Three Short Political Opinions (that will probably set fire to the Internetz).

and for that, I apologize, world.

  1. Perhaps it is my new-found obsession with Doctor Who, or the fact that it’s been too long since I’ve gone stargazing, but I want to know why people in the world aren’t more interested in space research. I know Caitlin agrees with me on this but like…seriously…how amazing and wonderful would it be to find other life in this universe? Xavier Dumusque, a graduate student at the Geneva Observatory just discovered the closest thing they’ve found to Earth in the solar system Alpha Centauri, which is the Sun’s closest neighbors (only 4.4 light years away! A quick day trip!) and no one seems to even notice. Thinking about life on other planets and the vastness of the universe always lifts my mind to God and how amazing His creation is – and that’s just what I know of it so far. How much more would I appreciate it if we actually found life somewhere else? (And let’s be honest, what are the odds we’re the only ones? Seriously slim, right?) COME ON, NASA!
  2. I think the general American public is starting to see through the ridiculousness that is the two-party political system. In a simpler, grounded age, two parties seemed to suffice. But with the amount of different-opinioned voters in this country in our day and age, political opinion simply has to be more than that. There is no way our country is split half and half into people who think this way and people who think that way. It just doesn’t happen. (Frankly, I’d argue that it never did, but that’s beside the point). I don’t want to start a heated debate about its pros and cons, but I’ve just noticed a recent trend on the Internet, in the news, and even in my daily life of people commenting on the futility of our two-party system. Perhaps I will live long enough to see it abolished. Perhaps not. I can only pray, right?
  3. Planned Parenthood does NOT provide mammograms. I went to their website to research this a little further (after reading both on CNN and The Guardian that claims of PP providing mammograms were false). Planned Parenthood has information about mammograms, tips on when and how to get them, and then directed me to search my zip code to find out if the location nearest me offered mammograms. I went to my location and under “Women’s Health Services” it lists “breast exams” and “mammogram referrals”. I searched a whole bunch of other zip codes both near and far from where I am, and every single one of them said mammogram referrals. None of them offered actual mammograms. So, Barack Obama, when you argue for continued government funding to a service that you say provides health care to women that is vital to them, I’d advise actually talking to the company you’re representing and finding out if what you claim is true. Otherwise Planned Parenthoods across the country are going to get an influx of angry women wondering why their President claimed they could receive mammograms there when in fact they’ll just be redirected to another source for the service they want.

Discuss at will.


I Do Too Soon? Marrying Young

To be honest, I’m probably not qualified yet to write about this topic – since I’m not really married yet – but I thought I’d touch on it anyway. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about it in recent weeks planning my wedding and going to marriage prep. [Oh, did I mention? I’m engaged! ]

Just to get you started with some statistics: a Pew Research Center study taken in 2011 determined that the average age of marriage in the United States for the first time for men is around 28.7, while the age of the average woman getting married is around 26.5. In the same study, researchers determined that now only 51% of American adults are married at all, compared to 72% in 1960.

As I’ve encountered different people in my workplaces and in my college classes, I’ve noticed very pronounced reactions to my relatively-early engagement (at least compared to the national statistics). A couple classmates were beyond psyched for me, while another said, “Are you sure about this? I mean, you’re only 21.” I had an older lady friend of my fiancé’s say to us, well good luck but you’re just too young to get married. Another college senior girl who sits by me at work lives with her boyfriend and expressed wishes he would just propose instead of living together straight out when she spotted the ring on my left hand.  I’ve bonded in class with other girls who are engaged, whispering wedding tips and tricks in the couple minutes before class and joking about being so young to get married.

Marriage itself has kind of been in the national political spotlight recently, with the debate about gay marriage being so prevalent and so contested. With all of these factors tying in together, it seems as though the concept of marriage as a whole has been in the communal mind of Americans in the past couple years.

I’m not sure what to make of this.

In one way, I think it’s good that our society examines some of the traditions and behaviors we come to accept as normal. Where would we be if we had never talked about the Prohibition act or allowed women to vote? [I have a feeling we’d have a large faction of homemade wine-happy women creating their own secret government…but that’s just a theory.] But on the other hand, I find a rather ever-present pressure present in American society to slow down and reevaluate when and where marriage should occur in a young person’s life.

In a way, this can certainly be viewed in a good light. Young people including myself are seeing the national divorce rates climb to over 51% of marriages – and they get scared. What’s the point in spending thousands of dollars on a pretty white dress and some [freaking expensive] cake if it’s not going to be forever? And there’s a lot of sense in that. This concept of marriage is being taken more seriously by those at the prime marrying age, and I love that. Marriage isn’t something that should be taken lightly (whether you are speaking of civil marriage or sacramental marriage). Marriage is a lifelong commitment to one person for better or for worse, not just when you get tired and don’t like their snoring anymore.

