Sunday, April 30, 2017

Cor ad Cor

There's a quiet ache,
In the presence of one
Whose heart speaks to mine,
Surrounded by a love 
In ecstasy divine

You hold me close 
In your mother's embrace.
How far I've run
From the fountain of grace! 

But I'm so afraid
Of what you have in store.
How I long to hide
Before the raging fire 
You've kindled inside.

But still you're close
In a mother's embrace.
How far I've run 
From her hands full of grace! 

Ave, hail Light divine,
Ave, with your beauty shine,
Fill the corners of my mind,
Take what is yours, and take what is mine. 

And be so close
In your mother's embrace,
And when I run,
Follow me with your grace! 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Fast Food Filosophy: Being and Vocation

Waiter: Sir, would you like more coffee? I'm about to go to lunch.
Me: Yes, thank you. Hey, I saw you had some textbooks over there. Are you in school?
Waiter: Yes, sir.
Me: Cool! Where are you going?
Waiter: I mean, it's just Ozarka. I'm trying to get my basics out of the way.
Me: Sounds like a pretty good idea. Where are you going after that?
Waiter: I don't really know. I'm not sure what I want to be yet, so I don't want to waste a bunch of money on school without some idea.
Me: I get that. So you don't like being a waiter?
Waiter: Nah. It's OK, but it's not really much of a career. I just don't know what I want to be yet, so I'm working on this gig until I figure things out.
Me: How will you figure things out?
Waiter: I mean, I guess I'll just know--like something will seem really interesting or something.
Me: You see, I'm not sure that I'm in the right business either, so I was just wondering.
Waiter: What do you do?
Me: I'm a teacher, but that doesn't seem like much of a career either.
Waiter: What? I mean, it's better than being a waiter...You get paid more, at least.
Me: Not much more, once you figure in the amount of work and training that goes into it, and, unlike being a good waiter, being a good teacher involves far less job security.
Waiter: Really? See that's one of the things I was thinking about being if nothing else worked out.
Look...I've got break now. Could we talk more about this later?
Me: Sure! I'm Clayton, by the way. You want to join me for lunch? I'll buy it for you. It's nice to have someone to talk to.
Waiter: Hm. That actually sounds pretty good!
Me: Have a seat.
Waiter: So, what were you saying about better job security for waiters than teachers?
Me: Well, not so much for any waiter than any teacher, but certainly for a good waiter and a good teacher!
Waiter: I don't get it.
Me: Let me put it this way. Teachers have better contracts than waiters, no doubt, and more protection from being fired on a whim. I've been a waiter before, so yeah, I know how it is. But there are some pretty important differences between the two jobs.
Waiter: Like what?
Me: Well, a waiter fulfills a very palpable need that everyone, wise or foolish, can recognize: they bring people food. What's more, they bring it to people who genuinely want to receive it, and then they get paid in tips based on how well they perform at bringing it!
Waiter: Right....
Me: So, a teacher has none of those things. First, the people who procure teachers aren't children, but their parents. In fact, if children were in charge, I'm pretty sure all of our Algebra teachers would be out of a job pretty quick. Second, teachers can't be judged very well by the parents on their performance, because the parents don't know the subject as well as the teachers, at least if the teacher is reasonably qualified. Finally, a teacher gets the skills necessary to teach a subject, and then goes on to teach it, which means that they are only certified in material as it was in the past. Since every subject can change, advance, or even become obsolete over time, the longer a teacher spends teaching instead of learning, the worse that teacher becomes at his/her subject. Imagine if a waiter could only improve by being waited on! You'd never make any tip money!
Waiter: So, you're saying I should just be a waiter and not a teacher? What's the point in going to school then?
Me: Well, I actually never said anything like that. But as for your second question....Did you learn something just now?
Waiter: I guess so....
Me: And? What did you learn?
Waiter: I suppose I learned why being a teacher sucks and why it's OK to be a waiter.
Me: Well, that's a start. Then you've also just answered your question about what the point of school is. School, like this conversation, tells you how things are. By going to school, you learn what is true about being a waiter, teacher, doctor, lawyer, etc. It teaches you how to be.
Waiter: But I don't know what I want to be! That's the problem.
Me: Now there you're exactly right. See, if you wanted to be a waiter, school would become more profitable immediately, because you would seek out how to apply what you learn to your job right now. You would certainly retain more of what you learned, because it would surround you every day. For every bit more that you retained, you would earn higher grades, and those higher grades would help you have additional opportunities once you left school. More importantly, you would do a better job later, because you would see how to do it properly.
Waiter: So I need to want to be a waiter? How do I do that?
Me: It's difficult if you've already made up your mind. I don't have all the answers, but here's what I would say:
First, you know that you have this job for a purpose--to pay for  your bills, rent, groceries, etc. That gives it a subjective value to you, apart from what it means for anyone else. That means that you can appreciate the job as just another component of having the things you like.
Second, you know that this job has some unique benefits in comparison with other jobs (like being a teacher). That means it has relative or comparative value when placed next to other things.
Finally, you can see that the job fulfills an ongoing, useful role in society based on basic human needs. That gives it a certain intrinsic or absolute value.
Once you observe those things in any occupation, you can start to discipline yourself into liking it a little more. And every little bit helps.
If we take the "waiter" part out of your question, we might see that this gives us a few clues at how to "want to be" in general:
We appreciate our being subjectively by investigating the things we like about our lives. We can appreciate being relatively, by comparing it with the lives of people or things more miserable than us, or even by merely observing the differences between our existence and the existence of other things. Surely, while there are great things about being a wall, a wall can't fall in love or appreciate a sunset or take you on a date, or whatever; I, however, can appreciate those things once I set our two existences against one another. I can also appreciate my life intrinsically by knowing more about my place in the world and seeing how I contribute to it.
It strikes me that the more I look at "being" in this way, the more I begin to "want to be".
Waiter: So how does this relate to my original question, knowing what I want to be?
Me: Well, if you focus on those three ways of knowing how to be, it won't matter what you are. You will always be happy and able to see what it is that will add subjective, relative, or intrinsic value to your life, and you will love doing what you do because you love being itself. One caveat, while it would seem to me that improving the subjective or relative aspects of your life should certainly be enough to warrant a great deal of happiness, adding intrinsic value would add exponentially more, and remain for longer, because relative and subject value depend entirely on the changing world around you. One thing is certain: the world will change.
And yet, our intrinsic value is something which, oddly enough, we can't do anything about either. We don't have the ability to add intrinsic value to our being, because our being is in relation to everything else! So, if we are going to appreciate and investigate that intrinsic value and "want to be" more because of it, we have to find another source, one that knows all about us and our place in the universe.
Waiter: OK, so you're talking about God now, right?
Me: I'm more just wondering out loud. It would seem that only some being like God would fit the description, so perhaps it makes at least some sense to search out God for the answers, even if our search turns up little or nothing. At least it would confirm our progress in "wanting to be". It also seems to me that this would apply to your problem.
Waiter: My problem?
Me: Knowing what you want to do with your life. If knowing how one "wants to be" involves making a search for something like God, wouldn't that also change the object of your search? It go from meaning "knowing what my desires suggest that I want to be" to "knowing what my investigation of God leads me to want to be". And that brings to mind a word that perhaps better fits that description: a calling or vocation. (vocation < Lat. vocare = to call)
Waiter: So I should try to figure out what I am called to do, and not what I want to do? That actually makes sense, and somehow, it also makes me feel better about what I'm doing right now. I'm not sure why.
Me: Maybe, just maybe, because being able to recognize the possibility of an intrinsic value to one's life in the future at least suggests an intrinsic value to one's life right now: even if you're a waiter. Maybe it's your vocation for the moment, and that means that happiness is present right now, even if you have to look around a bit to find it.
Waiter: Well, right now they're calling me back from break. Thanks for the chat!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Epistolary Free-Verse: Dear Gracie

