A Worthy Life

Deep down everyone wants to live a worthy life, one with meaning and purpose. I am enjoying Leon R. Kass’ book titled, Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times.

People, especially the young, are confused about what this kind of life would look like. We need encouragement in order to liberate ourselves from the prevailing cultural cynicism and strive after “worthy” lives. This book discusses crucial aspects of this type of life including chapters on love, family and friendship; human excellence and dignity; teaching, learning and truth; and the great human aspirations of Western civilization.

Here are some representative quotes from the first four chapters:

  • “Young people are now at sea – regarding work, family, and civic identity. Authority is out to lunch. Courtship has disappeared. No one talks about work as vocation. The true, the good, and the beautiful have few defenders. Irony is in the saddle, and the higher cynicism mocks any innocent love of wisdom or love of country. The things we used to take for granted have become, at best, open questions. The persons and institutions to which we once looked for guidance have ceased to offer it successfully. Today, we are supercompetent when it comes to efficiency, utility, speed, convenience, and getting ahead in the world; but we are at a loss concerning what it’s all for. This lack of cultural and moral confidence about what makes a life worth living is perhaps the deepest curse of living in our interesting time.” (p.10)
  • “We can begin by rejecting the despair and cynicism that often surround us and cloud our vision.” (p.11)
  • “It takes only one or two really good teachers to open a mind and turn around a soul. And for students of whatever age, it takes only an openness to learning and a desire not to be self-deceived to make for ourselves a life of thoughtfulness, and to become people who will not sleepwalk through life but will delight in learning whatever we can about the world’s mysteries, beauties, and truths.” (p.18)
  • “Above and beyond the benefits of remuneration, there is dignity in earning a livelihood, in providing not only for oneself but also and especially for one’s family. Among the rising generations, gainful employment is an early sign of maturity and the first step toward self-reliance. Holding down a job requires not only know-how and competence, but also the virtues of diligence, dependability, and the exercise of personal responsibility.” (p.26) “Finding meaning in work generally depends less on the external task than on the attitude and manner in which the work is done.” (p.27)
  • “…many of us regard our families as the heart of what makes life worthwhile. We do so, in many cases, with greater difficulty and less cultural support than did our grandparents.” (p.28)
  • “But many humanists and social scientists, who should be showing us what things mean, have largely abandoned the standard of truth.” (p.33)
  • “This brings me to what is probably the deepest and most intractable obstacle to courtship and marriage: a set of cultural attitudes and sensibilities that obscure and even deny the fundamental difference between youth and adulthood. Marriage, especially when seen as the institution designed to provide for the next generation, is most definitely the business of adults, by which I mean people who are serious about life, people who aspire to go outward and forward to embrace and assume responsibility for the future.” (p.51)
  • “The progress of science and technology, especially since World War II, has played a major role in creating an enfeebling culture of luxury. But scientific advances have more directly helped to undermine the customs of courtship. Technological advances in food production and distribution and a plethora of appliances – refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, dryers, etc. – largely eliminate the burdens of housekeeping.” (p.53)
  • “How shallow an understanding of sexuality is embodied in our current clamoring for “safe sex.” Sex is by its nature unsafe. All interpersonal relations are necessarily risky and serious ones especially so. To give one-self to another, body and soul, is hardly playing it safe. Sexuality is at its core profoundly “unsafe”, and it is only thanks to contraception that we are encouraged to forget its inherent “dangers.” “Safe sex” is the self-delusion of shallow souls.” (p.57)
  • “Real reform in the direction of sanity would require a restoration of cultural gravity about sex, marriage, and the life cycle. The restigmatization of illegitimacy and promiscuity would help.” (p.60)
  • “But sexual modesty and chastity awaiting marriage are not just strategically sound and psychologically important. They are also an emblem of the unique friendship that is the union of husband and wife, in which the giving of the heart is enacted in the giving of the body, and in which the procreative fruit of their one-flesh bodily union celebrates their loving embrace not only of one another but also of their mortal condition and their capacity self-consciously to transcend it.” (p.84)
  • “True intimacy requires embodied and exposed human beings, who are grounded and synchronously together in real space and lived time, and who use tacit and tactful rather than explicit and unvarnished modes of communication, including modes of expression that are deeper than speech itself. True intimacies are translucent rather than transparent to one another; self-surrendering rather than controlling; embedded in networks of ties and obligations to families and communities, rather than isolated atoms utterly free to create themselves ex nihilo; adventurous rather than playing-it-safe; guided by hope and trust rather than by calculation and information; face to face or side by side, hand in hand or arm in arm, as much as mind to mind; and driven less by the self-centered desire to find what you were missing than by an eagerness to become all you might become by being fully present to, and concerned for, the well-being of the other, who will also be fully present, and concerned for, you and your well-being.” (p.99)

