Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Objectification ~ Something for my Girls ~

This is not a new subject for me- many of you have heard me going off on a rant about pick-up lines and how they tend to objectify women. I've been told that perhaps, I'm taking things a bit too far. Perhaps I am, but I doubt it. I've only just now figured out why it is that I get so uptight about objectification: I spent my memorable childhood (I just mean the part that I remember) as the sexual object of a perverse old man. I know what objectification is; I know what happens to those objectified. The problem is that it takes soooo long to see and to figure out these things, that it's too late. I'm sure it didn't help that I was eight at the time, and therefore pretty much unable to comprehend it, but I see other women my age and older dealing with the same thing and even, for me, dealing with something similar and still not fully realizing or not wanting to realize what's happening.

Most girls who read this probably listened to the Christopher West series in Villa four. At one point he said that "you must refuse to let yourself be lusted after" - Men do this by more than just looking at porn. Pick-up lines, for instance. Ok, so I won't go off on that rant, but I will say that any time a man intimates that he wishes to get to know you by using sexual language, he sees you as an object, not as a person. Never date a guy who uses pick-up lines. Besides treating you as an object, he's completely unoriginal; they get them online and think they're brilliant. You are not here for a guy's sexual pleasure. Really, if a guy honks or whistles or yells some random pick up line at you (my top pet peeves), why is he doing it? He doesn't know you. He doesn't even want to know you. He's only seen you. You are not an object. You are not a toy. You are not here for some guy's sexual gratification. Don't let them make you think that you are.

You are person. Demand respect.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Something That Started out Being a Short Peice for the Newspaper, but Kinda Turned Weird

A subject that comes up here frequently is that of music: music as “expression;” music as an art form; and most predominantly, music at Mass. This really is quite natural considering that we are at a Catholic school and the Liturgy is the “source and summit” of the Church’s actions. We should definitely give the Mass all of the honor and awe that is due to it.

In The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom writes that “music is the medium of the human soul.” Music speaks to and speaks for the soul. One of the most prominent external aspects of the Mass is its music. It is an expression of our worship of Christ and a way in which God’s glory can be made known to us. It should be no surprise, then that this element of Mass is argued about quite frequently.

There is really only one aesthetic requirement that music at Mass must meet: that it be beautiful. This is because, as Pope Benedict XVI says, beauty “enables us to experience the presence of God.” Here one may say "but beauty is subjective." I answer: not quite. Beauty is defined as by Webster's dictionary as "the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit." Yet again one might say, “what exalts individual minds or spirits is subjective.” I answer: not true.That which is the highest Good is God. The ultimate goal of every man is (or should be) to reach the greatest Good. Man cannot reach Good without goodness; man's spirit cannot be lifted to the highest Good by something that is not good. Because of the nature of “good” something cannot be good and not lift man's spirit to God, even if man does not realize that his spirit is being lifted. This is why beauty is not subjective. But, because of sin, beauty can be perverted but still seem beautiful. A prime example of the perversion of beauty is seen in human sexuality. I am not saying that human sexuality is beauty perverted. Human sexuality is wondrously beautiful when it is not used in a perverted fashion. It fulfills the requirement of lifting the soul to God. But when a man (or a woman) uses his sexuality in any way other than that which was intended, it no longer lifts his soul; in fact, it drags his soul away from God, yet, it still can be mistakenly perceived as good.The same is true of music. St. Augustine said, “Music, that is the science or the sense of proper modulation, is likewise given by God's generosity to mortals having rational souls in order to lead them to higher things." Beautiful music lifts the soul to God. This is the purpose of music at Mass: to lift the souls of the faithful to God.

The Church has given us guidelines about which types of music are more appropriate at Mass, which type of music best lift souls, and, as always, explanations about why. In his Chirograph for the Centennial of the Motu Proprio Trale Sollecitudint on Sacred Music, Pope John Paul II quoted, and hence, reiterated Pope Pius XII’s statement, "The more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savour the Gregorian melodic form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple" This is because Gregorian chant was developed specifically for the Latin (as in Roman) liturgy. The music was developed to fit the words, the words of the Word; the Word was not fitted to secular music. Gregorian chant is so special in the Church because it has no roots in secular music. It was made to fit the sacred. The sacred was not conformed to it. This singularness is why Gregorian chant is given “pride of place” in the Roman Liturgy.

