stray cats and alcoholics

by Andrea Elizabeth

The other day a stray, skinny female cat showed up on our front porch. We have four cats already, so I told my daughter to just give her some dry food and water, but that we can’t do anything more for her than that. A couple of days later during the early morning, we heard lots of cat distress sounds under our window. My husband thought that the female cat will now have babies. Then the next day a big, mean-looking male cat strutted across our back porch and brazenly looked in the window.

At first I was filled with guilt for not taking Priscilla in and having her fixed when she had asked for help. I felt it was my fault that she now would have to fend not only for herself, but for her babies. I thought that Priscilla and I had lost, and that Bluto had won, and was triumphantly gloating in my face.

Then I thought of how perpetrators of crimes gloat. I guess they’re the ones that say Aha! Aha! in Psalms. But the Psalms also say don’t be upset when sinners prosper in their way. Being upset does a lot of damage to our souls. Reading Psalms is a nice way to work through it.

Monday I listened to the first half of the Diane Rehm show on new treatments for Alcoholism, and at first I was caught up in the terminology and the ways of determining the stages of admitting one has a problem. Then when Ms. Rehm cut off a guest and he protested, I started paying attention to the dynamics between the guests. I bet all of them are recovering alcoholics themselves, or were maybe children of alcoholics. I got the impression that they had worked hard to overcome dysfunction, but that underneath they were still upset. It seemed that when there was tension over the unfairness, that each also began taking on the roles that individuals in families take on to cope with dysfunction.

I think these roles are a perceived fix to being upset or panicked over not having supportive relataionships. They are quick fixes to prop themselves up when the someone is taking a wrecking ball to the family. They can’t let things just lay around broken, and they are very upset. They can’t cope with how upset they are, so they desperately try to fix it or some other exaggerated response.

So here are these adult, functional professionals who are still upset and acting according to their childhood habitual way of problem solving. They should probably admit they have a problem and read the Psalms.

Vessels of wrath (cont)

by Andrea Elizabeth

Last night we saw Prisoners in which 2 young girls are kidnapped and one father, Hugh Jackman, and the heretofore undefeated detective, Jake Gyllenhaal, go after the perpetrator. The two messages are, if you are really trying to get the bad guys you’ll become a vigilante; and losing your child will turn you into a monster.

Why does it feel good when someone will break the law to stop a slippery criminal? Neglecting to get a search warrant because you’ll otherwise miss your chance is the most common example. Search warrants are to protect the innocent, but really it just says, we trust a judge to decide these things more than the cop on the street. There’s not really a perfect law to keep bad things from happening in such cases. Maybe that’s why it feels good. We trust good people more than good laws. And someone who takes the risk of getting in bad trouble sacrifices himself for the victims.

As for the monster part, even before that point was made clear, I thought that the horrible grief sort of gave the characters an excuse to either check out with drugs and alcohol or to become uninhibitedly angry, which is pretty scary coming from Jackman, not so much from Gyllenhaal, who generates more sympathy. I don’t think the worst tragedies inevitably and deterministically turn people for the worse, but they do make the slope pretty slippery, and it’s pretty hard to navigate your way up to higher than you were before. I hope it’s possible, however.

current thoughts on providence

by Andrea Elizabeth

It is an interesting question, how do free will and God’s providence and sovereignty co-exist?

My current thoughts are that God places highest priority on our free will. There are natural laws and other rewards that contribute to positive and negative reinforcement for the types of decisions we make and act upon. God’s number one will for all of us is that we will become one with him in theosis. Most people ambivalently want and don’t want this because there are hard steps to take to get to that blissful state. I am thinking that every step towards God that we agree to leads to a softer heart and often more difficult steps. Every step away, and indecision and procrastination are most often negative votes, contributes to a harder heart and often easier steps. Going down is easier than going up. One reason I admire athletes, is that they are not afraid of difficult, painful steps.

I guess I’ve already explained how God hardens people’s hearts, making them become vessels of wrath, which I believe are used to provide difficult steps for those seeking a tougher workout in order to have their hearts softened and thus conformed to God’s.

example: glutton, with either jealous malice or ignorance, offers (hopeful) ascetic rich food, who gets stronger by either saying no thank you, or more humble by either not wanting to rub it in the offerer’s face and eating a small amount with him, or yeilding to temptation and realizing his own weakness and dependence on God’s mercy, which will hopefully make him more resolved in the future when he realizes the emptiness of the temporary satisfaction. The glutton will become angry and resentful at the temporariness of the satisfaction and will escalate his efforts to maintain it by seeking more and more thrills in quantity and quality, which will make his heart harder and harder.

observer effect

by Andrea Elizabeth

They say observation causes phenomenal changes on the thing being observed. So even flies on the wall have a butterfly effect, as it were.

