Brain Dump: Ethics Edition

I have to write an Ethics paper tonight on Hobbes, in relation to Rousseau and Aristotle. I know- my brian is about to burst, and I have to dump it all so I can then go focus on really obscure classical ethicists who lived in times and spoke languages that require me to read each paragraph at least three time for it to sink in…

School with kids is freaking hard. I can do hard things. But this is really hard. It’s requiring a whole new set of things I haven’t accessed in years- or maybe ever. Last time I was in school, I didn’t care. I’ve always gotten good grades- and if I started to bomb in a class, it was because I stopped going or didn’t care. This time I care. Dig deep. Do hard things.

My home teacher brought over an air conditioning unit tonight. He and his son installed it, and for all my nostalgia earlier in the week, it sure is nice to not have my house be 85 degrees right now.

I made it to the gym for the first time in a week today. I was ready to bit the heads off live bats I was so stressed. So I went and beat myself up instead. It wasn’t the greatest workout ever- but it was the best one this week.

Abby is completely out of diapers and pullups now. Houston, we have bladder control. She’s woken up every morning lately with a dry pullup, so this may actually be the end of almost nine years of diapers.

It’s almost ten. A friend who just graduated from the same school I’m at told me today that most of my best writing will take place between 10 pm and 2 am. Looks to be about right.

Okay, I had to do something with the kids, so I knuckled under and joined Netflix, and the kids are having a ball watching movies and TV shows online while I study. Also, I started watching Arrested Development at night when I fall into bed. It helps me unwind, and seriously? I don’t think there’s been a funnier show ever.

My bed broke today. It’s a fancy bed, but it got moved to install the air, and one of the support struts fell out and then cracked when we moved it back. So my (same awesome) home teacher went to ACE and rebuilt my bed with fence hardware, 4×4 post anchors and 3″ screws. That sucker is never coming apart again. I may have to leave it when we move someday.

WHY IS KIDS TOOTHPASTE BLUE?? WHY??

I want to paint my front door. But I cannot decide between tasteful brick red, or on wild chartreuse. Any bets?

Off to write a paper now…

School Mingled with Motherhood

Thrasymachus’s is skeptical of the role of reason in establishing morality/ethics. His claim…

Mom! Abby peed on the couch! MOM?! MOM WHERE ARE YOU??? I need you quick!

…is literally that “morality is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger party”.

In looking at this exchange between Socrates and Thrasymachus, I was distracted by Socrates’ style of debate, and found myself pondering if he was setting up a false dichotomy, or straw-man with Thrasymachus. It almost seemed as if he was playing with his prey. While I don’t…

CRASH!!… mom? mom? I’m bleeeeeeding mom! Bean shoved a straw in my lip and now I’m going to DIE!! I need a band-aid!

…personally find Thrasymachus’s argument persuasive, his point is an important one to consider. In recalling the introduction of the Peter Singer text we are using, I found myself, oddly, thi…

Ring. Ring. Ring. MOM! The phone is ringing and I can’t find it, can I answer it mom!? MOM?!! JEFF!! Give me back the phone! I GOT IT FIRST MOM!!! MOM MOM MOOOOOM!!

…thinking of Hume.

I’m hungry mom! Can I have a go-gurt? Abby ate the last pink one and I don’t LIKE THE BLUE ONES! AND SHE PEED AGAIN! Gross, Abby. Go tell mom!

(If I read it right, Hume argued that our morality is based on belief rather than reason, and knowledge only comes of direct experience. While Hume and Thrasymachus might not have much else in common, this view of justice…

Bean chewed through Wii controller cord again and now my game won’t work! Put him on a timeout mom! MOM! He left his Chewies in bed and ATE MY WII! Can I hit him? MOM!?

