Monday, March 25, 2013

Demented and sad.... But social.

It's considered one of the classic movies of my generation; a movie that apparently every one can relate to because every one fits in to one of the categories -- a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.

And of course I know that all of you know exactly what movie I am talking about -- in fact, knew just from the title of the post.

Yes, The Breakfast Club.  

How many quotes can you immediately start rattling off? I'm betting quite a few. 

Of course, the classic quote, the best quote in my humble opinion (yeah, right, I know -- when am I ever humble...), is the last lines of the movie:
You see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain... ...and an athlete... ...and a basket case... ...a princess... ...and a criminal.
A classic scene, which can be seen here.

And the reason why the movie is a classic is that this is not true simply in high school. Even as adults, look around you -- certainly you are surrounded by a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and even a criminal.  (Though perhaps in the interest of not being surrounded by actual criminality, we can use the term "rebel" as adults.)

It may take a minute to think of who fits each category (and yes, if you're in need, simply by knowing me/reading my blog posts, I can provide you with a basket case), but I am positive that you will. In fact, you will probably think of many people who qualify in each category -- I know I did.

But the really fun thing is understanding the full sense of that last line. That "each one of us is..." For we are, aren't we? A part of us -- no matter how small -- is each one of those things. We certainly may be more one of them than another -- needless to say, I'm aware that I am more basket case than anything else -- but we are certainly still all of them.

The question is -- who cares? Does it even matter....

The answer is -- always. In all senses.

We are not complete if we sacrifice one portion of our selves -- of our personalities, of our souls -- in favor of another. Yes, this does come back in many ways to the Socratic idea of an unexamined life is not worth living. It mostly comes back though to the idea of being a complete being. To understand how much more interesting we are -- and how much more interesting our life will be -- if we are willing to embrace all of our selves.

Now this does not mean to run out and do something criminal. Nor that you need to run out and buy a tiara. Or that you need to try to win a gold medal. Or even that you have to be brilliant. It does help in surviving life though to be a basket case. Just sayin'....

What it does mean is finding and nurturing those characteristics in order to discover new things about yourself. After all, it may just be fun, even (shock, horror!) educational. And who knows -- maybe you'll find your own breakfast club, at least in a totally crazy multiple personality just-because-you're-paranoid-doesn't-mean-you're-not-being-followed sense.

And that is always fun.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old.... Take II

Having just spent the last week with a friend from high school that I had barely seen since graduation, I thought to write about the concept of "auld lang syne", as well as that of making new friends but keeping the old. 

Of course, I thought that sounded familiar, and lo and behold, I have indeed already written on this same theme early on in my blog. You may read the original, "Make New Friends, But Keep the Old...." here.

At least I can say I'm consistent!

But as I've covered the new and old issue on friendships, I realized I should focus today on that simple idea of "auld lang syne." Which is different and yet similar.

Auld lang syne would be, according to Wikipedia, translated exactly as "old long since":
...or more idiomatically, "long long ago", "days gone by" or "old times". Consequently "For auld lang syne", as it appears in the first line of the chorus, might be loosely translated as "for (the sake of) old times". 
It has become a famous phrase thanks to the great Scottish poet Robert Burns and his song of the same name.  A song that quickly became a tradition for Scots on Hogmanay, otherwise known as New Year's Eve, and spread throughout the British Isles among English-speaking peoples.

Burns himself acknowledges that the "foundation" for his poem is an original, old song, upon which he built and expanded. As a multiple-time renovator of houses, I can greatly appreciate that process.

The first written version appears to be from 1711, by a James Watson.
"Old Long Syne"  
Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,and never thought upon;The flames of Love extinguished,and fully past and gone:Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,that loving Breast of thine;That thou canst never once reflectOn Old long syne.
On Old long syne my Jo,
On Old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
On Old long syne.
It's lovely thought, isn't it? To always reflect on old long syne? On days gone by?

