Monday, November 29, 2010

Hypocrisy of the Church


As an English major I have many favorite authors, novels and poems.  Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes and The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni are definitely on my list of favorites because beneath the romantic melodrama is a veiled attack against the discrepancy of what the Catholic Church represents to the masses, and what it actually is in the darker crevices of its lofty architecture. Cervantes and Manzoni are superb writers who have an uncanny ability to wittily depict the hypocrisy of the church and the unreliability of the clergy as objective authority figures. For example, in Don Quixote, the priest prescribes that Don Quixote should not be reading novels of chivalry on moral grounds, yet comically engages in and enjoys the very same act he condemns himself. In The Betrothed, the religious figures are much more sinister and do not serve as figures of justice, but rather as cowardly accomplices to the corrupt status quo whose motives are merely based on self-interest, like any other human being in the world. Human nature should not be judged, of course; it should only be understood and dealt with in a mature manner. However, part of this understanding is that priests are no better than other humans and the mere professional title in itself will not make them better judges of right and wrong.



One of the most poignant examples of a religious authority demonstrating inconsistency in Don Quixote is when the priest exercises his power in Don Quixote’s house to determine which books are to be burnt and which ones are the ones fit to remain in Don Quixote’s library. It may seem as if the priest had good intentions given that one may rightfully claim that Don Quixote’s excessive reading of novels of chivalry is what led him to such a dangerous fit of unrealistic madness. Furthermore, since life often imitates art in the same way that art imitates life, it may seem to make sense that the literary progeny of “the authors are mischief” be “put to flames without delay” (52) just as His Holiness prescribed. However, one of the most contradictory parts of chapter six is that the priest seems to know a bit too much of the plots to those allegedly mischievous books in Don Quixote’s library. This leads readers to assume that the priest has read the very same books he claims are bad. It also appears that in the context of Don Quixote, priests seem to not only have the right to moralize and prescribe what is right and what is wrong in life, but they also feel entitled to exercising the authority of a literary critic. The priest who claims that books of chivalry are an inherent evil knows enough about the books he condemns to save the ones he considers good literature without regard to any other factor. The sarcastic manner in which Cervantes introduces chapter six and the manner in which he henceforth describes the priest as knowledgeable in medieval romances demonstrates that the author’s intention was to shed light on the inconsistency of the Church.



Don Quixote was printed in 1605, which was a time in which the Catholic Church had dominated all aspects of education and learning. In the time period that Cervantes wrote his famous novel, members of the clergy were the only educated citizens of society because part of their training was to receive an elite education in the best institutions and monasteries of Europe from an early age. This means that they had access to more than just novels of chivalry; however, allowing the rest of society into their Garden of Eden to eat from their tree of knowledge would translate into the loss of society’s innocent stupidity, and hence the loss of the Church’s power. 



With that being said, the book-burning scene is one of the most significant in Don Quixote when it comes to discussing the dishonesty of the Catholic Church because it shows just one example of the institution’s attempts to control knowledge and societal values. Banning certain genres and prescribing others was one of the easiest ways in which the religious leaders could control the stream of information that circulated amongst the subjugated religious devotees, and enforce their own values and beliefs upon society. The fact that the priest in Don Quixote decides to save the books he finds worthy, regardless of whether or not they fit the general criteria for burning shows that he, like every human being under the stars, bent the rules to suit his interests. What is most disturbing, however, is that he, unlike every human being under the stars, has the power and authority to decide what is right and what is wrong simply because he wears his religion literally on his sleeve.   




 If all religious hypocrisy were limited merely to literature, the world would perchance be a better place. However, even those in the holy profession are not exempt from experiencing all facets of the human experience, including its darkest and most sinister ones. This is what Manzoni’s intention seems to be by the meticulous detail he provides as he recapitulates the scope of the priests’ experiences and emotions. The religious figures in The Betrothed are not nearly as comical as the priest in Don Quixote because those in the former represent the more serious offenses committed by normal men and yes, even by those who profess strong inclinations to Catholicism. Both Cervantes and Manzoni seem to imply in his novels that believing in the popular deity of the day does not make a person less evil, and certainly professing a religion does not always mean following it.



