Friday, November 14, 2014

Just punishment?

I'm afraid I might be a heretic.

A friend of mine posted this.  One of his points is that hell is an infinite amount of punishment for finite crimes, and it seems to him that a good God would not do that.

I replied that hell isn't punishment, it's the natural consequence of choosing to be without God.  Existence without God, and without any of the things God has made except for yourself, would be miserable ... and that's what I think hell is like. 

In fact (I reasoned) I don't think I believe in "retributive justice" at all.  Retributive justice is the idea that all wrongdoing deserves punishment, apart from natural side-effects (I'm going to call those consequences, for the sake of clarity) or punishments intended to teach (I'll call those discipline).  But punishment just because every evil deed has an equivalent punishment, just like the laws of physics, regardless of whether it does any good?  I don't believe in that.  It makes no sense.

And yet, if you do believe in it, it explains all kinds of things.  If "evil for evil" is an unchanging law of the universe, that even God has to follow, then the redemption is explained easily.  God couldn't forgive our sins with a wave of his hand, somebody had to be punished, and Jesus took care of that.  (This is not by any means the only way to explain the redemption, in case you are made uncomfortable by this description, as I am.)  And it explains the entire sin-cured-through-sacrifice model of the Old Testament -- though, honestly, I think that it's a pretty shallow way to understand that symbol.  Sin is not a thing that can be destroyed by killing goats -- God is rather explicit about that even in the Old Testament.  Couldn't you argue that sin is the destroying of your relationship with God, and you restore it through sacrifice by once again acknowledging God as the ruler of your life?  The sacrifice itself is just a symbol of God's importance to you, that you care enough to give something up for him.

Well, so far as that goes, I'm not a heretic.  I think.

My argument is just this: retributive justice doesn't exist in the real world, and when people attempt to apply it, it does not help.  That it doesn't exist is obvious: some sins aren't punished at all (and the world doesn't implode), and most of the suffering that happens to us isn't a result of sin at all.  And as for when people attempt to apply it .... isn't revenge bad?

When one person sins, that causes a horrible unbalance .... but any attempt to rectify the imbalance by visiting a "punishment" on the sinner just makes things worse. That's why forcing the Germans to pay reparations for WWI helped cause WWII. That's why every bomb exploded by Hamas leads to an attack by Israel, and every attack by the Israelis just ends up bringing on more bombs by Hamas. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth ends, in real life, with everyone being eyeless and toothless. And that's imagining that humans even could work out some kind of calculus for one kind of retribution each crime deserves -- a life for a life, perhaps, but what is the proper punishment for rape? for mass murder? Even assuming we could figure that out, when have we EVER seen that retribution heals sin, even in the slightest? Surely if this were really the way the world works, we'd be able to see some examples in the visible realm?  (Retributive justice is an argument for the death penalty, but I am strongly opposed to the death penalty, so .... no help there.)

Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well" (Mt 5:38-9).  If Jesus recommends this sort of behavior, why the heck wouldn't it be universally good?  Why couldn't God do the same thing -- when we sinned, forgive us?  (And, in fact, from where I stand, that's exactly what he did.)  If retributive justice were an immutable law of the universe, why would he then recommend we not follow it?

And the reality is, in real life, Jesus' recommendation works.  When someone is angry with you and treats you badly, if you retaliate, they escalate.  If you respond with forgiveness and kindness, their anger often dissolves.  When my kids misbehave and I punish them, they get angry and misbehave more.  When I listen with understanding and try to explain how to do better, they so often surprise me by behaving better.  

So much for why I don't believe in retributive justice.  But that's where things get hairy.  If I am firmly convinced that retributive justice is wrong and that a good God wouldn't practice it, and it turns out the Church tells me it's right and a good God has practiced it, well, I'm a heretic. 

Today I got into a facebook debate on this topic (on purpose, I was hoping for a good explanation) and unfortunately I'm being proven wrong.  With respect to my interlocutor (because it really is a very thorough answer), here's what started to get me worried:

"It may seem gratuitous to you that God should add punishment beyond what is entailed in the loss of the beatific vision to the souls in Hell, but that opinion is difficult to reconcile to both the theological tradition and the Magisterium's teaching on Hell and Purgatory though the ages.

It is hard to reconcile the position that the pain of Hell is nothing but the pain of loss. E.g., Innocent III specifically distinguishes the punishments of original and actual sin on this basis, "The punishment of original sin is deprivation of the vision of God, but the punishment of actual sin is the torments of Hell." I don't have time right now to determine what degree of theological certitude that attaches to the thesis that there is a positive punishment beyond the loss of the beatific vision inflicted on the damned, but it is at least deeply engrained in theology, and even magisterial teaching, and it certainly seems to be included in the Scriptural depictions of Hell. Hence it seems at least rash to deny it.

Second, the entire theology of indulgences presupposes that beyond simple preparation of the soul itself for the beatific vision, there is a debt of punishment due to sins (even after they are forgiven). His Holiness cannot snap his fingers and purify a soul of its selfishness or its attachment to sin, but he can snap his fingers and by fiat apply the superabundant merits of Christ, which were left to the Church, to pay the debts of particular individuals for their sins. That's what an indulgence is. That's why a condition of an indulgence is that you already be free of any attachment to sin; The Church can't declare you free from an attachment to sin (only one [thing] purgatory does for the soul) but she can free you from your debt (the other thing that purgatory does for the soul) . If you deny that there is retributive justice, you deny that there is a debt of satisfaction due for sin, and if you deny that, then you take away the justification for indulgences, and so are committed to denying that the Church has the power to grant indulgences."

Ruh-roh.  I don't know if it is dogma that God steps in to add extra punishment onto the torments of hell in the name of "fairness" or justice (I hope not), but the indulgence thing was declared by Trent, complete with anathemas and all.  The Church does teach that it has the right to grant indulgences.  Indulgences make no sense from my point of view of purgatory -- that it's simply a time when you are taught to love God more and freed from all the things that are keeping you from him.  Because God (or anyone) can't just snap their fingers and make that happen; it's a process that you have to go through on your own time.  In fact it seems nonsensical to me that there should even be a purgatory if God has the ability to just whisk us out of it.  Why would a good God do that?

Okay, so the right thing to do is probably just to admit I'm wrong and start believing that the universe is ruled by this unfathomable law of tit for tat, a certain amount of suffering for every sin.  That God himself can't forgive us without visiting the suffering on somebody, like his own son, or ourselves after our death.

The trouble is, I absolutely can't believe that.  I can't believe that God would create me with a strong sense of good and evil, and then do things that put him on the "evil" side of the equation.  I can't believe that punishment (as opposed to consequences or discipline) can ever be a good thing.  I can't believe that forgiveness is the exception and not the rule.

