Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Joy in the Salacious

One thing I quickly noticed after I became a Catholic (22-years ago) was how much certain Catholics enjoyed talking about "the horrible new trend of X" - usually involving young people. I would almost say that it is a universal sign of a serious Catholic.

Recently I started to wonder what this horror-fascination means psychologically. I first simply thought it was the kind of enjoyment one feels watching the wreckage of a car accident, the kind of enjoyment Augustine talked about with respect to the amphitheater, the kind I feel while watching The Walking Dead. The difference in my case is that The Walking Dead involves actors and fake blood and no one has been hurt or is getting hurt. Contrarily, I don't watch things where people actually get hurt. I don't enjoy those parts of America's Funniest Home Videos where people actually get hurt. I call this discrepancy empathy.

But moral outrage is something different than beholding and enjoying physical gruesomeness. One can feel moral superiority with the former, but not with the latter - unless, that is, one enjoys watching videos of fat people falling down, because, after all, "they shouldn't be so fat, anyway," or videos of brides being struck down by waves at their stupid, idealistic beach weddings, because, after all, "I mock their false happiness, because it's not mine."

But there is even more to it than enjoying that feeling of moral superiority. But that feeling is a part of it. There is an eschatalogical element at play. "See how bad things have gotten: the end must be nigh!"

Moral Horror Junkies (MHJ) also always seem to be eschatologists. Come to think of it, they are also the people for whom the miraculous is quite important. Why - what links all of these things together? They seem to be really interested in signs and wonders, the people to whom Jesus effectively says, pay attention to more pressing matters, like love of God and neighbour. I think they are people who are bored, listless, people whose faith needs a boost, people for whom quotidian Christian duties all on their own are trying. They might have a resentment problem too: do they resent not being able to do all the fun things sinners get to do and so want to imagine these people getting their comeuppance sitting in a pool of boiling oil in hell?

Is it a vindicated for them of the correctness of their religion, because, after all, people who follow Christianity don't do such things!? Yes, we all grant that - it's obvious and thus unremarkable. But I believe in Christianity, so you are trying to prove something to me that I don't need proven to me.

I mean, there is a lot we can say about this phenomenon. But the bottom line is this: I don't care about the latest trend of depravity among today's young people! Don' tell me about, and even more, for your own sake, stop enjoying telling me about it so much.

Aztec kids out on a Friday night at 15th century
Mexico's equivalent of MacDonald's.
Here's why I am uninterested in it: I have studied history. Thus, I agree with the Preacher: there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecc 1:9)

People have eaten people. In every land, in every culture. During the siege of Leningrad, during the Siege of Capua, at the Aztec pyramids. People will eat people again. In Toronto, perhaps.

Sexual depravity. What do you expect? The Romans. Nero. Caligula. Every society ever. Young people who have hit puberty often do sexual things, things that you and I would not approve of. Shocking!

I also don't want to hear about the latest trend among young people (involving the internet) because even though I have a low, that is to say, an Augustinian view of human nature, I know that these latest trend people like to talk about are not trends at all, but the constructs of the media and outraged soccer moms. Sexting. Yes, it happens. But it's not your problem. Your children are your problem. People do not raise their children well and so things like this happen. But you know what? It's not sweeping the nation, because I was a child once and I was too shy to do any thing like this ever and I know I am not alone in this! To a large extent children are still the same as they were thirty years ago: most have some moral and/or psychological restraint. Most would not be in pornographic movies for this simple reason. They have not all turned into the Children of the Corn, the kids from the Village of the Damned, Lord of the Flies or that episode of Star Trek, humorously depicted here:

The fear of the younger generation is, I suppose, a part of what fueled the myth of Saturn devouring his children, which seems to me to be the flip-side of the Oedipus Complex. Therefore, it might be quite natural to fear what the world is coming to, but it's also important for Christians not to fear that evil is more powerful than good, that the Gospel and the Holy Spirit given to the Church is not able to counter these bad trends. The fact is, there are good kids out there (I own a number of them myself) and you have to bear that fact in mind in all your prognosticating. Kids need direction, and that is all that is wrong with the younger generation: WE ARE NOT GIVING IT TO THEM. In other words, it is not they who are bad, it is we!

Please pray for this younger generation. In Renfrew County they are starting another year of school today. And stop your profitless fear-mongering. It does not dispense you from the hard work of raising them. And God's blessing upon my children's teachers. You are going to need it.

