Thursday, January 24, 2013

Links and such

Man, I have been up against it as of late. Sorry I haven't posted more often. I don't have a ton of time today, so instead I'll regale you with things other people wrote that I have found overly amusing recently. Without further ado, an adventure into the absurd!

Subway being sued over footlongs not measuring up. They are being sued by two guys from South Jersey. These guys should be sued for not eating hoagies. Embarrassing. And yeah, like these guys never tried to sneak in an inch.

County Kerry in Ireland has voted to legalize drunk driving. Really?! They wait until I leave? Seriously though, if you remember this blog post of mine, you will see why I think this is a really bad idea.

Sex offender Facebook ban ruled unconstitutional. I thought this was why Facebook was invented in the first place. Seriously, if you weren't a stalker before you had Facebook...

To follow up that gem: Emma Watson was mistaken for a 12 year old. Yeah, the chick from Harry Potter. Seriously, she's 22. How bad is the TSA at their job?

Keep on living the dream. I'll post something more substantial soon. Promise.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

but i don't want to

I really don't want to do this, but people have been asking for it. Here it is. My take on the Mantei Teo thing. I know there's an apostrophe that goes in there somewhere, whatever. Before I get into my opinion, I would like to ask the world in general for a little compassion. I mean, hasn't everyone at one time made up a story about the girl you hooked up from when you were on vacation last summer in Canada? I'm sure the other linebackers were busting his stones about being a virgin and... hey, the kid is only human. He's Mormon for Pete's sake. The difference is that we didn't have to explain it to the press. It's hard enough convincing your 14 year old friends about your French-Canadian love affair, let alone some real hardcore media types. Hey, that leads me to my opinion on the whole thing!

So... First an admission. I didn't care about poor Mantei's girlfriend when I thought she was real. I watch sports for one reason, to watch human beings pit themselves against one another and see who is best. Along the way, I decided I preferred to watch one group of human beings succeed over another. I, on the other hand, do not want to get to know them. I enjoy steak. I have never once had the urge to meet the farmer, the butcher or the chef who prepared it. I know it's delicious when it gets to my mouth. OK, maybe I would like to meet them, but it wouldn't be to learn about their private life. It would be to know how they got such wonderful marbling or achieved the perfect sear. I know this example is getting out of hand, but are you starting to see my point? When did sports become soap operas? Do you want to know who is at fault here? (I'm laughing right now, because I know some of you already see this coming)

That's right. Bob Freakin' Costas. It's not bad enough that he is the biggest know-it-all that has ever existed, he began the part of Olympics coverage that has made the whole thing unwatchable: the personal interest story. Yawn! Who cares that little Sally grew up in the middle of nowhere Sasqatoon (she's the girl from Canada I was telling you about earlier) had to be driven 400 miles every morning because that's where the nearest shooting range was, and that her grandmother died so the whole town rallied and took shifts to drive her to biathlon practice. All I want to see is her ability to fire a rifle while on skis. Is that too much to ask? That I can watch sports and not know everyone's sappy little back story. If this football season was made more exciting for you because the middle linebacker's grandmother and girlfriend died, I think that you don't understand sports. Or at least you don't watch them for the same reasons that I do. I get no joy out of a stranger's personal tragedy or his personal triumphs. Just because you put it on TV, does not mean that I am personally involved.

Alright, this is turning into a post I already wrote, so I'm going to leave it at that.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Goodbye, Christmas Season...

... Hello, Lent! OK, well maybe not yet, but Ash Wednesday is only 29 days away! So, we officially ended the Christmas season by celebrating the baptism of Jesus. We now get about a month of ordinary season. I know that Lent is a ways off. But hey, if the malls are already decorating for Valentine's Day, then I'm allowed to get a bit ahead of myself. Actually, the reason I'm talking about Lent is because I thought of my Lenten sacrifice over the weekend. Well, it's not giving up something, it's adding something, so it seems weird to say sacrifice. But I digress. I am going to say the Liturgy of the Hours every day for the 40 days of Lent. Well, I'm going to try to. I figure that's why I need to look into this now to see if it's doable. Just like most of you reading this, I only really know of it in name and have an idea that you say different prayers at different times of the day.