And that spells trouble.

If anyone can figure out how to save (what's left of) my faith in the Church at this point, please, please speak up. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

7qt, mostly about writing stuff


This morning the kids have emptied out the bookshelf and are now using my pastry brush to paint the front door with water.  I should probably stop them, but on the other hand, they're getting along!

This past week or two has been a really rough one for Michael.  He was sick with a fever on Sunday and Monday of last week, and subsequently he has just been unusually crabby.  Meltdowns in the middle of nowhere, involving screaming and flailing and hitting.  They say wraps are great because the baby can nap and you can get stuff done.  But really there is no way to hold a sleeping baby and "get done" the soothing of a truly mad toddler.  In fact, odds are good you can't accomplish either, because the toddler is flinging himself onto you screaming at a zillion decibels, grabbing any part of you OR the baby he can reach, and then once he does wake the baby, the baby is hungry and you have to take care of her instead of the toddler.  But it's hard to feed a baby either while someone is screaming and climbing up your face.

Nights have been bad too, but on the bright side John handles wakeups with the boys almost exclusively.  And a good thing too, because when I try to get involved apparently I do it wrong and they get really upset.  When he had that fever, John was up with Michael every hour or more ... and that was the day of the election, so he got up early after that night, shaved, and was off to the polls!  He's kind of a hero like that.

Marko feels neglected in all this, so he chooses to wait for a moment when Michael is FINALLY playing quietly, then walks up to him with some treasured toy and says, "This is mine, and I'm never going to share it with you ever ever."  You can imagine how that goes down.

BUT, the past three days or so haven't been bad.  There has been significantly less pinching and biting.  You know things have been bad when you hear yourself saying, "Today's been pretty good, Michael only had two meltdowns of half a hour each."  But, well, improvement is improvement, I'm not going to knock it.


Yesterday was the last really nice day of fall.  At least I assume it was.  It was 60 degrees, blue skies, the last of the leaves looking really gorgeous.  We went for a walk by the river because that day was MUCH too good to waste.  Today the highs are predicted for the forties .... boy am I glad we took that walk while we had a chance.  Have I ever mentioned that I hate cold weather with the fiery heat of a thousand suns?  (If only the heat of my hatred for it would warm it up!)

We had a little adventure with our heater recently.  We did our usual beginning-of-winter call to the oil company to order our oil for the year.  The fellow came out in the torrential rain to go fill up the tank.  I was just discovering a diapersplosion on Miriam when he came around the house and knocked on the door.  His eyes were squinched shut and he wanted a rag.  Apparently when he tried to fill up the tank, the oil went in just fine, until suddenly it built up a lot of pressure and shot the nozzle out, complete with a fountain of heating oil in the poor man's face.  Heating oil eats through raincoats, apparently, and is none too good for eyes either.  Luckily after I let him in to wash himself off, he said he was fine ... but his raincoat would have to be thrown out entirely.

So of course this is the moment that we had to ask the kids, "Did either of you put something down there?"  I was certain they hadn't, because I watch Michael like a hawk and Marko knows better.  But nope, Marko immediately fessed up.  He'd had a friend over, and he's utterly squishy in the face of peer pressure, so when she suggested opening up that valve he's not allowed to touch and stuffing it full of leaves and sand, he had gone right along with it.  I cannot figure out why he won't obey me that blindly.

Anyway, we had a plumber out last night, and he quickly set it right for not much over a hundred dollars.  Next step is to have the oil people out again to finally fill us up for the winter.  And the moral of this story is, if you have an oil heater and the pipe is on the outside where the kids can reach it ... just put a dang lock on it.


I had a picture to show you, but unfortunately my camera cord has gone missing.  Last time I saw it Michael was trying to use it as a necklace.  I think I took it from him, but I don't know what I did with it after that.

So just imagine a monkey stuck to the fridge in the pose of crucified Jesus.  Marko put it there, but Michael kept trying to take it off because he didn't want the monkey to be crucified.  (Of the two of them, Michael is less of a psychopath; he seems to possess some grains of empathy.)  John and I, being morbid, just got a big laugh out of it.  We thought perhaps there had been a monkey rebellion and he was just the unlucky tenth monkey to get decimated.  Maybe you had to be there.


I was talking with a friend yesterday about good qualities it's important to have in a friend.  Can you think of one to top kindness?  I can't.  And that's particularly good news, because kindness is something anyone can develop if they value it enough to put in the effort.  My friends vary a lot, but they are all kind people.  I think I can get along with anyone who is kind.

This is doubly true for marriage.  If any of y'all are single, pass by the "bad boys" and the "hot jerks" and just marry someone who is truly kind.  If he's considerate of the waitstaff in a restaurant and sweet to his mother and wouldn't dream of being mean to a homeless guy who asked him for change, just marry the dude.  You won't do better.  Someday, you'll hurt his feelings and he will be mad at you, so find a guy who is decent even to people he's mad at.

John is not only kind, he's considerate, so double win for me!


I've realized, on looking over the one book I've finished, one book I have to rewrite, and one book I've begun to outline, that my writing may be a bit formulaic.  Yes, the plots are all different, but I have some particularities about characters.  It just seems a book isn't complete unless it has:

-one protagonist who needs to overcome or accept the flaw that's been holding them back their whole life
-one false flag love interest for the protagonist
-one real love interest
-one young girl working on her coming-of-age journey, after which she will be ready for love
-one mother who needs to face the demons of her past
-one very serious man who is good at fighting
-one younger man who is a bit more lighthearted
-one member of the royal family, with the magic powers that entails
-one prophet
-one elderly but cryptic sage

These are often combined -- you know, the prophet could be the love interest or the mother or (who knows?) both; the protagonist could be a young prince with magic powers or a girl who can see the future.

My question is, this is a bad thing, or just the way the game is played?  I don't want to be boring and predictable.  On the other hand, fantasy is one of those things that comes with tropes people just expect.  I have to be careful not to rewrite the same book a bunch of times; however, writing a book with no mothers in it is just not something I care to do.


At any rate, I am having ideas and fun but not really making much progress.  It's kind of always like this.  Starting a book is like pulling teeth.  Once I reach the halfway point and am really invested in getting the characters out of their messes, I stop eating and sleeping and bathing in my eagerness to write, and 5,000 words a day isn't hard to crank out.  Right now it's more like .... two paragraphs.  And then the next day I erase one of them because it sucks.  And then I find out that in 2000 BC, England didn't have snow in the winter and I have to rewrite ALL the descriptions, only I don't want to so I waste my whole evening reading blogs.

