Friday, February 29, 2008

Under Petticoat Government

"Most men, if they spoke with any sincerity, would agree that the most terrible quality in women, whether in friendship, courtship or marriage, is not so much being emotional as being unemotional. There is an awful armor of ice which may be the legitimate protection of a more delicate organism; but whatever be the psychological explanation there can surely be no question of the fact. The instinctive cry of the female in anger is 'noli me tangere' [don't touch me]."

Chesterton claims that some call this "coldness of Chloe" by the name of dignity and some modesty, but then, somewhat oddly to my thinking, he says this: "Since we are talking here chiefly in types and symbols, perhaps as good an embodiment as any of the idea may be found in the mere fact of a woman wearing a skirt. It is highly typical of the rabid plagiarism which now passes for emancipation, that it is common for the 'advanced woman' to claim the right to wear trousers;...whether female liberty is much advanced by the act of wearing a skirt on each leg I do not know...BUT it is quite certain that the skirt means female dignity, not female submission; it can be proved by the simplest of all tests. When men wish to be safely impressive, as judges, priests or kings, they do wear skirts - the long, trailing robes of female dignity. The whole world is under petticoat government; for even men wear petticoats when they wish to govern."

The "wearing a skirt on each leg" cracks me up no matter how many times I read it! And he does have a point about the garb of governing, though I would suggest that other symbolic meanings might be more foundational to the wearing of "petticoats" by judges, pastors, etc.

Best of all, he doesn't espouse the idea that men are rational, women are emotional...although he implies that we are at our terrifying worst when we are unemotional. As a "modern" pants-wearing Betty, I'm not sure what I think about his connecting womanly dignity with skirt-wearing, but I am sure that it will occupy my thoughts until I convince myself that he's wrong...:-)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Woman's Great Ideals

Thrift and Dignity are the two ideals to which women tenaciously cling and that are most misunderstood by men. The one can be interpreted as stinginess and the other as suppression. So says the revered G.K. Chesterton.

"Thrift is the really romantic thing...thrift is poetic because it is creative." Men, he argues, are somewhat cavalier about throwing money around and away, but "many a good housekeeper plays the game [of thrift] every day with ends of cheese and scraps of silk, not because she is mean, but because she is magnanimous...she wishes her creative mercy to be over all her works."

"Thrift is part of that great idea of the woman watching on all sides out of all the windows of the soul and being answerable for everything. For in the average human house there is one hole by which money comes in and a hundred by which it goes out; man has to do with the one hole, woman with the hundred."

Woman's other ideal, Dignity, is set over against man's Rowdiness. "The woman has a fixed and very well-founded idea that if she does not insist on good manners nobody else will. Babies are not always strong on the point of dignity, and grown-up men are quite unpresentable. It is true that there are very many polite men, but none that I ever heard of who were not either fascinating women or obeying them." :-)

We are the stingy kill-joys, Ladies, and Mr. C. says both are necessary for the healthy function of home and society.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Emancipation of Domesticity

"There must be in every center of humanity one human being...who does not 'give her best' but gives her all."

In What's Wrong with the World, Chesterton expands on his view of the role of woman in society. He argues that the modern view which says women were kept at home in order to oppress them and keep them narrow is ridiculous. "On the contrary, they were kept at home in order to keep them broad." Woman must be a cook....a schoolmistress....a house-decorator....a dressmaker....but not a competitive cook, schoolmistress, house-decorator, or dressmaker.

He argues that the woman's presence in the home is essential because, "[she] is generally shut up in a house with a human being [her child] at the time when he asks all the questions that are. Now if anyone says that this duty of general enlightenment is in itself too exacting and oppressive, I can understand the view. I can only answer that our race has thought it worth while to cast this burden on women in order to keep common-sense in the world."

He admits the drudgery and difficulty of the job, but maintains that it is certainly NOT "colorless or of small import to the soul," and those who believe it to be so are not even worth arguing with! "To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labor and holidays; to be Whitely [the owner of the first general goods store in London] within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute."

