Sunday, March 24, 2013

"O Lord, help me to be pure, but not yet."

          I read St. Augustine a lot. First for class and then just because I like to read St. Augustine. I love the way that religion and philosophy work in harmony in his writings. Lately book XI of Confessions has been on my mind. (Just a side note, the title of the post is not a quote from this book I know, I just find this quote amusing). The ideas covered in this book are things I don;t really like to think about because they get to complex and make me question things that I thought to be transcendent are not. But then when I get thinking about such topics as what is time and what is actually transcendent in this world, I can't stop until I have come up with a satisfactory answer.  Of course with philosophy, one seemingly satisfactory answer leads to even more complex questions, so I never win. Nevertheless, here are some of my recent thoughts (really my way of trying to understand what Book XI is saying) on St. Augustine's writings. 

          When St. Augustine says  the present only tends towards non-being is that time may not actually exist. We have divided time in to three different section: past, present and future. The past is no longer, the future is the expectations of what is to come but is not in existence yet, and the present is not measurable because it is in existence only for a moment. That moment can not be measured because there is nothing to compare it to since it is the smallest division on can think of for time. The present lasts for this indivisible moment and then proceeds into the past and we can only recall it through memory, but yet it is no longer in existence. If the present moment is such a short amount of time (which we can’t say it is because time is relative to other things) that it can only be thought of as past of future, it does not exist because these things no longer exist. Or it could be that the moment is such that it can not be measured and the moment there fore is eternal. We can not comprehend the eternal because eternity is without beginning or end, without time. Being only human with only so much brain capacity, we can not fully comprehend a world without time. Either way, the idea of the ‘present’ leans towards non-existence than towards existence. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Break

     Over spring break I didn't do what someone typically thinks about when someone thinks about spring break.  No warm climate for me, I went back home to Maine and got braces. Not my ideal vacation, but I'll take it. It's amazing how much I appreciate being home doing nothing since I started college. Yes, I was bored sometimes but being bored doesn't really bother me anymore because being bored means that I dot have to be doing work or anything else; I don't get many chances like that at school 
     The most significant thin I did over break (besides getting braces, but that's not interesting at all) was volunteer at a local grade school where my mom works. I worked with grades fourth and fifth and it was a very enlightening way to spend my free time. I have never considered becoming a teacher since both my parents are and that career choice seems to close for comfort, but I could see my self doing it. I never saw myself as a kid friendly person either, but apparently my self perceptions are wrong. 
     I spent a good amount of my time at the school working with kids one on one who have different, minor learning disabilities. I sympathize with these kids. Having leaned about things such as ADHD, ADD and RAD in psych, I have some sense of what it might be like for these kids to keep up with the normal pace of typical classroom. One girl I sat with and helped stay focused on work, explaining instructions, etc. explained to me how she feels in class: “the work we do is like an cons wave and the whole class is surfing on the wave a I'm behind the wave."
This girl was very smart and quick to understand things, she just could not stay focused. Even with me holding her hand through all her work it was still a challenge. I have no idea how she gets anything done on a typical day. 
      Working with kids like this seemed Leo come easy to me. Doing it five days a week , I don't know if I coil handle that. I would be so worn out. Hopefully through a career in psych I can help kids or maybe I'll teach Sunday school or something that wouldn't require me to teach everyday. 
Another thing I enjoyed about working at the school was being able to share with them things they didn't know. I guess that's the joy of teaching. It made me realize that all the things I have ever learned in school that I questioned why we had to learn may actually come in handy, even if I just learned it to teach to some one else who may be able to use it in their life. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dead Man Walking: The Journey Continues

     On March 7th, Sister Helen Prejean (author of Dead Man Walking) gave a presentation at SMC about her experience with the death penalty. The way she started was priceless: "Do y'all understand southern? Good, we'll get along just fine". Imagine this said in a thick Louisianan accent and you've got the idea. She told the story of her childhood: grew up Catholic in a nice family. She grew up accustom to segregation  but never questioned it. When she became a nun, Sr. Prejean never imagined helping others in the way she did. After having to attend a conference about social justice, Sr. Prejean knew that she needed to help others as part of her ministry. She had gone into the conference with reluctance for she did not see the need to attend such a conference  As Sr. Prejean put it "We nuns, not social workers!". She later realized that when people are being defensive about something, it is the Spirit trying to pull them in a new direction.

      With this mindset, Sr. Prejean agreed to write letters to a death row inmate. At first the communication was for comfort and spiritual guidance, later it was for help getting the inmate off death row. This inmate was still executed but he was the beginning of Sr. Prejean's involvement with death row and the abolition of the death penalty. It amazes me that a simple nun could have such an impact. It is not only Sr. Prejean's willingness to help and her faith in the inmates, but the help she was able to give to the families involved with the inmates. She is unique in that she offered support to the inmates family. The victims family usually have the support of their family and community behind them, but the inmates family have nothing but ridicule and blame. Sr. Prejean started support groups where inmates families did not have to feel so alone. Sr. Prejean showed these families that they are not to blame for what the death row inmates did. Doing this, she helped many deal with the execution of their loved ones.

I have never supported the death penalty. I think that it is cruel and inhumane. I don't support murder either. But I think the executioner and the murder have committed the same crime; they have gone against nature and (in a way) attempted to be play he role of God. I am a strong believer in helping inmates through therapy and such. Sr. Prejean brought up the statistics about the death row inmates. 99% were abused as children (or at some point in their lives) and  98.2% come from  lower income situations. This seems to me that these criminals are products of their environments and could change if they had had the chance. I'm not saying shorten the inmates sentene or let them go free, but help them rather than kill them.