But on the other hand, their seriousness can be taken too far. Hypothetical 29-year-old Unmarried Man says “Well, marriage isn’t worth it, so I’ll just live with my girlfriend for a while and if it doesn’t work out, she can just move out. No big deal, right?” Umm, in my opinion, BIG DEAL. I won’t go into it here (future blog post?) but there are so many reasons why living together and not being married is just a bad, bad idea.

I’m not sure about anyone else, but I have noticed a trend relating to marriage recently at least in the different communities I inhabit. My church-going friends, those who either attend the Newman Center or another faith-group frequently and are relatively serious about their faith, seem to get married much sooner than my non-religious or unidentifiably religious friends. At both of my jobs, I am surrounded by young professionals ages 25, 26, 27, 28 who are not at all interested in getting married. One of the employees I work with was overheard last week saying “I have a girlfriend and a job. I don’t need to get married on top of that.” [First of all, what, also, what?]

Yet I think the disparity between these two groups is what makes this topic so interesting.  There are those 20-24 year olds who are involved in their religious groups getting married right out of college. And there are those young professionals who put it off until later in life. Why is this? Are those business-driven young adults just not willing to devote the time and energy into a marriage so early? Or what exactly is going on?

My theory is the peace of Christ.

Okay, yeah, that theory doesn’t make much sense without me explaining it. So here it goes. I think that those who are involved with their religious groups have a couple advantages not only finding someone to marry but making sure they want to marry them and sooner over their secular compatriots.

  1. If they’re involved even in a little way with their faith, they are bound to meet people who share similar values and religious beliefs. Even if it’s just every Sunday service, going there you’re bound to see some cute guy or a pretty girl sitting in the pew a couple rows ahead, and bam. Spark. Young professionals seem to complain a lot about being tired of the “dating game” and not being able to meet people. Church is a GREAT way to meet people!
  2. Young people involved with their faiths seem to know themselves better. If you are a serious believer in any religion, you really do have to know both what you believe in and in conjunction with that, yourself. If you then know yourself pretty well, you are able to then know someone else – aka date someone which might lead to marriage. And if that spark to get involved in your faith and know yourself happens in college, then the sooner you know yourself the sooner the rest of it can happen.
  3. Most importantly, if you’re serious about your faith and have been dating someone for a while, thinking it might lead to marriage, it is bound to come up in prayer. Whether you’re Catholic or Christian or whatever religion you like, prayer is a way to glorify God and also talk about your problems. So, if Bob and Jane are dating, Bob is probably going to go to prayer all the time about both the joys and the sorrows he’s experience in dating Jane, and Jane will do the same.

These three advantages all lead up to this peace I spoke about. If, say, you meet your future spouse at a church event, you know yourself and them pretty well, and you pray about your relationship, chances are you’re going to be pretty peaceful about where it’s heading. And then when it comes to this big question – do we get married – you’re going to have peace. It might not come right away, and it might come disguised, but I do really believe that this peace is what’s going to drive you to know that you’re supposed to get married.

I know that was certainly the case for me. I don’t want to get on a soapbox here but that’s how I knew I was supposed to marry my fiancé. I met him at the Newman Center, I’d been serious in my faith for long enough to know who I was and what I needed and wanted, and we prayed for each other and about our relationship all the time. Soon enough in prayer and just in my heart I knew that he was the one for me. Of course times of doubt occur just like they do for every decision you can make, but I knew that Christ’s peace was the main factor in me deciding we were going to get married.

Peace of Christ. Bam.

I realize that this ‘formula’ doesn’t work for everyone, because that would be ridiculous and stupid. But I think it does examine why this difference exists between the different communities I exist within and a little bit of why each community thinks the way I do [at least from my outside observance].

I don’t really know how to end this article because my own thoughts are still relatively jumbled about it, so I will end with a small piece of advice. If you’re looking for a husband or a wife and you don’t know where to turn, go to church. You’ve probably heard your mom say that a hundred times, but I speak from experience – it works. I can’t guarantee anything but if you’re getting closer to God in the process, what could it hurt?

