Catholic Match Post on ‘Bringing Up Baby’

Basing another post off of one of my favorite films.

In case you need a recap, the film features Mr. Grant as a milquetoast scientist too wrapped up in his career to have a life and Miss Hepburn as an insane socialite who becomes fixated on him after a few chance encounters. Then she acquires a pet leopard with a taste for music and dogs (“I don’t know if that means he eats dogs or is fond of them”) and enlists him to help her take it down to her aunt’s farm. In the process, she turns his boring, dead-end life inside out.

Poor Grant just wants to get back to his normal routine, with his frigid fiancée and dry career. But, as time goes on, not only does he slowly start to enjoy himself, but the experience also provides a much needed injection of energy and manliness. He not only has a better time, but becomes better for the time. After all, one almost can’t help but grow more assertive when trying to wrangle a wild, untamable creature that’s out for your blood (not to mention the leopard).

Grant, when we first meet him, is a thoroughly conventional man, bound up in his work, engaged to a modern working woman who is so dedicated to her own career and his that she insists they won’t have any children lest they distract from the job. He seeks to follow the script that life has given him at every turn, reciting the correct polite phrases at the correct time, following the correct path of a distinguished career followed by marriage to the correct woman.

Then Hepburn suddenly comes in and, to his consternation, she doesn’t follow the rules at all. They meet on the 18th fairway, where she helps herself to his ball, cheerfully talking over his attempts to explain, then when she’s finally convinced its his ball shrugs it off with “it’s only a game.” Things do not improve from there.

Read the rest here.

Jekyll and Hyde at Catholic Match

For my Halloween post at Catholic Match, I got to gush a little about one of my all-time favorite horror films, 1931’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:

You all know the basic outline of the story: the brilliant, good Dr. Jekyll uses a chemical potion to transform himself in the evil Mr. Hyde, the embodiment of all his worst instincts and desires unfettered by even the smallest shred of conscience. Jekyll uses Hyde because, in that form, he can indulge in the pleasures that “a gentleman like me daren’t take advantage of.”

G.K. Chesterton perceptively pointed out that Jekyll and Hyde is not a story about how one man can be two, but how he cannot.
 
The whole point of the story is that Jekyll’s double-life, his attempt to contain and keep his sins, was doomed from the start. Because what Jekyll refuses to acknowledge, until it is too late, is that he and Hyde are the same person; what one does affects the other.

The more he lets Hyde out, the more the Hyde personality becomes his ‘true’ self, until by the end of the story Jekyll has effectively been absorbed into Hyde.

Read the rest here.

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