All right. So I'm supposed to summarize all the speakers over the course of this semester, my reactions to them, and tie the semester up with a bow? Okay, I'm not real sure how to do that, but I'll give it my best shot. (I'll give it all I've got... Let me open my eyes to a new sunrise, I pray... Now I've got that Alabama song in my head. Does anyone else like the group Alabama? I love them!)
All right. Our first Honors Forum was where Dr. Brewton talked to us about the values of the Honors Program, which are (1) integrity (2) creativity (3) curiosity (4) achievement, and (5) service. I went nuts with the integrity one, dragging in quotes from G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien, and more. Integrity has a very real meaning for me, but it's hard for me to express what exactly I understand by 'integrity'. As Chesterton pointed out, the more you are convinced of something, the harder it is to explain your reasons WHY you support it. The closer something is to your heart, the more instinctive it is to defend it- the more heartfelt and passionate. An attack on it is something personal. As for creativity, I suppose I get a point for creativity this semester by attempting to prove in my English research paper that cholesterol and saturated fats do not cause heart disease! Yes, I know, I'm a little nuts. But, hey, it was something different. And, as I've said before, I suffer from a severe case of linguistic curiosity, which I hope should suffice. As for achievement, I don't know what sort of achievements the Honors Program is looking for. One must define one's terms before the debate can begin. You tell me what achievements you want, and then we'll see what I have. I suppose it consists of service, however. Everyone is obsessed with school kids doing tons of community service hours. And leadership skills, and all that. They want everyone to be leaders, I think. I don't know. I don't think I'm cut out to be a leader, unless it's in a matter I know very well and the responsibilities of which I am familiar with and feel capable of executing. I don't know if I'd be capable of true leadership in an extremity. I don't think I've ever been in such an extremity. We don't know a lot about ourselves until we've been placed in those sorts of situations...
I believe we are also supposed to mention the Steve Jobs article and the visit to the art museum. I didn't write much at the time about the article, so I don't really know what to say now. I just remember feeling a sense of, 'Wow, look at how everything turned out for him. Divine Providence at work there, for sure.' People often look back on some past event and think, "If such and such hadn't happened, I wouldn't be here,' and so forth. But how many think of the One who allowed that to happen or prevented it from happening so He could order all things aright for you?
As for the art museum... I'm not real sure what I can say. I have very conservative tastes in art, and I mentioned my firm belief that a pile of shredded tires is not art. Perhaps I could attempt to define here what art is? I think art is an instinct within all of us. We were created in the image and likeness of our Creator, so it stands to reason that we are like Him in many ways. He created, so I think we too have the urge to 'subcreate' (as Tolkien called it), to bring new order and meaning and light and life into this world out of the chaos and the darkness. If done properly, art is probably a means of worshipping God. We pay homage to Him and His Creation in our attempts to make little things of our own. It shouldn't be vanity, and it shouldn't be mockery, and it most definitely shouldn't be blasphemous. It should be like a little kid imitating his daddy, because he loves his daddy and wants to be like him. That, I think, is what art should be like.
Are we supposed to have a paragraph or something for each Honors Forum? I'm not sure how to do that, since I wasn't very good at blogging or taking notes in the beginning and had only about two paragraphs, if that much, for the second forum. But transformative experiences were mentioned and I do believe such things can occur. (Okay, I know how I'll do this blog-post-to-rule-them-all: philosophize everything! Yay!) Conversions do happen. I always love in stories the characters who were on the bad guys' side but who experienced a change of heart and joined the good guys. Does anyone else have a special place in their heart for those guys? Sure, you can admire the good guys who stick true to their mission and maintain their goodness through the hour of temptation, but don't you also feel for the people who've done the harder task of responding to grace and working their way out of the darkness into the light? Perhaps that's why I love Return of the Jedi so much (it's my favorite of the Star Wars movies)- because Anakin sacrifices his life to save his son. I love that so much. It's sad that he dies, but it's awe-inspiring that his love for his son ultimately saved his soul.