Burns, of course, took this lovely thought and went further. With gratitude to Wikipedia, here's the full song:

Burns' Original Scots Verse:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !
and surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl’d i' the burn,
frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
and gie's a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.
And in case the Scottish language is a bit confusing, here is the English translation:
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne ?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.
We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.



A lot of introduction and explanation and not much reflection yet....

And yeah, not exactly surprising that I had to go off on a tangent -- at least a relevant one here! -- to fully explain my initial reasoning and inspiration. I may not convince folks with the strengths of my arguments all the time, but I certainly convince them by virtue of wearing them down!

So my point? As there is a point, right? (Ahem.)

I've been reflecting a lot on my past recently. For a lot of reasons obviously -- nothing like a death, divorce and moves to make one reflect on the past! -- but mostly because of the wonders of Facebook. Through that sometimes dangerous consort, I have reconnected with a lot of people I knew in my past. Many of whom I barely knew, and many of whom I knew very very well at one point. All of whom I have gotten to know better in the present.

Certainly, after having just spent several days with a friend from high school -- someone I first met in 4th grade, but have barely seen since graduation, let alone spent any time with -- it has been really brought home to me how amazing it is to get to know the same people all over again.

That may seem odd: how do you get to know someone all over again that you already know? It also may seem obvious: of course we grow and change and mature and reinvent and become new as time passes. Duh.

Well, both of those thoughts are "double duhs". Both are true. And both are not. The core of who we are is formed at a very young age. We certainly grow, change, reinvent (and so much more), as time passes. But our "essence" -- our soul -- does not change.

So spending time with friends who come from what may seem like a former life, is in fact all about reconnecting with an earlier you -- a deeper, more original version of you, of your essence, of your soul. It's a realization and recognition of your own self; a profound experience of knowing....

And also a pretty profound experience of drinking....

And pool... And skiing... And Big Buck Hunter.

You know: the pint cup, the running about the slopes, and the picking of the daisies as Burns put it. Well, actually he put it as: pint-stowp, braes, and gowans. But. Same difference.

Because what's the point otherwise?

Really. What is the point?

Otherwise it's all just bullshit and philosophy... And we can't have any of those, now can we?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Drooling Intelligently

Hi. My name is Jana, and I'm a recovering political junkie.

Hi Jana! 

It has been 17 minutes and 39 seconds since I last had a political discussion....

Clapping...which slows... fades... stops... as people realize what was just said. What...? 

Okay, so maybe that's not exactly accurate. Maybe I'm not a recovering political junkie. Perhaps it's more along the lines of "I'm a recovering political employee." I spent nearly a decade, off and on, working in politics. From campaign organizations to magazines to leadership in the US House and Senate, I lived and breathed the stuff.

I did all the usual associated with such jobs: worked crazy hours, met lots of famous politicians (even worked for a few!), learned the difference between "spin" and reality, witnessed incredible public service and incredible corruption, worked hard, played hard, experienced life- and country- changing events first hand, and made a tiny difference.... Tiny, but a difference nonetheless.

I worked through events like the shooting at the Capitol and 9-11. For the former, our office was just up the stairs; I was convinced the shots echoing were no more than stacked chairs falling -- until the Capitol police officer went running by with gun drawn, and the subsequent officer flying by noticed our door was open and yelled at us about a dangerous gunman being loose... For the latter, perhaps some 20 coworkers fled with me to my house a mile from the Capitol; I pulled every TV I had in the house to the living room, handed over my two phone lines so that everyone could call home as the cell phone system had collapsed, and sat dumbstruck staring at the TV for hours.

My thoughts and prayers immediately went out -- still go out daily -- to all those impacted directly by those two events, especially the loved ones I discovered later that I lost. And early the next morning, I tried to put those emotions into words as I drafted a speech for my boss to give on the Senate floor.

Of course, there were funny anecdotes too: The time I stayed at our Capitol office until 4 am putting together a power point presentation on poster board for my boss to present to the entire party conference and managed to get locked out without my ID when I went upstairs to check the super-sized printer; trying to sound awake and coherent at 4 am in order to convince a stern officer that you are indeed a staffer and have a right to be there is pretty damn hard.

