29 March 2010

She Disappeareth

Consider this a warning. Like Paul Revere, my heart is yelling inside of myself, The in-laws are coming! The in-laws are coming! You see, we spend time with Si's relatives only infrequently, as most of them live in another world called Outside California {did you know that you can drive for 20 hours and never leave this state?}. So, when they come, I begin to worry and fret. When you see folks once a year, that first year of marriage {the year in which you worry about the impression you make upon your in-laws} lasts approximately a decade.


So, at some point, I may freak out and turn off my computer forever.

Until they leave, at least.

With that said, I spent my weekend prereading books for my son. It is so discouraging to feel as if he is racing me. I read a book and leave it outside his door during the night, and by the time I wake up in the morning {because that child rises with the roosters--not that we have roosters, but if we did...} he is half-finished.

I am trying to convince him of the merit of slow reading.

For those of you who are, like me, desperate for book suggestions, I have three which I now heartily recommend. They are well-written children's books that are a sort of rearranged biography of a geographical area {as in, the individual stories are true, but the author took liberties with the order of events}. I like books in which I see character developing, children working hard and contributing to their family, adults in a family loving the children, little to no technology, lots of nature or at least simplicity, children thinking and solving problems on their own, etcetera. Plus I enjoyed them.

So here they are. There are more in the series, but this is all I have read so far:

Misty of Chincoteague

Sea Star:
Orphan of Chincoteague

Stormy, Misty's Foal

Did I mention these books have all the fun details little boys love: rodeos, round-ups, horse-breaking, adventure, storms, and so on?

If you are looking for a tale that is also a wonderful hero story, in which courage and determination triumph over misfortune and weakness, where the education of a child is human in every sense of the word, where a child becomes beautifully humble, and yet all of these things are the background to a beautiful story, not evidence of a didactic imperialism, might I suggest this:

The Door in the Wall

We just finished reading this aloud as a family and I, for one, adored it. Plus it was short, which is nice sometimes.

Have you any new suggestions for children's books?

25 March 2010

Thinking Through The Introvert Advantage {Technology, God's Mercy, and Rest}

The Introvert Advantage:
How to Thrive in an Extrovert World

by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy. D.

There is a scene in the book Henry and the Great Society where Henry freaks out concerning the installation of a telephone. Henry, for those of you who haven't read the book, is living on the brink of Industrialism. He himself is a traditional agrarian, watching all of the world about him transform into a New Economy. His wife and children swallow the new culture with its new indulgences whole, leaving him essentially alone, both physically {due to the invention of the car} and relationally {because they fail to really understand how hard the transition of the entire world weighs upon him}.

So, as I was saying, Henry is troubled by the telephone. He realizes its magnitude in a way few of us do: anyone, anywhere, with a phone has access to his house--even people he doesn't know and would never invite inside. The idea that millions of people have the potential to invade his home and interrupt his meals, to force themselves upon his solitude, troubles him to no end.

Today, we face even more such intrusions, and yet I still believe the phone--in all of its forms, such as cellular phones, satellite phones, and my personal favorite, landline phones--is perhaps the most potent. After all, the computer can be turned off and email ignored. Likewise, the television does not turn itself on and demand our attention.

But the phone? The phone is altogether different. It is one of the only technologies I can think of which forces itself upon us. It rings, demanding our attention. It has no regard for the fact that one of your children just fell down and is in tears, or you are in the middle of a lesson and someone just had a light bulb turn on in their head, or your hands are covered in raw chicken residue. The word "call" is an appropriate term, for the phone indeed calls us out of our lives. It beckons, and it has trained us to respond quickly to its demands.

Today, during morning lessons, my phone rang four separate times. Once, a debt collection service called our number because we are fortunate to have someone using our phone number when they apply for debts they never intend to repay. Next, we had a doctor's office call to confirm an appointment for tomorrow. And then we had two hang-ups.

This is typical.

With the invention of the car phone, which eventually became the cellular phone, the phone became capable of actually following us out of the house. Now, it didn't just interrupt our home life; it interrupted our drives and later all of life. I do not have a cellular phone because I do not want others to have that sort of access to me. There is no increase in virtue resulting from having constant technological noise surrounding us. Who can complete a thought, who can build a meaningful relationship with their child, when every single time something important is about to happen, the phone beckons once more with its siren song, promising something urgent and important on the other end?

How I wish that Dr. Laney had attempted to broach the topic of the impact of technology upon introverts. My guess is that it is technology, more than anything else, which has so many of us running for cover.

I am reminded of a line from How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Oh, the noise, noise, noise, NOISE! Dr. Laney explains that introverts are energized by thought and solitude, but never questions their relationship to television shows, social media, or the internet in general. Could the "relational energy" of a very extreme introvert be used up by watching a sitcom or a drama? Could it be that it is to the detriment of our families some of us hop on Facebook and open the tap, letting our energy spill out in the most frivolous places?

I do not claim to know, and my hunch is that it is probably different for each person. However, I wish that Dr. Laney had asked the question and investigated to see if there was any research upon the subject. She mentions popular culture several times, but only in the sense in which one would identify it or take for granted that one exists within its flow, rather than in the sense of questioning its contribution to the dis-ease often suffered by introverts.

I would also be interested to know if such technologies, specifically texting and cell phones, overstimulate extroverts, but that would be well outside the scope of a book on introverts, I know.

Dr. Laney did briefly mention the phone. She discusses something she calls "phone phobia," and she explains:
Here's how most introverts view the phone: It's an interruption that drains energy and requires losing internal focus, which you have to gain again; it requires expending energy for "on-the-feet-thinking"...
Homeschooling adds another layer to this, because even if the mother is an extrovert who isn't the slightest bit rattled by a phone call in the middle of lessons, her children may not be able to recover as swiftly as she, if at all. And at the end of the day, extrovert or no, continuing a thought to its end is an undervalued act in our culture and should be treasured by the monasteries of home learning.

Dr. Laney gives permission for something all of us should do at least some of the time: let the phone ring. Let the caller leave a message. Screen your calls using an answering machine, even, and "don't let people make you feel guilty for not picking up the phone."

Reading history can help us gain some perspective. Throughout all of history, the world beyond the walls of home did not have unlimited access to the inside whenever it liked. Dr. Laney mentions that she once found a calling card belonging to her grandmother's era which stated:
I Will Be Receiving from 2 to 4 on Sunday Afternoon.
Do you see the difference? Perhaps once weekly, the home opened its doors to the outer world and invited it in. Throughout the week, women and families would call upon each other whenever a house was open for receiving. But today, the existence of cell phones and home phones is as if we've held out a calling card which reads:
I Will Be Receiving at All Hours, Day and Night, Forever.
When we hold technology up to the light of history, it is easier to throw off its nonsensical demands. The phone was invented and put into our homes for convenience, not to dominate our lives. Carrying them in our pockets is a sure sign that Neil Postman's technopoly is alive and well.

The Mercy of God

There have been times where modern life has felt absolutely crushing to me. The demand for attention is oppressive. Everywhere, something in the landscape screams to passersby, "Look at me! Buy me! Covet me! Think about me! Me! Me! Me!" Where are we to hide from this culture? The introvert is, perhaps, the likeliest victim of modernity, in the same way that perhaps an extrovert would suffer if condemned to life in a convent, complete with a vow of silence.

