bear - ingn.1 the manner in which one comports oneself; 2 the act, power, or time of bringing forth offspring or fruit; 3 a machine part in which another part turns [a journal ~]; 4pl. comprehension of one's position, environment, or situation; 5 the act of moving while supporting the weight of something [the ~ of the cross].
I spent a lot of time in the car over the holiday weekend, driving and being driven.
(I'll take that over Mark's experience -- he had a whirlwind business trip to London that finished the day before Thanksgiving. OK, well, I wouldn't mind the London part, but I would have minded the "business" and "whirlwind" parts.)
When I was 45 pounds heavier it used to make me feel bad to spend a lot of time in the car, because after an hour or two my jeans started to pull at my hips and thigh and butt uncomfortably. Making creases in the flesh: not painful or anything, just tight here and pinched there. I would shift my body, push my feet against the floor and straighten up, in the guise of stretching my back, and it would stop feeling tight in one place but it would start feeling tight another. All those hours of driving, and it was a constant and niggling reminder that I was a fat person. After a while I would start to wonder: Does this feel worse than last time? Maybe I'm gaining weight, even.
I suppose I could have stopped wearing jeans and switched to flowy loose skirts or something. I didn't want to. Part of me believed that the constant pinching, pulling, tight-across-the-thigh feeling was something that kept me from getting even fatter, because it kept me miserably reminded of how fat I was already.
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And then I lost weight and I discovered something:
Jeans don't pull and pinch slightly and make creases in the flesh and get uncomfortable on long car trips because you're fat.
Jeans pull and pinch slightly and get uncomfortable on long car trips because they are jeans.
(At least the ones I buy do. I don't know if the super relaxed fit, elastic waist, Grandma Jeans don't, or if hyper-expensive pre-broken-in designer jeans don't. I can only speak for my Levi's.)
On a long car trip now, exactly the same sensations happen. Even though I am not at all a fat person anymore.
But you want to know something crazy?
It still makes me feel bad. I spent so many years thinking that the feeling of wearing jeans equals the feeling of having put on too much weight, that nowadays, when I wear jeans, I walk around (or more likely sit around) feeling vaguely shameful and certain that I ate too much for lunch.
I think I understand a little bit the concept of anorexia: how a woefully thin girl can look in the mirror and see fat that needs to be eliminated. I never did quite get that. But I experience a sort of similar thing in a tactile sense: I, not woefully thin but perfectly normal, can sit in a chair and feel jeans that are "bursting at the seams" and start thinking maybe I should skip dinner.
I know better, but that doesn't make it all go away.
One of the things that pleased me about St. Louis de Montfort's True Devotion to Mary was a little section near the end, where he really delved into four different prepositional phrases with Mary as their object.
[T]here are some very sanctifying interior practices [of this devotion] for those whom the Holy Ghost calls to high perfection.
These may be expressed in four words: to do all our actions by [or through] Mary, with Mary, in Mary, and for Mary; so that we may do them all the more perfectly by [or through] Jesus, with Jesus, in Jesus, and for Jesus."
Let's first take the phrasing back to the original French to clear up some ambiguities in the translated text. It goes like this: par Marie, avec Marie, en Marie et pour Marie.
I have two different translations of the text, one of which gives us "by" for par, and the other of which gives "through." If you had more than a little French then you know that par can be translated with either word; the sense is "by way of" or "via" or "mediated by." It does not signify "next to" (as "by" sometimes means in English) nor "from one side to the other" (as "through" sometimes means in English). Avec and pour correspond closely with "with" and "for," respectively. En is one of two common prepositions translated as "in" (the other is dans), and it can mean in a place, or in a state, or in a period of time -- or by a type of transportation vehicle: as English speakers would say you go somewhere by car or by plane, the French say en voiture or en avion. it isn't in the literal sense of "enclosed within."
But we are not stuck speculating on meanings just based on our high school French, because St. Louis goes on to explain more precisely what he means by each of these four prepositional phrases.
