An old bit of poetry written ten years ago or so, shared on this Thursday evening. The girl is real. She died in a car accident before her eighteenth birthday fifty years ago, and I had not seen her for two years before that awful day. Yet her eyes have lived with me all these many years. I have seen only one other young woman with such eyes--a Baltimore girl of Irish descent with dark hair and pale flesh. Both possessed a gaze of dewy innocence, a prelapsarian tenderness and sense of wonder.
High school students face enormous stress and pressure to appear at their best when applying to different colleges and universities. They must develop portfolios showing that, in addition to good grades and the essays written for admission, they have participated in extracurricular activities, given time to various charities and causes, and developed talents outside of their academic studies.
Many colleges also want students to have taken Advanced Placement examinations.
“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” Rocky Balboa
Most of us are familiar with the term “helicopter parents”, those mothers or fathers who hover over their children, obsessing about their welfare, taking an immoderate interest in their decisions, and fretting over even minor tribulations.
Enter now the “lawnmower parent.”
One of the delights of reading the Durants’ The Story of Civilization is the wit, some of it unintentional because of the passage of time, some of it as on target as the jabs of a sophisticated comedian.
Here are some samples from The Age of Voltaire.
Durant writes of Voltaire that “All the world knows how the excitable youth fell in love with Olympe Dunoyer.” (Alas, Will, we know no such thing. I’m not even sure how many people nowadays would recognize the name of Voltaire.)
When I taught homeschool seminars in Latin, history, and literature in Asheville, North Carolina, I would wait for a cold spell in February and then email my students to come to class dressed for the weather. On their arrival I would lead them outside and hold class for half an hour beneath gray skies and temperatures well below freezing. With any luck we might even find some bits of falling snow. The students would stand shivering in the cold—some of the boys apparently considered t-shirts and shorts appropriate winter clothing—and then we’d tromp back into the classroom.
“Now,” I’d tell them when they had settled at their desks, “I have just given you a wonderful gift: lifetime bragging rights. Someday when your own children whine that they can’t do their schoolwork because the house is a little chilly, you can say, ‘Are you kidding me? Why, when I was your age, I was outside in the snow chanting Latin declensions and reciting Shakespeare.’”
Time for some time traveling.
Let’s visit the years1956 to 1968.
Let’s take a ride when cars had no seat belts, when my siblings and I were crawling all over the station wagon while Dad drove us to Pennsylvania and Mom deposited dirty diapers into a covered pail.
Let’s go to a time when the meanest playground in the world offered thrills and danger: a high slide, roundabouts, self-propelled merry-go-rounds, and seesaws.
Maybe it’s the weather.
Maybe Venusians have put pills in our water supply.
Maybe the wind is carrying some airborne disease we have yet to detect.
Whatever the cause, when I go online and observe the antics of some of my fellow citizens, I can only conclude that a sizable number of them have gone bughouse nuts.
Last week’s hearings for Mr. Brett Kavanaugh, nominated by President Trump for the Supreme Court, confirmed me in that conclusion.
Well, this morning I finished Volume VIII of The Story of Civilization: The Age of Louis XIV. Whooo-hooo!
Many thoughts on this volume, but I’ll just look at a few here
Long ago, in a book whose title I have forgotten—was it M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled? --the author recounted the story of an English girl and her mother who, having set out on a trip, missed one of their connections in the railway station. As they sat on one of the benches near the tracks, their bags at their feet, the little girl turned to her mother and with tears in her eyes said, “Mummy, are we in trouble? Is our holiday spoiled?”
“No, my dear,” her mother replied. “We have just embarked on an adventure.”
Adventure. It’s a point of view, a state of mind, even of the soul. Say the word aloud, and you can taste the excitement in those three syllables.
The floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.
As usual, God seems to have a sense of irony.
On October 14, 2018, the Catholic Church will declare Pope Paul VI a saint.
Liberals in the Church rejoiced when they heard this news. After all, Paul VI had seen Vatican II through to the end, going along with liturgical reforms, the open windows policy, and the new stress on secular issues. In 1965 he also launched the Synod of Bishops to broaden the involvement of bishops in the universal Church, thereby reducing the power of the papacy.