In quantum physics and in Schrodinger’s box, they say things exist in multiple places or states until they are observed. While classical people say the cat is either dead or not dead even before this is known, I will submit that things need to be known and that this has an effect on the thing waiting to be observed. Yes, when we travel to a “new” moon and find a “new” hill on it, the hill will show signs of age, but since it is now a mapped hill, it will exist in a different state.

But this is all in your mind. It is an observer-oriented paradigm, and not an ontologically independent philosophy.

No, it is a relational paradigm. No man is an island. Neither does one man exist only in the mind of another man. But one man’s existence is very much dependent on being known by another. If he is not known, he will exist in limbo, an unsteady state.

Let’s say that’s true. But doesn’t being known by an unstable person also introduce instability?

Yes it does. But surely closure is possible. This is why the nuns pray for those who died alone in a field, or fell off a cliff, or were lost at sea. Somehow this brings those poor wandering souls closure.

Does the closure depend on the stability of the nun?

Somewhat, but they guard against it by saying, “and for those who have asked us to pray for them, unworthy though we be.”

Then how can they bring closure, and an unstable person can’t?

Because they are doing it in obedience, humility, and in love. The unstable person is the murderer who seeks chaos. I saw a true cold case show about a man who murdered his ex-wife in front of his identically twin brother, who did not help her, and then hid her body. I believe her soul did not find rest until the twin, moved by thinking of how she looked at him for help before she died, finally confessed what happened, bringing closure to her look. Her brother in law went from unstable non-support to stabilizing in that moment. And his act had to be demonstrated, believed and acted upon by the detective who couldn’t let the case stay cold. Then she could rest in peace.

Let them go

by Andrea Elizabeth

I just remembered what I was looking up that lead me to learn about the King of Germany being the Holy Roman Emperor till 1806 and then about Austria. It was Lutheranism. I don’t remember why I was looking that up. But the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article has this statement,

“The split between the Lutherans and the Roman Catholics was made clear and open with the 1521 Edict of Worms:[2] the edicts of the Diet condemned Luther and officially outlawed citizens of the Holy Roman Empire from defending or propagating his ideas, subjecting advocates of Lutheranism to forfeiture of all property, specifying half of any seized property forfeit to the Imperial government and the remaining half forfeit to the party who brought the accusation.”

It was the seizure of property that caught my attention. How did the state have the right to do that unless there was no division between Church and state, which of course there wasn’t so much in those days. But all this leads me to the notion of coercion. Whatever the political or financial motivations, if you believe someone is defying God or the truth, what should you do? Force them through these other means to stop? The problem to me is the indirectness of it.

Property rights should involve trade rules, not religious rules. If someone is convicted of murder, should their property be seized? They may have to make certain restitution to the family, but that should be about damages, not removal of property. It’s the indirectness that is also involved in bribery, which is what the Empire was doing to the people who brought accusations of someone being Lutheran by giving them half the spoils.

So to say I’ll be nice to you and give you favors if you worship as I do, and I’ll be mean and take something of yours unrelated if you don’t is wrong. Do I feel this way because I’m a post-enlightenment American? I just found this on the Wikipedia article on the Separation of Church and State,

“The concept of separating church and state is often credited to the writings of English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704).[8] According to his principle of the social contract, Locke argued that the government lacked authority in the realm of individual conscience, as this was something rational people could not cede to the government for it or others to control. For Locke, this created a natural right in the liberty of conscience, which he argued must therefore remain protected from any government authority. These views on religious tolerance and the importance of individual conscience, along with his social contract, became particularly influential in the American colonies and the drafting of the United States Constitution.”

We are used to being able to think, and mostly to say what we think without state consequence. It seems an act of desperation to try to force someone to think and say differently. The Church has the authority to declare what is proper to think and say, with certain ramifications, mostly closed communion for those who declare with the agreement of their conscience the truth about Christ and the Church. She lets those who don’t go. So is it bribery or coercion to send gift-bearing missionaries? I think we have to be careful and examine our conscience. Am I feeding this poor person because I want to add numbers to my Church? We may not be able to help that that may be part of it, and if it is, if we also believe it is wrong to not feed a hungry person, then we should go ahead and pray to be cleansed of our wrong motivations. It’s the difference between schmoozing and ministering.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen

by Andrea Elizabeth

I don’t remember what triggered my wikipedia searches the other day, I think maybe it was wondering about the history of the country of Germany, but I ended up finding out that the confederation of German states were the last vestige of the (western) Holy Roman Empire until Napoleon’s Wars ended it in 1806! Then I learned about the 30 years war, Prussia, and the Habsburgs, who were frequently Holy Roman Emperors as well as Kings and Queens of most of the other countries. Then that lead to finding out that Friday was the 100th anniversary of the assassination of the Habsburg’s Archduke Ferdinand that triggered World War I. And it was for the freedom of Bosnia that the Serbian guy did it.

