Archive for the ‘Overheard’ Category

Overheard today at LASGS:

“Well, don’t they take like six months to a year to grow?” (in reference to Shakespeare’s first child being born 5 months post-matrimony)

“Can’t babies hold their breath longer, ’cause you know they’re like floating in water in the womb?”  “No, man, they have a breathing tube.” (amidst a conversation on fear of water/swimming in p.e.)

“Dude.  You need to teach us more about sex.  Seriously.” (a 9th student to a teacher, upon hearing that 4 acquaintances from junior high are pregnant)

Ms. H


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Did you know?

All snails are hermaphrodites… Although all snails can both produce sperm and lay eggs, they must still mate before reproduction can take place.

Mating takes place on warm, damp summer nights. The two individuals rear up and press their undersides together before releasing sperm into one another. After mating is completed, the snails lay their eggs in the ground. Snails may lay several batches of eggs, each of which is fertilized with the sperm from the single mating.  Sperm can be stored in their bodies for future use.

— from the Wildlife Fact File cards, which I read as part of Nathan’s science report on invertebrates

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My dear Wormwood,

You mention in your letter that your patient brought up the upcoming election over dinner.  You were pleased because he had alienated several colleagues and said snide remarks about the leadership of the country.  You seem to be under the misguided assumption that dinner conversation is innocuous.  On the contrary, banishing substantive conversations from the dining room was one of our great triumphs in this last century.  By cultivating a hypersensitivity to “decorum,” we managed to taboo the Big Three – Politics, Religion, and Money – from ever being brought up in “good society.”  I admit I miss the taste of the spite and hurt feelings that these discussions would inevitably arouse, but our Father Below astutely observed that we lost more ground than we gained in these forays.

In the first place, substantive conversations remove humans from the ordinary sense experiences of daily life with which we work so hard to concern them.  Instead of discussing the latest faux pas of their fellow teachers or grumbling about the unfairness of their bosses’ behavior, their attention is turned to the abstract world of ideas and souls and the correlation between what they say and what they do.  They begin to question their devotion to a particular party and instead consider the platform; they’re asked to envisage the possibility of an afterlife, when we’d rather they focus exclusively on the present, or even the past.  And money… never underestimate the significance of money in a human heart.  One would think that given the innumerable times the Enemy spoke on the subject that human Christians would devote more time to contemplating the relationship between their checkbooks and their souls, but for the most part we have successfully blinded them to the fact that money is never a slip of paper, it is a metaphor for power, prestige, security, self-worth and so on.  You and I know that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was not exaggerating when he said they must choose to serve one or the other, but it is almost too easy to obscure that fact for your patient.  Focus his attention on the cash in his wallet; it is no idol.  Remind him that he gives a tenth of his income to the Church punctually each month; he has done his duty.  Do not allow him to think about the time he devotes to work versus his family; do not remind him that the reason he dislikes his boss is because he feels he deserves a raise.  These are the deeper waters where the Enemy’s light might ruin years of careful planning.

In the second place, when humans converse on these subjects, they often stumble upon the thousands of inconsistences we’ve developed in their ideologies since infancy and all too often they feel the need to unravel the snarl before proceeding.  Before you know it, they’ve untangled the knot and catastrophically changed – or at least vowed to change – their behavior to be more in line with the Enemy’s teaching.  There are several methods for avoiding this disaster, of course…   (more…)

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Wait, listen to this …

London (from Martin Eden), on the young writer vs. editors:

“He began to doubt that editors were real men.  They seemed cogs in a machine.  … It was like the slot machines wherein one dropped pennies, and with a metallic whirl of machinery had delivered to him a stick of chewing gum or a tablet of chocolate.  It depended upon which slot one dropped the penny in whether he got chocolate or gum.  And so with the editorial machine.  One slot brought checks and the other brought rejection slips.  So far he had found only the latter slot.

“It was the rejection slips that completed the horrible machine-likeness of the process.  These slip were printed in stereotyped forms and he had received hundreds of them–as many as a dozen or more on each of his earlier manuscripts.  If he had received one line, one personal line, along with one rejection of all his rejections, he would have been cheered.  But not one editor had given that proof of existence.  And he could conclude only that there were no warm human men at the other end, only mere cogs, well oiled and running beautifully in the machine.”

Steinbeck (from East of Eden), on the turn of the century:

“Oh, but strawberries will never taste so good again and the thighs of women have lost their clutch!”

On virtue and vice:

“We have only one story.  All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil.  And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal.  Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.”

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August 25, 2010 4:00 A.M.

God and Woman at Harvard
A 2010 summa cum laude heads to a convent.

Don’t tell Mary Anne Marks the Catholic Church is an oppressive, misogynistic disaster. She knows better. And she’s got a Harvard degree, too.

Miss Marks, a native of Queens, N.Y., graduated from Harvard University this past semester with an undergraduate degree in classics and English, delivering her commencement address in Latin. This fall, she begins a new life, discerning her future consecrated to Christ as a Catholic religious sister with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, in Ann Arbor, Mich. She and I are alumnae of the same high school, Dominican Academy, in Manhattan. Before heading to Ann Arbor, she talked with me a bit about how she got to this point.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: You are a Harvard graduate. Aren’t you surrendering all the possibilities that entails by entering a convent?

MARY ANNE MARKS: Yes, if one doesn’t see becoming a well-educated, intellectually alive nun as one of the possibilities.

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Modern man likes to pretend that his thinking is wide-awake.  But this wide-awake thinking has led us into the mazes of a nightmare in which the torture chambers are endlessly repeated in the mirrors of reason.  When we emerge, perhaps we will realize that we have been dreaming with our eyes open, and that the dreams of reason are intolerable.  And then, perhaps, we will begin to dream once more with our eyes closed.

The Labyrinth of Solitude: Life and Thought in Mexico
Octavio Paz (1959)

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Next Post

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.”

George Washington Carver

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