(And, I am okay with having alienating all of my friends with this post. Because you are all hereby indemnified. So read some history and take a chill pill, for "behold I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Mt 28:20))

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Measure out the Measure that's Measured

It just occurred to me that one good way to fight the social war is to pull things like this on others:

The Denver airport authority is considering not allowing Chick-Fil-A into the airport because its CEO is for "traditional marriage."

Other than the total nonsense that this promotes - name a company or organization where you share all of the values of everyone of its members, or even just one - other than that nonsense, what does it have to do with business? Can you even tell that that company is against homosexual marriage? Do they hang rainbow flags with lines through them in their windows? Do they have signs that say "No fags need apply" anywhere?

The fact is, stores are free to hang rainbow flags, but stores are not free to hang rainbow flags with lines through them.

Be that as it may, in the special case of a public building, such as an airport, I can understand not having things like that around. Understandably, there should be different laws respecting private and public property. Private property, even stores that are private property, I say let them do as they like - you don't have to shop there, after all, and the more people that don't want to shop there, the worst it is for the business. A rainbow flag in the window makes me not want to shop there, just like a manikin in a bikini. I am not saying I won't go in in either case, but I am less inclined to do so. Porn, contraception, swastikas, skulls, and even, yes, Confederacy Flags make me less inclined.

Do I know what the CEOs of my various products - such as the HP I am typing this on - stand for? Do I care? The fact is, I take it for granted that I would not want the CEO of HP babysitting my kids, teaching them catechism, or being their soccer coach. I take it for granted. What kind of world do we live in that we expect CEOs to share our values if we are going to let them share the public sphere, that is to say, be a person in the legal sense?

Or, do we think we are going to change their minds about these issues? Keep in mind, these are adults, highly successful and usually highly intelligent adults, who did not build up business empires or rise to the height they have by being weak-willed.

Or, do we think we are making an example of them? Keep in mind, people look poorly on others who are made to tow the line. When Clinton and Obama "changed their minds" or "came to the light" about same-sex "marriage," "that their thinking on it evolved," no one increased their respect for them.

Let me recommend once more in this light the movie I mentioned a while ago on Facebook - Child 44. That movie was about a child serial killer in communist Russia. One think remarkable about it is its portrayal of the communist bureaucrats as spineless people who just do and say what's expected of them - because otherwise they can be demoted, killed or shipped off to Siberia, etc. Is this the kind of world we are making, where we inflict this party line consciousness on people?

Ever been in a workplace? This is the rule of life.

Ever been in a school yard? Same thing.

The wrath of the internet people, the twitter people, etc., who ruin people's lives is human, all too human. We'd like to think we are better than the Inquisition, but we are not: black people killing police officers because they have been taught an exaggerated picture of institutional racism, hockey fans who destroy city blocks when the team loses, people who lose their jobs because they gave $100 to a political cause that others did not agree with. We are no different: we would have strung up heretics then, and we string up conservatives now. Socrates is always outnumbered.

And my thought? Give back what is given. Every time someone threatens to throw menstrual blood on you, as did Rosie O'Donnell, promise like retaliation.

Or, when someone denies you service, etc., because of your Christian beliefs, deny them service for the opposite reason. If not permitting a store to open because the CEO has Christian beliefs, that seems to me a precedent for the same kind of treatment.

If a group support spray painting people who wear fur, you have free licence to spray paint members of that group any time you like. (Make sure they are wearing their best sandals and sunglasses when you do.)

If you throw condoms in my church, I will do something disgusting to your home.

Well, that's not very Christian, is it?

Yes, it is. Jesus' teachings of non-resistance to evil are on a personal level. If the state refuses to protect a group then one may take the law into one's own hands. If menstrual fluid is poured on me I can chose to turn the other cheek. I don't have to do that to defend the rights of others. I am obliged to defend justice, the rights of the weak. I can chose to forgo that right in my own case, as Jesus counsels us, if we would be perfect. It would not be perfect of me to fail to defend the weak; it would be far from that, it would be unjust and cowardly.

Justice is a great pedagogue. To fail to pay back is to fail to teach and that is a spiritual work of mercy. Sometimes I do not want to punish my kids. I do it anyway. If parents have failed to teach these anarchists and hippies to respect others, and the government with not, then it is my job, my right, my obligation.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Down that Road

One might have wondered why I am not blogging much these days. This will only be my second post in August. Busy, I guess. But writing (that is not financial remunerated) is inspiration-based and no one controls inspiration.