More to come. I love this guy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Incredible Tom Hanks

I have been re-watching a number of Tom Hanks films recently. Castaway....Terminal....Ladykillers....Joe vs. the Volcano. What an amazing and diverse body of work this man has created!

At the end of Castaway, Hank's character deals with re-entry into society after his five year isolation. His inability to recapture that which was lost through his absence (primarily a fiance) weighs heavily on him. He recalls a moment on the island when he had given up and engaged in a failed attempt to take his own life:

I couldn't even kill myself the way I wanted to. I had power over nothing.

That's when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew somehow I had to stay alive, though there was no reason to hope and all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that's what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing.

Then one day that logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in and brought me a sail. And I am. I'm back. And I've lost her all over again. I'm so sad that I don't have Kelly, but I'm so grateful she was with me on that island.

And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring...

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Mark of the Beast

I feel duped. Betrayed. Misled. All throughout the 70's, popular evangelicals everywhere obsessed about the Mark of the Beast. They insisted his mark was 666 and surmised about the various forms this Mark might assume.

But now, I know the truth. Finally. They couldn't keep it from me forever. The real Mark of the Beast is 360. Yep. 360.

Two beasts with this number entered our predominately-male household this weekend...X-Box 360 and ESPN 360. Can anyone deny that these are the tools of choice in the Anti-Christ's workshop! ;-/

What I can't figure out, though, is whether I won or lost this battle I've fought for so long!

The fact that my boys have never owned a gaming system before now is somewhat of a victory, right?

And the fact that they are both competent and frequent readers is something to cling to, no?

The fact that I have successfully negotiated a contract limiting their playing time to 2 hours per week means I haven't given them completely over to reprobation, right?

BUT....what about the bloody basketball court we installed so that they wouldn't need an X-box (and at nearly 5 times the cost!)?

What about the 763,241 Lego pieces we've purchased, organized, stepped on,and re-organized?

What about all the extra food and beverages I'll have to stock because now they'll actually want to have guys over instead of always going somewhere else?

What about the pleadings for "extra time" to which I'll have to say NO?

What about the pleadings for "extra time" to which their father will say YES?

Most importantly, will they ever read another book?

And how soon will they wear me down for a cell phone? Ah, this slippery slope is very slippery indeed!!!

O-K. I figured it out. I lost.

But, hey! I hear "Rock Band" is a blast. My ideal Rock Band? Hal Lindsay on bass, Jack van Impe on drums and Tim LaHaye on lead guitar...come on guys! Even though you made millions through your theological fraud, I wouldn't want you to be Left Behind! Let's party!

Friday, February 22, 2008

My Precious

Don't you hate it when parents self-promote by bragging on their kids? If you answered "yes" I advise you to move on and skip this post!

My very small, very white, sports-loving, 14-year-old made his basketball league's All-Star Team.

I have spent years discouraging his dreams in this arena, like any sensible mother would. Afterall, his genetics, skills and level of discipline do not pre-dispose him toward a future in sports...especially basketball or football, where size is paramount. Baseball....maybe. Historically there have been more David Eckstein's than Spud Webb's or...........O-K......I can't think of any really small football players off the top of my head, but you get the point, right?

But, as parents, isn't the #1 disappointment that our children often don't follow our ideal course for them?

"You're no muscle-head!" I object when he fantasizes about his athletic prowess! "You have gifts........You're SMART!...............Practically brilliant, ya know! Yer.............yer............yer IQ is in the VERY SUPERIOR range!.............At 14 you scored higher than...........82% of college-bound juniors on the PSAT!...........Don't squander your abilities on a sports pipe-dream!!!!"

To which he responds by making the All-Star Team and getting a GPA just high enough to remain on the basketball team. Precious. Just precious.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

For You, A Thousand Times Over

The Kite Runner chronicles the successes and failures of friendship between the young servant boy, Hassan, and his master's son, Amir.

Amir's self-interested cowardice and betrayal are highlighted over against Hassan's self-sacrificial loyalty and faithful service. On more than one occasion, Hassan proves his heart is equal to his station through his humble and silent submission to suffering.

