Ox

16 Precepts

You have asked me how to pursue learning. I pass this along in response —

  1. Move from the easier to the difficult
  2. Be cautious of speech
  3. Be slower still in frequenting places of talk
  4. Embrace purity of conscience
  5. Pray without ceasing
  6. Love your home and to be there often
  7. Show geniality to all 
  8. Pay no heed to others’ affairs
  9. Be not over-familiar with anyone; it breeds contempt and gives occasion to distraction
  10. Never get enmeshed with the sayings and doings of those in the outside world
  11. Most of all avoid vain visits and idle conversation
  12. Never mind who says what or from whom the lesson drops
  13. Remember any true and useful advice uttered; fill your cup
  14. Give an account to yourself of your every thought, word, and action
  15. See that you understand what you hear and don’t leave doubts be
  16. Remember. Walk always in the footsteps of good and holy men

— If you do this all your wildest dreams will come true.

*

The original is known as “16 Precepts for Acquiring the Treasure of Knowledge” and was written (in Latin of course) ostensibly by Saint Thomas Aquinas and to “Brother John” … neither is likely, but the material is sound and for a thought on that see No. 12. This post is edited from the two versions here and here.

 

Drudgery 2

Drudge Report

Babies need not to be taught a trade, but to be introduced to a world. To put the matter shortly, woman is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there aren’t. It would be odd if she retained any of the narrowness of a specialist.

Now if anyone says that this duty of general enlightenment … is in itself too exacting and oppressive, I can understand the view. I can only answer that our race has thought it worthwhile to cast this burden on women in order to keep common sense in the world.

But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean. When domesticity is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word.

If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is ‘more heavy’ because it is trifling, colorless, and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean.

To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley’s [department store] within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes, and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene — I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it.

How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three [in arithmetic], and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone?

No. A woman’s function is laborious — because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.

GK Chesterton

 

Boys will be

Shock And Ow

I’ve had many exchanges over the years where my statement about something was taken as surprise at the event rather than what it was — which is anger over human inaction facing it.

Having worked 1.75 teenage males through the household over the last dozen years this has often been a thing one or the other has done that is so colossally moronic, amoral or both, I often go slack-jawed in apprehending it. Then everyone else goes slack responding to it.

Boys will be boys … 

First of, no or partly yes or who cares?

Boys will be jerks

is closer, but again — no, yes, so what?

The point is: what do we do now?

I’m not expressing shock. I want to know what will hurt enough in the way he conducts himself that it won’t happen again. Sometimes there is nothing. But every time we say boys will be boys there certainly will be nothing. It’s the beginning of the conversation not the end.

What I’m looking for is a response, even a solution.

I’m not surprised by the moment.

I want the next one.

Photo Credit Getty Images

Kingdom In

When we hear of our twinclinations — the two tendencies within us all, one toward good and one toward ill — most time is spent on the first. Anyway I’ve spent most of my time on that — on being most concerned over time with what’s good and am I being that, and often justifying what doesn’t quite nail the landing.

Even when we’re aware of and acknowledge the, you know, possibility we might be bad … not something people spend a lot of time on.

The ratio shifts in the quiet of our own garrets (internal and external) but commonly it’s so.

The duality, as the academic might say, or the duality thing, as the academic might say when talking to us, is everywhere from those cautionary tales of dogs tussling inside our souls to a general knowledge that in the moment of choice we, well, have one. The focus on the good I think of from the Tolstoy book title, and its source in scripture —

Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

— which is in Luke and which for the last phrase the ESV notes the alternatives, “Or within you, or within your grasp.” Which of course is part of the ensuing discussion of just what the heck is Jesus talking about? Is He the Kingdom? is it what He brought? is it physically inside everyone?

An á Kempis quote, fairly well known if you know á Kempis, explores the two possibilities in the context of praise and blame —

Praise does not make you holier than you are nor blame more wicked. You are exactly what you are and cannot ever be any better or worse than that in the eyes of God. Attend to what is really within you, then, and you will not care what others say of you.

— which gets us back to both good and bad but even he ends up looking mainly at the good, speaking immediately next of others looking at externals and God knows our heart and so we need not externally generated assurance.

So I started wondering just now about the bad.

The bad doesn’t seem to be mentioned much in these duality discussions; it’s usually about the good and pursuing it and how even when we fail a little-lot … well, God knows our heart.

Which is true but what we’re leaving behind is important too. For one thing it’s often the thing that gets in the way of pursuing the good, though, as better men have noted, it’s more oftenly something average that keeps us from the good. We’re generally not all that, in the good ways.

But bad is what struck me this moment this morning because we’re also not as bad as all that.

Really.

 

Photo credit: Getty Images

 

Children Riis

Dirty Rotten Scoundrel

Some of my best friends have a problem with the dirty poor.

These are the folks below the dirt-poor — which describes a financial level not the person himself. These are the dirt-encrusted, unemployed, possibly begging (relying on strangers, kindness, and a fair economy as much as the rest of us, anyway), frequently transient (the weather when warm is welcome), simple-dieted types.

Weirdos — #AmIRight? — who seem to be talking to themselves much of the time, and when they’re talking to others most people don’t see the thread, can’t quite get it. Trouble with the law — outright opposition to it — is in both their past and future.

Not just white but black and yellow and red trash. It’s usually them furriners — not the ones on the EB5 Visas or the foreign exchange student progs. They dress funny.

Some are little better than a dog, really.

Moonlight Sand

Chiclet Chick Lit

In virtue of two females in the house reading it I have discovered a new (to me) genre and given it a new (to all) name, which title appears as the title of this post.

Hermione is patron saint of females pre-sexual still satiated when tittering gleefully over Nancy Drew and Ned Nickerson, with New Kids on the Block on the tiny turntable in the background. Readers in this genre are the next mini-generation up in a world where children are urged and prodded to grow up every 3 to 5 years.

Here it as if the boy band mated with James Dean and reverse produced a little Lord Byron with a teaspoonful sized Bronte plot. Chick Lit (the next generation up again) — a Bridget Jones’ Diary, say — comes as desire for Lord Byron clashes with desire for babies and the white picket fence.

That’s what happens when NKOTB gets older but doesn’t grow up and the women look around, “Wha’ happened?!?!” Hermione may be considered the candy cigarette and this new-christened  middlin’ version may be seen as the gateway drug.

Hermione notices sex whereas Chiclet Chick Lit involves the smoldering-eyed real possibility of sex. The girl still wants to walk on soft sand in the tender moonlight as the waves lap the shore but if she ends up jammed into a wet dune with a harsh and hairy moonbeam thrusting into it as nature crashes all around her there may be shock and ow, and of course blood, but it will be tastefully, skillfully rendered in some of its glorious detail for the reader, like fat.

It’s beautifully written and accurate to the audience as the girls who read it are of the age and beginning to think those thoughts — Hermione’s crowd pre-sexual; these girls, prehensile — and pernicious in its effects on life actually lived.

Because women after reading these three levels of books still want the white picket fence and a manicured lawn behind it besides but they have spent the last damned decade dreaming about boys who kick over fences and mate on manicured lawns because they so deeply feel, ya know?

Except they don’t.

Just as the woman realizes she doesn’t want to marry Lord Byron she see it’s all she’s known in all his maturity-stunted ecstasy. There’s a chance they’ll marry it and get all this knowledge, too late.

Don’t worry. There’s a genre for that too.