Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Amazing Mark Steyn is Amazing

Mark Steyn weighs in on the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut without giving his own theories about the root causes, theories he says are "no doubt as ignorant and irrelevant as everybody else's."

What he does give is some historical perspective relating to the ignorant theories being bandied about by both the Left and the Right, as well as a reminder about the realities of human nature. In this column, Steyn resists his usual tendency to be irreverent and is sensitive toward the families who lost their children last week.

"Lullay, Thou little tiny Child
By by, lully, lullay..."

The 16th-century Coventry Carol, a mother's lament for her lost son, is the only song of the season about the
other children of Christmas – the first-born of Bethlehem, slaughtered on Herod's orders after the Magi brought him the not-so-glad tidings that an infant of that city would grow up to be King of the Jews. As Matthew tells it, even in a story of miraculous birth, in the midst of life is death.... Then a century ago the Catholic Encyclopedia started digging into the numbers. The estimated population of Bethlehem at that time was around a thousand, which would put the toll of first-born sons under the age of 2 murdered by King Herod at approximately 20 – or about the same number of dead children as one school shooting on a December morning in Connecticut.

At the same time, Steyn is pointed in his criticism of the politicians and pundits rushing to push their favorite agendas.

The Left now seizes on every atrocity as a cudgel to beat whatever happens to be the Right's current hottest brand: Tucson, Arizona, was something to do with Sarah Palin's use of metaphor and other common literary devices – or "toxic rhetoric," as Paul Krugman put it; Aurora, Colorado, was something to do with the Tea Party, according to Brian Ross of ABC News. Since the humiliations of November, the Right no longer has any hot brands, so this time round the biens pensants have fallen back on "gun culture." Dimwit hacks bandy terms like "assault weapon," "assault rifle," "semi-automatic" and "automatic weapon" in endlessly interchangeable but ever more terrifying accumulations of high-tech state-of-the-art killing power....

Nor am I persuaded by the Right's emphasis on pre-emptive mental-health care. It's true that, if your first reaction on hearing breaking news of this kind is to assume the perpetrator is a male dweeb in his early twenties with poor socialization skills, you're unlikely to be wrong. But, in a society with ever fewer behavioral norms, who's to say what's odd?

Be sure to read the whole thing, because I've left out so much of the best of what he writes. He wraps up the column this way:

Meanwhile, the atheists have put up a new poster in Times Square: Underneath a picture of Santa, "Keep the Merry"; underneath a picture of Christ, "Dump the Myth." But in our time even Christians have dumped a lot of the myth while keeping the merry: Jesus, lambs, shepherds, yes; the slaughtered innocents of Bethlehem, kind of a downer. If the Christmas story is a myth, it's a perfectly constructed one, rooting the Savior's divinity in the miracle of His birth but unblinkered, in Matthew's account of Herod's response, about man's darker impulses:

"Then woe is me

Poor Child, for Thee
And ever mourn and may
For Thy parting
Nor say nor sing
By by, lully, lullay."

The World is Still Here

I woke up this morning with a headache. That means that at no time during December 21, 2012, did the world come to an end. Not when midnight first came to Kiribati or Tonga or New Zealand, and not when 11:59 pm faded away on Attu Island.

It also means that, in my half-asleep, pained condition this morning as I lay in bed, I sort of wished it had come to an end, because then I'd be in heaven without a headache. But a nice dose of Excedrin and trying to work the kinks out of my stiff neck - which is the source of almost all of my headaches - have left me in a much better disposition about still breathing the air of the earth that's still spinning around the sun.

Here's what I don't understand about the true believers (and even the half-believers) in the Mayan Apocalypse: they hoarded bottled water and toilet paper and other survivalist supplies. I heard about it from people who heard about it on the news or from people who knew people who were doing the hoarding.

Why would you hoard??? The. World. Is. Ending.

That's what they thought, anyway. And when the world ends, it ceases to exist, so there's no need to drink water or use toilet paper or hide out in a protected part of your house, shooting at looters who have come to take your stash.

I had a dream one time, when I had been married about a year, back in the late 1970's, and in my dream I heard on the radio or the TV news broadcast that the world was in the process of ending. So I went to the front door of my house, opened it, and stood in the doorway and watched. Off in the distance of my neighborhood, a fog denser and higher than any I'd seen was very slowly moving toward me. As it engulfed each house, each yard, each fence, I knew that those things were gone - swallowed up and erased from existence.

There was no panic, no neighbors screaming and running for their lives. It was a peaceful end in a silent fog that eventually moved to my doorstep, and I felt a sense of awe that just inside the fog an arm's reach from where I stood was nothing, because everything had disappeared. And now it was my turn, and then I woke up, not frightened at all.

I'm sure that when the world does end, it won't be like that. It won't be some slowly moving fog that saves me for last. But at the same time, I'm pretty sure it will be like that. When God sends the new heaven and the new earth, it will be filled with peace - the peace that passes understanding.

Until then, my head is feeling better, and I have some decisions to make about what to do for Christmas dinner. I'll probably head back to Costco to pick up a ham, and I'm hoping it won't be as busy as it would have been without the Mayan thing, because after all, there are quite a few people out there who won't be needing to buy toilet paper for a long time.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

My daughter has a great post on her new Tumblr blog, where she talks about (among other things) New Year's resolutions. This is the point she made that got me thinking:

So, I have a challenge. For me, but you can definitely jump on this bandwagon:

Use December as a head-start and decide on one or two resolutions that you can begin today.

This is brilliant! Especially for that one category of resolution resolvers: the January Gym-Goers.

Every year, vast numbers of people make that same resolution. "This year," they say, "I'm REALLY going to get into shape." So they join a gym, or they rediscover that auto-pay gym membership that they never could bring themselves to cancel because they might actually go there again, and they head out on New Year's Day (or maybe the day after) and start working out.

The problem is that it clogs up the gym for themselves and all the year-round regulars, and everybody grumbles about not being able to get to the desirable machines, and nobody likes going there when it's crowded, and so the weak-willed stop going. And by February everything is back to the way it was before New Year's.

So I say to you January people, why not change it up this year and start in December? According to Cassey Ho of Blogilates fame, who used to work at a gym, December is the month with the lowest gym attendance. Since you're only going to work out for a month anyway, why not enjoy it by going now when you can get to all the good machines? Then, when you get tired of exercise (because, really, who even likes it?), you'll be quitting right when it becomes super-ultra crowded. It's the best of both worlds!

Besides, by the end of December you might decide that you like it so much you want to keep on going. You might even be willing to put up with all those other January-only people, since now you know how good it will be again in February. And THEN... you might actually get into shape the way you want to.