I want to talk about the road from spiritual to material values. One of the reviews for the Fall issue of the Catholic Review of Books concerns nuns. It's a book written from a worldly perspective, and while it's easy enough to discountenance it because of that, the kind of thinking that it presents is a kind that can easily affect more careful Catholics. The book was about nuns who were SJW (social justice warriors, an abbreviation I was recently taught).

Think about it for a second. Nuns being appraised by what they do to make the world a better place. Okay, so far so good, but let's see where this can go.

Obviously, the key word is 'better.' Does providing contraception and abortion for poor people make the world better? Of course not.

But what about providing healthy lunches for poor school kids?

What about forbidding unhealthy food at schools?

What about educating poor families about good nutrition?

What about making these courses mandatory?

Alright, we can split hairs about this kind of thing, but you can see where I am going here.

It's the old Feuerbach catch, for lack of a better word. BTW, Charles Taylor talks about this catch-22 in his A Secular Age. What I mean is the accusation that Christianity, because it is other-worldly, diverts people from making the world a better place. We can respond in one of two ways, each of which runs into problems: (a) no, it doesn't; it is oriented to making the world a better place, or (b) that's true, Christianity is about what's really important: going to heaven and therefore doesn't care about the world.

In this day and age option (a) tends to predominate in our discourse. We point to the Church's charitable works in Africa, etc., its role in ending slavery, opposing Nazism, Communism, expanding science, education, etc.

The consequences of this are fairly obvious, though sometimes not so obvious.

The way that liberal Protestantism has killed itself by slowly turning itself into a social justice organization that nobody cares about anymore, is a rather obvious example.

But Catholics who talk about Catholic teaching promoting healthy families, the best pedagogy, good economics policies can be effecting the same thing. Is it good because it is godly, or is it good because of how it improves social life, economic conditions, education? Of course, it is not a case of either/or in itself, but in the minds of actual people it can be.

The temptation to explain spiritual values materially is always there. It's good apologetics, but I would argue that it's not good spirituality for the more advanced. Maybe this is an effective test of one's spiritual state: how do you understand your faith - as good because of its material benefits (i.e. it makes the world a better place), or as good because it brings us to heaven, brings us closer to God, etc.?

A friend once gave a talk to a group of Catholic educators and told them that our educating should be directly at the service of the pro-life cause. Sounds about right? I strongly disagree with him.

This was Karl Marx's essential point in The German Ideology, where he excoriated philosophers who removed their thinking from the practical matter of wealth distribution. I am paraphrasing, but think I am right here.

This sort of thinking became attractive to us when Kant (and Locke) tried to justify religion "Within the Bounds of Reason Alone." And we do this whenever we say things like "prayer is good for your health, blood pressure," etc. Of course it is, but that's not why we do it. Good things are often healthy things, but health is not why we do them. They are healthy because they were given by the same God who made our bodies to be healthy in such a way.

You will notice that John Paul II never defined education in this way in Fides et Ratio, not B XVI in his numerous writings on the subject. They talked about wonder at the reality of the whole world, the meaning of the whole and of every part. They never said, subject your thinking to the material betterment of the world exclusively. And why did they not?

Because it's a self-defeating proposition: how do you make the world better when you haven't wondered about the word 'better,' because you haven't wondered about everything, because you haven't wondered about God, goodness, life itself? You have rushed to a certain definite end and have failed to truly understand anything. You want to do God's work but don't care about what God said about it in the book He wrote called "The World."

This is why Plato puts true philosophers first and why Aquinas and Bonaventure said theology was the highest science. Not economics and not politics.

The mass does not justify itself as somehow making the world a better place, nor does the priesthood, prayer, religious life, marital fidelity...

Obedience is obedience, and as a side-effect it is healthy for you, good for families, economies, world peace, etc. Confusion about this may be part of the confusing surrounding Laudato Si.

Happy Feast of St. Augustine, ya'll!

BTW, the difference St. Augustine made lay in enriching the inner lives of the Christians who read his works, not by introducing new agricultural techniques, making peace between Germanic tribes and the Romans, not by inventing penicillin. None of these are bad things, but they aren't why Christians should be Christians.

