Gratitude is to Thanksgiving as Penance is to…

Before Thanksgiving, I visited my alma mater for the Harvard-Yale game, and got to participate in a Liberal Party discussion on "When Should We Experiment on Animals?"  The first speaker opened with a quote from The Brothers Karamazov, and by the back half of the debate, the room full of students (many of whom had worked in animal labs themselves) had drifted onto the topic of how to handle causing harm or suffering even when you believe it is the best course of action.We were right on the c … [Read more...]

A Season Worth Waiting For

The Catholic year is divided up into liturgical seasons, and, yesterday, Advent began.  Advent is, for Catholics, a small version of Lent.  It precedes Christmas, as Lent does Easter, and is a season of waiting and preparing through fasting and reflection.  We are waiting for Christmas, but also the second coming of Christ, His two inbreakings into the world are paired in this season.It's also a very nice excuse for not putting up Christmas decorations or for complaining about overplayed ca … [Read more...]

Oh, the Farmer and the Blogger Should Be Friends

Last month, I did a pretty terrible job trying to pick a saint for the month and try to expand my understanding of the Communion of Saints.  I really do rely on getting to know Saints (and anyone, honestly) through text, so it was hard for me to build up any rapport with St Andrew Corsini or to think of him at all without something to read.But, as Advent begins again, I'm trying again, and this time Jen Fulwiler's Saint Generator assigned me St. Isidore. The Farmer.  In the middle of the wint … [Read more...]

The Strangeness of Talking About Sex in Isolation

I felt skeptical about Sex and the Single Christian Girl: Fighting for Purity in a Rom-Com World, Marian Jordan Ellis's book on sexual orthopraxy when I saw the subtitle.  I strongly prefer the tendency to talk about sexual morality in terms of chastity rather than purity.  Purity tends to be spoken of as a binary condition which you either possess or have lost.  Chastity is a practice and applies to married people as well as to singles, and is a form of temperance.   Chastity restrains excess an … [Read more...]

Turkeys, Mop-Dogs, and other strange beasts

It's Thanksgiving, and I have a family tradition to uphold, along with a blog tradition.  First, for all of you, my traditional Thanksgiving video:Brad Plummer has a post up on the absurdity of this tradition.  In brief:Doing a media push about pardons for turkeys (complete with hokey website), while the President has pardoned and commuted the sentences of so few people is a wee bit tacky It's a "tradition" that started in the 80s, so we're in the sweet spot of killing it now be … [Read more...]

Seeing through the Cloud of Saints

Writing about Douglas Hofstadter's Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking reminded me of one of the reasons I so like the Communion of Saints in the Catholic Church.  We are all called to be Christ-like, but that exhortation is a little, well, enormous for me to wrap my head around on any given day.  The scale of Christ's goodness is hard for me to think about without drifting into abstraction.But the Saints are holy men and women who seem a little closer to my day to … [Read more...]

Keeping Ideas Close Enough to Play With

My friend Brienne is working on extending and teaching memory techniques.  Think Moonwalking with Einstein, on steroids.  In a recent blog post, she addresses the question most people have about memory feats: How important is this kind of thing when I can carry the internet in my pocket?  I've been known to interrupt people by saying "Hang on, let me put that in my real brain," when they're trying to give me book recommendations or schedule something, and my phone isn't in my hand.  It's second n … [Read more...]