All men are not created equal and everybody lives life according to their biases, tastes, values, and experiences. The same holds true for men and women of all professions and creeds, and Catholic priests are subject to the same human foibles as everybody else. However, people look up to the clergy as being responsible for upholding and spreading the virtues preached and exemplified in the prescriptive Christian books. However, because the Catholic priests are only human and subject to possessing different characters and personalities, no two clergymen may interpret or perform their duties to the same extent or resolve. This is exactly the case with the contrasting clergymen, Don Abbondio and Father Cristoforo, in the The Betrothed. Don Abbondio and Father Cristoforo are clergymen of the Capuchin monastery, and both are sought out by Lucia and Renzo for help when a corrupt nobleman seeks to prevent their marriage. However, they both respond to the request in completely opposite ways and with different motivations. Throughout The Betrothed, Manzoni frequently compares the apprehensive and duplicitous nature of Don Abbondio to the altruistic bravado of Father Cristoforo. However, because appearances are so deceiving, society views Don Abbondio as more virtuous than Father Cristoforo; this is only because the latter has tarnished his reputation by being a man of the world and committing a crime where everybody found out and will never let him live it down for as long as he lives.  Yet, despite Don Abbondio’s priestly reserve and crimeless life, Father Cristoforo’s actions are more in line with the Christian creed of compassion and selflessness.



When the dangerous bravoes terrorize Don Abbondio into preventing Lucia and Renzo’s marriage on Don Rodrigo’s behalf, the priest selfishly follows their advice instead of doing the just thing, which would be to resist and fight the oppressor of freedom, love and marriage. One would assume that a clergy’s duty is to uphold the values of the Catholic religion and its sacraments, but Don Abbondio’s motivation to join the priesthood had little to do with religious affinity. “Poor Abbondio was not noble, nor rich, and still less was he courageous…. He had consequently been quite willing to obey his parents when they wanted him to enter the priesthood. To tell the truth, he had not thought very deeply about the duties or the noble objects of the ministry to which he dedicated himself. To win the means of living with some degree of comfort, and to join the ranks of a revered and powerful class, seemed to him two more than sufficient motives for such a course” (38). Therefore, it comes as no surprise that being a man who wishes to avoid conflict at any cost, he would be willing to do so at the expense of an innocent young couple’s happiness. Don Abbondio knows that his position as a priest will “lend them the necessary weight… After all, he said to himself, Renzo’s mind is on his sweetheart, but mine is on my own skin; so I have more at stake, apart from having more brains (45),” and so he does not hesitate to allow his cowardly but cunning nature to create pathetic excuses for delays and execute a most flagrant injustice by utilizing his religious powers merely for self-interest.

Even when Don Abbondio is once again confronted by Renzo and tells the young man of the threats, the priest does not blame Don Rodrigo for putting him in this difficult position, but instead lays the blame on Renzo, explaining: “What a hero you’ve been! What a good turn you’ve done me! What a trick to play on a decent man, and your parish priest at that. In his own house, a sacred place (53)!” Don Abbondio’s haughtiness and lack of concern towards criminal activity and the victimized party portrays how priests act out of self-interest as much as anybody else. Sadly, the fact that they wear a holy vestment does not make a quiet priest a more reliable moral authority than a random loud-mouthed knave on the street. Yet, under the cloak of religion, a man can pretty much exercise any law that he wishes upon a society that lacks sense and education. Don Rodrigo knows this, which is why he wishes to remain anonymous in the beginning and enact his folly through the priest.  Don Abbondio’s character allows the reader to understand the extent the degradation of the Church centered society-- if the priest, a symbol of sanctity and righteousness, is a hypocrite, then the rest of society is powerless and doomed for failure.

