannot implode, after all, whatever dies was not mixed equally.

How does one keep such a form, where no one party may destroy another, from eroding? Cicero uses a word which becomes key to the maintenance of a republic: commonwealth. The form of the city is where men live together, bound by an idea of right and justice. But what is this right? It is certainly not the 'right' of the democratic citizen. He later draws out that this right in the commonwealth, or republic, is liberty.

Stay with me here.

Liberty, again, is not the right to do whatever you please, but the right to participate in and enjoy the fellowship of the commonwealth. Man is, for Cicero, a social being. Just like the Greeks, he recognizes that the highest most fulfilling good for men is to live in friendship (I'd like to inject communion) with one another. The greatest good of the republican is the service of his city and participation in sociable and political works.

The nature of liberty is, here especially, quite separate from what one finds in Locke or Hobbes. It is the right to participate in the life of the city, but this right is inherently tied to obligation. Machiavelli fully supported the right to free speech, with the understanding that one had the duty to use it for the betterment of the city. According to this idea, man is never really at liberty, except when he acts in love for his fellow men.

This is a lovely idea, but it is hardly a likely scenario, given the state of human nature.

How then is man to tame the demons of desire and discipline himself. The answer is the same, all the way until that putz Hobbes...I think I might have alluded to the answer.

Men must be taught to love their fellow men, and religion is sited as the only force capable of bestowing this discipline. Religion, taught in the home, by a strong family, is the foundation and backbone of a republic. It teaches men to look outside of themselves for good, and that there are greater goods than fleeting physical pleasure. It teaches men to behave.

The key to maintaining a republic is religion. Machiavelli argues that a people must be religious to be free, because religion is the way of escaping, not only our own license, but the license of others taken against us.

I live in a world that is less religious as time passes; even among those who attend churches, few are actually religious, or even have an idea exactly what it is they believe. Human nature can never be tamed, but it can be curbed. Where man have no interest in doing what is honest, decent, and good, then they will follow their desires wherever they run. Chasing the perfect hedonistic freedom of the alcoholic.

More and more, Americans chafe at anything they perceive as a check on their freedom; they have no taste for the liberties of the ancients. Pleasure is the chief good of the average American now, and by pleasure, I mean stuff. De Tocqueville also predicted this rather neatly. It was the excellence and religiosity of the people that allowed America to be a great republic, and now that the people have changed, the country will continue to change as well. Even as we have infinite desires, the form will follow, but with the same ends. We will continue on, a democratic empire, and then, like all empires and all democracies, we will collapse.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Well Spotted.

11:10 AM Posted by Patrick 3 comments
I really need lessons on taking a compliment. It is a rough business, and I am yet to figure out how to do it gracefully.

Earlier, while getting coffee, someone commented on my looks. I--naturally--felt the compliment to be just, but I am still uncomfortable receiving praise, and received it as I receive all such comments: a trifle awkwardly. Naturally, I thanked the person, but I feel as if that is only a partial completion of the social ritual, the latter half of which is nothing short of arcane mystery. And when I receive a compliment is the one time that, for reasons unknown, I find it damn near impossible to look someone in the eye.

I think part of the discomfort, especially when it comes to remarks about looks, is that it is has nothing to do with any virtue of mine, other than basic care of my person.

Clothing is even harder, but for a very different reason. When my dress is complimented as being tasteful, or looking particularly neat, the first thing that goes through my head is, "well spotted." I know when I am well dressed, and though I realize they are paying a compliment, my first reaction is not pleasure and I have no idea why. I enjoy compliments from close friends and family--approval from those whose approval I seek--but I'm uncomfortable with getting the same from acquaintances...let alone strangers.

How does one receive a compliment well. It is totally beyond me; I have seen it done remarkably well, but I am unable to imitate. It vexeth greatly.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Plebeian Assembly

11:17 AM Posted by Patrick , , , 1 comment
This morning it felt and smelt of fall. It was one of my beloved rainy mornings, and world seemed just a little sleepy; the streets were blessedly empty. A good way for any morning to begin.

Consternation was soon to follow. My roman history class shows every sign of being fascinating, but it has a problem which is rather difficult to escape on a college campus. my fellow classmates are all cynics, and they are searching hard for a theme they have been taught to seek in all history--a theme which has been given to them as the motive power of all historical events.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I mean class struggle.

None of them there seem to want to understand what made Rome great; they are there to figure out why it was not as great as purported, and why we are so much better. Nevermind that Rome boasted an average standard of living that was not to be matched again for 1400 years, or that they valued and perpetuated a form of government that has proved to be the only form which reliably provides freedom and liberty to its citizens.

Rome is evil because there are the rich and the poor, and the rich--as is the case in all history--wield the majority of the political power. It is demonstrably even more evil, because they were a patriarchal society; this is unforgivable.

One thing in particular that the class seems to be having difficulty with is the Roman ideals of duty and honor, and why they leave so much to trust. Why are Roman officials given such a tremendous amount of unchecked power. My classmates keep asking questions, and are almost disbelieving when the professor assures them that the system was almost never abused during the first 500 years of the Roman republic, and that Roman officials held their offices as sacrosanct.

