Sunday, September 16, 2007



From a letter by CS Lewis to Mr. Masson dated March 6th, 1956 found in the Wade Collection at Wheaton College.

“For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete and correct his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back; sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides. And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no woman can rival. Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity. In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself. Do read Charles Williams’ Descent into Hell and study the character of Mr. Wentworth.

And it is not only the faculty of love which is thus sterilized, forced back on itself, but also the faculty of imagination. The true exercise of imagination in my view, is (a) to help us understand other people, (b) to respond to, and, some of us, to produce art. But it also has a bad use: to provide for us, in shadowy form, a substitute for virtues, successes, distinctions, etc. which ought to be sought outside in the real world – e.g., picturing all I’d do if I were rich instead of earning and saving. Masturbation involves this abuse of imagination in erotic matters (which is bad in itself) and thereby encourages a similar abuse of it in all spheres. After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the dark prison we are all born in. Masturbation is to be avoided as all things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison."

Another thing that I think worth noting is the causal effect that can be drawn between our imagination and reality. Now, I have taken classes in which we were told that we can and indeed it is good to imagine everything we want. The stated reason for this is that we can repress important emotions and build up tensions that result in horrible breakouts of anger, violence, and what have you. I disagree with this on principle that, as CS Lewis shows, the real danger of masturbation is that the desire for attachment (which is the deepest seated of out desires) does not accept substitutes that our imagination creates. Thus by supplanting the real needs of our psyche with imaginary ones and wrapping ourselves up in this harem that we have created we increase the probability of a violent release of this tension.

Not only this, but the objectification of another human being inherent in the imaginary "harem" while is not necessarily causally related cannot be supposed to have no relation to one's actions and predispositions towards actual human beings. If I am constantly having these imaginary women always at my beck and call, why won't these thoughts slip into my actual life?

It smacks of the situation of Tantalus from the view of the person who is interacting with a person who masturbates because it would be attempting but always failing at meeting the person's needs. It would be impossible (even if it was possible it would not be good) to live up to the standards of the person who masturbates because one could not emulate the imaginary harem.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Beauty, The Four Loves, Theology of the Body, and Public Transportation

So, I was riding the bus from work yesterday (I work at St. Joseph's Parish in Belmont, MA about an hour's ride on two buses) and I was either bitten by the muse or in a peaceful, all-encompassing state of mind. The state of mind makes somewhat more sense since I was reading Surprised by Joy, CS Lewis' Autobiography. In any case, I began pondering beauty: how is it that simply seeing a person can be so... enlightening, exciting, delightful, profound? I mean, in some case on hardly even knows the person or is likely to know the person, yet there is still this non-sexual delight in the physical beauty of the other. It seems to me that there are a few different kinds too, at least to me. Some people I see and take delight in, I really have no desire to meet or converse with, whether it be that I am tired, lazy, anti-social, non-confrontive, or don't want my image of them to be compromised, I know not. Other people fascinate me entirely, such that not only their physical beauty, but also their perceived characteristics make me curious and interested in meeting them. Also, in some I don't find any physical attraction at all, but they intrigue me as conversationalists or story-tellers. I'll be able to read the Four Loves by CS Lewis later in the semester with Peter Kreeft and I plan on writing on this subject in concert with the Theology of the Body. Where it will lead, of what precisely it will consist, and how it will be enlightening at all I have no clue. But it is indeed interesting.

Boston has so many cool opportunities! I've been slavering over the academic programs offered at Harvard, Boston College, Boston University in Classical Philology, Byzantine Greek, Renaissance Literature, Economics, Cognitive Philosophy and more... ahh. God is Good.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Beginning

Greetings All,

Moving to a large city has definitely been exciting! I thought I would share a few stories of our adventures:

As you know, we arrived around August 8th, after visiting Elliott in New York. For the three weeks after that we stayed at our kind friends' the Raiger's House in West Roxbury. From there we were able to explore Boston, set up job interviews, work on getting the required documentation for moving in and what not. It worked perfectly. It was so nice to be able to come back to a place outside of the city, park in a driveway, and have a kitchen, bed, and a place to stay.

