Saturday, August 30, 2003

Interesting day today. My freshman seminar meets on Saturdays, 9 to 5, and goes to various Colonial and Revolutionary era sites in the Tidewater area. It's pretty cool...we went to the maritime museum today and looked at things about exploration, navigation, culture clashes with the Indians, yadda yadda yadda. But two of the most interesting quotes were from two of my classmates in the van on the way back to Williamsburg.
First quote: "One of my dormmates was complaining about Convocation...Convocation is one of the reasons I came here. I mean, the cool thing about William and Mary is the tradition."
Second quote: "People ask me, 'Why'd you choose William and Mary?' I'm like, do you have to ask? It's a good school and it's in Williamsburg."
That just about sums it up for me too, along with the Chem department and (as I have now learned) the qualities of the students around me.
Anyways...reflecting more on war and violence (heh), I got into a discussion with a few people at the museum about Heinlein's theory of citizenship (i.e., you only become a full citizen after being in the army). The basis of the theory lies in the fact that men in the military have learned how to put other's needs before theirs and are therefore will most likely vote more intelligently. There are, of course, flaws in this theory--although fewer flaws than if the basis were set in discipline, since the army doesn't necessarily create a lasting morality or civic awareness that accompanies said discipline. Anyway, one of the guys I was talking to said, "You mean they only put the rights of their buddies before their own." I pointed out that they were fighting to defend the rights of the people back home, and he said, "But they aren't supported by those who are against war."
The fact that they are fighting for people who don't support them is, well, irrelevant. They are, in fact, fighting to defend the rights of the ones who are able to protest against war. Assuming (as we tend to do) that our basic civil rights are still guaranteed, the anti-war crowd will never die (nor fade away, alas)...but let us never forget that the men they don't support often die to perpetuate that right.
I talked about selfishness as a good thing yesterday. The anti-war crowd contains a reality-denying selfishness that appalls the moral senses.
Okay, 'nuff said. I promise to make the next blog less partisan.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Okay, what I learned from Starship Troopers...
First of all, I quote from Mr. Dubois, a character whom I enjoy very much: "Anyone who clings to the historically untrue--and thoroughly immoral--doctrine that 'violence never settles anything' I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its best. Breeds that have forgotten this basic truth have always paid it with their lives and freedoms."
Coupled with a quote from the protagonist, Johnnie Rico: "Man is what he is, a wild animal with the will to survive, and (so far) the ability, against all competition. Unless one accepts that, anything one says about morals, war, politics--you name it--is nonsense. Correct morals arise from knowing what Man is--not what do-gooders and old Aunt Nellies would like him to be. The universe will let us know--later--whether or not Man has any "right" to expand through it."
This, I thinks, sums up a lot of the way I've been feeling. No one attempts to justify the behavior of gorillas, bears, lions, or eagles, for the simple and excellent fact that killing to survive is part of their nature. Well, man IS an animal--three bio teachers can't be wrong--so why shouldn't killing be an ingrained part of his nature as well?
This also brings up the issue of good stewardship. When God commissioned us to be good stewards of the Earth, it seems doubtful that he meant us to live like little Dutch boys and girls in some craft-fair ceramics idea of paradise. Good stewardship means conserving resources when possible and using them when necessary, and for--GASP--selfish reasons! Yes! Time to admit it, people--what we do, we do primarily for personal gain. Even selfless acts such as a father saving his children from a flood and in doing so dying is an act meant (naturally at a primal, deeply subconscious level) to further the survival of our species. (Not my original idea--more Heinlein.) So whether we do something for ourselves specifically--person to person--or for our species, we act selfishly. Why? Human nature. I'm not Anne Frank and I'm not Sartre--whether or not our nature is good, bad, or indifferent is, in this instance, irrelevant. Selfishness at such a level is not a bad thing--I'd rather have the blood of another species on my hands and survive than die in a state of moral purity. (Moral purity is overrated anyways--what is a man without vices?)
Well, I'm all typed out and I want to quit while I'm ahead. Ahead being a subjective term, bien sur.
On the way out of Calc class, I remembered a few words from one of my brother Jamie's songs. Probably somewhat inaccurate, but it goes something like this:
"Don't count your chickens, count your blessings,
Earn your keep, learn your lessons,
Go to sleep after your confessions...
What's so hard about that?"