This is not to say that chant is the only music that can or should be used at Mass. Sacred music should be developed; cultures change. But just because sacred music should be developed does not mean that “the old stuff” should be forgotten. Quite the contrary, it should be treasured and kept alive to be passed down to all generations.

Sacred music should be developed from the sacred, not the secular. The “liturgical musician” should be educated in the history, purpose, and rules of sacred music because the way in which we adorn the Mass should not be arbitrary. It should not be based solely on how someone feels or what someone likes. It should be based on the appropriateness for the liturgy, which is judged by an historical, a theological, and an aesthetic standard. Each piece of the Mass that is sung has a different historical, theological, and aesthetic meaning and purpose. It is the work of sacred music to portray those meanings. It is not the work of Sacred music to make people feel good, or to make them happy or comfortable. I’m sure Christ wasn’t comfortable on the Cross.

Several times in the history of the Church, it has been necessary to remind the faithful of the sacredness that should be present in the music used at Mass. Sacred means something special, different, set apart for something higher than one’s self, something that is not ordinary or mundane. The Mass is the prime example of Sacredness. There is nothing more sacred than receiving the physical body and blood of our Savior. The music used at Mass should remind of this. Music at Mass should not be modeled off of the everyday secular music that we listen to. The music of the Mass should be built around the sacredness and mystery of the True Presence of Our Lord.

And this is why modern music really has no place at Mass: it has more roots in the secular than in the sacred. We often hear that today’s society is highly individualistic and ego-centric and, while it may seem far-fetched to some, that is clearly seen in lots of the recently (last 40 years or so) composed music used at Mass. “Here I am, Lord” “Gather us in” “We are the Light of the World” “Servant Song” “City of God”- those are all very mild examples of this. There are many that are much worse; there are the quite blatantly the “pat ourselves on the back” type songs. The words of the music are supposed to lead us to worship and to praise; what the words are saying is what we led to praise. If we constantly hear songs that praise ourselves in relation to the world and to God, rather than praising God in relation to us (us as lovers, worshipers, helpers, and guides to others or children of God [note the feel goodness] as opposed to God as a creator, Redeemer, Saviour, ect,) we are going to get into the mindset of "me".

This is what leads Monsignior Grau (President of the Pontifical Institue of Sacred Music) to say, "How far we are from the true spirit of sacred music. How can we stand it that such a wave of inconsistent, arrogant and ridiculous profanities have so easily gained a stamp of approval in our celebrations?" Open any OCP hymnal and you will find words that are over-flowing with me-ness if you’re lucky; with heresy if you aren’t.

Dr. Bruce stresses the importance of words. Psychological studies show that words even subconsciously affect the way a person thinks and acts (a random series of words- five words a line and about ten or fifteen lines- which a person is supposed to make a sentence (4 words) out of as fast as he can - something like green mean lights shove go, only each sentence has a trigger word and the trigger words are all connected to a concept or an emotion, such as getting old, or agression or politeness and the trigger words, though the person is unconscious of any change, actually do change the way a person acts. It's called priming.) If something as random as placing the words "wrinkle" and "Florida" together in series of scrambled sentences make our unconscious minds think of getting old and manifests itself in our wlking more slowly (one of the studies I read about), how much more so will something done consciously make us think of what it says? The I and me do not go unoticed. They spill into the way we think about Mass; and then, the Mass becomes more about "me" than about God.

And that is why people get so passionate about music. It isn't just something random, it's indoctrinating.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Awed by Love

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not
proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it
keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the
truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
My father loves me. I'm ashamed to admit that I never realized or appreciated just how much. Ever since ... forever, really, but especially since we born, my father has worked so hard to provide us with what we need, and even harder to give us what we want. I remember when I was a little girl, that spending time with Dad was a special thing because he normally worked 80-90 hours a week, night shift. He would always make time for us, though. His favorite thing was to make his girls smile.

