Tag Archives: alcohol

Some Standard Wisdom on Brain Pickling

One of the recurrent themes in the articles that caught my eye while reading through the 1880 editions of the Christian Standard was the confidence with which they trumpeted the scientific knowledge of their day. Looking at the science of a bygone era, in edition to being tremendously amusing, ought to give us pause today about our own scientific hubris and force us to wonder how future generations will perceive our cutting-edge thought, particularly as it filters down to the popular level. This piece was copied by the Standard from Scientific American, which is still in publication.

[…], by far the greatest anatomist of the age, used to say that he could distinguish in the darkest room by one stroke of the scalpel the brain of the inebriate from that of a person who lived soberly. Now and then he could congratulate his class upon the possession of a drunkard’s brain, admirably fitted from its hardness and more completed preservation for the purpose of demonstration. When the anatomist wishes to preserve a human brain for any length of time, he effects that object by keeping that organ in a vessel of alcohol. From a soft pulpy substance , it then becomes comparatively hard, but the inebriate, anticipating the anatomist, begins the indurating process before death, begins it while the brain remains the consecrated temple of the soul while, while its delicate and gossamer-like tissues still throb with the pulse of heaven-born life. Strange infatuation this, to desecrate the God-like. Terrible enchantment that dries up all the fountains of generous feelings, petrifies all the tender humanities and sweet charities of life, leaving only a brain of lead and a heart of stone.

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Lipscomb and the Fiscal Cliff

Having heard more than my fill of partisan bickering over the fiscal cliff, I am reminded of the wise words of David Lipscomb:

The staple of Northern politics is abuse of the South, of the Democratic party and men. The staple of Southern politics is abuse of the North, and the Republican party and men. Now, if all were to unite in abusing Mexico and its President, or were they to take in Mexico, and with it, all unite in baying the man in the moon, and vent their spite and spleen upon him, they would be just as happy, as free, as wealthy, as they are now in abusing each other.

There is not and never has been any principle involving the moral or material good of the people in politics.

Sectional party alignments have changed since 1880. The nature of politics has not.
For whatever reason, the above quote reminds me of this much later witticism by T. R. Burnett about the Spanish-American War that I’ve been meaning to share:

Congress has decided to tax beer $2 per barrel, to raise money to fight Spain. Now if Congress will tax Spain in order to raise revenue to fight beer, the thing will be evenly adjusted. Beer is a worse enemy of American than Spain can possibly be.

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Unorthodox Teen Discipline Prompts Criticism

In a story surprising equally for the unapologetic ingenuity of its protagonist and the gross oversensitivity it uncovers in the general public, ABC reports that one woman has taken her fight against inappropriate social media behavior deep into enemy territory:

At first, it might seem like your typical case of modern parental discipline: A Texas mom has prohibited her 12-year-old daughter from using the photo-sharing site Instagram after she caught the girl posting a photo of herself holding an unopened bottle of vodka with a caption that read “I sure wish I could drink this.”

But it’s what ReShonda Tate Billingsley did next that has people buzzing: Billinglsey, a prominent Houston-area author, had her daughter post a new picture of herself to Instagram earlier this month holding a sign reading, “Since I want to post photos of me holding liquor, I am obviously not ready for social media and will be taking a hiatus until I learn what I should (and) should not post. Bye-bye.”

Billingsley then posted the same photo – in which only the lower half of her daughter’s face was visible – to her own personal Facebook page and it has since gone viral. It has seen 11,000 shares from Facebook alone, not to mention attention from various media outlets.

It was a clever move on the part of Billingsley and effective, apparently so much so that the daughter begged for a spanking as an alternative. What I love about this, particularly when compared to corporal punishment, is there is a logical relationship between the “crime” and the “punishment.” Most obviously, if children abuse social media, they should have their access to social media restricted. Moreover, with the theoretically limitless reach of online behavior, the act of forcing her daughter to own up to her mistakes is equally essential. When I committed some indiscretion against someone, some public act of bad behavior, as a child, I was required to apologize to all those who were effected by said behavior. As Instagram was the arena of her malfeasance, then it is appropriate that she should own up to her mistakes through in the same place.

For some reason, however, the “public shaming” has apparently made Billingsley the target of serious criticism. Aside from the presumptuousness of child-rearing professionals and the public at large meddling in other people’s parenting in ways they would never permit in their own families, the real problem with this is the labeling of the second picture as the embarrassment rather than the first. It is precisely this misconception that Billingsley’s choice of discipline can serve to correct. The shameful act is not and should not be taking public responsibility for one’s actions and accepting the consequences of them, as Billingsley made her daughter do. It is the careless and deeply inappropriate act of a twelve year old announcing to the world how much she would love to be able to drink hard liquor. When the child’s aberrant behavior ceases to shock and the act of publicly taking responsibility offends, it becomes clear that the world is hopelessly confused about what is truly shameful.