They cannot understand why the Romans held their duty so high, and that is because Americans are not a particularly dutiful or responsible people anymore. And that, as would be noted by Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, Machiavelli, and other great republican philosophers, is because we lack the Romans chief virtue and duty. Americans do not believe in the gods. Religion has been the source of moral vigor through all ages of men. Men should be good, because that is what the gods desire of them. De Tocqueville and Jefferson knew Americans must be religious for the system to work, they did not particularly care what religion, just so long as there was a system of belief to keep their desires in check.

The early Romans were extraordinarily religious; they did not go to war against obviously inferior enemies if the omens were bad; they subjected their judgements and actions to the portents of the gods.

Where there is freedom, freedom must be used well for the society to survive. Where the gods are the highest good, then their service must be a course of action which is esteemed among men. And where the gods--as is, again, almost universally the case--demand just and honorable action amongst men, then will the people be constrained to virtue, lest they lose place in the eyes of men and the gods.

In the eyes of the Roman Consuls, the good of the state, their families, and their own persons, was inextricably tied to their serving the desires of the gods; they did not abuse the offices, because they believed that the gods--and men who also fear the gods--would deal with them accordingly and also with their household.

These notions are very difficult for my class to grasp. The physically apparent is the real, not this god gobbledygook. Moral truths do not exist as abstract concepts, and the highest good is equality...which is not at all an abstract concept.

They expect the Roman officials to act in their own interests, but they fail to realize that the Roman officials believe that they are acting in their interests, because they place their highest interests outside of immediate physical goods and pleasures.

A concept most difficult for college students to grasp.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Walking the Dogmeat

10:21 PM Posted by Patrick , , , , , No comments
Today I went for a long walk. I walked in the pleasant afternoon rain. I walked in the excellent, if bizarre, company of Dogmeat. Walking is not a new thing to me; I'm rather a practiced hand--foot?--at it, and I fancy myself to be quite the fine walker. More than a walker, I style myself a flaneur, one who walks about for the pleasure of observing his surroundings.

As I made my way through the twisting neighborhoods south of Rudisill--Dogmeat padding alongside--I could not help but notice a vast difference in this jaunt from my previous nine years meanderings. The difference I found was further underscored by my earlier return to the old house on the other side of town.

In our adventures in Harrison Hill, Old Mill, and Beyond, Dogmeat and I witnessed a constant and varied stream of humanity; people walking, People sitting outside and talking, a massive block party, joggers (cute joggers!), etc. This right on the heels of being in the other neighborhood for more than an hour and not seeing a soul. The emptiness just felt wrong, but that same emptiness was my companion for countless miles when I lived at the other house; it is not something I will miss.

Dogmeat is fantastic company; there is never a lag in the conversation, and even if you never get a chance to respond...that is quite alright, because his enthusiastic delivery produces such echoes that it substitutes well enough for any response from his audience. Of all the people I saw about today, none were as interesting or hilarious as my companion, who has been agonizing over discovering what is is that makes an excellent character death, and why such deaths are important for good drama.

He asks an excellent question. Drama is for enjoyment, but good drama should also bring a little wisdom. Aristotle spoke of the purpose of good drama being the vicarious suffering of the crowd, through the characters of the Greek stage. Drama allows you to experience complex and powerful emotions in a safe environment. At the end of the play there is catharsis, all the emotions slide off of you and you can go happily on your way. You can experience, joy, love, pride, righteous anger, and heartbreaking grief, then go happily on your way when the story ends.

Death is the most powerful subject for drama. No matter how brave a man may be, all men fear death. Death is evil; in a perfect world it would not exist, and there is man or faith strong enough to tame our fear of the unknown. The Greeks believed death to be the root cause of all evil, which is perhaps a mere reversal of the truth; evil being a removal from God, which is the beginnings of death. Whether viewed as a symptom or a source of evil, death is the most frightening specter with which men must contend on earth, and it is in the face of death that the best and worst qualities of man are brought explicitly to light. To evoke the strongest emotions and drive home a lesson in the most striking manner, it is only natural to deal in the strongest subject matter.

The death of a hero is particularly affecting because we have this perverse habit of associating ourselves with them. Even if we do not compare ourselves directly to them, we still want to exhibit the same excellence they embody. Take Snape as an example. He spends the majority of the series being reviled, and in the last book is revealed as a hero whose life has been one of repentance and quiet self sacrifice. Snape is not a glamorous hero, but he is among the most beloved because he did right even when it cost him greatly; he did good without any thought of return for him personally. His sacrifice, his love, are effectively amplified tenfold by the fact that he dies alone and without reward. His excellence is held in greater esteem and he becomes--oddly enough--a role model of selfless love and sacrifice; a martyr, really.

Death is also necessary to suspense, especially in any kind of a series. A series that deals with any kind of subject matter which includes danger, but which does not kill any major characters, quickly becomes unbelievable and the illusion is broken. We are willing to suspend disbelief as much as we are able for the sake of a good story. But when characters ride into peril again and again without any loss, we are no longer able to keep ourselves fooled. Such a version of heroism might work for young children, but in a world plagued by flag-draped caskets, bloodless victory rings false.