I've always admired the Islamic faith with their daily prayers. I grew up hearing stories about how my grandparent's generation of Catholics said the Angelus at noon. And I've always been attracted to stories of people who lived their lives as a discipline, for example, Benedictine monks, Jedi, the guys in the old Saturday afternoon Kung Fu shows. I have had recent conversations with some fraternity brothers, lamenting that our chapters don't operate a little more like that, with set times when the chapter does specific things. Most of you that know me probably are already starting to think, "How the hell is he going to pull this off? Discipline is the not the word I most often associate with the author of this blog."

Well, I'm glad you asked, oh ye of little faith. I found an app. It's called Laudate. I'm pretty sure you could learn to be a practicing Catholic overnight with this thing. It has the daily readings at mass, the most fool-proof (and coolest) program for saying the rosary (seriously, even a protestant could figure out), the New American Bible, Papal encyclicals, the order of mass, prayers in Latin and vernacular, the catholic catechism, stations of the cross, an interactive checklist for examining your conscience before confession, aaaaand Liturgy of the Hours. I have never been more geeked out to be a Catholic! They should just call it the "map to heaven" app. If you played with all the things on here, you wouldn't have time to sin. seriously. So, that was my ulterior motive for today's entry. I wanted to give you all the opportunity to check this bad boy out before Lent got here, because, well, it's sick. I think downloading it should at least be one of your Lenten "resolutions".

Here is where I was going to explain what Liturgy of the Hours is in more detail, but I figure that would satiate your curiosity enough that you wouldn't download the app. Download the app!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

self loathing

When I take an inventory of my situation, I see many great things. I know some exciting things are happening in sports: coaching interviews for the Eagles, professional hockey will be back in something like 9 days. My fraternity brothers, locally and nationally, are fired up and doing great things. My job, while continually frustrating, has started to bear fruit in areas I've been tending for the last year. I have fulfilling relationships on multiple levels in my life. Wonderful wife, a house with a pool, a somewhat reliable car...

So what's up with this malaise that I'm feeling? I don't think it's the time of year, since I'm pretty sure I'm not feeling depressed. I think what I'm feeling can best be described as unworthiness. I am sharing with you, because I think it ties into authenticity.

I wonder if we all play this part. Do we all feel like pretenders? Like children that have been given big people shoes and a fedora and told to play grown-up? I'm OK with the typical signs of growing up: the mortgage, marriage, car payments, credit card bills. I agreed to all of those things. I most particularly feel unworthy when I am asked to be responsible for the success or failure of something. I am the person at the end of the line. If I screw up, the whole project is boned. I almost feel like people were given permissions to seek things from me, but I don't remember agreeing to them. Who told you that you could tell people I was a roll model? Who said you could depend on me for answers? Who told you I was the person for that job? Did General MacArthur or President Lincoln ever just hide under the covers and say, "It's too big. No one could handle all of this responsibility. Forget it!"

I take solace in the fact that the editors of the Bible saw fit to leave in Jesus' moments of being overwhelmed. I love the treatment that Kevin Smith gives it in Dogma. If you haven't seen it, I'm amazed that you are reading this blog. Anyway, if you haven't seen it, I'm referring to a part where the main character is doubting her ability to fulfill God's will and Metatron (the angel that serves as the voice of God) reassures that even Jesus had his moment of self doubt. Actually he had two moments of self doubt, one when he was a child and again in the Garden of Gethsemane. I wonder if both images are there to illustrate the smallness that we feel when we are asked to be big.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Some real authentic Levittown

I'm sure you all figured I'd be talking about Notre Dame and the national championship today (don't worry, I wore my Jersey to work). I actually want to concentrate on a different Catholic school, my alma mater. Conwell-Egan Catholic High School was just featured in a very interesting news piece featuring the rebirth of two Catholic schools that had been dangerously close to closing due to low enrollment. I am glad that people are starting to rediscover the importance of perhaps not a faith based education, but a values based education at bottom. I just worked with a group of young men yesterday that was struggling because they had lost focus on what their values were as an organization. If we don't instill values in those that come after us, and if we don't support institutions that have been designed to pass on those values, we are setting ourselves up for failure. To paraphrase from the Bible, "Works without faith is dead." If we teach our youth facts without meaning; it is, in essence, meaningless. If we don't give the reasons why someone should do something, it will never be approached with a feeling of respect and importance. Inversely, if we try and impart wisdom that is unearned, it will ring hollow and hokey. To overcome the ennui of the post-modern condition, we will always need tradition and ritual and values that transcend each generation.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Stealing Causes