Even though last week I made the case that introverts can be well-spoken, too, and perhaps a little rhetoric training is in order, this doesn't mean that the introvert {or anyone for that matter} is obligated to walk in lock-step with popular culture.

I am reminded of this verse:
A bruised reed He will not break
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish...

-Isaiah 42:3
God has a strong right arm, yes, but He is also tender and merciful. He is a refuge in the chaos. His burden is light, and even at that He gives us the strength we'll need to carry it.

God does not demand that we keep up with the racing world. He doesn't demand that we utilize every new technology debuted on Main Street. He only asks us to follow Him and fulfill the purposes to which He has called His people: to love one another, make disciples of the nations, to do good works, to glorify our Father in heaven.

We all need rest. The only true rest is in Him.

24 March 2010

Back to Norms and Nobility

Norms and Nobility:
A Treatise on Education

by David Hicks
Do you remember our failed Norms and Nobility book club last year? I had planned it all out, and a number of you were on board for reading--and even blogging--along. And then Siah became ill and all of my summer plans, including the book club, flew out of the window. Life is that way sometimes.

If any of you purchased the book at that time, good for you! For one thing, the lowest used book price is now five dollars greater than it was this time last year. More importantly, Cindy {who is far superior to me when it comes to running book clubs} is reading it portion by portion, and for those of you who were tempted to drown in the book, she's walking us through in a way that is going to aid us in comprehending the ideas. Hicks packs a lot into a small space, and it can be overwhelming at times.

Yesterday, Cindy blogged through Parts I and II of the Prologue. See? Small bites. They make a good meal when every bite is as packed with nourishment as this book is.

Join us?

Or, more aptly, join her?

Really, if you can only read one blog, I really think it should be Cindy's.


Possibly Related Posts:
Norms and Nobility: What's it All About?
Norms and Nobility: To Blog a Prologue {Entry 1}

23 March 2010

The Darndest Things: Edible Timeline

I promised earlier in the school year that I'd post a picture of our timeline once it really got going. Something happened yesterday which motivated me to take pictures now...just in case.

That baby. I never know what to expect next, that is for sure.

Last night, after he got out of his bath, I left him with one sister so that I could remove the other sister from the tub. You moms of many littles are following me here, right? The bath time dilemma: if your husband is gone, and the baby is too young to be in the bathtub alone, what is to be done with the baby when other children need to be gotten out also?

Anyhow, I was foolish enough to think that his sister could watch him for a couple minutes. This works okay during the day when I do crazy things like use the restroom alone. But I forgot the wildness really kicks it up a notch once the sun sets.

So, while I was getting one sister ready for bed, another sister watched mildly while her brother disassembled the latter half of the timeline in general, and attempted to eat the "1300" label in particular.

See Figure 1.
Figure 1
Figure 1

I was {unreasonably} distraught by all of this because it was late, I was tired and didn't feel well, and now I had to hunt down timeline figures. The baby handed me two century markers and King Edward II. The rest was mysteriously missing. He usually doesn't hide things well, so I searched the living room. I searched the dining room. I searched the kitchen. I checked the trash cans. I scoured the play nook.


At this point, I completely reorganized the children's books, thinking that he had stuffed them into the shelf somewhere.

No luck.

So I returned to the play nook and dug through baskets of cars and books, hoping for something.

Again, nothing.

At this point my son arrived home, and he is superior to me in the art of finding lost objects. He began to search and also found...nothing.

I asked the baby: "Where did they go? Where did you put the paper you took off the wall?"

He smiled. He looked at me knowingly. He walked in an almost authoritative manner while babbling excitedly to me in baby talk. He then took me on a tour of most of my house, pointing wildly in various directions, all the while using his loud gibberish and smiling happily.

This was the best thing that ever happened to him, and he was going to milk it for all it was worth. I am convinced that he knew what I was asking him, but thought it a great joke.

"I found it!" yelled E. from the play nook. He had decided to dig through the toy box and was rewarded with an odd assortment of English kings and century markers.

I put them up on the line, and informed him of who and what was still missing. We dug deeper and found everything in the toy box.

Including the 1200 marker.

This is an important detail, which tells me that this was a premeditated crime. This baby has been watching and waiting patiently for the right moment to do something he has obviously wanted to do {what with his staring longingly at the timeline at least once per day} for a very long time.

You see, the 1200 marker has been missing since January. There it was, lying calmly at the bottom of the toy box, belying the criminal who put it there in anticipation of a future reign of terror.


I have resolved that, as my girls are now too big to both fit in the tub with O. at the same time, O. will just have to sit through two baths because he cannot--I repeat, cannot--be trusted.

To the sister who was supposed to be watching him, I helplessly asked her, "Why didn't you tell me he was doing this?"

To which she calmly replied, "You only told me to watch him."

Possibly Related Post:
Learn how to make this timeline--Frugal Timeline Helps

22 March 2010

Playing the Harlot with Mr. President

I have made an effort lately to remain silent on politics. This may not seem apparent, as I've mentioned or alluded to various issues, but believe me when I say that it has taken an effort to not fire off a post every time I read the Drudge Report or Flashreport. For instance, when the President was lauded for his beer summit, when he seemed to be partying hard in the Beltway, when his own doctor suggested he take it easy on the alcohol, do you know many times I wanted to post this verse?
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
It is not for kings to drink wine,
Or for rulers to desire strong drink,
For they will drink and forget what is decreed,
And pervert the rights of all the afflicted.

-Proverbs 31:4-5
I've been thinking about that one for over a year, and never said a word.

But this health care bill passage has me over the edge.

It's not what you think. I mean, it is what you think {i.e., I am a freedom-loving American who, among other things, knows it is unconstitutional for the Congress to mandate the purchase of a commercial product}. But it also is not what you think.

I was sick when I heard a representative from our area, Democrat Jim Costa, who was listed as "undecided" magically announced a yes-vote shortly after it was publicized that the U.S. Department of the Interior was going to turn on the water, an announcement that typically would not be made until March 22nd, but was mysteriously done on the 16th instead. If you do not live here, you may not realize that water is the number one political issue in our area, and the lack of water has some towns upward of 35% unemployment. Turning on the water is a big, huge deal.

When we couple this with other mysterious happenings, such as Bart Stupak changing his no-vote to a yes-vote due to Obama issuing an Executive Order {an unconstitutional governing by fiat in direct conflict with the written legislation} and also in the wake of the U.S. Department of Transportation announcing a grant of almost $730,000 towards airports in Michigan.

This process had already seemed suspicious when earlier on we saw the supposed "Louisiana Purchase" where Senator Mary Landrieu actually had an exemption for her own state written into the text of the Senate bill.


Quickly, let's define bribery. In 1828, Noah Webster wrote this description:
The act or practice of giving or taking rewards for corrupt practices; the act of paying or receiving a reward for a false judgment, or testimony, or for the performance of that which is known to be illegal, or unjust. It is applied both to him who gives, and to him who receives the compensation, but appropriately to the giver.
Of a bribe, Mr. Webster wrote:
A price, reward, gift or favor bestowed or promised with a view to pervert the judgment, or corrupt the conduct of a judge, witness or other person. A bribe is a consideration given or promised to a person, to induce him to decide a cause, give testimony, or perform some act contrary to what he knows to be truth, justice or rectitude.
The list of these "coincidences" goes on and on.

There are two options here: either certain legislators allowed their votes to be purchased with bribes, or they wanted to vote yes anyhow, but held out in hopes of getting extra goodies for their own states. Either way, this is corruption at the highest levels.

