Once upon a time, there was a boy who wanted to be a singer. Only problem was, he was tone-deaf, couldn’t sing a note. He saw all these people around him who seemed to be able to sing effortlessly from childhood; but if he even tried to join in on “Happy Birthday,” people looked at him funny. When he auditioned for a school musical, he was laughed off the stage. It seemed like the ability to carry a tune was something you were born with or weren’t, and he wasn’t. Over time, he gave up on his dream.
But one day he heard a guy say he had been tone-deaf and learned to sing, and he decided he would give it one more try. He did a lot of research, and discovered other tone-deaf people who had taught themselves to sing. He studied, and found out there were other ways to hit the right notes. He worked hard for years, got lessons, went through a lot of ups and downs and embarrassing bad performances, and one night it all came together when he won a karaoke contest. He was so happy, he decided to write a book to help other people like himself.
When it was published, some people thanked him for it, but most just laughed at him. Why, singing isn’t something you have to learn! You “just do it”; just throw your head back and let it rip. What a loser, to have to learn something so obvious! And anyone who could profit from such a book must be an even bigger loser. No real man would have to go through all that; he’d just apply some willpower and do it right from the start.
Moral of the story: if you want to learn how to do something, ask someone else who had to learn it. Don’t ask people for whom it came naturally. They couldn’t teach you if they wanted to, and most likely they don’t.
This is a comment I intended to leave at Vox Populi, but it went over the 4096 character limit, so that gave me a reason to put it here. It’s an attempt by a Latin duffer (me) to offer some commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:21 based on the Vulgate, in response to a request there. The context is whether Paul was telling slaves to remain slaves or to free themselves if possible.
I’m no scholar, but I’ll take a shot at it. Here’s the Vulgate I’m looking at, if anyone wants to look for himself. The English translation there is very literal. I’m actually not sure if it’s the Douay or the early KJV, but they should be virtually identical here anyway.
First I’d back up a bit for context. Verse 17 says, “But as the Lord hath distributed to every one, as God hath called every one: so let him walk.” That’s verbatim from the Latin, to my eye. The RSV Catholic Edition (RSV-CE, which we Catholics borrowed back from the RSV of the KJV in 1966, taking out the thees and thous) puts it: “Let every one lead the life which the Lord has assigned to him, and in which God has called him.”
So St. Paul’s talking here about not making changes in your worldly life, but focusing on God. Verse 18 says if you’re circumcised, don’t “procure uncircumcision” (maybe there was some sort of ritual to revoke it?), and if you’re not circumcised, don’t get snipped. Verse 19 says that’s “nothing but observance of the commandments of God” (again a literal translation); and as Paul says elsewhere, Jesus, as the New Covenant, supersedes the old laws. Then verse 20, literally: “Let everyone stay in which calling he was called in.” Or a smoother translation: “Every one should remain in the state in which he was called.”
So the context coming into verse 21 is: don’t waste time and energy changing your situation in this life; put that effort into being a good Christian and doing the Lord’s work because He’s coming back before you know it. Then verse 21, which I’ll break it down since you asked about it:
- servus (slave) vocatus (called) es (you were): I’m not sure how they know this is a question, but the meaning is something like: A slave, were you called? Or more clearly: Were you called, being a slave? Or: Were you a slave when you were called?” It’s not “Were you called a slave?” or “Were you called to be a slave?” Those would be different in Latin.
- non (not) sit (let it be) tibi (to you) curae (of care/concern): Let it not be of concern to you.
- sed et (but/and/also) si (if) potes (you are able) liber (free) fieri (to be made) magis (even more, rather, instead) utere (make use of [it]): But if you are able to be made free, even more/rather/instead make use of it.
It’s all straightforward except for that “magis,” which has a range of possible meanings including those three. (Latin adverbs are a pain in the ass that way.) If you translate it as “even more,” then it sounds like Paul is saying: if you have a chance to be free, try all the harder to use it. If you translate it as “rather” or “instead,” then he’s saying: instead of trying to get free, make use of your position to do the work of the Lord. It seems to me the latter translation fits the context of the previous few verses much better (and the context of all Paul’s letters), and it better reflects the overall sense of the word I get from the Latin dictionary. He just said not to change your state in life — even the state of your foreskin — why would he now say the opposite, in the very next breath?
