Exploring where life and story meet!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Can it be Jane Austen?

In my self-declared quest of conquering the Austenian epistles, I discovered a work called Lady Susan which rather surprised me!  The heroine or shall I say anti-heroine is a widowed woman in her middle thirties who takes pleasure solely in discomfiting others.  This is no timid Fanny, lively Elizabeth, sensible Eleanor, or gentle Jane, this is a woman altogether unknown in all things Austen.  Perhaps Jane Austen is not the author, perhaps it is something of the ilk of the 'did Shakespeare write Shakespeare controversy.'  But no, the style, the wit, the wording is all Austen's.  Strangely, though I abhor the sentiments of the leading character, she may be one of the best written of all Austen's leading ladies!  It is a quick and interesting foray into a different part of the Austen universe, not entirely devoid of the charm which her other novels evoke.  Whatever else it may be, it proves again that Jane Austen can understand human emotion, thought, and behavior and put it on paper far better than most with advanced degrees in psychology!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A form of parasitism?

I once took a pathology test that asked after 2 diseases that cause fatty liver in cats.  I could only remember diabetes and pregnancy as causes of the condition so put down the latter with a footnote that it could be considered by some as a form of parasitism.  The professor was not impressed and I lost the point and received nothing for creativity, and to make it worse, the correct answer was 'idiopathic' which is the scientific word for 'we haven't a clue.'  Ah, well!  Such is the mixed joy and torture of academia. 

Of course I was writing in jest at the time hoping to salvage a few points, new life should always be considered a blessing and a miracle, not some type of bane, disorder, or disease.  Though in recent decades it seems to be more and more of a 'life choice' rather than something that happens to most people, it has become a hobby or a past time enjoyed by those that relish such things but ignored by the rest of us; something like watching football or having a dog or skiing.  Modern pharmacology has given us a flexibility to enjoy the sexual act with very little risk of the usual consequences that have followed in its wake since time immemorial.  We get to choose when and if we have children, a choice which was never before as easily and widely available in recorded history.  We don't need to expose unwanted infants on hillsides as the Romans used to do or even go to the extreme of having a medically induced abortion, we need only take a pill and the risk of conceiving becomes nearly zero.  We can sleep with whomever we choose whenever we choose and need fear no diapers.

I saw an article in a major magazine perhaps a month back extolling the 'child free' lifestyle.  After reading it, my heart was near to breaking.  All the people they interviewed focused on the 'me' and the 'us' and the 'now.'  It was the most self-centered piece of writing I had ever read!  There was no thought of anything but the convenience of their own meager lives and wishes, no thought of other people or even their own futures.  All they cared about was today, tomorrow, and the day after that.  This is not to say that every person must be a parent or should or can have children or that there are not worthy causes beyond childbearing and rearing, but it is strange to see something that was considered normal only 30 years ago has now become something of a fad or even an extravagance in the eyes of some.

There are many societal, cultural, and individual things to consider when deciding to take the responsibility for another life, yet it has been done by most individuals throughout history so should not be too intimidating in its newness.  What is perhaps new is our society's determined individualism.  There is no higher good than the self and anything that detracts from the self is not good thus children must certainly be an evil or at least an inconvenience.  This is a miserable view to have of children, not to mention of life.  The world is only as big as you make it.  We can turn inward and have a very small world indeed (this I think is a foretaste of hell) or we can look outward, love others beyond the self and find a world incomprehensibly wonderful (which must be a glimpse of Heaven).  These are our choices, and it is not only our children that suffer but everyone and every thing when selfishness comes out the victor.  Look what happened to all of humanity and the entire creation when man decided that God did not really say he would die if he disobeyed, oops!

Another disturbing trend besides indifference or hostility towards 'the breeders' in the sphere of procreation is actually its opposite.  Of those that choose to have children, some are turning them into idols.  Especially those that want children but for one reason or another cannot have them, are very susceptible to the worship of children (or the want thereof).  Idolatry is not an acceptable form of parenting.  It is certainly not good for either you or your children.  Children should be neither neglected nor worshipped, but it seems we fall all too easily into one camp or the other.  Another side effect of family break down is we have few or no fit examples of how to parent both healthily and sanely.  We either want nothing to do with kids or have nothing but our kids, heaven help us in either extreme.

Besides for the obvious chaos that no children or overly spoiled children wreak upon a society, so too does it contribute to our own smallness of mind and soul.  I have learned that God uses both marriage and children to better shape us for the Kingdom and to force us to become the people that He intends us to be.  Starting a family is a wonderful crucible to shape character, perseverance, charity, patience, and ever kind of virtue.  What is more demanding of love, attention, and care and less immediately rewarding than a cranky toddler or colicky infant?  In caring for these dear little ones we are forced to do something for an 'other' without the balm of friendship or immediate gratitude or remuneration that we can expect in our more adult relationships and even to some extent with our pets.  There are certainly moments of wonder, joy, and bliss in the raising of such but these remembrances are far from living memory during a sleepless night or an hours long tantrum. 

By closing our hearts and lives to children, we are losing perhaps the greater part of what it means to be human, at least as God intended.  We can replace much of this loss by serving others selflessly in other ways, but simply having good friends will never fill the gap nor will treating your dog like a furry child.  Without the sacrifice we also miss the blessing.  So too do we lose out when our children become the object of our worship.  As dear as they are, they did not create you, did not die for you, did not make the stars or even one snowflake, and will never be able to fill the void in your soul which can be filled by no man, only God.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Escaping the meta-narrative?

I've always thought life is a story, and apparently I am not the only one.  Apparently even the atheists feel this overwhelming need for 'something more.'    Check out this interesting little blurb: http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/entry/13/23303

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The least magical place on earth?

We returned to civilization last week to spend a little time with family and friends.  I have a friend who lives in a very suburban neighborhood with a rather odd situation.  One side of her house looks out on a street that is all beige houses with six square feet of immaculate lawn and stubby trees.  The other side looks over vast green hills covered in fields and a mysterious little wood.  I much enjoy the latter view than the former, but short of falling off the edge of her backyard, cannot thus explore the green view but must go forth into the wilds of suburbia to find adventure.  I was up early and had another long car ride that day so thought a little exercise might be good.  It was an odd scene, perhaps one never witnessed by these urban refugees, for it seemed either the hicks or the fairies had invaded, and we are not sure which.

The morning was hazy and barely begun yet promising to be another sweltering day.  Even the suburban wastes look lovely in that early golden light.  They were alone (except for the man mowing his immaculate lawn at a rather strange hour).  Two figures could be seen, one taller and one quite short and neither wearing shoes.  Were they human or fey?  In that witching hour of dawn it was hard to say.  The small one, perhaps a sort of pixie, seemed the one in charge, running hither and thither with the taller in resigned pursuit as a weary slave of its small master.  The dwarvish one darted back and forth, defying all the proper rules of suburban society and walking on other men's grass.  Did I mention they were unshod?  But as the day broadened, they vanished back into their fairy realm, unseen save by the man with the lawn mower.

Ok, I admit, it is a rather ridiculous way of describing a quick morning foray outside with a small child, but for a minute there it almost seemed sort of magical, which is amazing, for I never thought one could find magic in a subdivision where everything is predictable, patterned, and the same, but I was happy to be wrong!  There is magic in the world (even in suburbia) if we only know how to look for it.