Separation of Powers

Federalist Paper No. 46 quotes Montesquieu when it says:
There can be no liberty where legislative and executive powers are united in the same person or body of magistrates.
The Federalist Papers themselves never argue for complete and total separation, but they make it clear that the Constitution takes great care to make sure that the powers which belong to one branch of the government do not, in turn, belong to another. The branches, in other words, are to mostly stay out of each other's business save when they exercise their power to hold one another accountable. Federalist Paper No. 47 speaks more clearly what I am getting at:
It is agreed on all sides that the powers properly belonging to one of the departments ought not to be directly and completely administered by either of the other departments. It is equally evident that neither of them ought to possess, directly or indirectly, an overruling influence over the others in the administration of their respective powers. It will not be denied that power is of an encroaching nature, and that it ought to be effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it.
Not only is the bill itself inherently displaying the "encroaching nature of power," but the process does likewise. The favors, both those which appear to have influence over votes, and those which are of obvious influence by being written into the bills or "fixing bill" themselves, are revealing the encroachment of the executive powers upon the powers of the legislative branch.

In other words, the President went beyond his authority {not to mention disregarding his one vow, which is to serve and protect the Constitution of the United States--how one can be expected to protect something which one does not love is beyond me} and inappropriately attempted to influence the legislative process.

My husband suggested that the President should not be allowed so many private meetings with members of the legislature when they are getting ready to vote upon a bill in which he has a vested interest.

Logical Extension

There are a number of legal challenges this bill will face. Lawsuits by states and other organizations are imminent. What should we expect? Is President Obama going to nominate the relatives of judges to government positions? Will he promise them an executive order for one of their pet causes?

You see, when we put it in this light, showing the President bribing judges, it seems so obviously wrong, but since we have tolerated it in the entire process, who in the world is going to stop the behavior?

The Change I Hate to Believe In

Obama said he'd remake our country {revealing his disdain for our history, I might add}. He said it'd be different than "politics as usual."

And he is and it does.

This is a whole new magnitude of corruption. It is evil to govern a country in this manner.
And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.

-Exodus 23:8
Gather not my soul with sinners,
nor my life with bloody men:
In whose hands is mischief,
and their right hand is full of bribes.

-Psalm 26:9-10
And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.

-I Samuel 8:3
Sinners in Zion are terrified;
Trembling has seized the godless
"Who among us can live with the consuming fire?
Who among us can live with continual burning?"
He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity,
He who rejects unjust gain
And shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe;
He who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed
And shuts his eyes from looking upon evil;
He will dwell on the heights,
His refuge will be the impregnable rock;
His bread will be given him,
His water will be sure.

-Isaiah 33:14-16

19 March 2010

Microhomestead Update

Well, my husband made good on his word {not that I ever doubted him}, and the patio is in! And it is beautiful, thanks to Emily's talented husband. Si and I told him what we were thinking of as a plan, and he designed something so beautiful and perfect.

But first, the patio foundation, which was poured by a wonderful man from our church. He had some help from his crew, who were all very kind to my curious children. Here is the finished slab:

This has become a place where the children ride tricycles, bicycles, skates, and scooters. Si eventually hopes to have a different area for wheeling around so that this area can be filled with outdoor furniture and used for hospitality purposes, but as we own no patio furniture to speak of, the children have free reign and are enjoying every second.

The week after the slab was poured, the lumber was delivered:

The meticulous men organized all of the lumber in the twilight, and I couldn't quite get my husband to stop for the photo, but our friend humored me! This is probably because I said, "Smile, this is for the blog!"

Construction commenced with painting all of the lumber and then "shooting" in the bases. At least, that is what my firstborn called it. This is because the only way to "nail" anything into concrete is to...shoot the nail into the slab like a bullet with the help of a little gunpowder.

My son was very impressed by the volume alone.

After this, there was the framing and the tinkering and the bracing.

And in no time, he was finished.

Here is closeup so that you can see our friend's pretty beveled edges:

We have known Emily and Alif for years, but I never realized Alif was an artist. Thank you, Emily, for sharing your husband for a week!

Next Project!

This weekend, Si will till in my cover crop along with some compost, and I'll be putting in my berry patch. Hooray!

18 March 2010

Out of the Office

Today, I am taking my oldest to have a nasty cavity "fixed." I am not exactly sure what to expect in terms of "fixing" and I am so nervous that my husband is coming, too. For moral support. And also to catch me when if I faint.


I can handle a very long list of scary stuff, but dentists offices are not on it.

My nervousness causes scattered thoughts making today that perfect day for a quick link round-up before I go clean something to get my mind off dental caries.

  • How I wish I were going to Circe's annual education conference. Siah and I are hoping to go next year as a late tenth anniversary trip, but this year is the year they are covering liberty. Liberty, folks! The title of the conference is A Contemplation of Liberty: Because Free People Rule Themselves. Alas, I shall have to spend all of my birthday money on the CD set.

  • The Midland Agrarian had a short little post last week that still has me thinking this week. He wrote:
    However, if we are to restore "conservative values" should we not at least act like conservatives? Should we not also identify something worth conserving as a starting point?

    I recently wrote to my English friend that I think the most radically conservative act we could do was go home to tend our gardens and homes and visit our neighbors.
    I sometimes get the impression that some in this modern conservative "movement" would be quite content with freezing time and conserving today, or possible last year, minus the economic troubles. They fail to see that our culture is so depraved and unvirtuous that it almost demands some sort of dictatorship by its very nature. Until folks are willing to put aside the modern mentality that they are a cog in the industrial wheel which is free to self-indulge in its spare time, we are only going to be like the kingdom of Judah when compared to Israel proper: destruction was delayed, not avoided.
  • Food Renegade linked to an article this week which raised the question, Is backyard farming a feminist act? Is it just me, or is feminism becoming highly annoying? Feminists start doing what many of us have known all along, or were privileged to learn from agrarian philosopher Wendell Berry or leaders of the Cathlolic Land Movement such as G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, and then they have the nerve to say that what they are doing is feminist.

    What is described in the article as the "femivore" movement is nothing more than basic urban agrarianism. The acts, which proclaim themselves to be "feminist" are no such thing--they are the same human acts in which women have engaged for thousands of years, and from which there was only a brief three-generation (or so) hiatus due to the shell-shock our culture received courtesy of the industrial revolution. Do feminists really believe that the 1950s and vacuuming an empty house in a pretty dress are the epitome of the supposed "patriarchal" cultures which have dominated the landscape of history?

    The actions of these women are feminine and in accordance with their natures and natural talents. But feminist? The idea of women having a significant economic benefit to their families it at least as old as the virtuous woman whose praises were sung in the days of the Hebrews. In a comment at the Food Renegade site I wrote:
    It seems to me that the feminists in Berkley inadvertently discovered what women have done for almost the entirety of human history, and then the author of the article decided to treat it like it was a novel idea. Truly, reading Wendell Berry's essays in Home Economics or What are People For? should put an end to this ridiculous notion that the agrarian lifestyle is somehow "feminist."

