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Here lies the collected wisdom of the ages as filtered through the unsurpassed genius of two men and two women who have never been afraid to express themselves. Come, then, be ye pupil, interlocuter, or Inquisitor. Our insight, like all truths, is free of charge.
Apr. 19th, 2005 @ 01:21 pm Do the Math
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Self Portrait
thekenosis:
Current Mood: curiouscurious

Woody Allen, who - believe me - I am loath to quote, snuck a line into "Crimes and Misdemeanors" which I have remembered since the day I heard it seven years ago. It's not so much a quote as a formula, I suppose, which makes it a little more memorable. In the film, the line is read by Alan Alda - another good reason to remember it. Alda says, "comedy is just tragedy <dramatic pause> plus time" or "(C)omedy = (T)ragedy + (t)ime" for the mathematicians among us.

I've chewed on this quote a good seven years, and still it strikes an ambivalent chord inside of me. Simplified, it looks like little more than Woody Allen coopting a far older adage: "Time heals all wounds." Insofar as that's the case, I largely agree with the sentiment. It's been my experience that nothing gets me on the mend better than time. It's always a factor in my recovery no matter how intractable the wound appears. And time is available over-the-counter, too!

But I am still troubled by the formula "C = T + t," especially by its claim on mathematical certainty. I stumble over the rule when I look at its converse. Is "(T)ragedy = (C)omedy - (t)ime" equally true? Is a tragedy just a laughing matter we haven't had time to fully appreciate? That thought sure makes me nervous.

As I look at the so-called tragedies of my life, which, frankly, have been relatively minor, I still have a hard time laughing at them. Yes, I've done plenty of ridiculous things that felt like the end of the world when they happened but faded into satirical farce with age. But there's still quite a bit that defies comedy.

A far more likely explanation is that tragedy doesn't become comedy, but comedy subdues tragedy. Chris Duff, a sea kayaker and every bit as unlikely a source of wisdom as Woody Allen, writes about this phenomenon in his book, On Celtic Tides, a log of his circumnavigation of Ireland. He notes how "time has a way of erasing hardship and coloring memories with sunny days and the promise of adventure." Tragedy doesn't disappear so much as we paint over it - and with brighter colors and broader, more confident strokes. That idea I like not only because it's more true to my experience, but also because it's thoroughly Irish!

Apr. 15th, 2005 @ 11:36 am Is it in his Smile?
About this Entry
Self Portrait
thekenosis:
Current Mood: amusedamused

Rev. Bernard Lonergan, S.J. was a genius. He was Canadian, but he was still a genius. Anyone who takes the time to read his massive 875-page tome, Insight, would agree, particularly if they understood any of it. As you can imagine, 875 pages covers a lot of ground, as did the rest of Lonergan's theological musings. Some of his best work, though, came in his investigations of meaning, a concept he saw as critically important in a world sometimes adrift without it.

There are, of course, several different types of meaning Lonergan identified. Some forms of meaning were created by humans, which Lonergan thought of as a wonderful power with which to be endowed. What is it that makes the color red mean stop, for example? People just agreed that red was an excellent symbol to communicate the idea of stopping and thus octagonal red signs were born. Lonergan saw this kind of manufactured meaning all over the world and applauded it as both a natural human tendency and a great service in the quest to make the world a better place.

But not all meaning is man-made (I'll use the biased, misogynist term not as part of some patriarchal agenda, but because of its lovely alliterative quality. I hope Sr. Trainer will forgive me.). Lonergan also noted that some meaning seems to be innate, with us from birth and unchanged by our experiences. To demonstrate this concept of innate meaning, Lonergan used the pleasant if unexpected example of the human smile. He noted the wide variety of smiles humans dust off for different occasions. The smile we use when we are happy is a far cry from the smile we use when we are nervous. A mischievous smile is qualitatively different than a defiant one. In fact, humans use a whole wide range of smiles to communicate different feelings, to mean different things. And this array of smiles is not learned behavior either. Lonergan used the example of a person born blind to illustrate this. Even the blind person, who has never seen a smile on another's face, uses different smiles to communicate different emotions. And what's more, the blind person uses the same smiles to communicate the same emotions as the rest of us. The blind person's nervous smile is the same as that of the sighted person.