Overparenting

I am about half way through reading How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims.  The author was Dean of Freshman and Undergraduate Advising at Stanford University.  She thinks that the well-meaning parents who over-parent their children are really setting them up for failure and anxiety instead of success.

Some of the reasons that she thinks that parenting changed in the mid 1980’s are:

  1.  Increased awareness of child abductions.
  2. The idea that our children are not doing enough schoolwork (big factor was the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1983).
  3. The onset of the self-esteem movement.
  4. The creation of the play-date (practical scheduling tool when more mothers were entering the workforce) as parents began more closely observing and monitoring children at play.

Good summary quote from p.14, “Parental vigilance and technology buffer the world for our children, but we won’t always be there to be on the lookout for them.  Raising a kid to independent adulthood is our biological imperative and an awareness of the self in one’s surroundings is an important life skill for a kid to develop.  When we’re tempted to let our presence be what protects them, we need to ask, To what end?  How do we prevent and protect while teaching kids the skills they need?  How do we teach them to do it on their own?”

My youngest son is already 15 so some of the insights and recommendations about avoiding over-parenting are interesting but not as practical for me.  However, we desire to “launch” our boys well into adulthood and the ideas from this book are helping me to be more thoughtful about how we can help them become more independent as they leave the “roost” (#2 son is set to move to college in 2 weeks).  I do think we have done a good job with this (but can certainly improve).  All three of our sons are doing well and we continue to be impressed with their choices and their ability to make good decisions and figure things out as they go.  Our oldest son is in his 3rd year of college and living with a group of friends down in San Diego.  I’m so proud of him, and he is doing a great job in the transition to adulthood.

How to Raise an Adult book

“But in reality often we create parameters, conditions, and limits within which our kids are permitted to dream – with a check-listed childhood as the paths to achievement.” (p.41)

On page 81-83, the author lists the things that our 18 year olds need to be able to do (and then addresses why and how we are failing to equip them properly to do these things):

  • Able to talk to strangers – bank clerks, faculty, mechanics, health care providers, etc.
  • Able to find his/her way around a campus or town
  • Able to manager his/her assignments, workload and deadlines
  • Able to handle interpersonal problems
  • Able to contribute to the running of a household
  • Able to cope with the ups and downs of courses and workloads, college-level work, tough teachers, competitive situations, bosses and others
  • Able to earn and manage money
  • Able to take risks

In 2013 the American College Health Association surveyed almost 100,000 college students from 153 different campuses about their health and here is what they found:

  • 84 percent felt overwhelmed by all they had to do
  • 79 percent felt exhausted (not from physical activity)
  • 61 percent felt very sad
  • 57 percent felt lonely
  • 51 percent felt overwhelming anxiety
  • 47 percent felt things were hopeless
  • 38 percent felt overwhelming anger
  • 32 percent felt so depressed that it was difficult to function
  • 8 percent seriously considered suicide
  • 6.5 percent intentionally cut or otherwise injured themselves

These statistics paint a very grave picture of the condition of our young adults.  Somehow, we must be able to help them and better prepare them to deal with the challenges of life.

Psychologist and author Dr. Madeline Levine shares her research on the three ways we might be over-parenting and unintentionally causing our children psychological harm:

  1. When we do for our kids what they can already do for themselves.
  2. When we do for our kids what they can almost do for themselves.
  3. When our parenting behavior is motivated by our own ego.

The author also tells some hard to believe real life stories of parents with good intentions getting over-involved with their kids’ college classes and professors as well as their employers after college, including trying to negotiate the salaries for their kids or trying to attend their job interviews or directly contacting their bosses to discuss issues at work.