Dear Gracie,
As I lay here, between a book of Fitzgerald
and the rolling Spring River,
I could hardly conjure an image from my novel
 on account of this oppressive beauty.
I pictured you, trapped up there in winter,
and how your presence would make poetry
of this scene's bewitching prose.
So then I tried a sonnet
to capture it.
No luck.
The lens on my Muse is broken,
and this letter is evidence of my open wound.
I'm certain, however, that these things,
reflected in your eyes
and measured with your voice,
would make them rhyme again.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Poem - Discontent in Love

Invest in me, my heart would say,
The beauty of your youth,
Before our days are spoiled with age,
With time’s approaching truth.

For when I look into the glass
It grows less like the form,
That’s borne my name through harsher days,
Of conquest, sin, and storm. 

I see my lights are fading there
That guide to my embrace;
How dimly do they shine beneath
The lines upon my face. 

I surely know, who’ve kept myself
So long as company,
How painful is the winding path
That finds its way to me. 

Against this, how your smile cheers
Each part, and there renews;
I have no strength to tame desire,
Or comfort to refuse. 

But you deserve a happy end,
Whom darkness cannot know,
And not to waste unhappily
On one corrupted so. 

I cannot bring myself to doubt
The truth your smiles convince,
That you deserve a fairy tale,
But I am no one’s prince.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Outline for a Constitution: A Directorial Republic

Every once in a while (okay, pretty much once a week), I come up with a different scenario for how to organize a government. Sometimes it's just one aspect of constitutional law. Sometimes it's a whole system.