So many times a God-fearing young person will begin by getting into medicine because they want to love their neighbour in an effective manner, and before you know it, they are pushing contraception, abortion and euthanasia. Why? Because effectiveness began to trump everything. Quantity diminished quality. It happens all the time: good apostolates are turned into institutions of efficiency. Mother Theresa never let this happen to her order. More does not mean better; often is means worse. And this is what happens when we turn to material thinking. The state is far more efficient than the individual, than the Church, and so people think more and more about the government and its all-embracing prerogatives, not for bad reasons, but for misguided good reasons.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

My Crazy Women

Most of my friends live within 6 or 7 kms of me. Some of these are ladies. Wonderful, funderful ladies. Luckily for me, I like their husbands too, their wonderful, funderful husbands. I have long taught that men and women can't be friends. I still maintain that. Of course, they can't be friends in the same way women can be friends with women, men with men... Nevertheless, within the limits of healthiness, they can be friends, and it is really cool.

One thing cool about having a woman for a friend is how it helps with chastity. Yes, helps with it. It helps because as you get to know a woman you quickly come to realize that THEY ARE ALL MENTAL. All. And this is good, because if you are ever tempted to think that the grass is greener on the other side, you quickly learn that, no, the grass is just as crazy over there.

Okay, I'm not the best at metaphors, but, this is all very important to someone like me who never had a sister. I did not know that there were no women like this:

That's Natasha Rostov, the heroine of War and Peace, who was my late-teenage fantasy ideal woman - obviously Tolstoy's as well. Now, I don't wish to disparage Tolstoy's character-crafting ability, but Natasha, for all her faults, was far too innocent, sweet, romantic, idealistic and pure to be real... At least that was how I could see her then.

So, for a man who had no sisters, it was easy for me to believe that there was a Natasha out there for me. But there is a certain one-dimensionality involved in this. If Natasha were real, she would be just as nuts as my wonderful women friends - you know who you are! Natasha would have bad-breath sometimes. She would fart. Sometimes she would have a disgusting boogie hanging out of her nose. And even worse:

  • she would be insecure, 
  • she would be mad at you for suggesting that she was not as trim as she might be (you made no such suggestion), 
  • she would be mad at you for criticizing her parenting (you did not), 
  • she would be mad at you for disagreeing with her about Pope Francis, church music or whether men should ever wear baby harnesses or not (they should not), 
  • she would resent you for suggesting that her gluten allergy is all in her head (it is). 

But just as in marriage, a real relationship comes about only after accepting the other for all her pluses and minuses. I wish I had a sister. It is my biggest regret from my childhood. But, having two awesome brothers and two wonderful parents, this kind of sounds like a big douse of ingratitude. It is.

I like my girlfriends. And, for some reason I do not fully understand, they like me: since I am obnoxious and very insensitive in some ways, very non-PC. And yet, I am hilarious and caring. They take me for what I am. And... da da daaaaa.... I take them for what they are: messes. I am not going to become a woman for their sake, and I do not expect them to become men for my sake. One great thing about being married and having daughters is you realize that women are kind of cool for being the messes they are.

I am almost finished my first Graham Greene novel, The Heart of the Matter. It is okay. One of the things that the author seems to want to get across is that women are all the same: that is to say, how they are with you is because you are who you are. I will be able to say for sure if this is actually the author's message when I finish the book. But the point is, we meet others with what we are, and they are what they are and so our friendships are products of all of this.

I grew up with a bad case of romanticism. So far I have not met any other man like I was. If I ever do, I will share my thoughts with him about Natasha's boogers. My girlfriends are actually my friends because they know how annoying I am and yet still deign to talk to me. I know how hurtful I can be at times. And they are my friends because they know I won't change to accommodate them. There is only one woman I have a duty to please and that is more than enough of a job for...

One of the reason why I wrote this, is that I see guys who are so insecure these days that they become like girls for sake of their girlfriends and wives. That is not necessary. If you have to change yourself for your friends, they are not accepting you for who you are. Men should be gross and burly.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

It Does Affect Me?

I have written a lot recently about the false sense of community Catholics unconsciously adopt from the secular world, and it adopts from us too. First of all, there is no community in the Medieval or Greek sense of the word in North America, at least not one represented by the state. CBC attempts to prove there is one so they can be it, so does the Canadian Government, etc. But they are not and nothing unites us as a community. We simply share space and believe we must therefore be a community.

