November 1st, 2008

The Virtue of Elfishness

Yes, a long-lost ethical treatise by Tolkien has been found!

Just kidding.

Really, this post is about this quote from Roger Kimball that struck me:
“Selfishness” can be a vice. It can also be another name for that “well-ordered self-love” that Thomas Aquinas extolled as “right and natural.”
Rand drew a parallel distinction.  She thought "rational selfishness" was good.  But she thought "selfishness without a self" was bad.

Of course, Aquinas and Rand were both following in the footsteps of Aristotle
who thought that love of self should not be throttled.

Anna in the Darkness

"Anna in the Darkness", by Jeremy Menekseoglu, has become a Halloween staple of the Chicago theater scene. But until last night, I hadn't seen it.  

It's a one-woman show, about a teacher whose house is surrounded by people who plan to kill her. But it's about more than that. Anna has a story to tell.

I had the idea, from the ads and the word-of-mouth, that it was extremely scary. Horror-film scary.  

So it was hard to get my wife to go see it. She likes her sleep. And she can't sleep after watching a horror film.

But last night, Halloween night, I prevailed. And was quite surprised. Certainly the play was very scary.  But it was inspiring too. Anna turns out to be a kind of tragic heroine. She doesn't think of herself that way. She thinks of herself as someone who can't help doing what she knows is right.

She doesn't think of herself as brave. But she can't help fighting against evil.

Anna was embodied by the always-compelling Anna Weiler, who slipped into the character as a hand into a glove, smoothly transitioning between abject vulnerability and driven righteousness.  

Weiler also, at times, in recounting the past, slipped into some other characters as well.  Each portrait was sharp and distinct.  It was quite startling to watch her flow from dedicated teacher to twisted Christian preacher.

This play got me thinking about horror stories. They're not all the same. Some of them are about a universe that is malevolent. Others are about a universe that contains some malevolent beings. The feeling is different. When Menekseoglu writes a horror-drama, it's the second variety, and the malevolent beings are always manifestations of humanity gone wrong.

You know it's true,
not everyone wants
the best for you.

In fact, some want the worst,
hoping to burst
your heart.

Throw back their taunts
and pursue
what you must.

Unwelcome Attention

Obama's aunt, who lives in Boston, donated $265 to his campaign.

Now the campaign is returning her money, because she's an "illegal alien", or perhaps an "undocumented resident", but definitely an "ordered by a judge to return to Kenya" person.

Be careful when passing your nephew-candidate dough.
When you're "illegal" it's safer to just lie low.


Obama doesn't know anything about her status here.  But the government is suddenly making it harder to ship her out:
Onyango's case — coming to light just days before the presidential election — led to an unusual nationwide directive within Immigration and Customs Enforcement requiring that any deportations before Tuesday's election be approved at least at the level of the agency's regional directors, the U.S. law enforcement official told the AP.
Hopefully once he's president,
she'll be a legal resident.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Boston says he has no idea how she qualified for public housing when she has a deportation order hanging over head.

She's staying.
Boston's paying!

Running Debate

I saw a new article today entitled "Are you running yourself to death?"

It turns out to be about the peculiar risks of doing marathons. Risks which are nontrivial.

On the other hand, back in August, a big longitudinal study was released:
Regular running slows the effects of aging, according to a new study from Stanford University School of Medicine that has tracked 500 older runners for more than 20 years. Elderly runners have fewer disabilities, a longer span of active life and are half as likely as aging nonrunners to die early deaths, the research found.
If you don't die during that marathon,
you may in fact live longer.

As Nietzsche said, what does not kill you
sometimes makes you stronger.