One time in 1965, our family all piled in the car and we drove across the country to California. The car broke down in the salt flats. I remember going to a gas station and my father gets out, because our air conditioner was broken. He must have been in there for 10 minutes. He got in, ashen-faced, and quietly said, ‘Everyone stay in the car. They don’t like Negroes here.’ That was a rude awakening.
We had to spend the night in this small desert town. My father and mother told us not to play in the pool, to stay in the room. My brother had a skateboard. I remember we wanted to play. It was bewildering. It was not psyche-shattering because I didn’t grow up in that kind of world. My grandmother was born in 1900, and she would regale me with tales I call Little House on the Prairie tales, but they were tales of segregated and racist America growing up in Alabama and Mississippi, where she came from. … Our household was infused with black history. I grew up in a home and in a world in which you can do anything. We were all expected to go to college. My father was a doctor.
I’ve been reading Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, and it may very well be the best book I’ve read all year. I’m not done with it yet, but there will be a write up on it in just another couple of days.
But I did want to take a moment to talk about sin. Since the main character of the book is a Catholic priest, a great deal of the story focuses on the nature of sin, and I don’t think I’ve ever read an author before who understood the exquisiteness of sin so well (with the probable exception of Hermann Hesse). He explains sin not as a temptation as if it is some kind of devious trap. He describes sin as a temptation that you love, because it is in fact beautiful, even if it damns your soul. He even explains how piety itself can be a sin.
All of these things are correct. And it would be even easier if Latin only had that many uses of the subjunctive and not seven or eight others! (oh, and did you notice how I just used an English subjunctive in that last sentence, ‘cause I did!)
“…this place was very like the world elsewhere: people snatched at causes of pleasure and pride in cramped and disagreeable surroundings: there was no time to do anything worth doing, and always one dreamed of escape.”—Graham Greene The Power and the Glory
“When you visualized a man or woman carefully, you could always begin to feel pity… that was a quality God’s image carried with it… when you saw the lines at the corners of the eyes, the shape of the mouth, how the hair grew, it was impossible to hate. Hate was just a failure of the imagination.”—Graham Greene The Power and the Glory
“…the Kingdom of God is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty, and it is you who are that poverty.”—Jesus in The Gospel of Thomas (via zerooneinfinity)
Why not use the photo? Yes, the picture is troubling, but why shouldn’t we be troubled by a brutal murder in public? I guarantee this picture is not as troubling as seeing it in person was for those who did. And it is many degrees of magnitude less frightening than being shot. Let us all be troubled by the experience forced upon our peers and fellow Americans.
I observed the most wonderful parents today. They were sitting outside my favorite coffee shop with their dog and little girl, probably three years old. Anyway, the little girl said in a disgustingly whiny voice that she didn’t want to eat her muffin. Her parents calmly reacted with, “Never speak with that kind of voice again.” When the little girl tried to walk it back with, “I’m very tired,” one of the parents said, “That’s okay. We’ll take a nap when we get home, but that’s no excuse to use that kind of voice.” And the other said, “No one in the general public wants to hear it, and no one in our family wants to hear it.” They were so calm and reasonable about it that the little girl seemed to learn and was no more whiny!
I really wanted to get up and hug them both separately.
“Currently in the legal system there’s this myth of equality. And the assumption is if you are over 18 and you have an IQ of over 70 then all brains are created equal. And, of course, that’s a very charitable idea but it’s demonstrably false. Brains are extraordinarily different from one another. Brains are essentially like fingerprints; we’ve all got them but they’re somewhat different. And so by imagining that everyone has the exact same capacity for decision-making, for understanding future consequences, for squelching their impulsive behavior and so on, what we’re doing is we’re imagining that everybody should be treated the same. And, of course, what has happened is that our prison system has become our de facto mental health care system. Estimates are that about 30 percent of the prison population has some sort of mental illness.”—