Posts Tagged ‘faih’

Ash Wednesday 2019

And you know – Lent is coming up. Two weeks from today!

Last Sunday: Septuagisima Sunday

Next up – Sexagesima Sunday. 


Here’s a page on Lent. 

Here are some Lent resources from me. 

Also – if you’re looking for a Lenten read, either as an individual or for a group – consider The Words We Pray. 

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In anticipation of the release of Silence at some unannounced date in 2016, I’m going to read as much Shusaku Endo as I can. I have read several of his novels, but by no means all, so I started yesterday and today with one that was on my shelf, unread: The Sea and the Poison.  

This was not Endo’s first novel, but it was one that brought him early acclaim. Published in 1958, it is based on historical events that Endo was the first to deal with in literature: the vivisection of eight American POW’s at a Japanese university hospital near the end of the war. 

It was natural for me to read this book with Silence (published a few years later) in mind, and for similar themes to strike me: characters in professions dedicated to human well-being put in situations in which their action or inaction will result in others suffering and being killed; these situations being agonizingly fraught; a sense of being trapped in a situation in which there is no “good” outcome; the depravity of human brutality on full display.

sea and poison endo


And, of course, the question of…how?

It is, of course, a different book though. The focus is a bit more diffuse, as several characters come other scrutiny, and the characterization does not have a great deal of depth – they really do function as representatives of a culture rather than as people, but that is, perhaps, Endo’s point: to critique the nihilism of Japanese culture as it was at the time.

The book begins well after the war, in a town – a suburb, perhaps – of Tokyo.  A man and his wife have just moved there, the man needs medical treatment and for it goes to the closest doctor, one Sugoru, who lives and works in dreary conditions, is mysterious and withdrawn, but who also has a surprising skill in the particular treatment in question, but with no human connection – bedside manner – at all.

We then move further back in history, to the end of the war at the hospital, where we remain for the rest of the novel. It’s a short book, so it doesn’t take long for us to meet the rest of the characters and get a sense of the situation: physicians, residents and nurses weary of war dealing with very ill, elderly patients – everything, it seems, is hopeless. War weighs on the situation, of course, but just as heavily is the politics of the hospital administration.

Sugoru, a young intern, has a conscience and cares for his patients, but he is really the only one.  In short order, he is pulled into the experiments – given a choice, to be sure – but with no real argument presented against it.  The prisoners, it is assumed, are going to die anyway, so why not in a way that will benefit others?

Now, here is what was interesting to me. Two other characters involved in the experiments are examined in depth. We get flashbacks exploring the backgrounds of Toda, another intern, and Nurse Nobu Ueda. Toda has absolutely no conscience, and never has. The void is illustrated through various stories from his childhood and youth. The nurse has experienced great suffering and loss, and her motivation for saying yes to participation are tied into that only in a reactive, complex way. For her, it is that by doing so, she will be a part of a secret of the chief surgeon’s life, a secret that his German wife – who has recently humiliated the nurse – will not be.

Anyway, what interests me is that Endo gives quite a bit of time to exploring the background and motivations of two characters who say yes to participation with little hesitation or pangs of conscience, but of Sugoru’s background – the one who begins the story and who is the only one to clearly have regrets – we know nothing. That’s a deliberate choice, of course, and it’s interesting to me.  Endo is known for stories in which Japanese pantheistic culture and Western theism are in conflict, but that is not the case here, at least explicitly. Sugoru is not a Christian (the only character who is, presumably, is the German woman, who at one point asks, in a rage and in relation to another situation, if no one fears God’s judgment), so it is fascinating to me that Endo has chosen to not go into his background.

What is the effect of this? In a way, it simply renders him more of an Everyman. His conscience is not due to any specific experiences. This – conscience –  is what makes us human beings – the failure of conscience, nihilism and total disregard for human life must be explained because it is a deviation.

The Sea and Poison is about excusing evil, about how evil can live under the veil of normalcy and about the tragic pointlessness of life defined by nihilism. It is about how evil can be domesticated as one more dimension of human attempts to gain power, to gain advantage over others or even, most paradoxically of all, to find meaning. How could this have happened? How could we have done this?

Endo invites his Japanese readers – and all of us –  to confront this question. A conscience, human sympathy and respect for life are natural elements of human existence – but consciences of individuals and societies can be deadened and they can be distracted by festering wounds to the point that once, again, we see how true it is that the one fixated on the self is, paradoxically, the one who loses the self in the end.

After the procedure, several of the characters try to make sense of what they have done. They pause and study the location, they mentally revisit the moment. Resigned, they turn away and move on. Nothing has changed for any of them, except for Sugoru, for whom everything has changed, even though, like the sea, it all still looks the same.