I think one may learn a lot about a person from the characters they appreciate; I have always wondered about those whose favourites almost always included those who held and wantonly exercised power over others...but that can wait for another post.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Praying Hands

3:07 PM Posted by Patrick 3 comments
Germany does not boast the most impressive array of renaissance artists, but "Praying Hands" by Albrecht Durer is a piece of such simple and deep pathos that it is almost certainly more likely to be recognized by the average protestant than the works of arguably--very arguably--greater Italian counter-parts like Ghiberti, Tintoretto, or Masaccio.

The hands pictured by Durer have seen many years. They are not straight and smooth, but course, rough, and battered by a lifetime of hard and often fruitless work.

It is the position of these hands that brought this painting to the forefront of my mind today. This afternoon my dear mother informed me of a minor war of words being waged on Facebook, which appears to have been caused by someone misunderstanding, or failing to reflect on, why some fold their hands in this position.

When I was younger, I learned to fold my hands this way in imitation of the Acolytes at my church. The young learn action by imitating those they admire, and while I was hardly a babe in arms, I was yet a little while removed from the curiosity which would question why they held their hands this way. Even at that time, however, I could understand one aspect of this posture; it was orderly. All of them had their hands folded the same way; there was no sloppiness, no "basket catching" of certain appendages. My Grandfathers had stressed the importance of posture when talking to another man, so why should it be better to stand in a slovenly manner while one is addressing God?

At the time that was enough for me, and even if the reasons above were all I had, they would yet be enough, but it was later--when I joined the Corp--that I learned the other reason for folding hands in that manner.

Reflect with me for a moment....

Why do we fold our hands? Is it merely parents setting a good example, so that their children do not squirm and pinch one another; that we might preserve ourselves from a superfluity of naughtiness?

As if having our hands busy and eyes closed for a moment could stem our sinful nature.

No. It is a reminder and a confession.

The worn, beaten, tired hands in Durer's depiction are a reminder.

A warped, sinful, and most astute German monk is reported to have said "Wir sind alle Bettler." And so Durer's hands are depicted in a position of supplication. Rudisillian Hands, Durer's "Praying Hands," Choir Hands...all are beggars hands.

The hands folded thus are a reminder to the self, and also to others, that we are all beggars; grubby, sinful, broken, and entirely unworthy of the feast to which God Himself has invited us.

That is why I fold my hands in this manner; that I might remember who I am, and who God is for me--the provider of feasts and everlasting life, to a creature, infected with death, and incapable of feeding itself. A beggar.

Now. I understand that there was also a distressing charge of pietism laid at the feet of those who fold their hands in this manner, or any who use rubrics that all Christendom has not been catechized over. There was also concern of the uncatechized being made uncomfortable by these gestures.

This whole line of argument saddens me. I would be only too thrilled to answer any questions about 'gestures' that I make during the service. But I have never been asked. I have had the pleasure of viewing multiple snide exchanges on this front, but never has anyone--outside the Rudisillian vein--ever asked me. I hesitate to toss around the favourite eighth commandment, but why do my brothers not come to me if I have made them uncomfortable, rather than go to each other behind my back.

Worship, I think all would agree, is something we engage in with the voice and the body; I admittedly take delight in discovering previously unknown (to me) hymns and rubrics for this purpose. When I see something that I am unfamiliar with, I ask about it. At the age of ten I thought crossing oneself was something Roman Catholics did, but it was through asking Pastor Gehlbach that I came to understand the significance behind the act and the remembrance of my Baptism. The fact that I was not catechized did not make crossing bad, but it did mean that I was in further need of catachesis. I still need catachesis. I will continue to need catechesis until I am with Our Lord in heaven. At which point, I have cause to hope, the contemplation of Godly things will never feel like an interminable chore.

Until then, I fold my, calloused, sweaty, corrupted hands like Durer's beggar, who awaits the day when his struggles end. A beggar who awaits the day when he will finally dine at the King's table, not as a beggar, but as family.

Wir sind alle ja Bettler.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bubble Wrap Them Gently....

12:23 AM Posted by Patrick 1 comment
Have you ever had diversity training? Thank goodness I had it with someone fun, because with the materials at hand, it might well have been stultifying.

Green. Yellow. Red.

Green Light: If you were having a high tea with your Grandma, your Great-Grandma, a posse of nuns, the Queen, and a team of ACLU lawyers, then you will probably be making "Green" conversation.

Yellow Light: Anything that might be misconstrued or make anyone uncomfortable. The vast majority of social interaction falls in this category, just so you know. (The examples for this during training had all the trainees saying that the people in the scenario were being oversensitive.)

Red Light: Hurtful things and other un-nice things. Zero tolerance: One offense equals three strikes. Examples sounded like they were excerpts from conversations recorded earlier in the day on the sales floor.

The yellow one was bugging the snot out of me. The literature said that, even if 99% of recipients would not be offended by the comment, the comment is inappropriate because there is that 1% who will take offense. I think that one percent needs to grow up. It's like the people who give you a hard time when you hold the door for them. There is nothing offensive in the gesture, but some eyes read offense into it.

Retail may not be the toughest work, but you still have to deal with difficult people, and--as I have learned from observation--people who are high strung do not do well with demanding customers. Take a chill pill, get over yourself, and grow a thicker skin; you are not that big of a deal and if whatever is said is a bit ambiguous, do not assume maliciousness on the part of your coworker.