So a Catholic bishop in England has cancelled "gay friendly" masses, in light of pressure from other Catholics. Have you ever felt that your cause has gotten railroaded? Something you really believe in took on a central tenet that has really missed the boat, or distracted what you thought was the important part of it? I've heard different women express this about the women's movement. Many feel it was taken over by the pro-choice movement. I've heard gay friends talk about their regret at the vitriol the gay marriage movement has directed at them at a time when they felt homosexuals were finally being accepted. I've heard black people complain that political movements for equal rights have turned into something completely different, something that has been twisted into pushing political agendas and not the actual furtherance of minority rights in our country. I use these examples to point out that there are important issues that fall under a general umbrella that strong personalities tend to push to the forefront of each "cause".
I feel like this is happening to the Catholic Church. Here is an organization that I see do so much good every day, that has unending compassion, that has members that sacrifice so much for their neighbors and communities. The message, however, that seems to get communicated is the church's intolerance of other people. I think these masses would have been a wonderful opportunity for the church to embrace those that are especially disenfranchised. Instead, people were protesting outside of the church during these masses. They weren't holding gay marriages in the church, just offering a mass that  celebrates the diversity and acceptance of the Catholic church and more importantly Jesus' love. I will admit that the gay marriage issue is a divisive one and one that both sides feel strongly about, but we need to be able to agree to disagree on this one. New rules: 1. Start accepting gay people as human beings who have the same rights and privileges as everyone else. 2. Stop calling people bigots because they feel that marriage is a ritual defined as a very specific thing and don't want to change that. I don't think these two concepts are mutually exclusive. Let me give some examples:

One can respect women and women's rights and still think abortion on demand is wrong.

One can support racial equality in this country and be against entitlement programs.

One can believe that the government can provide for its people without controlling them.

One can believe in the central beliefs of the holy church and still disagree with non-cannonic positions.

If you disagree with those, then you hate free thought (Sorry, I was just trying to show you how it felt). I don't have to agree with you, but I do need to respect what you believe in. That doesn't mean that I won't argue with you, but I will not demean you for your belief or treat you as less than human. I know it's cliche, but don't forget to hate the sin, and love the sinner.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

In defense of fraternal organizations

I'm going to spend this weekend with other fraternity brothers planning on how to enhance the experience of our undergraduate members for the spring semester/summer. This is one of three weekends that I'll be devoting to my collegiate fraternity over the next 5 week period. That is in addition to the time I will also spend with my other two non-college fraternal groups. This begs the obvious question, "why do you devote so much time to these endeavors?"
This question is understandable, and I've been asked it many times. I've even had it asked by other fraternity brothers. I've asked it of myself when I'm being pressed for time in the other aspects of my life. Particularly when fraternities have been held in such a negative light. I know the accusations: alcohol abuse, womanizing, elitism, hazing, that is just what is in the news. Personally, most people that question it, feel it is silly or a waste of time; or at least, time better spent doing something else. I am aware that there are groups that do community service, activism or leadership training without the social aspect that fraternities focus on. I'm not going to attempt a dissertation on the whole structure of fraternities and their place in society, I just want to focus on one aspect.
The camaraderie is the essential part of fraternal involvement. Without the social interaction and bonding that take place in that setting, the external actions would be meaningless. Now each fraternity that I belong to has it's own specific stated purpose. At the heart of all of them though is the same tenet. The improvement of the individual member through his fraternal interactions, and the improvement of our society through the individual's improvement. I think that fraternities have been misunderstood over the last three decades because we've stopped thinking of the relationship between the world and ourselves in this way. Self improvement is still big business and people are definitely concerned about improving the world around them. Fraternities tend to be old school in that they still connect these two achievements go hand in hand. Our culture has slowly moved towards a duality between our inner selves and or outer experiences. Our morality has become more about what we do than who we are. Even if we recognize the value of character development, we rarely equate it to the effect that it will have on enriching or benefiting the world around us. This was a popular notion at the turn of the century and was a central belief in ancient Greece. I believe these two are connected in the boom of fraternity foundings in the late 1800s, early 1900s and the reason so many of them have Greek letters as their names. A final thought, while I think personal growth is a lifelong commitment and goal, and that non-collegiate fraternities are important. I truly believe my commitment to sustaining my collegiate one is the most important because I think that is the age where we not only decide what we want to be for the test of our lives, but who we want to be. That decision, the one that shapes the type of person we will become, is the quintessential part of our education, even more so than or academic endeavors.