But I've talked about that. What I want to talk about today is kind of the flip-side of that: how I have an interest in other people's lives because I cannot get away from them. No, that doesn't make a community. It makes nothing more than a negative relationship. The question is, can I be a libertarian, really? I say I am one by default because I don't want people I do not respect to affect my life. One friend of mine always says, in effect, that it's all stupid because there is no Catholic state, therefore everything's a mess and there's no use to talk about any of this.

If I am going to adopt a libertarian position then I have to leave people alone too. Is that possible? Is it possible to let the public school system do its thing as long as they leave the Separate Board alone? They don't leave the Separate Board alone, so that's a mute point. But what if they actually did? I am starting to think that not even that is possible. What if the Separate Board decides that September 18th is 'Naked Day,' and all their kids walk to school naked and spend the day at school naked? Well, that affects me because I would see them go to school, so would my kids, and even if we didn't, what kind of country will that produce? If I want to be immune from their influence I would then have to leave the country, or at least Ontario. Of course, it's easy to see that 'gay marriage' affects much more than just the couple undertaking it - and that's the point. And while it might seem unfair for me to take a position on something that does not directly involve me: it does indeed affect me in many, many ways. But what the right degree? If I don't like bikinis, do I have a right to commit political mayhem to get them banned? Banned from everywhere, banned from libraries, banned from grocery stores...?

Now many half-wits operate from the maxim that because there is nothing inherently wrong with X then X is always good. Because Zulu women go topless, there is nothing inherently wrong with it, therefore it can happen anywhere regardless. That type of rationale explains the trajectory of the whole sexual revolution. Animals are not monogamous, therefore there is nothing inherently wrong with monogamy. Their reasoning stops short with cannibalism, although not, apparently, in the minds of Planned Parenthood. Homosexuality does not do any direct damage, therefore it is fine. How one can quantify direct damage to include smoking and not sodomy is beyond me, of course.

I am not a big fan of rules. I like to do things my way. I am not a herd animal. Trends offend me. That's me, and I've always been that way - hence my t-shirts at mass tirade. Sleeveless shirts at mass gravely offend me.

But how ought one go about recommending fair conduct?

1. By compromise: I won't wear shorts, if you don't go sleeveless?

2. By far-reaching regulations: no one has anything uncovered ever?

3. By no regulations: I wear whatever I want, you wear whatever you want?

Is barn-raising actually a political metaphor?
Obviously, all of these are doomed to fail eventually. Reaching a satisfactory state of affairs is never going to happen. The Amish (2) sort of present an image of having solved the problem with the second type of solution. The 'French Riviera' (3) solution seems to make people happy there.

How do we know who's solution is better? Is there more AIDS, more happiness, more X, Y and Z with the Amish or at the French Riviera? Does it even matter?

I think a really good example of (1) is Madonna House. I am always amazed how well their inter-sexed scenario seems to work. They have rules, but I would not say that they are especially far-reaching as to put them in the Amish category (although some might beg to differ). Of course, in the case of Madonna House, it's not the rules that make it; it's the community's commitment to prayer and to following the Gospel. The rules are secondary and yet logical extensions of the primary reason.

It's hard to get a real read on this. Gay people get such a great sales-pitch from the MSM and Hollywood. Yet is it the case that all non-Christian living leads to AIDS and catastrophe? It depends what you mean by catastrophe. Abortion is catastrophe and it is essential to maintaining the status quo. Divorce is too. Then again, war is catastrophic, and I think one would be hard-pressed to say that nations can exist without it.

Where did Plato go wrong when he set out to plan the ideal state in the Republic and the Laws? I think when he set out to plan the ideal state. Does not Paul tell us quite simply that laws cannot do this, only grace can? Although most students of Plato would agree that Plato's plan in the Republic was not quite as I have set it out here, yet I think that all his provisos aside that are attached to his particular kind of idealism, he still could not think of something much better in politics than a state run with the best laws. Can we think of something better than this? Well, the Church, the City of God... however much those two articulations actually coincide. There is yet one essential wisdom in the Church political view: there is no right formula to be found here on earth.

Now, with this is mind, what should we do about bikinis, gay marriage and schools? Always aim for the closest approximation of the Gospel no matter whether it's our place to do so or not? I call this 'pulling a St. Charles Borromeo.' He tried to regulate every aspect of civic life to reflect Gospel values. He brings us closer to the Amish, but is Catholic Amish qualitatively that much better than Amish Amish?