Not only does over-parenting cause harm and fail to equip our kids for adulthood, it also hurts the parents by causing anxiety and stress in their lives.

Between my wife and me I am the one who has more of a tendency to over-parenting.  I’m so glad that my wife helps to keep me in check.  I am sorry to my boys for the times when I have over-parented, and I resolve to do a better job of helping them be more independent.  I have seen how this also makes space for healthier relationships with our kids as they transition to adulthood.

adult-son-talking-to-father-e1452543383376

The Aims of Education

Yesterday I finished the chapter titled, “The Aims for Education” in The Conservative Sensibility by George Will.  I believe he has some good insights.  I spend time thinking about education often in relation to our three boys.

Here are some highlights from Will’s chapter on education:

  • “The American regime is founded on the principle that human beings are rights-bearing creatures.  But if that is all they are, we had better batten down the hatches.  Individuals bristling with rights, but with a weak understanding of the manners and morals of community are going to produce an irritable and unneighborly community.” (p.361)
  • “A rights-centered society, must, however, take seriously the fact that duties are not natural.  They must be taught.  Self-interest is common and steady; virtue is rare and unpredictable.  A society devoted to guaranteeing a broad scope for self-interested behavior must be leavened by virtue.  So measures must be taken to make virtue less rare and more predictable.  Among those measures, Americans have always considered education crucial.” (p.362)
  • “Today there is a potentially fatal idea in circulation.  It is the idea that this pluralistic society should not want to have, should not be allowed to have, any core culture passed on from generation to generation.” (p.370)
  • “It is condescending and deeply anti-democratic when intellectuals consign blacks, or women, or ethnics, or the working class, or whomever to confining categories, asserting that they can be fully understood as mere “reflections” of their race, gender, or class, and that members of those groups should be presumed to have the “consciousness” supposedly characteristic of those groups.  The root of such mischief is the assertion that everything is “political”. (p.371)
  • “Education is an apprenticeship in those civilized – and civilizing – things, and not all texts are equal as teachers.” (p.372)
  • “But multiculturalism as a policy is not primarily a response to this fact.  Rather, it is an ideology, the core tenet of which is this: Because all standards for judging cultures are themselves culture-bound, it is wrong to “privilege” Western culture and right to tailor university curricula to rectify the failure to extend proper “recognition” and “validation” to other cultures.  Multiculturalism attacks individualism by defining people as mere manifestations of groups (racial, ethnic, sexual) rather than as self-defining participants in a free society. (p.372)
  • “The proper legacy of Western thought is a mind capable of comprehending and valuing other cultures while avoiding the nihilism that says all cultures are in commensurable and hence of equal merit.” (p.373)

The Thinker Rodin

  • “We are witnessing, on campuses and throughout society, the displacement of learning – a culture of reason and persuasion – by a politics of a peculiar and unwholesome kind, “identity politics.”  Its premise is that the individual is decisively shaped, and irrevocably defined, not by conscious choices but by accidents; that people are defined not by convictions arrived at by reasoning and persuasion, but by accidents of birth and socialization.” (p. 378)
  • “If the premise of identity politics is true, then there is no meaningful sense a universal human nature, and there are no general standards of intellectual discourse, and no ethic of ennobling disputation, no process of civil persuasion toward friendly consent, no source of legitimacy other than power, and we all live immersed in our tribes, warily watching other tribes across the chasms of our “differences.” (p. 379)
  • “The proper purpose of education in American democracy is not to serve as a values cafeteria, where young people are invited, and therefore encouraged, to pick whatever strikes their fancies.  Rather, the purpose of education, and especially higher education, for young citizens of a democracy is to help them identify a rarity excellence – in various realms, and to study what virtues bring it about and make it excellent.” (p.381)
  • “Ours is an age in which children are taught not to discover the good but to manufacture “values”, not so they can lead noble lives but so they can devise pleasant “lifestyles.”  It is an age in which the aim of life is not autonomy in the sense of a life regulated by exacting standards but rather “authenticity” in following strong feelings.” (p. 382)
  • “In today’s therapeutic culture, which seems designed to validate every opinion and feeling, there will rarely be disagreement without anger between thin-skinned people who cannot distinguish the phrase “you’re wrong” from
    “you’re stupid.”” (p. 387)Cambridge University
  • “Everyone with a smartphone has in his or her pocket, Nichols says, more information “than ever existed in the entire Library of Alexandria.”  This can, however, produce a deluding veneer of erudition and a sense of cheap success.  It would help if people would put their electronic devices away from the center of their existences and pick up a book.” (p.388)

