Archives For June 2018

Windmills & Giants!

June 19, 2018 — 1 Comment

As a father, who happens to homeschool his five kids, I also have the distinct honour of managing the general household paradigm.  Here’s a retelling of an event involving one of those responsibilities.

 

 

Chores are not like a small kitten’s purr,

No. Chores are torture.

Run the linen up the flag poles,

Stoke the spinning bucket with garments,

And it’s still hungry.

Such is this monster, which I have,

    daily, gallantly met.

It makes me Don Quixote against

Windmills and giants!

With the same checklist,

 gusto and loyalty,

  as that of D’Artagnan’s servant, Planchet.

Into the chilling wind I stride,

Weighty basket in hand,

Like an explorer in wet clothes, traversing unexplored Antarctic land.

The south winds blow in from hills covered in Australian snow,

My uncovered hands are no match for the cold.

My destination is only ten steps from the back door,

but the wind is like a frozen invisible wall.

My climb against it has become a solitary fight

Like the one faced by an imprisoned, Edmond Dantès

stuck inside a cell with no light.

the minutes drag on, the seconds slow down.

Like the resuscitated Dantès, become Count,

fighting back against all that was unfair;

Where is my Prisoner Priest, like Abbe Faria?

Where is my Island of Cristo,

with its hidden treasure made ready for me to bare?

the wind chill hitting my hands,

it’s a solitary stand.

This, these darkened minutes are testing my resolve,

It’s a saga even Dumas would have, with bravado, retold.

All because I went out into the cold

To hang up on a line, a bunch of wet clothes.


©RL2018

Photo credit: Jessica Fadel on Unsplash

Alongside uncompromising words from Denzel Washington, the unapologetic resilience of Candace Cameron-Bure, Patricia Heaton, Kevin Sorbo, and even Mark Wahlberg, it’s comforting to know that not all of Hollywood is lost in a sea of ideological serfdom, sensuality, greed and opportunism.

Here’s a brief transcript of an excerpt from Jim Caviezel’s speech given to The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (F.O.C.U.S), on Jan. 5th 2018.

Caviezel ‘s speeches are usually deep. He’s well prepared and speaks with conviction. His talk here is no different, and it shows that Caviezel needs to step up and speak more often.

“After shooting Monte Cristo I inexplicably get a call from Mel Gibson. My agent didn’t call. My manager didn’t call. I didn’t know Mel Gibson. I wasn’t politicking for the role because nobody knew it was happening. Gibson wanted me to play Jesus Christ. He wants the guy with the initials of JC, who just happens to be 33 years of age, to play Jesus Christ. Is that a coincidence? I don’t think so.
Is your life a coincidence or is it all just a chance? Some of you may be miserable right now, confused, uncertain of the future, hurting. This is not the time to back off; or to give in. When I was up there on the cross, I learned that in his suffering was our Redemption. Remember the servant is no greater than the master. Each of us must carry our own cross.
There is a price for our faith, for our freedoms. I have been literally scourged. Hit by the whips. Crucified, struck by lightning; yes, open-heart surgery – that’s what happens after five and a half months of hypothermia. One day, during this shoot, my arm was wedged under that heavy beam, when someone yanked it in the other direction. My muscles wrenched, my shoulder separated, I fell to the ground.
Dropped my head into the sand, this take now remains in the movie. In the later part of the film, Jesus experiences a shoulder separation, well I now know what that felt like. Every day I had to pick up that thing. It was like a penance. It ripped into my shoulder, tearing up my flesh, and with each passing hour, it got heavier. Had this been shot in a studio, you never would have seen that performance. The suffering made my performance; just as it makes our lives.
Some of us now (and you know them) embrace a fake Christianity, where it’s all happy talk. I call it happy Jesus and glory. Guys, there was a lot of pain and suffering before the resurrection. Your path will be no different, so embrace your cross and race toward your goal.
I want you to go out into this pagan world. I want you to have the courage to step into this pagan world, and shamelessly express your faith in public. The world needs proud warriors, animated by their faith. Warriors like Saint Paul and St. Luke, who risked their names, their reputations, to take their faith, their love for Jesus, into the world. God is calling each one of us; each one of you to do great things, but how often we failed to respond; dismissing it as some mental blurp.
It is time for our generation now, to accept that call. The call of God urging all of us to give ourselves entirely to him, to see that gentle hand, guiding your path, but you first make must make the commitment, to start praying, to fast, to meditate on the Holy Scriptures, and to take the holy sacraments seriously; for we are a culture now in decline; a people in danger of succumbing to our excesses.
Our whole world is entrenched in sin and they’re in the quiets our hearts, God is calling out to us, each one of us, to give ourselves entirely to him, and how often we ignore him; ignore that sweet call.
The great saint of Auschwitz St. Maximilian Kolbe said that, “indifference is the greatest sin of the 20th century”. Well, my brothers and sisters, it is the greatest sin of the 21st century as well.
We must shake off this indifference! This destructive tolerance of evil, only our faith in the wisdom of Christ can save us, but it requires warriors ready to risk their reputations, their names, even our very lives, to stand for the truth.
Set yourselves apart from this corrupt generation. Be saints. You weren’t made to fit in. You were born to stand out. For in our country now we are only too happy to go with the flow. We have a shrine to freedom now where all choices are equal, no matter what the consequences are. Do you honestly think this is true freedom?
Pope John Paul the great said, “Democracy cannot be sustained, without a shared commitment to certain moral truths about the human person in the human community”.
The basic question before a Democratic Society is this: how ought we to live together? Seeking an answer to this question: can society exclude moral truth and moral reasoning?
Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom exists, not to do what you like, but having the right to do what you ought. That is the freedom that I wish for you. Freedom from sin, freedom from your weaknesses; freedom from this slavery that sin makes out of all of us, that is the freedom that is worth dying for.”
(Timestamp: 5:50 – 13:31)

https://youtu.be/e9z-dMQjRBE

 

Broken trails and winded sails.

Sold for a pittance;

Auditioning for your pity.

Hearts to open,

White paper to be wrote upon,

Black ink and three red soaked nails.

Dirt and dust.

Words covered in rust.

The us in trust.

Negotiate whimsical notions of melancholy;

Walk alongside this precipice.

Fasten all hope.

Anchor it.

Take hold, grab onto my wrists.

Don’t abandon the shattered heart,

Before grace rescues it completely from the abyss.

(RL2018)

As part of our home-school English curriculum this year, I decided to tackle Twain’s, ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn‘.

I’ve read a few of the, for and against arguments on the internet, by writers who either have an higher opinion of themselves (than they do of Twain), or they raise Twain to a higher level, just because he’s Twain.

My conclusion is this: forget all the, “I’m offended therefore ban ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’, because Mark Twain uses offensive language.” Then ditch the flip side which says, “I’m offended, because you’re offended, that Mark Twain didn’t consider your feelings, before he wrote the book”.

What should be deemed offensive is the fact that we’re told our children cannot be taught to discern for themselves; told that they cannot learn the difference between appropriate, and inappropriate language. Especially the term which Mark Twain contextually applies to Huck’s, African-American friend, Jim.

Such an ideological imposition goes against everything that my role as an educator involves. Such as teaching kids how to think for themselves and act responsibly with what they’ve been taught. I’m a facilitator, not a computer programmer; I facilitate the learning process, I don’t insert information into an object, in a certain way, in order to get a specific set of desired results on demand.

Although age and capability are factors for why filtering certain topics is essential to healthy nurturing, I don’t water down facts to appease feelings. With age and capability factors in mind, I present the how, and we discuss the what. Deep learning requires learning the hard stuff and how to digest the hard stuff. We read, learn and act, therefore does not equate to, “we install and stoically obey”.

Learning is a journey, a discipline from which we grow together. This is encapsulated in the whole meaning of reader beware (caveat lector) and it corresponds perfectly with buyer (consumer) beware (caveat emptor).

For example: my students know the difference between Niger (the Latin adjective for black, pronounced Nigh-jer), and the perversion of the adjective used to refer to African-Americans in a derogatory way. Our students understand that the name of the country Nigeria is not pronounced or used with that pejorative in mind.

They are capable of concluding that if a term has an historical significance and was used in such a way to control and abuse others, than that term is not to be used, but is to be left in the historical context where it once was applied. Whitewashing history in order to make it digestible isn’t conducive to education proper.

Take for instance the term ‘wandering jew’’. This is a common name of a pervasive weed in Australia. It pops up everywhere and is hard to get rid of.  But the term raises some important questions: a) is the name of the weed, “wandering jew”, a term of endearment, or is it a pejorative? b)  Can the term be understood differently?  Just because I think the phrase is potentially offensive, doesn’t mean that a Jewish person would agree. c) The plant is strong, hardy and persistent with okay flowers. Instead of disparaging Jewish people, does it stand as a compliment to them?

Instead of banning terms, we educate our children about them. We teach them that the term ‘wandering jew’ can be viewed as a slur on a people group, used in order to dehumanize them. We also take note of the possibility that ‘wandering jew’ could also be viewed as a term of endearment. As a result, while knowing that the phrase is common, we give them reason whether or not to insert weed, where jew once stood or keep it. The consensus has been to use ‘wandering weed’ instead of ‘wandering jew’. If, however, someone used the term ‘wandering jew’, our children would understand its reference, and if someone was offended by it, they would understand why.

We can teach this without demanding that all horticultural books or websites which use the term, “wandering jew” be banned. Just because some Jewish folks might be offended, or use the term, doesn’t mean we have to either ban it, or use it. Likewise, just because the African-American community might (and some do[i]) use the pejorative version of the word ‘Niger (Nigh-Jer)’, doesn’t justify our own use of it (no matter how hypocritical it may seem).

In the case of ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’, the student is taught to understand what the word means, how and why it was once used, and to whom it was once applied. Instead of having them repeat the word, the pejorative version of ‘niger (nigh-jer)’ is easily replaced by the reader with African-American. We acknowledge the complications, but chose to think for ourselves instead of having a censor do that job for us.

The genius of ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ is that, when allowed to speak for itself, Twain confronts us with the harsh reality of how words have been used to dehumanize others.

In order to holistically educate our students about the slave trade and the abuses carried out under the banner of racism, they have to be allowed to be confronted with the truth. The truth and the words associated with it. Thanks to Mark Twain, our students are no longer spectators. They get to participate in, and experience, hard truths through the eyes and ears of Twain’s characters.

There is no reason to ban ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’. Any ban would teach students to steer around being confronted with the horror and tragedy of that era (especially white folks[ii]). It denies them empathy and understanding, and as a consequence, fails to recognise that one of the essential building blocks of effective reconciliation and responsible freedom, is education free of emotional bias and ideological interference.

Banning a book because of a word that it uses, is asinine and ignorant – the very basis of Hannah Arendt’s ‘’banality of evil’’; a phenomenon that leads to the mass tolerance and participation in totalitarianism by people who are blinded by an uncritical trust in the blind bureaucrats who lead them[iii]. Not only would a blanket ban on ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ disallow children access to an experience of the past, but such a blanket ban would have to be applied to many African-American rappers, and movies where the pejorative use of ‘niger (nigh-ger)’ is applied regularly; the quintessential example being, N.W.A.

When reading the text, Twain’s consistent use of the pejorative derivation of the Latin word for black, “niger (nigh-ger)”, is easy enough to switch with African-American. Children can clearly see that black slaves are the category which such a pejorative has been applied.

Why all calls for a ban on ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ ultimately fail is that they are based on fear. If we give in to this, we let the past determine the future; repeating the past. Fear underlines racial hatred as much as excessive ethnic pride does. It restricts us from seeing our neighbor, and having our neighbor see, us.

In addition, we shouldn’t fear words, we should continue the age of old quest of learning how, when, why and where to apply and respond to them.

Parents and educators need to push back against any technological society which tries to program our kids as if they were computers. Conveyor belt education as part of an industrialised education complex has been an attempt to produce a certain type of human; if not a certain type of voter.  Androids are programmed, humans aren’t. Yes, humans can be influenced by conditions, but humans can also learn to overcome those conditions. We adapt because the gift of reason, empowered by God’s grace, hope, faith and love, allows us to overcome. We read, learn and act, therefore does not equate to, “we install and stoically obey”.

What is, and should be deemed offensive, are attempts, through the media, to tell us all what to think. The education industrial complex, for example, tells us that it needs to create “safe spaces”. Sinless spheres which are empty of any opportunity to develop reason, faith and resilience.

The subliminal message is that today’s men and women can’t be trusted to process or understand the power of the words that encounters humanity on a daily basis; words that come to us as either comfort, confrontation, conviction or a combination of the three. In a nutshell, “experts” take the false view that the humanity cannot be trusted with the God-given permission to speak freely, therefore thought, conscience and speech needs to be controlled. The fact that actions cannot be justified by their consequences is ignored.

Free speech is vital to our humanity. We need it in order to exist, first, in order to be free for God, second, to be free for others. We encode – decode – then reciprocate responsibly. Without that freedom we fail, as Karl Barth astutely put it, to see our neighbour, and having our neighbour see, us:

‘Humanity as encounter is looking each other in the eye […] Humanity as encounter must become the event of speech. And speech means comprehensively reciprocal expression and its reciprocal reception, and its reciprocal address and its reciprocal reception. All these four elements are vital.’
(Karl Barth, The Basic Form of Humanity, CD 3:2:251)

 

Banning ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn‘ denies humanity by exalting the inhumanity Twain’s adventure story ultimately, so brilliantly decries.


References:

[i] This is so pervasive; I don’t really see a need to highlight any specific examples. However, for the sake of thoroughness, see the movie, ‘New Jack City’, a good portion of Ice Tea’s albums and the rappers N.W.A. (the abbreviation goes without spelling it out).

[ii] If I was to unpack this further I would say that, should the concept of “white privilege” actually exist, banning Twain’s book would only be feeding “white privilege”, not answering it, or having white people repent of it. If anything calls to ban the book, proves that “white privilege” is a myth.

[iii] Karl Barth (CD.3:2:252) : “Bureaucracy is the encounter of the blind with those whom they treat as blind.”

[iv] Barth, K. 1960. CD. 3:2, The Doctrine of Creation, The Basic Form of Humanity. Hendrickson Publishers