Sigh.  This is not much of a NaNoWriteMo, unless you want to call it "national NOT writing month."  Oh well, the main point of this isn't to wind up with a book any time soon, but to fill my head with fun stories and ideas.  Someday, though, I want to get these books done.  There will be four.  And when they are all done, then I'll figure out what to do with them.


For the sake of clarity, let me just list the books in this series, because I'm afraid I tend to be confusing:

Book 1: About 16 pages written, and lots of ideas floating around.  I want to write it now but I have to research a LOT before I can really start ... which is tiresome and I don't think I'm quite up to it at the moment.
Book 2: One draft written, but it sucks.  I am going to have to rewrite the whole dang thing.  Still, I love the basic idea and I'm pretty excited to get started rewriting it.  I think I should turn my efforts in this direction since Book 1 is stymieing me so thoroughly.  To that end I have checked out two books about Celts from the library.  When I first wrote it I didn't think it was going to be about Celts, but it turns out it is.
Book 3: This is the one I wrote the third draft of last year.  I went through last week and made all the edits I'd been meaning to do, so I think it's actually DONE.  And I still like it, so maybe it really is good.  I don't know.  Some of you read it and gave me some useful feedback, but no one said it should be scrapped, so I'll assume it's good.
Book 4:  This one comes immediately after book 3 and has all the same characters, which means I'm excited about it already, but I don't think I can close off the series until I've finished books 1 and 2 ... I need to know more precisely how I am going to set up the main story arc of the whole series before I will know how to tie off all the knots.  I have ideas, though.

It's funny that I'm writing fantasy, but since it's historical fantasy, I still have to do bucketloads of research.  You would think a big reason to choose fantasy would be so that you can make stuff up instead of having to stop and google every five minutes "pictures of ancient Camulodunum" and "distance from Manchester to Bath, walking directions."  But thank goodness for the internet.  With Google street view, I can even see what every inch of the route looks like.  (And I do my due diligence.  I have nothing but contempt for authors who put potatoes on King Arthur's dinner table, or allow people to cross distances in a day that earlier in the book took a week.  This is one of the reasons I have to rewrite some old stuff -- I was anachronistic and sloppy a LOT.)

Still, next series is going to be either in a made-up place or somewhere I've actually been.  England has such fabulous mythology, but I don't know what the air smells like, and that's a real downside.

How was your week?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Liberty and safety nets

I've always been a bit in conflict about libertarianism.  On the surface, it's a great idea -- keep government to a minimum and people will be able to make the choices best for them without a lot of pressure.  And practically speaking, government tends to attract corruption and it wastes a lot of money.  And with so many competing interests, it often winds up not delivering a very good product in the end -- in its attempt to please everyone, it pleases no one very well.

But lately I've been running into a lot of criticism of libertarianism -- that it ignores the poor, for instance.  "Screw the poor," they say, is not a Catholic attitude -- we have a responsibility to the poor.

Now libertarians answer, quite justly, that they can care for the poor on their own time, it's not only government that can do that job.  However, it seems sometimes that the rhetoric goes further than I can agree with.  A libertarian might say that it is fundamentally unjust for their own money to be taken ("at gunpoint," as they like to put it) to help the poor, regardless of how much the poor need the money.

And that, actually, is not a Catholic view of property.  The right to life is absolute; the right to property is not.  Property is given to man to steward, but it comes with the responsibility to share with the less fortunate.  Here's St. Basil, a Father of the Church:

“But you say, ‘where is the injustice if I diligently look after my own property without interfering with other people’s?’ O impudent words! Your own property, you say. What? From what stores did you bring it into this world? When you came into the light, when you came forth from your mother’s womb, with what resources, with what reserves did you come endowed? No one may call his own what is common, of which, if a man takes more than he needs, is obtained by violence. . . Who is more unjust, more avaricious, more greedy than a man who takes the food of the multitude not for his own use but for his abundance and luxuries? The bread you hold back belongs to the needy, the clothes that you shut away belong to the naked, the money that you bury in the ground is the price of redeeming and freeing the wretched.” 

In fact, it has long been our teaching that you have no right to your excess when someone else lacks a sufficiency.  So if you are starving to death, you may morally "steal" food from someone who has more than enough, because it you have more right to it than he does.  This upsets a lot of people, raised on the idea that property is an absolute right, who think that taxation is theft.  I myself think that property isn't as simple as all that, as I wrote ages ago.  At any rate, from a Catholic moral perspective, taking from those who have more than they need to give to those who don't have what they need to survive isn't theft -- and for the government to do so on behalf of all of us is well-supported in Catholic social thought as well.

So much for the right of government to tax and to set up a safety net for the poor.  Is it practical?

First, consider the alternative, private charity taking care of everything.  Does it work?  I do not have time to waste on ideas that don't actually work.  And the libertarian answer that if only we didn't have to pay taxes, we'd have more to spare for the poor, is useless -- we do have to pay taxes and that's not likely to change.  After all, a lot of taxes don't go toward supporting the poor, but toward funding our government itself.  In short, I'm not asking what would happen in an ideal society, but what is likely to be possible in our political climate.  Is there a specific policy I can support now?  Because it is absolutely unacceptable to me to tell the poor they have to wait for help until the income tax is abolished .... i.e., forever.  Even worse is when conservatives get together to come up with things to cut from the budget, leave corporate welfare, military spending, and waste -- and cut food stamps.  That's where you're going to start?

There are many, many families right now in America who would not be able to live without the various aid programs we have now.  Unemployment is high even among those who are seeking it -- so it's no good to say "just get a job"; there aren't enough jobs.  And what about those who are not able to work, the disabled, for instance, or single mothers who are the only caregivers for their children?  There's a whole lot more need than there is available charity.  One in three children in America is born to a single mother, and half of these kids are in poverty.  How can private charity keep up with that level of need -- without letting people slip through the cracks?

Of course it's simple to say, "Those people's poverty is a result of their bad choices."  In some cases that is true.  But why should a single bad choice on the part of the parents leave the children in danger of starving?  Is that a Christian attitude?  To say nothing of how making single motherhood unaffordable does a lot more to encourage abortion than it ever has to stop people from having sex.  The thing about using poverty as the stick to "disincentivize" behavior we don't like, is that some people will not respond to the incentive and wind up being punished.  I refuse to accept that in a wealthy country like this one, any child should ever have to starve or be homeless.