book image

  • “Two converging and reinforcing intellectual tendencies have had demoralizing and de-moralizing effects on the way we understand history.  The first tendency has blurred the picture of human beings as responsible, consequential actors in history.  The second tendency involves painting mankind’s story without the bright primary colors of personal greatness.” (p.396)
  • “And there is something awfully small about someone who cannot admit that anyone else was exceptionally large.” (p. 397)

Churchill

  • “Nothing is inevitable but change, and the permutations of possible disagreeable outcomes are infinite.  So, prudence calls for auxiliary precautions, the beginning of which should be the restoration of education as a process of learning to praise, and to excavate from history knowledge of the praiseworthy, and of the cautionary, in the human story.” (p.403)

Long Days and Good Reading

During this Pandemic the days of the weekend can sure seem long.  I always wake up early and have a number of hours until the rest of my family wakes up.  We have so much less planned than we used to so it is also easier to make more time to read.  I’ve been up for about two and half hours and here’s how I have passed my time so far:

I read a chapter for the New Testament book of the Bible, Colossians along with a chapter in a book I am reading called Colossians Remixed.  Then I read The Economist magazine to get updated on news – I’ve found this weekly magazine to be the best source of global news.  I read a chapter in The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church’s Complicity in Racism since our book group from church is meeting again this week to discuss the book.  I read some of The Conservative Sensibility by George Will.  Lastly, I played a little of my vocabulary building app that I now love: Vocab.com.

A little sampling from each of these:

Colossians

Colossians The Bible Project

I’ve been re-reading the book of Colossians from the Bible each day lately (it is has four chapters).  Today, I read chapter 3 and here are some of the verses I enjoyed:

  • 3:9-11 – “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.  Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free: but Christ is all, and in all.”
  • 3:14-15 – “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.”
  • 3:23-24 – “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.  You are serving the Lord Christ.”

You can get a cool overview of the book of Colossians by watching this link from the Bible Project:  Colossians: The Bible Project

Colossians Remixed

Colossians Remixed

When I read different books of the Bible, I find it helpful and enjoyable to also read a commentary or a book about that book of the Bible.  This particular book attempts to help the modern day reader of Colossians understand the cultural and social context of the original biblical letter from the apostle Paul to the Colossians.  It also looks carefully at some interesting parallels in our modern world with the ubiquity of empire and globalization.  Today, I read chapter 3, “Placing Colossians: Discerning Empire.”  Some excerpts:

  • “Such myths, of course, drive contemporary globalization as well.  Most powerful is the progress myth, which has been the driving force behind Western capitalism since the Enlightenment.  The myth that we are moving as a culture toward increasing wealth and technological control, and that this is invariably good, provides the justification for all the economic and military policies of the North.” (p. 62)
  • “If the Pax Romana summarized the Roman imperial mythology, then the Pax Americana, with its clear distinction between good and evil and its self-righteous and aggressive foreign policy, encapsulates the dominant mythology of our day.” (p.62)
  • “Just as in the ancient world the images of peace and prosperity masked the reality of inequality and violence, so the contemporary images projected by advertising mask the reality of sweatshops, inequality, and domestic and international violence created by our lifestyles.” (p.63)

The Color of Compromise

Tisby The Color of Compromise

We have a number of small groups in our church reading this book together.  It’s been an educational book for me, but also disturbing.  I was particularly disgusted this morning as I read chapter 4, “Institutionalizing Race in the Antebellum Era”.  I am disheartened that Christians in previous generations not only failed to stand up to slavery and the dehumanization of blacks, but also were active in perpetuation of slavery and discrimination.  Here are a few excerpts:

  • “Despite the racism black Christians experienced, they did not abandon the faith.  In fact, the decades before the Civil War served as an incubator for newborn black American Christianity.  Black Christians began developing distinctive practices that would come to characterize the historic black church tradition.  Black Christianity in the United States grew alongside the explosive expansion of slavery and hardening of racial boundaries.  The faith of black Christians helped them endure and even inspired some believers to resist oppression.” (p.57)
  • “…of the more than 600,000 interstate sales that occurred in the decades prior to the Civil War, 25 percent destroyed a first marriage, and 50 percent broke up a nuclear family.” (p.60)
  • “If there is one concept that helps unlock the twisted logic of American slavery better than almost any other, it is the chattel principle.  The chattel principle is the social alchemy that transformed a human being made in the image of God into a piece of property.” (p.60)
  • “Indeed paternalistic attitudes toward black people defined much of American Christianity.  White evangelists compromised the Bible’s message of liberation to make Christianity compatible with slavery.” (p.66)
  • “A majority of white Christians refused to take a definitive stance against race-based chattel slavery, and this complicity plagued the church and created stark contradictions.” (p.68)

The Economist – Separate, Downtrodden: Race in the City

This last week’s The Economist had a special section on the Midwest.  One of the articles was about the particular problems in the Midwest with segregation and policing.  One quote from the article:

  • “The biggest concerns are inequality and segregation.  Carmelo Barbaro, at the University of Chicago, says too many people are born in neighborhoods that limit their prospects.  Historical problems are known: black students kept out of white schools; black people denied mortgages; violent attacks by white residents who corralled African-Americans into a few areas of cities.  Formally such restrictions no longer exist.  De facto many do.” (p.7 of Special Report in the magazine)

The Conservative Sensibility

George Will

I do not know why I like to pick such long books to read, but I am more than halfway through George Will’s 500+ page tome.  Mr. Will is not a Trump supporter and is not necessarily directly advocating for the current day Republican Party.  Instead, he focuses on the historical and philosophical roots and consequences of conservatism and progressivism.  I do not always agree with him, but it has been a good and thought provoking book.  Here is a sampling of what I read this morning:

  • “Paul Barton of the Educational Testing Service estimated that about 90 percent of the difference among schools in average proficiency can by explained by five factors: number of days absent from school, number of hours spent watching television, number of pages read for homework, quantity and quality of reading material in the home, and the presence of two parents in the home.  The fifth factor is supremely important, not least because it is apt decisively to influence the other four.” (p.316)
  • “By age three, children from poor homes have heard, on average, 30 million fewer words spoken at home than children in professional-class homes.  It is not altogether clear why more affluent and educated parents talk to their children more, although fatigue might be a factor in the relative silence of poor homes.” (p.317)
  • “Hence the vast-and increasingly misplaced-faith in schools as the great equalizers of opportunity for upward mobility in a meritocratic society.  Studies of early childhood development indicate that school comes too late for many children.  Before they cross their first schoolyard, severe damage has been done to their life chances.  Even superb schools often cannot correct the consequences of early deprivation, and superb schools are not frequently found in the neighborhoods where children who are damaged by their social environment receive those damages.” (p.321)
  • “Without the nurturing and disciplining done in intact families, individuals are apt to be ill-equipped to exercise the freedom to become unequal, and therefore are handicapped in the pursuit of justice for themselves and others.” (p.322)

Vocab.com app

I only played for a little while on my vocabulary app today.  A few Saturdays ago, I went a bit crazy and achieved 5th place in the world for my score (I probably played for about 3 1/2 hours that morning).  I don’t mind if you call me a nerd.  Here’s the screenshot:

Vocab.com #5

Here are a few sample words from today:

  • Overwrought: deeply agitated, especially from emotion
  • Malignance: the quality of being disposed to evil
  • Badger: annoy persistently
  • Lustrous: reflecting

 

 

 

“Radical” Hospitality

I just finished Rosaria Butterfield’s book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in our Post-Christian World.  I found the book to be extremely challenging in terms of a call to living an open and hospitable life.  Her stories of hospitality with her neighbors and unlikely friends moved me to want to be more like her.  I’m going to ask my wife to read the book to see how we can grow in this together as we lead our family.  She focused a lot of her stories of hospitality in their family’s home, which was great.  However, I think that we can also be hospitable to people wherever we encounter them as we open our lives to others everywhere.