When I was about five, my mom took us to Philadelphia so that she could help my grandmother pack and sell her house. I don't remember how long we stayed, but I remember the day that a package came for us from my dad. There were all sorts of things inside of it, but I only remember one: a video. He had and borrowed a friend's recorder and made a movie of him taking care of the farm. He went through each of our animals (mine, believe it or not, was a goat. her name was Goldie and I had bottle-fed her and she was kind of like a dog. She was always getting out of the fence to come greet us), and he showed us how much they missed us. Goldie wouldn't stay in her pen at all and went wandering around the yard bleating, Carolynne's dog, Dixie, would not stop barking, Christina's chicken hatched her egg, but the little one kept getting picked on so Dad assured her that he had moved it and taken care of it for her. We still have that movie; it's labeled "Dad Loves his Girls."

My dad worked at a text-tile mill for fifteen years. When I was around 12 or 13, it became pretty clear that the mill jobs would soon be out-sourced. My dad, in order to prevent long term hardship, enrolled in the local technical school to get certified as an HVAC technician. For the next two years, he went to work at 6pm, worked until 6am, drove to school, slept in the parking lot for two hours, went to class from 8-noon, came home, ate lunch with us, went to sleep, and started over again. Sometimes, he would try and get some yard work done. During the fifteen years he worked there, he took one vacation. He went to work no matter what; one time, had a fever of 104 and still went to work, despite Mom's warnings. Because he worked so hard while he was sick, he damaged nerves in his arm and suffers from that a lot.

When the mill finally did close, things still did not go that well, he went through a series of jobs, that while absolutely crummy and awful for him, were good for us-like the chicken job, so he perserved. Eventually he found a job in Birmingham, repairing reefer (refridgerator) units on semis. He loved doing that job. Unfortunately, the boss didn't like him. He was promised a raise several times and never given it. He definitately deserved it; even the boss acknowledged that he was one of his best techs; he could do things that no one else there could. But things with the boss escalated and my dad didn't like being so far from us (Birmingham is three hours away, he stayed up there with family during the week, came home on weekends). Before the things with the boos came to a head (but not very much before), he found a job only 50 miles away doing the same thing. This time his boss was a decent man. My dad loved working for him, and the boss knew how great he was at this job. His boss, however, was soon transferred and the one who came instead thought even worse of him than the one in Bimingham. His evaluations were never accurate. Things weren't good for my dad at all. A guy at his work stole his tools (thousands of dollars worth). He died and when his sister came to get his stuff, my dad didn't have the heart to tell her that they weren't his. His boss always told him how bad he was at his job (despite the fact that his boss also had to ask him how to do things). Dad went to a national training thing for ThermoKing and was the first person to ever solve the problem. And he didn't even use the computers. One day, my father was talking to his old boss- a person of quite a bit seniority within the company- about what the current one was doing- it was all stuff against the handbook. Within a week, my dad was fired for "voicing disagreement with management."

Over the next couple of years, my dad had a series of jobs 50-90 miles away. Eventually, he got tired of the commute and it became not worth it with gas prices. So he found jobs here. These jobs weren't enough, though. It stressed him out to have to worry so much about paying bills. He didn't care about the bills, he wanted to be able to give us yeses when we asked for something. He wanted to be able to bring my mom a random present just because he loves her.

Somehow, during all this time, he taught me how to wire a house, how to shoot a gun, how to skin what you shoot, how to build a barn, how to rebuild a car (we're still working on that one), how to run a farm for food and profit, and how to do so many other things, that if I were to name them all, it would take a book. But what he really did was show wme how to love.

Now, he's across the country, working at a job that he doesn't particulary care for, in weather that he absolutely hates (10 degrees is the high tomorrow. He works outside and it's snowing.) He works in a crew that doesn't particularly like him because he's better than they are at the job. They go behind him and undo what he has done. His immediate boss thinks incompetent. He wants to move him to a different crew. A crew where it wouldn't be possible for my mother and siblings to follow him. His boss's boss, though, saw the guys doing that. They've been warned, but the tension is still there for my dad. All this he has done because he loves us. He didn't do it for the money, he didn't do it because he wanted to; he did it because if he did, life would be easier for us. If he did, he would be able to say yes to things we wanted, he could have flowers randomly sent to the door for my mother, he could help his daughter buy food and pepperspray and clothes and tuition.

