Cardinal Virtues Begin on Catholic Match

Over the next few weeks, CatholicMatch will be running a series of articles I wrote on the Cardinal Virtues. The Introduction went up today:

When we only have ourselves to consider, we can (and many do) distract ourselves with hedonistic indulgence, with ever more novel and transgressive pleasures, or, failing that, with the bitter delights of resentment towards a world that has ‘cheated’ us and so live what seems a tolerably happy life even without virtue. But when we share our lives with someone else, when we’re responsible for not just our own but another’s happiness, it’s much harder to fake contentment.

The other person generally doesn’t let us get away with it, and, assuming she’s just as bad as we are, we get to experience the abrasive, sandpaper-like results of vice without the anesthetic of self-approval. This is one reason why so many relationships fall apart, and why they often end so acrimoniously.

Basically, to have good relationship requires good people; you can’t live well together if you don’t know how to live well in the first place, any more than you would suddenly be able to draw well just because you’re partnered with someone who doesn’t know how to draw either.

Read it all.

New Years’ Resolutions at Catholic Match

My latest Catholic Match post is all about New Years’ Resolutions (and is largely written to myself):

One way or another, we are afraid to change, afraid to set aside what we’ve carried for so long, even though it’s a burden to us. We may genuinely want to make the change, or at least, we may intellectually acknowledge that the change would be good for us, and on a certain level believe we would be happier afterward. But still we are afraid to go through with the procedure.

Part of this is simply the fear of failure: we worry that we won’t have the courage or the ability to see it through.

We’re worried that if we reach for the big dream or the big goal, we will fall on our faces. If we ask the cute girl out, she may laugh at us. If we try to get into shape, we may find the work too hard. If we try to change careers, we may fail.

But we’re not just afraid of failure: we may be equally afraid of success.

See, the thing about success is that it always carries its own set of problems, pressures, and responsibilities. If we get into shape, we then have to maintain it by constant diet and exercise. If we start dating the cute girl, we then have to work at the relationship with all the hardships and sacrifices that entails.

Read the rest

Christmas Carol at Catholic Match

In my latest CatholicMatch essay, I talk about love and A Christmas Carol:

Coming from the master of the caricature himself, Charles Dickens, the story takes one of Dickens’s typical villains—a loveless, greedy old man—and casts him as the protagonist, while Dickens’s typical heroes—the honest, cheerful young gentleman and the hardworking family man—are relegated to supporting roles. The story then proceeds to invite the audience to sympathize with Scrooge; to ask what made him what he is now and what fate he has to look forward to.

What emerges from the ministrations of the three ghosts, especially the Ghost of Christmas Past, is that what Scrooge truly despises is less Christmas itself than love. Crushed in early life by the double blow of a sister who died young and a romance that failed through his own over-caution, Scrooge has become convinced that love is a lie: whatever people say, sooner or later they will all abandon you in the end. Hence his response to anyone wishing him a Merry Christmas: ‘humbug,’ meaning a trick or pose.

Scrooge sees love in general, and Christmas in particular, as a cheat: an attempt to bilk him by people who, whatever they profess, are really just as selfish as he is. When his nephew informs him that he got married because he fell in love, Scrooge considers that to be the only thing in the world more ridiculous than a Merry Christmas.

Read the rest here

Beauty Response and the Importance of Definitions

So, my beauty piece got a response essay on CM. That’s good, since it’s a sure sign people were talking about it. It’s okay for the most part; a lot of reacting to things I didn’t say and emphasizing points I specifically mentioned. I notice that whenever you say something positive, people automatically read a lot of negatives into it: if I say ‘beauty is real and important’ people read ‘physical appearance is the measure of a woman’s worth and men don’t have to worry about it.’ She also confuses attraction and beauty, which most people do these days and which I didn’t have time to deal with.

But here’s the one part that really bugged me, just because this is a pet peeve of mine:

Okay, so what did the article miss?

1. That all women are beautiful, regardless of form or figure.

Women are God’s crowning glory. We were created at the peak of creation, after all other creatures and beings (aka rough drafts), and each one us holds the immense power to create life within ourselves. I mean, our physical forms can’t get more amazing.

The catch in the other article is that “beautiful” seems to refer to the type of women who stop you in your tracks walking down the street. But that should not mean that all other, more “ordinary” women are not beautiful.

For clarity’s sake, let’s just reiterate: every female form is the peak of creation! Regardless of shape, figure, size, flavor, or color.

I don’t say this to be mean, but no, not every woman is beautiful in any meaningful sense of the word. Yes, the female form and body is amazing for its powers and dignities, but that’s not the same thing as beauty (‘Nobility’ or ‘majesty’ would be a better adjective, conveying the idea of ‘worthy of honor’).