There was a long (weeks) debate staged--for my benefit--between two of my coworkers on whether I was the reincarnation of Jack the Ripper, or John Dillinger. And this debate was based on nothing more than my dress, speech, and ethnicity...I don't know about you, but I think that almost qualifies as a red light. I might push for an apology.

If I was a humorless fink. ;-p

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Wanted: Font Visible Only to the Writer....

10:42 PM Posted by Patrick 3 comments
There I was, halfway into writing the blogpost that would be my Pulitzer, when the shewoof begins reading over my shoulder, causing me to spaz and accidentally close it. There are very few things that make me spaz so badly as having some nosy interloper gawking at my unfinished work. File that topic away for later....

The majority of all drafts that I write never make it to publication, and this is indubitably for the better. The editor can't stand pompous tripe, and suggests that I find some other rag to publish it. I am really very lucky; this attention to detail has doubtless spared me many face-palm moments (whose the palm? Methinks there would be no shortage of candidates).

Blogging, especially for someone of my relative youth and inexperience, strikes one (yes, one is me) as an inherently egotistical practice. The egotism consists in my assumption that my opinions are worth positing--that all must, naturally, benefit from the wisdom of what I have to say.

Simple scenes from my day might actually make for an interesting blog, but I deal with enough difficult customers and workplace drama; I have no desire to relive them. Plus, part of being the man in the suit department is learning to have an attentive ear and a discreet tongue. The job gives us a little extra gravitas, and it doesn't hurt that we are the only people in the mall whose job is to look and act like the personification of dignity and refinement. We may fall a little short, but that doesn't stop the little children from falling silent as we pass over. People say many things that I would not tell a stranger, but I am a man of the clothes, and whatever I am told is between me, my clients, and God.

Work is not as satisfying a topic, and if I did start lampooning people--which is more fun--there is always the risk that they would find this. Danger, danger, danger. Roasteth not they, who ringeth on occasion thy escaped commissions, in thy number, lest they become wrathful and smiteth thy productivity.

Daily life...worked, worked more, sat in secluded spot and read, pausing to snarl at anyone who got too close. Haz red lawtz of buks! Hid phone and worked on forgetting where he put it, so that he could avoid answering why he does not want to go to party with *insert acquaintance*, the highlights of which are cheap alcohols and (hmmhmmhmm's) perceptibly unwashed friends. I haven't the prerequisite vaccinations. Greek with Winn. MMH: the man who speaks in parables. Such would be my blog material for today, and never once would it be a satisfying brain stretch.

This leaves me with ideas, which are very dangerous to work with and often unstable. The reason that so many of my posts never make it to publication, is that the ideas explode before I can get them under control. I wind up with a bubbling, babbling, mess of cluttered tangents and acrimonious disappointment over the ultimate reality of fallen humankind. Ideas present the only challenging engagement; the only one where I feel that I can sharpen myself.

When someone reads my raw ideas over my shoulder it is unnerving; the words are dangerous, not yet contained in the tight phrasing that will preserve their meaning intact. A raw idea that has taken only rough form in words is a perilous thing; it is the product of my intellect, bared for others to see, but not yet polished or corrected to convey the form fomenting in my mind. In this primitive state, an idea is not only easily twisted, but its volatile interim form--which is often typed in haste--might itself be a perversion of what I desire to express.

It is for the same reason that I spaz that I am not ashamed to think my ideas worth reading. I do not deliver the questionable product of one who does not consider or respect the importance of ideas. I deliver the questionable product of one with a hearty respect for the delicate and precise instruments of language, and for the ability of said vessels to bear--with some measure of purity--ideas; the product of my reason distilled into words faithful to my meaning.

I am not given--at least too often--to puerile ranting and other iniquitous word vomit. At least I will not often post such things here. But every once and awhile you will have to put up with a sermon.

Having said all of that good stuff, there is no way that I can proofread this in my current state. So I leave you with my combustible, possibly bamboozling, and entirely undistilled thoughts. Drink responsibly.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

10:47 PM Posted by Patrick 1 comment
It is such an easy thing to allow a blog to fall into neglect. I have the most time to write when things are slow on the home front, but I bore myself with the banal material and chafe at my own self-satisfied pomposity. And when something worthy of chronicling does come up, well, there never seems to be much time to spare for blogging. No, that's not true. I could easily find time to blog. I find plenty of time to putz around.

Since the end of this last semester I have been lucky enough to remain busy with work, be that selling suits or demolition on the new house. Penney's continues to provide for moderately enjoyable work at a decent wage. There are of course aggravations, some from customers, others from colleagues, and still more from bosses who think that the fact that I do the extra work the others won't means that they should demand even more from me. But these are all petty annoyances, and are usually easily dealt with. The Job remains pleasant, the pay decent, and the mall a fascinating den of skankitude...with a Starbucks, for those really bad days. =-p

Last semester ended well enough. A's across the board and some very positive feedback from a couple of my professors. Next semester features Arabic, Promise and Problems of Democracy (my first full 400 level), Roman History, and Business German. It will just the thirteen credit hours. Five classes and 20+ hours a week at work is an experience I'll save for once I'm a more polished student.