This in turn made me reflect that my brothers Jamie and Joe and my sister Shelagh (RIP, love--I'll see you on the other side of this vale of tears) were--are? have been?--some of the smartest people I know who (for the most part, although Joe got his degree from this very institution) have never had a full education the way society thinks of it. In terms of the education born of sorrow, misfortune and disaster, though, my brother and sister earned full degrees at the top schools of Hard Knocks. Finally, I decided that, as has been proven many times, a lot of wisdom comes from the hardships we undergo. The scars we bear as the price for said wisdom are the wrinkles and care lines that come with age...the same wrinkles some of us try to cover up. So think about this: if you were a veteran of some war and came out of with scars or perhaps a missing limb, would you try to cover it up with prosthetics and plastic surgery? I wouldn't. I'd want people to know what happened to me, the sacrifices I made to discover what it's like to defend the rights of others over my own. In the sameway , I figure I'll bear the lines of age as the scholar's scars. Since my life will never throw me the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that it did my siblings, I'll settle for the wisdom that comes from perhaps seeking hard and not too wisely the perhaps pyrrhic victories academia has to offer me.
Lest you think I'm waxing melancholy, I suppose I ought to say that I'm doubly blessed here at W & M--I'm in an environment that I love with people that are some of the nicest I've met outside church retreats, and I have a chance to wipe the slate clean in the aforesaid environment. No cataclysm has blasted me into my existential tragedy mode yet, though before I graduate you will no doubt see plenty of that side. (One of my classes is Histrionics 221: Why Can't I Just Die?)
I said I was going to talk about Starship Troopers, so I guess that'll have to wait until after Convocation.
I have to leave pretty soon for my Chemistry and Calculus classes, but I figured I might as well sign in for the morning. I really like the breakfasts here--which is surprising, because mostly my idea of breakfast is espresso.
Had an interesting night yesterday/this morning. Cassie, Liz, and a couple other people had a Twister game going and Matt suggested that it was too simple. "We need something like, 'Left eye purple diamond!'" He and I spent most of the time making obscene jokes about the contortions of the players.
Andrew and I were discussing Kate's auditioning for the part of a prostitute in a play going on somewhere on campus. My take on it was that any review would be bad. An unfavorable review would quash ambitions and ruin future chances in other plays, and a good review would basically say "you did a convincing job playing a prostitute." Andrew said he wouldn't mind that--the fact that somebody might pay money for him was something he found oddly flattering. I told him that was one way to feel valuable.
Next blog: Interesting views on war, violence, and government that I discovered while reading Robert Heinlein's "Starship Troopers."

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Okay, since this isn't going to be interesting to anyone who reads Andrew's blog or to anyone besides my parents, my AIM SN is Gryffilion. Feel free to talk to me. I'm bored out of my mind--for now. The action should pick up around next week when I suffer a cerebral hemorrhage from juggling way too much.
Must leave--blogs and meatball subs don't mix.
It's about 6:45 by my watch. I'm going to have to post these things pretty regularly or else my memories of the day will vanish like a Frenchman who hears the word "gesundheit." (I don't know why I study the f-ing language, considering I can't stand the country. My dormmates and I decided, after a poll, that we took it because it sounded cool and might attract women.)
Unless I want a repeat of last night, I'm going to have to get dinner pretty soon. Don't get me wrong, a meatball sub at 12:15 AM in the rain has a certain novelty, but not twice in a row. A few trips like that will beat the rules of proper nutrition into you, sonny boy!
The only slightly interesting thing that happened today was that I walked Sarah (A.K.A. Knocko A.K.A. Hot-Lips) to the Library and helped her understand how to use the cool bookshelf things that you turn with a crank. (Mmmm...cranks.) She was visibly impressed by my limited knowledge of the library, but refused to go anywhere near Crim Dell with me because she was afraid that I was going to try to force her hand on the marriage issue. I told her it was her call, but that I figured it was worth a try.
Funny story...Gabby walked in and asked us if we had a bug problem. I said no, nothing besides the one sitting next to me. She explained that she meant ants or termites, to which I said that he was a close relative. Unfortunately, it was lost on her.
All right, so this has the interest level of a piece of soggy WonderBread. You read the description--consider the just punishment for your lack of prudence.
Well, to make it up to you, maybe tomorrow I'll do something like throw a vending machine down the stairs or drop water balloons from a third story roof.
(Eyebrows raised in the general direction of my father)