A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Hail the Conquering Turtle!

Until today, I don't think I've ever seen a turtle look pleased with itself. I don't think I would have believed such a thing possible. Of course, it may be that it isn't possible; that I am anthropomorphizing; that reptiles are incapable of smugness (which would make them the opposite of housecats, which seem to have difficulty not being smug).

But then, until today, I'd never seen my box turtle climb on top of her hiding log. I'd never even seen her try to do it. There has never been a reason for her to try. The log serves as a place for her to go to escape the cruel vicissitudes of life, such as they are when one's life is spent in a 55 gallon aquarium. Some reptiles may have natural desires to climb and explore, but not this one, so far as I can tell. (In the past, when I took her out to the backyard, it is true that she would run, but she was generally running away from me and seeking a dark place to hide, presumably in the hope that I'd be unable to find her and she could make her escape.)

So I was very surprised to glance over at the aquarium and see Terry the turtle standing on her half-log, looking very pleased with herself. It's impossible to describe exactly the expression on her reptile face, but it seemed something along the lines of "Well, I made it! And the view from up here is just fine!" (In case you're wondering, I did try to take pictures, but the only camera handy was a disposable, and I don't anticipate particularly good snapshots.)

I don't know why Terry decided to climb on top of her log and look around today, after about a dozen years of never showing any interest in climbing up the log. Perhaps she was hungry and was hoping to scout out some food. More likely, she was trying to catch some rays: that happens to be the brightest end of the terrarium today. Or perhaps she was trying to convey some mysterious, ineffable turtle secret, which the world cannot understand. I guess we'll never know.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Spring Break Reading

It's spring break, and for once, it actually feels like spring in this corner of the Midwest. What a surprise! I'm just waiting for a major windstorm to come through and knock out all the power lines. Something bad has to happen weather-wise-- surely we aren't to be allowed a few carefree sunny days in the middle of March?

In case you're wondering, I am not going anywhere for spring break. I have gotten to the point where I simply laugh at people who get to go somewhere for spring break. Spring break is not for leisure. It is for frantically catching up on work. In my case, it is for finishing up a first draft of the final chapter- the very same chapter I've been working on since November. I've written a lot since then, but it's all been in bits and pieces. Now I'm trying to force those bits and pieces to cohere into a single document. Right now I'm on. . . oh, page 18 or so. I predict that this draft will finish up at about 30-35 pages. That's a bit on the short side for a chapter, but then, it is a first draft.

However, I did decide to treat myself a LITTLE this week. So I went to the public library, looking for some fun, non-academic spring break reading. Some times I browse the fantasy or juvi-fiction sections of the library. This time I ended up in the mystery section. And I came with a copy of . . .


With a name like that, how could I pass it up? Especially when I opened it up and read this paragraph:

I was convinced graduate school was the lowest circle of Hell in the Inferno, but Dante discarded it as too terrifying for his readers. My particular corner of hell was a seminar room half full of dedicated medievalists; and slouching in a stuffy seminar room on a beautiful October afternoon, even for a nonathletic slug like me, was hard work. Especially when I was having to listen to Dan Erikson babble on and on about the absolutely riveting number of horses Charles Martel had had in his army when he defeated the Muslim invaders in Poitiers in A.D. 732. That was a heck of a long way from 1991.

Now, I'm neither a medievalist nor a historian, and I couldn't tell you who Charles Martel was, but I guess I have a nostalgic place in my heart for the days I was in coursework, because that opening paragraph brought back fond memories of being stuck in a classroom trying to hide my annoyance while during someone else's less than interesting pet theory. Ah, coursework, how I miss you! Or is it just that I'm so sick of dissertating that I'd rather read murder mysteries about dissertating? Either way, I think I've sunk to a new graduate student low.

Friday, March 09, 2007

If you have to fight. . . fight fairly

When Leopoldtulip and I were undergoing pre-marital counseling, one of our multiple advisors told us something along the lines of "It's okay to fight, but make sure you fight fairly." These are good words for any relationship, but perhaps particularly for relations between churches. A series of recent posts on various Protestant blogs regarding Catholic-Protestant animosity calls attention to the ways people have of fighting unfairly when it comes to denominational quarreling. I think there's a lot here that's worth reading, so though my own blogging time is limited these days, I wanted to call attention to a few of the posts in question. If you're curious, start reading here, with this post by Weekend Fisher, who expressed a simple and reasonable request:

I wish that Roman Catholics and Protestants would stop making such unjustified and uncharitable attacks on each other. I consider that we have enough to keep us busy if we stick to discussing actual theological differences, without compounding the problem with personal attacks, unjust charges, or general hostility.

Well, I wish that too. And I'll try to be (wo)man enough not to point fingers at various examples of the kind of uncharitable behavior that I think this post addresses. I will say, though, that the examples provided there are perhaps unequal (as Weekend Fisher recognizes). The Catholic example is a book by a prominent conservative Catholic writer. The Protestant example is a forwarded letter which, it seems, merely repeats Boettnerian nonsense to a new generation. One could draw from this example the impression that Protestant Anti-Catholicism merely stems from the ignorant. In fact, there examples of well-educated Protestant authors who make claims just as uncharitable or rhetorically unfair as those made in the Catholic example. Sadly, uncharitable and illogical attacks on Catholicism are not limited to likes of Dave Hunt and Jack Chick.

If that first post intrigued you, read this response at Dr. Platypus. (Note to readers: I have no idea who "Darrell Pursiful" is but I love the name of his blog.) Pursiful is interested not in the "nastiness" of anti-Catholic rhetoric, but in the silliness of it--what I would probably have called the illogic of it. He gives two concrete examples of "silly" thinking with regard to Catholicism. In a later post and perhaps even more provocative post, Pursiful asks his (Protestant) readers "Why do we cringe?" at Catholic doctrine and practice. Many of the responses in the combox are well worth reading.

So. . . can we all fight fairly? I guess I've become a pessimist on the subject of inter-church relations, because my answer is "no." We can't all get along. There are always going to be stupid, angry, self-absorbed people (on all sides of the issue) who resort to unfair tactics. And there are always going to be people who are more interested in scoring points in a vigorous debate than in carrying out "the ministry of reconciliation." Still, I think this series of posts (and I could have listed others!) suggest that thoughtful Christians CAN recognize that our call to unity requires a commitment to charitable and fair dialog. And that, at least, is good news.

(Hat tip to Bonnie at Intellectuelle).