    I do agree that a proper homestead would ideally benefit from the work of the entire family--the husband, the wife, and also all of the children. That was mentioned near the end. However, Berry himself asserted this back in the 80s in his essay Feminism, the Body, and the Machine when he wrote:
    I do not believe that there is anything better to do than to make one's marriage and household, whether one is a man or a woman. I do not believe that "employment outside the home" is as valuable or important or satisfying as employment at home, for either men or women.
    Feminism was essentially an Industrial movement and its core values involved a rejection of marriage, children, and home life in favor of an industrial job and a personal paycheck. To the extent that self-proclaimed feminists have returned to a place similar to that in which their great-great-grandmothers once stood, one might more rightly call it repentance than anything else.

I'm going to run off. Writing is just making me more nervous.

17 March 2010

America Alone {Post 4}

America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It
by Mark Steyn

I appreciated Steyn's piercing analysis in America Alone. He is one of those great thinkers who not only sees the individual issues, but also sees how they connect. Even though the premise of the book seems to be dealing with the Islamic "issue" he really manages to explain the demographic crisis facing every single Western nation {America is the only nation having close to enough babies to maintain itself}, the philosophical and practical consequences of social programs {its negative impact on the culture}, and our current crisis of failing to take a self-avowed enemy seriously.

However, comma.

At the very end, Si and I both were dissatisfied  It is as if the book is building to this great, revolutionary solution, and what we get is...well, not much of anything, in my opinion. Steyn doesn't, for instance, tell us to have more babies, even though the results of his research point to that being a very important step. He does imply that nations should eliminate their social programs {and as a result build some real men in their societies}, but he doesn't explain how that could actually happen in reality. And his response to Islam falls flat:
There are three possible resolutions to the present struggle:
  1. Submit to Islam.
  2. Destroy Islam.
  3. Reform Islam.
Because most of us don't take number one as a serious possibility, we're equally unserious about being forced to choose between two and three. But submission to Islam is very possible, and to many it will still seem ridiculous even as it happens...[snip]

As for option two, it doesn't bear thinking about. Even if you regard Islam as essentially incompatible with free societies, the slaughter required to end it as a force in the world would change America beyond recognition...[T]hey're unlikely to accomplish much by it, any more than the Russians have by their scorched-earth strategy in Chechnya.

That leaves option three: Reform Islam--which is not ours to do. Ultimately, only Muslims can reform Islam. All the free world can do is create conditions that increase the likelihood of Muslim reform, or at any rate do not actively impede it.
Really? These are our only options?

Early in the book, Steyn himself said that one reason why the developed world "has a difficult job grappling with the Islamist threat is that it doesn't take religion seriously." I would say that the solutions listed here are evidence of that exact same error. Steyn seems to believe the purported "Christianity" of the West to be valuable because of its attendant benefits {i.e., freedom, liberty, etc.}. What he fails to take into account is that Christianity is itself serious business--it is true, for starters. And since it is true, it is also powerful in the world.

Enter Dr. Grant's book, The Blood of the Moon. He offers us a fourth, more practical solution: Convert Islam.

Now, obviously, this is problematical, since conversion carries with it the death penalty, unless one considers the power of death to be the seed which brings liberty for those who come later {reminds me of Telemachus single-handedly ending the gladiatorial games}.

Grant writes against a sentiment which any Christian who has read only Steyn may be tempted to hold dear:
For far too long Christians have treated Muslims as our ideological adversaries. We have seen them as our enemies. To be sure, theirs is a worldview that by its very nature is an affront to Western civilization, a threat to our liberties, and an attack on our values--but then so is every other form of unbelief. The biblical mandate for Christians is not to argue with, shun, or stigmatize unbelief, but to win it.
Grant explains what he believes is the actual state of the majority of Muslims, especially the Muslims in Western countries:
Are the so-called Muslim moderates just being disingenuous and dishonest? Are they kidding us--or even kidding themselves--when they publicly distance themselves from Osama and his terrorist cabal? No, not at all. The fact is, the vast majority of all Muslims--like so many Christians and Jews--do not know what their faith actually teaches beyond the bare essentials.
Why is this? Dr. Grant says that, for Muslims, this is due to a language barrier:
[T]he Koran was written in classic Arabic and was, by the prophet's decree, not to be translated, lest the accretions of error slip back into this one, true, original religion. That decree has meant that most Muslims have never been able to read the sacred writings of their religion for themselves. Islam has developed more as a series of spiritual disciplines--essentially the Five Pillars and their handful of ancillary duties--than as a coherent set of spiritual doctrines...What a Muslim does is a far more important measure of his faith than what he knows. A good Muslim might be quite ignorant of some of the most basic teachings of the Koran...

Most moderate Muslims would be horrified to discover that Osama bin Laden may represent their faith more honestly, more literally, and more faithfully than they do.
Grant believes that this presents a unique spiritual opportunity:
The conflict between what many Muslims actually believe and what they are supposed to believe creates a worldview crisis that may well give us a chance to reach a whole new generation with the good news of the gospel.
This assertion, in and of itself, is good news. Nothing is a lost cause, and the Great Commission wasn't an instance of the King sending His knights out on a failed mission. Grant writes:
This is the thrust of the Great Commission. It is the spiritual, emotional, and cultural mandate to win the fallen world for Jesus. And though we know that only Christ Himself can fulfill that mandate in its entirety at the close of human history, our duty is to trust and obey, work and pray, love and serve, minister and administer. We are to "occupy till [He comes]" {Luke 19:13 KJV}.

16 March 2010

Thinking Through The Introvert Advantage {Rhetoric and Introversion}

The Introvert Advantage:
How to Thrive in an Extrovert World

by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.

I just finished up reading chapters six and seven, and I appreciated the content, though I see what Mystie meant when she said that the author lost her focus on introversion more and more as the book went on. I really, really prefer to stick to the bare bones definitions from the beginning of the book which define introverts as people who are energized by solitude and/or ideas while extroverts are energized by people and/or activity. Even though each type of 'vert may have some tendencies that are correlated with their 'version {so to speak}, these may or may not be directly caused by it. These tendencies seem to entice the author into running away from her topic a bit as the book progresses.

Chapter six is titled Socializing: Party Pooper or Pooped from the Party? and chapter seven is titled Working: Hazards from 9 to 5. I'm not going to go through everything in these chapters, but rather I want to focus on the connection between certain portions of these chapters and the liberal art called rhetoric.

What is Rhetoric?

The Circe Institute has a very organized set of definitions for the terms of classical education, so let's start there. First, Circe says that the liberal arts are the arts of thinking. They include the Trivium {arts related to language--grammar, logic, and rhetoric} and the Quadrivium {arts related to shapes and numbers--arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy}. In the context of the Trivium, we find rhetoric, the art of fitting expression.

The concept of rhetoric is spoken of in Scripture:
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Proverbs 25:11
Saying the right thing...at the right time...in the right way...all of these components together make up the art of rhetoric. This art of rhetoric can be learned. Like all skills, some of us may be more disposed to it, more naturally talented, but I think Charlotte Mason said it best when she wrote that genius and talent, without being trained in, for instance, the skill of paying attention, are practically worthless.

Likewise, an inclination to excel does not make up for lack of training in the liberal arts.

Introversion and Rhetoric

Dr. Laney presents introverts as bumbling when it comes to conversation and other verbal interactions. We are not, she implies, as capable as extroverts when it comes to "small talk" {in actuality, it is probably more accurate to say that, because we are energized by ideas we tend to disdain it, sometimes to our detriment}. She takes pains early in the book to say that shyness and introversion are separate ideas, but then describes her "introverted" reaction to socializing in a way that sounds much more akin to shyness than introversion. I'll say it again: introversion {being drained by, in this case, a party} is not the same as shyness {the sweaty palms and nervousness described in anticipation of a party}.

