Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Good Wife...

I recently had the immense pleasure of watching the HBO miniseries John Adams, starring Paul Giammati as the title character and Laura Linney as his wife Abigail Adams. Besides stellar production values and superb casting, the writers I think successfully boiled the story down to its one essential relationship, that of John Adams and his wife. Their marriage on screen is real, passionate, flawed, humorous, and always loving.

The remarks of Thomas Jefferson at a certain juncture in the movie are striking; at one point John Adams introduces his wife to Thomas Jefferson and Jefferson claims he already knows her because of all the counsel and wisdom she passes on to her husband. I think the series shows in fine detail exactly what a wife of the time, and yes, wives of all times and places, ought to be.

As the series unfolds it quickly becomes clear that Abigail is the driving force of her husband's life. She is his inspiration, his counselor, his wife, his lover, mother to his children, and his "dear friend," to borrow a line from the movie (which line, I am sure, is lifted from John's actual writings.) In the end, she is everything to him, and he realizes and rejoices in his dependence on her. The two are nearly inseperable, ironic as that is considering that they were apart for a good deal of their lives. They wrote volumes of letters to each other, the preservation of which gives us a fantastic glimpse into their real lives.

The longer I am married, the more I realize the truth of that striking relationship: that the wife is the life-force and lifeblood of her husband. She is his goad, his lifeline, his comfort, his aid, and his conscience. Without a woman, a man is very little. I marvel sometimes about the things I have accomplished that I know that I would never even have dreamed of doing had I not been married. A wife is a powerful motivation for a man to be something better than just a decent man. For a woman, a man desires to be excellent.

I may be buying a home soon, because of my wife and the family she has helped me to produce. She and my children are the reason I go to work every day, the reason I curb my tongue when I am angry at my boss some days so that I can keep my job, the reason I work to maintain a decent budget and working vehicles and adequate shelter and food. Without my wife, I would feel little need to be excellent; with her around, it's not only a burning desire, it is quite literally a requirement.

It is not Valentine's Day today, my wedding anniversary, or any other particularly special day other than the New Year's weekend. And yet I feel the urgent need to put out a thank you to my wife. With her at the home, I can feel comfortable going anywhere I need to without fear. Her being there is enough reassurance to me that all is well. She is my motivation, my moral compass, my lover, and my best friend. I never had a word of deliberate discouragement from her in my life, nor am I ever likely to. I can only claim the achievement of having chosen my woman well. She has done the rest.

To my wife, I can only really say I love you. You are my soul.

And to all other good wives out there, God bless you. The world would fail to turn properly without you. Don't stop being the good that you are.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Truth and Its Shadow

There is a funny line in the film The Trouble with Angels, where the generous donor of band uniforms to a Catholic girl's school is scolded by the mother superior for the immodesty of the uniforms' cut. The mother superior proclaims indignantly that she runs a Catholic school, to which the donor replies without even blinking, "Band uniforms are non-sectarian."

Besides the belly laugh I got out of the line, it actually got me to thinking. The word "Catholic" really only means one thing: universal. In its application to the Catholic Church, the word encompasses the universality of both its message, its scope, and most importantly, its truth.

The humor of the line for me comes from the oxymoron of the Catholic Church being a sect. A sect would suggest a splinter group, an organization possessing a certain truth, rather than all of the truth. A sect requires comparison to some other thing for its identity. The Catholic Church has no such need.

But I will let someone far more eloquent than I expound further on this topic, mainly because he has captured precisely what I have always thought but could never verbalize. This article is extraordinarily moving in its beautiful defense of the truth and in what way the truth must be understood.

Monday, December 26, 2011


Almost ten days ago now I had to go to the emergency room for severe and painful ringing in my ears, and I was diagnosed with an inner ear infection in both ears. Bleh. Anyhow, I have practically never gotten an ear infection and was unaware that it renders the infected ear almost totally unable to hear. Put an infection in both ears, and voila! you have almost instant, pretty severe deafness.