I've been reassessing my future career choice, and I beginning to lean toward rodeo clown. If that falls through, I can always go for ward of state or pimp. Last semester I wound up spinning more than enough sophistries, "making the weaker argument the stronger," as it were. I actually wrote a paper that directly contradicted my own feelings on a topic, which got perfect marks and glowing commentary, but I didn't really get any satisfaction out of it. I take no satisfaction in winning an argument when I know I'm wrong, and law would certainly require just that. Nein, danke. Ich möchte lieber etwas befriedigend machen.

Enough. I need to stretch the writing portion of my brain; it will take a little while.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Short Night

1:50 PM Posted by Patrick 1 comment
Last night I completed a staggering feat. I started working on a research paper in the afternoon, and turned it in early the next morning. Granted, my subject knowledge was already exceedingly strong, and I already knew the sources from which I wanted to draw my support, but it was still a grim battle with fatigue to churn out such a staggering work of astute comparative analysis.

One never really realizes how much church there is during holy week, until the rest of one's time has been greedily gobbled by work and homework. Only in retrospect can I see the crunch, I did not even think of it at the time, and I was so concerned with other matters, that the paper sort of snuck up on me. It does not make matters easier that Bartky does not believe in giving a month's notice, as he realizes the class will procrastinate the first to weeks anyway. So he elects to procrastinate for us, and gives us the paper without any extra procrastination time.

The result is that today I am tired. For most this would be a big problem, and I will probably find myself crashing in the middle of my last class/my drive home, but to this point in the day I have only marked an increase in my ability to assimilate information with which I am presented...which could not have come at a worse time.

Today, music for the listener class was dealing in Modernism. My poor, confused, addled, and possibly unbalanced, teacher was talking about it in almost rapturous terms. He finds music from this period to be the most interesting....Interesting, I say, is certainly a word for it.

Atonal, poly-tonal, arrhythmic, and disquieting; the "music" drifted from one place to another with no semblance of development--as is found in previous classical music--and no real functional harmony or recognizable melody--as is found in, what is that word I am looking for, music. It was a serious of increasingly dissonant and ugly sounds, which ended--by God's mercy and providence alone--without once resolving any of the tension. I did not get any catharsis to purge all the bad juju that was being pumped into my system, and toward the end I was left with a vein pulsing unpleasantly in the side of my head.

I am not someone who is a stranger to discord in my music.,and I can definitely appreciate dissonance as a device in music. While dissonance adds interest to a consonant piece, a piece that is made up entirely from dissonant ideas is not interesting; it holds as little interest as an unadorned consonant piece, and it is painfully ugly to boot. I have been searching for an adjective that truly encompasses the achievements of modern music, and I think I finally found it.

Blegh

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nuremburg.

2:13 PM Posted by Patrick 1 comment
I joined battle with half a classroom today. I had one ally to my name, but as it was Scott, who is TA for two professors, I felt like I was in good company.

The topic that we were engaging was Nuremburg, and whether or not it was a case of victor's justice, or if it was indeed a fair and just trial.

Scott and I both pointed out a massive inconsistency in the trial. The Leaders of Soviet Russia were as guilty, if not more guilty, of every charge brought against the Nazi leadership by the London Charter than were the Nazis. If you look at the death tolls, the simple fact is that Stalin was more deadly, and he did not confine himself to dissidents, Jews, and "defective" people. The Soviets went after every cultural and ethnic anomaly; the cossacks--or anyone else with Tatar, Turk, or Alan blood--were also subject to genocide. Why were Russian judges sitting to convict Nazis of these atrocities?

Nuremburg was victor's justice; it was selective justice. We dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; we firebombed Dresden and every decent sized town in Japan. We did what we felt we had to do to win the war, and we have better excuse for being on the defensive, but the fact remains that it is the victor who gets to decide what is counted as an atrocity before the law.

The charges leveled by the London Charter could almost be a summary of WWII, of war in the abstract. The Nazis would have executed Russian and American leaders for war crimes if they succeeded. One of the ugly aspects of war is that the loser dies.

If you appeal to some higher ideal of justice in justifying the trials at Nuremburg, you need to understand that the victor was guilty as well, perhaps not to the same extent as the foe--at least in the US case--but more than guilty enough. War is hell. If men understood history; they would know that war is never good or desirable.

When we won the war, it was the triumph of our perspective over theirs. Our perspective is certainly many times better, but we were by no means blameless. The Nazis were evil, but they thought of it as progress; the next step in the evolution of humankind and civilization. Had they won they would have been the heroes of history, and the Russians would have been what the Nazis are to us, and justly so.

Whoops! out of time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Another Rainy Day. Aweseemo!

4:51 PM Posted by Patrick 1 comment
I don't believe I can possibly impress upon the reader the extent of my love for rain. It is not just the delight of having the myriad droning, bleating, sounds of the world covered over in the gentle wash and echo of the rain. Nor is it the sight of the tastelessly and scantily clad masses scurrying for cover as they shiver. Nor is it even the pungent and oddly cheering wormsmell and greenness that blot out all the unpleasant smells, which the constant passing of thirteen-thousand people and their jalopies leaves behind. One would not have the whole of it, even if one were to add to the first three pleasures, the delight which comes from the markedly pleasant sensation of rain on the face...I need hardly get started on the difference wrought by the release of days of pressure built up in the joints.