Even more hard? Having to show back up at work the next morning at 8 am and play "Vanna White", in charge of moving the poster boards around for your boss as he makes his presentation. That was the first time I made C-SPAN. (The second time was on my own accord, and the curious -- or masochistic -- may view it here. Sadly -- or not! -- I have been unable to find video of my Vanna White appearance.)

I loved politics, I loved so many of the people I met through politics -- many of whom are still very good friends. In fact, I should note those things are actually present tense: I do love politics, and I love the people I met through politics. Well, most of them. Unfortunately, many people in politics seem to think that working in politics means one should play politics. And though rare, the backstabbing and devious manipulations were still enough for me to call it quits.

To call it so quits, that to get away from it, I had to move across country, move eventually to a completely isolated cabin without TV and with only limited Internet access. And yet....

And yet.

I discovered I could not escape completely. As the truth is, I love politics; I love current events; I love discussion and debate -- reasoned and rational and informative discussion and debate. You know, that odd concept where you actually listen to the other person? Actually care to hear and understand what they are saying? What they are arguing for -- and, just as important, why?

This, of course!, doesn't mean you have to agree with them, or think they're right, or even think they're sane. It just means that their opinions matters as much as yours do, and should be heard. And a little secret? Actually listening to and thoroughly understanding "the other side" helps you: it helps you to formulate, articulate, and, most important, defend your views.

Funny that, huh. This bizarre little thing called democracy. And it's weird little requirements of things like majorities. And the strange little concept of persuasion. You know. That you actually have to be able to defend your own views...and not just to the choir, but to the -- shock! horror! other side.

Crazy talk.

And so that is why I received one of the best compliments of my life a few days ago. A friend who absolutely, completely, totally -- you know, superdupercalafragalistically -- disagrees with me on a lot of political issues said to me: "You don't froth. You drool intelligently."


Best. Compliment. Ever.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

On Pope Benedict at the Beginning

When Cardinal Ratzinger was picked as the new pope of the Roman Catholic Church back in 2005, National Review Online asked me to write a little something about him.

In light of his recent resignation, and the papal conclave about to begin that will pick the new Father of the Church, I thought it might be nice to reflect upon my earlier writing.

The original essay is posted here, and the text is below:


April 20, 2005 8:04 A.M. 

Habemus papam! Now, what does that mean?

Within moments of the announcement Tuesday, the media was already trying to “frame” the situation, labeling the new pope, Pope Benedict XVI, as “controversial,” “conservative”–as if they think he is afraid of modernity and progress. Even some Catholics have gotten this idea in their head: a theologian at the University of Notre Dame, the Rev. Richard P. McBrien, was quoted in Tuesday morning’s Washington Post, as dismissing Cardinal Ratzinger, “I think this homily shows he realizes he’s not going to be elected. He’s too much of a polarizing figure. If he were elected, thousands upon thousands of Catholics in Europe and the United States would roll their eyes and retreat to the margins of the church.”

Thank goodness for Catholic theologians, eh? (With all due apologies to my father, Catholic theologian Michael Novak [whose website may be found here].)

Perhaps McBrien ought to understand the Church must stand for something–or it will fall for anything. And what is the point in believing in something that does not seem to believe in anything? Perhaps McBrien ought to try reading some of Pope Benedict XVI’s writings, or listening to his arguments.

For example, when then-Cardinal Ratzinger said in May 2004: “The Council, in fact, wished to show that Christianity is not against reason, against modernity, but that on the contrary it is a help so that reason in its totality can work not only on technical questions, but also on human, moral and religious knowledge.”

That doesn’t sound exactly controversial, anti-modern, or, for that matter, polarizing. Or maybe it is this thought that McBrien finds polarizing (from October 2001): “The Church will continue to propose the great universal human values. Because, if law no longer has common moral foundations, it collapses insofar as it is law. From this point of view, the Church has a universal responsibility.”