Contrary to Don Abbondio, Manzoni portrays Father Cristoforo as more in line with the values of courage and virtue that the society blindly believes that all priests follow. The greatest irony of this is that Don Abbondio has a bad reputation because after all, he has been a man of the world and has even killed another man, even if in self-defense. Nevertheless, the fact that he makes amends to the extent of submitting his life to the priesthood shows that he is more righteous than Don Abbondio who has never hurt anybody physically. Furthermore, having had been born the son of a wealthy merchant truly made his transformation more remarkable and essential to his character. Father Cristoforo is willing to sacrifice himself in hopes of justice for the weak and oppressed, sometimes even defying boundaries between the social classes, as is the case with Don Rodrigo. Upon hearing the troubles of Lucia and Renzo and their request for help, Father Cristoforo does not hesitate to be of assistance in the noble act of rectifying the inequity. He is calm, patient, and respectful as he discusses the unjust predicament with Don Rodrigo. His attempts are not always successful, but throughout the novel he genuinely does what he can to help.



In The Betrothed, as much as in non-fictional society, religion is a pacifier that authority figures use a disguise and a tool to silence the masses and have their way. The common belief amongst readers of The Betrothed is that the main and only impediment to the marriage between Lucia and Renzo is Don Rodrigo’s oppressive obsession with her. However, this problem alone could have been solved simply by running away early enough before Don Rodrigo could conjure his plan to kidnap Lucia. Human beings are often their own worst enemy, slaves to nothing more than their own beliefs. Lucia's irrational concern with her reputation and with what society might think if they know she spent so much time alone with a young male without being married enslaves her, and it is her demise and an important factor to all the troubles that ensued. She could have remained faithful to Catholic tenets by abstaining from engaging in anything physical, and God’s knowledge of her virtue alone should be enough to allow her posthumous entrance to the promised afterlife.

However, it is the opinion of fellow mortals she is most concerned about because the Church catechized the society into believing such things. Manzoni seems to suggest that this is what allows the clergy to utilize their power to their advantage. However, as Cervantes suggests, the reason the masses are kept ignorant is due to the clergy’s control of mainstream information. Both authors suggest that one of the consequences of idealizing the Catholic Church and placing too much trust on its religious figures is that it leads to situations in which an innocent person like Lucia could not allow herself to be defended if not with the permission of a priest. On the other hand, Gertrude is “virtuous” only because she is believed to be virtuous, whereas Lucia would have been looked down upon had she run away with Renzo, even if nothing of a racy nature had actually taken place. This shows that an uneducated society that is more concerned with appearances is more likely to fall prey to the hypocrisy of the church. 



Despite her eccentricities and implied malevolence, Gertrude is one of the most sympathetic religious figures that represent the corruption of the Church. She inspires tear-stained pity in readers because she was coerced by her authoritative father to join the cloisters. She is virtually powerless to decline a lifestyle that she knows is inherently incompatible with her personality simply because she is afraid of public scandal, as well as of the maneuvers and menaces from her father. After joining the convent and becoming a most respectable Signora and mistress of the convent, “The main occupations of her mind were an incessant regret for her lost freedom, a loathing for her present condition, and a painful dwelling on desires destined never to be satisfied…. The sight of those nuns who had helped to lure her into the convent was loathsome to her” (204). Given the manner in which she was practically forced into the convent, it is no surprise that she is so bitter, and bitterness often leads even the best-intentioned individuals to commit awful follies. Considering that likelier than not, Gertrude is just one of thousands of young women and men who join the holy profession by force and only to satisfy their appearance-conscious parents who seek to vicariously live the holier life through their children, it should come as no surprise that all these individuals, too, take advantage of the power they can exercise there as a way to vent their frustrations.

This makes Gertrude’s affair with a bravo, the implied murder, and her tolerance of the injustices committed against Lucia more understandable, though not necessarily more justifiable. Yet people like Gertrude are a result of a society that places too much importance on religious appearance, rather than religious action. The implication in Don Quixote and more explicitly in The Betrothed is that such a strong emphasis on reputation consequently leads to a corrupt clergy that cares more about reputation than the actual state of their soul. That, however, is a truth that common to the human experience across all professions and not the exclusive vicissitude of the clergy.