I do not much care for cloudy days, but I love a rainy day; thunderstorms are even better. I never think more clearly than when I am walking, and the rain only serves to aid this effect. For the last three days I have felt rather bogged down. Yesterday, it was well beyond me to write anything cohesive, and all my attempts to research turned immediately into headaches. I spent the entire day reading novels, and there seemed times when even those seemed like they might be a bit much.

Today, it simply is not so. I wrote two paragraphs of German in twenty minutes, spoke in full--cohesive--sentences during German class, held my own in an argument in Ulmschneider's class, and described the Concert that I had been to this weekend in terms that would make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

(Couldn't help myself)

Rain, when I actually get up to go mess around in it, is a most remarkable restorative. I have heard much of the waters at Bath, but what need have I of Bath when I regularly receive, in pleasant droplet increments, waters from the heavens!

One should also note at this point that people do not often take note of their facial expressions as they walk into the rain, making for some particularly amusing displays. A word to the wise, do not walk around with your mouth wide open and your lips pulled back over your teeth. With the the right affectation, even the loveliest faces can be transformed into something rather grotesque. When in doubt, do not walk around with your mouth open...please.

Alright, seerius biznez.

For years, think 14-18, I considered my life a crusade; a crusade to annihilate every single negative homeschooler stereotype in the minds of all sentient beings that I encountered. I was determined to have a thorough, intelligent, amusing conversation in every establishment that I entered, especially if it sold coffee. I considered myself an ambassador from the homeschooled of the world to those of a more "normal" background. I was tired of the socialization question. I was tired of the doubt,the disapproval, and the condescension. I would not allow myself to be branded with a negative stereotype, and I dared anyone to talk with me for three minutes and try. Most of the time, when my background finally came up, my partners in conversation were shocked; they would never have guessed that I was homeschooled, and wondered if I was the norm or the exception. I always answered that Home school kids came in as wide and varied types as did those who went to regular schools.

If a negative stereotype is in the way, it must be removed. This is, and has been, my attitude.

That said, in German today, the three most accomplished students--excluding one--said that they would be ashamed of their American identity when traveling in a foreign country, and cited stereotypes that Europeans have for Americans as the reason.

Needless to say, das gefällt mir nicht gut. I like all three of these people, but the first word that comes to mind is cowardice. They would not even try to represent their countrymen well, one of them (who is possibly my favorite person of the three) went so far as to say that he/she/it would apologize for being American. At this point I was fairly dumbfounded. You would apologize for what you are, your heritage, based on the fact that the other person doesn't like it? The KKK wishes that King had thought like that.

Disassociation. Can there even be self worth? Can a person with the idea that they are a complete and valuable being believe that the culture they came from is a thing of which to be wholly ashamed? These are also the people who are gradually turned to agreeing with controlling government. The citizens of this country cannot be taught, so government needs to lead the way. Problems are not dealt with through personal interaction, but by government interdiction.

OK. The grotesque, loud, gluttonous, obnoxious, American tourists of the world do exist, but that does not mean that you say "sorry, I'm American." It means that you stand as a counterbalance. You go out into the world and change the stereotypes, you grind out the impression of the loud American tourist, and you leave a positive idea in its place. You do not apologize for your background because the other person has prejudices against it. You tear down the prejudices, that you may be judged according to your own merit.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Brilliance of the Sun and of Marx

2:10 PM Posted by Patrick No comments
Well. It is a sunny day outside, warm, clear, with hint of a cool breeze to drive away any threats of humidity. The masses have affected an ungainly waddle, which an expert on the ground judged to be the result of the return of the flip-flop. Student elections are in session, and students only vote if there is free food to go with the vote. The classroom atmosphere has changed, the eager beginnings and smooth mid-semester stride are long since passed. Attitudes range between those who have taken on an almost inhuman intensity, and those who just seem glazed over and sleepy.

It is in this intellectual climate that we began on Marx. By the end of the lesson, Bartky actually had some of the students nodding along, agreeing with the precepts. To those of us who had a few minutes to linger, he confided that sections on Marx always end up with him getting some newly converted Marxists coming to his office, and that it is always necessary to correct them.

If you are someone for whom the Metaphysical has always appeared to be gobbledygook, then Marx may seem like your balm and tonic. He understands the problems that you see manifest in liberal ideals and capitalism. He even has answers to finally stop the madness, bring about full conscious knowledge of the "species being," and promote the universal love and brotherhood of all mankind. His theories make such sense; they make no appeal to God or higher nature, only that which is physically demonstrable.

The final step of false sophistication. A system that claims itself scientific, posited with no regard to anything so abstract as morals or higher ideals, only equality and sustenance.

In every case this political system has failed and met with disaster, genocide, and tyranny.

Marx, for all of his supposed realism, fails to understand human nature. He actually thinks that human desire would be content with pleasant subsistence. He fails to understand that human desires are infinite, and that the anarchy he dreams of would be chaos. He is just another sort of idealist and refuses to deal with the ugliness that is everywhere apparent. He wants to believe that men would be just and good, if only all these human machinations got out of their way.