And I didn't care until last year. I loved my dad, yes. I also argued incessantly with him. I loved our time together, but didn't always want it. I sometimes was attitudical about it. (You guys have never seen my attitude. You may think you have, but you haven't. Think the Andy fiasco times oh, 300.)

I don't know how I could have been such a brat. I haven't seen my dad in 7 months, before that I hadn't seen him for 2 months, I saw him for a couple weeks this summer, but he was always working. I miss him like crazy. He misses us so much. But he loves us too much to give up on this. He never thinks of himself. If he can think of something to do for us, he does it without question, no matter how much work it takes him. He doesn't know it, but tomorrow my mother is flying into Denver to spend Thanksgiving with him.

I must admit, I am jealous of my mother. I wish I could see him. I wish I could give him a hug. I wish there was another way for him. I wish that I had seen this before I moved away. I wish that I could take back everything awful I said to him, even though I know he's forgotten it. I wish that it wasn't so cold for him. I wish I was there to cook him dinner and wash his clothes. I wish I had smiled more when I was younger instead of throwing tantrums because I couldn't have what I wanted (I didn't do this very often, but when I did...)

My father loves me. And I wish that I could show him how much I love and miss him.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


I would guess that these last two months of the year are the two most filled with tradition: national traditions, local traditions, family traditions. But I have to wonder whether some traditions have not become routines.

I come from a family that values traditions. We've invented so many since I was little that I doubt I could count them. Traditions do not have to be ancient. This has really hit me since now a decent portion of our family is scattered across the country and since I now either don't take much part in the traditions, or I take part in them over the phone. More often than not, it's the former. It's a slightly weird feeling to be missing those traditions, like eating ice cream outside in the winter. That's just not really supposed to happen.

One thing that was stressed at the beginning of the sacraments and liturgy class is the human need for ritual; the need for something by which to order one's life; there are a multitude of examples of this in the natural world: the seasons, night and day, the cycles of the moon, and the orbits of the planets to name a few. This urge goes beyond the individual and flows into the societal. Societies also need something by which to order their lives; the ancient Egyptians ordered societal life by the flooding of the Nile. Traditions and rituals are not routines and shouldn't become so. Rituals and traditions are of a sacred character. Routines are for everyday life. The Nile was not just a river.

"There are a lot of bad isms in the world and commercialism is the worst!" While I don't think I necessarily agree with that statement (I'm inclined to think that maybe things like communism and socialism are a little worse), I can definitely see its validity. Communism and socialism wouldn't be so bad if not for commercialism. Commercialism certainly plays a part in communism and socialism.

Problems result when you allow your life to be commercialized. If you only take part in traditions because it’s what you’ve always done, or worse, it’s what everyone else does, then why do it? If traditions abound during this time of the year, then so does the secularization and routinization (so it’s not a word, yet) of traditions. Christmas carols, for example. Long ago, when Catholics ruled the world, there were rules for when what could be sung because of the special character of the liturgical year. (There still are, people are just ignorant and don’t care.) Puer Natus in Bethlehem (A child is born in Bethlehem) was not sung until Christmas. Not only that, but Christmas music was not about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Now, however, when you walk into any shopping center after November first or so, you will hear Christmas music being blasted over the sound system in an effort to “get you into the holiday spirit,” i.e., buy stuff. The carelessness with which such traditions are flung about gives them an ordinary, humdrum type of feeling. In fact, they can get old and annoying. A person can only take Jingle Bell Rock so many times a year. And if that person happens to be Lauren, well…