Take the first of the four. "faire toutes ses actions par Marie" (to do every action through Mary, or "all through Mary"):
We must [il faut] do all our actions by/through [par] Mary; that is to say, we must obey her in all things, and in all things conduct ourselves by her spirit, which is the Holy Spirit of God...
In order that the soul may let itself be led by Mary's spirit, it must first of all renounce its own spirit and its own lights and wills before it does anything...
Secondly, we must deliver ourselves to the spirit of Mary to be moved and influenced by it in the manner she chooses. We must put ourselves and leave ourselves in her virginal hands, like a tool in the grasp of a workman, like a lute in the hands of a skillful player.... This can be done simply, and in an instant, by one glance of the mind, by one little movement of the will, or even verbally, by saying, for example, "I renounce myself, I give myself to thee, dear Mother..."
Thirdly, we must, from time to time, both during and after the action, renew the same act of offering and union...
The second of the four phrases is "faire toutes ses actions avec Marie" (to do every action with Mary, or "all with Mary").
...that is to say, we must in all our actions regard Mary as an accomplished model of every virtue and perfection[,] which the Holy Ghost has formed in a pure creature for us to imitate according to our little measure. We must therefore in every action consider how Mary has done it, or how she would have done it had she been in our place. For that end we must examine and meditate on the great virtues which she practiced during her life...particularly ...her lively faith... her profound humility... and her divine purity....
The third of the phrases is "faire toutes ses actions en Marie" (to do every action in Mary, or "all in Mary." Significantly, the saint does not tell us how to do everything, or anything, "in Mary." It is the only one of the four that lacks specific instructions. He seems not to know how one "does" an action "in Mary." Apparently there is no tip or trick that we can perform that, along with an action, makes that act happen "in" Mary.
But he does tell us that, if only we can know certain truths, perhaps we can "understand this practice." What follows is a lengthy description of what Mary is, what kind of "place" she represents. Here is an excerpt:
Thoroughly to understand this practice, we must first know that our Blessed Lady is the true terrestrial paradise of the New Adam, and that the ancient paradise was but a figure of her...
The Holy Ghost, by the mouth of the Fathers, also styles the Blessed Virgin the Eastern Gate, by which the high priest, Jesus Christ, enters the world and leaves it.... The sanctuary of the Divinity, the repose of the Most Holy Trinity, the throne of God, the city of God, the temple of God, the altar of God, the world of God...
..."My sister, my spouse, is a garden enclosed... a fountain sealed up."...in that virginal bosom, the soul shall be nourished with the milk of grace and maternal mercy... it shall be delivered of its troubles, fears and scruples; it shall be in safety against all its enemies...it shall be formed in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ in it.
Maybe the saint means to say that "in" Mary is not a way of doing things so much as it is a state of being, a state to which we can aspire through intellectual meditation and acts of trust and self-abandonment.
Finally, the fourth phrase: "faire toutes ses actions pour Marie" (to do everything for Mary, "all for Mary," the "Totus tuus" of Pope John Paul II's personal motto).
As we have given up ourselves entirely to her service, it is but just that we do everything for her as servants and slaves... [W]e must not remain idle, but, supported by her protection, we must undertake and achieve great things for this august sovereign. We must defend her privileges when they are disputed; we must stand up for her glory when it is attacked; we must draw all the world, if we can, to her service... we must speak and cry out against those who abuse her devotion to outrage her Son... we must pretend to no recompense for our little services, except the honor of belonging to so sweet a Queen, and the happiness of being united through her to Jesus her Son...
I think there are several interesting things to be taken away from this discussion.
First, although (probably because of the Pope's motto) the object of the devotion is often summarized as "Totus Tuus," or "All for You" -- all for Mary, or for Jesus through Mary -- it is actually a bit more complicated than that. It's not just "all for," but also "all through, all with, all in" Mary -- and all of that in order that everything we do, we do "through, with, in, and for" Jesus, the ultimate end.
Pondering the four prepositions, I find it easiest to think of them in terms of Mary's role with respect to us. If we do all through Mary, we renounce our own spirit and take up her own, to be led and guided and employed as she pleases. If we do all with her, we are her imitators, she our model. If we do all in her, we trust ourselves to her protection. If we do all for her, she is to us a mistress and a Queen.