The next Honors Forum was about STEM careers, and I am proud to say that I am going on to Calculus 2 and Chemistry 112 next semester! I do not intend to major in either field unless something really life-changing occurs (and, as I just said, things like that can happen), but I am willing to take those classes and, I dunno... 'broaden my horizons'- that sounded like a good, gooshy term that would sound good in this post, particularly as that is what we are constantly being told to do as we are lectured constantly that we must STUDY ABROAD! So, huzzah and all that. I actually do not hate math, as most people seem to do. I used to hate math, but after about eighth/ninth grade I loved it and still love it. I think I've mentioned in several posts that Cal 1 was fun. (Okay, that rhymed.) I think most people don't like math because they don't understand it and frankly are a little afraid of it. Which is very understandable, I will be the first to say that. But you don't have to be afraid of math. Math is your friend. You may not be good at it, but it is your friend. Actually, I once saw a book in a catalogue that purported to prove that mathematics is 'God's science' and so forth. I should have gotten it; it looked really interesting...
Our next Honors Forum speaker was Tammy Irons, who spoke to us about ethics and integrity. I of course had a heyday with that topic and went on one of my usual rants about how I feel (very deeply) about cheating and practicing what you preach and so forth. I doubt there is any need to rehash what I have rehashed already. I've already used some of my best quotes in posts before, such as, "From of old promises were held sacred," and, "Good and ill have not changed from yesteryear..." Speaking of the last one, that reminds me of something G. K. Chesterton said in his book Orthodoxy. (Oh, boy, here I go again!) He said he found the notion that something that had been held as morally wrong many years ago could be viewed as okay now, and the discrepancy dismissed with something along the lines of, "Oh, that was many years ago. We don't have to believe that now." He then humorously suggested that that implies that what we believe on Monday we don't have to believe on Thursday. (Or something to that effect.) Which is really quite true and which pokes another hole in the hot air ballon of moral relativity.
Good and evil do not change. Our perceptions change; the situations change; the doers change, but good and evil do not change. The standards have been written in eternal stone; they are graven in letters as deep as a spear is tall on the scepter of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea; they have been engraved on the Fire-Hill and on the World Ash Tree. (Narnia, of course. Provided I've remembered that all correctly.) Why should they change? If you believe in absolutes at all, you should know this. People seem to think everything can change nowadays. It's probably due to the fact that our world changes so much around us. But, if you look, human nature doesn't really change. Individuals change, but human nature remains pretty much the same. There's one constant in the world, even more constant than the sun. People also don't always seem to believe in the immortality of the soul, which seems really depressing to me. Yes, I want to be a little blob of nothingness after I die. Perhaps they want to think that because they are afraid of Hell, or they are afraid of not meeting loved ones, or who knows what. I have never been one of those people, so I cannot fully fathom their thinking. But that would form another constant in this world. We, with our immortal souls, shall live longer than the stars.
The next Honors Forum was given by Dr. Wesley Desselle. What I recall that he stressed the most was the need for trust between a doctor and his patient, the need for mentorship for apprentice doctors (and members of all professions, I should think) and, again, basic integrity. You need integrity for everything! If you don't have integrity, a basic soundness and wholeness of mind, heart, and soul, you will get nowhere. It's a fact of life! Your fragmented soul will be worn, torn, weary, and teary, and you will probably look as miserable on the outside as you feel on the inside. We can't run forever from the only One who can heal our broken bodies and stained souls.
"Our hearts were made for Thee, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in Thee." -- Saint Augustine
As for mentorship, I whole-heartedly agree with that. I did promise not to rant about my stories I write on my blog (unless I start another blog where I can do that... nah, no one deserves to read my demented thought processes like that), but I think I can do that safely here for a moment, as long as I confine myself to merely mentioning that most of the characters in the world I have created ('subcreated') learn their trades in apprenticeships, under the guidance of a master- a mentor. Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan seems to like the term 'mentor'. It's used about as much as 'Craftsmaster', especially in the later books.
As for trust... I think anyone can appreciate the value of something as fundamental as trust. Yet it is a very elusive thing, usually hard to win and easy to lose. You have to be careful with it- an incautious blow can shatter it, yet if you do nothing to break it, it can endure a lifetime. It's as bright and brittle as glass, the substance most easily shattered by a cat or a housemaid. Like happiness. And I see I've gone all G. K. Chesterton again... I so do love Orthodoxy...
