New Sherwood

Random thoughts on the past week

Thursday concluded with a wonderful concert followed by dinner at a popular Vietnamese restaurant. I have some fascinating and generous relatives, let me tell you. It was great to catch up with them. We left Palo Alto at around 9:30pm and arrived home at 12:30am, exhausted. Some random thoughts:

1. The great tradition of western classical music is not dead. Dozens (if not hundreds) of dedicated Suzuki students from all over the country are “picking up the baton” – with enthusiasm.

2. The teachers were excellent. Their love for the music is utterly infectious. Passion makes the difference when it comes to teaching.

3. Amy turned to Jonathan one evening and said, “You know, we’re really not that good.” “I know”, he replied grimly. Ha! At home they are big fish in a small pond. At Stanford they are little fish in a big pond filled with lots of kids who play better than they do. A necessary humility check.

4. Jonathan told me about a conversation he had with a fellow student. This young man was very surprised to learn that not only was Amy his sister, but that Jonathan had another brother and two more sisters at home! Jonathan explained that his wasn’t a large family at all, and that he knew many other families that are much larger. The boy responded solemnly that having so many children was “irresponsible”. I had almost forgotten that many secular people consider contraception/abortion to be not merely a choice, but a moral imperative.

5. The hours I spent browsing in the university bookstore made me sad. There are too many books in the world. Most are either frivolous, or morally dangerous, or full of lies and propaganda. They are a waste of time to write, a waste of money to print, a waste of paper and ink, a waste of money to buy, a waste of time to read. I left the bookstore thinking that the world would be a better place if no more books were published for at least another generation or two. The good stuff has already been written; perhaps now is the time to actually do something worth writing about.

6. Real estate prices are still sky high in Palo Alto.

7. There is more wealth on five or six city blocks of Palo Alto than all of Glenn County.

8. I truly enjoy the intellectual and social stimulation of the big city.

9. I also enjoy the peace, simplicity and relative isolation of farm life.

10. I know that I can’t have both.

11. Even in an elite context like Stanford University, standards of dress have fallen so abysmally low that it is impossible to imagine how they will ever recover.

12. Do not hurry down carpeted stairways with bare feet.

13. The school cafeteria brought back lots of bad memories. And it’s hard to eat cafeteria food once you are used to homegrown food and home-cooked meals.

14. “Gettysburg” is not anywhere near as good as “Gods and Generals”.

One high point of the week was meeting the enigmatic Ted Chan of The New Beginning. He’s an impressively well-read, intelligent, and thoughtful Catholic gentleman, but his modesty and kindness put you instantly at ease in his presence. I enjoyed our conversation immensely.

As we were eating lunch yesterday a nice Chinese girl came up to our table and asked if we would take a survey. We agreed, and she gave us each a piece of paper with a number of questions about same-sex marriage. We answered the questions, some of which were loaded with problematic assumptions. She asked me about my answer to the question about whether I thought homosexuality was innate or learned. I said it could be either, depending on the person, but that it was really beside the point. As an example I mentioned that some people are born with predispositions to alcoholism or other addictions, but that doesn’t mean they are condemned to a life of substance abuse – they can still control and choose their behaviors, and very often overcome their destructive propensities. “But doesn’t that mean they can’t be happy?” she asked. No, says I, happiness is not doing what you want: happiness is doing what is right. She smiled, nodded, and seemed to understand. Mr. Chan commented that we were probably the only two people on campus to answer the questions the way we did.

I don’t think Mr. Chan will mind if I mention that he is working on a big project right now and could use your prayers. He’s certainly got mine.

Advertisements

August 16, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

11 Comments »

  1. “But doesn’t that mean they can’t be happy?” she asked. No, says I, happiness is not doing what you want: happiness is doing what is right. “

    Having had this discussion enough times to not bother having it anymore… I am amazed she smiled and seemed to understand. The standard responses I get include “Well who are you to say what is right?” OR “Well that is easy for you to say, the sex you ‘happen to like’ is more socially acceptable.”

    Never mind that for this Catholic bachelor the only other mammals in my bed ever are my dogs when they jump up for the night.