So I have always bucked the libertarian trend -- if we can't come up with anything better, I say keep the safety nets where they are.  I think it's despicable for the Republicans to take a look at the Farm Bill and choose to cut food stamps -- a tiny portion of the spending on that bill, but the really crucial part.  Yes, food stamp spending is up lately -- because more Americans qualify for it.  And as for welfare, I found out a few months back that the stereotype I always hear -- the single mother too lazy to work, living off welfare checks -- is completely false.  You have to be working at least 30 hours a week or actively seeking work in order to qualify for welfare.  This doesn't make sense to me -- it seems quite the runaround to have women working 30 hours a week, spending half or more of it on daycare, and then getting a check to actually live on.  Why is it better for them to pay someone else to watch their kids so that they can bag groceries or flip burgers, when their kids would probably much prefer to have their mothers around?  Call me a socialist, but I think giving mothers the choice to care for their kids themselves is something our society could stand to invest in.  I would love to see statistics on this, but I am relatively certain that one of the things that makes the outcomes of the privileged kids so much better is that their parents have the ability to be involved.  Would letting mothers stay home without losing their welfare check help kids get out of poverty when they grow up?  I think it very well might.

To that end, I've been reading up lately on the negative income tax.  The basic principle is simple: if you make under a certain amount, instead of getting taxed, you get a check to help make up the difference.  It's scaled so that any hours worked will increase the total amount a person has to live on.  For instance, if you were getting a check for $10,000 a year, and get a job that pays $5,000, your check doesn't decrease to $5,000, but to, say, $7,500, so that now you have a total of $12,500 to live on.  But even if you don't work, you still get something -- a sort of bare minimum, depending on how many people are in your household, and what it might take for them to survive.  Ideally I think you'd want to have the thresholds set differently depending on where you lived and what the cost of living was.

What I like best about it is that it does not police or infantalize the poor.  When poor people are constantly required to justify their existence, prove they're searching for work, only get aid that can be used for specific things.  And yet, what poor people need the most is just money.  They know better than anyone what they need to spend it on -- medical bills, daycare, groceries, an old car so they can stop spending all their time and money on the bus.  Isn't the fear that "they'll just blow it on stupid stuff" a way of saying poor people are dumb, that they can't be trusted to look out for themselves?  Sure, you'll blow it on stupid stuff if you're stuck in a poverty trap and don't think you can ever get out, but if you have a reliable source of income, you have hope of improvement, and you will use the money you get to climb out of poverty.

I asked a friend today if he thought this system would keep people from working -- would they just sit on their duff and accept a bare-bones existence rather than getting a job?  And he pointed out that even not working for a paycheck can be an investment.  J.K. Rowling was on welfare when she wrote her books.  Would we really want her flipping burgers for fear of starvation, when a few years of leeway allowed her to write the books that let her escape poverty for good?  Being able to take a year or two off from the workforce (albeit with a very low standard of living -- we can't afford to make it luxurious, and we wouldn't really want to make it too comfy anyway) means that people can go to school, take care of kids, start a business, do some job training, and permanently get out of poverty instead of constantly having to choose short-term survival over long-term success.  Now some people might choose not to work.  But that's the case now; there are always people who will find a way to game the system.  Still, I do believe most of us don't like living off of charity of any kind; we have a strong instinct to support ourselves, to give back.

I'd be interested in learning more about this.  It's not, strictly speaking, a libertarian solution, but it was favored by Milton Friedman and F. E. Hayek, which (to me) means that some hardcore capitalist smarts back it up.  And it means less bureaucracy and government interference without neglecting the poor.  What do you think?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

John won!

 John came in third out of seven in the town council election -- which means he is one of the three new council members!  In additional good news, the other two were both political allies, so this means a big change in the council -- less cronyism, more conservatism.  I have high hopes they'll be able to do a lot!

Voters re-elect Tharpe, two newcomers

I have two main thoughts:

First, I am so very proud.  Nothing makes me happier than to see those I love get appreciation, recognition, and success.  John is so pleased that he actually won something -- and I'm thrilled to finally be hearing "your husband is a great guy!" instead of "I don't know what you see in him," which was the usual reaction in college.  Kind of affirms my skill at choosing, you know?  Though I always knew he was a good pick. ;)

Second, I am SO GLAD that campaign is over at last!  It was exhausting.  Now we can finally have some Saturdays as a family again!

Friday, October 31, 2014

7qt - hymns, Halloween, new projects


The election is NEXT TUESDAY.  Good golly.  That means, of course, that every day from here to then is packed to the gills with work.  John is taking off to man the polls; I hope he remembers to give me a chance to get down there and vote for him!

Other than him, I think I'm going to vote for Bob Goodlatte for Representative, not because I like him, because I think would say anything for a vote, but because he does seem to listen to his constituents.  He's tracked right lately in response to pressure, and when the Syria thing was going down, I called him up and told him the only way he could ever get my support was to oppose the use of force there.  Well, he waited until it was obvious which way the wind was blowing, but in the end he did go my way, so I'm going to go ahead and vote for him.  It isn't a close race, anyway.

The other one, Ed Gillespie vs. Mark Warner, isn't an important race to me because both of them are about equally awful.  If I fill in that blank at all, I'll probably go for Gillespie, but I'm not very impressed with the guy.


For Halloween, the kids are going as Zak and Wheezie, from Dragon Tales.

I am not sure their getting-along skills are up to the challenge of trying to walk from house to house in one costume, but it's what they wanted and who am I to argue?

Two t-shirts from Goodwill: $4
Cardboard and tinfoil: already lying around the house
Construction paper: maybe a buck?
White crib sheet that doesn't fit any of the mattresses in the house: found it on the floor

The hoods are made from the extra sleeves, and the tail from the excess material cut from the sides of the shirts.

Yeah, I'm extremely proud of this.  It's a challenge to make a costume when you have no money AND no time to spare.


This article is pretty cool: Self-care for the highly sensitive parent.  Definitely my sensitivity is what is making this parenthood gig so difficult for me lately.  It's weird, because sensitivity hasn't been a big issue for me much at all since high school .... when it manifested as a deep-seated horror of crowds, such that I would have panic attacks when I was crowded, and I got crowded a lot because that's how boarding school was.  But after that, I was able to craft my life the way I wanted, and I chose to keep things pretty peaceful, so I didn't even think about being highly sensitive -- it wasn't an issue.

Being a stay-at-home mom is great for a sensitive person, up to a point.  None of those multiple assaults on the senses that leaving the house for a job entail .... no traffic, no dealing with strangers, no having to wear uncomfortable shoes.  But then once you have multiple kids at running-around ages, the sensory assaults multiply and you start to daydream of a nice QUIET office.

Unfortunately most of the ways to cope involve cutting out things I would otherwise enjoy.  Since the sensory input that my kids make is mostly unavoidable, the only thing I can change is optional stuff.  I have to stop talking on the phone, because trying to listen to someone talking while chaos is happening around me is so overwhelming it can make the whole day more difficult.  I can't listen to music, haven't much in years, because much as I love music I can't take more noise.  I have to balance internet use ... on the one hand, it can be a nice distraction, but on the other, it can mean I'm taking in more information than I can really process.  I can't say I've found the balance yet there .... but a good book, when I can find one, seems to be a better distraction than the internet.  (I know it seems weird that I have to distract myself from my kids, but I kind of do.  It makes it possible to tune out some of the stimuli.)