It is sort of tempting to think: well then, being "in" Mary is a sure path to being "in" Jesus, and doing our actions "through" Mary is a sure way to do them "through" Christ, and so on. I am not sure that the four prepositions can really be separated out that way. But I do think it is a very simple first step to try that "one little movement of the will" so that an act may be done "through" Mary: "I renounce myself, I give myself to thee." That is a place to start, even if we are puzzled by the saint's advice about "in," and if we are overwhelmed at the thought of imitating the summit of created humanity, and if we are unsure what she requires of her servants. St. Louis says that the important thing about renouncing ourselves is that we do it, that it doesn't matter if it feels any different; it is still real. No one on earth, no barrier at all can keep us from mentally renouncing ourselves in this way at every moment of our lives. And so even if "for" or "in" or "with" doesn't make sense, we can all start with "through." And since what it means is simply to be led by the Holy Spirit in everything, what Christian could object?
Mark got sent on a business trip to London this week, leaving last Saturday and returning late yesterday afternoon. Yes, you heard that right: he arrived back barely in time for dinner on the day before Thanksgiving. (In defense of his normally quite family-friendly workplace: the boss who set up the meeting is German and forgot about the holiday, and of course the folks in the UK didn't catch it either.)
At first we thought we wouldn't be able to drive back to spend Thanksgiving with our families at all, but then we worked out that we could drive down early and he could fly out from where we were staying. So that turned out okay. I picked him up from the airport last night, a two-hour round trip driving down from my in-laws' place.
On the way back he told me about the meeting. I listened to the tale. Let's see: a meeting in London with people from two different companies and four different countries, at which he had to match wits with another engineer, under the watchful gaze of both their bosses, and maybe some lawyers, hashing out issues both technical and patent-related while preserving good relations between two companies and with nothing to eat (said Mark) but "lunch brought in." English "lunch brought in."
I tried to imagine myself being in his place at such a meeting and thought: that has so many nightmares written all over it I wouldn't even know where to begin. You would think that there would be some "cool! Meeting in London!" aspect, but I am inclined to think that would make it even worse, as I would be constantly tempted to stand up and go in search of a pub or a museum rather than stay in the room eating bread triangles with cold cuts on them and trying not to screw up too badly.
So today I am thankful that Mark does the "job" thing so that I don't have to.
For the twenty years I have been a practicing Catholic, one glaring feature of liturgical and scriptural language has bugged me: metaphorical prepositional phrases.
What do you mean you don't know what I am talking about? Let's take just one example: the Doxology at Mass. From its name (hello? Dox-ology) one would assume that it is important to understand the precise meaning of the words and phrases that are being said. Not to mention the fact that the immediately following act of assenting to this Doxology is called, not just an Amen, but *the* *Great* Amen. The Doxology has gone like this for as long as I have been around:
Through him, with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.*
I say it this way along with everyone else, of course. If the Church uses that language, I trust that whatever She is trying to express, this is the best way to say it, at least in English. But if I ever stop to think about what I am saying, I am always distracted by wondering:
What is the difference between "through Him" and "with Him" and "in Him?"
Since "through" and "in" literally mean spatial relationships, but are obviously not meaningful in that sense, what do they mean?
Why stop there? Why isn't it "by him" or "for Him"?
And so on and so on.
Yes, I think too much. It is occasionally a liability. But in my defense, it doesn't stop me from saying "Amen."
Ahem. Let's get started.
Clearly the "him" refers to Christ. (For one thing, the priest utters the Doxology while elevating the chalice and Host to show them to us -- and we believe the Host and the contents of the chalice are Christ, so it's as good as pointing to Jesus and saying "Him. This guy.") If you take the sentence apart, then I guess it means something like this:
All glory and honor is forever and ever yours, through Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
All glory and honor is forever and ever yours, in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
All glory and honor is forever and ever yours, with Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
How is it that "all glory and honor" -- which I guess you could paraphrase as "everything good" -- belongs rightfully to the Father "through Christ?"
"In" the unity of the Holy Spirit?
