Archive | April, 2011

Keynes vs. Hayek, Rd. 2

29 Apr

Everyone who reads this blog knows by now – I am not a libertarian. BUT I have deep sympathies with them. One always quarrels most with those closest.


I am a Boy on The Playground

28 Apr

Yesterday I took the boys I babysit to a public playground. The oldest is not not quite in elementary school and the younger brother is around 2, I think.

First, a funny anecdote. One person asked me how young the little brother was. “um.” – pause – “somewhere around 2?” This answer invited a quizzical look and the reply, “you don’t know his age?” End of conversation.

Anyway, onto the reason I am writing this post. The older brother has been watching Peter Pan and has decided that he is Captain Hook, a “bad pirate.” (When I asked him why, he answered “I have to grow up someday.”) Now, he wanted to go to the park because, naturally, the playground is his ship and he has to make sure mean girls do not take it from him.

He takes a bucket of toys to the park. I neglect to inspect this.

Immediately upon arrival, he speeds over to the playground. A number of children were playing in one spot. The rest of the playground is relatively empty. He marches up to the children, having placed his pirate patch over his eye and withdrawn his sword (a spatula), he shouts “Get off my ship!” And this is how he continued to begin his interactions with other children throughout our time there. Either the children would begin to play with him, or, as was the case on several occasions (two with the same child), an overprotective parent would whisk the child away and give me a quizzical look. Now, a spatula was unfortunately not all the bucket contained. It also harbored several fake guns and knives, which were distributed the children who decided to play. Cries of “walk the plank” were shouted at girls from the top of slides, and “shoot him” at those dubbed peter pan. Several parents were not happy that such violent toys had been brought to the playground and I must admit, I cringed every time I noticed other parents removing their children from the action, or giving me dirty looks. I spent a good deal of the time thinking to myself what I would say if I was approached.

(This distaste was not universal, mind you. Several parents cared very little. It is interesting to note that the two were distinct groups. Upper class white fathers were universally appalled at my decided non-interference. Lower class moms were unconcerned or amused. Take from it what you will.)

As I watched the scene unfold, I wondered if I was ever that assertive as a child. I honestly can’t remember a time when I marched up to any group of strangers and told them, under no polite circumstances, to obey my will. ‘This is my ship, you have to leave.”

What struck me was one occasion where the father began to whisk his little girl away, the boy I babysit yelled “hey! don’t do that!”

When I had arrived to babysit earlier that day, he had run outside and was jumping up and down. “we’re going to the park, we’re going to the park.” (I had promised him the week before. It had been rainy, and we stayed inside the entire time.)

Remembering his enthusiasm at going to the park, and his dismay at the loss of his potential playmate, made me realize – he had been eagerly waiting, possibly all week, to go play pirates. The way he decided to get things rolling was to simply go be a pirate. Surely the other kids will respond by also playing pirates. You have to get the ball rolling somehow, right? His “embarrassing” assertiveness was just a call to a game, a game he really really wanted to play.

Anyone who knows me, especially those of you from my pre-UD existence, knows that I do exactly this sort of thing. That is, I say something absolutely certain to offend, or provoke, someone into conversation. (Interesting people see these as invitations.) I do this because talking is what I like to do, and I need other people to join in and, preferably, someone to oppose me. You see, we boys don’t mean any harm by it, but how else can we get everyone to play along?

“You could ask, nicely.”

Wrong! What if you don’t want to play? Or don’t understand how much fun the game is? What if part of the game – and this is the fundamental point – is pretending it’s real life? For the little guy and myself, the game is no fun if nobody cares.

Pride and Prejudice

25 Apr

I woke this morning at an unusually early hour and rather than fall back asleep was immediately attacked by my own thoughts. I suffered the attack for about 40 minutes before turning to relief. I found it in that old friend Jane Austen. I find that I am someone who, in those times of need, turns to something I know rather than seek out something new. My mind is not necessarily averse to novelty but I  am able to draw so much enjoyment from previously enjoyed things. You know how it is, one notices a new thing in the text or rediscovers a favorite part of the story previously forgotten. In any event, for those of you who have not read Jane Austen and find yourselves in a mental tail-spin, I recommend it. (Jake, I would like to see a Beer and Trembling review of Jane Austen.)