Is the answer that obvious and have I been so disarmed by secular propaganda by my belief that something closer to libertarianism is fairer given our multicultural context?

One thing is clear, of course: everything affects me. When a bore wants to rev his truck up on a quiet Barry's Bay summer's evening, I am affected. When someone wants to get a divorce and raise his kids in my neighborhood relatively unattended, that affects me. When he chooses to swear around his kids in the privacy of his own home, that affects me. When he tells his kids that homework is unimportant, that affects me...

The argument that 'to each his own' and that 'privacy in the bedroom blah blah blah' requires revisiting.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Problem with Movies Today, or the Problem with Me

Went to see Jurassic World yesterday. It was okay. Not worth the $ billion it has already made. And then there will be the next Avengers movie that'll make a $ billion too. And it won't deserve it either. How much have super hero movies made cumulatively over the last five or ten years? Many billions, I am sure. Why? I am picking on these kinds of movies, though I could certainly pick others to talk about, like the teen distopians, for instance.
oh no you didn't!

Most movies are boring. Most are trying repetitions of plots and characters we have seen a hundred, or a thousand, times before.

Is there something Christian in this musing of mine, or is this simply a disquisition on fiction? Yes, something Christian too. There has to be something Christian, not because I happen to be Christian and I am the writer, but because the universe is Christian.

And yet, some movies I enjoy. And it's not only about my subjective preferences. I am inclined to think prima facie that better movies reveal something interesting or important about the human condition. Maybe that's not the only factor of importance, but it seems to me it's one of the big ones. I like certain zombie movies for this reason - how can human beings cope with impossibly horrific scenarios? What is courage, foolhardiness, selfishness?

And yet direct treatments of the human condition aren't the only movies I like / good movies. If you took the sci-fi elements out of Star Wars they wouldn't be as good, that's for sure. Excitement is, well, exciting. I, confessedly and rather uncustomary for me, enjoyed the latest Mad Max movie a few nights ago and the only thing I can come up with for why I liked it was the excitement factor.

Pagan wish-fulfillment does nothing for me. What do I mean by this? It's the reason I don't care for super hero movies and those futuristic utopian movies like Interstellar, Tomorrowland, Wall-E, etc. The Facebook guy said recently that one of his goals is to help people live forever. I guess he's never seen a vampire movie nor visited a nursing home. What Zuckerberg's statement reveals is paganism plain and simple: paganism yearns for what only Christ can give: meaning and life. In lieu of that, they say, let's try to imagine meaningfulness. Their version is simple, straight-forward paganism: the same view of immortality that the Babylonian, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Celts, etc., came up with: more of the same as this life. And what will that forever look like for Zuckerberg and his ilk? You don't need to guess, you can see it in their movies: lots of thin, multi-racial, young people. Being around these vacuous idiots forever, I would call that hell, not heaven.

So what makes a good movie good? I have been enjoying the short stories of Alexander Pushkin - find out all about these at the Catholic Review of Books, online and in print. These stories aren't about amazing things. They are set in the early 19th century and are about people, usually young people of the upper class. Pushkin's characters don't have the recipe for eternal life nor are they able to defeat the dark forces from Alpha Centauri with their magic rings. They are clear and simply-drawn rather average people who manage to reveal something really interesting about the human condition.

Let me close by talking about some of the fatal flaws of movie plots today. I have no remedy for movie-making today other than to say don't do these things.

1) bigger, faster, eviller sinkhole. How do you justify a second Avengers? Well, the enemy has to be even more powerful this time. This was the essential justification for making another Jurassic Park movie: the new dinosaur was even more powerful than the t-rex. If you contrast this with, say, the original Star Trek movies, it was not that each sequel had a consecutively more dangerous enemy to overcome. They were all about very different things: one an alien space craft, another, super-human hybrids, another a guy who could manipulate human fears, etc. The new series seems to have doomed itself to the bigger, faster sinkhole.

2)  Revisiting stale old tropes and caricatures. I think this pretty much explains itself. Are the people who enjoy these movies really this shallow? Rom-coms are legendary for this, but let's not forget like every action movie ever. Jurassic Land was full of these things too: the kids whose parents are about to get divorced. The smart kid who knows everything about the subject at hand (in this case, dinosaurs) and has long, unkempt hair. The mis-matched leading lady and fella who end up falling in love. The 'evil' guy who ends up getting eaten.

