Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Perfect Supplicant

“To understand these feelings one must understand the condition of the poor in such places as Assisi. In an agricultural country poverty does not, as elsewhere, almost inevitably involve moral destitution, that degeneration of the entire human being that renders charity so difficult.” P. 14

This statement is really interesting, because on the one hand it is true. But on the other, the author is saying that “moral destitution” makes charity difficult. This gets to the heart of the matter of charity itself. Firstly, what is “moral destitution?” In a sense, it is standing up for oneself, and refusing to live the life of a beggar, but rather to live your life. If only poor people were perfect supplicants everything else would be much easier is what the author is really saying; but the life of a perfect supplicant is actually not always preferable. In many ways, the poor of the United States have made this decision. We would like them to just work their terrible jobs and not complain, but they have not done that. They have developed their own economy based off of drugs, wherein they can be the leaders, and not the supplicants. To a middle class kid, success means going to college and getting a good job, but to someone who immerses him or herself in the criminal world, success is something much different, and they have to be judged according to the game they are playing.

St. Francis of Assisi

I started reading a biography of St. Francis, and early on I am struck by a few things. The first is that I was unaware of his lust for glory in his early days. He went off on an expedition, and was humiliated because he had taken along with him many luxuries. It seems that that was his real conversion, when that path (that of military glory) was closed off to him. It makes me wonder if his lust for glory ever really left him. It probably did not. His conversion may have just been another outlet for it.

It actually reminds me of how all of these movie stars are suddenly becoming great champions of charity. Obviously they have not “converted” to anywhere near the degree that St. Francis did, but they are following the same pattern. Once you have lived the good life, and those kinds of things are boring to you, charity is probably the best place to go for a sense of fulfillment. It would seem that this is a good thing no matter what motivated them to do it, but maybe they are not really helping at all.

Regardless of what his motivation is though, at this point, from what I know of St. Francis’s life, you could take the way he lived his life alone and have something valuable. To reject property to that extent is always a good thing. The biographer tries to answer this question when he says, “It is far from hatred of evil to love of good. They are more numerous than we think whom after some severe experience, have renounced what ancient liturgies call 'the world' with its pomps and lusts. But the greater number of those who renounced the world have not at the bottom of their hearts the smallest grain of pure love. In vulgar souls disillusion only leaves a frightful egoism.” P 17

Paul Sabatier "The Road to Assisi"

Friday, December 30, 2005

Hadji Murad (Tolstoy)

Czar Nicholas:

“Continual brazen flattery from everybody round him, in the teeth of obvious facts, had brought him to such a state that he no longer saw his own inconsistencies, or measured his actions and words by reality, logic, or even by simple common sense; but was quite convinced that all of his orders, however senseless, unjust, and mutually contradictory they might be, became reasonable just and mutually accordant simply because he gave them.” P. 90

“Nicholas frowned. He had done much evil to the Poles. To justify that evil he had to be certain that all Poles were rascals, and he considered them to be such, and hated them accordingly in proportion to the evil he had done to them.” P. 91

“No one spoke of hatred of the Russians. The feeling experienced by all the Chechens, from the youngest to the oldest, was stronger than hate. It was not hatred, for they did not regard those Russian dogs as human beings; but it was such repulsion, disgust, and perplexity at the senseless cruelty of these creatures, that the desire to exterminate them – like the desire to exterminate rats, poisonous spiders, or wolves – was as natural an instinct as that of self preservation.”

“he remembered a Tavlinian fable about a falcon who had been caught and lived among men, and afterwards returned to his own kind in the hills. He returned, but wearing jesses with bells; and other falcons would not receive him. “Fly back to where they hung those silver bells on thee” said they. “We have no bells and no jesses.” The falcon did not want to leave his home, and remained; but the other falcons did not wish to let him stay there, and pecked him to death.”

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Feigning Interest

The holidays put me in the position of having to talk and interact with people I would normally not really talk and interact with.  When I was a kid all that I could think about on Christmas day was presents.  Now I wake up and think about how much I am going to have to feign interest in things I don’t care about.  Sometimes when I am mad about it, I tell myself that I will force everyone else to talk about what I am interested in, and if they are not interested in obscure Russian poetry or the intricacies of first year law, then tough shit.  I am always the one who has to go down to the intellectual level of other people.  Of course, most people’s opinions on these matters are restricted to the most obvious things, so that it would not help that much anyway.  Still, sometimes I want to be a tyrant about this.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christianity Light (Tolstoy)

“I was looking for an answer to the question of life, and not to the theological and historical questions, and so it did not make any difference to me whether Jesus Christ was a God, or not, or from whom the Holy Ghost descended, and so forth…What was important to me was the light, which for eighteen hundred years has been illuminating humanity, and which has illuminated me; but what I should call this source of light, and what its materials are, and by whom it was lighted, were a matter of indifference to me.”

Leo Tolstoy, “The Gospels in Brief”

Law School

I finally feel like a human being again. In particular, I can waste time with impunity. I don’t feel guilty about every second that I don’t spend studying law. I don’t even really think about my first semester in law school at this point. It’s a nice feeling.

Law school is definitely making me feel as though I am losing something. There is no time to read anything else other than law, and the law we do read is always the very practical kind – or in other words, opinions from jurisdictions all over the country that we will never practice in, so I feel like I haven’t read anything in a semester; no politics, no poetry or literature, and definitely no philosophy. I feel dumb because of it. Its true that I am technically reading when I study law, but it is not the kind of reading that improves you.

To do well in law, you only have to be good at one specific thing. You can be a complete jerk and an idiot in every sense but one and still be great at law. When I first came to law school I was amazed by how proficient and hard working everyone is (that’s actually the hardest part of law school). I attributed it to the fact that a lot of people had worked in between school, so they know about how shitty a job can be, and also the fact that most of the people in there fell within the top %20 of LSAT and GPA scores. However, now that the semester is over I think there is another reason.

For a long time I tried to figure out why I always felt like I had such an edge at my undergraduate studies, but at law school I didn’t feel like I was anything special. I think the reason for that loss of edge is that I can no longer use the things that gave me an edge at undergrad. More life experiences, more time spent dwelling on human nature and just general intuition gave me a huge advantage in philosophy and English. Now though those traits are no longer applicable, it is juts pure logic in law school. We rarely delve deep into things. Every human being we read about in these cases is suddenly no longer real. No matter what suffering we read about in a case, the person is purely a logical exercise. In a way it is the opposite of what you would do when reading a piece of literature. In literature, perhaps your first duty is to empathize with the characters. You try to understand the characters as you would people you know. You try to see every facet of the character the author has given you no matter how small. Now there is no time for that, even though we are dealing with real human beings. Jane, whose son died for such and such a reason is not a mother who lost her son but “Person A,” which “Law XYZ” applies to in a specific scenario.

Of course it is necessary to think about things in that manner, but that is all we do. You do not have to spend much time in law school to figure out why so many lawyers are horrible people. Its because law school takes your sense of humanity away. The workload is to heavy to spend time or energy actually thinking about human beings as people and not legal relations. We don’t talk about the relation between law and justice, there is just the law, and if something is legal than that is fine. Basically, everything is condoned in law school except “missing issues” or not being prepared when called on. It may be that these professors can’t speak of these things because they don’t have the ability to. I doubt many of them can leave their safe little world of logic.

I must say though that overall I am very happy with law school. I am happy to (finally) surrounded by intelligent and hard working people, and I am happy that I will finally have a trade when I am done with all of this.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


This answers a lot of the questions I have had about Africa.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Good Site

A Swedish bittorrent site that ridicules legal threats sent to it.


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