Then I found through Facebook this interactive map comparing 1914 Europe to 2014 Europe. The first thing that struck me, was my, there were a lot fewer nations then. Then I read about the very complicated history of Austria since the Protestant Reformation where their Catholic monarchs instigated the very devastating to Germany, 30 years war with many and various aftermaths across Europe for centuries. I think that was why Germany didn’t include them in their unification of all their states after Prussia beat them. Back to the fewness, it seems to me that on the upper levels, all the related monarchs vied for land and feudal power, but on the lower levels, there remained much smaller cultural identities with very long memories. The maps don’t reflect that at all. To me to understand geography, you need to know the traditional names of the towns, so I think it is more about language and names than ruling uppities. I don’t know what an alternative to these political dynastic monarchies would be, as Democracy and Socialism obviously have their drawbacks as well. Eastern European communities just hunkered down and lived simply no matter which country claimed them until that educated Serbian, Gavrilo Princip, made a much louder, ultimately devastating statement.

Suddenly, Last Summer

by Andrea Elizabeth

is a 1956 movie I caught on one of those local lesser channels the other late afternoon. It stars Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Montgomery Clift, 3 years after the car accident and subsequent plastic surgeries and self medication. He still looked good though. I think it portrays, with beautiful, if stark, dialogue written by Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal, certain viewpoints common to the pre-civil rights, feminist modern era.

That isn’t to say that Katherine Hepburn’s character, Violet Venable,  isn’t a force to be reckoned with. Neither are Elizabeth Taylor’s (Catherine’s) powers. But both of them would concede that the dead son/cousin, Sebastian’s powers of being a poetic soul and liver of life, however dependent he was on the two women to achieve his goals of universal understanding and other men, were greater. Back then women were considered back seat drivers, indirectly and discreetly escourting men through life.

What I like about the movie is its honesty and frankness, with which only Montgomery Clift, psychiatric neurosurgeon Dr. Cukrowitz, is strong enough to handle. He gives honest, but hysterical Catherine the strength to deal with it too, while Violet is exerting her inherited power to cover it up.

What I don’t like is Catherine’s dependence on the Dr.’s romantic interest to be part of his bolstering. But it is part of her character’s love/hate relationship with her own powers of attraction.

The worst thing about the movie ***spoiler***  is the prejudice against poor and Latin young men. Their primitive tribal brutality, albeit provoked by Sebastian’s usery, uncompensated for by his throwing money at them, is the ultimate villain, not Sebastian’s flaws, of the story.

I suppose I should explore tribal brutality. I know “primitive” cultures do/did things we would consider gross and savage like eating bugs, and scalping people. I forget what the philosopher’s term “noble savage” entails. So I’ll look it up. I like what Benjamin Franklin had to say towards the middle of this Wikipedia article,

Benjamin Franklin, who had negotiated with the Indians during the French and Indian War, protested vehemently against the Paxton massacre that took place at Conestoga, in western Pennsylvania, of December 1763, in which white vigilantes massacred Indian women and children, many of whom had converted to Christianity. Franklin himself personally organized a Quaker militia to control the white population and “strengthen the government”. In his pamphlet Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America (1784), Franklin deplored the use of the term “savages” for native Americans:

Savages we call them, because their manners differ from ours, which we think the perfection of civility; they think the same of theirs.

Franklin used the massacres to illustrate his point that no race had a monopoly on virtue, likening the Paxton vigilantes to “Christian White Savages’”. Franklin cried out to a just God to punish those who carried the Bible in one hand and the hatchet in the other: ‘O ye unhappy Perpetrators of this Horrid Wickedness!’”[25] Franklin praised the Indian way of life, their customs of hospitality, their councils, which reached agreement by discussion and consensus, and noted that many white men had voluntarily given up the purported advantages of civilization to live among them, but that the opposite was rare.”


The Knight’s Code

by Andrea Elizabeth

My daughter mentioned The Knight’s Code in one of her assignments today. I hadn’t heard it put that way, so I looked it up on Wikipedia, which took me to Chivalry, which comes from the term, horsemanship. This of course lead me to think of cowboys. Compare these codes, the first from

Léon Gautier in his La Chevalerie of 1883 bemoaned the “invasion of Breton romans” which replaced the pure military ethos of the crusades with Arthurian fiction and courtly adventures. Gautier tries to give a “popular summary” of what he proposes was the “ancient code of chivalry” of the 11th and 12th centuries, viz. the military ethos of the crusades which would evolve into the late medieval notion of chivalry. Gautier’s “commandments” are:

  1. Believe the Church’s teachings and observe all the Church’s directions.
  2. Defend the Church.
  3. Respect and defend all weaknesses.
  4. Love your country.
  5. Show no mercy to the Infidel. Do not hesitate to make war with them.
  6. Perform all your feudal duties as long as they do not conflict with the laws of God.
  7. Never lie or go back on one’s word.
  8. Be generous to everyone.
  9. Always and everywhere be right and good against evil and injustice.