The truth is, this new pastor of the flock is a gentle, but fiercely intelligent man. He has thought deeply about many of the pressing issues facing the citizens of the world–as well as the Catholic Church itself. He is indeed conservative, in the sense that he believes strongly that there are absolutes, rights and wrongs, and that the Church must make a stand on these. It has long struck me as laughable that somehow it is controversial to believe that the Church should continue to stand for such things as life (from the beginning to the end). What is more controversial? To embrace and hold on to long-held principles? Or to discard them like used tissue?

Long before Monday’s homily, Cardinal Ratzinger propounded about the dangers of relativism, of not believing that not only there is truth, but also that one can seek to understand it. As he noted in 2002, “I would say that today relativism predominates. It seems that whoever is not a relativist is someone who is intolerant. To think that one can understand the essential truth is already seen as something intolerant.” He has also pointed out this fundamental truth about Christianity itself: “Christianity is not “our” work; it is a Revelation; it is a message that has been consigned to us, and we have no right to reconstruct it as we like or choose.” In other words, if to be “progressive” or “modern” is to reconstruct Christianity as we like or choose, than that is abandoning Christianity.

This is not a wholly unpopular message. Interestingly enough, it is in those parishes that are “conservative” and those vocations that are “conservative” and those countries where the faith is still “conservative,” where the data shows that the Catholic numbers are growing. So it is clear that holding dear to Catholic Church principles is not controversial–it is in fact, expansive. So while this may leave the Church, in some communities, “on the margin of society” (as the cardinal put it), in many it does not–far from it.

That is not to say this is not–and will not be under Pope Benedict XVI–a vibrant, living, and breathing Church. The pope may understand that there are essential truths or principles that the Church must uphold–but he is also at heart a scholar and a pastor. He understands that faith is much like science–you cannot simply ignore those truths that are “inconvenient” to your thesis, and every day you must constantly seek truth.

Perhaps most important, though, is the pope’s understanding of the human condition itself. He knows–and has experienced himself–of the suffering and pain of life. But he has learned it’s redemptive value. As he so eloquently put it, “Anyone who really wanted to get rid of suffering would have to get rid of love before anything else, because there can be no love without suffering, because it always demands an element of self-sacrifice, because, given temperamental differences and the drama of situations, it will always bring with it renunciation and pain.”

This is not a man not of this world. This is a man who is firmly aware of its conflicts and despairs–and of its peace and joy. He is, indeed, the perfect “beast of burden” (his coat of arms reflects a bear to represent this sense as a beast of burden for the Church) for the Church to depend upon at this time in history. It seems the Holy Spirit was indeed at work over the last couple of days.

Jana Novak is currently working on a book on George Washington and his religion. She is the co-author of Tell Me Why: A Father Answers His Daughter's Questions About God and a part-time dogwalker who lives on Capitol Hill.

"DUH" UPDATE: I no longer live on Capitol Hill and no longer walk dogs except my own!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Mountain Time and other Conundrums

Ah the mountains. Ah living in the mountains when you're not originally from them....
Can we say "an experience" boys and girls?
As that is, in fact, the rub. There is a huge difference between "mountain folk" and the "Johnny/Jonnie come latelys". You know. Me. The folks who have moved to the mountains sometime after they were born. Well, to be honest, it's more along the lines of that they moved to the mountains sometime after they became an adult. And no, I will not argue about or even define what "an adult" is or when one becomes one.
Ah screw it. You know I can never resist an argument. So I will in fact define what and when an adult is. It is when you.... You know - ah, screw it again. I have no clue. Can't even pretend I have a clue. An adult is someone "generally" mature and independent. Someone who "generally" has had their personality and values and character formed. So it happens sometime "generally" after 18. But the truth is, not everyone ever actually becomes "an adult" . Ever. So that means I have to admit I have no final definition or leg -- make that soap box -- to stand on.... At all. Shocker I know. No, not that I have no leg or soap box to stand on -- but that I'm admitting it....  
And the truth is, I also have no leg -- make that soap box -- to stand on in terms of whether I may be mountain folk or not. No matter how much I'd like to claim to now be mountain folk -- as I did in my Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes blog post back in November 2011 (!!! More than two years ago!!! Man was I pathetic grasping wanna-be joiner...) -- the simple truth is that I am not. For one very fundamental reason: I still find the actions and decisions of mountain folks to be....odd. Confusing at times (times???). Conundrums in fact.