We moved in on the 1st of September, Door 2 Door dropped off the crates around 3pm and we unloaded (up our three flights of stairs) for a good three hours before knocking off and unpacking. Door 2 Door worked out very well; we hadn't seen our crates since we packed them up July 28th and we could unload them at our leisure. The next morning we went to Mass at Saint Columbkille's Parish, walking there and back. Brother Dennis and Brother Solomon of the Teresian Carmelites came later that day to help us with the larger pieces of furnature and to bless our little home. Annie being the amazing wife that she is had a wonderful repast for us and we were able to converse for several hours.

The next day was Labor Day and we were invited out to a BBQ hosted by our good friend and realtor, Joan Laracy and her family. Anne and I worked hard on the house most of the day, looking forward to the food, Trappist Beer, and fellowship that we were to share later that day. Around Noon or so we walked to where we had parked our car on Beacon Street only to find that the City of Boston and removed it due to the fact that there was a BC Football game on the 1st and all non-resident cars were banned. Rather disheartened we walked back home and worked on unpacking some more.

I made a little study out of one of the closets in the living room and posted all my pictures, made a desk, built a shelf, and generally set up our computing equipment so we could be connected to the outside world again. It is amazing how much one can be connected and dependent on computers and internet... CS Lewis has a grand point when he says that "their labor saving devices multiply drudgery... and their devices for saving time have banished leisure from their country." (Pilgrim's Regress)

Tuesday was the first day of classes, I had two: Virgil's Aeneid, Book Six (10:30 -12:00) and CS Lewis (3:00 - 4:30). I am sincerely looking forward to Virgil, having had such an awesome experience with Sallust, Horace, and Ovid last year. Professor Ahern is the head of the Classics Department here and has set the standard high for us students in this course. The focus is on Ancient conceptions of Death and the Underworld, thus there will be a good deal of outside reading and translation. CS Lewis is nothing less than awesome. Peter Kreeft is an excellent lecturer (even better than his writing, to my taste) and, having taught this course for 20+ years, he has a grand selection of books for us: Surprised by Joy, Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, A Grief Observed, The Four Loves, Perelandra, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters (he mentioned John Cleese does a wonderful book-on-tape of this one), Till we have Faces, The Abolition of Man, and numerous essays, articles, and poems... all by Lewis. Ahhh... it will be a good TR for me. :-)

That night I trekked down to Southie to hunt for our little car in the Boston Tow Lot. It took me about 3 hours to find the place, 1 hr on the T and the other two wandering around the three Frontage Roads that promised the Tow Lot was just around the next corner. The cost to bail out our delinquent vehicle was only $150 (by the time I got there any price might have been fine) and I resolved to park it at work from then on. The next day, Wednesday I drove North to Belmont, where Saint Joseph's Parish is and met Father Al and Anne Marie for my final interview. They, along with the help of several gracious references from good people in Spokane, decided that I was fit for the job and I accepted. I am now the Assistant to the Religious Education Program and Youth Ministries at the parish, I can work as many hours as I want, when I want for $16 an hour. It is a complete Godsend. Praise the Lord! Father Al took Anne and I out to lunch and then dropped me off at my two MW classes: Advanced Topics in Medieval Philosophy: Theories of Knowledge (2:00 - 3:30) and The Problem of Self-Knowledge (4:30 - 6:00). Theories of Knowledge will be my most difficult class. The professor is excellent and demanding and we are reading some rather difficult texts very closely (yay! This at last is like Graduate School that I had imagined). The first week we were responsible for a good chunk of Aristotle's De Anima (Bks 2 &3) and some Augustine. Good people both. The Problem of Self-Knowledge is taught by an Ancient old Jesuit, Father Flanagan and will be a delight. Lecture time is story time; you can sit back and absorb to your heart's content because it flows, is well organized, and falls from his lips like honey. The reading for this course complements CS Lewis well because it is somewhat of a critique on modern America (The Real American Dream by Delbanco), and will segue into Patrick Byrne's class on Insight in the Spring well because of Fr. Flanagan's interests.