I recommend

I recommend satire.

This month I read “A Handful of Dust” by Evelyn Waugh. Set in the 1930s, Tony and his wife live a Downton Abbey existence but he is more Mr. Grantham than Lady Mary and does not change with the times. He just rolls along attached to the traditions.

She is a modern lady with modern ideas. She does not like the décor of their stuffy, uncomfortable estate, but does enjoy her monthly day trips to the city. There she meets a man, pushes him into an affair with her and takes a London flat to continue their dalliance.

This could be the subject of any genre, really, but the author is a master of subtle satire. Instead of intimately probing their goings-on, he shows the fallout how all they build, all they hold onto, it but ashes compared to the seriousness with which they give it.

The weight of their concerns likes in sentiment, how it feels. Sentiment is based on certain psychological associations and traditions. Emotions are a combination of cognitive and bodily sensations that can be as influenced by my prejudiced beliefs as by the meal I neglected to eat.

Thus satire can take our unspoken, unconscious conclusions and illustrate to us how they really look.

I recommend “The Princess Bride.”

This is not satire. This is comedy. This is the perfect romantic comedy in which everyone except the villain and his henchman is loveable.

During our most recent viewing, after Westley has been attacked by the R.O.U.S., his shoulder bitten and bleeding, my children marveled, “how come he’s still going if he’s hurt?” The innocents of our home are practically paralyzed by a small cut on the toe. To see a man persevere despite injury puts their passions in perspective.

“Some hard things are worth doing,” we tell them.

The classic hero-villain story in which we do not explore the psychology and woundedness of the villain is ripe with moral lessons children need to learn in their simplicity before they are cognitively ready to take them in their complexity.

I recommend the musical “Hamilton.”

My husband and I were gifted two tickets in July 2017. The musical, now available on Disney+, does the opposite of Waugh’s satire in “A Handful of Dust.” All the founding fathers seek to build something lasting, something built on principle, rather than emotions, sentiments, or passion.

As a modern composition, Lin Manuel Miranda explores and experiments with various ideas of what psychological motivations stood behind these historical actions.

Despite the complexity, George Washington is a hero, a man who is challenged, facing hard things, carrying his own regret, but pushing forward. “There’s nobody else in their country who looms quite as large,” King George acknowledges.

Washington is no saint, but neither is his legacy denigrated by his mistakes. He openly admits to having “led [his] men straight into a massacre” when he was younger. He cautions Hamilton in his desire for glory and upward mobility.

It is a wonder to think what individuals faced in order to build something that has lasted 224 years.

“Congress writes, George, attack the British forces/I shoot back, we have resorted to eating our horses.”

 “A thousand soldiers die in a hundred-degree heat/as we snatch a stalemate from the jaws of defeat.”

Some hard things are worth doing.

While purists are put off by then creative license and avenues taken, when the facts are missing, storytellers are generally allowed to fill in the gaps of our knowledge as they tell the story. As in film, writers condense complex timelines and historical records to highlight particular aspects of the story. I do not recommend “Hamilton” for studying history; I recommend as a study of character.

The desire to build something lasting and the urge to make something of himself motivated Hamilton.

Ideals motivate Jefferson.

The desire to become important and essential motivated Burr. Finding another in the place he desired, his motivation, the emotion that moves his actions, turns to jealousy, leading to this final and conclusive action.

Whether literature, film, or Broadway, there are stories that can teach us something about ourselves. When we identify with a character, we see their actions and principles play out safely at a distance. We can learn without having left our seats. And hopefully, we can improve.

Lyrics taken from memory then confirmed at www.genius.com

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!”

Weekend Links 8.5.17

This past week, I have been in San Francisco along side my son who is in the hospital. I relaxed my Facebook restrictions and found I wanted to close the tab after too long. It is nice to ease the vigilance of wondering if there is another message for me. The interest in scrolling is almost dead. In my evenings, once filled with binge watching television shows online, have been filled with 30 minutes of writing and at least one hour of reading Kristen Lavarnsdatter. I look forward to that time as the day goes on.

On to the weekend links!

Religion

Some times we need a reminder that mass is more than meets the eye. This post from the ever clear and concise Fr. Longenecker on why only the ordained can preach at mass provided that for me.

Consumerism

I find the whole American consumerist approach to holidays fascinating. There is a vacuum of culture when religion backs away. Something must fill it. With advertisement saturation, consumerism filled that void. So yes, I do think retailers are giving the people what they want by opening a holiday shop in summer. It may be what they want, but it is not what is best for them.

I am a proponent of “we need to get with the times” and pursue renewable sources of energy. It is frustrating to see how these solar panel rental companies work. I will be following the developments of these Tesla roof tiles.

Art/Literature

Too often in the nitty gritty of parish life, with tight budgets and efforts to manage with few resources, the value of work is downgraded. We need volunteers, it is true, but if you are a freelancers of any kind, be mindful of how much you volunteer. Consider it your pro bono work, be open about the nature of it, and when the desire to give or requests come in asking for me, have your fees ready. This article from Catholic Creatives highlights the impact of working for free has on others in the same industry. In many Catholic parishes, we see this in how some want to hire a musician to play piano and sing and lead a choir at multiple masses for $100 a week.

I copied this here as much for you as for me. Reading Kristen Lavarnsdatter by Sigurd Undset, a boulder of a book with great depth and growth has not only been entertaining, but relaxing and restorative after long days. I hope you find something you like. From the list, I am interested to read Silas Marner, Treasure Island, and The Idiot. In this House of Brede and Brideshead Revisited were begun and set aside. No shame in that!

Education

Beware what you read. When even academic journals are subject to poor publications, imagine what happens by the time it hits the Associated Press and it boiled down further to your newsfeed. See this scientific paper on Star Wars for evidence of why you should read carefully, and evaluate the reputation and quality of the journal.

At my former place of work, I am quoted from a Catchphrase came. The clue: this is an animal that flies. I shout: dragon! I love to learn the origins of mythical and strange creatures. Behold, the Basilisk!

Are you tired of Pearson’s for-profit monopoly on testing supplies and Advance Placement programs? I am. This man has created a college entrance exam focused on classical Christian education. Over 60 colleges will accept it in place of or alongside the SAT and ACT.

Relationships/Family

Not all abuse is physical. This piece published on Aleteia provides some important information on what psychological abuse looks like and how to get help.

Culture

A few weeks ago I shared with you an example of coercing sterilization among prison inmates. I am glad to share this offer has ended.

Racism is real. The view and treatment of the countries in Africa by other nations is unacceptable. Let’s end the ideological imperialism by the West to countries such as these. Citizens of the continent are not in need of contraception and fewer children but food, clean water, access to quality healthcare (the real kind that treats disease rather than bodily functions like fertility), education, and pro-woman laws that protect wives. Can we stop thinking contraception solves all problems that ever existed?

 

 

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