Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Death of America's Suburban Dream

From The Guardian:
This pattern of “white flight” to the suburbs was characteristic of American metro areas until the 1970s and 1980s, when newer suburbs – bigger, more spacious, more contemporary – began stealing residents away from the older inner-ring suburbs. And by the 1990s, more minorities were beginning to follow the same aspirational path as the former white city dwellers before them. Just as previous generations did, minorities sought larger homes, quieter environments and better schools. And white residents who craved insulation from the perils of urban living now saw it coming to their front lawns – again.

The recent events in Ferguson, Missouri have brought this tension into sharp focus. Ferguson, an inner-ring suburb about 10 miles northwest of St Louis, was a city in transition long before officer Darren Wilson shot the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. In 1990, three-quarters of Ferguson’s 22,000 residents were white; just 20 years later, by 2010, nearly three-quarters of them were black. These two groups of Fergusonians share little in common. In 2012, the median age of white residents in Ferguson was nearly 49; for black residents, it was only 29. The median household income of whites was nearly $52,000; for blacks, less than $30,000. The story of Ferguson is truly a tale of two suburbs. (Read more.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

St. Jeanne de Valois

From The Freelance History Writer:
Jeanne was known as Jeanne de France, Jeanne de Valois and Joan de France. She was born on April 23, 1464, the second daughter of King Louis XI, the Spider King and his second wife Charlotte of Savoy. While she was still an infant, a marriage was discussed between her and King Louis’ second cousin, Louis, Duc d’Orleans who was a child of two at the time. The King was often way from court, administering the kingdom and he entrusted Jeanne and her older sister Anne to the care of François de Beaujeu, Seigneur de Lignière and his wife Anne de Culan for their education. The Seigneur and his wife had no children so they doted on Jeanne who suffered from a visibly hunched back. They taught the girls poetry, mathematics, genealogy, embroidery, painting and how to play the lute. Jeanne is described as having a dark and plain face and a short, deformed figure. The Seigneur would hide her behind his robes when the King was approaching them on a visit. The king would exclaim how ugly Jeanne was. As Jeanne became older, her deformities became more evident.

The tutors were deeply faithful Catholics and imparted a solid grounding in faith for their entire household. When Jeanne was very young, King Louis asked his daughter to name the confessor she wanted assigned to her. The only name she knew was Friar Jean de La Fontaine, Guardian of the Franciscan community in Amboise. The king approved and La Fontaine became her confessor. Jeanne began to take great comfort in prayer and would spend many hours in the castle chapel. The Seigneur even had a path paved between the castle and the chapel to make the walk easier for Jeanne in poor weather. The Friar admitted Jeanne into the Third Order of the St. Francis. In 1471, King Louis required everyone in the kingdom to practice praying the “Hail Mary” in an effort to gain peace. Jeanne became fervently attached to this prayer. That same year, she wrote that the Virgin Mary gave her a prophecy that before she died, Jeanne would found a religious order in her honor.

Louis, Duc d’Orléans was the great-grandson of King Charles V and the son of Charles, Duc d’Orléans and had a claim to the French throne. When Louis was fourteen and considered of marriageable age and Jeanne was twelve, their marriage was discussed. The Duc was against the marriage and made this known to the king. King Louis threatened to make him a monk and hinted he could easily be killed in the guise of a monk’s habit. The Duc finally resigned himself to the marriage but told his friends it would be a marriage in name only. Jeanne approved of the marriage but was under no illusions. She was devoted to the Duc but he paid no attention to her.

The couple’s wedding celebration was performed on September 8, 1476 in Montrichard. During the ceremony the bridegroom supposedly said he would be better off dead than marrying Jeanne. After the wedding, King Louis intimidated the Duc and compelled him to visit and sleep with his wife several times a year. When the Duc once threatened to end the marriage early on, King Louis put him in prison. (Read more.)

Walking Helps Us Think

From The New Yorker:
Since at least the time of peripatetic Greek philosophers, many other writers have discovered a deep, intuitive connection between walking, thinking, and writing. (In fact, Adam Gopnik wrote about walking in The New Yorker just two weeks ago.) “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live!” Henry David Thoreau penned in his journal. “Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” Thomas DeQuincey has calculated that William Wordsworth—whose poetry is filled with tramps up mountains, through forests, and along public roads—walked as many as a hundred and eighty thousand miles in his lifetime, which comes to an average of six and a half miles a day starting from age five.

What is it about walking, in particular, that makes it so amenable to thinking and writing? The answer begins with changes to our chemistry. When we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs—including the brain. Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.