For example, yesterday, in my blog post The Waiting Game, I referenced the idea of "mountain time". This basically comes down to the idea of "it will happen when it happens". Oh no, not in reference to some philosophical Zen state of being -- though I am quite certain that me obtaining that state would help me handle the waiting -- but in the sense of "they will get to it when they damn well want to get to it."

They may be busy -- picking up a new project in the meantime, or, much more likely, skiing or snowboarding; they may forget about you -- distracted by skiing or snowboarding or alcohol or a new project that came up in the 10 minutes since they've talked to you; they may just....want to get to it when they damn well want to get to it.

Obviously this is all so very clear and obvious and understandable to every one -- except me. Clearly I am the idiot. Right?
Um really. No agreeing there. It was a rhetorical question. Do you know what rhetorical means???  Seriously people.... Sheez.  
And so I get driven to despair waiting around for folks to show up when they said they'd show up. And no one else thinks I have a leg -- a soap box -- to stand on when I complain that it's ridiculous. Inconsiderate! Rude! Fancy terrible with raisins in it!

Okay, I'll get back down off the soap box... But only to point out another, related conundrum of mountain folk.

Virtually every one I have met in the mountains not only owns a cell phone, but also uses it regularly to text. In some cases, this is because cell reception can be so erratic in some of the more isolated areas that texts are the only form of communication that you can ensure will go through. In fact, it is why I finally added a texting plan to my own cell phone plan.

Yet despite this fact, very few of these mountain folks seem to realize that one can use a text to alert others of your arrival or lack thereof.... You know. That little thing called "providing notice"? Or perhaps common courtesy?

Sigh. Grrrrrr.....

But that's apparently just it. Where I come from, alerting someone to your status is considered, well, par for the course. Standard operating procedure. Basic, well, manners. In the mountains, par for the course, standard operating procedure, basic manners, is to understand that there is a lot going on, many projects -- and yes, activities -- that require one's attention, and well.... They will get to you when they damn well get to you.

Why is this important? And why am I noting it not -- entirely -- as a criticism? Because mountain folk behave this way due to the fact that this is why you choose to live in the mountains: there is a lot more going on, many projects -- and yes, especially!, activities -- that require one's attention. You don't live in the mountains to work yourself to the bone. You don't live in the mountains to lose touch with yourself, to lose touch with your soul. You live in the mountains to gain touch with yourself. To discover your soul.

I guess that means that, after all, these are not conundrums. Well, not for mountain folk. Only for me. As clearly it means I am the one who needs to learn, to change. I am the one who needs to continue getting in touch with myself, continue discovering my soul.

Or some sort of crazy, bull shit, yada yada, corny crap like that....

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Waiting Game

As long as one doesn't live in their car or in, say, a tree, one will learn that housing often requires a lot of waiting. The kind of waiting associated with expecting a professional to arrive -- whether it is the electrician, the plumber, the cable guy, or the handyman. And don't even mention the waiting for parts to arrive!

Indeed, living in four walls and under one roof is a lesson in playing the waiting game.

Granted, nothing compares to the cabin. I'm not sure if that was a waiting game though -- perhaps a "waiting for the next thing to go wrong" game, or a "waiting to see if the flood/wildfire/animal will kill me" game, or simply a "waiting for it to force me into a nervous breakdown" game. So.... Perhaps not exactly the most fun of games; not exactly games that folks want to play around the dining room table with the kids.


Don't try this at home kids! 

