Thursday, May 24, 2007

OK, got to write this even though v. sleepy

So I just got finished writing my comment in response to Leslie's comment in response to the post below, and I got into bed and picked up my current bedtime book, which is one of these big Ignatius Press editions of Chesterton (shocker), and I run within the first page into the following line:

"...those questions about the will to believe and the operation of grace, and the fact that something more than reason is needed to bring any of us into the most reasonable of all philosophies."

"The righteous will always accept logic"-- but which one of us is righteous?

It is too late at night to argue Pelegianism. Now I am going to bed.

PS yes, Leslie, I know you're not a Pelegian.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The article this is from is called "The 'Short Story' in Germ"

"Steele writes like a man at one with his audience. He does not feel the need to argue or convince; it is enough to appeal to the sense of right and wrong. As he said himself, when exposing the tyranny of husbands, 'touching upon the malady tenderly is half way to the cure; and there are some faults which need only to be observed, to be amended.' His business was not so much to create sentiments as to awaken them by a vivid description, and teach his readers to recognise their own principles in some poignant situation."

--The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

Okay, so this is the moral center of the domestic novel. Good to know. Query: can we cross-apply it to Jane Austen-type comedies of manners?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I'm nervous, posting this.

Okay. Let’s talk about abortion.

I’d rather not. I am not a controversialist. I’d much rather stay at home in Bag End and smoke my pipe and eat large, rich dinners. But there are times when we must venture forth.

When I was fifteen or so, one of my favorite books was The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. I’m not actually a hundred per cent sure I ever finished it, but I fully embraced its vision. Plus I definitely saw the movie, which had Natasha Richardson in it.

Atwood’s dystopia was my dystopia: her worst case scenario was mine, pretty much. And here was her worst case scenario: conservative Christians (exagerations or extrapolations of conservative Christians, as Orwell’s party was of the Communist party) have come to power in America. They have remade it as she imagines they would really secretly like it to be: a place where women have no rights whatsoever, and where men have wives and also official concubines who are breeders, because most of the upper-class, or wife-class, women are infertile. In this world, women’s bodies are instruments that the male conspiracy uses to play its games of power. It’s as though men were the European powers of the late 19th century, and women’s bodies were the contested continents-- Asia, Africa, South America-- terrain only valuable if it has value to its colonial overlords. And a key instrument in their domination was, of course, the absolute prohibition of abortion.

The golden past that the main character cannot quite remember, the past before the zealots came to power, was the woman’s movement of the 1970’s and 80’s, and a key feature of that past, it is implied, was free access to abortion.

I don’t know if Atwood actually believed that this scenario is what They-- the Christians, the conservatives-- really want. Probably not: it’s satire, reducto ad absurdam and all that. I’m pretty sure, though, that I believed it-- that on some level, a level where I enjoyed being the prospective victim of such a conspiracy, enjoyed the guilt-capital that would give me, I did buy it. I believed, or played with believing, that that’s what a lot of men, maybe most men, certainly most conservatives, were really hoping for.

Look, I was fifteen.

This is what I meant, if I meant anything, when I went to the pro-abortion march on Washington in 1992. That’s what I was thinking of, I think, when I talked about a woman’s right to choose, when I wanted the bumper stickers that said “Keep Your Laws Off My Body.”

Well, that was a piece of it, anyway. I don’t want to oversimplify.

And that’s why I think that one of the best things we can do as human beings who disagree with other human beings is to understand our opponents’ worst case scenarios, the wacky far fetched chilling things they picture when they imagine what would happen if we “had our way.” Don’t judge a man till you’ve walked a mile in his boots-- that’s the idea, except that in this case, it’s Don’t judge a man till you’ve spent an afternoon wearing the tinfoil helmet he uses to keep the Council on Foreign Relations from beaming his thoughts up to the mothership.

You may not end up agreeing with each other. I can never think that it is right to abort a baby, and on that subject I will have an irreducable disagreement with someone who does think that it’s okay. I don’t think it makes sense to talk about having a right to do something that wrong. (If, God forbid, it comes down to a choice between the life of the mother and the life of the baby...I can only pity anyone in the position to make such a choice, and pray that I’m never there.)

So, you might not end up agreeing. But you might end up seeing that at least in some cases, your minds are not as alien to each other as they seem at first glance. No conservative Christian I know-- no one I know-- could react with anything other than horror to the society described by Atwood. I do not, as a conservative Christian, have the same view of men’s and women’s roles as I did when I was a liberal. But no Christian can deny women’s human dignity, their part in bearing God’s image, and still remain orthodox. No one I know could look at anyone being treated as the women in The Handmaid’s Tale were treated and judge that a good thing.

The lie I believed when I marched on Washington in ‘92 was, then, twofold. The first part was that people who believed that abortion should be illegal actually secretly wanted to subject women to slavery. I don’t think I really believed this, not on the deepest level. But here’s the thing about conspiracy theories: the emotional weight of things you don’t really totally with your rational mind believe can be nearly as great as the emotional weight of a well-considered, well-reasoned and accurate beliefs. The oomph, the fear, remains as energy: energy that wants to be used against The Conspiracy, even if you don’t actually believe The Conspiracy exists.

The second part of the lie was that the choice in front of us, as a society, was between enslaving women and denying their humanity, or being pro-free access to abortion. I wasn;t in favor of the first option, so I figured I was in favor of the second.