hospitality

Here’s a few quotes from the book (but the stories are really the best):

  • “We must work hard to know who our neighbors are and how they struggle.  We want to show respect and a helping hand.” (p.32)
  • “Practicing hospitality in our post-Christian world means that you develop thick skin.” (p.62)
  • “Practicing daily, ordinary, Christian hospitality doubles our grocery budget – and sometimes triples it.  There are vacations we do not take, house projects that never get started, entertainment habits that never get an open door, new cars and gadgets that we don’t even bother coveting.” (p. 63)
  • “Jesus dines with sinners so that he can get close enough to touch us, so that he can participate in the intimacy of table fellowship as a healer and a helper.  Jesus comes to change us, to transform us, so that after we have dined with Jesus, we want Jesus more than the sin that beckons our fidelity.” (p.85)
  • “Christian hospitality is not for sale.  It cannot be made into a commodity.  The gospel is free.” (p. 86)
  • “But the question is: Do Christian people practice Christian hospitality in regular, ordinary, consistent ways?  Or do we think our homes too precious for criminals and outcasts?  Our homes are not our castles.  Indeed, they are not even ours.  So where can you start?  Start where you are.” (p. 100)
  • “We live in a world that highly values functionality.  But there is such a thing as being too functional.  When we are too functional, we forget that the Christian life is a calling, not a performance.” (p.111)
  • “The Christian life isn’t a math test.  A whole lot more than the answer matters a whole lot more.  So he accompanies them in their suffering.  And we need to do the same.  When people are willing to stop and tell us where they hurt, we need to praise God for it, and we need to stop what we are doing, shut our mouths, and listen with care.” (p. 200)
  • “Imagine a world where neighbors said that Christians throw the best parties in town and are the go-to people for big problems and issues, without being invited.  Imagine if the children in the neighborhood knew that the Christians were safe people to ask for help when unthinkable agony canvassed their private or family lives.  Imagine a world where every Christian knew by name people sufficiently to be of earthly and spiritual good.  Imagine a world where every Christian knew by name people who lived in poverty or prison, felt tied to them and to their futures, and lived differently because of it.  This is the world that the Bible imagines for us.  That is the world that Jesus prays for us to create in his name.”

 

P.S. Vocab word of the day is: elide – omit or strike out.

Job and demotic

Word of the day from the vocabulary app I have been enjoying is demotic: of or for the common people.  A demotic saying or expression is casual, colloquial, and used by the masses.  It comes from the Greek word demotikos.

I’ve always enjoyed reading the story of Job from the Bible.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I started reading Wandering in the Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering by Eleonore Stump.  It is a deeply profound book, but also quite long (about 500 pages).  Her chapter on the biblical character of Job is brilliant.

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For the purposes of this post, I will assume you have some basic knowledge about the story of Job.  A common reading of the book of Job supposes that the book will give us help with the problem of suffering.  Part of this common reading is to understand that God allows an innocent person to suffer terribly.  In the midst of that suffering, Job acknowledges God’s power but complains about God’s apparent lack of goodness.  When God shows up, he only talks about his power and fails to address Job’s charge.

I am going to share some interesting insights/observations from Stump in her chapter about Job:

  • In the story we see God as a person, in personal and parental relationships with the people he created, sharing what he has created with them and making them glad by doing so.
  • In God’s speech to Job, he talks to the sea as if it were an exuberant child of his.  God brings the sea into conformity to his will by talking to the sea and explaining what it can and cannot do.  God speaks the same way about other created inanimate things.
  • God’s speech to Job makes clear his great care for the animals and his connection to them.  The animals are portrayed as responding to God’s attention by interacting with him.
  • In the divine speeches, there is a suggestion that God operates on the principle that applies to good parents – that, other things being equal, the outweighing benefit that justifies a parent in allowing some suffering to an innocent child of hers has to benefit the child primarily.  The suffering of an innocent will only be because an outweighing good can be produced for that person that is otherwise unavailable to him.
  • Job’s personal complaint includes a charge of betrayal of trust.  A face-to-face encounter can make all the difference – the sight of God’s face is an explanation of Job’s suffering.  Stump promises to take up this topic later in the book.
  • The divine speeches challenge Job and yet God rebukes Job’s friends and defends Job and his questioning of God.  How can this incongruity be resolved?  Maybe something about Job’s giving voice to the accusations is good even if the accusations of God are not true.
  • God is conveying to Job God’s love for him.  Job’s face-to-face experience with God goes “past” goodness to love.
  • “So, until prosperity and goodness are pulled apart, it may not be a determinate matter whether Job loves the good for its own sake, or whether what he loves is mingled good and wealth.” (p.207)
  • After Job’s suffering, he takes his stand with God.  His love of God is only for God’s sake, not for the sake of wealth or other desirable effects.  Job becomes the sort of person whose story a culture strives to hand on, to help shape the ideals of the next generation.  Under extremely difficult circumstances, Job maintained uncorrupted moral uprightness and personal commitment to God and he became a much better person.