For more context, verse 22 then uses the concept of earthly slavery as a symbol: “For he that is called in the Lord, being a slave, is the freeman of the Lord. Likewise, he that is called, being free, is the slave of Christ.” In other words (as I read it), one’s earthly freedom or slavery is of no importance next to the fact that Christ frees us while also making us slaves to Him.
So my take would be that he wasn’t giving practical instructions to slaves at all; but using slavery, like circumcision, to make a point about putting aside earthly cares and focusing on Jesus Christ. My final answer to the question would be that Paul is telling them to make use of their slavery, not of the opportunity to be free.
And here’s the note from the Navarre Catholic study bible on verses 17-24: “Some Corinthians may have been misapplying the consequences of being ‘reborn’ through Baptism, making out that it brought about a total change in a person’s life, not only internally but externally as well. The Apostle explains (by giving two examples — circumcision and slavery) that external circumstances do not determine or inhibit a person’s Christian life; in fact, God designs these circumstances as a positive help for Christian living.”
No, that’s not a disease of the respiratory system. With Synod 2015 wrapping up, I’d better get my predictions posted so I can look smart later. (By the way, the context of this post is the Catholic faith and that the Church should follow it. Comments about the validity of Church teaching or the authority of the papacy will be deleted. I’m not opposed to doing apologetics in other posts sometime, but that’s not the point of this one, and if I let it go there, the purpose of this post will be lost. Please restrict comments to the topic.)
First, a look back to see if we can learn from history. In 1963, in the midst of Vatican II, Pope John XXIII created a commission to study the question of birth control. Over the next few years, this group grew to dozens of members, eventually including several bishops. Its role was entirely advisory, and it had no authority to change anything, but a majority of its members recommended that the pope allow some form of contraception for married couples. Gaudium et spes, one of the documents to come out of the Council, seemed to suggest that such a thing might be possible.
In the end, in 1968, Pope Paul VI released Humanae Vitae, reaffirming Catholic teaching that completely bans all use of artificial contraception. But the damage had already been done. Simply by considering the question for several years, the Vatican had given Catholics the impression that the teaching was likely to change. After all, Vatican II seemed to be changing everything else. The Mass was changing radically; Communion rails and high altars were being torn out and replaced with tables and carpeted mezzanines to accommodate a shift in theology about the Mass. Priests and nuns were trading in their cassocks and habits for sweaters and pantsuits. Most Protestant denominations had already reversed their positions on birth control, so it seemed like this change was inevitable.
What are the kids supposed to think? What will they think? If the parents were confident about the rule and their reasons for it, it wouldn’t require a long discussion. A discussion suggests it’s a close call, with valid arguments on both sides. Most of all, it makes the rule look arbitrary. It certainly doesn’t make the rule look like an absolute, something with clear-cut foundations. If the parents come back and say, “Nope, cookies are still off-limits, and we’re going to go back to the strictest punishments,” the kids are going to feel like the parents are just being stubborn.
The way Catholicism works adds another layer to this. There’s nothing wrong with a pope calling a Synod or even a Council to help decide some matter that isn’t already settled doctrine. That’s been done many times, and surely will happen again. That’s part of what the Church is for: to increase our understanding of Divine Revelation and preach it wider and better. So if there’s a belief that’s generally been held but never written down as established doctrine, or a teaching that’s being abused because the doctrine on it isn’t clear enough, then it’s proper for the Church to discuss it and better clarify and establish the doctrine (e.g., Trent clarifying indulgences, among many other things). But when the doctrine in question — such as the fact that divorce is not allowed and people who remarry are in mortal sin and thus cannot receive Holy Communion — goes back consistently to the Church Fathers and is founded on the words of Jesus Christ in Scripture, then “discussion” is not an option. It’s settled. Raising the topic for discussion treats the Deposit of Faith like the US Constitution, where every item is the law of the land only until we decide to amend it. That may be American and democratic, and it may seem fair to many people, but there’s one thing it’s not — it’s not Catholic.
