Thursday, July 27, 2006

Texas and More

Hello, one and all. The Coloradoan has come back. Well, to tell the truth, I got back from Texas a while back. Yes, I did go down there. I went to visit Sylvia and her family, and the whole trip was wonderful. Its sole defect was its brevity--four days is too few down there. I always wondered why Texas was held to be so special, and now I know. It truly is different from the rest. I am not sure what makes it so, but everything down there has a more real feel than further north (except for the mountains, of course; those are more real than anything...). While down there, I visited the Alamo, two beautiful old Churches in downtown San Antonio; went to my first Anglican usage liturgy; and saw Pirates of the Caribbean II. Other than that, I hung around Sylvia and visited with her family, having a great time all in all.

Back on the home front, we have been cleaning house, working on home renovation and driveway restoration. Last Sunday, we celebrated my halfway birthday or something. I got a few cool things, especially books and a wireless mouse (never settle for less, if you can!) We also have been preparing for my brother Daniel's big farewell party, which is this Saturday. Today I started my thesis, and began preparations for going back to school. I will be one of the bad guys enforcing rules, so I have to go back early for blackjack training and torture qualifications.

Seriously, though, this blog has been getting controversial lately. I am not completely certain about my conclusions about the new rule that everyone appears to revile, but I know I don't quite agree with anyone either. Trust me to be unruly about that.... I will say that I think there is genuine reasoning behind it, not what Fezzick (pace Fezzick if I misrepresent you) appears to believe is the reasoning. I know that I enjoyed gaming with others in the dorm, but also that I spent way too much time gaming on my own. The same goes for movies, sad to say. I strongly believe, however that the administration and student life would be better off focusing on more serious problems and especially on uniform enforcement of rules. I know I have always been frustrated by lack of regular enforcement; some RA's enforce, others don't. For those who live by the rules, I have great pity, because everyone hates their guts, despite the fact that they are great people trying to do a job. Soon I will know how they feel, I guess. So, while I think the efforts are misdirected, I don't think they are mindless; nor do I think they are an attempt to exclude anything that could limit community. Indeed, the reasoning is that games and movies can promote community, which is why they are still allowed in common areas, while legitimately acknowledging the destructive tendencies inherent in solitary gaming/movie watching. Practically speaking, while one would wish for a more helpful way of ensuring community, there is very little one can do in the way of rules that adequately reflects this. This is the best compromise that student life could come up with, and I respect them for trying, even if I think I know better. Lastly, eighteen-year olds are some of the least mature people that I know. I certainly don't think they are adults or responsible enough to act as such, generally speaking. As such, I have no problems making them subject to laws and restrictions for their own good. Indeed, many even at Christendom do not mature in four years of having great ideas and community life thrown at them. And then one more lastly, life at Christendom has always seemed to me as a training ground for life; indeed I thought any liberal arts program had as its end to teach how to live the good life. But who lives the good life? The adult, the wise man, and I doubt any of us have reached that stage yet. In that case, those who may have reached said status are in some version of the role of philosopher-kings (we do submit ourselves to the college authorities, after all) and we should accept their mandates as for our own good. It is all too easy to recognize the need for law in theory but to disagree with any application of it that thwarts our desires. Yet the spirit of the law is meaningless if there is no practice of the law; only by observance of the law can it be said to exist. So, while I may dislike certain ways rules are applied, I cannot in good conscience disagree with them in theory or in their being applied to us.

P.S. I found a cool quote in a book of readings from St. Thomas, though of course all he has to say is wonderful. Read and ponder carefully.
He who sins through passion, sins while choosing but not through choosing; because his choosing is for him the first principle of his sin; for he is induced though passion to choose what he would not would not choose, were it not for the passion. On the other hand, he that sins through certain malice, chooses evil of his own accord and therefore his choosing, of which he has full control, is the principle of his sin; and for this reason he is said to sin through choosing. (1a. 2ae. Q. 78, a. 4)

Thomas seems to say that the choice in a sin of passion, because the sinner chooses a good that is proper to him, is not the source of sin, but rather the fact that in choosing the sinner turns away from the greatest Good and thus sins against charity. However, the sin of malice involves a choice which delinerately and knowingly foregoes the greatest good, and is thus a greater sin against charity. Thus I say with the Apostle to the Gentiles, that while Charity covers a multitude of sins, he who lacks Charity is worse than a brazen trumpet. St. Paul, St. Thomas and all ye holy Saints and Angels, pray for us sinners!