Crafts of any kind are very calming for me, but my fingers are so sensitive after dishwater and eczema and so on that sometimes I can't even stand the touch of the fabric!  (You see why I'm obsessive about yarn being extremely soft?)  Going outside always helps, if the weather lets me.  I have to admit I am feeling a sense of impending doom as it gets colder and I know the nice days are soon going to be gone.

This is all so difficult.  I have always thought of my sensitivity as not a big deal, or even a benefit.  I experience the world very vividly and that can't be a bad thing, can it?  But now it feels almost like a disability, and I find myself wishing for a cure.  You can cure all kinds of mental issues, why not this one?  But I think this is just how my brain works.  And at the moment it's robbing me of most of the things I enjoy.


My current read is Anne McCaffrey's dragon books.  I really enjoy both her world and her writing, but I'd read all of them our library has, so I moved onto continuations of the series written by her son, Todd McCaffrey.  So far I'm disappointed.  The plots are fine, the world is familiar to me, but honestly he's just not a very good writer.  He doesn't describe things very well, and the pacing seems off.  Blah.

My next plan is to try Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.  I've read a couple and liked them ages ago, and since it's TEN 1,000 page books, it might actually keep me busy for awhile.  Being a speed reader was handy in college, but nowadays it's something of a curse.


I've realized that cutting things out just frustrates me rather than reducing stress.  When I say I'm stressed, people say I should do less housework, but the fact is I've had a lot of time to figure out exactly the minimum amount of housework I can do while still keeping us all sanitary and sane, and I'm doing it.  And anyway, I think cutting things out is not the cure.  I thought it might be good to add something in -- something I could be excited about and enjoy, something I can make progress at from day to day, even only a tiny bit.

So I've started another spinning project, and then when that wasn't enough I dug up the first scratches of a novel I started some time ago to go with the last one.  I can't imagine I'll be able to finish it in a month this time, especially as I am not really sure where I'm going with it.  But those days I have been able to work on it a little, it's felt really good.  I make zero positive progress on anything most days -- both housework and parenting are mostly about maintaining the status quo against constant entropy -- so having a single page that I actually wrote, which remains at the end of the day, is a very encouraging thing.

Hopefully telling you all about it will hold me to it.  Feel free to check back in.


Bedtimes when John is out are a rather intense process.  I can sometimes put all three to sleep at once, though often it's easier to let Marko stay up till Michael's asleep, keeping Miriam on my lap throughout.  Luckily John taught Michael to fall asleep in his own bed while I was still recovering from birth, so Miriam isn't any hindrance to his routine.  However, she can be a little noisy -- either loud nursing, or loud wiggling and cooing and so forth, so I've taken to singing to drown her out and help Michael drop off.

I have one firm rule: I pick the songs.  Let a kid make requests and they'll never go to sleep, plus their taste in music is a little ... well, toddlerish.  I do hymns.  Hymns are my favorite way of praying -- almost the only way I am capable of praying -- and they're good catechesis too.  When I think about it, it's the old "squishy liberal" hymns I grew up with that gave me such a firm idea of the goodness of God, the sort of person he is.  And since the words of many of my favorites are all straight from scripture, I know I can trust them. 

A few favorites for sleep time:
Here I Am, Lord
Prayer of St. Francis
Come to the Water
You Are Mine
Godhead Here in Hiding
The King of Love My Shepherd Is
Be Still My Soul

I also like to sing while doing the dishes.  For those, I do peppier hymns, like:
Morning Has Broken
Lord of All Hopefulness
My Song Is Love Unknown
Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying
Blest Be the Lord
O God Beyond All Praising
I Sought the Lord
God Is My Great Desire

A few of these, I can't find recordings of with the tunes I know.  Luckily my memory is good with songs.  Set something to music and I'll remember it forever.  Sometimes I think of a song I haven't heard since I was a kid, and then *poof* -- there are all the verses, sitting there waiting for me.  One of the things that made me the most frustrated when I first went to boarding school is that we were required to use the hymnals.  What's the point of having a great memory if you can't skip the hymnal?!  (This is pride, of course, and they made me hold the hymnal anyway.  Though they couldn't make me look at it!)

Sometimes I imagine that if only I'd been born in a different age, this talent would have been appreciated and they'd have made me a bard (hence my email address -- I have delusions of medieval grandeur).  But I suspect this ability is latent in all of us.  There were many who argued against literacy because it would destroy people's ability to remember things without writing them down.  Now the same sort of people say the same thing about Google.  But, you know, you needn't let a new technology keep you from learning the old skills.  You just add to your toolbox.


On the topic of hymns, the music we had in boarding school was the bait on the hook for me.  I arrived at the summer program, and things were sort of weird and I had my doubts.  Then the choir sang a polyphonic piece and I was in heaven.  I had to come to this place, because they sang like that!  And, of course, I'd be in the choir.  So it was quite ironic when I didn't make it in -- I always am in the choir!  But it didn't matter too terribly much, because every single day, at Mass, we sang every single song in three-part harmony.  It was gorgeous.  It's one of the few things I still miss.  When I sing the old songs -- and our songbook had quite a collection -- I can hear the harmonies in my head. 

Regnum Christi sells CDs of all their pop-style music, sung by their choirs, but they don't sell the chapel songs.  That frees me of the moral dilemma of whether I should support them by buying it, just because I'm nostalgic.  I know that that tremendous beauty is partly there to lure people in, and it works a treat too . . . but that doesn't make the beauty itself a lie.  It really is beautiful, and singing together with people you love is one of the great joys of life, if you're lucky enough to be able to do it.

How was your week?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

7qt: links, thoughts, pictures


John has been gone much of the week at a library conference.  And then most of the rest of the days he's been gone in the evenings due to campaign stuff.  Just over a week left now!

I haven't been whining much, though, for three reasons: first, I'm just better about handling everything by myself than I used to be ... I like having help putting the kids to bed, but I don't need it.  Second, I want John to win and so I can't begrudge him the time it takes to send out his mailers and what-have-you.  And third .... Doctor Who.  It's my reward: if I put the kids to bed all by myself, then I get to watch my current favorite show all by myself.  It's a fair trade.  John has offered me his computer to watch it when he is there (mine is just a netbook and too slow for Netflix) but I think it's best if I stick to the current system -- it gives me something to look forward to all day.


I'm through with the David Tennant episodes and on to Matt Smith.  Man, it seems like every subsequent Doctor I like a little less!  But perhaps I just need time to get used to the new one.