Anyway, the cookie-grab analogy is what happened with Humanae Vitae. Merely considering the question signaled to Catholics — and especially to progressive bishops, priests, and theologians who were embarrassed by the Church’s behind-the-times position — that change was coming soon, so they started taking it for granted. When it didn’t come, they mostly acted as if it had, because if a pope needed five years and a commission of 58 members to decide on it, it no longer looked like Divine Revelation, but simply the current opinion of some old dudes. Fifty years later, polls show that over 90% of Catholics happily use artificial contraception according to their personal conscience, and many of the remainder use Natural Family Planning illicitly as contraception for convenience, even though official Church teaching still prohibits both.
Now, I don’t know whether that’s the result that John XXIII and Paul VI intended. Maybe they were just naive. But if it wasn’t obvious what would happen then, it is now in hindsight, and we should be able to apply that lesson in the future.
So apply it to Synod 2015. First of all, it’s important to understand that a Synod has no authority whatsoever. Like the commission appointed by John XXIII, its role is only advisory. It is completely under the authority of Francis, and can do nothing without his approval. He created the Synod, chose its members, and gave it its parameters. He can shut it down any time he likes. It can publish no results without his approval, and he can edit anything it releases before publication, as he did in the last Synod. If any changes are made to Church teaching on sexual sin and Communion, they will be made by Francis and Francis alone.
So why call the Synod? Why doesn’t he just change what he wants to change, as he did recently when he made annulments even easier to get? Well, you might think, “Maybe he really wants advice on these issues.” If so, I’d suggest you don’t know Francis very well. He’s not big on listening to opinions that vary from his own, and he’s shown that again in the petulant way he’s reacted to statements by some of the Synod’s members in support of traditional Catholic teaching. He’s been quite active in trying to steer them and smack down those who aren’t on board with a certain program.
So if he’s already decided what he wants to do, why call the Synod at all? Two reasons: laying the groundwork for major changes, and cover.
First, it lays the groundwork, just as John XXIII’s commission laid the groundwork for changes on contraception. In the end, Paul VI didn’t make those changes (though Humanae Vitae did introduce a subtle shift in the way the Church talks about marriage that weakened the teachings even as he reiterated them), but five years of considering them had much the same effect, as a practical matter — Catholics started using contraception and drastically cut back on procreation. If Paul VI had made some camel’s-nose-in-the-tent compromise on contraception in the name of “mercy,” those five years would have been instrumental in getting Catholics to swallow that change.
It’s also cover. That’s why people — people who should know better — keep talking about what the Synod is going to do, or what changes the Synod will make. Again, the Synod will make no changes. It has no authority to make any changes. But if people believe it can, then the Synod can be blamed for anything that goes too far. More importantly, it can let Francis look like the moderate: the Synod, led by the homosexual-loving German bishops, can release something radical, the “conservative” bishops can rail against it, and then Francis can scale it back 25% and make it his own and look like he’s defending Catholic teaching even while he overturns it.
That’s pretty much what I expect, though Francis is enough of a wild card that it’s hard to say for sure. He could follow the example of Paul VI and affirm Catholic teaching officially, throwing in some subtle changes in emphasis that will chip away at it over the years, and allow the fact of the discussion to signal to those living in sin that they have tacit approval to go ahead and receive Communion, and to heterodox priests and bishops that they won’t be punished for giving it to them. But I don’t know if he has the patience for that. He seems determined to change the Church drastically during his own papacy. I think he’d prefer to make significant changes while using the Synod as cover.
For that, though, he needs the Synod to release radical recommendations that he can be seen as scaling back, and he may have miscalculated and not packed it with enough radicals to make that happen. For instance, the Synod could say that divorced-and-remarried Catholics and active homosexuals should be allowed to receive Communion according to their own conscience, and then he could “moderate” that by adding a requirement that they get the approval of their confessor. That’s more or less what I expect — if the Synod cooperates and plays its role.
If the Synod doesn’t cooperate, he’s in a tight spot. He could make his desired changes by fiat, but that has the real possibility of causing a schism, which isn’t what he wants. So in that case, maybe we’ll get nothing now, but start preparing for Synod 2016: Harder And Faster With More Gay Germans.
A fellow commenter from another site recently wrote to ask me to recommend a “beginner’s guide” to Game, and I realized I didn’t have a good answer. So as someone who gives the impression of knowing something about the topic, I thought maybe I should write up a blog post on it, which turned into a discourse on my journey from clueless to clued. So here goes.