But also "with" and "in" Christ?
This is not everyday language. It is being used metaphorically, that much is obvious -- but it isn't being used in a way such that its plain meaning can be easily worked out. Indeed it does not appear to have a plain meaning at all!
Let's not panic. We have a bunch of prepositions here. What could they mean? Well -- prepositions (like "through" and "with" and "in") relate bits of a sentence to each other -- they relate a person/place/thing, or an action or state of being, to another person/place/thing. They establish relationships in space and in time, for example: in "the car is on the road" the preposition "on" tells you where the car is relative to the road; in "the bell rang during the meeting" the preposition "during" tells you the relationship in time between the action "rang" and the event "meeting."
Here, the state of being which is "belonging to the Father" is said to have a complex, threefold relationship to Christ and a simpler relationship to "the unity of the Holy Spirit."
Whatever it means, it must be saying something about the Trinity. And once you have realized that, well, then, it doesn't seem so problematic that there isn't a plain meaning to the words. It is allowable for statements about the Trinity to be incomprehensible because the Trinity is incomprehensible. I don't have to know exactly what is meant by "through" and how that is distinct from "in" or "with."
I can, however, notice, that "Father" and "him" and "the Holy Spirit" are curiously entangled but are not identified with each other. And that "all glory and honor" -- all the good stuff there is -- belongs by rights to one of them (the Father) but not to the other two. But that all that belonging-to-the-Father relates somehow to those other two. That is, I think, as far as it can be taken without descending into the cloud of mystery. But inside that cloud is something quite fundamental, about the Three Persons in One God, and about all the things that are not God (the good things anyway), and also about time, and about the host and chalice the priest is holding up while he utters these crazy words. No wonder the Amen that follows is not just any old Amen, but *the Great* Amen.
It is weird language. It is not plain language. It is oddly repetitive and redundant. It doesn't sound like ordinary speech. It is incomprehensible to the average person. It makes no sense.
This is, it seems, why we use it.
Such odd prepositional phrases are everywhere, of course, and they are not always referring to mysteries as deep as the Trinity. We had one in the second reading for yesterday, Christ the King Sunday:
For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life...
Why "in?" I think it isn't a coincidence that the words form an analogy. Because we know something about how we die, and something about Adam, we can (for want of a better word) intuit a kind of relationship between dying and Adam. We may not be able to describe the relationship, but maybe we can feel what it means in some deep part of our psyche or some ancient, wordless part of our brain. Then perhaps we can transfer that deep knowledge, the connection between dying and Adam, to grasp somehow the link between "being brought to life" and "Christ."
(It is worth considering the reading as a whole; "through" makes an appearance too, in a similar analogy. Gotta love that Hebrew poetry -- the remarkable utility of redundancy and repetitiveness, of saying the same thing slightly differently.)
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More on prepositional phrases later, I hope, this time in Montfortian spirituality.
________________ *Per ipsum et cum ipso et in ipso est Deo Patri omnipotenti, in unitate Spiritus Sancti, omnis honor et gloria, per omnia saecula saeculorum. The words will change only slightly next week -- most of today's argument will still stand.
In my last post about the science curricula that I don't use, I said I would give an example of my approach to science education. This is that example: a six-week unit study on electricity and electric circuits that I designed for third grade. I really think you could expand it out if you wanted to, maybe into 9 or 12 weeks.
Week 1 Electricity and Circuits -Basics
Library read-alouds: Berger, Switch On Switch Off.This is from the popular and, in my opinion, well-designed series of picture books "Let's-Read-And-Find-Out-About Science." It's a basic introduction to the concept of electricity and electric appliances.
Epstein, The First Book of Electricity, Ch1, "What we Know." The "First Book" series of nonfiction is an older series, very well-written, generally by authors who have some expertise in the field. They are probably in your local library.
Obviously, with any older science series, some material might be out of date. This is one place where it's helpful to have a decent background in science: I recognize that when I see it, and I work around it. For example, if I've got an older book about chemistry, I might run into a picture of the old Bohr model of the atom -- the one where the electrons are orbiting around the nucleus like planets around the sun.* This isn't a problem. I show the picture, I say "this is what people used to think an atom was like," and then I grab a textbook or science encyclopedia, or I do a quick Google search, and explain what's changed in the last fifty or sixty years.