…and morality as being subjective and relative is something I kept coming back to.) Socrates sets the stage by making a simple point, as noted, about the fallibility of government leaders- those in power.  If those in power are those who have morality vis a vis that power, then…

Mom, I can’t find Wubsy. Can you help me find Wubsy? Bean took the remote from me. Mom, can we go to the park? Mom, can I go on the computer? Why are you using the black keyboard and not my keyboard, mom? Where’s brothers? Mom?

…and procedes to dismember Thrasymachus’ position. He says “…morality is no more what is advantageous to the stronger party than it is disadvantageous to the stronger party.” Thereby rendering the position impotent, as it cannot be both and have any authority…

MOM!! THERE”S NO TOILET PAPER!! MOOOOOMMMMM!

It becomes amusing and looks more like baiting when Socrates proffers that Thrasymachus holds him to be a bully. Thrasymachus is- perhaps too narrowly- looking towards what he sees (fallible or not) as the ideal…

*ding dong* Hi! Mom? MOMMM? Your home teachers are here. MOM? What are you doing mom? Where ARE you MOOOMM?!!

…He is rather ham-fisted in his attempts, but I don’t think he’s the buffoon Socrates plays him to be. From what little I know of philosophy, I think centuries later Nietzsche pretty powerfully argues from a similar place of moral understanding.


Living Without Air

Growing up on the peninsula south of  San Francisco, nobody had air conditioned houses. The natural “air conditioning” would roll over the hills from the foggy Pacific every afternoon at roughly 2 o’clock, and nestle into the valleys between the ocean and the bay. It’s a pretty narrow isthmus of land, and being surrounded by water made things naturally cool off every evening, no matter how hot it was earlier. I remember 100 degree days, but not too many- and never for more than a few days at a stretch.

When I moved to the northwest, I was surprised when the home we bought had central cooling. I wondered why on earth a house in the Evergreen State would need air conditioning. Central heat? Sure (No house I lived in in California had central heat, believe it or not. It just wasn’t needed. 70 degrees in May, 80 in July, 65 in December- a wall heater was more than ample.)

My first year here, I vowed I wouldn’t stoop to using something like central air. Then July hit, and it wasn’t so much that it got hotter, but it did that too- it was the days of hot stretched on- a heat wave. And at night, there was no cooling fog rolling over the foothills to chase the sweltering day. The first summer, I remember looking at the thermometer at midnight, and being shocked (shocked!) that it was still almost 86 degrees. At midnight! The California girl in me was completely offended.

So I turned on the air. And for the next eight years, I loooooved my air conditioning. My big fancy house had the biggest, baddest air conditioner, and that sucker kept that giant fancy house like a freaking ice box in July. And I loved it. I loved every minute of it. Except sometimes. When the California hippie girl would poke her head out and wonder what the heck? Then I would feel bad.

Now that we are in Little House, for the first time since we moved from California, I am again without central air. Along with my gleaming floors, and fancy French wallpaper, I surrendered my icy July air. But along with all the other things, this has surprised me. As it starts to heat up (finally!) I find I’m kind of comforted by the hot air. I find myself feeling more in tune with the rhythm of the season- the at the end of June, you are supposed to be warm, you are supposed to feel the heat standing in your kitchen window, while you wonder if the berries are ripe yet, and should you make jam today? Having my nightgown be limp, and the window fan whirring is oddly comforting. I feel more in touch with who I am this year.

Now if you ask me in August, the charm may have worn thin, and I may be hot and grumpy again. But for now, I kind of like this summer thing.

Thinking About Subliminal Children’s Cinematic Viewing Messages

Or, that was the longest blog title I’ve ever used. I’m not sure what I’m doing here, and I am no statistician, but let’s just for a second look at something:

  1. Snow White: No mother, evil stepmother
  2. Pinocchio: No mother
  3. Fantasia: Disney on crack, so no story anyway
  4. Dumbo: Finally a mother, but she is put in chains and locked away
  5. Bambi: Mother is shot in first scenes
  6. Cinderella: No mother
  7. Alice in Wonderland: No mother, evil queen
  8. Peter Pan: Another mother! But the story takes place in a land where there are only boys.
  9. Lady and the Tramp: Lady becomes a mother at the end.
  10. Sleeping Beauty: Sent off to live with three fairies in the woods.
  11. 101 Dalmations: Another dog who is a mother.
  12. Jungle Book: No mother
  13. Aristocats: never seen it.
  14. Robin Hood: Non issue.
  15. The Little Mermaid: No mother
  16. Beauty and the Beast: No mother
  17. Alladin: No mother
  18. The Lion King: Has a mother, father dies.
  19. Pocahontas: No Mother
  20. Hunchback of Notre Dame: No mother
  21. Hercules: Mother is a god.
  22. Mulan: No mother does in face have a mother, I have been told.
  23. Tarzan: No mother
  24. Fantasia 2000: Crack-tastic revisited.
  25. Lilo and Stitch: No mother

So, out of twenty-five (and this list is not exhaustive) feature-length Disney films, sixteen of them have a protagonist set up with no mother figure whatsoever. Of the remaining nine, two were abstract paintings, four were about anthropomorphic animals where parenthood came at the close of the movie, or was a non-issue, and the remaining three actually had a mother, even if she sent her kids away. Mrs. Jumbo (Dumbo) and Sarabi (Lion King) were the only two functioning mothers, with Mrs Darling (Peter Pan) being only ancillary to the story, while the kids flew off to a land where only boys live.

Next, let’s look at Pixar/Disney:

  1. Toy Story: Andy has a mother!
  2. Bugs Life: The queen is good.
  3. Toy Story 2: Andy still has a mother.
  4. Monster’s Inc: WHERE was Boo’s mother??
  5. Finding Nemo: Mother is eaten in first scene.
  6. The Incredibles: AWESOME mom.
  7. Cars: Do cars have mothers? Nah.
  8. Ratatouille: No mother.
  9. WALL-E: non issue.
  10. UP: Wife dies.
  11. Toy Story 3: Yay for Andy’s mom still being around!

So right off the bat, it’s clear Pixar is doing better than old-school Disney in at least keeping the moms alive. But what does that break down to? In the eleven current Pixar films, a mother is relevant in four of the movies. Three are Andy’s mom (Toy Story). Hmmm. Mrs Incredible is the first honest-to-goodness mom superhero. In two films, motherhood is irrelevant, as there is no humanlike protagonist or even anthropomorphized animal. In the remaining four films, once again poor mom is killed off (Nemo), dies sadly (UP), doesn’t exist (Ratatouille), or never bothers to look for her missing child (Monster’s Inc).

So what? I dunno. Maybe nothing. I love a great many of these movies, and they get shown often in my home. I enjoy them. I am especially fond of the Pixar movies, and their wonderful, evocative stories. But I can’t help wondering what’s the deal? Is the loss of the mother so often what send the protagonist on the Hero’s Journey? Maybe sometimes. Why are the original Disney movies so rich in female heroines, while the Pixar movies, better in so many ways, are almost entirely lacking?

I guess this is what happens when you take an Ethics class and start sitting around thinking all day.

Public Enemy Number One

Okay, so get this: In Washington state, if you sit at home and do nothing, you get food stamps. But, if you go back to school full time to try and get a better job? They penalize you and remove some of your support. They are willing to continue benefits if you work 20 hours a week, while being a fulltime student. They will pay for daycare so you can work your minimum wage job that doesn’t cover the cost of daycare for three kids. That, folks, is the fruits of welfare reform. THIS is what it looks like to make the Evil Welfare Mother accountable. Awesome, isn’t it?

A Complicated Web We Weave

The man I call my Dad is not the man who gave half his DNA to create the zygote who became me. The DNA donor didn’t even hang around until my first birthday. The man I call Dad actually married my mom when I was almost 3, and I have no memories of the other guy- actually didn’t know he existed until one day, over a game of Monopoly, I asked my grandma why I was born before my mom and dad got married.