Some people don't like the way the Tenth Doctor faces his upcoming regeneration.  He seems to dread it intensely and try to get out of it.  Me, I empathized hugely ... because it was exactly how I felt leading up to Miriam's birth!

There's a bit in one of the Miles Vorkosigan books where Miles is checking over the commandos about to go on a mission, and comes across one who is shaking with fear.  "Your first time?" he asks.  The commando says, "No, it's my second."  And Miles says that of course this is natural ... it's easy to be brave when you don't know what it's going to be like, but when you do know, it's terrifying.  And that's how giving birth has been to me.  Each time has been scarier than the last, because I know exactly what I'm in for.  And even though you know you can't fight it, you still try.

And I imagine that's how the Doctor felt, knowing exactly how much the whole process was going to suck, knowing it was unavoidable, but trying to wiggle his way out of it anyway.

Always leaves me thinking, that show.


Finally, a smile caught on camera!

 She looks particularly chubby in this photo.  She isn't really that fat.  Fat enough to have a rash in her neck folds, though!  Makes me happy that I'm clearly not starving her, anyway ... though I'm doing all I can for that rash, poor girl.

She smiles a lot.  This has been a nice side effect of her getting plenty of sleep -- there is now plenty of awake time for her to smile and interact with us!  In response, the boys are also liking her more -- they spend some time most days trying to get her to smile for them.  They're not terribly good at it, but sometimes they get a little grin.


Things are mostly going well.  Sometimes I feel weepy, crabby, or overwhelmed.  A friend asked me if I think I might be depressed (always ask your postpartum friends this!) but I don't think I am .... I think it's just legitimately hard.

Of course this puts me in a bind: I think my situation is extra hard and that's why I'm not handling it as gracefully as I would like.  But the reality is that plenty of people have three kids spaced two years apart -- or more kids, spaced closer -- and don't find it super hard.  That makes me feel like I must be defective.

But, of course, not everyone has kids as high-needs as mine.  Michael is pretty needy right now and Miriam has the whole non-napping thing going on.  And there's also my own sensitivity.  My mom told me years ago she didn't think I could have a big family because I have such a low tolerance for chaos.  Of course, because I was invested in my own plans, what I heard was "You will never achieve your life dreams because you are inadequate," and I naturally blew it off.  But I suppose she was right, to some extent.  Managing chaos is something I need to do to make my life possible -- through schedules, early bedtimes, encouraging quiet activities, trying to keep the house at least a little bit tidy.

Even so, there are some things about having a lot of small children that are naturally overwhelming to me.  I was never overstimulated with just one kid.  I distinctly remember the first time I was really truly touched-out.  I was trying to write a text message while also nursing Michael, but Michael was struggling to latch on and I was feeling a little frustrated.  Then Marko got behind where I was sitting and started fidgeting with my hair.  I tried to ignore it, tried to keep doing what I was doing, and suddenly I couldn't take it anymore and just screamed.  Not at anyone, I screamed like you had burned me because that's honestly how I felt.  It's hard to describe this, because it sounds like nothing, and why didn't I just stop trying to text and get Marko off my back?  And of course, that's what I try to do now, because I know now that I can't ignore it.  At the time, though, I thought it was no big deal and something I should be able to handle -- and the reality is, I can't.

I still get moments that overwhelm me, though.  Like I put the baby down to make something for the boys to eat, but she keeps squawking louder and louder because she didn't want to be down, and I know I can't take care of her until I finish making the food, but Michael is trying to wedge himself between me and the counter and saying "I want a bite! I want a bite! I want a bite!" and I step to the side to open the fridge and there's Marko sitting in front of the fridge blocking my way and I Just. Can't. Take it.

Only there isn't really another option other than dealing with it, is there?  Of course I tell the kids to stop doing the things that annoy me, but that's still attention taken away from what I'm trying to do and more time I have to listen to the baby crying.

Sometimes I handle it fine.  Other times it's a struggle.  And it's a completely invisible struggle because I'm actually able to keep up on the house relatively well most days, I cook food, I get the kids to bed on time, I write this blog.  But what I really want is some time every single day where no one is touching me, and that doesn't seem to be something I can reasonably expect.  I usually do get a little before bed, but it's never quite enough .... and I stay up way too late just to get more of it, but that of course just makes me tired which reduces my tolerance of everything the next day.

John was saying I should find a mother's helper or someone who can give me a break once a week.  And that would be lovely ... except there's a big part of me that feels that I am a failure if I do that.  Because the whole point of my being home is that we don't have to have a babysitter, right?  And because my kids don't want a babysitter, they want me, always.  And because I don't even know what I would do with an afternoon to myself.  I would feel like I should spend it on housework, but I am keeping up with that relatively okay and can do it anytime, or almost.  What activity do you do when you want to recharge your soul?


One activity I have come up with that I find really peaceful is thinking about houses.  I do it if I can't sleep at night ... just lie there, close my eyes, and think of a house I haven't been to in a long time.  Say, my great-grandfather's house.  I started in the basement and remembered, in detail, every single thing in that room.  The ping-pong table, the antlers on the wall, the dessicated puffer fish, the fox pelt, the bird wings.  What the room smelled like, how it was always cool, how my cousin bashed his head on one of the antlers and we stuck ping pong balls on all the sharp ones so no one would get hurt next time.  Then the furnace room where G-gpa had all the wood blocks and the pencil marks for all of our heights.  Up the stairs, past the recliner I slept in when I was four, past great-grandma's bowling trophies, into the kitchen which was the real heart of that house.  In my memory we are having a huge salad with bits of salmon in it, and then G-gpa pulls a carton of vanilla ice cream out of the deep freeze, cuts a slice from it with a machete, peels off the cardboard, and pours raspberries over it all.

The rest of the house has a very heavy feel -- I guess it was just hot and stuffy, but in my memory it feels old and unused.  I remember where the bathroom is, but I have to guess where the bedrooms are, and I don't know what they look like inside.  I remember the front door, but I don't think I ever went through it; we always used the kitchen door.  The living room had an ostrich egg on the mantelpiece, a tray with butterfly wings under glass, a bowl full of polished stones and little wooden acorns that you could spin like a top.

I last went there in 2002 for G-gpa's wake.  I'm proud that I can remember it so well.  And it just gives me a feeling of peace to walk through those old places in my mind -- I feel that as long as I remember them this clearly, they will always be mine, even though I can never go there again.


The two most interesting articles I read this week: I can tolerate anything except the outgroup and Five case studies on politicization.  They're long, but definitely worth reading.  Basically they are about tribalism -- our tendency to adopt the opinions and preferences of those we consider our tribe.  Which explains why conservatives are more worried about ebola than liberals, while liberals worry about global warming, even though how worried you should be about either is a question of science, not politics.