Five Novembers ago, it had not been a good year for my family. Within a month, my mother’s mother died, my father lost his job due to out-sourcing, and the Quince stuff was told. While my grandmother had been sick for a couple of years, her death was unexpected. She died peacefully in her sleep, with her caretakers there. She was only 61. There are not a lot of jobs here; it took a few months for my dad to find one. He finally did find one at a chicken processing plant keeping the freezers running. The Quince stuff led to a bunch of things with my father's mother that were just plain unpleasant, to put it lightly. In the time between, Dominic was born! Yay for babies! Especially brother babies! At the chicken plant, they sold chicken to the employees for next to nothing. So we had plenty of chicken. Freezers full, actually. That year, by the time Thanksgiving came around, we were sick of poultry. None of us wanted to eat turkey. We wanted steak. So, we made a fire pit, and cooked steak and sausage (brat-like sausage, not breakfast sausage) for Thanksgiving. We had whatever sides we wanted. And tons of desserts- everyone's favorite and possibly even everyone's second and third favorites. Any outsider would have looked at that mis-matched meal (because we had little boys, I'm sure half of the sides were random and didn't really match with anything) and laughed. Maybe pittied. We had no one over except my mother's brother. But it was the most memorable Thanksgiving I've ever had. It was simple, but it was everything we needed. We had each other and we had the material things for which we were most able to be thankful at that time. The little ones gave us laughter and my parents gave me anyway one of my most pleasant and treasured memories. I'm sure that when we are all grown up and gathered somewhere, this will be one of the "do you remember whens?" most fondly remembered.

That Thanksgiving was the first Thanksgiving that I ever really was more than usually unusually grateful. By that I mean, of course I had always been extra thankful on Thanksgiving, but it was more out of habit or training than by sheer gratitude. That Thanksgiving, as I ate some of favorite things on the planet and as I sat around the table just talking with my family, I was grateful. I didn't know it was possible to be so grateful. Before that Thanksgiving, I think that we all would have thought it absurd not to have the traditional turkey and sweet potatoes and whatever else it is that is proper to eat on Thanksgiving. But that Thanksgiving we realized, the turkey isn't the tradition.

And so, because of that Thanksgiving, while I am not diametrically oppossed to eating turkey on Thanksgiving (in fact, we are eating turkey this year), I have become more conscious of the difference between Thanksgiving traditions and Thanksgiving routines. As I am here at home, finally reunited with my little boyos (who really aren't that little anymore), getting them what they need, rocking them, reading to them, being read to by them, playing with them, cooking for and with them, cleaning with them, and being fought over by them, I've been reflecting on these things. Routines are not always fun, they most certainly are not freedom. They are the measuring stick or the straight edge which makes sure that nothing is out of place, that the world keeps running as planned without interruption.

The world is not run by a routine. Take a look at the sunset one day and look again at it the next. It is not the same. It's a different sunset everyday. The colors change, the shape of the clouds change, everything changes. Yes, it is ordered awesomeness, but it is awesomeness, nonetheless. Our lives should not become bleak routines. We should value the sacred, wonder at the little, everyday things, and never be bored by the repition which sometimes seems to be the norm. For repition and norm it is not. Look closely, you will find something you've never found before. When scrubbing the kitchen for aaalll those guests, perhaps the shiney-ness of the sink, which depiste your routine you seem to have neglected, will make you smile. Perhaps some small child will show you something you've seen before at least a million times, but this child will show you something you have missed, something that only a child's joy can explain. If traditions become routines, the only thing left for routines to become is a slave master. God did not intend for us to be slaves. Besides, we can't have more than one master. If we let the sacredness and the specialness of traditions slip away and become routines, we are in danger of letting the routine become our god.

So in the midst of the bustle and hustle that usually accompanies this time of the year, take time to remember why you are doing what you will inevitably find yourself doing out of habit, whether it be eating turkey or watching football or shopping on Friday. Find the reason for these things and then you will find that scrubbing the kitchen isn't so bad after all.

Back Where I Belong

With my boyos. Life is good.

And I have a stove.

Being here makes me want to quit college and go work at a soup kitchen or an orphanage or a hospital or something. Somewhere where people need to be taken care of.

Have a really great Thanksgiving, everyone!