Some may wonder about this development of mine, that is, I used to be a George Eliot partisan. I certainly remain a lover of Middlemarch, but I no longer think Eliot has a leg up on Austen. They are different pleasures, simply.

“Mr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feeling towards him. She told the story however with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in any thing ridiculous.”

And, another part that brought me up into happiness:

Mr. Lucas: ‘What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy!- There is nothing like dancing after all.- I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished societies.’

Mr. Darcy: ‘Certainly, Sir;- and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world.- Every savage can dance.'”

Blaise Pascal

21 Apr

“Hello, I am Pascal. If there is an answer to Nietzsche, I’m it.”

If he exalts himself, I humble him.

If he humbles himself, I exalt him.

And I go on contradicting him

Until he understands

That he is a monster that passes all understanding.

– Pascal, Pensee 130

The C.S. Lewis Bible

16 Apr

I just heard this morning that they are printing (have printed) a “C.S. Lewis Bible.” Ack, how tasteless. It is akin to wearing a shirt with a rapper’s face on the front. Dear America: Items that we use for life do not improve when they have your favorite person on the front.

Resolved, except not – thankfully, it’s Friday.

15 Apr

The title of this post is misleading – nothing is resolved. “Life in Limbo” would be the title to the television series of my life. The only constant – Steve the cat. Except he’s not a constant because he lives in the great state of Virginia. Last night, I was decidedly awake for hours. My mind had decided that it was a great time simply to think about the entirety of my future – and this at a time when there is no possible way of knowing what I’m even doing next year. LAME. Of course, a million other tiny questions push their way to the fore, along with a multitude of past conversations and “to-do lists” for, well, today. And then, a definitive statement of everything finally settled my mind on all possible future decisions and I happily lapsed into sleep.

Which, by the way, has become a weird process for me over the past couple of years. Some time during my senior year at St. John’s, I became acutely aware of how non-sensical my thoughts get right before sleep. Just absolute random connections that make no sense and are probably even less coherent than a decent dream. Since I made this connection, these thoughts commonly prompt the thought “oh, I’m falling asleep.” At this point something terrible occurs. I am falling asleep, which is always some magical gift that I receive and not something upon which I can rely. And in the midst of that magical moment, before rest overtakes consciousness, I have this re-insertion of myself and become aware: “I am falling asleep” is a completely coherent thought. Often times followed by other coherent thoughts like “I hope I continue to fall asleep” or “what one earth was I thinking?” This is always a moment of slight alarm (because I really want to sleep) but sometimes of relief (because I am falling asleep). During the moments when I am alarmed, I purposely attempt to impel my mind back into senselessness, by recreating what thoughts had led me to it. (Recreating the exact thoughts that lead to senselessness is, I take it, not really responsible for the general success I have in falling asleep this way; rather, I’m just so tired that any concerted effort on the part of my brain matter leads it back into sleep, and therefore the senseless stage before sleep.)

Well, if any psychologists read this blog and want to analyze this sequence of brain activity, please do. If any of you have similar experiences, I would love to hear about them. That is, of course, if anyone reads this post. Anyway, it’s laundry day.

Happy Friday,


Animals All, But God is Not Dead

8 Apr

Today I was possessed by a singular thought. I woke at 6:30, refreshed and happy to have gone to bed early (I am, after all, getting mature. Thankfully, not old.). Reading the Bible and reading that sonofabitch Nietzsche, seems to have coalesced. In the early evening, my thought, my anxiety, crystallized.

“I watch an insect and it falls on its back, unable to turn itself. I flip it over. Have I performed a miracle? When it repeats the action and I do nothing, am I cruel? Christians have always known that man is an animal.”

The answer is: yes and no.