He makes a disastrous mistake that Machiavelli, the Greeks, the Romans, or any other philosophers could have told him would lead to ruin and bloodshed. He sweeps away all the religion, morals, and conventions that bind the monster and tyrant that sleeps in every human breast. All the higher authorities that direct man to a higher good--a good which Marx would not acknowledge--are swept away, and man sets out to satisfy his ambitions and appetites, free of all restraint.

Nonetheless, the picture of a world free from division and struggle that Marx paints is so tempting, and the methodical, scientific, process by which he goes through the creation of such a world lends such confidence. But it is like staring at the sun. It is beautiful, but it is not obtainable on earth, and by staring after it you only damage your own sight, so that you cannot even see the good that surrounds you.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fast

3:39 PM Posted by Patrick 3 comments
Lenten fasts are an excellent practice, not only as a preparation, but as an opportunity to take advantage of one's own self-conscious piety as a tool for moderation and discipline. The knowledge that it is a Lenten fast lends so much more weight than just a regular attempt at self-moderation. When I select my fasts, I always go with an aspect of my life that I know requires a bit of reining in.

I always try to augment specific Lenten fasts, giving up a particular vice, with a general moderating of all my frivolous pleasures. I will not drink any of my beloved desert/coffee items from Starbucks during this time. This is an item that I will not miss for the most part, but it is a greatly immoderate favorite use of my funds. So also, I will not buy any new clothing during this period. This is another thing that I will not miss terribly, but it is a favorite method of tending my vanity.

My point in fasting is not to cast myself into physical discomfort so much as it is to make me realize that, nice though these things might be, they do not make me content, nor are they where I find my happiness. On the contrary, the more I indulge the more I desire, and the less content I become with that which is mine.

I do not think that I am alone in this. The more I feed my vices the stronger they become, and worse I am at managing them. It becomes an addiction.

We have gone chasing happiness in the guise of a thousand petty drugs, but when the first sensation passes we are left with an empty hunger; a desire for more. We know it has killed others, but we have it under control. We understand what we are doing, we only stray from God in moderation; a little bit of sin, easily inoculated by the boundless grace of God.

Lent is stern stern call, and in our addiction it is jarring: repent.

There are no safe sins, no gray areas, and all sin is corrosive to faith and leads only to death. We take the good things God has given out of his divine providence and mercy and we pervert them. We look to goods and pleasures for lasting pleasure, identity, and meaning, as if we could draw these things from material possessions.

Worse, we grow frustrated at our inability to derive meaning and happiness from the worldly goods he has given, and chase after things which we have not been given. We are so sure that God is holding out on the best things--the ones that would finally make us happy. Or, more likely, God never enters our minds as the provider of our worldly goods, and we chase after our desires counting everything we obtain as our due.

And if it is our due that we desire, then it is our due that we shall receive.

There is a just rebuke in Ash Wednesday. We are dust, and to dust we shall return; a point we are all too quick to forget. Our Lord does not tell us this in order to throw us into despair. He reminds us of who we are, that we might remember who he is.

Ash Wednesday is a reminder: stop looking to the things of this world for happiness and meaning, it is all dust, as are we. Where your treasure is, there also your heart will be. Stop trying to join yourself to the dust of this world; it leads only to death.

It is a strange irony that it is in dust that we find our hope. Not all dust is dead. In the midst of trials and trepidations, dead family, false friends, bad drivers, and empty coffeepots, there is but one dust in which our trust is well-placed.

Our Lord, Jesus Christ, dust of our dust, bore our form, fell lifeless to the earth, and rose triumphant, in order that he might draw our dust to him. We are dust, and yet he put on our dust that we might be his bride. We are dust, and to dust shalt we return; to the risen dust of Our Lord in heaven.

The fast will not be comfortable, but rejoice, even as we fast in this world we know that we shall never fast in the next. Discipline yourselves, my brothers. Trust not in the dust of this world, nor in your own dust, but in the promise of Him who took on dust for us.

We are heirs to the Kingdom of God, spotless and pure, the Blood of God running plenteously down our lips and in our veins. Let this be our pleasure, identity, and trust.

Rejoice my brothers, and fast. For our treasure is infinitely greater and more precious than all those things from which we now abstain.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

...So How Did You Spend Spring Break?

8:17 PM Posted by Patrick 2 comments
I just finished with The Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss. I now have the pleasure of waiting years for the next.

Over the course of 1100 hundred pages I was never left to wonder where it was going, or whether it might have been done in fewer pages. It is compelling, clever, fun, and leaves me regretting that it is not longer.

Given a deeper reading and examination, I might be able to give account for its excellence. At present, I merely say that the story departs from the familiar pattern. The hero is excellent, but he makes human mistakes, loses more often than he wins, and you know that, when the story ends, there will be something that destroyed his excellence and left him--seemingly--a normal man.

This story begins where the last one left oft, with a three part silence, the deepest of which is the brooding silence of a man who is waiting to die. The colorful story of the young life of a legendary hero unfolds against that backdrop. The odd part is that it is not an old man waiting to die, the hero telling the story is still young, and you are left to read with the curiosity of how this came to be, and why he is so far fallen.

The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear are a pair of the best told stories I have come across, and I love stories.