To clarify, I think that most of the advice given in the chapter would greatly help introverts who are shy, but this still doesn't absolve Dr. Laney of confusing two issues she spent much time convincing us were separate.

In any event, I think we can say that extroverts naturally outpace introverts in regard to conversational skills, as a general rule. Some of us are completely untrained in the skill of rhetoric. Others of us, and I include myself in this category, are partially trained, but spent a number of years living {happily!} as hermits and are subsequently out of practice.

Rhetoric is a Gift

Rhetoric is nothing less than a gift which we can give to our children, perhaps especially our more introverted children. Not only is it beautiful in the sight of God when a word is fitly spoken, but it is also a great way to combat shyness, which sometimes results from, or at least is aggravated by, awareness that one lacks the skills to handle the social situation at hand.

We introverts tend to spurn small talk. I myself have made less than savory remarks about the tendency for such a great multitude of "shallow" talk to dominate the cultural landscape. We like ideas, right? That's what we want to talk about.

However, comma.

I see this as a personal failing when I look at myself. Small talk tends to be the doorway to friendship. There is a certain depth to "idea talk" that may not be appropriate for a budding acquaintanceship. The only way to build a friendship is to grow in depth over time.

In regard to training our children in the art of rhetoric, when we use the broad definition of the art {"a word fitly spoken..."}, we see that this is more than learning to give a formal speech. This is the art of living with other people, of conversing with them in different types of situations. Just as we coach our children that they can be loud at a ballgame and quiet in church, there are a million ways in which to coach them so that their introversion does not "trap" them into growing up into a bad conversationalist.

I am reminded that my husband, from our children's youngest days, tends to require them to look adults in the eye, return greetings cheerfully, answer basic questions in a strong voice, and so on. It didn't dawn on my until today that he was giving them a beginning course in rhetoric.

My Training

When I was 16 years old, I was given intense interview training. I was in a pageant {not a beauty pageant, and let's keep this a secret between me, you, and the Internet, okay?}, and there was an interview portion. Coaching for this changed my life. We were told how to dress, how to sit, how to walk, {all of that is body language} and most importantly how to answer a question. We were drilled with a hundred different questions during our coaching. By the time the actual competition rolled around, even our shyest contestants were excelling in business-type interviews when compared with the average 16-year-old. The girl who won the interview portion did one thing the rest of us didn't: she went in for extra instruction, extra practice, and accordingly brought her rhetoric abilities up to a higher level than the rest of us.

In addition to this, I did a short stint on a forensics team. Training a youth in, for instance, debate can have a huge impact on the skills connected to quick wit and "small talk." In both Lincoln-Douglas as well as team debate {also called Policy Debate}, students have to learn to listen well and think on their feet, having only a short time to compose themselves and present their ideas well and concisely. A cross-examination time can train debaters in the art of asking piercing questions.

I was no champion debater, but if I learned anything in the experience it is that speaking well is a skill which can be taught and mastered, often by the most unlikely people.

I am not saying that rhetoric training can or should transform an introverted child into some sort of extroverted social butterfly. I am saying that the neglect of these skills in education has created a culture of introverts who have trouble competing with their more naturally talented extroverted counterparts. When you couple this with the fact that many young extroverts cannot put a decent sentence or thought together, either, we see that we have a cultural crisis in language, not just some sort of introverted disadvantage.

Rhetoric in Social and Work Situations

The advice that Dr. Laney doles out is mostly not rhetorical skill, but rather a set of tactics to "make meeting people easier." However, I think her list is helpful and definitely worth reading and remembering, especially for those of us whose greatest obstacle is "breaking the ice" in the first place.

With that said, I don't think the advice addresses some of the real underlying issues associated with the lack of a grounding in an important liberal art. For instance, Dr. Laney writes:
In one-on-one talks they are more likely to be drawn out, and if an introvert starts a comment without a preface, the other person will often ask for a connecting thought. If the dreaded brainlock occurs, it's not a problem to say, "Boy, what I was about to say flew right out of my head."

{p. 162}
Dr. Laney sometimes takes an approach which seems to say, "I am an introvert, therefore I am just this way," but starting a comment without a preface is a rhetorical issue, not an energy issue. In other words, the "comment without a preface" is not a "word fitly spoken"--the right thing said in the right way at the right time.

I cannot emphasize this enough: rhetoric is a skill which can be learned and mastered. This is an art of living, which must be practiced. I know that, for me, my skills have atrophied during my years of nauseous pregnancies and hibernating with newborns. I have to remind myself often that practice, though uncomfortable, will make me stronger in this area.

Thinking Before Speaking

I appreciated Dr. Laney's suggestion that an introvert not be afraid to tell a coworker that they need to think a question over for a moment. The desire for instantaneous gratification takes many forms, and sometimes it is embodied in the demand for immediate feedback {depending on the context, of course}. But the first thoughts are often not the best thoughts, and I would say Laney's advice is good for all people, not just introverts. After all, Scripture says that he who restrains his lips is wise.

The subtitle of the book seems to imply that introverts can have an edge by capitalizing on certain strengths. Thinking something over in private before speaking comes more naturally to a lot of introverts, the book says, and their response will be worth waiting for. If I were teaching this principle to my children, I would approach this as a discipline of the wise rather than some sort of trick to help a career along.

Small Talk and Loving Your Neighbor

Dr. Laney gives a few pointers on handling the obligatory small talk at parties and other social gatherings. They are decent, but for some reason this cause me to recall a friend from college whose conversational skills were revolutionized by the first self-help book every written, Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends and Influence People. I haven't ever read the entire book, but what I observed about this friend boiled down to an increase in love for his fellow man.

In other words, the person in front of us, the people around us, are living souls. They are worth knowing. They are worth talking with and ministering to. For me personally, my talking abilities on every level are flustered by thinking about myself, and set free by thinking about the welfare of others. This mindset won't make up for rhetoric training, of course, but surrendering our words and conversations to the Lord can greatly assist those of us who falter in our speech.

12 March 2010

Charlotte Mason and the Formation of Character

The Original Home Schooling Series
by Charlotte Mason

One evening this week found me restlessly browsing my bookshelves. My husband was working on his sermon for Sunday, and I was trying {valiantly!} not to interrupt, harass  or otherwise distract him. I eyed my Philosophy of Education shelf, and looking back at me was a volume of Charlotte Mason's that I've been meaning to pick up for years: Formation of Character: Shaping the child's personality {volume 5}.

I figured this could keep me out of trouble, so I decided to read it.

About forty-ish pages in, I began to question Ms. Mason a bit. I found myself wondering if this was biblical, if it was a proper response to obvious sin, and so on. The description of "shaping the child's personality" sounded a bit like baptized behaviorism, and the cause was not helped when the training of a dog was given as an example of the method.


However, comma.

I have heard good things about Ms. Mason's "habit training" from admirable people, so I read on, and I am quite glad that I did. I am now a quarter of the way through the volume, and I'm ready to share a few reflections from my reading so far:

  • There is a difference between an individual instance of sin and a habit that is sinful. Mason relates habitual behaviors to channels through which water is continuously running. Let's say, for instance, that a boy tells a lie. He may not know for sure that this is wrong. Or, alternately, he may suspect that this is wrong, but only be convinced when his mother reprimands him for the behavior and instructs him never to do it again. However, if his mother instead does nothing {because he is so young and "doesn't know better"} or giggles {because the falsehoods of the young are so obvious and often amusing}, he may be encouraged to tell tales again.