These are a few of my favorite things

In honor of St. Francis of Assisi on his feast day, and because this ties in perfectly to what I’ve been wanting to write about, here is a kickin’ G.K. Chesterton quote (points for those who can guess where this is going):

“Francis, at the time or somewhere about the time when he disappeared into the prison or the dark cavern, underwent a reversal of a certain psychological kind…The man who went into the cave was not the man who came out again…He looked at the world as differently from other men as if he had come out of that dark hole walking on his hands. This state can only be represented in symbol; but the symbol of inversion is true in another way. If a man saw the world upside down, with all the trees and towers hanging head downwards as in a pool, one effect would be to emphasise the idea of dependence. There is a Latin and literal connection; for the very word dependence only means hanging. It would make vivid the Scriptural text which says that God has hung the world upon nothing.” –G.K. Chesterton

You probably guessed it; The Cave by Mumford & Sons.

But mostly just Mumford & Sons.

A recent article on NPR explains why bands like Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers, and the Head and the Heart are becoming so popular, and you should go read it because it is awesome.

I bought Babel on iTunes the night it came out and stayed up waaaay too late listening to every track, and I can’t explain to you how beautiful I find this music.

It’s cliche and ridiculous, but it lifts my soul (biologically, watch me cite myself). The lyrics are meaningful and spiritual in way that isn’t overtly Jesus-y. For example;

So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
Cause oh that gave me such a fright
But I will hold as long as you like
Just promise me we’ll be alright

Sounds like some spiritual warfare to me. Or possibly how it isn’t easy to love Jesus or love your faith, but we have to believe that it is worth it.

I love how well-read these men are and how talented they are as musicians. I don’t mean to drop the I-saw-them-in-concert-card, but I did and it was incredible. A friend of mine was talking about how at the concert there was such obvious humility in their performance. Even though Marcus is the lead singer and arguably the front man of the group, he wasn’t in the spot light alone or physically in front of the other members.

I just really like them, okay?

I haven’t done a ton of research yet to see where these lyrics come from or what they are alluding to but just by listening to the songs multiple (read, hundreds) of times, there is a tangible depth and joy and sorrow and honesty to these lyrics, and if that NPR article is right (which I’m pretty sure it is) this is the direction a lot of music is heading. And praise God, I’m tired of music reminding me how much I dislike general society and how technology is taking the place of honest talent. I’m thrilled that music has raw voices and guitars and banjos (I’m pretty sure the banjo is my love language) and that lyrics aren’t just words thrown together, but actual poetry.

It just makes me really excited.

Double cite myself? I’m going to make a Who Do You Think You Are? Jar and put in a dollar each time I cite myself to remind myself that I am not a Pope writing an encyclical.

And here’s a brillant article  about Babel written by my favorite DN reporter (who is also my friend in life).

St. Francis, pray for us!


Biology of Beauty

This is an incredibly fascinating article that my friend Greg Florence found.  It’s basically explaining a scientific study about why Adele’s song “Someone Like You” makes everyone cry.

Apparently, when musicians use the technique called appoggiatura, our bodies react with goosebumps, chills, or tears.

British psychologists, John Sloboda and Martin Guhn explain that appoggiatura is “a type of ornamental note that clashes with the melody just enough to create a dissonant sound” which causes just enough tension within the listener so “when the notes return to the anticipated melody, the tension resolves, and it feels good.”

I can’t even get over how cool this is. Our biological bodies react in biological ways to music, without us doing anything besides listening. So when you throw emotions into the mix and we listen to the lyrics of a song, or find the beat hypnotic, or respond to the accompaniment, we react.

We are biologically wired to find joy in beauty. Why? This is what I just can’t wrap my head around. What is the scientific reason for us to enjoy beauty? Like, we are wired to get hungry to eat so we don’t die, we get tired so we sleep so we don’t die. But why do we listen to music? Why do we study art? Why do we read book after book after book?

Because beauty feeds our souls need for something beyond us. Beauty points us to something that is beyond what our biological and scientific mind can comprehend. Beauty reminds us that creators can create amazing things, and that the greatest Creator of all time, created creations that can create creations.

It’s acknowledging that God made us and made everything for us, but then also gave us free will and specific talents to add to his masterpiece. Often, it’s like we are given crayons to add to Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, or like a well-meaning Spanish lady trying to restore the “Ecce Homo” fresco (I will never get tired of this story). But sometimes we succeed, through grace, of course, and often our creations can lead others to the ultimate Creator.

Which is pretty amazing.

Before the beautiful—no, not really before but within the beautiful—the whole person quivers. He not only ‘finds’ the beautiful moving; rather, he experiences himself as being moved and possessed by it” — Hans Urs von Balthasar

Here is a post that says everything I want to say, also found by Greg Florence