I often have conversation with friends, mostly on the political “right” who seem confounded. Especially the ones whom I have known for many years–going all the way back to my right-leaning libertarian days. I cut my political/philosophical teeth as a twenty-something college student while I was also self-employed, driving around LA listening to Dennis Prager and Larry Elder.
I hated paying taxes. I cared very little for what other people did in their bedroom, their churches, their homes–as long as they left me alone to make money and live in the country. I never gave one thought as to what my genetic inheritance may have bestowed (or saddled as the case may be) me with.
When I have conversations with even the most right-leaning of libertarian-esque friends, where we usually part ways is on the causation of obvious, quantifiable intra-group differences. They will walk right along with me on how wrong it is in the PC world we inhabit to notice these differences. They are, in their own words totally comfortable with their existence. Until the discussion moves in the direction of heritability. That’s where the nice comfy walk ends.
I place personality traits at roughly 75-85% heritable. They place it somewhere around 0-5%. And if you even find one who agrees to the 5%, it is considered to be about things that make no difference in the grand scheme of things.
And I understand. Allowing for any percentage of who you will become to be out of your control causes a great internal conflict in the minds of the typical modern mindset. In the end, I always say “in the absence of any other meaningful policy changes, all I want to do it hold everyone accountable to the same standards of behavior, regardless of their biological predispositions.” We cannot say to an Irishman “hey, you can’t really help the fact that you got drunk and wound up in a bar fight. So, the charges will be less severe in your case.”
And the funny thing is, most Irishmen (including myself) don’t want the special treatment.
Even if we one day reach the level of predictive power from, lets say the film Gattaca, I would feel the same way. It is the moral and ethical thing to do.
And it is, after all, that same film that brings me inspiration. Recall, our main character, Vincent, is accomplishing throughout the movie way more than his DNA predicts he should. Every moment in the sun as a budding astronaut is borrowed time. His heart condition is taking its toll, but he presses on. He absolutely should not be there. Every day he takes risks and says “fuck it!”
There is no good reason for me to have completed a doctoral level, professional degree. Or be an army officer. Or have a successful marriage (even though I had a failed one already). Or any other of the successes that my father only fantasized of in his wildest dreams. And I know it. I don’t belong here. I am waaaaaaaaaay out on a limb, taking wild, hapless swings in the dark. Buying land in Montana? Starting a hobby farm business? Leaving active duty 5 years shy of a full retirement? The risks I take are stupid, but I keep taking them, and strangely, winning every time.
There is something about a person that makes him or her more than the sum of his parents combined genetic material.
So yes, I believe that DNA is the primary locus of all your most important personality traits. Intelligence. Risk aversion. Mental health loading. Introversion/extroversion. Temper. Motivation. Future orientation.
But there is something beneath all that which was breathed into each one of us the moment God conceptualized our existence. And it matters.
God knows what you struggle with. He created you. Is it irrational to think that maybe each of our dispositions, good or bad should be thought of as blessing, or hurdles to overcome, respectively?
Nicodemus had a hard time understanding metaphorical rebirth, but he kept asking questions. Moses temper ultimately cost him the promised land. These are mysteries that we do not need to fret over, but we do have to challenge ourselves learn from them. Fight against your nature when it is hindering you. Use it to your advantage if it can help you do good.
Today during worship, we were singing a song about God being our loving Father. As we sang, I realized it was the kind of song manly-men Christian pastors hate. It’s the sort of song they rail against while crusading for the resurgence of “real men” Christian masculinity. As we sang tender words about a tender, loving, heavenly Father, I immediately realized why some men are so angry at spiritually wimpy men and bold Christian women. The thought just popped into my head: It’s Cain and Abel all over again.
DS goes on to describe in great detail his hypothesis about the demasculinizing of the church, and it’s very good.
However, in my heart of hearts, I am basically a flesh-eating Neanderthal, and what I hate about modern churches is pretty visceral. Hence, this meme I found:
I can’t remember the last time I stood in front of two jumbotron screens with the lyrics of vapidity splashed up on them while everyone struggles to keep up with the drowning out rock band up front. In fact, I always hated that. I was always the guy looking around at all the hands up in the air, the tearful faces, the swaying and felt like I wanted to crawl out of my skin and through the nearest drain pipe or window.