The way we move our bodies further changes the nature of our thoughts, and vice versa. Psychologists who specialize in exercise music have quantified what many of us already know: listening to songs with high tempos motivates us to run faster, and the swifter we move, the quicker we prefer our music. Likewise, when drivers hear loud, fast music, they unconsciously step a bit harder on the gas pedal. Walking at our own pace creates an unadulterated feedback loop between the rhythm of our bodies and our mental state that we cannot experience as easily when we’re jogging at the gym, steering a car, biking, or during any other kind of locomotion. When we stroll, the pace of our feet naturally vacillates with our moods and the cadence of our inner speech; at the same time, we can actively change the pace of our thoughts by deliberately walking more briskly or by slowing down.

Because we don’t have to devote much conscious effort to the act of walking, our attention is free to wander—to overlay the world before us with a parade of images from the mind’s theatre. This is precisely the kind of mental state that studies have linked to innovative ideas and strokes of insight. Earlier this year, Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz of Stanford published what is likely the first set of studies that directly measure the way walking changes creativity in the moment. They got the idea for the studies while on a walk. “My doctoral advisor had the habit of going for walks with his students to brainstorm,” Oppezzo says of Schwartz. “One day we got kind of meta.” (Read more.)

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Satirical Print of Charles X

From Vive la Reine. Share

The Trouble with Selfies

From Wendy Shalit:
The pressure on girls to take sexy selfies today comes out of a culture that routinely equates modesty with shame, instead of recognizing it for what it really is: an impulse that protects what is precious and intimate. Teenage girls need to know that when boys ask them for naked pictures, they can—and should—say no. It’s not merely that “sexted” pictures can find their way onto social media (even without the aid of hackers, they seem to have a way of slipping their iPhone collars and circulating with astonishing ease). A better reason to say no is that, having set a higher standard, maybe someone will write a love song for you instead.

And if he doesn’t, who cares? Modesty is, at its essence, having an internal sense of self, not needing others’ approval of how you look (naked or otherwise) to know that you have a unique purpose in this world, and certainly not needing all your friends to “like” your Facebook post in order to know that you’re great. (Read more.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Crucifix from the Tuileries, 1833

From Vive la Reine. Share

The Shadow of Cain and the Time to Weep

The Holy Father speaks. From VIS:
It is the task of the wise to recognise errors, to feel pain, to repent, to beg for pardon and to cry. With this 'What does it matter to me?' in their hearts, the merchants of war perhaps have made a great deal of money, but their corrupted hearts have lost the capacity to weep. Cain did not weep. He was not able to weep. The shadow of Cain hangs over us today in this cemetery. It is seen here. It has been seen from 1914 right up to our own time.
With the heart of a son, a brother, a father, I ask each of you, indeed for all of us, to have a conversion of heart: to move on from 'What does it matter to me?', to shed tears: for each one of the fallen of this 'senseless massacre', for all the victims of the mindless wars, in every age. Brothers, humanity needs to weep, and this is the time to weep”. (Read more.)
Entire homily, HERE.

Is it the beginning of World War III?


The Politics of Nostalgia

From Sancrucensis:
The great transformation that brought the modern world into being changed things, but this transformation took many centuries, and many resisted it—especially Catholics. When revolutionaries killed King Loius XVI of France, Pope Pius VI commented as follows:
The most Christian King, Louis XVI, was condemned to death by an impious conspiracy and this judgement was carried out. We shall recall to you in a few words the ordering and motives of this sentence. The National Assembly had no right or authority to pronounce it. After abolishing the monarchy, the best form of government, it had transferred the civil power in its entirety to the people, which acts neither by reason nor by good counsel, which does not conform itself in any way to just ideas, which evaluates few matters in accordance with truth and a great number in accordance with opinion; which is always inconsistent, can easily be deceived and drawn to every excess, and is ungrateful, arrogant and cruel; which rejoices in slaughter and in the shedding of human blood, and draws pleasure from watching the sufferings which precede the last breath, just as men in former times used to go to watch gladiators die in the ancient amphitheatres.[2]
At the time, his reaction was by no means extraordinary.

I want to examine why it is that today most people think about democracy and monarchy so differently from Pius VI. I will first consider the view of politics that one finds in the greatest thinkers of the Middle Ages: the ideal of Catholic monarchy that comes from a synthesis of classical philosophy and Christian theology. I then want to explain why modernity sees democracy as the best form of government, and how this is connected to the modern rejection of classical philosophy and the Christian faith. I shall argue that modern preference for democracy is unreasonable, that it flows from a false conception of the end or goal of political life, a false conception of the common good, and a false conception of the source of political authority. And then I shall ask whether any practical consequences can be drawn from my position; after all, it is hardly likely that there will be a restoration of the monarchy here in central Europe any time soon, and it is unclear how one could work for such a thing, if at all. I shall argue that nevertheless there are practical consequences—although it is not feasible to work directly for a restoration, one can work toward a more authentic realization of the common good. Moreover, seeing through the false self-evidence of liberal politics allows one to gain a necessary critical distance from the ideology of our time, thus allowing one to resist certain evils more effectively. (Read more.)