Reinventing the Christmas Wheel

2015-12-10 Traditions img01Every year my family struggles to keep up Christmas traditions. It’s not that we find our traditions onerous or time-consuming, so much as that we don’t find many traditions at all.

A friend of mine helped illustrate my family’s dearth of traditions when joining us for dinner one year. When I asked what he would like to eat, he suggested, “Make me a traditional family dish.”

This request stumped me for a while, considering that my dad’s favorite description of my mother’s cooking runs, “Enjoy it while you can—you’ll never see it again.” Casting about in my mind, I recalled a variation on a favorite Mexican dish we had cooked up. Continue reading

State of the Union

2015-1-22 Union img01After reading Beauty by Roger Scruton, a contemporary British philosopher, I wrote to ask him if politics could be beautiful, given how ugly that art is now, and seems to have always been. Is beauty achievable in politics? Receiving a reply made me beam like a six-year-old with a new Lego set.  He explained, politics might not be the best place to hope for beauty, but that the rudimentary elements necessary for beauty could be conserved in politics, because politics could create the conditions for beauty to flourish: order and liberty.

It is in the light of those ends of politics– order and liberty – that I have since sought to approach the politics of my nation, the United States, and the discourse that defines political study through speech.

In the light of this criterion, the state of the union was bad. Continue reading

It’s a Wonderful Movie

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Critics try to reduce It’s a Wonderful Life to a proverb: “Virtue is its own reward.” “Money is the root of all evil.” “No man is a failure who has friends,” as the movie itself offers. The truth is, Wonderful Life wouldn’t be a great movie if it proposed simplistic answers to difficult moral quandaries. Instead, the movie introduces viewers to George Bailey, a man with virtues and failings, with grand ambitions and binding obligations. He is both heroic and human. In his struggles and growth as a character, George teaches the audience about living well. The movie achieves greatness by its compelling and believable portrayal of a virtuous character. Continue reading

Of Good Sense and Sensibility

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Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee  –Proverbs 2:11

The other night, I met a family member’s fiancé, although I didn’t know it at the time. She’s a few years younger than me, in her early 20s, and this was her first boyfriend. I was very interested in getting to know him, because years ago, I had her pegged as a prime candidate for an abusive relationship. She fit the profile: youngest child, lousy father, compliant personality who tended to give the answer she thought people wanted, even if the question at hand was incredibly trivial.

I was pleasantly relieved to talk to this guy, then, and have a really great conversation.

Continue reading

In and Out

1916 Chevrolet 490 TouringMark stepped out the door to Switzerland. His wife, Lisbeth, remained in the kitchen frying pancakes for breakfast that could be refrigerated and re-heated later.

As she cooked, she was speaking on her phone’s earpiece to her friend Hanna, currently visiting her own husband, Gregory, who worked in Tokyo. He, at just the moment, was on a business trip to London, but he would be back in time for dinner, which preparation currently occupied Hanna.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Lisbeth spoke inoffensively, though reproach and disagreement veined her remarks on the subject; “maybe getting into trouble is just a part of growing up.” Continue reading