    If a child lies over and over, day after day, at some point he leaves off making a decision to lie and instead has a habit of lying. This habit is part of his character. That is why, on the one hand, we can have a boy who told a lie and, on the other hand, we can have a certified liar. When the lying becomes a habit, it necessarily can be said to be part of his character.

    Mason's methods in this volume, therefore, are not addressing individual deliberate acts of sin. Rather, she is addressing habits which come so natural to the child that they flow effortlessly like water through a channel.
  • How much easier would life be if we parents prevented sinful habits in the first place! This is what struck me over and over as Mason relayed examples of boys throwing tantrums, teenage girls sulking, young girls allowing their minds to wander instead of training their attention upon a subject. Mason herself wrote:
    [W]hat have you two excellent parents been about to defer until the child is budding into womanhood this cure which should have been achieved in her infancy? Surely, seventeen years ago at least, you must have seen indications of the failing, which must needs be shown up now, to the poor girl's discredit."


    "[I]f you had done the work in her childhood, a month or two would have effected it, and the child herself would have been unconscious of effort."

    "How sorry I am. Do tell me what I should have done."

    "The tendency was there, we will allow; but you should never have allowed the habit of this sort of feeling to be set up."
    When my firstborn was a toddler, I was well under the influence of the modern parenting magazine, which assured me that his tantrums were nothing other than a quest for attention and that, if I simply ignored him and denied him his audience, they would fade into the past. My son was going through, it was said, a stage.


    To my chagrin, I didn't read any other advice until a couple years later, when I had to spend months breaking him of his terrible habit. What could have been cleared up easily in his toddlerhood took months of painful effort to do in his preschool years.
  • There is hope for children with bad habits. This is music to every parent's ears! Can children really be reformed? Mason gives us a resounding "yes," if only we will put our hands to the plow and not look back. Within Christianity, there is a general sentiment which seems to have been present in Mason's time and continues to this day that says that we must simply pray to God for mercy in these instances and hope He sends us help. This is true in the case of sin, but Mason drew the "boundary-line between flesh and spirit" in a different place than some people. {I haven't yet decided whether or not I agree with her, so don't shoot the messenger here, okay?} She writes:
    [E]very fault of disposition and temper, though it may have begun in error of the spirit in ourselves or in some ancestor, by the time it becomes a fault of character is a failing of the flesh, and is to be dealt with as such--that is, by appropriate treatment.
    What Mason believed is that once habit becomes part of the character, it also becomes physically part of the brain. The mind and body travel the same water channel daily, so to speak. This means that part of the cure must also be physical, and not unlike digging a new channel, a new channel that flows in such a way that the character brings more glory to God because it better reflects His nature.

    So far, I have appreciated not just the proactivity of this method, but also its gentleness. The position taken by the parent {as well as other members of the household} is not one of condemnation, but one of extending grace and encouragement. The child, parents, and other household members are all on the same team, trying to beat the bad habit. It is a very uplifting approach, to be sure, and seems quite fitting an approach with Christian children, who are not merely our children, but our fellow heirs with Christ.

To the extent that any of us have ever felt baffled or beaten down by a child's habits, I think this book may offer hope. I'll share more of my reflections as I go along.

We are currently underway changing a habit of our third child that is morally neutral. We are eliminating thumb-sucking. My mental cut-off for thumb-sucking has always been three, especially if you read the research on its impact on malocclusion. So, the night after her third birthday party, we talked to her about her teeth. She agreed that she did not want "yucky teeth." And once she was on board, we wrapped tape around both thumbs, not so much to keep her from sucking them so much as to remind her not to suck them. She cried a bit on one particularly difficult day. Slowly but surely, however, her thumb has become less of a draw to her. Now she does not "run" to it for comfort when she falls or is sad, and so the habit seems to be almost broken.

I feel my eyes are beginning to open as to the potential for this approach to be used with other, more challenging bad habits.

11 March 2010

Welcome to Spring: School Out of Doors

When I wrote my post on Ambleside a couple weeks ago, I inadvertantly stumbled into reassessment. This happens when I least expect it; I haven't picked up Norms and Nobility for almost a month! However, comma, reading Anne White's article Who Was Charlotte Mason? really got me thinking.

And what I've been thinking about is this:
Outdoor life is necessary to teach nature first-hand, which means plenty of time spent out of doors each day in all weather and in different environments for students of all ages. "School" for children younger than six consisted almost entirely of time spent outdoors.
I was suddenly flooded with memories of the time when I had first discovered Ms. Mason's work. We lived in a house with dirt for a backyard. I spent many mornings hauling one child--and later, two children--over to my parents' house. While Number Two slept peacefully in their crib, Number One and I were outside. I'd bring books, a list of phone calls I needed to make, whatever I could think of so that we could be outside the entire time. In addition, we played nature games. For instance, he would have to go somewhere and study something--a flower or a tree--and try to describe it to me well enough that I could guess what it was. Alternately, I would describe something to him and he would run away and try to point at what I had described without my first indicating its location.

I still remember his happy, joyous face. He delighted in such a simple game.

When we began "real school" after his sixth birthday, he still went outside, along with at least one sister, but I was busy inside. We had a newborn. The youngest three children were three and under. I was tired. Did I mention I was busy?

And so those out of door days seemingly slipped away from me, save the occasional nature journalling time. This became the new habit.

As I was reading about "school" for the under-six set, I realized {Hello? Is anybody home?} that the majority of my children are under six. And yet what I am doing with them each day resembles what an over-six crowd should be doing more than anything else.

For now, Number Four is sleeping through morning lessons. But he is my most dynamic child yet. This week, during his awake time I found him:
  1. On top of the dining table, pondering the possibility of throwing my vase to the floor.
  2. Choking on his big sister's vitamin, which she had neglected to take, and he had stolen from her placemat on said dining table.
  3. Emptying the drawer in which I keep plastic baggies of various sizes.
  4. Scooting a child-sized rocking chair into the kitchen so that he could scale the kitchen counters.
  5. Emptying the new bookcase of its contents.
  6. Unfolding all my folded laundry.
And so on and so forth, and the week is only half over. What will I do with him next year when he is awake during lessons?

I think I found my answer, at least for some of the time.

I mentioned a recently that my husband is making sure we have a covered patio before spring is in full force. I have decided to try having Circle Time out of doors, at a table on the patio {or, on our laps if we cannot find a used table to purchase}. What I imagine is that, next year, my two youngest children will spend all morning outside, and the older two and I will join them there for at least part of our lessons. If Number Four needs to run around during Circle Time, I am very inclined to allow it, as long as he is present during Bible reading and prayer, and comes back later for the hymn singing.

This might also help me put Nature Study into Circle Time, a place I have always felt it belonged. We are blessed with ten months of outdoor weather per year, give or take a month, and I think I have been wasting it all this time.

No matter. We'll turn over a new leaf after the patio project is complete.