Fezzick said...

Welcome back. It's good to have your input.

As for the school's reasoning behind the rule, it's available online:
"Similarly, the code of student life represents an articulation of time-tested principles that foster Christian fellowship and discourage inordinate attachment to contemporary media such as movies and video games. Again, a proper balance and reserve in this area should be characteristic of "the free man." Google "Christendom College video games."

I won't take up space discussing what I see to be the multitude of issues with this statement. Here's the fundamental problem. It is very true that your average 18-year-old is not mature, but he is also most definitely no longer a child. My argument is that the formation of an 18 or 19-year-old kid is fundamentally different from that of a younger child who is still being dramatically influenced by the rightful rules and restrictions of his parents. The point, at least for me, is that the school micro-manages its problems by a sort of "community by legislation." College students are no longer in the formative years where this makes an impression on them. It will only restrict and annoy them, and for good reason. People with the level of responsibility that young adults have deserve much more credit. They will do stupid things, but the way to really change their habits is to convince their minds. Teenagers and young adults who have been intellectually convinced of something are literally the force that changes a nation. Rules like the aforementioned will accomplish nothing except create an artificial sense of closure on the problem. If young adults play too many video games or watch too many movies, they must be convinced why this is not a good idea. To simply be legislated to in this fashion simply aggravates the problem, because it now requires no self-discipline to become a temperate man.

Obviously this cannot be said of anything. A crack addict must not be allowed to continue his destructive habits, and must thus be cut off from it by those who can think straight. However, anyone who holds gaming and films as comperable to an addiction of this nature disagrees with me on a much more fundamental level. I'm not saying you're doing that, but I'm saying that the truth of that comparison would be the only way that intervention this severe can be justified. Otherwise, the heart and mind must be changed in order for true resolution to be effected. Some might call that sentimental. I don't think it is.

Kathryn said...

Excellent post Michael!

healthily sanguine said...

Wow, a lot of my philosophy training is springing into action here as I read these remarks! I would respond to your comment, Colin, first of all by disagreeing that college students are fully formed. I think that the college years are some of the most important formative years in a person's life, as they in large part determine what the course of one's life will be in the future. Have we not all heard of people who, while ostensibly good Catholics or Christians in high school, went to college, lost their faith, and fell away? Now, obviously something was lacking in their earlier formative years, but the point is that young people are by no means set in their ways.

This brings me to my second point, which is that you cannot separate intellect and will in the discussion of formation. You said of college students that "the way to really change their habits is to convince their minds." However, sometimes attachment to sin or "bad habits" blinds men to the truth of a matter so that you cannot "convince their minds" without first removing this obstacle. Christendom is all about reducing or removing occasions of vice as well as distractions from the kind of education it hopes to provide. It must employ rules to occasion this kind of environment for the benefit of all. For example, take the modesty dress code rule. You might argue that coeds should not be forced to wear skirts of a certain length or blouses of a certain height, but rather you should convince them intellectually of the superiority of modest dress. But meanwhile, the community as a whole suffers, and perhaps some girls, upon receiving unconscious encouragement from ill-formed young men, will not change their immodest habits. Now, I am taking an extreme case here. To bring it back to video games--I think it is a safe bet that a lot of young men have not learned moderation when it comes to gaming. It's not unreasonable for college rules to "discourage inordinate attachment to contemporary media" when nothing else in our country or culture will ever do this for us. We love Christendom because it has these unique rules, rules which promote a Christian rather than secular environment. By training the will of the students to good and moderate habits, the student life office does almost as important a service as the faculty do in instructing the intellect.

This is not all I want to say, but it's already really long and I must get back to work. God bless!

Baron von Winchester said...

Wow, people are long winded around here. Everyone is missing the point. I laud Michael for his excellent post. I will admit I didn't read past the Texas paragraphs (scanning ahead with my eagle eye for more instances of that sacred word), but I think we can all take it on this man's authority what he says about Texas. I believe him 100%