And the second from Gene Autrey’s cowboy code

  1. The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
  2. He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.
  3. He must always tell the truth.
  4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.
  5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
  6. He must help people in distress.
  7. He must be a good worker.
  8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.
  9. He must respect women, parents, and his nation’s laws.
  10. The Cowboy is a patriot.

The main difference is in tolerance. The knight isn’t, Gene Autrey’s cowboy is. I think that issue is very confused right now. Nowadays we shoot the shooter, or the beheader, of the infidel. Or we did till recently. Now we don’t shoot anyone, we just give guns to those who do.

Anyway, the origin of chivalry is western. In the east we had the Mongol warrior horsemen, in the mid-east, the Arab nomads, who influenced the indomitable Byzantine cataphracts. But it is a bit muddy because eastern and western Rome was united until the fall of western Rome, which was before the days of Charlemagne, where it technically began and then flourished during the Crusades. The cataphract article only relates to warfare. Combining that with a moral and ethical code seems to be a romanticizing thing to do. Before that, and in other places, who knows how horse soldiers acted?

Ironically, the latest conflicts between the remaining “gentlemen” on the Bachelorette seem to be about balancing the codes governing how to treat women, how to treat comrades, and how to treat rivals. They seem confused about it. Early on it was, this is war, but then they decided to be chums and wish each other good luck. The latest guy who got booted had been complaining bitterly about trying to act happy when other people got close to Andi. She seems to like the guy who is quiet with the others, and only prioritizes her. Still, she says she wants someone who is liked and gets along well with others. We’ll see how that goes. I think the others would have liked him better if he didn’t appear to be winning. Or maybe they would have if he seemed unaware of it. I think they’re secretly hoping that she secretly likes someone else instead.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about the Ukrainian Cossack Code:

“There was a cossack military court, which severely punished violence and stealing among compatriots, bringing women to the Sich [council], consumption of alcohol in periods of conflict, etc. There were also churches and schools, providing religious services and basic education. Principally, the Eastern Orthodox Church was preferred and was a part of the national identity.

In times of peace, Cossacks were engaged in their occupations, living with their families, studying strategy, languages and educating recruits. As opposed to other armies, Cossacks were free to choose their preferred weapon. Wealthy Cossacks preferred to wear heavy armour, while infantrymen preferred to wear simple clothes, although they also occasionally wore mail.”

So women were left out of this code. Interesting. I think there probably is more segregation in the east. Until the Soviets? I think I’ve written before about the Soviets advancing women’s rights, education, and birth control.

Also interesting: “The Cossacks’ strong historic allegiance to the Eastern Orthodox Church put them at odds with the Catholic-dominated Commonwealth. Tensions increased when Commonwealth policies turned from relative tolerance to suppression of the Orthodox church, making the Cossacks strongly anti-Catholic, which at the time was synonymous with anti-Polish.” So that’s the animosity with the Polish.

not everything about it

by Andrea Elizabeth

Actually Buck Brennaman is pretty critical of some parts of western horse culture, as he is of some parts of English. And it’s not like he doesn’t have a stick to go with his carrot; it just has a flag on the end and he doesn’t touch the horses with it. It takes grace and inspiriation to really know how to deal with each situation, so I can’t really prescribe any approach. I love living out here among the cowboys, but we kind of leave each other alone.

Oh beautiful for spacious skies

by Andrea Elizabeth

I know Brother Sun, Sister Moon was filmed in Italy, but the actors and singer were American. While watching this video of one of the songs where St. Francis finds the Church ruin,

after thinking about how it probably was supposed to represent the Catholic Church’s corruption at the time, I thought how the Orthodox take a more personal view, that I am in such a state and in need of repair by grace in the Church. Then I thought while watching this similarly toned John Michael Talbot video,

that perhaps American Christianity has a naturalistic quality that springs from the reports from the early European explorers that its pristine nature was indeed heaven on earth, Eden, the promised land; as well as from the Protestant Reformation that took the institutional Church out of the picture, so that one was left with beautiful landscapes from which to draw inspiration and see the glory of God.

I think Cowboy Churches may be the closest to maintaining this idea about America.


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