So. At least my "new" waiting game at my rental in town is a tad bit more fun. Or at least a tad bit less dangerous. After all, here it is the usual: waiting for the window guy to show up, waiting for the duct cleaner guy to show up, waiting for the handyman to show up. Which is what I did today. So far, all day. Still waiting....

Well, considering I was stuck at home all day today -- or at least within a 20 minute vicinity -- one would think I would be productive, right? Right?

Of course, considering I've barely left the house since last Tuesday night, that might be a bit ambitious. And let's face it, we all know I'm not exactly ambitious. Well, not exactly in the "if it requires extra effort" way. I'm plenty ambitious. I'm just pretty sure there's a success fairy out there that I haven't met yet....

Here fairy fairy..... Here fairy!  Here fairy fairy.... 

Okay, so perhaps there isn't a success fairy, but you know.... Hope springs eternal! Apparently even in terms of imaginary friends...

Which I sometimes think my handyman is. Great guy, does great work, but, as they say, there is "real time" and there is "mountain time." If you have never heard this phrase before (nor it's synonyms of "beach time" or "island time" or "southern time" or ....), it has a pretty simple meaning: it will happen when it happens.

For example, they may tell you they will show up at 9 am on Tuesday, and if you're lucky, they will call or text you at 10 pm on Wednesday to tell you that they're sorry and maybe Thursday. And if you're lucky again? They'll text you on Friday at almost 7 pm, offering to stop by that night -- or maybe Sunday. And if you're really really really lucky, on Sunday morning he'll offer you a "window" of time during which he [might] stop by.

And apparently I am really really really lucky. As I'm still sitting at home on a Sunday, watching the minutes of that window tick away.

Perspective though? My house hasn't flooded or been threatened by wildfire, the septic tank hasn't collapsed, the furnace hasn't blown, the well pump hasn't cracked, the radiant in-floor heating hasn't leaked, the deck hasn't been destroyed by falling ice, and I haven't been stalked by a mountain lion. As yes, all of those things have happened to me at the true Murphy's Cabin. Every. Single. One.

No. I'm not kidding. And no I'm not smiling. In fact, I'm reaching for my Tennessee Whiskey just thinking about it. And getting a headache. Seriously. It drove me to drink before -- and even made me cry -- and now just the memory of it is enough to ensure that I have not just a fully stocked "liquor cabinet" in my kitchen pantry, I have a fully stocked "emergency supply" in my garage.

As really. If you might get trapped by water or fire or mountain lion, or might not have indoor plumbing or heat, then you better damn well have something to cry into...

And well, if you might have to remember these things at times (like when I re-read past blog posts), then you also better damn well have something to cry into... Right before you raise a toast to the fact you no longer have to suffer anything worse than waiting for a handy man to show up to look at some cable wiring.


Perspective. Do it.

Still waiting...

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Letter of the Law

It's funny, at least to me, to contemplate my personality at times.

I have mentioned before
(or perhaps just in an online dating profile, when I tried such things -- so who knows where I mentioned it.... I do, after all, have the attention span of gnat.... What was I talking about? Oh yes....) 
that I am the epitome of contradictions.

Perhaps the best example is my attitude towards rules. I am -- oddly -- someone who believes very strongly in following the rules and gets nervous about breaking them; yet at the same time, I am someone who also believes strongly in the adage "It is better to ask for forgiveness than for permission."

It makes no sense, and yet it makes perfect sense. Perhaps one way to look at it is the concept of "the letter of the law" as opposed to "the spirit of the law". 

All of you, I am sure, are familiar with that concept, right? Or should some public shaming happen? (Sigh.)

Fine. I will enlighten those of you scratching your heads:
The letter of the law versus the spirit of the law is an idiomatic antithesis. When one obeys the letter of the law but not the spirit, one is obeying the literal interpretation of the words (the "letter") of the law, but not the intent of those who wrote the law. Conversely, when one obeys the spirit of the law but not the letter, one is doing what the authors of the law intended, though not necessarily adhering to the literal wording.
You may read more on Wikipedia, here, but hopefully it is quite clear at this point. It is about obeying either the literal meaning behind a law (the "letter") or the about obeying the concept of the law (the "spirit").