I recount this story not for pity's sake, as I am almost all the way recovered as I write this, but more to pass along an intriguing perspective I gained from the past week and a half. I had heard of people who would put themselves in the shoes of deaf people for a day by putting hearing protection on and then trying to interact with the world. I could never participate in such an exercise mainly for reasons of practicality. However, I finally had the experience forced upon me without my consent, and the result was as intriguing as it was terrifying.

The first thing I recall feeling was a sort of desperation. I wasn't supposed to lose my hearing, that happened to other people. Not me. Also, the onset of the deafness was so swift that it left me in a panic. I literally couldn't hear much of anything, including the doctor asking me what was wrong.

As the week wore on, it became clear that the deafness was going to be a pretty standard fixture of the next week or so. The panic and desperation distilled slowly down to a kind of resigned calm, where I and the pain in my ears lived in a weird sort of coexistence that did not feel real.

And that's when it finally hit me: the sense of isolation. People who tried to talk to me eventually would get frustrated that I had to ask them to repeat things over and over again. I couldn't hear movies playing, could barely hear my wife in the car, and couldn't hear my alarm clock in the morning. My temporary disability was, not to put too fine a point on it, absolutely debilitating.

I finally had that experience I hear people with various disabilities speak of sometimes, the experience of being crushingly lonely. It is hard to express that feeling, but it is real. I gained a new sense of what an old person in a nursing home must feel like, half-deaf and unable to interact properly with others. I felt that loneliness first hand, and it was not good.

Of course, I have people that love me who wouldn't abandon me in that sort of situation. I have a fantastic wife who made everything run smoothly while I was laid up. I have great parents who pleasantly put up with my need for repeated questions and comments. I am surrounded by love.

But the truth remains that many other people are not surrounded by love. They are abandoned and hopeless, many times for things beyond their control. Knowing a tiny slice of that loneliness and separation makes it not only encumbent upon me to be more aware of those people myself, but to get others to pay attention to them as well. I believe it was Mother Teresa who said that the greatest plague of modern man is loneliness. She would know. It was her job to fix it. So should it be ours.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Enough with the politically correct drivel of "Happy Holidays," Seasons Greetings," and all the other sickeningly unspecific mundanities. There is only one reason we have lit-up trees in our living rooms, presents underneath it waiting to be opened, and feasts on our tables this time of the year, and it is not to celebate togetherness, niceness, or the winter solstice. We are having a birthday party, for the most famous man ever born on this earth, a man who was more than a man, a child who was more than a child. Whether you like it or not, the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the reason that we celebrate on the 25th of December.
Have a Merry Christmas, all of my readers, and don't be afraid of the reason that we celebrate. God bless you all!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Out For Blood

I remember back when Osama Bin Laden was killed in his compound during the now-famous SEAL Team Six raid, I was sitting at work doing whatever I was doing, with my headphones on listening to the local news and talk station on the radio. I believe it was Sean Hannity's show I had been listening to (which I shall do no more except to get the gist of the conservative mood on a certain subject, as Hannity's particularly rabid version of conservative arm flailing grates most obnoxiously on my nerves.) But putting his irritating and ADHD tendencies aside for a moment, I wish to draw out a particularly egregious statement he made that week concerning the government's release of pictures of the raid.

Now, normally, if the government is going to make an extraordinary claim like the fact that they have killed World Terrorist Number One, I would be the first to say "prove it." The government makes very little attempt these days to prove anything, especially its own capacity to govern, so maybe this cynicism is justified. And in this vein, or so I thought at first, Hannity demanded that the pictures of the raid be shown to the public. But he did not really desire proof of anything. On the contrary, he was highly praiseworthy of the SEAL team's efforts and applauded their actions even without the proof. I will try to quote his exact words as to why the pictures should be shown, because the American people "deserved to see that bastard with a bullet in his brain."

Wow. The man was literally bouncing in his recording booth seat with glee at the fact that another human being had been shot to death through the head. And this same man claims to be a Catholic.