The next Honors Forum was presented by Dr. Santanu Borah. I'm not really sure what to philosophize about for his forum. He presented a medly of topics, showed us both sides of the issue, and left decisions up to us. I already tried my hand at the gun control rights issue on my post for that, and am not sure if I'm supposed to rehas that here or what. I'm thinking of what our last speaker told us- that former debaters make the best persuasive speakers and leaders, because they have been trained to recognize that there is an opposing side, look for it, refute it (respectfully, we hope) and offer a solution. Perhaps that was what Dr. Borah was trying in some way to get across. If we ever hope to win a debate (or an argument... if there's much of a distinction at times), we have to keep our temper, recognize the validity of the other side (oh, yes, there's usually valid points for the other side, or there wouldn't be that many people on the other side, now, would there?), and attempt to lead the others to our way of thinking by acknowledging the validity of those points and offering a common solution. You don't win converts by bashing them on the head with your own points, using them like sledgehammers. People are much more willing to be convinced if they think, or know, that you will listen to them and give their arguments weight. If they think or know that they will be treated fairly, they will at the very least go away less disgruntled. I may not have much of a social life, but I know a tiny bit about human nature.
The next forum was presented by the guy who talked to us about government contracting. As I recall, I didn't get much out of that forum and so went on a rant about how I believe in the principle of distributism, which is basically the political theory that problems that can be solved at the lowest level of government possible should be solved there. Which really seems common sense, come to think of it. The more we govern ourselves (and become starfish-like, Dr. Brewton!), the less the government has to do (or has the opportunities to mess up). After all, involving the government in more things will hardly help it run more efficiently, now, will it? And why should the feds have a say in what we do in our elementary schools? They can't possibly know all the details about the situation that we do. Which is why WE should make the decision, not THEM.
Ooh, quote time again. I have a quote for everything! I am a veritable gold-mine of quotes.
"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government, and I'm here to help." -- Ronald Reagan
And the next Honors Forum (yes, I know I'm capitalizing inconsistently... I don't know whether it should be capitalized or not. The fashion is currently to decapitalize/decapitate everything and make it smaller, less important, minimal. I believe in plainness of decoration oddly enough, but I believe in correct grammar, including capitalizing what should be capitalized! And, as if anyone's not aware of the fact by now, I love capitals! I love being contrary to the modern trends of today's heathen society- I have never been a normal teenager-, and so I shall capitalize what I think is reasonable. By the way, have you noticed all these teenagers nowadays going Goth and talking back to their parents and in general 'acting like teenagers'? The hilarious thing is that they think they are being 'nonconforming'. Here's the secret: they're conforming to everyone's idea of what a teenager should be! They are 'conforming to nonconformity'. I, however, have no delusions and do not believe that one's teenage years should necessarily be spent in a state of sullen disobedience, moodiness, etc. There doesn't have to be so much drama to growing up. It's the fate of many children. [And now I'm quoting Louis de Wohl... Lay Siege to Heaven. Sigh...] Growing up doesn't mean you get to act like a brat. I think maturity is more properly expressed in accepting and handling responsibility in, well, a responsible manner, than in simply doing 'adult' things, such as smoking, etc. Doing stuff like that really doesn't demonstrate maturity. It demonstrates your immaturity: you are willing to do stupid/risky/unnecessary/whatever things in an attempt to LOOK grown-up, with the result is that you look like a stupid teenager TRYING to look grown-up. It's the truly mature people who actually look grown-up. So, anyway, I have spent my teenage years NOT conforming to nonconformity and instead nonconforming to nonconformity! There, have I confused anyone yet? I am doing my 'rebellious teenager' bit, not by acting as people think teenagers must [and I think that belief only contributes to their behavior], but by acting as a normal person! Haha!)
Okay, what was meant to be a parenthetical note got EXTREMELY out of hand. Well, I did say this would be the blog post to rule them all. Anyway, the speaker was Dean Jacobs and she talked to us about some of the values needed for teaching. Apparently I seized on the last bit of her talk, had a mini-rant about Facebook (which I consider to be of little to no value, on a sliding scale of frivolity), and then a more major rant about my feelings about lying. I shouldn't rehash that rant ('rehash' is such a great word, wouldn't you agree?); I think I've ranted enough about plenty of conceivable topics, but what CAN I talk about? Perhaps I should have been given more definite instructions about this end of the semester blog post. Or perhaps no one simply realized how absolutely nuts I would go re-philosophizing everything. The latter of which is probably the more likely case.