Amir despises Hassan for the lamb-like posture he assumes when under persecution and, out of a guilty conscience, he sets out to alienate him. In the end, the transformative power of Hassan's example is evidenced by Amir's own sacrifice on his behalf.

The book is a worthy read. I saw the movie first, and quite frankly, the plot, character development, dialogue and themes remained remarkably faithful to the original story....identical, really. So much so that it made reading the book a bit superfluous. (I can't believe I just said that!) Trust will miss nothing by seeing the movie instead, and it was aesthetically excellent from the exquisite opening credits to the final scene.

Having said that, I found Hosseini to be an engaging storyteller. He surprised me with his ability to weave classic themes into a thoroughly unique plot. There were a couple of strained moments where he seems to directly tell his audience that which the storyline makes clear to a seasoned reader, and which would have been better off discovered rather than told outright. But overall, I thought this was an impressive first-effort.

Here is a brief excerpt told from Amir's voice:

I took a couple of the envelopes of cash from the pile of gifts and my watch, and tiptoed out...I entered Hassan's living quarters...I lifted Hassan's mattress and planted my new watch and a handful of Afghani bills under it...Then I knocked on Baba's [Papa's] door and told what I hoped would be the last in a long line of shameful lies.

Hassan and his father are brought before Amir and his father to be questioned:

Baba came right out and asked, "Did you steal that money? Did you steal Amir's watch, Hassan?"

Hassan's reply was a single word, delivered in a thin, raspy voice: "Yes."

I flinched, like I'd been slapped. My heart sank and I almost blurted out the truth. Then I understood: This was Hassan's final sacrifice for me. If he'd said no, Baba would have believed him because we all knew Hassan never lied. And if Baba believed him, then I'd be the accused; I would have to explain and I'd be revealed for what I really was. Baba would never, ever forgive me. And that led to another understanding: Hassan knew. He knew I'd seen everything in that alley, that I'd stood there and done nothing. He knew I had betrayed him and yet he was rescuing me once again, maybe for the last time. I loved him in that moment, loved him more than I'd ever loved anyone, and I wanted to tell them all that I was the snake in the grass, the monster in the lake. I wasn't worthy of this sacrifice; I was a liar, a cheat, and a thief. And I would have told, except that part of me was glad. Glad that this would all be over with soon. Baba would dismiss would move on. I wanted that.

Except Baba stunned me by saying, "I forgive you."

Intrigued? You should be. Read it. Watch it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

No Veneration Necessary

In the interest of full-disclosure, let me put to rest any speculation that my lack of blogging is a result of constant, untiring, selfless service to my Aunt Riesa.

Truth is...her coming coincided with a complete meltdown of our home computer system. I have been without my PC since February 4th! The withdrawal symptoms brought on by its absence exposed an addiction of which I was previously unaware. I had no idea how relient I had become on this little black box for addresses, driving directions, research, music and general communication with the outside world.

Had I not been without access, my blogging would have remained consistent because the transition with Riesa has gone very smoothly so far.

She has expressed, in a number of ways, her pleasure with living here. My grandmother is not depressed and lonely, as I feared she might be, but is very much at rest about Riesa's move. Our family does not feel like our lives have been upheaved either. So, there's no reason to overestimate my dedication and unrequited sacrifice. Really. It's all good. No veneration required.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Settling In

Riesa seems happy to be here. When she went to bed the first night (Saturday), she talked for quite a while, which is her way of winding down. As I lay listening to her, wondering if she was all right, I overheard her say, "This is my room. Riesa's room." "I like this house." and "Mommy's fine." She had made reference earlier in the day to her mom being fine, but in the context of talking about "Daddy" being fine in heaven with Jesus. I wonder if she understands that this move is connected with her mother's aging and if she is anticipating her eventual death. It sounds weird to even say that, but I wish I knew what was in that head of hers...

Sunday was a great day. Riesa has grown up in the church and is a baptized, communing member of the Body of Christ, where many of her friendships throughout the years have been formed. Our church family was so warm and natural with Riesa yesterday, and she expressed her pleasure at being there. In the evening, she joined us in the basement for a Super Bowl party with a couple of these families and loved the mayhem...the exciting 4th quarter and all the men whoopin' it up...she joined right in a couple of times. I think she began connecting with a couple of my girlfriends too.