It's kind of humbling to realize how much of this stuff applies to me.  I think of myself as not a member of any tribe -- all of us prefer to think that way, I think -- but I define myself too much in opposition to the various tribes, rather than positively.  Want me to take the anti-police side in Ferguson?  Just share a link to a conservative fundraiser that is actually raising money for the shooter!  I'll be so horrified I run to the other side.  (Of course that's a bad example, because I've been following police overreach for about a year now and so I had an opinion on it before anyone I knew started sharing articles about it -- but the principle itself is something I'm guilty of.)

We all like to think of the ways we don't fit into the various tribes, invent subtribes for ourselves, criticize tribes we are connected to, but I think we all are guilty of tribalism to some extent.  We trust some people's opinion and not others; some catchphrases register as catchphrases and others seem like pithy statements of the obvious.  I always end up in the same Facebook debates, and I always know who's going to fall on which side, and what they're going to say.  The Synod, for instance -- it's utterly predictable who was going to howl in anguish over the relatio and who was going to like it.  And can I just say I'm completely unsurprised that now the final document is out, and didn't say any of the controversial things people didn't like, no one is talking about it at all?  The more "progressive" crowd is disappointed, and since they were being triumphalist last week, it's embarrassing now.  And the "orthodox" bunch was taking the relatio as proof that the Church is headed in the wrong direction, and they don't really like being proven wrong.  The one comment I've heard from anyone on that side since the final document came out was about how our terrible Pope tried to pervert Church doctrine, but the brave bishops stood up to him and wouldn't allow it .... which is just about as inaccurate as anything I can imagine.

Apropos of this topic, but much shorter, is this Cracked article.  I love Cracked.


If you've got time to spare, read this: Meditations on Moloch by the same author as the tribalism articles.  It's long, and by long I mean even by my standards -- it is probably the longest blog post I have ever read.  The whole first half I was nodding my head -- I absolutely agree that human society is not self-optimizing; that self-interest is not sufficient to get people acting in a way that is best for all.

It's the capitalist lie: that virtue is not required, because self-interest coordinates everyone perfectly anyway.  I like capitalism because it is relatively efficient and allows for human choice, but virtue is always, always required.  Without it, the author is right -- civilization goes on a constant downward slide.

However, virtue is, to some extent, natural to human beings.  We have one impulse to look out for number one, and another to sacrifice for the good of others, and neither one is "the real us."  They're both the real us.  By working on it, we can strengthen our virtue and fight against the tendency to be selfish; and conversely, if we convince ourselves that selfishness is okay, we can silence our conscience.  But in our natural state, we do care what happens to others.

Let me put forth an example: Imagine it was conclusively proven to you that God does not exist.  There will be no reward or punishment after death for what you do, because after death you will cease to exist.  And you are offered a choice: you can have a perfectly happy life, health, riches, friendship.  But an hour after you die, the entire population of the Earth will die horribly.  Would you take the offer?

I can pretty much guarantee that you, reading this right now, would not.  Not because you think you'll be punished for making that choice, but because deep in your gut you know it is a bad choice.  You know that your life isn't the only life that matters.  And for my part, I feel confident that that knowledge we all have will keep us from disaster, if we let it.

Because yeah, the dude really lost me around the first time the word "transhumanism" came up.  I don't want to be a cyborg, or an intelligent computer program, or ruled by a benevolent supercomputer.  I'd rather just try to be a virtuous person myself and encourage others to do likewise.  Yes, keeping humanity from destroying itself is an uphill job.  I just don't think it's an impossible job.

How was your week?

Friday, October 17, 2014

7qt: I give up


I have officially given up trying to teach Miriam to nap in her bed.

As this week began, I was really losing my mind.  My schedule was going like this: Baby gets fussy.  Nurse baby to sleep.  Hold for 10 minutes while kids destroy house and/or demand attention I can't give because it wakes her up.  Put down.  Madly try to get stuff done for 10 minutes.  Baby wakes up.  Nurse. Rock.  Baby goes to sleep.  Hold for half an hour while kids destroy house, bite each other in the face, and cry.  Put down.  Baby wakes up instantly.  Rock.  Baby falls back to sleep.  Hold for an hour while house goes into utter chaos and my whispered threats have no effect.  Every time I attempt to say anything to get the kids to not put knives into outlets, hug the Scratchy Cat, etc., Miriam starts to wake up.  Wait for her to go into "deep sleep."  Never happens.  Eventually give up and put her down.  Baby instantly wakes up.  Leave her in her bouncy chair while I attempt to get dressed, eat, drink, fill up the water filter, feed kids, hug kids, etc.  Baby quickly escalates from short squawks to real crying, which she never did before this week.  Shriek incomprehensible things at kids.  Cry.  Go back to trying to put baby to sleep .....

Most days she was getting at least some sleep in her bed.  Either a really good nap, right when I was on the verge of giving up, or at least 45 minutes.  So I told myself it was worth it, because maybe she was getting closer to figuring out the whole sleep-in-bed thing.  But it was really wearing.  I was ending most days in either a zombielike state, or in tears.  It. Was. Awful.  There was just this constant feeling that I wasn't giving ANY of my kids what they needed.  That's just the most heartbreaking feeling.  Michael, in particular, has been getting worse and worse with his bad behavior and generally blowing off whatever I say.  Which is natural, of course, because he knew I was stuck rocking the baby and wasn't likely to DO anything!

Sometimes I would put her in the wrap and go to the park with the kids, and then everyone was happy.  But then this week had a forecast for rain every single day and all the happy disappeared from my life.  Ugh.


So I asked Facebook, and Facebook replied with a multitude of answers, like "have you tried x?"  (Yes, of course I did!  I'm no spring chicken here, I know bad sleep like a brother by now.)  "Have you tried y?"  (I am never trying y, that is just cruel.)  "Have you tried z?"  (I absolutely would try z if I could get TEN FREAKING MINUTES of quiet to do it in!)  And the only thing that didn't get one of those three answers is this: "That may just be the way she is."

Of course I do not like that answer, but it's probably true.  Possibly if I had a solid week of quiet to teach her to nap, I'd have more success, using all the stuff that eventually got Marko to nap.  But I don't, and what I'm doing is not working, so I decided I was just going to have to stop trying.

Basically I've just made up my mind to prioritize the boys' behavior over Miriam's sleep, because Miriam will eventually stop needing naps, but if I let Michael get into his head that he can just ignore me, I don't know how I will fix that.  And if I sit around and let Michael smack Marko around, then Marko gets angry and resentful and when Marko is angry, the whole world is a less happy place.