Ah, the next form was presented by the Wizard of tUNA. Tuna. TUNA. Whatever. He was great in that he terrified us in the front row by 'smashing' his finger and having an endless supply of blue bottles in his bag, and the fact that he apparently minored in philosophy would have sealed his awesomeness were it not for the fact that his philosophy- his Weltansschauung, his Lebensschauung, 'his way of looking at the world, his way of looking at life'- clashed with mine. I got a little defensive there, sad to say. I could forgive him for saying that values are subjective, since everyone says that now and I get a little tired (which is my fault) of trying to tell everyone that good and evil don't change through time and they are not one thing for one man and another thing for another man. It was when he used Ockham's Razor to disprove the Unseen World that I got a little annoyed. The point of the world of the spirit- of Angels, demons, Heaven and Hell- is that it cannot be proved or disproved with our science, because our science is of its very nature only able to gather facts about the physical world around us. It has no tools with which to study the eternal, the immutable, the immaterial, the spiritual. That is not its place. Even science has its limitations. I know that sounds like blasphemy to some, but it's true. Human minds are limited, and so is human science. And some things we are better off not knowing about. I know it sounds blasphemous again, but it's true. Be that as it may, science does not clash with theology. Theology was called 'the Queen of the Sciences' in the Middle Ages (take that, Dr. Bibbee!) and faith should fit hand-in-hand with science. All the scientists before the Age of so-called Enlightenment (I would prefer to call it the Age of Endarkenment. All the 'Enlightened' rulers in Europe of that time period were absolute rulers, despots. Read up on your history) were Christian men- Catholic, even. Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics, was a monk. Louis Pasteur was a dedicated Catholic, who said that after having learned so much about the world, he had the faith of Breton peasant, and that if he were to learn everything about the world, he would have the faith of a Breton peasant woman. St. Albert the Great was almost as much of a omnidisciplinary scientist as Aristotle was, a real live Catholic walking encyclopaedia. And he's a Doctor of the Church! He taught St. Thomas Aquinas, too, the patron of Catholic schooling. Faith should work with science. Science studies the natural world; faith the supernatural. Both the natural and the supernatural were created by the same Lord, so they are of their own nature harmonious. Thus, the disciplines that study them should be harmonious. It's the endarkened men that have decided that faith and science must not walk hand in hand.
So, as I was saying, science has its limits. It cannot prove the existence of the spiritual world (or they say it can't). But, if it can't PROVE it, how can it DISprove it? Really. When all else fails, I think of Puddleglum's speech to the Green Witch in Narnia, The Silver Chair. He basically tells her that she may be right in saying that there's nothing more to the world than the underworld they're trapped in, and she may be right in saying Aslan's nothing but a myth. But he tells her he's on the side of the myth and the make-believe, because he would rather that those things were real. It reminds me of what Tolkien said to C. S. Lewis on that walk that converted the latter, talking about the story of salvation and about Jesus Christ: "There is no myth that more men would rather find true." It fulfills the heart's deepest longing.
And the next forum was a visit from the estimable Mr. Lee, who showed us pictures of John Deere tractors! Yes, farmers are awesome. He didn't tell us much about values, but what he did was great. I had my belief in the nobility of the trade of farming reconfirmed, and in my blog post I said that farming is one of the most basic and satisfying trades. Why? Because we're in contact with the earth, with God's good Creation. The mother earth stuff is nonsense; it's sister earth, like in the song of St. Francis. A man is never as close to his Creator as when his knees are in the dirt, quoth a Friend of Medjugorje, and he is absolutely right. In farming, we are in close contact with the soil, with the sunshine and the rain, with the fundamental cycle of life and death, with hard work and honest toil. If you can go through all that without bitterness, you find it purifies the soul. That close contact with the work of our Maker's Hands cannot help but remind the depths of our souls of Him. Some small part of our souls, no matter how damaged by original sin, cannot help but remember Him from the moment of our own creation, and we always remember that moment. Our hearts burn within us, whether we will it or not and whether we understand it or not, whenever we subconsciously, spiritually recognize the works of His hands. Why do so many people love the Sea? It's one of the three things in Creation, along with the starry heavens above us and the essence of light itself, that remind us the most of our Creator. Even if we blind ourselves to His words, our souls still go on searching, and they catch a glimpse of what they were created for in the natural world.
