Character of the Week: Demosthenes of Athens

Greek, Athenian statesman most noted for his speeches against Alexander the Great’s father, Philip of Macedon, collectively known as “philippics.” He shaved half his head to prevent himself going out in public until he had learned to speak without lisp or stammer, and practiced orating with pebbles under his tongue to enhance pronunciation and by the sea to master projection and rhythm.

Born: 384 B.C.

Died: 322 B.C. (62 years old, which is quite good considering the time period.)

DemosthPracticing

Demosthenes Practicing Oratory by Jean-Jules-Antione Leconte du Nouy (1842-1923)

 

 

 

Of Men and Dragons

It is the beginning of strawberry season in Virginia, and growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles I did not have much occasion to pick fruit for myself. As a litigation attorney most of my job revolves around the misery people inflict upon one another. I find cooking a therapeutic outlet, especially when cooking for others. It’s refreshing to make other people happy. I got it into my head to pick local strawberries and make some jam.

After I got home with my haul, I offered to make whipped cream and strawberries to share with one of my room-mates who was lounging on the couch. He said that two men sharing strawberries and cream was ‘gay’ and that I was welcome to eat them on my own, but he would not participate. ded3475d592c0e6932859cfec4b91250Now I should clarify that this friend is older than I am, from the South, and consistently sarcastic. I am quite literal, which impels me to continually clarify whether he is joking or not. I pressed whether he really meant what he said; he insisted it was very un-manly.

I confess I was quite hurt by what he said. I think this sort of thing happens because the modern mind does not have a good model of what is manly, so it goes to extremes to ensure it is never mistaken for its opposite. But is cooking inherently effeminate? Does my enjoyment of this, and desire to share it make me effeminate? I think not. I think men are like dragons.

Dragons share common characteristics; they are reptiles, they are large, strong, tough, and potentially dangerous. Generally they can breathe fire, have wings and can fly. But it’s important to note that not all dragons have these later abilities.

lord_of_the_rings___glaurung_by_vaejoun-d71q48f

Glaurung, the First Dragon.

Glaurung for instance, the first dragon according to J.R.R. Tolkein, did not have wings. Haku the water-dragon from “Spirited Away” could fly without wings, and showed no ability to breathe fire. But those dragons are not lesser dragons because they were different; they were simply an uncommon type of dragon. So too it is with men. Some men are artists, some warriors, some a mixture of both; some are fast, some clever, some strong. Some men have none of these abilities,

Tyrion_1_3295189b

Not all men are equal, but they may still be men. Tyrion Lannister, from Game of Thrones

yet they can move the soul with music. King David was blessed with both the arts of music and war.

I may lack “some of that quick spirit” which is in other men, but I am not a lesser son because of it. Did not Jacob cook the stew while Esau hunted? Yet God chose Jacob to be his instrument. It was Jacob who eventually wrestled with God from evening until morning, not Esau. Paul himself wrote:

And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? . . . The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our un-presentable parts are treated with greater modesty……–1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (partial)

Unless something is inherently or explicitly sinful, I do not think we should so casually disdain it because it is different. It is un-christian. I am not a normal type of dragon, but I am no less for it.

oHsKFiT28Id0I

Haku, from Spirited Away.

 

 

Poem of the Week: The Day is Done

The day is done, and the darkness
      Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
      From an eagle in his flight.
li195_mis

“Mist Raven” by John Avon

I see the lights of the village
      Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o’er me
      That my soul cannot resist:
66371
A feeling of sadness and longing,
      That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
      As the mist resembles the rain.
Come, read to me some poem,
      Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
      And banish the thoughts of day.
rockwell_crackersinBed.2
Not from the grand old masters,
      Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
      Through the corridors of Time.
For, like strains of martial music,
      Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life’s endless toil and endeavor;
      And to-night I long for rest.
 zpage338
Read from some humbler poet,
      Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
      Or tears from the eyelids start;
Who, through long days of labor,
      And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
      Of wonderful melodies.
Such songs have power to quiet
      The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
      That follows after prayer.
Merlin_Julek_Heller
Then read from the treasured volume
      The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
      The beauty of thy voice.
fdedce9a5d5065137ba578a911433203
And the night shall be filled with music,
      And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
      And as silently steal away.
Frederick_Leighton_Flaming_June
Henry W. Longfellow

Poem of the Week: The Jewish Cemetery at Newport–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How strange it seems! These Hebrews in their graves,
      Close by the street of this fair seaport town,
Silent beside the never-silent waves,
      At rest in all this moving up and down!
The trees are white with dust, that o’er their sleep
      Wave their broad curtains in the south-wind’s breath,
While underneath these leafy tents they keep
      The long, mysterious Exodus of Death.
And these sepulchral stones, so old and brown,
      That pave with level flags their burial-place,
Seem like the tablets of the Law, thrown down
      And broken by Moses at the mountain’s base.
OT-041
The very names recorded here are strange,
      Of foreign accent, and of different climes;
Alvares and Rivera interchange
      With Abraham and Jacob of old times.
82257afcd23335760547d765e48357c76f55e138df96678bb95ffaa1.jpg.1000x625_q85

The Jewish Cemetery at Newport.