So why use old books? Well -- I like to use well-written books. That's why.
Safety information in Snap Circuits. The Snap Circuits kit comes with a book, and the book has the experiments in it, and in the front there is some brief information about safety (and how not to accidentally destroy some of the kit components). We went over that first. It's also an opportunity to convey some general information about laboratory safety.
"What is a circuit diagram?" I taught this topic straight out of my head, but you could also use an introductory high school physics textbook or -- face it -- Wikipedia as your source. The concept I wanted to get across is that a circuit diagram is a way to unambiguously communicate the wiring of the components a circuit, and that it's the connectivity of the nodes, not the lengths or orientations of the connections, that are meaningful.
I drew an example circuit with a switch and a light and a battery, and then as an exercise I had my son draw one with a switch and a DC motor and a battery. By a remarkable coincidence (cough) these are the first two projects in the Snap Circuits book. So:
Project 1. Electric Light and Switch.
Project 2. DC Motor.
I required him to draw the circuit diagram, show me, then build the circuit. Along the way we could talk about how the Snap Circuits kit is set up so that it looks like a circuit diagram when it's put together: the resistor is embedded in a plastic modular bit that has a little resistor symbol on it, for instance.
And this concludes the first week.
Week 2 Electricity and Circuits - How moving magnets generate electric current
Branley, What Makes A Magnet. Another "Let's Read And Find Out About Science" title. I brought in information about magnets to create a context for talking about electric current generation.
Epstein Ch2. "Making Electricity" -- generators.
Epstein Ch3. "Measuring Electricity"
Make the "electricity detector" in the back of the Epstein book. (It's a simple galvanometer made from a cheap compass.)
"Making electricity" project in back. (Simple, basic project -- you produce electricity in a coil of wire and then you use your little galvanometer to detect it.)
Week 3 Electricity and Circuits -- Resistance; Series and Parallel
Discuss "resistors" and "resistance."I explained Ohm's Law for this one, and we did a few math problems with it.
Project 4. Adjusting Sound Level.
Discuss "series" and "parallel" -- We talked about the difference between wiring two elements in series and wiring them in parallel. I talked him through understanding how the total resistance in a two-resistor circuit depends on whether resistors are wired in series and in parallel.
Project 5. Lamp and Fan in Series
Project 6. Lamp and Fan in Parallel
Week 4 Electricity and Circuits -- Conductors and Insulators
Epstein Ch4. "Conductors and Insulators"
Project 7. Light Emitting Diode
Project 8. One Direction for LED
Project 9. Conduction Detector
Week 5 Electricity and Circuits -- Application
Epstein Ch5. "Wires in your Home"
Epstein Ch6. "Electricity At Work"
Project 13. Two Speed Fan
Project 14. The Fuse
Week 6 Electricity and Circuits -- Having Fun With It
More Snap Circuits projects as desired. (Caveat: I made a rule that he has to draw the circuit diagram for whatever it is he wants to do. I provided him with a list of circuit element symbols and helped him to figure out some difficult ones.)
I frequently get questions from other homeschooling parents about how I teach science. I suppose this is not terribly surprising. Most people (including most elementary school teachers) don't have heavy specialization in science and math. I can make the analogical leap: I don't have much education in art or music, and so I am often interested in how truly creative and knowledgeable people train their children in these fields.
(Although sometimes I avoid asking, because I periodically feel guilty about how little art and music we do in our homeschool.)
When it comes to science curricula, I'm afraid that I suffer from Expert Paralysis. That is, I know enough science to hate every elementary school science curriculum I've ever seen. NONE OF THEM ARE ADEQUATE. There. That is my opinion. They all dumb things down. They are all nonrigorous, insufficiently mathematical, and generally artificial in the way they set up so-called "experiments." Probably they dumb things down in entirely appropriate ways. But I can't bear to teach from them. So I don't.