    As to standards of dress? I am not convinced it is impossible to imagine elevating them or returning to a cultural concept of having “appropriate dress” which have gone out the window… (I worked in a white table-cloth restaraunt where every other teen who got dragged there by parents was wearing flip flops, cutts off and you could either see their plumber’s crack or undergarments…)

    I am just not sure how it would happen. Perhaps it will be a fad for a time again…

    Like

    Comment by asimplesinner | August 16, 2008 | Reply

  2. Mr. Culbreath:
    This post encapsulates why I visit your site so often. Cultured, yet grounded; hard content- but said in a gentle way. Always thought inducing- or for me thought reinforcing. The comments about books is especially relevant. I love books- one of my weak points. But for many years now, when I go into a book store, I usually end up coming out depressed. Very few books worth even the time spent browsing the cover- and those are usually reprints of Classics in the Bargain Bin! I think the same can be said of talk Radio and the internet- lots of people talking/writing- but nothing really being said- just group- think platitudes, no thought or substance. Present site excepted! And your quip about the state of dress is on the mark. I am continually amazed by the standard dress of those classes that used to “know better”- the professionals and the other “elites”. Yet they are often just as slovenly dressed as the poorest “red-neck” around our parts. Especially disappointing for me are the older people- those past retirement age- I still see a few that dress well at church, but even the 70’s something generally look like something that just woke up and threw the first pair of jeans and a top they could grab. And you are 100% correct Gods and Generals is much better than Gettysburg!

    Like

    Comment by Jeffrey Wilson | August 16, 2008 | Reply

  3. “Having had this discussion enough times to not bother having it anymore… I am amazed she smiled and seemed to understand.”

    Yes, so was I. But she was very polite, obviously a foreign student. An American student would probably have denied that there is such a thing as “doing what is right”.

    “Never mind that for this Catholic bachelor the only other mammals in my bed ever are my dogs when they jump up for the night.”

    Admittedly, I find the image of those dogs sleeping in your bed to be homely and pleasing. But I decided long ago to reserve my own home for the exclusive habitation of humans. Kids are messy enough. :-)

    “As to standards of dress? I am not convinced it is impossible to imagine elevating them or returning to a cultural concept of having ‘appropriate dress’ which have gone out the window…… I am just not sure how it would happen. Perhaps it will be a fad for a time again…”

    But fads don’t count, do they? There is a difference between dressing up for a concert out of respect for the event and its participants, and dressing up for a concert because you are really stylin’ in the latest fad.

    Like

    Comment by Jeff Culbreath | August 18, 2008 | Reply

  4. “This post encapsulates why I visit your site so often. Cultured, yet grounded; hard content- but said in a gentle way. Always thought inducing- or for me thought reinforcing.”

    Mr. Wilson, all I can say is “thank you” for one of the highest compliments a cranky peddler of opinions can receive – a compliment that says more about you than it does me. I appreciate your reading and commenting here.

    “The comments about books is especially relevant. I love books- one of my weak points. But for many years now, when I go into a book store, I usually end up coming out depressed. Very few books worth even the time spent browsing the cover- and those are usually reprints of Classics in the Bargain Bin!”

    Bravo. I was wondering if other bibliophiles had similar experiences. Thank you for confirming that I’m not entirely crazy.

    “I think the same can be said of talk Radio and the internet- lots of people talking/writing- but nothing really being said- just group- think platitudes, no thought or substance.”

    Yes, indeed. I remember emerging from my first silent retreat some years ago. After three days of silence, the voices of the world – from personal conversations to talk radio – seemed so trite and meaningless as to be sinful.

    “And you are 100% correct Gods and Generals is much better than Gettysburg!”

    Truly, the difference is astounding. Apparently they used the same director but a different screenwriter. The political and philosophical posturing of Gettysburg was nauseating; the manners slovenly; the heroism eviscerated; the casting of General Lee disappointing. Another case of projecting modern American cultural norms into a completely foreign environment.

    Like

    Comment by Jeff Culbreath | August 18, 2008 | Reply

  5. This was an awesome post. I especially loved that you pointed out that many people now think it is a MORAL imperative to keep your family size low. Yikes. You should have seen my neighborhood this past weekend when I babysat my friends’ four kids overnight for their 10th anniversary. I had eight kids, ages 8,8,7,5,4,3,2, and 1. They were very well behaved and mostly riding bikes, except for the two in the stroller. Boy, there was lot of head turning going on. It’s a good reminder that people are about as crazed about morality as we are, but in the opposite direction. No wonder God gave us the Pope to guide us. Making up our own morality is such a bad idea!!