And just so that we can all gain a little perspective, let’s all take a look at this mother in Mexico City who also employed an unorthodox punishment:

A mother in Mexico has been arrested on suspicion of gouging out the eyes of her 5-year-old son during a ceremony…The mother is believed to have removed the eyes with her bare hands because the boy refused to close them during the ceremony, police told a news conference.

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Cow News

Here’s a nice, light change of pace as we close out May. My favorite part about this story of brave Boston bovids (see, I can be alliterative as well, CBS News) is not the inebriated cattle but the scared and screaming “young adults.” C’mon, folks. They’re cows. Do the right thing and offer them some pretzels:

“[Six cows] crashed a backyard party Sunday night and started drinking the beer, police said, according to CBS Boston…According to a report, officers said about a dozen young adults – as in people – had been drinking beer at a picnic table when the cows showed up.

‘I could hear them [the partygoers] screaming in the backyard and I hoped they weren’t getting trampled,’ Lt. James Riter told WickedLocal Boxford…’I saw one cow drinking the beer on its way down as it spilled off the table…Some of the cows were also picking through the empties in the recycling bin…They just went in and helped themselves.'”


The Wisdom of the Pilgrim

The following are some interesting quotes I collected quite a while ago while reading The Candid Narrations of a Pilgrim to His Spiritual Father. The story, more commonly known in English as The Way of the Pilgrim, is of a 19th century Russian mendicant practitioner of hesychasm. In addition to being a wonderful tale and an edifying spiritual text, the narrative offers an enticing look into the Russian tradition of hesychasm and the idiosyncrasies of Slavic monasticism with its emphasis on starets. I imagine, were I to take it up again, I would find many more inspirational quotes. Below are simply the notes I had from some years ago:

By the grace of God I am a Christian, by my deeds a great sinner, and by calling a homeless rover of the lowest status in life.

And one of the most lamentable things is the vanity of elementary knowledge which drives people to measure the Divine by a human yardstick.

…from now on call on the name of Jesus without counting. Submit yourself to the will of God in humility, looking to Him for assistance. I firmly believe that He will not abandon you but direct your steps.

And now, I am wandering about repeating incessantly the Prayer of Jesus. To me it has greater value than anything else on earth. Occasionally I walk seventy versts or so and do not feel it at all. I am conscious of only one thing, my prayer. When biter cold pierces me, I say it more eagerly and warm up in no time. When I am hungry I begin to call on the Name of Jesus more often and forget about food. When I am ill and rheumatic pains set in my back and legs, I concentrate on the prayer and no longer notice the discomfort. When people to me wrong, my wrath and indignation are quickly forgotten as soon as I remember the sweetness of the prayer of Jesus. In a way I have become a half-witted person; I have no anxiety and no interest in the vanities of the world, for which I care no longer.

And when I prayed in my heart bearing all this in mind, everything about me appeared to be pleasing and lovely. It was as though the trees, the grass, the birds, the earth, the air and the light were saying they existed for the sake of man, in testimony and proof of the love of God for mankind. It was as if they were saying that everything prayed and praised God.

A soldier’s response to a monk who suggested reading the Gospels as a cure for alcoholism:

I listened to him and Said: ‘How can your Gospels help me when my own efforts and medical treatment have failed to stop me from drinking?” I spoke in that way because I never read the Gospels. ‘Don’t say that,’ answered the monk. ‘I am sure it will help you.’ And he brought me this very book the following day. As I glanced at it and tried to read a little, I said to the monk: ‘No, I won’t take it. I can’t understand it and I am not familiar with Church Slavonic.’ The monk, however, insisted that there is grace-giving power in the words of the Gospels, for they relate what our Lord himself said. ‘It is unimportant if you do not understand; just go on reading,’ he urged me. ‘A saint said once upon a time: you may not understand the Word of God, but the devils do, and tremble.’

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Compelling Morality: Our Redundant History

It is in no sense an overstatement to say that Gaines M. Foster’s Moral Reconstruction: Christian Lobbyists and the Federal Legislation of Morality, 1865-1920 is a near perfect blend of historical insight and timeliness. Foster’s simple book has simple scope: the examination of the rise of the Christian lobby in late nineteenth century America and the moral legislation it pursued. He makes clear, however, from the first sentence of the introduction that this is not intended to be a purely academic exercise. The rise of the Christian right in the late 1970s has made matters of the origins and precedents of religious lobbying and moral legislation issues of extreme importance for contemporary American moral polity. Foster convincingly suggests that the strongest, most germane parallel to the modern movement for moral reform is the late nineteenth century campaign to revise the moral character of the nation. The rise of the Christian lobby was more than merely a political shift or, as the lobbyists undoubtedly believed, an awakening of the American moral conscious in the face of some novel evil. It was a dramatic cultural and philosophical shift away from antebellum theories of states’ rights, personal liberty, and moral suasion into new concepts of nationalism and corporate social responsibility. In this, and countless other nuances of Foster’s book, there are striking ideological parallels to more recent impulses in American politics. In the interest of brevity, however, there are two points from Foster’s work which stand out as especially noteworthy for reflection. Continue reading

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