Modesty, like reverence, is becoming a forgotten virtue. Calls for modesty in dress in ultra-orthodox jewish neighborhoods are perceived by some as a violation of human rights. Others, less extreme, view codes of modest dress as stifling individual expression or as shifting responsibility for men’s sexuality from the men themselves to women. Now, it may or may not be a good idea to post signs in the hasidic neighborhoods. And codes of modest dress may indeed be misinterpreted by men as absolving them of responsibility for their own sexual behavior. But regardless, modesty is still a virtue–and one that deserves to be encouraged and inculcated.
We use the term “modesty” in the context of dress and in the context of personal achievement, but the core of the idea is the same Continue reading →
Too many people seek lasting happiness and fulfillment in romantic love, where it is not to be found.
What romantic love offers is agitation, desire, a fevered preoccupation with the object of love, the blithe contemplation of an other. There is beauty and there is truth to be found in romantic love, but no lasting happiness or fulfillment. That “happily ever after” is to be found in romantic love is the first of its delusions.
Yet there is something undeniably beautiful about two souls waltzing in a private heaven, loving and being loved. But one falls when one waltzes in heaven. Romance either lands on the earth of daily life or it combusts in tragedy. By the “earth of daily life” I mean mainly marriage or the modern forms of pseudo-marriage. The only realistic alternative to these is some form of tragedy–breaking up or dying or in some other way being separated. These melancholy obstacles to consummation are the only way to prevent romance from descending into the soil. And that is why romantic novels and movies inevitably end shortly after consummation (traditionally, marriage). The last scene may be the wedding; or the story may play out just long enough to witness the tragic pre- or post-consummation death of one or both lovers (as, e.g., Tristan and Isolde or Romeo and Juliet).Continue reading →
There is a facile enthusiasm about “believing” that is manifest every Christmas season and often enough in-between. Sentimental movies like “The Polar Express” and “The Miracle on 34th Street” chime in with their paeans to believing, and even works like “The Life of Pi” suggest that it is proper and even admirable to accept as true “the better story” even when it is the unlikeliest story imaginable.
At the front end, let me admit that there is a kernel of truth in these expressions. But there is also great danger is assuming that optimism can or should trump reason, and that belief in the truth of whatever appears good or lovely is itself necessarily good.
At least in questions where the relevant evidence is capable of being comprehensively considered, the proper formula is very simple: belief should be according to the evidence. Continue reading →
We recently received a message from “asaasa1983” in response to an article we had written. The article was about helping children nourish healthy sexuality while avoiding destructive and deceptive outlets like pornography. To me it is a relatively secure platform.
Both statistically and within my own anecdotal experience, pornography can have a negative influence on relationships. It’s bad for the viewer and often bad for the people on the other side of the screen—the ones taking the pictures. However, I am not entirely ignorant of arguments against conservative sexual mores. We can come across as uptight, prudish, genophobs. And before I go forward I want to acknowledge that conservative sexual paradigms have at times been restrictive, narrow, and damaging. So there’s certainly some constructive liberal critiques worth listening to.
Still I was surprised by asaasa1983’s response—so surprised in fact that I reproduce it here in its entirety:Continue reading →
You have probably never heard of François-André Danican Philidor. If you were to see a picture of him, he would look like one of a hundred English aristocrats of the eighteenth century: Large nose, powdery wig, silk cravat, waist coat, the works. He was a musician by trade but is remembered today because he wrote a book about Chess. In it he explored nine different ways to begin a game. What he realized, and is remembered for saying, is that “good play of the pawns [is] the soul of chess.”
And why are they the soul of chess? Because they are practically stationary. If chess represented war, the queen, knights, and rooks would be the armies and the pawns the terrain. So the way you orient your pawns at the beginning, dictates so much of how the rest of the game is played. And once they are established, they will remain for the rest of the game relatively immobile. The play happens around them.
In my last “Against Chronological Snobbery” essay I introduced the debate between the “progressive” view of American history (that America’s history has been one of clear moral progress) and the “non-progressive” view (that it hasn’t—i.e., that the question is at least subject to debate). I endorsed the latter position. Representing the “progressive view” was Justice Kennedy’s Obergefell opinion, together with Justice Marshall’s assertion that the founders lacked any remarkable degree of wisdom, and that the greatness of the Constitution is its more recent embrace of equality and individual rights. Representing the “non-progressive” view was Justice Robert’s dissent in Obergefell and Justice Scalia’s dissent in U.S. v. Virginia, both of which included a scathing rebuke of the majorities’ chronological snobbery.
In this essay, I hope to continue my attack on the “progressive” view by assaulting one of its citadels—the self-satisfaction of contemporary mainstream culture with regard to its own value system.