This was my attempt to wrestle with the problem of "personality" in a representative democracy. The idea here is that, by dividing the office of executive among a collective group of individuals, endowed with significant powers to present and consider legislation, a single individual would not have enough power to use his or her celebrity to bully the state. This constitution proposes, in every way, an elective democracy. Judges, legislators, and executives are all subject to the people directly as the sovereign entity, and the people themselves have the power to make and declare laws without the consent of such elective bodies.

I also approach the idea of reorganizing our "Bill of Rights" into a list of civic responsibilities, each with its attendant rights. This is to provide an interpretive tool for judicial bodies to balance out the rights of the individual with the common good of all, two ideas that can never really be in conflict.

This outline is incomplete, insofar as it does not deal with local or municipal government or impeachment. It is only meant as an outline.
Let me know what you think!

The Republic
I.                     On Rights and Duties—

A.      Human beings do not have “rights” in the sense of “particular privileges” that they enjoy merely for being human.  Rather, they were created with a purpose by God, to give him glory by reflecting his image in this world. This purpose enjoins them with particular duties, in pursuit of which, they also have rights which are necessary for them to complete those duties. Any enumeration of those rights should be organized according to those duties, among which we can enumerate the following, along with the rights that are implied by each.
1. The Duty to Worship God in accordance with one’s well-formed conscience
a.        Freedom of Religion
b.        Freedom to educate children in one’s religious faith
c.        Freedom of civic bodies to engage in religious practices, provided that these do not coerce citizens into particular forms of participation contrary to their conscience.
d.       Freedom from indoctrination by religious cults that violate Christian principles of charity and human dignity.
2. The Duty to provide for one’s own bodily needs and those of his/her dependents
a.       Freedom to own property
b.       Freedom to receive basic medical care
c.       Freedom to receive an education capable of engaging in civic life
d.       Right to Privacy
e.       Right to freedom of movement
f.        Right to life, from birth until natural death
g.       Right to possess sufficient means to defend one’s life and the lives of one’s family
3. The Duty to act for the common good of the state
a.       Freedom of political expression
b.       The right of groups of citizens to join together for the common defense
c.       The right to vote, provided that one is capable of reading or hearing the choices of candidates
d.       The right to petition the government
e.       The right to know the laws and regulations passed by the government which affect one’s person
B.      These rights, and their attending duties, must balance one another in terms of their interpretation by the state. They may not be deprived, except on due process of law for the violation of a crime or in order to protect the lives, property, or liberty of others.
II.                   Popular Sovereignty
A.      In the Republic, sovereignty belongs exclusively to the people. It is not owned, possessed, or otherwise claimed by any person besides the people as a collective entity, and all the functions of government are separately subject to it.
B.      The sovereignty of the people means that, ultimately, it is the people who write the law, who interpret the law, and who carry out the law.
C.      Nonetheless, it is not for the people to deny the rights of all persons within the jurisdiction of this charter who are capable of engaging in these civic duties to participate in said democracy, and it remains the responsibility of the officers of government to ensure that all have the right to petition, deliberate, and vote in accordance with the principles established herein.
III.                 The Legislative Department
A.      Legislative power is exercised by the people in three ways:
1. By electing representatives to draft and consider legislation;
2. By petitioning for laws;
3. By passing laws through referenda.
B.      The General Assembly –
1. The General Assembly is responsible for considering and drafting ordinary legislation.
a.       The Republic is divided into 75 districts of equal population by a mathematical method. In this way, the whole country is divided by the shortest line dividing areas of equal population. This division takes place every 12 years.
b.       From each of the 75 districts, three representatives are elected for four year terms by the following method:
1.       Each candidate joins with two other candidates to create a single slate of candidates.
2.       Voters cast their vote for one of the slates of candidates and vote for one of the candidates on their preferred candidate.
3.       If a single slate receives a majority of the votes cast, all three of the candidates are elected.
4.       If, however, no slate receives a majority of votes, the two most preferred candidates from the slate that received the most votes are elected, and the most preferred candidate from the slate that received the second highest number of votes is elected. (Thus, for example, if the Republican slate received 45% of the vote and the Democrats 30% and the Libertarian 25%, the Republicans would get two seats and the Democrats would get one seat.)
5.       If there are any ties, a runoff election is held.
c.       In order for the General Assembly to pass a law, it must have the concurrent support of the Board of Directors and receive the support of a majority of the whole number of members.
d.       However, if the General Assembly wishes, then it may, without the intervention of the Board of Directors, submit up to five laws for the approval of the people at either a general or a special election. In order for said law to pass, a majority of registered voters must cast ballots in the election and the law must receive the support of a majority of them.
