Saturday, December 27, 2003

Book log: Making Christ's Peace a Part of Your Life by Dietrich von Hildebrand

This has been the first of Dietrich Von Hildebrand's books that I have been able to complete. (Probably this is because it is actually an excerpt from his book Transformation in Christ.) It is an extremely challenging work analyzing the peace that comes from Jesus. Von Hildebrand discusses what it is (and is not), how we can get it and how we can lose it. He also spends considerable time discussing why it is important and the consequences both of finding and losing it.

Short Review: Read it. Very, very good.

Some insights:

  • Distinguishing between true peace and simple absence of conflict:
    The absence of all inward unrest is by no means invariably a good. It is a good on the condition only that it comes from a harmony with objective good and expresses a response to Truth. Sated contentment or a peace of mind due to thoughtlessness or illusion, is not a good but an evil - no matter how pleasant it may subjectively feel. [pg. 35]

  • Evaluating our emotional reactions to things that happen to us:

    First of all, the attitude must match the goodness or badness of the thing to which it is reacting. If we are sad at a friend's good fortune, or take joy at someone else's pain, then our attitudes are wrong.

    Secondly, the intensity of the attitude must match the objective importance of things to which it is reacting. Do we get more excited about a football game than someone coming to know the Lord?

  • Most importantly: True peace can come only to those who surrender to God:
    The nagging unrest of him who doubts and of him who writhes in the fetters of sin, the most deeply painful experience of unrest will dissolve as soon as he achieves an unequivocal surrender to God: peace will come to man when he lets himself fall into the arms of God... [pg. 43]

There is much more that I'd like to write, but I must be off. May the peace of Christ be with you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

The Night Before Christmas

Well, it is the Night Before Christmas. I was planning on writing about a professor of religion speaking on NPR today, but at 1:06AM I just don't have the energy. We have gotten all of the kids down, we have the presents wrapped, and we are all eager for the morrow. Unfortunately, the morning will arrive for my children at the crack of dawn, so I best get to bed.

It was the usual struggle this year. It is so easy to get swept up in the flurry of preparation, and lose sight of the fact that this is a celebration of Christ's birth!. So, let's end this with a word of thanks to Jesus, the Word made flesh, who clothed Himself in our humanity to save us, and let us be with Him forever. Thank you, Lord!

Saturday, December 13, 2003

We have had a bunch of colds sweep through our family. Poor Denise is still in a fairly bad way, but the rest of us are on the mend. Davey managed to fall and cut his lip pretty badly a couple of days ago. It required a trip to the dentist and doctor, but he was spared any stiches. We've seen indications from others that we can expect more of the same from our boys.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Complaining as an Art Form

The other night my youngest daughter, Amanda (who will turn six in a few weeks) discovered that I had committed a most insidious and vile act: I had brought home a pizza from Papa Murphy's that was contaminated with both mushrooms and tomatoes! The poor little thing was completely distraught. She cried and wailed. She explained to me repeatedly that she hates mushrooms and that she hates tomatoes and that she was really expecting a plain pizza with pepperoni, not sausage like this one had. (In her defense, she was tired and getting over a cold. She is prone to emotional outbursts, but this was quite a bit more severe than usual.)

This went on for about 20 minutes until her hunger started to get the better of her upsetness. She was still whimpering and muttering as she finally sat down at table and started to eat. During her travailing the rest of the family had started eating. There were only two pieces left besides the one that had been sitting on Amanda's plate.

As she ate, Amanda continued to mutter and occasionally complain as she removed bits of mushroom and tomato. Then, without the slightest pause, she cried, "Hey! You didn't save me any more pizza!" and started to cry about the fact that there was only one extra piece for her besides the one on her plate.

Some nights, you just gotta complain.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

A Little Uselessness

Even though it is not even advent, I can't resist recommending this link.

Video Games, Books, Writing

Does anyone else out there struggle with being useful with their computer? (Kind of ties in with the Douglas Adams quote, now that I think about it.) I'm the kind of person who has always loved playing with computers. I was in eighth grade when my father brought home our first computer: A Radio Shack TRS-80 Model I computer with Level II BASIC and 16K of RAM (That's right: 16K! Four times the memory of the low-end machine!).

It turns out that I was just the right age at just the right time to really benefit from this machine. I was old enough to play with it and start working my way through the "Teach Yourself BASIC" manual. The really good thing, however, was that computing was new enough that there were very few games available to play on the computer. I was forced to program because I could not just go out and buy good games. If I was born a few years earlier, I might have gotten turned on to some other hobby and never really explored computers. If I was born a few years later, there would have been so many great games available that I never would have bothered to learn to program.

I can say that with some confidence now, because it takes a lot of self control for me to not just throw in a video game when I really know I'd like to be writing or reading.