Miguel Cervantes and Alessandro Manzoni do not unintelligently demonize the Church and its representatives; instead, they shed light on the idea that religious figures are not ultimate sources of objective truth as the gullible followers believe, but rather real men of real passions, subject to the caprices of the fickle human heart. They act out of self-interest like everybody else, and as such they tend to uphold the values of those in power, no matter how unjust, because doing otherwise would take away their power. Also, these authors illustrate priests in their role of judging what types of literature should be available for the mainstream so as to maintain their status as the literate elite and be able to exercise their authority beyond the extent prescribed by the Bible. Whether or not Cervantes and Manzoni are religious is beside the point for it is not religious values that are being attacked. Their novels have a more important message, and that message is to caution the public against abuses of religious powers and encourage them to never stop questioning and to never take no for an answer.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ring In The Holiday Cheer!

Even though it isn't even Thanksgiving yet, the spirit of Christmas is literally in the air, in stores, and in our homes. The weather is getting colder, our foods fattier, and our spouses cuddlier. This Thursday is Thanksgiving, and along with silent moments of gratitude, loud dinners, and the succulent dishes that only our mothers and grandmothers know how to make-- we officially kick off the winter solstice season (which, depending on who you are and where you're from, you'll call it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia, or Lenaea The Festival of the Wild Women.... who cares? different signifiers, same signified).

KOST 103.5 FM has already begun its month-long series of continuous holiday music, and the skating rink that opens in our very Downtown Los Angeles has opened as Pershing Square kicks off its 13th season of Downtown On Ice. Ah yes, in L.A. even the snow is superficial! So what? I love it! When I was child, I used to fill huge balloons with water, and after freezing them for several days, I would break them on the pavement with my friends and pretend that it was snowing. :)So if I was able to have that much fun with frozen balloons by pretending they're snow, the skating rink is no different from the real thing I see on television! I get to ice skate even though I have never seen real snow in my life, without ever having to suffer the frigid temperatures of the north! This is grand.







I am not nearly as proficient on ice-skating as I am on rollerblading, but it is nevertheless fun to give in to the joys and exhilaration of a winter wonderland while practicing my still-developing skills on the rink. Ring in the holiday cheer!

Before I go, here is one of my favorite holiday songs...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Power of Faith & Prayer: Christian & Atheist Philosophy ThroughText

So I, along with two other candidates, made it to the second interview with a company for which I am very genuinely interested in working, as it matches my previous experience, skills, and personal interests. Though surely the three of us are qualified enough to have made it to the second interview, only one will be chosen to work for this company as a full time permanent employee. We took a test, and we shall know the decision by next Tuesday!

The following is a series of text messages between my mother and me, regarding my current hopes and the power of faith and prayer.

ME: I shouldn't be so happy yet. I cannot and must not. Remember... two other candidates have made it this far for a reason too.

MOM: True. But you have to have faith. I won't tell you to pray because I know you don't believe in that, but believe me, doing so will help you.

ME: Forgive the question, but how would prayer help? Who's going to hear me? And assuming a just and loving being is listening, why should this being intercede in my favour, and not the other two candidates'? If you explain this to me, I may perhaps be willing to listen to your advice.

MOM: Lol! Never mind. I am not going to spend the whole day explaining. In that case, then luck doesn't exist, good or bad.

ME: Life is a series of fortunate and unfortunate events; "god's will" and "luck" are merely metaphorical ideas with which we describe and justify events in relation to how they affect us personally, favourably or unfavourably. If the luck is good for me, it will be bad for my rival, and viceversa. Life is a ferris wheel, it goes up and down for everybody, not with malice or out of favoritism,  but because that is its course. When the person is down, hope and faith in the idea that the wheel will go back up again, as it always does, is what gives one strength to persevere and serves as a beacon of light in times of uncertainty. So on that point, Mother, we concur. I must have faith!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Facebook-MySpace Complex