These few insights from this chapter on the study of the Biblical character of Job, do not do Stump’s chapter on him justice.  If you haven’t read the book of Job from the Bible, I encourage you to check it out.

job (1)

 

Vocab is Fun!!

Vocab is Fun!  And, Here’s Proof.

I think expanding my vocabulary is fun.  It’s very cool when I encounter (and understand) a word I have recently learned.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been spending some time each day using the Vocab.com app.  I have been telling others about this cool app, but so far I only have one confirmed “convert” who is also enjoying it.

Here’s a sampling of some words I have been learning today:

  • Malapropos – I understand the word, “apropos” but I had never encountered this word. It helps to know another language (Spanish, in my case) because mal means “bad” in Spanish so I was able to guess that this word means inappropriate.  The definition specifically says that this adjective is used to describe something that is awkwardly unsuitable for the situation or setting at hand.
  • Untoward – Actually, this word also describes something inappropriate (or offensive).
  • Funambulist – Someone who walks on a tightrope.

funambulist

  • Physiognomy – The appearance of someone’s face.
  • Vertiginous – To be dizzy and woozy (a disorienting feeling).  This is what I would experience if I was a funambulist!
  • Numismatist – a coin collector

Coins

  • Preen – primp and pay careful attention to how you dress or puff yourself up or self-congratulate yourself
  • Codswallop – nonsense or silliness, ridiculous
  • Pellucid – easy to understand, clear/transparent
  • Palliate – make something less bad/relieve symptoms or consequences of something

Warning: if you try to incorporate too many new words into your vocabulary, you will probably irritate one or more of the members of your family!

Madeline and Prestidigitation

I just finished Madeline Albright’s book, Hell and Other Destinations: A 21st Century Memoir.  I enjoyed the book and she is such an impressive person.

In the last two chapters of her book, she discusses President Trump and our current political environment.  She says that no other president has so “thoroughly combined a boorish personality with an incapacity to accept criticism, an utter disregard for the responsibilities of his office, and a tendency to make stuff up worth of both Guinness’s book and Ripley’s.”  What a roast!  I cannot say I disagree.

She discusses Trump’s instinct to go on the offensive while at the same time claiming to be under attack.  She thinks that the philosopher Eric Hoffer’s insight from sixty years ago applies to Trump.  He wrote, “rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.”  She is worried that there is danger of him causing grave damage to the foundations of our democracy.

In terms of foreign policy, Trump has a obvious yearning to be praised as a world leader, yet as a result of his arrogance he is a source of dismay to U.S. allies and widely mocked.  Trump thinks of foreign policy less in strategic terms and more about style.  Mere unpredictability is just a character trait but not a policy.  Typically, the center of a nation’s foreign policy is embodied by a set of clear goals.  But, besides a desire to sell weapons and reduce trade deficits, it is unclear what the Trump administration wants to achieve or what it stands for.  Trump seems to identify, bond (and even envy) most with despots with bad records on human rights.  The president also likes to ignore or criticize the global system of international problem solving and law.  He ignores allies and thinks acting unilaterally is the best road to success.

In order to effectively manage world affairs, preparation and organization are required (and these are sorely lacking in Trump’s administration).  Now policies are often decided by presidential whim and influenced by what Trump saw on television instead of by careful analysis.  Trump has an attitude against career military and civilian professionals.  He has a deep need to blame others as well.  All this has weakened our country in the face of enemies and undermines the trust of U.S. citizens in their own institutions.  This amounts to what Albright calls, “a textbook example of how not to lead.”