e.       The Speaker of the General Assembly is the Chancellor of the Republic, as provided below. However, all other officers are elected by the members.  
2.  The people may themselves pass laws without the intervention of the General Assembly:
a.       At least 1/10 of registered voters may petition for a law to be passed.
b.       Once the signatures are certified as genuine by the Board of Elections (appointed by the General Assembly, Supreme Court, and Board of Directors), the petition is presented to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who rules on its constitutionality. This may be appealed to the full court.
c.       The President of the Board of Directors schedules a referendum on the matter within 3 months of its being certified, which may also be on a General Election day.
d.       In order to pass, a majority of registered voters must participate in the referendum and it must receive a majority of the support of those who cast ballots therein.
e.       No more than 10 ballot initiatives presented by petition may be on any one ballot. They shall be prioritized and scheduled by the order received.
IV.                The Executive Department
A.      Executive Power is held by a Board of Directors.
B.      There are 14 Directors on the Board, elected in this manner:
1. Every four years, seven members are elected for an eight-year term by all the people of the state.
2. Candidates will run in separate races.
3. In order to be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of votes in the race for his or her position. If no candidate receives a majority, a runoff election is held between the top two candidates.
4. Candidates must be nominated by at least six members of the General Assembly.
C.      The President of the Board of Directors is the Director who, in the most recent general election, received the highest number of votes, excluding votes cast in runoff elections. The Vice President is the person who received the second highest number of votes. Ties are decided by a vote of the whole Board.
D.      The President of the Board of Directors:
1. Is commander-in-chief of the armed forces during wartime.
2. Nominates members to supervise each executive agency. (This must be approved by a majority of the whole board.)
3. Appoints members of committees and commissions.
4. Determines the agenda of Board meetings.
5. In the absence of the President, these duties are performed by the Vice President of the Board.
6. In the case of a tie, the President casts a second vote.
E.       The Board of Directors:
1. Directs the actions of executive agencies.
2. Approves treaties (which must be ratified by the General Assembly)
3. Administers the armed forces during peacetime.
4. Grants pardons and reprieves
V.                  The Judicial Department
A.      Justice of the Peace Courts
1. The whole Republic will be divided into townships, each of which will elect a Justice of the Peace from the practicing attorneys in that township. And if there is no practicing attorney in the township, then the President of the Board of Directors will appoint one for the same.
2. Justices of the Peace are responsible for hearing cases involving traffic violations and small claims up to $2,000 (or a higher amount determined by law), from which no appeal is possible.
3. Justices of the Peace also have power to grant warrants of search or arrest within their township and to empanel grand juries to bring criminal indictments against individuals who commit crimes therein.
4. Justices of the Peace are to be elected for four-year terms.
B.      Municipal Courts
1. Each municipality, which is to be one per county or metropolitan district, is to have a municipal court which will hear civil cases and misdemeanor cases arising from municipal ordinances.
2. The Municipal Court is to consist of judges appointed by the County President or City Mayor with the consent of the County Assembly or City Assembly as provided by law.
C.      Circuit Courts
1.  There are to be a number of Circuit Courts established by law.
2.  Circuit Courts shall hear criminal cases arising from national law and appeals from Municipal and Justice of the Peace Courts, as well as civil cases provided for by national law.
3. Each Circuit Court is to have three judges elected for 12-year terms by the people of the circuit. One judge is to be elected every four years.
4. When hearing appeals or criminal cases, all three judges must attend and agree to the verdict. For civil cases, the defense shall first eliminate one judge, then the prosecution, so that the remaining judge is responsible for hearing the case and determining the ruling of the court.
D.      The Supreme Court of Appeals
1. The Supreme Court shall consist of 9 justices elected for twelve-year terms, with 3 justices elected every 4 years.
2. The Chief Justice shall be elected by the members for a four-year term from among their members.
3. The Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases both from law and equity.
E.       The Court of Chancery
1. The Court of Chancery shall have jurisdiction over all cases arising from equity.
2. The Court of Chancery shall consist of a Chancellor and two Vice-Chancellors who shall be appointed by the Board of Directors for a four-year term. Any decision by the Court must be agreed to by two of the three members, but the Chancellor shall alone determine what cases are heard before it. 

VI. Amendment of the Constitution--
 A. To propose amendments to the Constitution, a petition for the amendment must be signed by at least 1/5 of registered voters. 
B. The proposed amendment shall then be presented to the people on the date proposed by the petition, which may not be within 3 weeks of a general election, nor on a Sunday.
C. In order to pass, the amendment must receive a majority of support by those voting in the election, and must be supported by a majority of people in more than half of the General Assembly districts. Also, at least 50% of registered voters must vote in the referendum.