Why is MySpace trying so hard to be like Facebook? While it is true that statistics and the common crowd seem to demonstrate that most people are leaving MySpace for Facebook, those of us who remain true to MySpace do so for having features that Facebook does not offer.  Therefore, why does it not enhance its own unique features, rather than become a mediocre version of Facebook? Flaunting its uniqueness will help MySpace gain competitive advantage over Facebook, and it will help MySpace retain those people who already like MySpace for being the way it was. Being a cheap imitation of Facebook isn't going to help MySpace win back those that have already deleted their accounts for the same reason that they opened them in the first place-- "because everybody else is doing it." Being in direct competition with Facebook may result even more deleterious for MySpace as a business. Why can't MySpace be a first-rate version of itself instead of a second-rate version of Facebook?


 MySpace



MySpace was my first love in the world of Internet social networking, and I have remained loyal to it even when everybody else is deleting their MySpace accounts, and pressuring others to do the same. It took more than the "everybody else is doing it" card to convince me to join in the spring of 2005, and it's going to take more than just following the example from mindless crowds to get me to delete it.

I do not plan on deleting my account any time soon, I am very disappointed by the changes that have taken place as of late. I was very vexed last week to find that my profile was automatically "upgraded" to 3.0 without my consent. Ha. Some "upgrade." I don't see how it's any better. It's as slow as ever-- and I would not mind the slowness of the site if it offered the old features, different from Facebook, that I always loved. Instead, it's become an unrecognizable, cheaper, tawdrier, messier version of the fast and neat Facebook that I already love for different reasons. If I wanted a Facebook clone, I would have deleted my MySpace account. However, I love (or loved, perhaps, as I'm confused) MySpace for the following reasons.
  •  This is where I have been keeping my blog since I first joined the website in Spring 2005. Now, however, the format is unrecognizable to me because the personalized colors, decorations, and blog title I had added are gone. Where is my control over my own blog? Furthermore, I have noticed for some time that there is a blog limit, and once one reaches it, the oldest blog is deleted. Not a good thing for a writer! As if that were not bad enough, one can no longer view a particular blog by date; instead, one has to click older at the bottom of the bottom of the page, and keep going until one reaches the desired... which can take an eternity I am not willing to spend! Boy, am I glad to be on Blogger these days.
  • Unlike Facebook, MySpace photo albums can hold an unlimited number of photos, which means that I can have fewer albums and organize photos by year, rather than by event. This is perhaps one of the most attractive feature that keeps me coming back to MySpace. I have been adding photos since I met my husband in 2007; I love looking back through the albums, and updating them almost weekly. But now, with MySpace being slower than ever, it's becoming a real challenge just to log on. It takes an eternity just for the page to load, and it takes even more eternities in an infinite number of dimensions to upload photos.
  • One can decorate one's profile by whim and season, and one can flaunt one's favorite songs of the month. Now, however, with the format being more stream-based and much more like Facebook, there is less freedom in how one decorates and changes one's own HTML codes.
  • MySpace offers the feature of approving comments before posting them, rather than just posting them automatically. This was excellent when I was unmarried and had many friends, but did not always welcome the comments some people would leave. Now, however,  I am older, married, and seriously committed, and therefore no longer the target of potentially scandalous friendships or comments... so this feature is no longer so important to me.
  • When I was younger, my friends and I were obsessed with filling out each other's surveys and posting them on the bulletin board. These days, however, nobody either reads or writes surveys... so the motivation to write a survey is gone, since there are no more surveys to read.
  • In the past, when Facebook only allowed university students to join Facebook, it was fun to create profiles on MySpace and engage in role play and wars. It was also fun to create profiles for pets. But now that anybody can join Facebook-- even plushes and pets-- that feature is no longer exclusively on MySpace, and therefore not worth the eternal wait of logging on and waiting for pages to load.
    For these reasons, even though Facebook is so much faster, neater, and has more of the people that I know, I couldn't leave MySpace. Slowly over time, however, MySpace has less of the unique features I always loved, and it is becoming slower and not much better than the Facebook it is trying so hard to be like. I won't deny that I really enjoy Facebook. If MySpace is going to be like Facebook, only worse, then why care to log on anymore?