As a pedestalizing white-knight of the first order in my youth, I think my first encounter with anything like Game was about 20 years ago, when someone at a company I was contracting for was passing around a red folder with “Speed Seduction” scrawled on the front. He had downloaded and printed out Ross Jeffries’s “Speed Seduction” manual. The title was appropriate; the focus was on seducing women and doing it quickly. He talked about NLP (ways to communicate subliminally by altering the cadence of your voice), mirroring techniques (matching your breath and movements to hers to build rapport), stuff chicks dig like magic tricks and palm reading that give you a chance to hold her hand, and so on. Things that work, but that take a fair bit of practice to do right.
I never really did any of that but it opened my eyes to the idea that women could be understood, that maybe they weren’t unknowable special snowflakes after all. That led me at some point to lurking in the Usenet discussion group alt.seduction.fast. Again, the focus was on seduction, but they got more into how to approach women, specific techniques like getting past AMOGs and cock-blockers, and how to handle last-minute resistance. It was still mostly extroverted — how to talk and act with women to attract them, which wasn’t really what I needed. But again, it showed me that understanding and success were possible.
I think I ran across other Game materials for a while, but nothing really stuck in my memory until “Double Your Dating.” I suppose if I had to pick one thing that helped me the most, that would be it. I got the book, but also downloaded the video of a 2002 DYD seminar, which was key for a few reasons.
First, DeAngelo was kind of a geek who figured a lot of this stuff out from observation, collecting data, and study — the way I do things. He was also an ordinary-looking guy: not ugly, but the kind of guy women wouldn’t notice if he didn’t speak up. Most of his guest speakers seemed pretty ordinary too. So there was a sense of, “If they can do this, so can I.”
Second, he was the first one I recall talking much about internal frame and changing yourself to be more attractive, rather than focusing just on techniques. The first half of the seminar was all about improving your confidence and understanding the biological foundation for what’s going on. Some of it was cheesy New Age affirmation stuff, but not too much. Some of his catch phrases, like “attraction isn’t a choice,” were instrumental in shifting my viewpoint. (A huge one for me was, “What she thinks of me is none of my business.”) The second half got more into techniques; but even there, it was more useful than what I’d seen before, because instead of memorizing lines or learning to read palms, he talked in general terms. One of his best pieces of advice might have been, “If you don’t know what to say, say ‘Hi.'” In other words, get out there and approach women; you can’t succeed if you don’t try. Stop waiting for lightning to strike, which is what I’d been doing.
Now, I’m not saying run out and get the DYD DVDs, because everything he talked about is available for free on numerous Game blogs now. (I don’t even know if they’re available for purchase anymore.) A lot of what seemed revolutionary then is taken for granted now anyway.
Another guy who helped was Major Mark Cunningham, a hypnotist and therapist. I never got into the hypnotism stuff much, but one thing he said really struck me: out of thousands of married women who had come to him for treatment, only one or two didn’t express a desire to cheat on their husbands. It was just one data point, but one that chipped away at the pedestal.
I should point out: a lot of these guys, including the three I’ve mentioned here (especially Major Mark) struck me as charlatans to some extent. There was always a whiff of the snake oil around them, and the MLM methods that most Game authors used didn’t help that image. But like a blind squirrel finding a nut, the snake oil salesman might stumble over a real remedy, and that’s what I sensed from these guys. They might have been just trying to make a buck, but they’d also stumbled over something that was true.
After that, I’m sure I read other materials, but nothing jumps out at me. I continued to follow discussions online, which had moved from Usenet to blogs and forums. More importantly, I started using it myself. One of the guest speakers at that DYD seminar was into online chat, and he made a point that stuck with me: Online, there’s always another girl. Pop up 10 windows and say hi, and if one doesn’t respond well or at all, close the window and pop up another. Who cares? For a guy with a tendency to fast one-itis, like me, that was great advice. Start talking to them before you get attached, before their response matters enough to you to keep you from acting natural.
Another thing I have to credit to DeAngelo (though I think he credited it to someone else) was the Bratty Little Sister Frame. If you have a little sister (I did), think about how you treat her: you love her, but you don’t treat her like a princess. If your little sister asks if her ass looks fat in those pants, you say, “Like a Mac truck,” and she still likes you.