That may be so, but just like your electric guitar won't work
without electricity, a movie plot won't work
without meaning/significance.
3) Not dealing with actual life but some special condition that doesn't relate to anything other than the special parameters of this story or dealing with something that no thoughtful person could ever honestly care about. The worst case of the latter would be Pineapple Express, where I am supposed to care about a type of weed that can make you "really, really baked." A lot of this has to do with the manner in which the 'special circumstance' actually exposes something about human nature and life itself that is worth thinking about. The Goonies would be a good example of this. Every contemporary ghost story would be a bad example of this. The remake of Poltergeist was a stunningly bad example of this, the Insidious movies... Arbitrary rules decide the plot.

Anyway, enough about movies. It's interesting, though, how the types of movies being made reveals something about us today, something that is very unfortunate: we are a shallow people. We are a shallow people who look to absurd circumstances to give our lives meaning. At no cost to us, but with absolutely zero return.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Real Connection

Long peculating in my thought-sphere (aka my head), is the way secular people do charity. There's lots I can say about it, but I want to focus on one unfortunate aspect: the distance factor.

I was perturbed about a month or so ago by the pay-it-forward phenomenon when I was in the drive-through at Tim Horton's. "The people ahead of you paid for your order," the girl at the window informed me.

"Oh," I responded.

"Yea, it's been going on all day."

It took me a minute to realize that I was supposed to do the same for the people behind me. So my $3.00 order became like $3.80. "That's a weird kind of charity," I thought.

Now, I am not bothered by the fact that I had to pay a niceness tax of 80 cents. I am bothered that people think that this kind of thing makes the world a better place.
Poor. One of us.

When St. Francis and St. Martin of Tours gave their clothes to the poor beggars they did not give it to someone else to give to them. No, they did it themselves, dignifying those down-trodden human beings with actual human interaction. All this go-fund-me stuff is the same. Never having to make a connection and actually look someone in the face. I'm not against this stuff, I am simply saying that it's not enough and it can do you, the giver, more harm than it benefits you. Why? Because you might be convinced by these acts that you have fulfilled your duty to your neighbour. Paying your taxes can't do it; anonymous gifts that cost you nothing more than a handful of change (and no actual sacrifice of time) can't do it.

Cancer runs are great and all that. But their's way too much fanfare and self-congratulations to really fulfill your human obligation. And no time spent with those who suffer.

Let's look at another contrast between this secular ethic and the Christian. Let's look at the Clinton Foundation kind of charity and that performed by a great hero of mine, C. S. Lewis. 'Limousin liberals' are the worst instances of this phenomenon. Other than the fact that their 'generosity' is actually always demagoguery a la Julius Caesar's kind of generosity, the way these people go on and on about fairness and sharing and the poor and yet are themselves filthy rich is just disgusting.

C. S. Lewis was one of the best-selling authors ever. Books is one of the biggest industries in the world. Lewis could have lived an incredibly lavish lifestyle. He was right up there with Stephen King and J. K. Rowling. But he gave all of his author money away. Right away. Not when he died. As soon as he made it.  Nor did he give away a billion and keep 400 billion, like the great tycoon saints we are told to admire today, like Gates, etc. He made millions and kept hundreds. Literally. He lived exactly the same after he attained great fame as before.
C. S. Lewis' house.

Yes, I know, relative generosity is a complex thing. I would say that it has a lot to do, in the end, with the food you permit yourself to eat and the clothes you insist on wearing. St. Francis was convinced of that. So too was St. John Paul, from what I've been told. Some people have to live in New York, and to do that, you have to buy a condo for a few million dollars. I don't care about that stuff. I live in Barry's Bay, and I could buy a whole street for a few million dollars.

Pope Francis talks about smelling like the sheep. That's something we can all learn to do, not just priests. I would say that Jesus basically tells us to brag about the poor people we know personally. Doesn't he?
Stephen King's House

Don't talk to me about 'opening up the borders' when you don't even know any of the Mexicans who already live on your street.

In your car in the Tim Horton's drive-through is a very safe place to be. Everyone in the car with you just happens to be your kind of person. And thank God that the people whose double-double you just bought won't ever actually touch you or breath on you. And, by the way, if they are in the drive-through, chances are they are not poor, at least not poor enough to actually desperately need your $3.80.