As an aside, I actually disagree with the concept of the spirit being exactly equal to the "intent" of the law -- I'm not so sure we can always actually know what the authors of the law intended. It is why I prefer to use the terminology "concept of the law" -- as the authors intent may be very different than how we are interpreting it today.

But now you tempt me with a discourse (soap box included!) on the Constitution and the varying interpretations of it in present day, and.... I'm sure we all agree that allowing me up on a soap box, especially when politics is on the line, is a very bad idea. A very, very bad idea. Seriously.

So. To return to my original point about contradictions. And my personality. As this is all about me, right? Right?

I am on this random tangent because today I was reminded of a great anecdote from my childhood. Granted, I can't verify this anecdote, as, well, I actually don't remember it. But several of my parent's friends have told me about this, and several unrelated sources means something is true, right? Right?

Growing up, my parents threw a lot of dinner parties. They were actually amazing affairs in retrospect, as my parents were not wealthy, and unlike every one else in their professional circle, there was no "staff" to assist with regular dinner parties. Instead, my mother had several tricks she used: try to have a housecleaner come that day if possible, but if not -- as of course it's not like we had one on staff! We had no staff! -- simply dim the lights and use a lot of candles; have a couple of simple meals you can cook and don't be embarrassed to repeat them regularly -- for my mother, this was lasagna, a steak or roast of some sort with pesto tortellini from the local Italian deli, and a large salad that she called an "antipasto salad" as she would roll Italian salami and mortadella and provolone slices into cigar-like scrolls and decorate the edge of the bowl; and, of course, the most important, alcohol -- lots and lots of alcohol. Perhaps it is no wonder that my parent's dinner parties were incredibly popular....

The next most important part about my growing up was that my parents had some strict rules, especially about the times we kids were in public. The most important one was the idea that children are seen and not heard. This meant not only out in public -- ie, when they took us out to restaurants, etc -- but also "in" in public, as when my parents hosted dinner parties. The simple lesson was that we had to be on our very best behavior, obviously preferably all the time, but absolutely when others were around. As a friend of mine put it today, the idea was that it was a "privilege" to join my parents at "public events" and we had to "earn" that privilege through our behavior -- actually through a track record of behavior. And a big part of that was to be respectful, and to understand "adult time", also known as "be seen and not heard".

Well. Well..... Apparently I started my contradictions early. It seems that at one of my parent's dinner parties, when I was still young enough that the rule was a strict seen and not heard, I did exactly that: I was seen, but I was absolutely not heard....

Apparently I would appear downstairs at regular intervals in my best outfits. I believe one family friend told me that it was approximately every 15 to 20 minutes for about an hour and a half. I would walk regally down the stairs in my "finery", stroll into the living room where every one was congregated, twirl about and show off my outfit, walk very regally back to the stairs, pause dramatically to acknowledge my "audience", and then slowly ascend the staircase -- all in absolute and complete silence.

Walk, primp, acknowledge adoring fans, repeat.

And repeat.

In silence.

Letter of the law though, right? Right? Right! Which is exactly what the family friends have told me. All my parents could do was -- helplessly (snicker, snort) -- watch, shrug their shoulders, and say: Well, she's not actually breaking the rules, so we can't get mad at her, can we?

And that's the truth, isn't it? I was not breaking the "letter" of the law, though clearly I was breaking the "intent" of the law. I honored the law at the very same time that I flouted the law. And sometimes, isn't that the point?

So yes, I do honor laws, and embrace them -- in fact, I think you cannot and should not flout or disobey a law unless you understand it fully and completely. You must understand the true letter of the law in order to understand -- truly -- the spirit of the law. So without understanding the letter you cannot -- should not -- disobey it in favor of the spirit.

Ah, but once you do..... Life is in fact a world of "walk, primp, acknowledge adoring fans, repeat".