This scenario basically repeated itself in the conservative talk show world this past weekend with the death of Kim Jong Il, although without the same driving intensity of the Bin Laden raid. The lack of charity shown was astounding, from talk show hosts and callers. These are people that are supposed to be middle of the road Americans, working class Christians, middle class Evangelicals, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and atheists who show some kind of moral character. And I can't say that they were all out for blood, but many of them were.

One of the most fundamental things I learned from good Catholic parents when I was a child was that no matter the cost, embarassment, ridicule, or hatred I received, I was required to love my enemies. That does not mean I am not allowed to fight enemies (the Church has the best developed theory on the conduct of a just war than any other institution on earth), but I am still called upon to love the enemies I may be called upon by my country to destroy. One of the greatest parts of this love is to pray for the salvation of the souls of all men, especially publicly evil men. At the death of Osama Bin Laden I did not joke about him finally meeting his seventy-seven virgins, I prayed for God's abundant mercy on his soul. At the death of Kim Jong Il I prayed that his soul might rest in peace because that is what a Catholic does.

A Catholic, a Christian, never revels in another man's death. Vengeance is God's and He shall repay. What we should pray for is that God's merciful will be done in that dead man's case. God does not consider a sinner in hell a triumph; rather, a soul in hell has rejected his Maker and must suffer the consequences. On the other hand, a soul that turns to God at the last moment is a victory more momentous than any other in heaven and on earth, and God rejoices in that soul even more than that soul rejoices in God's grace. In either case, however, God stands as eternal and all-knowing judge, and only He is to say who is in hell and who is not (not you, Senator John McCain.) It is not only not our job, it is entirely outside our realm of knowledge and experience. For us to rejoice that the bastard is finally gone and that God may send him to live with the likes of Hitler and Stalin is to act like a freshman at college, a state of life in which we are ignorant of how little we know and therefore revel in how stupid we are.

It is only fallen human nature to desire vengeance instead of justice, and only logical to desire justice without mercy. And yet God astoundingly does neither; maybe that is part of His unfathomability. He never does what we would do and that frustrates us. And yet when we do His will, we are mysteriously more at peace with ourselves. Far be it from usas His followers, then, to be less magnanimous than God.

I write this with some anger and frustration, not at Kim Jong Il or any publicly evil person in general, but directed at a single comment of a friend of mine. I had made the comment that I wished Kim Jong Il to rest in peace, and that God might have mercy on his soul. This friend (a Catholic) could not agree to my desire that Kim Jong Il should rest in peace, and to this day I do not know why. If it is because of listening to people like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, turn them off. Now. They have been less than Christian numerous times before, and they deserve to lose listenership every time they spout uncharity and untruth. If that is where the vindictiveness comes from, cut them off for the safety of your own soul. Please.

Mahatma Gandhi famously said once: "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ." A "Christian" nation that is out for the blood of tyrants is no Christian nation at all. Be aware of revenge and hatred and root them out. They do nobody any good.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

To Russia, With Love

An Open Letter to Russia, Its People, and Its Leaders:

This past week I was able to observe the Russian parliamentary elections via the various news networks. And I have to say, the results were disgustingly predictable. The ruling party once again stayed put in power, amidst widespread reports of election rigging and fraud. The authorities have vowed to bring those responsible to justice and have so far done little to nothing, claiming that even with election fraud factored in, the ruling party still wins.

It would seem that 70 years of totalitarian oppression and the systemic bureaucratic corruption it bred do not fade easily. While the Soviet Union may have crumbled over fifteen years ago, the corruption has remained but under a different guise.

I live in a country where you hear of local election fraud only once in a while, where political dissidents do not disappear in the middle of the night, and where I am free to write and report pretty much anything I want. I will not pretend to know how frustrating and frightening it can be to live under a system that cares so little for its people.

It has therefore been to my great satisfaction to witness the courage of the people of Russia in standing up to a rotting tyranny, finally throwing up their hands and saying that they have had enough. If ever there was a people that has had enough, it must be the Russians. Utilizing all the modern tools at their disposal (social media, mobile electronics, etc.) they have become a powerful determining force in reshaping their nation hopefully for the better.

