Wednesday, May 29, 2013

From a Guy's Perspective: Should Girls Wear Bikinis?

I am always bothered by the modesty issue surrounding girls’ swimwear and most specifically the bikini.  Should girls wear to what amounts to being little more than water proof undies?  Well, I’m not going to answer that question.  I’m a guy, and I really think the bikini issues should not be an issue.  Too many of the remedies offered for immodest swimsuits only scratch the surface of a larger problem.
The most common argument I hear from others for the reason why girls should not wear a bikini boils down as follows: help a guy to protect his eyes, or be modest for the boys in your life, or some variation of that argument.
As a guy, I am insulted by that line of reasoning because I feel it makes men out to be lust machines capable of only staring at a woman's butt, breasts, and abs.  It makes men appear weak willed, sexual beasts only interested in one thing when they get a glimpse of a girl’s upper thigh.  This view does nothing to raise up guys and increase the expectations from the boys in our culture.  We might as well just roll our eyes and say “boys will be boys.”  If a girl really is worried about guys staring lustfully at her, I'd have to ask the question as to where in the world does this girl hang out that guys can't help but stare and lust?  Like I said previously, if you want to tackle the issue of modesty by addressing clothing only, you are missing the point and doing it wrong; it amounts to what would be like trying to treat cancer with two Advil.
Girls, if you really want to help guys, modesty begins not with the clothes you wear or the swimsuit you decided not to wear to the beach, but in the heart and mind.  Later, the mind and heart is expressed in your words, deeds, and choices.  St. Francis de Sales would agree when he said, “Our words are a faithful index of the state of our souls.” 
The bikini or tankini or mankini question is only a surface issue.  It misses the real problem.  For every guy friend or boyfriend that looks upon a girl with lust there is a girlfriend who tolerates it.  For every guy that acts like a jerk towards a girl, there is a girl who tolerates it. For every guy who calls a girl “hot” there is a girl who is tolerant of his language.  This is where girls fail guys most on the modesty issue.
I learned a lot about how to treat girls not from my family but from a few female friends in college.  Some lessons were hard learned and sometimes embarrassing or at least awkward.  How was I supposed to know?  I have only one older sibling: a brother.  Moreover, I attended an all boys’ school from grades 6 through 12.  While is school I was too busy with athletics, music, and academics, I didn’t have time nor the interest in dating.  So what did I know about girls upon entering college?  I was supposed to get the door for them.
However, I became friends with a few girls who were like sisters I never had.  We were interested in building each other and helping each other become better people.   So whenever I said something inappropriate or uncouth in their presence they would call me to task on it. 
“She’s hot,” I’d say.
“Let’s not refer to people in terms of degrees of temperature.  People aren’t bowls of soup,” my friend would reply. “What did you mean to say?”
“She’s pretty.”
“Well just say that.”
I didn’t know at the time what my friends were doing, but they made me take inventory of what I said.  When I called the girl “hot” I was objectifying her.  Making her into a thing to be used and not seeing her as a person to be loved.  She was little more than hot coffee or iced coffee, and medically speaking the only time a person should be hot is when they are sick.  On hindsight, it makes perfect sense as to why my friends focused on language for they were journalism majors who were taught that language and words have the power to change the way a person thinks.  This is exactly what they helped do for me.  By changing how I spoke about girls changed how I thought about and how I viewed girls.
So girls, if you really want to focus on modesty, call all your guy friends to task on their immodest behavior and their immodest language.  Help them to think differently about girls, so that they can see you are the beautiful person you are.

This was written in a somewhat for a reply to "The Bikini Question"

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Church and the University

[Continuing prepping for next school year by doing a chapter by chapter summary of Thomas E. Woods's How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.]