Those two things, probably more than anything else, got me over the hump of talking to women and being cocky and irreverent in the way those guys talked about. And it worked. Pretty soon I had women I’d only been chatting with for an hour bringing up sex, and it didn’t take a whole lot more effort to get them to meet. My shaky pedestal crumbled to the earth. I went from being a guy who got a girlfriend every few years, usually while too drunk to be shy, to dating a few at a time for a while. And I did it by being cocky, negging them, and generally projecting that I didn’t give a damn whether they came or went.
Since then, I’ve picked up things from many different sources: Alpha Game, Roissy, Dalrock, and various other bloggers and commenters. But in recent years I’ve kinda lost interest in the nuts and bolts of Game. The fact that it “works,” and what works and what doesn’t, are pretty well settled in my mind, so I don’t have much interest in arguing them. I’ve turned more to related topics, like the God-ordained foundation for the traditional male and female roles that the success of Game reflects, the way it intersects with other social issues like feminism and HBD, and ancient writers who touched on the truths of Game long before it was called that.
I suppose the question that interests me most is: why didn’t I get it sooner? Or less self-centered-ly: why don’t guys get it sooner, and what could be done to help them? I come from a fairly old-fashioned home, where my dad went to work and my mom stayed home to raise us, and it was that way through most of my family. I read plenty of books and saw plenty of movies where the guy got the girl not through compliments and gifts, but by being or becoming more masculine. I watched girls I loved go running back to the abusive or neglectful boyfriends they’d just been cursing. All the data was there, but I missed it, reframed it as something it wasn’t, or somehow didn’t think it could apply to me.
That’s something that I think is still an open question. How much of it is environment, and how much is innate? How much was I simply the kind of guy who would pedestalize women no matter what my upbringing? If so, how did I get that way when my father and grandfathers didn’t act that way? And if so, how much can really be done to snap guys like me out of it before they come to some sort of epiphany at their own speed? I don’t have anything more than vague guesses about those things.
One difficulty with recommending a beginner’s guide (even if I knew of a few) is: what kind of beginner? I was a fairly good-looking guy who generally got dates when I worked up the courage to ask, so mostly what I needed was something to make it less scary and make my view of women more realistic. An extroverted guy who doesn’t mind approaching women, but who is kind of dumpy and tends to repel women, would need a different guide. If there’s one source that would be equally useful to both of them, I don’t know what it is.
I guess that’s not a very good answer, but there it is. Maybe that means I should write one.
Most of the commercials during sports make me want to turn the thing off and take a walk instead. But two ads during the football game Sunday made for an interesting juxtaposition.
Ad #1, I actually liked. Dad puts his son in the van to go home, then looks down at the trophy in his hand, thinking, “‘Participation’? We beat all those other teams. Why should they get the same trophy we do?” He peels off the “Participation” label on the trophy, pulls out a Sharpie and writes “Champs” on it, then hands it to his son and says, “Congratulations, Champ.”
It’s a fun response to the egalitarian, “everyone’s a winner” nonsense that pervades kids’ sports these days. But here’s the part that made me laugh: Dad was black. But of course he was. So it’s okay to portray him as competitive, even arrogant and dismissive toward the other teams, and to pass that along to his son. He didn’t even wait to discuss the issue with Mom; he just made a unilateral parenting decision! That’s okay because showing good black father figures is important to the Narrative.
Make the family white, and you get commercial #2: Mom, Dad, and Son are leaving the kid’s football game (Dad’s driving, at least). Mom is thinking to herself that the kid stinks at football, which is a shame since he loves it, when Dad pipes up to say, “Wasn’t he great?” and she’s forced to agree with him.
It’s clear that we’re supposed to assume that Mom is right and Dad’s blinded by wishful thinking. There’s no chance that Dad is right and Mom has her own blinders, because in the White World of the Narrative, women are the sensible, knowledgeable ones — even about things they’ve never done, like football — while men are kinda dopey and need women to keep them grounded to reality. White men are rarely portrayed as competent fathers at all, and if they’re portrayed the way the black dad in ad #1 was, it’s as a negative thing that probably leads into a “No More” PSA about the danger signs of overly aggressive men.
Don’t get me wrong: I liked ad #1, don’t have a problem with it at all. But I sure am getting tired of every white man in an ad being a loser unless he’s Matthew McConaughey — and even he is shown going and hanging out with black guys so you’ll know he really is that cool.