I have always liked Fr. Lonergan's insistence on innate meaning, and not just as a means to stick it to Post-Modernists, who probably wouldn't smile to learn of it. I have used it, mainly to stick it to my friends, especially my erstwhile roomie Charlotte, on whose face I first discovered what I call "the Truth Smile." To have been party to so many conversations with Charlotte is to have had to defend some of my more zany ideas vigorously. It is also to be content that rarely will one pry a "you're right" from her lips. But even as her voice refuses to collude with them, her lips give her away all the same with a smile that means nothing less than her full ascent to my position - a "Truth Smile." No matter how many of these I've collected - I've long since lost count - they really never get old. "Truth Smiles" radiate in my memory and make me eager to win a few more. They are a beautiful sight, enough to make even so serious a theologian as Rev. Bernard Lonergan, S.J. show a delighted grin.

With Your Smile So BrightCollapse )
Apr. 13th, 2005 @ 07:33 pm A picture is worth 1000 words...and a few giggles
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naked truth
lotta:
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One very happy New Years a year ago in our nation's capital...



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The Idaho gals in front of the Idaho tree...



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Chris gets a little Idaho love...



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Those southerners sure do like to sleep...
Apr. 12th, 2005 @ 08:59 pm All Dogs Go to Heaven
About this Entry
Self Portrait
thekenosis:
Current Mood: pious

A spate of recently deceased grandfathers amongst my circle of friends has stretched my understanding of mortality painfully thin. I have attended but two funerals in my twenty-four years and neither was for a family member. Thus I have been, to date, relatively insulated from death's sting. It usually leaves me with little to say to my friends coping with a loved one's passing.

As a Theology major, though, and a Roman Catholic, I know enough about Christian dogma to expound on the importance of the doctrine of the immortality of the human soul, which theologians have used to sell countless books since Augustine started the trend in the Fifth Century. For all the volumes written in defense of an afterlife, however, there has been comparatively little speculation on just what that afterlife entails. "What's heaven like?" is a question in the same vein as "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" Theologians field these questions at cocktail parties but never commit their answers to scholarly review (probably worried that they won't get their coveted Nihil Obstat - "nothing offends" - from the local bishop). Since I don't have a book deal and am filled with enough piss and vinegar not to care about offending, here's my theory on the nature of heaven.

Contrary to popular belief, heaven is not free from labor. In fact, when you get to heaven the real important work begins. What makes heavenly labor far superior to earthly toil, though, is the office environment. No micromanaging supervisors. No unsympathetic coworkers. No tedious number-crunching. And definitely no cubicles! The workweek in heaven is your typical Monday-through-Thursday affair where everyday is "Casual Friday." During the week, you report to work no later than 11:00 AM and the final whistle blows at 4:15 PM. Full benefits - as if you need a dental plan in heaven - are par for the course, as is one month's paid vacation. Heaven also observes religious holidays from all major faiths and sects as well as secular holidays of particular merit: Labor Day, Martin Luther King's Birthday, Administrative Professionals Day, etc.

All people in heaven are set to work on the same job: to construct a highlight reel of their life on Earth. It's a task noble enough for paradise and time-consuming enough for eternity. Souls in heaven share spacious four-person suites (all with windows) and high-powered, easy-to-use editing equipment to accomplish their task. Progress on each individual's highlight reel is slowed by the sheer volume of footage to review as well as the many editorial decisions about camera angle; instant reply or slow motion choices; commentary, sound mixing, and scoring calls; etc. Pace is also slowed by the tendency for coworkers to solicit their suitemates' opinions, host screenings of their rough-cuts, or otherwise share the highlights of their life with their neighbors. Popcorn is never in short supply.

Such is what awaits us as we ascend from Earth to heaven, from actor to director.

Apr. 12th, 2005 @ 04:24 pm (no subject)
About this Entry
naked truth
lotta:
Jeremy, you can join too if you like. ;) While not a member of the original trio, you'll make a fantastic honorary member. That is, as long as we don't make being a yankee a prerequisite to join.
Apr. 12th, 2005 @ 04:16 pm Hello Erstwhile Roomies!
About this Entry
naked truth
lotta:
Winter, you missed out on a little discussion Chris and I had, so I'll post an excerpt from his last email to me to get you up to speed:

"As for a joint lj, I dig the idea, especially if Winter's on board. I think it should be a repository of our deep philosophical insights. What better way to serve humankind? Is Winter Brown on board? Good idea, all the same."

Write soon!