Friday, September 24, 2010


Let me begin by saying I have always thought Diversity to be over rated. Not real diversity, but the modern concept of diversity for its own sake. Also, the definition of diversity bugs me. It simply means a room full of people who look different. Or in the model of corporate America, a room with more minority faces than white.

I remember a friend once telling me she had always wished to be part of a dinner club where the couples were made up of one white, one black, one Asian and so on. How strange, I thought. How about a dinner club of couples who all had a passion for food or conversation or drinking wine.

Diversity surely plays an important role in relationship. The relationship at the core of our society, the marital relationship, is based on the inherent diversity of the primary players. Men and women are by physical nature, complimentary. I think most will also tell you the differences go beyond mere physicality. We each bring something to the table. Society's survival depends on the diversity of men and women.

But the heart of all relationship is not diversity. It is unity. What creates friendship, teamwork, marriage is not what makes us different, but what we have in common. We belong to a church community because of our shared beliefs, we belong to a team because of our shared love of a sport or hobby, we commit to a marriage because of shared core values. Our friendships also require that we have something in common, something that unifies us. This can be shared values, geographical proximity, the need to get children to the same place at the same time, books, movies, Bunko, Poker.

The beautiful thing is that when we are looking for commonality, we often end up with diversity. We share a space with our neighbors and find unity in our desire to protect, beautify and socialize in that shared space. In doing so we find different values, faiths, hobbies. We carpool with the families of our children's friends. While establishing this pragmatic relationship, we discover people who know of things we do not: art, fishing, origami.

The liberal left knows what I know. Diversity doesn't have anything to do with skin color. To them, Justice Thomas, Condi Rice, Bill Cosby aren't really black. Why? Because while they say they want diversity, what they really want is unity. A unified ideological perspective. That is all well and good, but don't market your desire as a desire for Diversity.

When will the elites stop trying to force the subject. We common folk don't do it. I don't know many people who pick their friends based on physical realities nor do they exclude for a similar reason. We create communities because of what unites us. Sometimes the demographic may look to be homogenous. My school community is primarily Catholic. Well, that is because it is a Catholic School. My adoption community is made up of mostly racially mixed families. Hm, maybe because we all adopted internationally. In both cases, while we may look similar and we do have things in common, the groups are fantastically diverse because they are each made up of human beings.

This may sound heretical coming from a person with an incredibly diverse family. But I can assure you that diversity has never and will never be a goal of mine. I don't want diversity, I want unity. I want to find in those around me what unites us: What passions, goals, values we share. I want to surround myself with people who love something that I love. That does not mean they have to love everything that I love. My Literature Pals do not have to have a passion for the treadmill. My soccer moms do not have to read Shakespeare in their spare time. My dinner club does not have to read the Psalms on Thursday mornings.

But if we love nothing in common, I don't care what color, nationality, height, weight or gender they may be, I don't see a friendship there. And to try and FORCE one simply will not work. It goes against human nature. We are drawn to those who are most like us. And while the social engineers think we are all shallow enough to think in our deepest DNA this means to those who look like us, they are wrong. We are drawn to those who love what we love. Think back to the marriage bond. We are drawn to those who are physically most UNLIKE us.

And when we share a love of something beyond ourselves with another, we naturally love the other. We love them despite our differences. We love them because their difference adds to the relationship. We have a common goal, a unifying principal, and our diversity serves that goal, enriches our lives, shows us something we could not discover on our own.

So to the elites, the corporate watchdogs, the social engineers: Can we quit seeking diversity for its own sake and instead seek to find things to love, things to unite, things to enrich. In the unity we can't help but find diversity. True diversity, not fabricated or physical. The diversity of personality and of a unique soul unlike any other: The diversity that is worth of our love because it has nothing to do with the book cover, but the deep and rich story that is on the inside.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Images are a recurring topic of conversation in my life. In various debates, my husband has emphasized the strength of our childhood memories. His inparticularly are the images he has of marriage from his own parents. My mother has images of her own mother sitting on the porch, the couch, the bed saying her rubber banded book of daily prayers. But she also recalls an image vivid in her mind of coming out of her room in the early hours of a morning to find her father, not particularly religious, on his knees in the bathroom in prayer. "I don't know if he had ever done it before or if he did it every day. I was not usually up at that time. But it something I will never forget."

Smells, sounds, a song, seasons in the year bring to our mind an image. Sometimes they are wonderful like the smell of baking cookies that fill our hearts with the warm love of our mother. We can see her in the kitchen in her apron, flour on her nose. Sometimes they are painful, like the dull ache that comes with the Monarch Butterfly each fall with the image of the letter written to a friend, returned because he died before he could read it.

We spoke today in Bible study, while discussing the Psalms, of our responsibility to form our children so they are not like chaff in the wind. I couldn't stop thinking about Images. What my children will remember long after they have to listen to what I say is not what I said. It will be images. What will they see?