Now I get to deal with the lag that comes after finishing an excellent book. These are always harder to get over when it is good fantasy, which is so very rare and enjoyable.

There is also something remarkably regenerative about reading a good piece of fiction. When you rise out of stale textbooks and ponderous philosophy into the pleasure of a good story, it is like like leaving a vegan world for a paradise of ice-cream and umami. Veggies are nice, and they are very good for you, but a body begins to hunger for other things.

It is gratifying to get into good fiction, but this was good enough that I am sitting here with a simple, cheery, gratified, and contented feeling.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

*Insert O'Pat/O'Mike Noise Here*

5:05 PM Posted by Patrick No comments
I have made it through three tests, now I have one more to go. I have realized the insanity of combining as much work and school as I do, and will have to cut back a little next semester. I am very fond of school (and money), so it will not be an easy decision. But I have filled two bluebooks today, and written out 10 short answers and 3 brief essays on the test sheet for the other professor, so my wrist is snapping and popping, and my brain is trying to kill me...or so this headache would make it seem.

I am usually pretty good at absorbing information, but after this much work, I just do not have much left in the way of higher brain functionality. It would be easier if I hadn't had to pick up some hours after losing a pair of suits associates, then i would have had a little more time to mull. Mulling is the way I pass my tests. I do not cram, I do not even study in the way that most people do. I take long walks with a vacant expression on my face; this is my process. I think better when I am moving, and if I have sufficient time to ponder it, I do not need to hear most subject matter more than once. The problem comes when I have no time to walk, and when there is time for a walk it is nine o'clock at night and eight-hundred degrees below zero.

My first two tests went smashingly, I thought. The third either went well, or poorly, depending on the level of specificity required. I had difficulty remembering the exact dates on the medieval composers, even if I could remember what 20-40 year period they operated in. Everything else went well.

My last one is going to be another where I fill the bluebook, and then I will need a bionic hand, because this one has informed me that it is getting a divorce from my body if I put it through another test. He gave us sample questions to look at, and they are all crazy hard and require actual thinking. It remains to be seen whether I will be able to think tonight.

On the bright side, I understood everything in German today, though that is in sharp contrast with the hiccup that was my German midterm. So, whatever comes out of the midterm, and least my knowledge of the German language is better than it will reflect.

On the brightest side, when all of this obnoxious testing is over, I am going to go home and collapse into a chair and read The Wise Man's Fear, and will also do horrifying violences/death to any who try to oppose this course of action. Ya dig?

One month until the next 25 page batch of written is due at once, but I won't get the topics until after spring break, so I get to take a week to take a breath.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

To Every Hobo a Suit...or Not

4:24 PM Posted by Patrick 11 comments

A sad reality has struck me. I have known it for a long time, but only now do I actually feel the enormity of what it was I saw.

Men do not wear suits, and those few who can be found in a suit, really do not wear them very well. The suits I see have rolled collars, gaping necks, puckered backs, strained buttons. Men seldom make the mistake of choosing a suit that is too large; they but suits that cling to them in the hope that it will be slimming.

They don them in this shameless style because they do not understand the marvelous metamorphosing power of a decent suit; the power to broaden your shoulders and make your gut appear, not bloated, but as part and parcel of your steady, consequential, masculinity.

Last week I fitted at least four gentlemen of more than forty years who claimed never to have purchased a suit. All of them ultimately elected the cheapest available option. All seemed chagrined over having to buy a suit, and almost seemed to wear the fact that they had never worn a suit as a bizarre badge of honor; as emblematic of their freedom.

I could not begin to guess at how the suit became so thoroughly stigmatized, but in selling suits for a short week, I have already been exposed to every kind of dread, both real and affected, at the prospect of buying and wearing a suit. Most who are buying these suits console themselves with the fact that they only need to wear one once or twice a year.

Precious few of those who know nothing about suits put themselves in our hands; they seem almost mistrustful, as if they are convinced that we, the salesmen, cannot possibly have their best at heart. Never mind that no one has more interest in making our clientele look good. The opposite is true of those who are well versed in suit lore. Those who know suits generally listen to us, especially when it comes to fit.

JCPenney is the only major menswear tailor/retailer that saw an increase in sales last year. The market saw a 12% loss in net sales, but we had a 7% gain. We gained because sales are increasing exponentially in the cheaper suits we sell. Market share has been falling for our executive line, which is designed by Hart-Marx, and picking up in the synthetic suit area. I will not say that all of these suits are tasteless. Some of them are actually rather neat, but the cheapening trend is just illustrative of the loss of a suit's value in the estimation of the buyer.

Many men treat it as a wanton extravagance to spend anything on a suit. I go over to Macy's pretty regularly, and it is normally empty--or near it--in the suits department. They have a glut of suits that are on incredible sales. The problem is that there are few who would recognize that buying a decent Tallia that has been marked down from $600 to $250 as a good deal. A good deal has nothing to do with the amount of quality you get for the price, it is about how little you have to spend to outfit yourself for a given occasion. The $150 dollar polyester suit beats out the Tallia because the price difference is one whole Colts' ticket!

I don't know if there is much to be done. I think that all one can do is wear suits well and hope that others seek to emulate.