What I remember, and I don’t know exactly how old I was, is the tender look on my grandma’s face, as she picked up the phone to call my mama. Hiding under her dining-room table, I peered out between the woven fringe on her yellow tablecloth, while she pushed the buttons on her goldenrod desk phone, and said “It’s time. You need to talk to your daughter…” I was older than 8, but I honestly don’t know how old. Old enough to hear the hitch in my grandma’s words, and know she was shaken, and that she loved me.

Grandma took me home, and my mom sat me down in the big tweed recliner in the living room, with the TV off (that meant Serious), and told me about the DNA guy. I don’t remember many specifics, but I do remember holding a book over my head, as if I could hide from this unpleasantness by making a house and walls with the pages. While I may be vague on the specifics of exactly what went down, to say this changed my life is pretty accurate.

On one hand, I went along after that day as a regular kid. I had two parents who loved me and a regular kid’s life, populated by good neighbors, hide and seek, bike rides and swimming lessons. But I never looked at the world quite the same again. I remember watching my Dad with suspicion, with confusion. I wondered if he loved me as much as he did my brothers, who were suddenly only “half” and that frightened me. If Dad was half mine, and my brothers weren’t real, and grandma and mom had kept such a secret from me, what else in my world wasn’t true?

Looking back with the wisdom of years, I understand what happened, and why my parents made the choices they made. I don’t see my siblings as anything less than my blood, and I have tremendous compassion for my Dad and my mom. But as a kid, it was unfathomably confusing. It turned out all my parent’s friends knew my “secret” and not only knew it, but knew DNA guy, and some even had contact with him. Once, he showed up at a big camping picnic, and I walked into a tent to find him doing lines of cocaine. I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but I knew it was bad. That was my first (but not last) remembered interaction with DNA man. I ran and told my Dad. I don’t know what was exchanged, but DNA Man left shortly thereafter.

My teenage years were rocky. I’ll never know how much was normal teenage angst, and how much I manufactured in suspecting my dad didn’t love me as much, since I wasn’t Real. What I know now is, a great deal of what I considered offensive was simply my naivete and lack of understanding of a complicated and painful situation. For everyone.

When I was seventeen, I decided I would drive two states away and meet DNA man. I had this idea that if I could only get to know him, things would smooth out in my life. I had arranged to stay with DNA Man’s parents, who had always kept track of my life through photos and cards my mom and other friends would send. (If nothing else good came of that trip, it was getting to know two really wonderful people who were also caught up in a sad set of events.) DNA Man was remarried, and had two children, but his new wife would not allow me to visit them at their home. I had to meet his children at his place of work. It was awkward and sorrowful, and I felt terrible. DNA Man tried to excuse his new wife as simply protecting her own children, but even at seventeen I could see that for rubbish.

I wonder now how my Dad felt about my searching. We’ve never talked about it much. My attempts over the years, and there have a been a handful, to make contact with DNA Man have been ridiculously disappointing and sad. If anything, it underscores the wisdom of my parents in removing him from my life and protecting me as long as they could. They knew it was inevitable that someday I would ask questions. They also knew the answers I’d get were going to suck.

DNA Man is alive somewhere in the west, but I don’t even try to make contact anymore. His parents died several years ago, and he took the wedding ring his mother left me in her will and sold it. That tells you just about everything you need to know.

There’s a country song about a man who marries a single mom, and the boy grows up and thanks his Dad for being a Dad when he didn’t have to be… this pretty much sums up my feelings for my Dad. He was a young man, and he loved my mom and adopted me, and became the Father I would not otherwise have had. He did his best to protect me and raise me, and while my younger self could not understand the complicated curves live throws at you, the me of today certainly does.

Now I’m going to go bake treats and skip church today, because my kids don’t need to even know it’s Father’s Day. My most earnest prayers is to let them be protected from the insane things their DNA Man has done… May we be so lucky to find a man who will love them the way my Dad did me.