On a lighter note, vocabulary word of the day is prestidigitation.  This means magic tricks performed as entertainment.

I am about halfway through the book, 1984 and Philosophy: Is Resistance Futile?.  In it, professional philosophers write articles to analyze different elements of the book.  It’s a good, but somewhat depressing read.

Hell and Other Destinations

I recently started reading Madeline Albright’s memoir, Hell and Other Destinations, about her experiences since stepping down as the Secretary of State.  She is an amazing woman and it is fascinating to read about her life.  Here’s a sample paragraph from a chapter I just finished,

“The problem, of course, is that we are all so busy using time-saving devices that we don’t have time for anything else.  We may understand what it means to answer the call of conscience, but instead of acting on that understanding, we tend to wait – until we are out of school, until we can afford a down payment on a house, until we can pay for our children’s education, until we can free up time in retirement, until we can take that vacation we have always dreamed about.  We keep waiting until we run out of ‘untils.’  Then it is too late.”

I would highly recommend this book.

Madeleine-K-Albright

 

Here is a fun vocabulary word that I learned today on my vocab.com app that made me think of my wife: pulchritudinous (person of breathtaking beauty).

 

Will it Stick?, the book of Job and word of the day

I continue to enjoy reading through the book, Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown, Henry l. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel.  Here are some quotes from chapters 5 and 6:

  • “Good judgment is a skill one must acquire, becoming an astute observer of one’s own thinking and performance.  We start at a disadvantage for several reasons.  One is that when we’re incompetent, we tend to overestimate our competence and see little reason to change.” (p.104)
  • “Our understanding of the world is shaped by a hunger for narrative that rises out of our discomfort with ambiguity and arbitrary events.  When surprising things happen, we search for an explanation.” (p.109)
  • “even your most cherished memories may not represent events in the exact way they occurred.  Memory can be distorted in many ways.  People interpret a story in light of their world knowledge, imposing order where none had been present so as to make a more logical story.” (p.112)
  • “Fluency illusions result from our tendency to mistake fluency with a text or mastery of its content.” (p. 116)
  • “Our memories are also subject to social influence and tend to align with the memories of the people around us.” (p.116)
  • “Humans are predisposed to assume that others share their beliefs, a process called the false consensus effect.” (p. 117)
  • “Confidence in a memory is not a reliable indication of its accuracy.” (p.117)
  • “The person who knows best what a student is struggling with in assimilating new concepts is not the professor, it’s another student.” (p. 120)
  • “…incompetent people overestimate their own competence and, failing to sense a mismatch between their performance and what is desirable, see no need to try to improve.” (p. 121)
  • “Most important is to make frequent using of testing and retrieval practice to verify what you really do know versus what you think you know.”  Space your testing, vary your practice, keep the long view.” (p. 125)
  • “Instructors should give corrective feedback and learners should seek it.” (p. 126)
  • “What you tell yourself about your ability plays a part in shaping the ways you learn and perform – how hard you apply yourself, for example, or your tolerance for risk-taking and your willingness to persevere in the face of difficulty.” (p.140)

Some takeaways from chapter 6:

  1. Be the one in charge (of your own learning).
  2. Embrace the notion of successful intelligence: don’t roost in a pigeonhole of your preferred learning style but take command of your resources and tap all of your “intelligences” to master the knowledge or skill you want to possess.
  3. Adopt active learning strategies, like retrieval practice, spacing, and interleaving.
  4. Distill the underlying principles: break your idea or desired competency down into its component parts.

 

I am reading a great book by philosopher, Eleonore Stump, called, Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering.  The current chapter I am reading explores the story of the book of Job in the Bible.  It’s hard to distill what Ms. Stump is trying to bring out of the story of Job, but I will try to do that later once I finish the chapter.  The book of Job is so interesting.

Job

(Good intro to the book of Job: The Bible Project: Book of Job)  

Word of the day.  As I mentioned in my last post, I am loving the new vocab app that I found and work on it each day.  It has a perfect balance of testing and bringing back words enough so that you learn them.  Favorite word from today’s lesson is mendicant: given to begging (adj.); a beggar (n.).

Begging