Have I mentioned I love Olney Friends School?
Friday, December 23, 2011
Have I mentioned I love Olney Friends School?
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Maria von Wedemeyer was theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer's much younger fiancee--they became engaged shortly before he was imprisoned in April of 1943. She was a brilliant person in her own right and a good writer. In celebration of the Christmas season, here are some words of Maria's from a letter to Bonhoeffer in Tegel prison in 1943:
"Isn't there bound to be a rekindling of the desire for holy tranquility and universal peace? I couldn't help thinking so last night, while walking home through the dusk with my little tree. The snow glistened underfoot, and there were countless stars in the depths of the sky overhead. All that is Christmas originates in heaven and comes from there to us all, to you and me alike, and forms a stronger bond between us than we could ever forge by ourselves." Love Letters from Cell 92, p. 138.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Almost every Christmas for as long as I can remember, I've had (non-alcoholic) egg nog, usually from a carton bought at the grocery store.
This year, however, I had a brilliant idea: let’s make homemade egg nog.
I looked up a recipe for non-alcoholic egg nog on the web. The ingredients were simple: eggs, whole milk, sugar, nutmeg, salt, vanilla.
I gathered six large eggs from the refrigerator and broke them in bottom of a heavy saucepan, then separated two more eggs and added the yolk. Half a cup of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt followed. I whisked this all together, then added four cup of whole milk, slowly letting it stream from the measuring cup as a I whisked it in with the eggs.
The hardest part, in these days when it is no longer safe to use raw eggs, was stirring the nog non-stop for 45-60 minutes on low heat until it thickened. Roger and I read Fanny Burney's Cecilia to each other as we stirred. When that was done, we added a teaspoon of vanilla and half a teaspoon of nutmeg and stirred.
What it tasted like was liquid custard. Our recipe called for topping it with whipped heavy cream, so we did, but that could easily be dispensed with.
The result was delicious. This is not a drink for the lactose intolerant nor the vegan, of course. Another year, perhaps, I'll tell the story of getting raw milk and free range eggs from my Amish neighbors, but this year all the ingredients came from the grocery store. With dioxides concentrated at the top of the food chain, we don’t want to be drinking non-organic whole milk on a regular basis, but once a year is probably fine.
To be honest, I had never really liked egg nog. I would drink it annually because it was part of the ritual of the holidays, but I never felt any regrets when it disappeared with the Christmas tree. It had always tasted a little weird. I now realize it's because I have been, all my life (with a few exceptions), been drinking a factory nog.
The point of this certainly is to celebrate homemade egg nog.
But it’s also for me to wonder: Why have I accepted a vaguely unsatisfying substitute for so long? I never even questioned why a drink so celebrated never tasted very good. And that leads to a broader question, which seem trite question to ask, a little bit of homey moralizing (which, of course, I would never do!) but I don't think it is. We perhaps need to keep revisiting this question in order to stay mindful, to keep from becoming complacent: Where else do we settle for a poor substitute because we never think to question what we’re doing? Do we do this with our Quaker faith? Where? How can we change?
Thursday, December 8, 2011
I recently bought a used paperback copy of The Fifty-Minute Hour, Robert Lindner's bestselling 1954 study of some of his most interesting psychoanalytic cases. The book caught my eye because my father, who died almost eight years ago, would talk about this book when I was a child. Seeing the title brought a vivid rush of memories.
I did find Internet discussions of the identity of the planet hopping man. One popular idea is that he is Cordwainer Smith (see http://www.ulmus.net/ace/csmith/behindjetcouch.html) , who published the sci-fi work Norstrilla.
So, to finish, every once in awhile we discover books that put us in touch with the past in more ways than one. Has this happened to you?
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
In 1989, the United Nations issued a Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by more governments than any other UN Convention. The Convention does bring together in one document descriptions of many of the forms of child maltreatment we read about daily in the newspaper, but it does not make us think of children—all the world’s children—as a group. It is about “the Child,” an abstraction.
And there is no indication in the Convention that there is a form of prejudice against a group—children—at work in all the forms of maltreatment. We might call it “childism,” on analogy with “sexism,” which was coined in 1965 on analogy with “racism.”
Childism is a hard form of prejudice to recognize and conceptualize because children are the one group that, many assume, is naturally subordinate. Until they reach a stipulated age, children are the responsibility chiefly of their parents or guardians—those who have custody. But what does custody permit? What distinguishes it from ownership? One of the essential ingredients of childism is a claim by offending adults to the effect that “these children are ours to do with exactly as we see fit,” or “children are here to serve, to honor, and obey adults.” These claims make a subordination doctrine out of natural dependency, out of the fact that children are born relatively helpless and need to be taken care of until they can take care of themselves. It seems normal to insist, “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother” without any reciprocal “Honor Thy Children.”
As the opposite of growth promoting altruism, childism takes many forms. In the half a century old field called “Child Abuse and Neglect” (CAN) four main types of child maltreatment have been identified and described: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. These categories are now used for all statistics gathering in the field, but they do not strike me as very illuminating. They do not reflect how frequently the four types are combined in a given case, for example. And they do not prompt inquiry about the subordination purposes served by maltreating—as a classification of wars by the types of weapons used would not prompt inquiry into the purposes served by war.
Listening to my adult patients in psychoanalysis who were maltreated as children, I have heard basically three stories: they tell me that they were not wanted, that they were controlled and manipulated, or that they were not allowed to be who they felt they were. So I have come to think in terms of childism that intends (1) to eliminate or destroy children; (2) to make them play roles no child should play; or (3) to dominate them totally, narcissistically erasing their identities. These three broad categories capture the forms of childism from the child’s and the adult survivor’s point of view. Survivors make it very clear that the worst part of their experience—the most difficult to heal from, the least forgivable—was that no one protected them from it. They often make it clear, as well, that they have internalized the prejudice and direct it toward themselves.
Monday, December 5, 2011
I attended the Bonhoeffer conference at Union Theological Seminary in
NYC in mid-November, which was a celebration of the near-completion of the
Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works translation. I had a fine time. I was
delighted to be at Union, which I had never visited before. (I am told
that all the college campus scenes for the TV show Law & Order are shot at Union.) A bit of drama ensued as Occupy Wall Street was shut down while I was there, a blow to the 46 Union Theological students who had been participating and an upsetting event to the school in general.
The Bonhoeffer talks were very interesting, ranging from Bonhoeffer's
reception in different countries to issues with translation and
theology. I learned that Fortress will be releasing a volume of
Bonhoeffer poems and a volume of his sermons in the next few years.
I was also interested to hear several times that the initial reception
to Bonhoeffer in Germany in the 1950s was mixed because he was seen as a traitor to
Germany by some. That certainly made my mind reel. How could that be?
Hitler was a horror. But then I realized that the Germans take law
and order seriously (although the rule of law certainly suffered under
Nazism) and that having one's country overrun by invading armies,
even in the interests of toppling of a genocidal madman,
is still a terrible experience. Yet I struggle. As a Quaker and a pacifist, I
struggle with Bonhoeffer's decision to get involved in an
assassination plot, though I certainly understand his anguished sense of responsibility to do something to combat the evil. On the other hand, as a part of the human race, I struggle with any defense of Hitler. I do struggle to find that of God in Hitler. As one speaker said, however, "It's easy for Americans to love Bonhoeffer." That I agree with.
As an aside, I listened for how the Germans at conference pronounced Bonhoeffer, suspecting it would not be our "Bon-hoff-ER." It was not--the Germans have a more melodious pronunciation that sounded to me more like "Bon [with a slight long-E to the Bon] -HEFF-a."