    Facebook



    I also have had a Twitter account for about a year now, but seldom log on. I find it boring. It only allows 140 characters, which is a turn-off to somebody who loves writing as much as I do. Also, it only consists of status updates--which is something I get from Facebook, at 420 characters, mind you, and with all the other amazing features that Twitter simply does not and will never have. So what are the features that attracted me to Facebook, despite the fact that it only allows 200 photos per album and has no blog?

    • I always thought it was pretty rad that one can link oneself to one's significant other on Relationship Status. The newer feature in Relationships is being able to link oneself to one's parents and siblings, which is awesome! One can stay in touch with the entire clan without ever having to lift the telephone! If that's not freedom, I don't know what is.
    • The privacy features are fantastic! I can control who sees what sections and which status updates.
    • Tagging people on photos is yesterday's news learned on MySpace; but tagging people on status updates is pretty nifty.
    • For whatever reason it may be, older and/or more professional people are more likely to be on Facebook than MySpace; so if you're like me and you enjoy staying in touch with older family members, colleagues, and professors, Facebook is where it's at!
    • Liking status updates is fun, though I still await the introduction of the Dislike button.
    • Liking things is fun too! One can "Like" almost anything imaginable, from the most serious to the most mundane to the most random! I currently Like 393 things on Facebook. Stuff on my Likes include:  "Starbucks," "Belvedere Skatepark," "Allez les bleus," "I only check my voicemail to get rid of the little icon on my screen," "Making drug tests mandatory for welfare," "No, I'm not being immature, I'm just having fun, you should try it," "Generation Y," "Editorial Freelancers Association," "Project Gutenburg," "The Ugly Truth," "Wishing you can sometimes punch someone on the face with no consequences," "www.whyyougotdumped.com," "This is America, we speak English," and many, many more! Likes are fun because they look funny on one's News Feed when one joins, and through the seemingly meaningless amusement of its randomness, one learns a little bit of the person who joins each group, based on the seriousness or randomness or affiliation of the things they Like. And what's not to like about that?
    • It's amazing to have the ability to block people. On MySpace, if one had a stalker, one would have to delete one's profile and start from scratch-- that includes reposting old blogs, uploading all the pics again, and adding all the  friends back. But on Facebook, if somebody has no life and has become obsessed with stalking one and constantly intrude with emails and pokes, all one has to do is block the pest, and voila! One's profile automatically disappears from their sight, and one never has to worry about bumping into their ugly face-- er, Facebook-- again.
    • For me, personally, one of the things that really got me hooked on Facebook is finding so, so, so many  of my long-lost cousins and uh, siblings-- ahem-- on my father's side. So what if I have almost nothing in common with that side of the family that until very recently was unknown to me? It's still fun to find them. Heck, I even found my father through my own clever means and got him to text and join Facebook too! Okay, so I'm not exactly buddy-buddy with the old man either, but it's fun to tease him online sometimes.
    • Ha ha, even my mom is on Facebook too, and the lady is hooked! LOL. She said she would never join, but then I left the nest to the university dorms, and never returned home because I got married... so I guess she finally knew it was like to miss me, and joined Facebook and MySpace to stay in touch! That is really awesome. Moral of this sweet little story? Never say never! Ha ha.
    • Everything about Facebook feels fast and seamless-- from the minute one logs on, updates one's status, uploads photos, comments, and Likes things and status updates-- the entire experience is a fast, easy, and enjoyable one. So what if one can't blog on Facebook? That's what Blogger is for!

    Conclusion



    Conclusion? I officially prefer Facebook over MySpace-- not because all the blind herds of homo sapiens are  regurgitating the same, but because of the well thought-out reasons stated above. No, I will not delete my MySpace account. It's just that as things stand, I see myself logging on less frequently. In its attempt to be so much like Facebook, I'd rather stick to the real Facebook which is a million times better than any of its imitators can ever be!