What do I see?
I see my father's walk. I see it from the back: long even strides, shoulders slightly stooped. He is deep in thought not noticing the passing crowds.
I see my mother in the kitchen singing to herself.
I see my sister with a book.
My brothers riding bikes.
I see Family Dinners in a sunny room. Ping pong tournaments. Indiana Jones on the big screen.
I see our church, the woven brown and gold material of the pews, my father always on the end.
I see my grandpa's truck, the ashtray filled with coins, the bed filled with fishing gear.
I see my grandmother's drawers, a place for everything and everything in its place.
I see my other grandma's sweet smile.

What images will children have? Mine, yours, the guy over there?
It can give reason to pause, can't it? For it is not reasonable what we remember. It is what it is. My mom saw her dad pray once and only once. She saw her mom pray everyday. She remembers both, one for its rarity the other for its familiarity. I remember going to the movies as a family because it only happened once, but I remember family dinners because they happened every day.

Do I yell more than I smile? Do I nag more than I praise? Am I always in a rush? Will they remember the good things because they were so common or because they weren't? What will they see?

What gives me hope is that while our images do form us, I also think as time passes we form our images. The relationship we have with people determines what we remember most or at all. The kind of people we really think they are effects the kind of images we see. So, while I will surly try and leave my children with beautiful images, perhaps if I try harder to nurture our relationship and to make my own soul beautiful, my children in time will smooth out the edges, crop a few things here and there and see a mom who loved them more than life...with flour on her nose.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Viper's Tangle, a Book Review

I remember being taught an important lesson when reading Catcher in the Rye in high school: a narrator is not necessarily honest. A writer may choose to make his main character a liar. He may try and get his reader to find the truths through the lies. I didn't learn the lesson then, I think I liked Holden Caufield as an adolescent because I too wasn't necessarily honest. Neither of us would have admitted as much to ourselves. We simply could not see the hypocrisy in our own lives. I saw Houldon as he saw himself. Neither of us could see how we did not live up to our ideals or even to the images we had of ourselves. I hated him as an adult. Perhaps because I then saw him, and myself, for what we were in those earlier days: Liars.

Vipers' Tangle by Francois Mauriac also has narrator that can not always be trusted. However, he is not the least bit dishonest about his own flaws. In this confession of Monsieur Louis, an old and dying lawyer at the turn of the century. we find a bitter, yet honest portrayal of how he sees himself. He is greedy, vindictive, proud. He is hated by all and returns the hatred with a feeling of justified revenge. He also has a keen eye for seeing the flaws in others. While he admits that his heart has become a tangle of vipers, he rightly sees in his children and wife a nest of vipers outside of himself as well.

What begins as a letter to his wife explaining how and why he has disinherited his children of millions becomes a confession to himself, a means of therapy for a man who has no friends and no one else with whom to talk. While he is accused by his wife of seeing only evil, and admits freely that he has rarely seen good, he is also honest in recognizing beauty in certain souls: the complete lack of hypocrisy and desire to live a life according to his creed of a young seminarian, the carefree spirit and innocent joy of his orphaned nephew, the sweetness of his youngest daughter.

We learn that he can not always be trusted from the narrator himself. As he reflects on his life he begins to question his own honesty. He begins to wonder if he was only seeing half of the people around him, only half of himself. He realizes he acted like a monster, but that he was not a monster. He begins to try and look and see if the things he hates in those around him might also be superficial, if humans can be more than even they themselves can imagine.

What has been the cause of his wasted and monstrous life was a lack of love. He, for only a few months after he was married, believed himself capable of being loved. He found nothing in himself to love and did not believe anyone could ever love him. The three good people in his life were the only three who saw good in him. Because he believed everyone else expected him to be hateful, he was in fact hateful. He molded himself to the image he believed the world had of him.

With this realization he becomes an honest narrator. He searches desperately for the answer. What was it that he missed? An atheist and ruthless critic of the Church during his life, he begins to wonder if he had judged Christianity by its failed members instead of looking deeper. To his mind comes the image of the humble walk of the young pious seminarian, the faraway look on the face of his beloved nephew as he sat on the steps after church, and most painfully, the death of his youngest daughter who offered her death for him:

"In her delirium that she kept on saying-'For Pappa!-For Pappa!'...Do you remember the sound of her voice when she suddenly cried out, "Please God, I am only a child..." and how she stopped, and went on, "No, I can stand it, I can..."

Who then can love those who do not deserve love? Who then can teach man to love after so many years of hate? Louis desperately wants to answer those questions before he dies. "...A few more months, a few more weeks..."

With a narrator that can not be trusted, not because he is a liar, but because he is a man, Mauriac portrays the story of a soul searching without even knowing it for Divine Grace. If we are honest readers, we can see ourselves honestly in him. At the end of the day, we don't deserve love. All of us are in many ways, unlovable. To deny this fact, as Houldon would say, makes us a phony. We can only be loved if we first know we are loved. Divine Grace is at its heart LOVE. Does he find it? (If you don't like to know the endings of books you want to read, stop here.)

No, he does not find it. It finds hIm.