A lot of people like to say “all women are beautiful since they are all God’s creations.” But to say that someone is beautiful because they are a creature of God is to make ‘beautiful’ synonymous with ‘exists.’ And while it may be a good thing to remind someone she exists, there are already plenty of words to convey it. But beauty is such a unique and difficult concept that philosophers have struggled to define it for millenia. Our language is muddled enough; we don’t need to keep watering it down.

Besides, ‘you are beautiful because you are made by God’ is praise that could just as accurately be offered to a cockroach. It is a glorious thing to be a creature of God, but it is hardly a distinguishing compliment.

Not only that, but to insist that ‘all women are beautiful’ is to say that a woman’s worth is dependent upon her beauty, because the implication is that to say otherwise is to imply a lack of worthiness. To say ‘not all women are beautiful’ is to render beauty inessential to a woman. It is a glorious thing, but a woman who lacks beauty has no less dignity or worth than one who does.

The trouble is that words stripped of their meaning are stripped also of their power. To expand the definition of a word so as to comfort those who don’t fall within its scope will not actually help anything, like how receiving participation trophies doesn’t actually boost anyone’s self esteem. There is no magic in words, only in ideas, and people generally understand where the idea ends. To have the word and not the idea; to be told that you are what you yourself know you are not isn’t actually comforting. Quite the reverse, actually; it encourages resentment.

Did you ever notice that the leveling of standards has been accompanied by an increase in resentment? That the more you try to tell people they are equal in fact and not just in principle, the more of both envy and arrogance they show? The more someone is encouraged to say ‘I’m as good as you,’ the angrier he becomes at the voice of reason telling him that he isn’t.

It’s one thing to be denied something entirely; it’s quite another to be given a sham replica, or to be given the title, but none of the honors. It’s better just to be honest and say that this particular title is not for you, but you’re no less worthy as a person because of it.

 

Talking About Depression on Catholic Match

For those who don’t know, I suffer from mild-to-moderate depression, among other things. About a month or so ago it got really bad, and I ended up channelling that experience into the following post, which just went up on CM.

Depression isn’t sadness or feeling down. It’s pain. Raw, emotional pain, like there’s a wound inside you that just won’t heal. And you know it’s never going to heal; it’s just going to keep on throbbing and festering for as long as you live.

Except, it’s worse than that, because along with the pain is a sense of isolation; the sense that you are cut off from the rest of humanity, not for any one cause or defect, but simply because that’s who you are. It’s the sense that you are and always will be totally alone, no matter how many people are around you.

A good description of depression I found online was that, “It’s like drowning, but you can see everyone around you breathing.”

Now, my depression is relatively mild. I generally can manage it enough to get through life, and I’ve never had suicidal thoughts. A lot of people have it far worse. That said, I have found a few strategies to be useful in managing my own depression. And though I’m not an expert in the subject by any stretch, I understand that many other people with far worse conditions have also found them to be helpful.

Read the whole thing here

‘My Little Pony’ at Catholic Match

So, I’ve now been paid twice for writing about ‘My Little Pony.’ I should put that on my dating profile.

It’s tempting, when we want someone to like us, to try to be what we think they want us to be. Being open and revealing our unique personality can be alarming; Discord has a near-panic attack at the idea of how Fluttershy might react to seeing just how strange and different he really is. But, though it’s a risk, letting the other person see us for who we are is really the only way to have a relationship. If we constantly put up a front and hide the things that make us who we are, then we’re not really helping anything.

This is not, I hasten to add, a license to do whatever you want under the excuse “it’s who I am.” Early in their relationship, Fluttershy makes it very clear to Discord how much she will and will not tolerate from him. His chaotic, carefree personality is fine; his penchant for playing mean tricks on people or throwing childish tantrums is not.

She thus makes the distinction between what Discord should change and what he shouldn’t. Fluttershy doesn’t ask him to be a completely different person, and she can make allowances for his bad habits, but she does ask that he not be a selfish jerk and lets him know that his working to overcome that side of himself is a condition of their remaining friends.

Read the rest here.

Catholic Match: On Beauty

My latest post is up on CatholicMatch, in which I get to quote St. Augustine, The Lord of the Rings, and My Little Pony all in the service of beauty.

That is why I hate the phrase ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ and consider it a grotesque blasphemy. To turn that which so completely removes our gaze from ourselves and twists it into a mere statement of our own reactions—in fact to turn our gaze back upon ourselves—is the sensual equivalent of an auto-immune disease, akin to making your charitable works a demonstration of your own piety. Like so much in our modern culture, it invokes compassion to tempt us to self-centeredness.

No, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. It is not something we project upon the world around us, but something that we meet and respond to. It is undeniable reality. As St. Augustine said, if you question the beauty of created things, they themselves will answer you “Here, look; we are beautiful,” and in so doing, point to the glory of their Creator.

The natural response, the one we ought to have, is to admire beauty and to be thankful for it. When we meet beauty in the form of a woman (which is the greatest form of beauty we normally meet in this life), it can inspire the first beginnings of love.

le_ravissement_de_psyche-large

Read the rest and see what you think.