I think of it this way: The academic goal of teaching elementary school science is to ensure that they are prepared for high school science, which can be rigorous and not dumbed-down. And this is what I think kids need in order to be prepared for high school level science education (physics, chemistry, biology):
Strength and comfort with mathematics.
Memorization strategies and skills.
Strategies for acquiring unfamiliar vocabulary.
Practice in making direct observations and accurately describing them in writing.
Logical thinking, especially in classification and identification of cause-and-effect.
A grasp of the scientific method and why it represents an ideal process for learning from observation. (A historical approach can work for this, I believe, even better than an experimental one.)
Wide-ranging reading and/or documentary film viewing on topics of the natural world and of human technology (again, a historical approach can work for this), to build a broad base of information and vocabulary.
Deep interest in any one aspect of the natural world, or a few, and the opportunity to have developed it freely.
An understanding of the value of scientific inquiry among the various fields of human endeavor: its powers and limitations.
None of this requires a science curriculum. None. You can certainly borrow units from textbooks; probably there's something out there that does a great job of teaching the scientific method, for instance. And you could certainly use textbooks to help a child develop his or her deep understanding of a subject that is dear to him or her. And of course most people will choose a math curriculum of some kind. Some will choose a logic curriculum, or will rely on some other subject (say, Latin grammar or proof-based geometry) to develop logical skills.
My kids aren't in high school yet, so I can't say whether my approach is "working" or not. (I'll define "working" as "they succeeded in high-school level chemistry, physics, and biology.") But this is the form my approach has taken:
Lots of books around on various science-type topics.
The kids are encouraged to watch nature documentaries and other similar videos -- pretty much freely.
I do pick a topic or two each year -- but I have taught it by getting living books out of the library, reading aloud from them, and talking about it. I'm a scheduler by nature, so I tend to plan ahead what books I'll check out and what topics to discuss, but there's no reason why this couldn't be done more spontaneously.
Science kits are great, but I think that unless you have a fairly methodical kid, then the sort of thorough learning that I consider to be school-worthy won't happen on its own. (It's fine to use science kits as free-exploration toys. I'm just saying that I wouldn't necessarily count that kind of play as "school.") So I use science kits but assign the projects from them in a specific order.
I need to get ready for my co-schooling day, so I have to stop here, but I will make another post with a detailed description of one "electric circuits" unit study I did for a third-grader using the Snap Circuits kit and some other resources.
The rate of deaths isn't large -- nine people in one summer, out of 243,000 competitors in a year. But from the sound of the article, non-fatal panic attacks aren't rare in the swim portion of triathlons.
In the swim event, a combination of stresses can lead to a panic attack (or something like it): the excitement of the moment, the chaos of swimming into and over other people, the chest constriction of the wet suit, the darkness and coldness of the water, competitiveness and the desire not to quit when friends and family are watching. On rare occasions this leads to drowning.
Discussion threads on blogs suggest that panic attacks are common even among experienced athletes, although apparently nobody in the triathlon industry has attempted to learn how common they are. Some coaches mention them, but many triathletes train without coaches. Race directors in general don’t name panic attacks as potentially lethal but manageable hazards, though they do warn about wet roads for cyclists and high temperatures for runners.
There are also some quotes from triathletes that support the hypothesis.
Every once in a while, someone who knows I like biking and swimming and tolerate running well will suggest that I try triathlons. I have absolutely no interest in triathlons because while I love swimming in pools, I don't enjoy swimming in open water, and the idea of swimming in a crowd in open water is absolutely repulsive. (I feel a little claustrophobic just sharing a lane with more than one other person.) So the idea that some people might suffer panic attacks doesn't surprise me.
Mark doesn't feel well this morning so it's off to Mass for me and the three older kids. (He'll keep the baby home, which will make things considerably easier for me.)
#1 will be serving at Mass, so I won't have to worry about him, of course. Now, if I can just keep #2 and #3 from poking each other... and poking... and poking... and hissing "Stop poking me!..." and poking...
Fortunately, it's Doughnut Day, so I do have a threat in my pocket. Not my favorite way to roll, but if necessary, I can exercise the nuclear option...