Chapter 4: The Church and the University
Intro
Woods begins the chapter by telling the reader that the Middle Ages was not an age of “ignorance, superstition, and intellectual repression” (47).  Instead, the Middle Ages was a period of learning and inquirer y in which its greatest contributions to the world in the form of the university system (47).  Quoting historian Lowrie Daly, Woods tells us that the reason the university came about because it was “the only institution in Europe that showed consistent interest in the preservation and cultivation of knowledge” (47).
Degrees could not be awarded without the “approbation of pope, king, or emperor” (48).  Degrees issued by the pope or emperor were universally accepted and acknowledge across all of Christendom while degrees issued by the king were recognized only in the nation or that particular king.
Town and Gown
Just as today, there was an uneasy tension that existed between university students and the towns in which the students went to study.  On the one hand, the locals loved the influx of money the students brought with them.  On the other hand the locals found the students to be a nuisance, irresponsible and intolerable (49).  Locals often took advantage of students  by raising prices unjustly on books, rent or food (50).  To help all students, many of who were studying to become clergy, the Church “provided special protection to university students by offering them what was known as benefit of clergy” (50).  This privilege gave the students the right to have their grievances and cases heard in a church court instead of the state/secular court (50). 
Popes, because the university was young in the Middle Ages, became the protector and helper of the university.  For instance, In the papal bull Parens Scientiarum Gregory IX gave the Univeristy of Paris a right to self govern itself and to chose its own riles and courses and studies.  “On several occasions, the pope even intervened to force university authorities to pay professors their salaries” (51).  When universities, especially in the early years of a university, did not have a physical location relocation became a cause of concern for the town in which they were located.  For thriving university to relocate would and could be devastating to a local economy.  Therefore, eventually the states and local governments went to the extent to offer grants and special privileges to universities.
Academic Life
The main course of studies began with a focus on the liberal arts.  The mode of education came by means of attending lectures, reading, informal class disputations, and attending formal disputations of others.  Commentaries on various writing was one of the initial ways learning about a specific subject and text.  Over time, the commentaries incorporated a series of questions.  Eventually this would form into the classical scholastic argument to which St. Thomas Aquinas was famous for in his Summa Theologiae.
“Though their high-powered logic courses . . . medieval students were made aware of the subtleties of language and the pitfalls of argumentation” (57).
Age of Scholasticism
Scholastic studies, contrary to assumptions of this period of time, were not a mere appeal to authority.  “Rather, the commitment to the discipline of logic reveals a civilization that aimed to understand and to persuade.  To that end, educated men wanted students to be able to detect logical fallacies and to be able to form logically sound argument (58).   The devotion to logic and reason resulted in one of the most famous arguments for the existence of God: St. Anslem’s ontological argument.  Simply stated, Anslem’s argument might be summarized as “That than which nothing greater can be conceived” (59).  Another proponent for the merging of faith and reason, or specifically of using reason and logic to explain the faith, was St. Thomas Aquinas.  This is most evident in his Summa, but perhaps the most famous part of this work is in his arguments for the existence of God. 
Quoting historian Henri Daniel-Rops, Woods recounts the chapter when he writes, “Thanks to the repeated intervention of the papacy . . . high education was enabled to extend its boundaries; the Church, in fact, was the matrix that produced the university, the nest whence it took flight” (65).

Friday, May 24, 2013

How the Monks Saved Civilization

[Continuing prepping for next school year by doing a chapter by chapter summary of Thomas E. Woods's How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.]

Summary of Chapter 3 “How Monks Saved Civilization”

Woods writes that the “history of monks” can be summarized in “Christ’s words: ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and all these things shall be added unto you’” (25).  In seeking Christ first and laboring out of love, the monks reinvigorated Europe by means of a simple life style -- “comparable to that of a contemporary Italian peasant” – devoted to work and prayer (27).

The most notable of monks were the Benedictines founded by St. Benedict of Nursia in the 5th century (26).  In the West, St. Benedict’s writings, known as “The Rule of Saint Benedict,” became the foundation for western monasticism where according to The Rule all were equal in the eyes of Christ; therefore, St Benedict never took into consideration the worldly status of a perspective monk (27).

Though the main purpose of the monks was to find a way of salvation by retiring from the world, they also had a habit of bringing with them knowledge of the arts, learning technology, and more.   The monks were not stupid and their contributions are many:


·         The monks were agricultural specialists and an agricultural college.  They tamed the wild and make that which is unlivable into a home.
·         Monks embraced difficult tasks and inspired others to labor and that in work there is dignity.
·         Selective breeding of horses and cattle (genetic engineering)
·         Brewing of Beer
·         Raising of bees
·         Orchards
·         Vineyards
·         Corntrade in Sweden
·         Irrigation in Lombardy
·         Routed springs to Paris so the city could have water
·         Used water, rivers and streams, to Mill flower
·         Champagne (Dom Perignon)
·         Pioneers in the making of Wine
·         Cistercians were specialists in metallurgy
·         Monk - Eilmer flew 600 feet with a glider
·         Skillful clockmakers


The monks of then, as well as those of today, were known for their charitable works.  Every person whjo darkened the doors of the monastery was “received as though they were Christ” (38).  Two such actions, hospitals that had the “bell of the wanders”  and the “Bell Rock”, a bell to warn ships of dangerous rocks (33).  Copenhagen is said to own its origin to an Abbot who built a monastery with the specific intention of aiding those who were shipwrecked.