Which is probably why satan wants us to destroy our planet and lock ourselves up in cities of stone and metal, of screeching noises and flashing lights, and of false glitter. Yes, I can go all prophet of doom when I want to. But I feel this all very deeply...
Dr. Brewton, I have a feeling you are SO getting more than you asked for on this. Whether you are getting WHAT you asked for is a different question entirely.
Trustee Pierce spoke the next Honors Forum about leadership. I believe I have already mentioned once in this mega-post about my self-perceived lack of qualifications for leadership. Part of the reason I would be so hesitant to accept the role of a leader, much less jockey in position for it, is that I understand how many responsibilities are attached to it. I feel I can't do everything that would be asked of me, and I don't want anyone to suffer because of my ineptitude. Who knows, in such a situation I might be given the grace to act in a non-inept manner. But I wouldn't want to risk it; I wouldn't want to tempt that grace. But I agreed with the good Trustee's measurements of a leader, and how it takes character to be a true leader- again, character being 'a firm and seasoned substance of the soul', consisting, as the Greeks said, of fortitude, prudence, temperance, and justice, which are also, incidentally, the Four Cardinal Virtues of the Catholic Church.
I'm not sure what to write for the studying abroad thing. I mean, ask me later in my college career. I really don't want to go anywhere right now. I appreciate the value of it, but I'm not ready to do all that yet. I'm the person who can't talk about the myogenic theory of heart disease in front of a classroom of about twenty of my peers without being the epitome of awkward. I much less couldn't go to a foreign country and attempt to function in a rational manner there.
And what can I say about the corporate man who came and gave us the lecture on how corporations work and how to be a good employee? Thanks for your time, I guess. I didn't get all that much out of it, other than a bunch of notes and a firm belief in never underestimating the power of... No, that train of thought's not particularly charitable; I shouldn't finish it. Yes, I'm typing out my thought processes. This is why I prefer to type, rather than write: at least my typing keeps up better with the speed of my thoughts! But his advice on how to be a good employee was useful and well-detailed, and kindly meant, so thanks for that, Mr. Hargett.
All right, that takes care of all the forums. Now, how do I tie this all together and put a bow on it? (Yes, I'll never let you forget that figure of speech, Dr. Brewton. It was too funny to ever let it get away.) Well, I could reminisce about my semester and say how much I've changed as a person over the course of it. The problem is, I don't think I've changed all that much fundamentally. I'm still as random and quirky as ever, with just as strong a dash of nerdy and naive coupled with fervent Catholicism (if that offends you, go put a helmet on), and pretty much mostly harmless... unless you call my torrent of words harmful. Come to think of it, it might be. If anyone has actually read this post all the way through until now, kudos to you. You deserve a fudge brownie. If I had any, I would give them to you. Chocolate for everybody. Mmmmm.
Anyway, I perhaps have changed in small ways since the beginning of the semester. I am slightly more independent, with big emphasis on slightly. I have so little use for the modern world (oh, no, I sound like a jaded poet! One of my worst fears: being remembered as a poet. Seriously. Suffer through Shelley in high school and you will have this secret terror as well) and I also have absolutely no social life whatsoever, so I really don't go much of anywhere. But I've learned some streets in town and gone a couple of places (Christmas shopping, I admit it... I started in October). I don't know that I am more responsible, since I was (hopefully) a rather responsible person beforehand. I don't know that I am more patient or more understanding, though hopefully a bit more knowledgeable. I hope I haven't tested anyone's patience too severely. I hope I've just been a nice little clueless freshman who will hopefully grow less clueless as time goes on. Maybe one day I will learn where is what in Lafayette, and where exactly Flowers Hall is. (No, I don't know. And I don't know where the infirmary is, either. Blame the maps. The maps are terrible.)
I guess that's good for this mega post-to-rule-them-all. I certainly think its LENGTH qualifies it to rule them all! Now for a digital cyber bow to put on it...
In Pace Christi,