Limericks

While visiting relatives in Florida the other night, I made up a bunch of limericks to “entertain” my family.  Here are a few of the results:

There once was a boy from Kentucky
Who was feeling brash, and plucky.
He bought a ring with a pearl
And proposed to a girl,
But it turned out he wasn’t so lucky.

There once was a young man from France
Who never wore shoes, nor pants.
He visited the cafe,
Said, “Dinner, s’il vous plait,”
But the waiter said only, “Fat chance.”

There once was a man from Catan,
Had too many sheep on his lawn.
So he traded the meat,
For lumber and wheat,
And now his sheep are all gone.

There once was a wife from St. Clair
Who had golden, wavy hair.
She spent more than a few
Hours on her doo,
But her husband didn’t seem to care.

There once was a man from New Delhi
Who thought his veggies were smelly.
So eat ate only cake,
And occasionally steak,
And now he has quite a big belly.

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Dehumanization

The danger of devaluing human persons has oft been noted in books and around the internet. The danger is insidious. I have a few recent stories that have caused me to think about this.

1) My wife and I went to see District 9 a few weeks ago. It’s a very well-done film, with some very interesting allegory in the first half hour or so, but you should be prepared for the non-stop onslaught of action and adrenaline that makes up the rest of the film.  (Also, it would seem that people in South Africa know only one curse word.)  Anyways, without giving too much away, one of the characters in the movie starts losing his humanity, both physically as his biology changes, and socially as the pressures of an evil megacorporation leave him few options for survival.  The definition of humanity becomes blurred.  Then the lightning gun comes out.  By the time it was all over, we were left in a state of shock.  Driving home, the people around us did not seem like people at all.  They were nothing at best, threats at worst.  I didn’t quite feel like a person myself, and the trip home was more like floating than driving.  We sat up and talked for a few hours over tea to get “back to normal” so we could go to bed.

2) I’ve had similar feelings, though never quite as acutely, after playing first-person shooter video games like Unreal Tournament.  When you spend a few hours running around blowing computer people away with a rocket launcher, something in you about the nature of human persons disconnects.  However, the regular little spurts of adrenaline can make such games quite addictive.  I see the same thing in some of my younger relatives, who frequently play historical first-person shooters, like Call of Duty.  The graphics and the gameplay are indeed impressive, and it was clear that the designers of the game had done their historical homework, but I ended up a bit disgusted at the same time that I was amused.  Different people had different reasons for fighting in WWII, and while my own understanding of Jesus’ teachings would make it very difficult for me to fight in a war, I’ll not fault the men and women who went to war in the 1940’s for being willing to sacrifice themselves to protect what they loved.  I’m pretty sure their decision to make a sacrifice was not so that bored teenagers (and increasingly, “adult” men) could get a few kicks in a battle simulator, where the bombs sound real but don’t shake your house, where the blood and smoke smell like Febreeze, and when you die you immediately come back to life with a shiny new gun.

Those are just two recent and relatively minor examples of the larger war on the human person.  Of course, the actual wars of the 20th century were some of the biggest volleys, and we continue to see their aftershocks in (for instance) the ongoing killing of unborn children.  All of this has been well-noted elsewhere.

How can we “fight back” and affirm the integrity of the human person?  I’ll list a few ways that occur to me, but perhaps some wise reader will have better answers.

  • Pray and commune with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • Pray and commune with other humans.
  • Refuse to idolize the violence culture.
  • Try, as far as possible, to avoid the “benefits” of the dehumanization of others.
  • Make things from scratch, and enjoy them with others.
  • Unplug yourself as far as possible from anything powered by flowing electrons.
  • Talk to, listen to, and love your family.

Infantilization

These are largely anecdotal, but I can’t help but feel that American adults are becoming more and more childish as the decades go by.

  • The first inkling I can remember is when I was in junior high school, where there were pictures up in the cafeteria of students who had won sports competitions and so on.  I think the pictures were mostly from the 70’s.  The students were all the same age as the ones around me, but compared to my peers, these looked like they were in high school.
  • Flipping through my mother-in-law’s old yearbooks from when she was in college, I couldn’t get over how adult all of the students looked, not just in their portraits, but in the every-day shots around the campus.  Again, my peers when I was in college looked liked children by comparison.
  • Go back further if you want, and look at a high school or college yearbook from the 40’s or 50’s.  Crazy.
  • Grown men are perfectly comfortable today wearing shorts in public.
  • Grown men also seem to have no problem spending huge amounts of time and money playing video games.  They continue to buy the latest game systems, not for their children, but for themselves.
  • There is a recent rash of movies based on children’s books.  (Alice in Wonderland, Where the Wild Things Are, Fantastic Mr. Fox, etc.)  Most of these barely pretend to actually be made for children.
  • On a recent visit to a nursing home, I observed elderly men and women with their mental faculties fully intact being treated like children, with little stars put up on bulletin boards to mark their attendance at asinine social gatherings.  These are men and women who have earned degrees, raised families, started successful businesses, and fought in wars, reduced to wearing stupid hats and condescended to by teenagers.
  • We are obsessed with looking young, and perceive getting old as a death sentence.  We assign value to human life based on age.
  • If we have made a stupid mistake by not controlling our bodily urges, we choose not to value human life at all.
  • Young people are waiting longer and longer to get married and then start families.  I can understand this to a small degree, as there are ever more “school” hoops that they have to jump through in order to be considered capable of doing real work.  This, of course, is a lie.
  • Rather than deal with marital problems when they arise, we decide not to be friends any more.
  • I think many Americans don’t have a clue where food comes from, and would be in a real bind if they actually had to find a way of directly providing it for themselves.
  • There are men, women, and children dying around the world, both Americans and non-Americans, and we bury our heads in the sand by watching the Jay Leno and the Biggest Loser circus and tell ourselves that all that stuff going on out there somehow protects our freedom, by which we mean less and less actual freedom and more and more the ability to distract ourselves with gadgets and meaningless amusements.
  • Rather than acting like responsible adults and dealing with the problems we face, we beg political heroes (of whatever party) to come to the rescue and solve all of our problems for us.  They can’t really do much, of course, without major sacrifices on the part of their electorate, so they spend our grand-children’s money to defer (but also enlarge) the problems and line their own pockets while they’re at it.  The guilt for this belongs to us.
  • We feel unable to worship God unless the tempo is upbeat, the music is rockin’, and the message is uplifting.  We have to be properly distracted before we can “get in the spirit”.
  • We trash our planet, our bodies, our culture, and our cities for our own convenience, amusement, and fashion, and think very little of the repercussions over the coming decades.  This is another way of saying that we do not love our children.
  • We believe that everyone and everything that came before us is somehow inferior to us.  This is another way of saying that we do not love our parents.

There are probably more I can’t think of right now.  Some of these are very serious, others are merely symptoms of the deeper problem.  I am by no means immune, and I struggle in many of the areas listed above to behave like an adult.  Now, someone may mention Matthew 18:4 at this point:

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

This is true, but right after that he says:

“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I suspect that the childishness I have criticized above stems not from humility, but from arrogance, selfishness, and pride, and these have no place in the kingdom of heaven.

Quote from FPR

“Tax cuts without spending cuts are not really tax cuts at all; they are tax shifting, mainly from the current to the future generation. Spending our children’s money is both economically unsound and morally reprehensible.” — John Medaille

That, plus much more good stuff, here: Building the Ownership Society