One of the most important contributions the monks made to Western Civilization as well as history is the sharing, copying and keeping of books.  By sharing books, technology, science, and learning could e easily spread to other monasteries and be put to use.  Most copies of classical texts come to us almost exclusively from the monks.  “The fact is, the Church cherished, preserved, studies, and taught the works of the ancients which would otherwise have been lost” (41).  The monks ensued that literacy and culture “would survive political and social catastrophe.

Learning was a central theme to the monastic life.  Where the monk went so too education followed.  They set up schools that would eventually become the foundations for the university (45).

"The monastic contribution to Western civilization, as we have seen, is immense. . . Who else in the history of the Western civilization can boast such a record?  The Church that gave the West its monks also created the university" (45).

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Light in the Darkness

[I am doing brief Summaries of "How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization" by Thomas  E. Woods, Jr., Ph.D.   There isn't much to the first chapter, so I am starting with Chapter two.]


How the Catholic Church built Western Civilization
Chapter 2 Summary “A light in the Darkness”

The author begins this chapter explicitly stating that the term “dark ages” was once applied to the time stretching from roughly 500 AD to 1500 AD.  However this is no longer the case, as the more research is done over that time frame the more historians adjust the date of the “dark ages.” 
According to the author there was a “cultural and intellectual retrogression” that occurred during the dark ages.  Thus the darkening was no a luminescence but instead a darkening of the mind.  However, contrary to popular belief, the cause of the darkening was not the on the result of the spread of Christianity.   Quoting Historian Will Durant, the author writes, “The basic cause of cultural retrogression . . . was not Christianity but barbarism, not religion but war” (9).  The author spends much of the rest of the chapter laying out how it was the Catholic Church that acted as a light during dark times, and How it had the task of civilizing a savage world.
The invading barbarian tribes/hordes were little interested in the life of the mind; therefore, they were a very illiterate and learned people who did not care much for literature, sciences, justice,  and art.  The barbarians were a very superstitious people who in many cases did not have much of a true system of belief as was the case with Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.  Therefore, when the church set out to convert the barbarians, they had a much easier time for “It is a fact of missionary history that the Church has found it immensely easier to convert people directly from primitive paganism or animism that to convert them once they have adopted another faith like Arianism or Islam” (12).
The main groups of Barbarians the author mentions are the Goths,  the Vandals, and the Franks.  There are two main tribes or families that were of great importance to the Church during this period of time: the Merovingians and the Carolingians.  The Merovingians entered into an unspoken relationship with the Catholic Church in which the Gaul’s would protect the Church.  This occurred with the conversion of their King, Clovis.  This relationship remained till about the 8th century.
Once the Merovingians declined in power, the Church was left in want of protection; She the turned to the Franks, specifically the Carolingians, and more specifically Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charles the Great (Charlemange).  The Church peacefully managed the transfer of power from the Merovingians to the Carolingians (16).  During the Carolingian period, Charlemagne “had been so persuaded of the beauty, truth, and superiority of the Catholic religion that he did everything possible to establish the new post-imperial Europe on the basis of Catholicism” (11).  He “strongly encouraged education and the arts, calling upon the bishops to organize schools around their cathedrals” (16).
During the Carolingian education there was a resurgence in classical education with an emphasis on the quadrivium (astronomy, music, arithmetic and geometry) and the Trivium (logic, grammar, rhetoric).  A uniform system of writing was developed  by monks called “Carolingian minuscule.”  This script introduced “lowercase letter, spacing between words “ and proved “crucial to building the literacy of Western civilization” (18).  Moreover, as Europe’s collective intellect plummeted into darkness “The Church, as the Educator of Europe, was the one life that survived repeated barbarian invasions” (20).  It was the unwavering determination of the Catholic Church that kept Europe from falling into an even darker age (21).  Even when monasteries were destroyed and libraries burned and monks killed by the barbarians, a new group of monks could be moved in and learning restored. 
Lastly, Pope Sylvester II, “The most learned man in Europe of his day,” sought out ancient manuscripts.  Pope Sylvester commented on the importance of learning and not simply having blind faith we he said “The Divinity made a great gift to men in giving them faith while not denying them knowledge . . . those who do not posse it are called fools” (23).  The pope’s views on knowledge and learning would go on to influence much of the schooling in Europe for ages to follow (23).
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