All of this reminded me of my favorite book ever, Poetic Knowledge. Allowing children under six to exist in a manner distinct from that of an older child {not that older children don't ever experience play, or younger children don't ever experience the great indoors, but as a general rule}, is based on the idea that childhood, and specifically early childhood, has its own attendant duties and goals. In Poetic Knowledge we see, for instance, the idea of words as symbols. Early childhood is for building concrete knowledge, intimate knowledge of real things, the things which words symbolize. So it is not enough to let them "run free" out of doors, but Charlotte Mason, for instance, would have Mother there to take advantage of every learning opportunity, to answer every small question about every flower and bird and tree.

Moreover, James Taylor would have each student cultivate wonder, and he has worked hard to stimulate wonder in older students whose wonder was killed by modern educational methods. What seemed obvious to me in reading the book was that said students missed out on something by not getting to cultivate wonder and awe at the appropriate time, which is to say in childhood. Taylor writes:
Of course, there is real effort required at some point in learning, and often great effort is required to learn something well. But this is a situation that arises after the experience of wonder--if it arises at all--and the exertion for this kind of learning is usually in the student on the way to becoming a specialist or expert. And, even in the case of the specialist, the true scientist for example, there would always be the memory of the original love of the thing about which he first wondered. Consider again Pasteur, Fabre, and the Faraday in this light. They all retained the initial vision of the beginner, the amateur, the one who loves.
This is one of the things I want for all of my children: memories of their original loves, of delight. I want them to have a golden feel about their childhoods when they are grown, and I want all of their intellectual development to stem from wonder and awe.

That is an ideal and a tall order, to be sure.

I have a hunch that lessons out-of-doors will help me retain this for my younger children, while allowing my more mature {relatively speaking} students to enjoy the breeze even during their more formal lessons.

Possibly related posts:
Poetry and Science Holding Hands
Poetic Knowledge Recap

10 March 2010

Quotables: The Blood of the Moon

The Blood of the Moon
by George Grant
No nation has ever peacefully converted to Islam; every Islamic nation was brought under the dominion of Muhammad's sickle by Muhammad's sword.

{p. 42}
[W]hile Islam shared a number of important doctrines and dogmas with the two other great Abrahamic faiths, its essential difference was that it taught a means of salvation attainable and achievable by human agency. Man can save himself.

{p. 43}
The simple faith of Muhammad was therefore merely that man was adequate. Man could make his own way, earn his own salvation, and exercise his own discipline. For all its praise of Allah, Islam has always been a man-centered faith.

{p. 45}

09 March 2010

Lyme Disease Documentary

My father passed this along to me a few days ago, and I just haven't had time to get it up until now. Apparently, this documentary came out last year. Titled Under Our Skin: There's No Medicine for Someone Like You, I had no idea that what I and my family battled for a decade was considered to be some sort of bioweapons program gone awry. I haven't seen the documentary, so I'll withhold judgment for now.

As my father said in the email in which he sent me this trailer, we were blessed to have a doctor who understood the nature of the disease, as well as the nature of the body, and went well outside accepted protocol in order to treat the disease--and cure it.

I noticed that there is a character in the movie named Jordan Fisher Smith who actually pulled a tick out of himself and worried about the possibility of Lyme, but was assured by his doctor that "Lyme is very rare in California."


It's not.

In fact, that is why I went undiagnosed for years. No doctor wanted to believe that there was Lyme in California. But, in fact, there was a pocket of Lyme in California, and my family was not alone. Lyme wasn't in California because it wasn't officially in California {i.e., the government had not yet decided it was in California}.

This is one of the many reason I am against government-run healthcare. In my case, and in the case of my husband's sickness last June--in both of these cases, what it took to beat the disease was very, very expensive. In the instance of my husband, we had great doctors and great insurance. In the instance of myself, the health insurance was okay, but my father was also willing to dish out his own money to find a doctor to treat me {and eventually himself and my mother, both of whom ended up with Lyme before it was over}.

Let me rephrase it. I am not against government-run healthcare.

I am for freedom, the freedom I have known and enjoyed already, the freedom I have exercised often.

I am for the freedom to get well.

08 March 2010

America Alone {Post 3}

America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It
by Mark Steyn

I was going to write a separate post on city zoning ordinances, since I recently read almost our entire city code and was struck by the peculiar presuppositions involved in zoning laws, but then I realized that all of this really fits quite neatly with Mark Steyn's discussion on the legally required {in some states; in other states the government merely harasses raw dairymen} pasteurization of dairy products, so I'm going to give it a go at talking about these separate issues as part of one Big Issue.

I remember hearing adults complain about zoning laws as I was growing up. I knew there was some sort of negativity surrounding them. What I didn't realize was how ironic it is that the purported "land of the free" would allow such nonsense.

You see, I thought that zoning laws were probably quite reasonable in the underlying philosophy. I assumed that even though I can buy a property and have it be my real property, privately held, that if said property is in a neighborhood where all the houses are close together, it might be necessary, or at least sensible, to have a few limitations on the "freedom" to use my property as I please. What I mean is, maybe I shouldn't be allowed to build a skyscraper on my residential property. Maybe I shouldn't be allowed to run a feed lot on my residential property.

Do you see what I mean?

I always thought that zoning laws assumed that I had absolute freedom over my property, but then put a few boundaries on said freedom because I'm living in close quarters and need to extend courtesy to those around me.

Oh, no. That is not it at all.

Zoning laws, I recently learned, are built on an entirely different set of assumptions, and Assumption Number One is that my "private property" is not mine with which to dispose of as I choose.

Are you familiar with the concept of "permitted uses?" According to the code of my own city, a use is:
the purpose for which land or a building is arranged, designed or intended, or for which either land or a building is or may be occupied or maintained.
A permitted use, therefore, is:
a use listed as such and allowed by right which only requires compliance with the zoning ordinance.
If you pull back all the legalese, the idea behind zoning laws is that the owner of the property is allowed to do nothing with his property outside of what his city government has determined is a "permitted use."

In other words, I had it entirely backward in my mind. While I thought that I was allowed to do anything other than a handful of forbidden uses which were forbidden only for the sake of courtesy toward my neighbors, it is actually that everything is forbidden except a short list of "uses" decided upon by a bunch of folks who do not know me nor do they know my neighbors.

In 1995, Gary M. Pecquet wrote an article for The Freeman entitled Private Property and Government Under the Constitution. He wrote:
The economic concept of private property refers to the rights owners have to the exclusive use and disposal of a physical object. Property is not a table, a chair, or an acre of land. It is the bundle of rights which the owner is entitled to employ those objects. The alternative {collectivist} view is that private property consists merely of a legal deed to an object with the use and disposal of the object subject to the whims and mercies of the state. Under this latter view, the state retains ownership and may at any time regulate or even repossess the property it temporarily cedes to individuals.

The Founding Fathers upheld the economic view of property. They believed that private property ownership, as defined under common law, pre-existed government. The state and federal governments were the mere contractual agents of the people, not sovereign lords over them. {emphasis mine}
Folks, if you have zoning laws regulating your property, you likely have a fairly sovereign lord reigning over you. This is why the position of those running for local government on the idea of zoning laws is so important.

Collectivism begins at home.

Zoning laws, because of the philosophy which underlies them, are an affront to free men everywhere.

There are other ways in which America is run by "sovereign lords," dictating how people should be living their lives. Steyn touches on one near the end of his book:
The softening and feminization of the Western world isn't merely a matter of gun confiscation...[snip] I yield to no one in my contempt for the French, but that said, cheese-wise I feel they have the edge...[C]heese is not the battleground on which to demonstrate the superiority of the American way. In America, unpasteurized un-aged raw cheese that would be standard in any Continental fromagerie is banned. Americans, so zealous in defense of their liberties when it comes to guns, are happy to roll over for the nanny state when it comes to the cheese board.

