Graduation Matters

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Image Credit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-gail-gross/10-inspirational-quotes-for-graduates_b_7508152.html

[Note: I like to post heavily researched articles with long quotations. But this year, my mental energy is spent more on tutoring and a other writing projects, so there are fewer articles, which is fine.

I thought it might still be fun to post shorter, more casual opinions on other topics. The best we can possibly do is to help others through the places that we have been–so I will try to post things that I know about….which is precious little.]

Here’s one: Graduation matters

I didn’t attend my undergraduate graduation exercises, and I regret it. I’ve heard other new graduates express that graduating wasn’t really an accomplishment–getting in was the hard part, and the rest was expected. I said something similar at my own high school graduation–that it didn’t matter because Virginia law required us to graduate. I crankily added that the ceremony was meaningless.

Well–those are wrong. Graduating does matter, and it’s not guaranteed. Yes, getting into college is hard. Yes, graduating high school is required. But it still takes work to get there–real work.

That diploma wasn’t guaranteed in the admissions letter; the law didn’t bestow a sealed diploma upon you because you turned 18. A lot of people drop out–of high school and college. Sticking with it requires discipline, effort, and showing up.

Showing up is highly underrated. Show up enough, and you get places and meet people. Stay home too much and you don’t. Often, it’s that simple.

It’s true that graduating isn’t the end of the road. There is no end. But even if it’s not an end, it’s a still a landmark worth slowing down and savoring. Seriously, if life is road trip, the destination is death–so enjoy the rest stops. Don’t say they don’t matter because they aren’t the end.

Further, by enjoy–I don’t mean total hedonism. I mean, look with gratitude at what you’ve done; what God has accomplished and ponder where he may be calling you next.

Enjoyment is where the ceremony comes in. It’s a ritual. Rituals are not empty, cult events. They are markers of culture and what a culture venerates as meaningful and worth remembering. How do we remember things as a group? Ritual. (That’s what the Catholic Mass is: a ritual that also, miraculously, serves to make present the reality we are remembering).

Rituals are not empty; they are us participating in a long line of tradition and culturally handed down values. No man is an island. Our culture and communities matter; they are not merely external to individuals, but an important component of who we are. The Aristotelian philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre wrote about our interdependence in communities in his book “Dependent Rational Animals,” where he argued that human dependence on each other is an integral but often overlooked (in the Western tradition) aspect of the moral life, or what it means to live well.

The take-away: enjoy graduation. Savor the accomplishment–even while reflecting with gratitude on all the people and circumstances that helped you get there. While no one accomplishes much all on their own, each person’s unique contribution is an integral thread of the tapestry whose current pattern is an accomplishment.

Did you ever skip a graduation ceremony? Why or why not? Are you glad you went or didn’t go? Are rituals really empty?

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I’m Voting 3rd Party: Conscience Is Not A Luxury, But An Imperative

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“It’s wasting your vote”

“We can’t afford your protest this time–it’s too important.”

How many times have we heard the admonitions that voting for a third party is either futile or downright dangerous. Well, I’m voting third party this time around, and I encourage anyone who isn’t totally for Clinton or Trump to do so as well.

Joe Heschmeyer at Shameless Popery has described it succinctly: The two candidates are “awful”:

“As for Clinton, while she has been evasive about certain late-term abortions, her overall support for the legalized killing of unborn children is  unambiguous. Indeed, she’s only gotten worse with age: she went from arguing that abortions should be “safe, legal, and rare” (adding, “and I mean rare“) to arguing that they should simply be “safe and legal” (the “rare” language is also conspicuously absent from prepared campaign materials, so this wasn’t an innocent oversight). Indeed, it’s not enough for there to be a constitutional right to abortion: she’s pointed to the need to change religious beliefs to favor abortion, and the Democratic Party is in the process of including new language in its platform to encourage federal funding for abortion (breaking the Hyde Amendment truce).”

“Trump has called for torture as a tool for winning the war on terror, as well as “taking out” the families of terrorists (he later denied that this necessarily meant murdering the families). As for waterboarding, he’s said:

‘They asked me, what do you think about waterboarding, Mr. Trump. I said I love it. I love it. And I said the only thing is, we should make it much tougher than waterboarding, and if you don’t think it works, folks, you’re wrong.’ “

Now add to his support for torture and general disregard for religious and ethnic minorities, his disgusting comments from 2005 about how he (as a married man) chases married women, “when you’re a star, they let you do it.

These are simple facts about the candidates;  those who are motivated by concern about one or the other candidate cajole me to vote for the opponent.

Still, I hear reassurances that the wrongs of the candidates aren’t that bad, and I simply must support the “lesser of two evils.”

We’ve all been voting the lesser of two evils for too long. It has led to this–the two most disliked candidates since voter opinions have been measured.

So it’s time to do something different–vote your conscience. Continue reading

The Good of Doubt

When I was in college, I felt compelled to find an answer to moral relativism and nihilism, a search which led me to Catholic faith and the moral philosophy of Thomas Aquinas and Alasdair MacIntyre. (With some over-zealous missteps thrown in too).

Later, another paradox imposed itself on my consciousness: I believe the Catholic faith is true. I also believe that my faith calls me to love all persons. Not everyone is a Catholic. How do I love and respect those who disagree?

After some soul searching and reading, the answer appears that we love a person precisely by respecting his or her autonomy and ability to reason and seek truth. We propose, but leave conversion to the Holy Spirit. That doesn’t mean we approve of all actions; it does mean that we love a person despite disapproving of some of his or her behavior. After all, all of us have areas of repeated error.

This process of questioning and reconciling two seemingly disparate truths goes on through out our entire lives, I think. At least it applies to the part of our lives where we think about things, which I hope will be most of my life.

Many if not most believers will go through a period (or periods) doubt throughout their life in the faith.

It isn’t bad or weird or wrong. It is an invitation to further study, to the potential deepening of faith. I believe that every person has his or her own set of essential questions: existential quandries that make or break the possibility of belief.

Continue reading