“Blessed be God! for he created Death!”
      The mourners said, “and Death is rest and peace;”
Then added, in the certainty of faith,
      “And giveth Life that nevermore shall cease.”
sleeping-goddess-mud-maid-woodland-walk-lost-gardens-of-heligan-england1
Closed are the portals of their Synagogue,
      No Psalms of David now the silence break,
No Rabbi reads the ancient Decalogue
      In the grand dialect the Prophets spake.
OT-114
Gone are the living, but the dead remain,
      And not neglected; for a hand unseen,
Scattering its bounty, like a summer rain,
      Still keeps their graves and their remembrance green.
How came they here? What burst of Christian hate,
      What persecution, merciless and blind,
Drove o’er the sea — that desert desolate —
      These Ishmaels and Hagars of mankind?
Willem_van_de_Velde_the_Younger,_Ships_on_a_Stormy_Sea_(c._1672)
They lived in narrow streets and lanes obscure,
      Ghetto and Judenstrass, in mirk and mire;
Taught in the school of patience to endure
      The life of anguish and the death of fire.
All their lives long, with the unleavened bread
      And bitter herbs of exile and its fears,
The wasting famine of the heart they fed,
      And slaked its thirst with marah of their tears.
Anathema maranatha! was the cry
      That rang from town to town, from street to street;
At every gate the accursed Mordecai
      Was mocked and jeered, and spurned by Christian feet.
Pride and humiliation hand in hand
      Walked with them through the world where’er they went;
Trampled and beaten were they as the sand,
      And yet unshaken as the continent.
For in the background figures vague and vast
      Of patriarchs and of prophets rose sublime,
And all the great traditions of the Past
      They saw reflected in the coming time.
NT-187
And thus forever with reverted look
      The mystic volume of the world they read,
Spelling it backward, like a Hebrew book,
      Till life became a Legend of the Dead.
But ah! what once has been shall be no more!
      The groaning earth in travail and in pain
Brings forth its races, but does not restore,
      And the dead nations never rise again.
Henry_Wadsworth_Longfellow,_photographed_by_Julia_Margaret_Cameron_in_1868

Longfellow, one of the five Fireside poets of America, who wrote their poetry for the common man to be read “around the fireside.”

The Scandal that Wasn’t: Mike Pence and Misogyny

Gender issues pervade the political airwaves, from transgender bathrooms to whether Donald Trump really sexually assaulted women. The newest kerfuffle is that Vice President Mike Pence is practicing a kind of “soft misogyny” by refusing to dine with other women unless his wife is present.

Mike Pence

Mike Pence, Former Governor of Indiana, Congressman for Indiana, Current Vice President.

Liberal pundits, commentators and bloggers took to their preferred media outlets to decry yet another example of the male-dominating patriarchy after the Washington Post published an article profiling the relationship between Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen. Tucked away in the lengthy article is a once-sentence paragraph that reads: “In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side either.” The general consensus from the left is that this view treats women as inherent temptresses, holds men to be inherently untrustworthy and excludes women from networking and mentoring opportunities that are so often vital to their advancement. One writer went so far as to liken this treatment to shaming and “victim-blaming”.[1] Let us examine:

Preference is not Policy:

            First, recognize that a personal preference is not the same thing as an office policy. The writers at the ACLU insist that Pence’s decision is akin to mandated policies. They devote half of their article to examples of mandatory school uniforms and the injustice of forcing girls to wear skirts. They then state that Pence’s decision is just as bad because it prevents women (with the implication of all women) from getting mentoring and networking opportunities. But the glaring difference that makes their example so inappropriate is that Pence has never set his personal standards as a policy for anyone else. Other staff members are free to associate, mentor and network however they like.

It is also important to note that the preference actually does not prevent women from getting mentoring and networking opportunities. Women coming into contact with Pence would still be able to eat with him, his wife would simply be present. Most of the eating opportunities would be at large functions anyway, so this policy would change nothing in those settings. Neither would it prevent networking with women, since most networking events are social gatherings where men and women co-mingle, and Pence’s wife would be just as appropriately placed there as anywhere else. His preference changes nothing, and harms no one.

Chivalry is not Misogyny:

The dictionary defines misogyny as “dislike, contempt, or prejudice against women.” Chivalry is defined as “the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, especially courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak.” The ACLU and the Guardian both accuse Pence of practicing “soft misogyny” because his views portray women as temptresses, or alternately as being weak and in need of protection.[2] In fairness, both can be true, but Pence’s view actually
hinges upon neither. How the
liberal commentators can intuit his motivations from a single-sentence description is unknown. But the only evidence from the article is that he chooses to do so because of his wife, relatively unrelated to any other influence. This would fall under the “honor” and “courtesy” categories of chivalry,
and has no resemblance to the “dislike” and
“contempt” qualities of misogyny. If the liberals cannot tell the difference between courtesy and contempt, they should get out of the commentating business.

1200

Mike Pence and his wife Karen.

Prudence is not Prudishness:

           Pence’s personal policy prevents even the possibility of perceived impropriety. Whatever the liberal commentators may say about how it discriminates (see above for why it doesn’t), even they would have to admit the probability of a sexual scandal from Pence is very low with these precautions. The liberals seem to have a selective memory when it comes to scandals; Bill Clinton had no witnesses to corroborate what did or didn’t happen between him and Ms Lewinsky, which did nothing to dispel the accusations against him. Clarence Thomas was accused of sexual harassment, the charges conveniently appearing as he was being nominated for the Supreme Court, and Trump’s statements from years before his Presidential run appeared at just the right time to give his opponent an opportunity to exploit them. Pence’s decision would prevent any of this from happening to him. In an era of Trumps and Antony Weiners, we should celebrate that one man at least has put himself well beyond such reproach.

[1] https://www.aclu.org/blog/speak-freely/what-does-mike-pences-no-girls-allowed-rule-have-common-school-dress-codes-and

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/31/mike-pence-doesnt-eat-alone-women-speaks-volumes?CMP=fb_gu