Enter, the kind of music I hear and participate in every week now:
SERBIAN ORTHODOX Chant - Blessed be the Lord God - YouTube
Too ethnic? No women at all a little too much? OK fine. How about the Nicene Creed in English:
The Nicene Creed | Choir of St Vladimir's Seminary - YouTube
Brothers, why do you tarry in the land of the silly? The cartoonish? The places where Jesus is a boyfriend?
Why try to fix that which is broken beyond repair? In the ancient faith there is a contingency of social justice/feminist types. They are gaining strenght. But she has not yet been overcome by them. You are needed to here to stop them.
The site is oriented toward all the things I had wanted to do in the past, but it requires interested users to register and be interviewed by one of the administrators (of which I am one). After a few false starts and learning experiences on the open web, we have determined that the effort needs to be targeted, serious and private.
It’s also free. You can donate if you like, but it is not required. We consider helping each other, and each others children find spouses something that Christians should be doing for each other all the time. And since traditional Orthodox Christians who are amenable to this are a tiny religious minority spread out all over the country, we need electronic help to do so.
I have a decent number of Orthodox readers here, and I you will come by, that would be great. Even if you don’t have kids, we are going to try and assist adults who do not have Orthodox parents or any family members willing to help in meeting. This site is about Orthodox marriages, period. We will do everything we can to facilitate the process for adults who may think they are ready for marriage.
If you are not Orthodox, you won’t be able to register, sorry. It’s a canonical thing. We are looking to create Orthodox marriages for the future of Holy Orthodoxy.
With the new executive order (cancelling the January, 2009 GiTMO ones), it’s nice to know the Trump administration supports what many of us did there. The previous administration had us in an precarious ethical position while we were serving in that capacity. Thank you, Mr. President.
Any time I get a chance to teach, I love it because I learn something. The idea is, you prepare beyond that which the students can stump you. In order to do that, you have to make sure you know more about the subject than the smartest person in the room.
It’s no secret that Mychael and I are brand new Orthodox Christians. And, since I am on paternity leave this week, I got to be the religious education teacher for our daughter’s homeschool week.
And in one day of preparing and teaching I learned more about Orthodoxy than I care to admit I didn’t know. Apparently, every day of the week is devoted to a contemplation:
Tuesday: St. John the Baptist
Wednesday: The cross
Thursday: The apostles and St. Nicholas
Friday: The cross again
Saturday: The departed
Of course, Sunday is the Lords day.
Oldest daughter doing her Tuesday (John the Forerunner) homeschool project under my supervision.
This continues every week as a smaller part of the liturgical life of an Orthodox Christian. (“Smaller,” as in a cycle within a cycle). I started the conversion/reversion process in 2014. Never knew this.
I also definitively learned where the prayers of the hours, matins, vespers and the compline fit into all this. Again, it took reading the textbook for an 8 year old (for 20 minutes) to get it.
And this is the great benefit to being a “cradle” Orthodox. These things that I am learning are kids stuff to most of the people I go to church with. And I hate asking.
And to further complicate things, large portions of what they do on Sundays is conducted in Serbian, a language I am trying to learn simultaneously.
All of this leads me to this point. Occasionally, readers write in and ask some version of this question:
“I am very interested in Orthodoxy. There are four Orthodox churches in my town. A Russian one, a Greek one, an Antiochian one and a Serbian one. I am not any of those ethnicities, so what am I supposed to do? Do I have to be Greek to be Greek Orthodox?”
The answer is, no. Just pick one.
I am of this opinion. The canonical jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church on the North American continent are a mess. There are reasons for this that are way beyond our control. No Orthodox church will turn you away. They are not interested in your ethnicity (unless YOU are). If they are “too” ethnic, tell them. Just say “hey, I was wondering if one of the other churches around has more English speakers, etc. I am having trouble following along.” They won’t be offended. They will be gracious.
I’ve chosen to stick with the Serbian patriarchate for my own personal reasons, which I write about here regularly. But I know what the long game is.
The Orthodox way is ALWAYS going to be the long game. It is in the nature of the Church. If it is God’s will, the entire continent will be Orthodox, and its language and customs will one day constitute its own jurisdiction–a true “American” Orthodoxy, with its own patriarch. That could take centuries. It is a million step process, and we are on step four. In the mean time,
First, a clarification. I have five kids. I married Mychael when the oldest was already ten, and I got him all the way to moving out and on his way to self-sufficiency. He is an electricians apprentice and he has a girl he wants to marry. He even wants to buy property in Montana near us when he is ready, so I guess he still likes me. Job done. My oldest daughter was six when he left home, so from the nuclear component perspective, we started over, and have four little ones at home.