Personally, I want it all: assault weapons and Camembert, guns and butter and all the other dairy products that U.S. big-government federal regulation has destroyed the taste of. The French may be surrender monkeys on the battlefield, but they don't throw their hands up and flee in terror just because the Brie's a bit ripe. It's the Americans who are the cheese-surrendering eating-monkeys, who insist that the only way to deal with this sliver of Roquefort is to set up a rigorous ongoing Hans Blix-type inspections regime. France, for all its faults, has genuinely federalized food: a distinctive cheese every twenty miles down the road. In America, meanwhile, the food nannies are lobbying to pass something called the National Uniformity for Food Act...

...[T]ake almost any area of American life: what's the more common approach nowadays? The excessive government regulation exemplified by American cheese or the spirit of self-reliance embodied in the Second Amendment? On a whole raft of issues from health care to education the United States is trending in an alarmingly fromage-like direction...Americans should understand that the softening of a state happens incrementally. You can reach the same point as the Europeans by routes other than gun confiscation.

Do you see? We cling to our guns, but we give up our cheese? Raw dairymen the country over are treated like criminals.

And so are private citizens who wish to build a patio on their own property their own way without asking their government officials for permission.

Patio? Yes, we tried to avoid permitting, but found there was no way around it, so we had the honor of dishing out extra money to the city for their kindness in assuring us that the competent folks we know personally are, in fact, competent.

Zoning laws. Food laws. They really go together. For instance, if I grow an orange in my backyard, and you want to buy it from me, and I want to sell it to you, well, did you know that none of that matters because the government at almost every single level--city on up to federal--has an opinion about whether or not you can buy that orange from me?

Do you want to know how we ended up with politicians running this country who have no concept of the citizenry as a bunch of grown ups who are perfectly capable of running their own lives?

It starts at home.

Who we vote for on the local level matters. Zoning laws preceded the nanny state, and are actually emblematic of it.

05 March 2010

America Alone {Post 2}

America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It
by Mark Steyn

Well, I certainly planned to blog this book a lot more than I did. Sometimes that happens. Si and I finished it, and then the next day we began Dr. George Grant's The Blood of the Moon which I am hoping will give us a {broad} historical and Christian perspective on the issues surrounding Islam in the 21st century. I loved Steyn's book, his analysis seems fairly spot on, but his solutions seem to exist in a bit of a closed system. At least, this is my hunch. Hopefully, I can compare Steyn with Grant and gain a bit of enlightenment.

For today, though, I thought I'd do a bit of a commonplace book entry, a smattering of quotes, if you will. This book is broad as well as deep, and Steyn has a firm grasp of the consequences of the welfare state on the micro-level {the individual} as well as on the macro-level {countries and continents}. This book is worth reading for many reasons.

The author is, by the way, hysterically funny. One of my favorite moments was when he called Luxembourg "a country slightly larger than your rec room."

The Quotes:

One reason why the developed world has a difficult job grappling with the Islamist threat is that it doesn't take religion seriously.

{p. 96}
Almost by definition, secularism cannot be a future: it's a present-tense culture that over time disconnects a society from cross-generational purpose. Which is why there are no examples of sustained atheist civilizations.

{p. 98}
That's another feature of paternalistic welfare state--that the paternalists, the rulers, come to regard the electorate as children, to be seen but not heard.

{p. 107}
The Continent has embraced a spiritual death long before the demographic one.

{p. 111}
Hilaire Belloc, incidentally, foresaw this very clearly in his book The Servile State in 1912--before record collections, or even teenagers, had been invented. He understood that the long-term cost of welfare is the infantilization of the population. The populations of wealthy democratic societies expect to have total choice over their satellite TV packages, yet think it perfectly normal to allow the state to make all the choices in respect of their health care. It's a curious inversion of citizenship to demand control over peripheral leisure activities but to contract out the big life-changing stuff to the government. And it's hard to come up with a wake-up call for a society as dedicated as latter-day Europe to the belief that life is about sleeping in.

{p. 112}
Almost every issue facing the European Union--from immigration rates to crippling state pension liabilities--has at its heart the same root cause: a huge lack of babies. Every day you get ever more poignant glimpses of the Euro-future, such as it is. One can talk airily about being flushed down the toilet of history, but even that's easier said than done. In eastern Germany, rural communities are dying, and one consequence is that village sewer systems are having a rough time adjusting to the lack of use. Populations have fallen off so dramatically that there are too few people flushing to keep the flow of waste moving. Traditionally, government infrastructure expenditure arises from increased demand. In this case, the sewer lines are having to be narrowed at great cost in order to cope with dramatically decreased demand.

{p. 114}
The trouble with the social-democratic state is that, when government does too much, nobody else does much of anything.

{p. 126)
...the United States garrisons not remote ramshackel colonies but its wealthiest allies, thereby freeing them to spend their tax revenues on luxuriant welfare programs rather than on tanks and aircraft carriers and thus further exacerbating the differences between America and the rest of the free world. Like any other form of welfare, defense welfare is a hard habit to break and damaging to the recipient. The peculiarly obnoxious character of modern Europe is a logical consequence of America's willingness to absolve it of responsibility for its own security.

{p. 160}
[I]t's in the nature of government to do things worse, and slower.

{p. 184}
The best reason to diminish social programs is not to put more money in people's pockets but to put more responsibility in people's pockets.

{p. 192}
At the heart of multiculturalism is a lie: that all cultures are equally "valid." To accept that proposition means denying reality--the reality of any objective measure of human freedom, societal health, and global population movement.

{p. 203}

Next time, we'll talk about the connection between the legally required pasteurization of dairy products and socialism. In the meantime, I will go sip some organic grass-fed milk with my girls, milk that is completely unadulterated: raw, not pasteurized  whole, not homogenized, skimmed, or otherwise fragmented by government restrictions.

04 March 2010

Quotables: What Are People For?

What Are People For?: Essays
by Wendell Berry
A powerful superstition of modern life is that people and conditions are improved inevitably by education.


[S]uch a man as Nate Shaw stands outside the notice, much less the aim, of the education system. From the standpoint of our social mainstream, the idea of a well-educated small farmer...has long been a contradiction in terms, and so of course our school systems can hardly be said to tolerate any such possibility. The purpose of education with us, like the purpose of society with us, has been, and is, to get away from the small farm--indeed, from the small everything. The purpose of education has been to prepare people to "take their places" in an industrial society, the assumption being that all small economic units are obsolete.


Here is a superior man [{Nate Shaw}] who never went to school! What a trial that ought to be for us, whose public falsehoods, betrayals of trust, aggressions, injustices, and imminent catastrophes are now almost exclusively the work of the college bred. What a trial, in fact, that is for us, and how guilty it proves us: we think it ordinary to spend twelve or sixteen or twenty years of a person's life and many thousands of public dollars on "education"--and not a dime or a thought on character. Of course it is preposterous to suppose that character could be cultivated by any sort of public program. Persons of character are not public products. They are made by local cultures, local responsibilities. That we have so few such persons does not suggest that we ought to start character workshops in the schools. It does suggest that "up" may be the wrong direction.

-from the essay A Remarkable Man