My prayer is that the Russian people will first and foremost show restraint. Your anger with your government is great and widespread, and yet it must not become violence. To become violent in protest against your government would only be to mimic the very thing you wish to change.

My next prayer is that you, the people, will understand that proper representation in government does not solve all ills, although it is an excellent place to start. Freedom is not only freedom from, but freedom for. Your society must be moving towards something, some end, and its end will greatly determine its means. Choose your goals wisely.

My third and final prayer is for the Russian leadership. Not only is violence against your own people, a people that are begging for justice, not advisable, it will never work. You must recognize not only when you have the opportunity to do good in power, but also when your time has come to leave. The needs and the wants of your people are powerful things to reckon with, and every day spent thwarting them is a day spent digging your own grave deeper. Engage with your people. Or leave.

My country and the Russian nation have of course long been at odds; I hope the day comes in my lifetime when that is no longer the case. You, the Russian people, are a beautiful and industrious people; your land is expansive and rich in abundant natural resources. Your culture is ancient and fascinating, your buildings and cities even more so.

Continue to strive for the freedom to be good, to be honest, to be prosperous, and to be generous. And to those who would stand in the way of those goals for their own personal gain, beware. You will not come to any good trying.

Be aware, Russia. And God bless you.

Monday, December 12, 2011

No Fun

I don't usually post two of someone else's writing in a row here, but I found this intriguing enough to pass on. It is an invigoratingly fresh take on the problem of moral relativism. I hope you all enjoy this article from

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The 99%

I am not sure if I ever posted this article or not, but it makes some intriguing points worth considering. I felt it my duty of sorts to put something else up about the Occupy Wall Street movement, considering they have become such a... fixture. Whether you are annoyed at them or otherwise, this article is a good read.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December 7th

I ask that anyone reading this will remember what happened at Pearl Harbor 70 years ago today. I ask that you pray for the souls of all the men who died that day, both American and Japanese, and that you pray for peace in the world. There are already too many wars; let us remember to never provoke other nations to violence, and yet at the same time let us never hesitate to defend our country in time of need.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Your One Stop Shop!

I recently had an interesting conversation with my dad about the tanking economy and the government's recent rash of bailouts to corporations. We noted that economic growth, which is largely driven by home building and home sales, would never speed up if the government continues to subsidize and incentivize new home construction. There is no bottom to a market that is continually propped up by tax payer monies.

However, an even bigger thought occurred to me at the time.

The government has a proper role in relation to the marketplace. One part of that proper role is the provision of legal protection to those business entities whose days are numbered and who wish to enter into a state of bankruptcy, where they might portion out their dues without threat of legal action. This is an admirable function of government. It is just another branch of the defend and protect part of government.

Now consider the actions of those who approve governmental funds being applied to help companies to regain their footing. Now we are in much less savory territory. A government check always has strings attached, just like most private money. However, these strings are much more difficult to justify or define properly, because the money being used is money taken by taxation from people who the government is supposed to protect and serve. A conflict of interest immediately emerges because of the need to define who "deserves" government money.

When these two things are combined (i.e. bailouts and bankruptcy protection), a perfect storm of corruption immediately emerges. Now the government not only decides which companies should receive a check of tax payer money, but also how a company filing for legal protection of bankruptcy should be approached. GM is a prime example of this. The unions walked away with a killing while GM's secured creditors suffered. Solyndra is another great example, a failing energy company that raked in half a billion in government handouts.

We are well on our way down a slippery slope when we allow our government to not only pick the economic winners, but then also to manage their decline when they become no longer viable. The only reason for the existence of this sort of arrangement is corruption and power-hunger.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Different Perspective

I recently came across a truly intriguing article concerning the ever politically and religiously sticky topic of homosexuality. I will say very little here, and let you just read and tell me what you think. I personally found it quite powerful.