Music Of The Trees 1: Sibelius

tops-of-treesBy accident or whatever, I’ve found music of trees crossing my path today. There’s a good bit of it all over, mostly in the so-called classical sphere.

A new discovery for me are these five piano pieces from the opus 75 of Jean Sibelius.

I was struck by the balance of solemnity and playfulness of the fourth, representing the birch tree. But my favorite is the last one, representing the spruce.

I see a lot of that last tree in my neighborhood, too.

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Amoris Laetitia 276: Socialization

amoris laetitia memeA bit of the counter-intuitive, of which I would agree: socialization best occurs in the family, not the school.

276. The family is the primary setting for socialization, since it is where we first learn to relate to others, to listen and share, to be patient and show respect, to help one another and live as one. The task of education is to make us sense that the world and society are also our home; it trains us how to live together in this greater home. In the family, we learn closeness, care and respect for others. We break out of our fatal self-absorption and come to realize that we are living with and alongside others who are worthy of our concern, our kindness and our affection. There is no social bond without this primary, everyday, almost microscopic aspect of living side by side, crossing paths at different times of the day, being concerned about everything that affects us, helping one another with ordinary little things. Every day the family has to come up with new ways of appreciating and acknowledging its members.

Any pro-school comments out there?

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 275: Hope

amoris laetitia memeIf the culture has somewhat corrupted the value of love, and sometimes mocks faith, how does it handle hope? Pope Francis suggests the family is the place to learn about this important value. Does he have hope for this?

How to integrate electronics, or to keep them in a rightful place?

275. In our own day, dominated by stress and rapid technological advances, one of the most important tasks of families is to provide an education in hope. This does not mean preventing children from playing with electronic devices, but rather finding ways to help them develop their critical abilities and not to think that digital speed can apply to everything in life.

On delayed gratification:

Postponing desires does not mean denying them but simply deferring their fulfilment. When children or adolescents are not helped to realize that some things have to be waited for, they can become obsessed with satisfying their immediate needs and develop the vice of “wanting it all now”. This is a grand illusion which does not favor freedom but weakens it. On the other hand, when we are taught to postpone some things until the right moment, we learn self-mastery and detachment from our impulses.

Detachment from impulses, good and bad: another Ignatian value. People who misunderstand Pope Francis would do well to consider the Spiritual Exercises. I find them all over this document, even in discussion on so-called secular areas.

When children realize that they have to be responsible for themselves, their self-esteem is enriched. This in turn teaches them to respect the freedom of others. Obviously this does not mean expecting children to act like adults, but neither does it mean underestimating their ability to grow in responsible freedom. In a healthy family, this learning process usually takes place through the demands made by life in common.

Let’s see if I get this straight … Let kids be kids, but don’t coddle them, don’t advance them further than they need to be, respect them and keep expectations reasonably high. Anything I’ve missed?

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Peculiar Children On Film

miss_peregrine_film_posterMy wife had an interesting justification for wrapping this film and affixing a “Santa” label on it for me. She said it reminded her of when she bought the first Harry Potter book for me at the turn of the century. Someone told her I would like it. (I like how that woman thinks!)

I don’t track YA fiction so much. The young miss read the book, but she didn’t confess enthusiasm for it. The sequels haven’t interested her.

So to the film. The fam and I watched it last week. I really liked it. While I’ve lost interest in Tim Burton as a director, this effort seemed rather disciplined and as a result more of his crazy imagination shone through. Usually with that director, the emphasis is on crazy. He’s botched more films than I’ve cared to watch, but this one I enjoyed. He seemed at home with weird material, and he didn’t go out of his way to plunge off the deep end.

What can one say about fantasy material and acting? I think the visual effects and costumes often overtake personal skill. Eva Green was arresting in the title role and Asa Butterfield was competent as a young lead. I think I’d like to read the book and see how the author combined old photographs with a fantasy narrative. That seems like a new angle for modern fantasy fiction.

This movie won’t win awards for excellence in filmmaking, but I give it a solid plus.


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Amoris Laetitia 274 Learning About Life

amoris laetitia memeToday we begin a topic of “Family Life as an Educational Setting.” Learnings about “freedom,” another typically Ignatian vector. Let’s read:

274. The family is the first school of human values, where we learn the wise use of freedom. Certain inclinations develop in childhood and become so deeply rooted that they remain throughout life, either as attractions to a particular value or a natural repugnance to certain ways of acting. Many people think and act in a certain way because they deem it to be right on the basis of what they learned, as if by osmosis, from their earliest years: “That’s how I was taught”. “That’s what I learned to do”. In the family we can also learn to be critical about certain messages sent by the various media. Sad to say, some television programs or forms of advertising often negatively influence and undercut the values inculcated in family life.

It is more than television and advertising. The internet, via handheld devices, has probably superceded the small screen. YouTube over boob tube, so to speak.

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 273: Proposing Values

amoris laetitia memeWrapping up the theme of patience in the ethical formation of the young:

273. In proposing values, we have to proceed slowly, taking into consideration the child’s age and abilities, without presuming to apply rigid and inflexible methods. The valuable contributions of psychology and the educational sciences have shown that changing a child’s behavior involves a gradual process, but also that freedom needs to be channeled and stimulated, since by itself it does not ensure growth in maturity.

Some believers remain skeptical of psychology, but like all tools, this science can be mishandled. I think we’ve never had a better understanding of the physical and psychological influences on human behavior. We can make the tools of psychology work well for us.

Situated freedom, real freedom, is limited and conditioned. It is not simply the ability to choose what is good with complete spontaneity. A distinction is not always adequately drawn between “voluntary” and “free” acts. A person may clearly and willingly desire something evil, but do so as the result of an irresistible passion or a poor upbringing. In such cases, while the decision is voluntary, inasmuch as it does not run counter to the inclination of their desire, it is not free, since it is practically impossible for them not to choose that evil.

A distinction between freedom and choice:

We see this in the case of compulsive drug addicts. When they want a fix, they want it completely, yet they are so conditioned that at that moment no other decision is possible. Their decision is voluntary but not free. It makes no sense to “let them freely choose”, since in fact they cannot choose, and exposing them to drugs only increases their addiction. They need the help of others and a process of rehabilitation.

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Mary, Model For Resolutions

People make big things of resolutions. Studies suggest that nine in ten go by the wayside. Do saints have a better record? If Mary, mother of Jesus, lived in a culture with resolutions, would she have made any? If so, would these have been successful?

Saints like Teresa of Avila report that the deeper one goes into the spiritual life, the more one sees one’s sinfulness and the need for reform. Mary, as the theologians tell us, was conceived without sin. Does the need for a serious resolution imply a sinful behavior that needs correcting? Or is it more of a course correction?

From the Gospel reading today, looking back on the events of the Nativity:

And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)

But I have to admit that Lent is a better time for resolving, at least for me. Small steps have more often worked for me. One priest I respected often suggested that: small steps with an eye to a bigger goal.

Happy 2017, and good luck with your steps, small or large.


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