But if you think about it...this is crazy. None of us has the right to do whatever we want with our own bodies, let alone with other people’s bodies. We’re not allowed to hurt other people, even if they are utterly dependent on us for survival-- indeed, we have a sense that it’s when a child is utterly dependent on us that we have the greatest connection to her, the greatest obligation and also the greatest delight in caring for her. Calling us to affirm the dignity of all human beings, their right to life and to respect, does not diminish our own dignity or chip away at our own sense of our value as human beings. On the contrary: seeing the value in all other humans, however dependant, however undeveloped, allows us to see our own value more clearly. What we do to others, we implicity say it’s okay for them to do to us, just as when we call something that someone else does wrong, we implicitly say that it would be wrong if we did it as well.

Anyway. That’s what’s been going through my head lately, among other things. I really like getting along with people, and I really don’t like acrimonious debate. I’m not writing this to start a debate, acrimonious or otherwise. I’m writing it because it’s been on my mind and heart. I would like to know what other people think about this, but please don’t yell at me. Or use all caps, which is the internet version of yelling.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Classic Heather and Susannah Quote

S: Heather, you want to play bocce?
H: I’d rather eat hay.

Monday, April 23, 2007

To clarify: Spring is not getting redone; Spring is wonderful.

I'm Back

...from France, and from new-apartment craziness, et cetera. I am now sort of settled in Florence (not the Italian one. The one next to Easthampton) in a funky place with a huge, great kitchen and two fabulous roommates (although I'm not sure where Adam is; I haven't seen him in days) and a currently impaired bathroom. It's getting redone, which is wonderful.

And so is Spring, which has finally arrived.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Come to a Night of Appreciation, Emulation, Infiltration, Obfuscation and Literary Discussion

Think of a British Christian version of the Superfriends, and you've got a--well, a not entirely accurate idea of the Inklings. JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Charles Williams, and their friends used to meet, semi-weekly, at a pub in Oxford called the Eagle and Child, where they'd read bits from their works in progress, drink beer, and talk about everything in the world. This upcoming Tuesday, there will be a gathering at Packards in their honor. RSVP to, or just show up. Everyone welcome.

Topics to be covered may (or may not) include:

Aquinas, Beekeeping, Chesterton, Distributism, Elves, the Fall of Man, Grace, Homebrewing, Irenaeus, Jacobitism, Kant, Lions, Mythopoeia, Natural Law, Organic Farming, the Person from Porlock, Quixotic Enterprises, the Romance of Lost Causes, Sherbet, the Trivium, Unusually Good Coffee, Virtue, Walter Scott, the X-Men, Yentas, and Zoological Gardens

Tuesday, February 13, 7:30 p.m.
(in the back room called the Library)
Masonic Street, Northampton, Massachusetts

This Event Brought To You By
AKA Scriptores

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Leslie wrote (in his comment below) about " we used to argue about whether the Metric or Customary was better"

That is exactly what I'm talking about! Another example: in, um, three weeks I'll be going to France for a fortnight (score one use of the word "fortnight"), and I'll be using Euros! Feh. J'aime le franc. J'aime also les dodgy currency changing booths around every European train station when I was Eurailing it in 1998, and it's so sad that they're not needed anymore.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Small, local, old, and particular are almost always better than big, global, new, and abstract.

-- Rod Dreher

Classic Melodie Foster Quote

"I love cake! It's my favorite texture!"

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Theoretically. And I'm not saying that's all there is to it. But water is good!
A well-hydrated writer is a productive writer.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

more cat

so there are just enormous numbers of kittens in my life now. There's the one at home. Then there's Hermione, who is on my lap lounging over my right arm as I type this, and Ron, who climbed up my back and as I was starting this post. (Now he's crouched next to me and Hermione is trying to use my mouse pad, or something.) And then of course there are Deacon Chapin and Betsey Ross, who belong to my dad and are making him and Barbara act very extreme and kitten-centric...What is this? Are there certain seasons in one's life when it's Kitten Time?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Our household has a new member. His name (for reasons that are a little unclear to me...for which read, It was Rachel W's idea) is Todd-Joplin Sebastien Henry. This sounds to me like a name late-80's yuppies would have given their kid. He is about nine inches high and fifteen inches long, not including the tail. He's also very quick, and has escape artist skills.

He has already tried to fall into the toilet once. We feel that this is behavior that he will grow out of.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

so this baby walks into a coffeehouse...

at woodstar last night I ran into Miles (aged, I think, 11 months) and his parents (miles was attached to his father's ventral side with a snugli.) His parents and I say hello and chat for a minute, and then everyone kind of looks at Miles, to include him in the socializing, and there's this tiny pause, and he tips his sippy cup towards me, offering me some of his juice. The body language was unmistakable-- like he was thinking "man, if my parents aren't going to offer this chick anything to drink I guess I should." "I'm all set, but thanks," I said, and his father said (something like) "I think she's good, honey."

How polite these children are. And Ella's downstairs now getting her picture taken...

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Here, fabulously, is the Scriptores site, up and running. Soon it will have subpages, and links out, and Aaron's Zombie Bronte poem, and possibly an Upcoming Pioneer Valley Christian Geek Events Listing of some sort. Thanks, girls!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

So I somehow stayed up till like 2:30 last night reading this vampire novel...

and here's my thought: if there were actually vampires, I bet a major social/psychological problem within the vampire community would be procrastination. It would be like the ultimate extension of that phenomenon where it's harder to get stuff done, even stuff you want to do, when you haven't got a job to go to. Think about your typical vampire: he's unemployed, he has no deadlines (so to speak)...other than a couple of self-directed Martha Stewart/Type A vampires, as uncommon in the vampire world as in the human world, who would actually be the ones to get around to organizing world conspiracies, you'd basically have a batch of people with none of that sense of the ticking biological clock that gets so many of us to actually get around to writing books and so forth. I bet they would be major slackers.

You know?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Melodie, on the couch next to me, just said the following sentence:

"Ooh. Soul patches are such a bad idea, Brian Boitano."

Also see this article. Happy New Year, people.