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Meet Monsieur Le Marquis Chatnoir D'Urberville :)

    We have a new kitten!



    This kitten, Monsieur Le Marquis Chatnoir D'Urberville-- or just Derby-- has been part of our little family since yesterday, November 9th, 2010. We originally got him for my mom, who's been gushing for a while now that she wants a kitten. However, now that she sees the uber cuteness-- and the impending responsibility and negotiation issues with her husband-- up close, she realized she doesn't want a cat after all.  So now we are happily stuck with this sable bundle of joy, though not wholeheartedly joyous about the possibility that we will not be able to keep him. We already have two huge cats occupying one room to themselves, and we don't have a safe extra room for the new kitten to inhabit permanently. For now, he's easy to care for because he is tiny and very obedient when it's time to go to his cage and sleep; but he will grow, and the room he currently occupies is full of swords and other objects that can prove to be hazardous.

    I wish to be fair and show off my other cats as well, Morris and Snowflake. Manuel had just gotten these cats when he first asked me out on a date.  My own feline at the time, Kitty, had just passed away when he asked me out.

    Kitty reading the Norton Anthology of American Literature.

    Kitty being fashionable.


    Kitty died on the Tuesday prior to Memorial Day Weekend 2007. My husband, who was then only a friend, read about my loss on my blog and emailed me with his condolences and promises to make it up to me. He said that if I ever accept to go to his house to check out his library (heh heh heh... we always laugh at this one), I could most definitely befriend his cats. At the time it never crossed my mind that someday I would own those cats. :) I have owned cats my whole life, and while one cat can never replace the memory of another, it surely does help to love a new cat in a whole new way. It was nice to have Manuel and two gorgeous kittens come into my life. And now, another gorgeous kitten has joined our kitty clan.

    Snowflake

    Morris

    When I find childhood acquaintances on Facebook, one of the remarks I receive most frequently is that I "still love cats." As if fondness for animals were something one outgrows! I love most animals outside of homo sapiens and always will because I view them as simpler, more genuine, more honest, less corrupt versions of my species. Add to that the furriness and warmth that they give, and you've got the recipe of the ideal friendship. :)


    "I think I could turn and live with animals
    They are so placid and self-contained
    They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
    They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
    They do not make me sick discussing their duty to god,
    Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things
    Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of
    years ago,
    Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth."

    ~Walt Whitman in "Song of Myself"


    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Are greeting cards still relevant and necessary?

    A greeting card is just an overpriced illustration on an oversized index card that has one of those generic sentiments that most of us utter on special occasions but few of us truly mean year-round. One might as well use the five bucks one would have spent on the card and add it to a gift card the person will genuinely be excited about and can actually use. If one wasn't planning to give the person anything else but a greeting card, the $5 is still better spent on any other trinket or candy. If one is so intent on sending the person a pretty picture with a pretty but empty phrase, one can do so for free simply by posting it on their social networking site. What if they are a century behind and they don't have a Facebook or a MySpace? Well, then one can send them a handwritten note to which one can add one's own personalized touch, with a more genuine expression that comes from one's own heart, not an American Greetings employee, and include that letter with the box of chocolates that you bought with the $5 that you were going to spend at Hallmark. And if the person is special enough, one can do all of the above-- the gift card, the chocolates, and the personalized letter!

    A greeting card's enchantment only lasts for the few minutes it takes the person to see the big envelope addressed to them, open it, gasp at the drawing, and smile at the sentiment. They may display the greeting card on their boudoir while the season for which the greeting was intended lasts; but after that, it ends up piled up in a closet filled with piles upon piles of junk that people don't need but keep anyway because they feel bad throwing it away. And that, mes amis, is how the very same clutter that is a neat freak's worst nightmare is created. The greeting cards are most beautiful on display as roses are most beautiful while they remain unpicked in their own garden... and like roses, greeting cards belong unpicked, forever, in their respective displays at Hallmark where they can charm passers-by in their respective season.