    Like

    Comment by Annaberri | August 18, 2008 | Reply

  6. +JMJ+

    I’m afraid I’m still one of the “so many books, so little time” crowd . . . but it’s a lonely crowd.

    I remember bemoaning (well, whining, really) that a snappily written paranormal series I really like probably wouldn’t be read by my own children. Yet the fact is that lot of “popular literature” turns dated after about fifteen years, and some books are lucky if they get to be “retro” after thirty years.

    When books were fewer, reading was a traditional activity. One would read what one’s parents had read before him, which could be anything from Homer to Charles Dickens. What was the last book that people two or three generations apart have all honestly been able to enjoy? (Don’t say The Catcher in the Rye!!!) As Jeffrey Wilson has pointed out, those books which were once handsomely bound in leather in the family library are now in mass market paperback editions in the bargain bins.

    Then there is the way each generation–well, really, each individual–likes to insist on its own or his own interpretation of a classic text. So even books which still get read each generation are not also shared. When someone reads Brideshead Revisited and sees Catholicism as a suffocating force determined to drain the happiness out of life–which actually has happened in our lifetime, judging by the new movie adaptation–well, we can’t say he has read the same book. Uncle Gilbert’s Father Brown once pointed out that you’re not really reading the Bible unless you read everyone else’s Bible, too; and that’s so true for the Great Books. They didn’t stand the so-called test of time just so someone could trap them in a “child of one’s age” interpretation.

    Like

    Comment by Enbrethiliel | August 19, 2008 | Reply

  7. RE: ” What was the last book that people two or three generations apart have all honestly been able to enjoy?”

    For my part, I read the collected works of A. Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books in junior high… out of my grandfather’s edition which my dad had also read. That is it for me!

    Like

    Comment by asimplesinner | August 20, 2008 | Reply

  8. +JMJ+

    Your family is very fortunate to have one, SimpleSinner, but I was thinking both horizontally and vertically when I said “two or three generations.” In the past, what we read in school was what our parents and grandparents read in school. That’s not the case any longer.

    Like

    Comment by Enbrethiliel | August 20, 2008 | Reply

  9. Too many books in the world!? Poppeycock! Of course you’ll say, rightly enough, that I added to the problem with my own frivolous book so I’m not exactly impartial. True enough.

    But books are simply people speaking. This is like saying there are too many people speaking, which is awfully close to saying there are too many people. Or rather saying there are too many people who aren’t like me.

    God is the master of frivolity – how can one look outside at the natural world and not wonder at the redundancy? A maple…looks like another maple. Thank God He who is Depth Itself does not look on our meagerness and become sad. This is one of the few cases where I can identify more with Christ than his apostles when He told them, “Let the little children come to me.”

    What bothers me, and I’m guilty of it too, is looking around a room full of people (or books in this case) and thinking, “I can’t learn anything from them.” That’s not a Catholic (or catholic) point-of-view.

    No one could have that attitude more than our present Holy Father, and yet he always has an attitude of humility, of listening… Something I need to emulate, especially in the political sphere where I think liberals can teach me nothing.

    Like

    Comment by TSO | August 26, 2008 | Reply

  10. Hello TSO. I thought you might be roused by the idea. A few thoughts:

    There are not too many people, but yes, there is too much talking.

    Do I wish more people were like me? Absolutely not. Do I wish more people agreed with what I think is true? Of course. Don’t you?

    Am I inclined to look around a room of people and think, “I can’t learn anything from them?” Of course not. Coming from someone else I might think I’d just been insulted. However, I do find myself very often among people who don’t much care about anything worth teaching or learning.

    There is a place for frivolity. We just have too much of it.

    Also, not all frivolities are equal. Bookstores mostly sell the bad kind. I think your book was the good kind.

    As for the Catholic point of view with respect to books, see my next post …

    Like

    Comment by Jeff Culbreath | August 27, 2008 | Reply

  11. […] In another discussion thread, TSO disagreed with my opinion that there are too many books in the world, even suggesting that […]

    Like

    Pingback by Bad Books « Stony Creek Digest | August 27, 2008 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: