Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tempus Fugit

A couple of months ago I was driving while chatting with one of my daughters. At some point she wasn't speaking clearly/loudly enough, so I tried to make her more audible by increasing the Volume setting on the steering wheel's sound system controls.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

TV and Lent

About 35 years ago I was watching Firing Line, William F. Buckley's TV show. He was interviewing Malcolm Muggeridge, who at some point said, "you know, every important thing I've learned I learned by suffering," or words to that effect. I was about 15 years old, and thought that was a dumb thing to say. Old British twit. I had learned plenty and was not a sufferer by any means. But it was such an intriguing concept that I retained it, even though I didn't understand it....which makes a good motto: remember now, understand later. It would sound better in Latin. Or French.

Anyway, I was raised on TV. Not that I watched some insane amount of it, but it was a normal part of life. But after having kids of my own I began to worry that the quantity & quality of cable fare was more problematic than the programming content of my childhood, both for me and the kids. Not that I did anything about it.

Then about 13 years ago, our pastor, Fr. Day, suggested at Mass that we parishioners consider giving up TV for Lent. I'd considered it before....and passed. But that year while driving home, my Fabulous Wife and I decided we'd try it, cold turkey. The kids were maybe 4 or 5 years old; they were not consulted.

The next day, Monday, I returned the converter box. The cable company rep asked me what was wrong with the cable box? Nothing, we're just giving up TV for Lent. A couple of people thought that was incredible, asked about the thinking behind it. I pointed out we hadn't actually missed any TV yet, and it might not work out.

Monday was awful. So was Tuesday. But by Sunday, we were adjusting. Within 2 weeks, we were acclimated. Easter Sunday rolled around, and we and the kids decided to just leave the TV off indefinitely.

Now, years later, life is good. We adults watch DVDs late in the evening, which is controllable and requires effort. The kids can do the same on the weekends, but they usually don't. The house is quiet, a refuge. Family dinner conversation often extends beyond the meal. The kids turned out just fine. For being teenagers, they are surprisingly unmaterialistic.

And the credit goes to the Church, whose institutional memory knows the value of sacrifice, and suffering (not that this was all that painful, but that's part of the point, like giving blood: actually donating it is easier than anticipating donating it). And of course, we learned from this experience, although at the start all we expected was to suffer, not to learn; certainly not to to learn we could be happier by giving up something that we liked. And in the bigger picture I learned to pay closer attention to what the Church teaches, even if (especially if) it's something I don't much want to do.

Smart Church...she knew this would happen.

Muggeridge, too. Smart Brit twit.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Hanseatische Reise

My fabulous wife runs a travel agency, does cruises mostly. So sometimes we go on the cruises, too. As long as one of us can speak the language, we run our own affairs in the ports. We're doing a Baltic cruise in June; we'll spend a day in the old Hansa city of Rostock. Here's what we have planned for our group:

We take a local ferry from the big cruiseship wharf at Warnemunde right on the Baltic (Ostsee) to Rostock, about 10 miles inland (too shallow for big ships). The name of the ferry is the Rostock 7, which refers to the following old rhyme, dating back at least to 1596. It's called Die Rostocker Kennewohrn, the Rostock Landmarks.

In English it says:

Seven Towers of St. Mary's Church
Seven Streets at the Great Market
Seven Gates lead to the Land (countryside)
Seven Merchant Bridges by the Strand
Seven Towers upon City Hall stand
Seven Bells who together strike
Seven Linden-trees in the Rosegarden
These are the Rostock Landmarks

Using the rhyme as our guide, on our walking tour we'll see St. Mary's church, the Great Market, a couple of the remaining gates & bridges, City Hall, the Rosegarden, stroll along the harbor, and maybe hear some bells, so we'll see & hear what Rostock says we should. I made a map from Google Earth, we'll have a good time, won't get lost. It's all in the old city, so there'll be opportunities for, you know, German refreshments when we need a break. This should take us 'til early afternoon, when we take the ferry back to Warnemunde, and visit that town, which is nowadays a beach resort.

Back to the rhyme, the Niederdeutsch (Low German) version is the original, which resembles modern Dutch as much as it resembles the modern Hochdeutsch version.

Niederdeutsch version:

Söben Toern to Sint Marien Kark,
Söben Straten bi den groten Mark,
Söben Doern, so da gaen to Lande,
Söben Kopmannsbrüggen bi dem Strande,
Söben Toern, so up dat Rathus stan,
Söben Klocken, so dakliken slan,
Söben Linnenböm up den Rosengoern:
Dat syn de Rostocker Kennewohrn.

Hochdeutsch version:
Sieben Türme der St. Marien Kirche,
Sieben Straßen bei dem großen Markt,
Sieben Tore, die in das Land führen,
Sieben Kaufmannsbrücken bei dem Strand,
Sieben Türme, die auf dem Rathaus stehen,
Sieben Glocken die zugleich schlagen,
Sieben Lindenbäume im Rosengarten:
Das sind die Rostocker Wahrzeichen.

The Low German reminded me of some Grimm's fairy tales I'd read in college. They had little Low German rhymes such as: "Manntje, Manntje, Tempe Te, Buttje, Buttje, in der See..."

Turns out that some of Grimm's tales were originally in Low German.... like this:

"Dar wöör maal eens en Fischer un syne Fru, de waanden tosamen in'n Pißputt.."

My modern trans: Das war einmal ein Fischer und seine Frau, die wohnten zusammen in einen Pißputt

My English: That was onetime a fisher(man) and his spouse, they lived together in a pisspot (a chamber pot, a filthy hovel).
Charming. Grimm's fairytales can be quite blunt.

Part of the fun in cruising is that there is every chance to learn something new and unexpected; in this case, some language history, and I haven't even left home yet.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Lent and Meat

My eldest son doesn't eat meat. That includes fish & eggs. I don't remember about dairy products. Anyway, he's not preachy about it, but his quiet example makes me think periodically about the moral dimensions of eating animals, especially during Lent.

I generally assume that our existence, Creation, is the product of God's thought. God thinks the universe, so it is. So we all inhabit God's brain, to put it in physical human terms. And in the Beginning, there was no Sin, and things were in perfect harmony in God's head. But then there was the Fall, and Sin. Consider Sin as the opposite of God, yet existing within his head. Its effects wouldn't be confined to the individual sinner (as we know from practical experience); it could mess up, distort, warp, pervert any other aspects of Creation that it touched. Just to cut this short, St. Paul observed that the wages of Sin is Death, and any universe that includes me dying (dying? dying! ) is obviously screwed-up.

Anyway, back to eating meat, which is related to the Fall.

First notice how much meat Adam & Eve got to eat in the wonderful Garden:

In Genesis, God said,

"Behold, I have given you every herb-bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree-yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat."

Apparently, dominion over animals didn't extend to eating them.

Later, after the Fall when Sin entered the world, Noah kept the animals alive during the Flood. When they left the Ark, God said,

"Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things."

I suppose this is a sort of debt the animals owe to Noah: having saved the animals, and by extension all their descendants, Noah and his descendants are allowed to eat them....although this preceding passage doesn't make it sound like that's especially ok with God:

"And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered."

Which sounds awful. Yet in a sin-wrecked world God allows it. Apparently some things are conditionally tolerated by God after the Fall that would never have been acceptable in the Garden; which is hardly the same as saying they are good, or blessed, or even condoned.

Of course, we're allowed to still eat fish on Friday...but I regard the no-meat stricture as the Church's way to nudge us toward a Garden worldview instead of a post-Fall one.