Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Happy birthday, dude!

Today is Tom's 18th birthday! We are planning a family birthday party on Friday at P.F. Changs. Mom has made reservations, but I don't remember what time they are for. Call her. 

Anya and I counted her worldly cash collection yesterday: $69. She is insistent on buying a "very good" present for Tom with her own money, along with Valentine Day presents for her sisters, whom she adores whether they know it or not. Thank goodness there are 3 Walmarts within a 6 mile radius of our house. 

I finished Chesterton's book on St. Thomas Aquinas. Someday I'll have to go back and reread the last chapter because I didn't understand a word of it. 

Having mastered that, I'm now halfway through "Orthodoxy", Chesterton's spiritual autobiography and opus. It is not an easy read, and I realize why he is not as popular an author as the more-accessible C.S. Lewis. 

Here is a striking quote from the book:

Paganism declared that virtue was in a balance; Christianity declared it was in a conflict: the collision of two passions apparently opposite. Of course they were not really inconsistent; but they were such that it was hard to hold simultaneously. Let us follow for a moment the clue of the martyr and the suicide; and take the case of courage. No quality has ever so much addled the brains and tangled the definitions of merely rational sages. Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. "He that will lose his life, the same shall save it," is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. This paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will rick it on the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life,  for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine. No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle with adequate lucidity, and I certainly have not done so. But Christianity has done more: it has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living and him who dies for the sake of dying. And it has held up ever since above the European lances the banner of the mystery of chivalry: the Christian courage, which is a disdain of death; not the Chinese courage, which is a disdain of life. 

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