Sunday, August 31, 2014

What kind of men are we?

Dear Hannah,

One of the strangest periods of Roman history was the period right before the republic collapsed and became an empire.  The Romans weren't known for losing, but during this period, they lost nearly everything they put their hands to.  Catiline nearly overthrew the republic by rallying losers, bankrupts, drunks hipsters under the flag of looting.  A Numidian king named Jugurtha practically walked into the Senate, bribed a bunch of senators, and caused them to overlook his hostile foreign policy -- which cost a friendly kingdom its ruin. And beyond this pirates practically owned the seas, so that all sea trade had practically stopped.  Nothing was fought for, everything was bought.  Money, and not honor, was the currency; safety was lost out of cowardice. Jugurtha was told by the Romans themselves that everything was for sale in Rome, and he decided to prove them right.  Rome itself was plunder until Pompey arrived and in a moment of manliness and decision cleared the seas of pirates.  The republic was lost to Catiline until Cicero shouted like an angry patriot and placed his own life in danger to save it.  Rome was bought until Metellus and Marius arrived, turned down Jugurtha's bribes, and actually decided to stand by their allies. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On sin and sin nature

Dear Hannah,

As I've been watching you these past few weeks, I've noticed we have a lot in common.  Neither of us likes to be slighted or ignored.  Neither of us likes to be laughed at, or to have to share.  Each of us enjoys doing things we want to do, neither of us likes doing the things that we don't, and we both enjoy asserting our own authority.  And what I've realized from watching you for so long isn't that you're a horrible person for wanting to do things your own way. I've simply come to the realization that I'm a baby who's learned how to reason.  Twenty-four years ago I wanted many of the same things I want today.  I simply learned how to reason to get them, and to do it in the most sociable way possible.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why papa drinks

Dear Hannah,

People drink because they want to feel things they otherwise wouldn't, and to me this makes drinking strange.  It isn't just the numbness of a buzz that gets us guzzling; it's that drinking makes us like things we wouldn't otherwise like, have talks we might have missed, ignore things we might otherwise have feared, and celebrate people who most of the time bore us.  It makes us care about things we don't care about and give things away when we would otherwise keep them.  Some people even drink to be more comfortable with an aspect of themselves that they hate.  It adds a certain humanity we'd been missing all along.  Some people say that drinking allows us to live a life we wouldn't otherwise have lived.   Others phrase it more honestly, and say that drinking allows us to be somebody we wouldn't have been. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

On Saints

Dear Hannah,

You're perfectly welcome to read books about the attributes of God.  I personally think they won't do you any harm, although on the other they're unlikely to do you any good.  The unfortunate truth about these kinds of books is that we're humans, and they ramble on about all kinds of things that are so far beyond our nature that we can't make any sense of them.  In a way, reading "attributes" books about how God is just and merciful and omnipotent and eternal is almost like reading fairy tales.  Virtues, after all, are the labels we give to the things that we see -- which is why the Gospels are essential to our religion, and why theology books are almost entirely nonsense.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A crisis averted

Dear Hannah,

You might be interested in knowing that had you been a boy, you probably would have been named Saul.  In retrospect it would have been a terrible idea, made during a period of religious fervor -- or maybe it was a period of fanaticism.