All in all, we've had a good beginning.

The Mistake About Woman

When GK Chesterton sets out to expose the folly of feminism, he bemoans the loss of The Universalist. He suggests that Man (as in males) must be narrowly focused - The Specialist - because of his duty to work and support a family:

"What makes it difficult for the average man to be a universalist is that the average man has to be a specialist; he has not only to learn one trade, but to learn it so well as to uphold him in a more or less ruthless society. ...each has not merely to act, but to excel. Nimrod has not only to be a mighty hunter before the Lord, but also a mighty hunter before the other hunters. The electrical engineer has to be a very electrical engineer, or he is outstripped by engineers yet more electrical."

Woman, on the other hand, who has traditionally been The Univeralist - a Jill-of-all-trades, so to speak - in striving to be The Specialist and make her way in the world of business and commerce, is actually reducing her role rather than expanding it. He brilliantly illustrates his point:

"Cast your eye round the room in which you sit, and select some three or four things that have been with man almost since his beginning. Let me suppose that you see a knife on the table, a stick in the corner, or a fire on the hearth. About each of these you will notice one specialty; that not one of them is special. Each of these ancestral things is a universal thing; made to supply many different needs.

The knife is meant to cut wood, to cut cheese, to cut pencils, to cut throats; for a myriad ingenious or innocent human objects. The stick is meant partly to hold a man up, partly to knock a man down; partly to point with like a finger-post, partly to balance with like a balancing pole, partly to trifle with like a cigarette, partly to kill with like a club of a giant; it is a crutch and a cudgel; an elongated finger and an extra leg. The case is the same, of course, with fire; about which the strangest modern views seem to have arisen. A queer fancy seems to be current that a fire exists to warm people. It exists to warm people, to light their darkness, to raise their spirits, to toast their muffins, to air their rooms, to cook their chestnuts, to tell stories to their children, to make checkered shadows on their walls, to boil their hurried kettles, and to be the red heart of a man's house and that hearth for which, as the great heathens said, a man should die.

Now it is the great mark of our modernity that people are always proposing substitutes for these old things; and these substitutes always answer one purpose where the old thing answered ten."

So it is with woman. She seeks to be a pencil sharpener instead of a serve a single purpose instead of a dozen. In seeking "equality" with men, we are choosing monomania and cleverness over comprehensive capacity and wisdom. The tragedy of becoming specialists is that a specialist is required to "give 'his best'; and what a small part of a man 'his best' is! If he is the first violin he must fiddle for life; he must not remember that he is a fine fourth bagpipe, a fair fifteenth billiard-cue, a foil, a fountian pen, a hand at whist, a gun, and an image of God."

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Tearful Good-Bye

Today I drove to Festus where Riesa's friends from her day program were hosting a party in her honor. I almost decided to skip it on account of the inclement weather, but I'm so glad I went! It was really neat to see her operating in that environment...she acts more responsible and communicates more. I think she must feel a sense of belonging that she doesn't feel elsewhere. Here she is during one of many hugs with her van driver, water aerobics instructor and good friend, Jane. She'll miss her the most.

Riesa is well-loved there in spite of her reputation for being bossy...and she IS bossy...I saw it in action today!! Some affectionately call her "The Lieutenant" - maybe it runs in the family. The staff and the clients all enjoy her company, and she is on the giving and receiving end of a lot of teasing. She was all smiles and excitement, basking in her status as "queen of all things." One of her friends who couldn't be there called to say good-bye.

Her party included a going-away cake with a cute photo of her embedded in the was darling.

She also received this glass heart with the message, "I thank my God every time I remember you."

But here's the part where I lost it...One of the staff made a photo album filled with memories of activities and outings, and made sure every person from the program was included. She labeled them all too, so I would know who Riesa was talking about when we look at the album together. So sweet....Riesa loved it.

I think Riesa's actions today demonstrated that she understands that she's leaving there...she was doling out lots of extra hugs and kisses.

So, ready or not, here she comes! Thanks to all of you who have expressed your goodwill and prayers for us!