What that means is just having her nap in the wrap.  Which I hate because, well, she is a LIGHT sleeper.  Being on me doesn't stop her from being a light sleeper.  She wakes up multiple times per nap; the only difference is I can bounce her back to sleep pretty easily.  So I can't just ignore that she's on me, I have to do certain chores (dishes and sweeping) and avoid others (picking up toys, putting laundry in the dryer, holding the other kids).  I am getting her used to sitting down, so I can sit at my desk and type (this blog post, for instance) without waking her.  And when she does wake up, I can take a break, bounce her back to sleep, and get back to it.  Most importantly, I can intervene when the kids are being too dangerous, destructive, and/or combative, which is vitally important.

AND, a couple of times I've been able to sneak her out of the wrap around the two-hour mark, and she stayed down for another 30-45 minutes!  Which means at last, time for me/other kids!

But in general, time for non-wrap-friendly chores has been Miriam's awake time.  You see, when she gets some really good sleep under her belt, she can be happy and awake for two hours or so!  Of course, she's cute and sweet at that time, and does want some attention, but she's able to be down for much of that and so I can hold Michael and do all those other chores that need doing.

The downside is that it's getting harder and harder to put Miriam to sleep any other way than the wrap.  Which means it's been taking me longer and longer to get her to bed.  Last night she went to sleep at last at 10 pm.  Tonight I'm going to try wearing her in the wrap from 7-9 pm or so and see if I can move her into her bed after that.  I am NOT wanting to mess up her good night's sleep -- she is sleeping in six-hour stretches and it is what keeps me from being a blubbering mess some of the time.


Have I told y'all she smiles now?  Very unpredictably, so no pictures yet, but she definitely is smiling.  She loves it when we interact with her.  However she hardly ever actually seems to make eye contact.  She's always staring over our heads or to the side.  I don't remember whether my other kids did that.  Is there something super interesting elsewhere?  Or is there something terribly wrong?  (Yep, three kids and I still worry all the time if things are terribly wrong.)

At any rate it's very cute.  I love this stage, except for the naplessness bit.


The boys are hilarious as ever.  A couple examples:

Me: Did you pee in your pants?
Michael: Um, yeah.
Me: Where?
Michael (as if talking to an idiot): In my PANTS!
Me: I mean, is there a puddle somewhere I should know about?
Michael: Yeah.  In my bed.

Marko, holding the little brush that came with the dustpan: I'm a soldier, and this is my hairbrush.  Do soldiers brush their hair?
Me: I'm sure they do.
Marko: And this can be my bathroom table.
Me: Do bathrooms have tables in them?
Marko: Soldiers' bathrooms do.  They are bigger than regular bathrooms.
(Marko does not know what soldiers do, but he's very interested in them.)

Marko, holding a business card to his ear:  Hello?  Daddy's name is John C----.  He is running for F---- R---- Town Council.*
Me: What are you doing?
Marko: Talking on my smartphone.

Marko: Jesus does not like to wear clothes.
Me: Why do you think that?
Marko: On the cross, he is only wearing a diaper.
Me: Some people took his clothes away.
Marko: But they gave them back.
Me: No, I don't think they ever did.
Marko, very upset:  No, they need to give them back!
Me: I think he got new ones after he rose from the dead.
Marko: Where did he get his new clothes?
Me: .....I really don't know.
(Later) Both boys, running around in the buff: I am Jesus Christ!  I am Jesus Christ!

 [*Yeah, I know y'all know who we are and where we live, but let's just pretend you don't, huh?  I don't want John's opponents/prospective voters googling him and landing HERE.]


How about that Synod?  I think the freakout over it is just ridiculous.  It's a synod, not a Council, and so even the final conclusion is likely to be a lot of fluff, much less the interim report, which is just "here's what we're talking about."

However, I didn't have a problem with anything said in the interim report either.  I mean, isn't it obvious that unmarried, irregular, and gay couples love each other too and therefore there is some good we can recognize in their relationships?  It doesn't mean it's all hunky-dory, it means we're not going to pretend that all non-marriage relationships are horrible dysfunctional miserable things.  So when people say "but you must be wrong, because these people love each other!" we can just answer, "Yeah, we knew that already, but that's not the point."

"How can we fix this stuff?" is a much more difficult ball of wax, and I don't really think they're going to come up with anything other than "let's be as merciful as we can."  If the relationship can be saved, let's make a smooth path toward fixing it -- getting that convalidation, church wedding, annulment ASAP.

If not -- like a second marriage where an annulment can't be granted, or a gay couple, what can you do?  Basically nothing.  We can't change church teaching to allow them (have no fear on that count; the Pope and bishops know it too) and we can't lie and tell them to carry on.  On the other hand, we can hope that, even if they aren't willing to follow Church teaching now, maybe they'll get there someday.  I seem to remember it took the guy in Brideshead Revisited quite awhile to come around.

Anyway, I'm curious to see what they actually come up with, but I can't really see that it'll make much difference.  The bishops (if past experience is any indicator) will go home and keep doing what they were doing before.  The liberal ones will go on saying "Sure, x is our official teaching, but God understands, so go ahead and keep doing y."  And the conservative ones will make statements to the media about the sinfulness of sinners and how much they wish the Pope would phrase things the way they would have.


I had a cool thought while watching Doctor Who the other day.  (On to season 4 and still enjoying it.)  The whole world has been taken over by a Big Bad Guy (this is no spoiler, obvs, because this happens ALL THE TIME!) and the Doctor's companion is traveling over all the world, telling people about him.  Here's what she says:

I travelled across the world. From the ruins of New York, to the fusion mills of China, right across the radiation pits of Europe. And everywhere I went I saw people just like you, living as slaves! But if Martha Jones became a legend then that's wrong, because my name isn't important. There's someone else. The man who sent me out there, the man who told me to walk the Earth. And his name is The Doctor. He has saved your lives so many times and you never even knew he was there. He never stops. He never stays. He never asks to be thanked. But I've seen him, I know him... I love him... And I know what he can do. 

Does that remind you of anybody?

Let's try another quote, this one from C. S. Lewis:

Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening--in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going.  

Kind of makes church a bit more exciting, eh?  Sometimes, looking at this mixed-up world and how much misery is in it, you can't quite believe that there is a good God behind it.  But I really do believe that God is not all-powerful in this world in the way we think.  He's handed over the power to us, and we lost it through sin, and as a result the world is ungoverned, or worse, governed by the devil.  God has managed to smuggle knowledge about Himself into the world, and He will rescue us out of it in the end, but in between times it really is occupied territory.  So no wonder it so often makes so little sense!

Finishing this hours after I started -- I'm happy to report that Miriam is actually napping in the bed and has been for half an hour now.  So perhaps wrap naps aren't going to ruin real naps forever.  I have hope.

How has your week been?
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