Here’s what I have noticed so far.
The chaos is not really any more out of control than with three.
Things are absolutely ridiculous around here. The two boys (in the middle at two and four) are crazy. One minute, they are fighting like they want to kill each other with the toy weapons we have provided (or they make them up from other objects) and the next the older one is trying to console the little guys because he bumped his head on something. They are both a little young to be any help at all. Any time I head outside to work on something (especially it involves tools, my tractor or the truck, or driving to the feed store) they want to come. Which means I have to stop everything, change the pull-up on the small one, get them both dressed into jeans and boots (not a small task) watch them get distracted by a million things on the way out the door, and then five minutes into starting the project, one of them gets hurt, or they walk away and find something dangerous and stupid to do.
“I thought you guys were coming out to help?”
So then I have to keep walking away from my project to check on them because they are probably by the woodpile hitting each other with my ax. Or tying a rope to their gator and pulling each other around in the dirt. Or whatever.
Nothing has changed about any of that.
The two oldest LOVE their little sister.
My oldest daughter and the next-down in age boy cannot get enough of the baby. They constantly walk around wanting to hold her, ask if she is OK when she is crying, ask Mychael what the weird breast pump thing is, and reminding us “I love baby Katrhyn.”
David and his little sister.
The littlest guy, not so much. He was, of course, instantly demoted from “baby” to “your brother” or some other ubiquitous term for “two-year-old male sibling.” So, he kind of stays clear of the baby and does a little acting out when he is not getting attention. I’ve been playing on the floor with him a little more than usual to offset the effects.
Me and the littlest guy, Aleks shooting bad guys and watching the John Wayne version of “True Grit.”
Mychael is pretty much on baby duty, 24/7
Three of our kids have been like this (the last three). When the oldest daughter was born, I was an intern and Mychael was a full time nurse. She worked nights (like 11PM to 7AM) and I think back now trying to remember how we did it. The baby did not breast feed for long, and started really preferring the bottle. She was also sick a lot. Wouldn’t sleep, you know. Internship is pretty time consuming and stressful, but I would come home, we would have dinner together, and after we got the baby into pajamas, it was off to work for Mychael. I would be up all night with the baby, sleeping in little one to two hour bursts between awakenings, and then Mychael would come home, take over and it was off to work for me. Plus, my step-son was twelve and in middle school, so although he was pretty self-sufficient at that age, he could not do EVERYTHING himself. He was in track, swimming, and a few other things. I guess maybe I was just younger (I was 37 when Kenna was born) and able to deal with it better. Those were the days when we were trying to do the perfect, 50/50 egalitarian, division of labor, blue-pill thing. I remember there was a lot of just-beneath-the-surface seethe from both of us back then.
But as I mentioned, this one seems to want to be on Mychaels, lap, her breast, or right beside her sleeping pretty much constantly. So, while I buzz around taking care of the other three, I stop occasionally, check on Mychael, give her a bathroom break, hold the baby for a little while, but she prefers mamma. Poor woman is like chained to the couch with the baby. But this won’t last long. She is already starting to soothe herself a little and you can walk away if she falls asleep. I’ve been making dinner most nights, but now the homseschool co-op folks have put together a dinner-for-the-Klajics sign up roster and they delivered chicken thighs, macaroni and cheese, and salad last night. The sweetness of that cannot be overlooked. It helps a lot because that is about the time I usually make the rounds taking care of the farm animals. I will write more about that in another post.
The back seat(s) of my wife’s car has never been more beautiful to me
This past Sunday, Kathryns first day at church (although she and Mychael cannot enter the sanctuary until the fortieth day) was the celebration of Saint Sava–the first patriarch and archbishop of Serbia. They all fell asleep on the way home. I looked over at Mychael and snapped these.
Not just because I am a super high-risk taker who loves to fiddle with my cell phone while driving, but because I realized, there is only one seat left in this huge Ford Expedition. I could not be happier. The love between us has created a little army of Klajics. But, it has not really become any crazier with four. A little bit, I guess, but it was already a 9/10 on the crazy scale.
The oldest, Kenna, will be ten when we move to Montana. And little Kathryn will be less than two. I can’t wait to start that part of this adventure, but I can enjoy this for the moment.