That is just the struggle in so much of life, isn't it? It is what Christianity calls "seeking the greatest good". it is doing what is best when there is something good nearby.

Great Quote of the Day

From Douglas Adams: "It is easy to be blinded to the essential uselessness of computers by the sense of accomplishment you get from getting them to work at all."

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Recent Reading: Monsters From the Id, by
E. Michael Jones

I should start off by saying that this book has provided me the most intriguing reading I've had in recent memory. It is the first time I have waded into the waters of serious literary criticism, and I really
did not know what to expect. The experience was refreshing and thought-provoking. He has an original and fascinating interpretation of the series of Alien movies that alone is worth the read.

Monsters From the Id traces the development of the horror genre. It starts with Frankenstein and works its way through to Aliens III. Jones makes a convincing case that the beginning and continued popularity of horror are due to psychological responses to sexual "liberation" and its consequences. The thesis of the book is encapsulated by the two quotes that make up the first page. The first is from the Book of James:

Everyone who is tempted is attracted and seduced by his own wrong
desire. Then the desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and when
sin is fully grown it too has a child, and the child is

The second is from the classic movie Forbidden Planet: "The
Krell forgot one thing, the monsters from the Id."

If I am reading correctly, his basic argument could be expressed as follows:

  1. When sexual activity is separated from the moral order the inevitable result is pain, sorrow, horror, and death

  2. Starting with the French Revolution, the Enlightenment (to which we are all heirs) very explicitly rejected that there was any standard of morality to which men should be bound. In fact, Enlightenment thinkers saw the key to all human happiness to be the casting off of restrictions on sexual activity so that all people could completely fulfill themselves.

  3. The inevitable pain, misery and death followed the loosening of sexual morals. Different times and locations experienced this suffering in a variety of ways. During the French Revolution it manifested itself in sadism and widespread brutal violence. Germany and much of Europe were haunted by the devastating effects of syphilis. When the "Enlightenment" liberation of sexual morals came to America it brought in its wake divorce, rape, broken families, and the "unspeakable crime" of abortion.

  4. Western civilizations have accepted at a very deep level that there are no moral values, and the sexual freedom is fundamental to a fulfilled and happy life. This commitment to sexual license is so deep and so axiomatic for so many people that they are absolutely at a loss to explain the suffering that is rooted in immoral sexual behavior. The realization of the connection between immorality and suffering must be repressed. But this repressed idea then surfaces forcefully in other ways. One of the ways is through horror.

  5. The repression of the connection does not make it go away. Sexual immorality brings with it a general sense of dread, foreboding, or the feeling that things are not right. The monsters of the horror books and films are the manifestations of this dread.

At first, I was skeptical, but Jones has me convinced. His thesis explains one aspect of most horror films that has puzzled many critics. Why do so many films associate the attack of the monsters with sex? Why is it so often the case that characters in films are attacked and killed during or right after sex? The implicit message sent is that sex is dangerous and that having sex will hurt or kill you. Yet one can hardly accuse the horror movie industry of prudishness. Would it not make sense for most writers and directors of these films to send the exact opposite message?

Jones is arguing that the writers and directors of these films can not see the connection between immorality and suffering because of their ideological commitment to the primacy of sexual license. Yet their subconscious makes the connection and so the connection is expressed in these books and films. These films then draw audiences because they are saying something true, even though neither the makers nor the audiences can explicitly acknowledge the truth expressed.

If you're unconvinced, I urge you to read the book for itself. It is well worth it simply for his discussion of the series of Alien films. You can find the book at Spence Publishing.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Great quote by Jonah today, referring to the recent Democratic "Rock the Vote" debate:
Anyway, all of that being said, I must say that this was the most entertaining debate I've seen this year. And, yes, that's like saying "the world's tallest midget," but it is something.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Comments are here

I know all of you have been waiting anxiously for the day you would be able to post comments on the lucid and insightful posts I've been making. Well, your patience has been rewarded. Comment away.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Jonah Goldberg's Goldberg File on National Review Online has some interesting thoughts on being a citizen of the world.

Friday, October 10, 2003

I love traffic jams! I wish my commute was longer! At least, I do now that I've just gotten the first book of The Lord of the Rings on cassette. It is 20 hours worth of happiness on 15 cassettes. It's (almost) enough to make me wish I lived in Los Angeles, at least for a couple of weeks.
Great Books by Polish Popes:
OK, so the list of Polish Popes is not extremely long. But one of the great books by John Paul II is "The Way to Christ". It is a set of talks he gave to some retreats back before he became Pope. His insight into human nature and what it takes to be truly fulfilled is amazing.
I've just moved to a new site. Did this follow me?