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Close to the Edge

photo of the week by joeymc86

Babies are a gift – especially to their brothers and sisters when they’re all grown up. An article on our increasing discomfort with where exactly these babies come from – and another article that perfectly illustrates this growing cultural disconnect. Our prosperity and our fascination with the temporary – good things, or things that stand in our way? A woman’s intellectual journey. And a humorous video that hits the gender nail on the head – pun thoroughly intended.

:: The Gift of Siblings (New York Times)

That’s how it goes in a pack of siblings, and I sometimes wonder, when it comes to the decline in fertility rates in our country and others, whether the economic impact will be any more significant than the intimate one. For better or worse, fewer people will know the challenges and comforts of a sprawling clan.

Those comforts are manifold, at least in my lucky experience. With siblings to help shoulder the burden of your parents’ dreams and expectations, you can flail on a particular front with lower stakes and maybe even less notice. Siblings not only pick up the slack but also act as decoys, providing crucial distraction.

They’re less tailored fits than friends are. But in a family that’s succeeded at closeness, they’re more natural, better harbors. As Colt observed of his siblings, and it’s true of mine as well, they aren’t people he would have likely made an effort to know or spend time with if he’d met them at school, say, or at work. And yet a reunion with them thrills him more than a reunion with friends, who don’t make him feel that he’s “a part of a larger quilt,” he said. His brothers do.

:: The New Birds and the Bees (Public Discourse) [Note: Frank discussion of sex.]

For all of their intelligence, sophistication, and cosmopolitan ways, Westerners are increasingly uncomfortable with where babies come from.

I realize it’s a humorous and ironic claim to suggest that moderns—who dwell in an over-sexed, over-sensualized world—might actually be uncomfortable with the subject matter of sex. But I’m serious. They’re growing increasingly uncomfortable with where babies come from.

:: The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss (The Atlantic)

The belief that gay marriage will harm marriage has roots in both religious beliefs about matrimony and secular conservative concerns about broader shifts in American life. One prominent line of thinking holds that men and women have distinct roles to play in family life; that children need both a mother and a father, preferably biologically related to them; and that a central purpose of marriage is abetting heterosexual procreation. During the Supreme Court arguments over Proposition 8, Justice Elena Kagan asked Cooper whether the essence of his argument against gay marriage was that opposite-sex couples can procreate while same-sex ones cannot. “That’s the essential thrust of our position, yes,” replied Cooper. He also warned that “redefining marriage as a genderless institution could well lead over time to harms to that institution.”

Threaded through this thinking is a related conviction that mothers and fathers should treat their union as “permanent and exclusive,” as the Princeton professor Robert P. George and his co-authors write in the new book What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense. Marriage, seen this way, is a rigid institution that exists primarily for the rearing of children and that powerfully constrains the behavior of adults (one is tempted to call this the “long slog ’til death” view of marriage), rather than an emotional union entered into for pleasure and companionship between adults. These critics of gay marriage are, quite validly, worried that too many American children are being raised in unstable homes, either by struggling single parents or by a transient succession of live-in adults. They fear that the spread of gay marriage could help finally sever the increasingly tenuous link between children and marriage, confirming that it’s okay for dads, or moms, to be deleted from family life as hedonic fulfillment dictates.

:: Pope: the culture of economic wellbeing and attraction towards the provisional prevent us from following Jesus (Vatican Radio)

“Each and every one of us has riches”. There is always, he said, a richness that “stops us from getting close to Jesus”. And this must be singled out. We must all, he continued, examine our conscience and pinpoint our riches because they stop us from getting close to Jesus on the path of life”. And the Pope focused on what he called two “cultural riches”: the first, a “culture of economic wellbeing that causes us to be lacking in courage, makes us lazy, makes us selfish”. Wellbeing, he said, “anaesthetizes us, it’s an anaesthetic”.

No, no, not more than one child, because otherwise we will not be able to go on holiday, we will not be able to go out, we will not be able to buy a house. It’s all very well to follow the Lord, but only up to a certain point. This is what economic wellbeing does to us: we all know what wellbeing is, but it deprives us of courage, of the courage we need to get close to Jesus. This is the first richness of the culture of today, the culture of economic wellbeing”.

There is also, he added, “another richness in our culture”, another richness that prevents us from getting close to Jesus: it’s our fascination for the temporary”. We, he observed, are “in love with the provisional”. We don’t like Jesus’s “definitive proposals”. Instead we like what is temporary because “we are afraid of God’s time” which is definitive.

:: The atheist orthodoxy that drove me to faith (Catholic Herald)

I looked for absurdities and inconsistencies in the Catholic faith that would derail my thoughts from the unnerving conclusion I was heading towards, but the infuriating thing about Catholicism is its coherency: once you accept the basic conceptual structure, things fall into place with terrifying speed. “The Christian mysteries are an indivisible whole,” wrote Edith Stein in The Science of the Cross: “If we become immersed in one, we are led to all the others.” The beauty and authenticity of even the most ostensibly difficult parts of Catholicism, such as the sexual ethics, became clear once they were viewed not as a decontextualised list of prohibitions, but as essential components in the intricate body of the Church’s teaching.

:: It’s not about the nail (Vimeo)