A disturbing, thought-provoking book.


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A post on what we’re doing schoolwise for the 10-year old…mostly these days, but with some future planning. Mostly to keep myself accountable….

  • We spent several weeks studying up on Spanish culture, geography and history, as well as honing in on the art we were going to see, particularly Valesquez, El Greco, Picasso and Goya. Don Quixote. I, Juan de Pareja. So that took up most of March. Then, field trip to Spain. Then there was Holy Week, during which they served many liturgies at a convent served that week by a very strong homilist.  You can’t get much stronger catechesis than being carefully trained to serve at the Triduum liturgies during which you are immersed in the deep tradition of the Church, including music, you witness a community gracefully and generously caring for its aged members and welcoming guests, and you hear strong, direct, missional homilies. Yup.
  • There’s another trip (stateside!) coming up in a few weeks, so prep has begun for that: geology, history, geography, bookmaking….
  • Back to the present:
  • Prayer today was Mass readings & Morning Prayer.  Every so often, we read the Mass readings from an actual Bible rather than the Universalis website, to give him practice in looking up passages in the Bible. He also wrote down some citations from my dictation (like Acts 3: 1-10. And then, what would it be if the citation were Acts, chapter 3, verses 1 AND 10. And so on.) When there’s geography mentioned, we pull out the map and figure out the lay of the land.
  • Reviewed liturgical year, particularly Easter Season.
  • Copywork today was Luke 24:35, the last sentence of the day’s Gospel.
  • Cursive practice, again and again! 
  • We finished Beast Academy 4C before our Spain trip, and so we are waiting with baited breath until 4D is released.  In the meantime, he is going through Life of Fred: Fractions, which is partly review and partly new stuff and a crazy story he loves to read.  We’re also working through a bit of Challenge Math. 
  • We’ve picked up the pace on Latin, hoping to finish up Getting Started With Latin in a couple of weeks. At the same time, we’ve started Visual Latin, another light introduction but at a quicker pace.  My older son worked through part of VL year before last, and I don’t recommend it as a stand alone by any means, but as an engaging (up to a point) supplement it’s okay. We’ll stay on this course until the fall, when he will probably start Henle – although I am still pouring over forums at The Well-Trained Mind sorting through resources.
  • We’ve started this writing program – I like it so far.  Still using a lot of the Brave Writer way of thinking as well, but this gives me a little more structure to work with.
  • Back to the MENSA poetry program – today we started “The Road Not Taken.” (link leads to teaching/memorization aids)
  • Science as per usual is all over the place.  It’s spring, so that’s happening: bees to be watched, dead wasps to be studied, blooms to be found…and so on. I want to finish the chunk of the grade-level science book that deals with electricity, but we’ll see how that works out.
  • I found a site (don’t remember where) that listed a lot of sources for free propoganda teaching materials from organizations and industries.   I’ve received a couple, and we’ll look at those this week – like this one ALL ABOUT COAL! 
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  • Our first EEME kit came this week, so we’ll hit that in the next couple of days (or probably early next week) and I’ll report back. (I paid for it – it wasn’t a review set, btw)
  • We get several magazines published by Cricket – highly recommended, watch for sales – and they, in addition to the couple of dozen books on his own interests (animals and natural disasters, mostly, although this week he brought home a book on Watergate….)  he checks out from the library every week, provide much of the history and science reading.
  • Some good videos lately, each of which leads to further exploration and discussion.  Most of them come from The Kids Should See This, Science Dump (although that has sexually-related material, so you can’t give free reign there, if you ever do to kids on the Internet, which I don’t.), Brain Scoop, Periodic Videos, and many of the other great science-focused YouTube channels out there.
  • Constant recreational reading.  Now he’s tearing through this series. Should take about a week. Before this, he consumed The Tripods trilogy.  Frequent interaction/questions/spontaneous narration about what he’s reading.
  • I found a really good music theory site: Dave Conservatoire.  It’s like Khan Academy for music.  So far, it’s great – even the videos on areas he’s familiar with are engaging enough to keep him (and me) interested and in every one, we learn something new. It will be even better once he has more interactive quizzes in place, but even as it is, it’s very useful.
  • And sometimes it all fits together: We watched some stuff on pitch from Dave Conservatoire, reviewed some of the many other activities we did on the physics of sound a couple of months ago, reviewed a couple of pages from the Usborne physics books we have, then watched sonic boom videos from Science Dump, and then saw and discussed this video on the George Mason students who devised a way of putting out fires using sound waves.  
  • Once a week, homeschool boxing class, and finally, his excellent art class is starting up again, after a basketball-induced break. (BB practice was at the same time as art). Schola at the Cathedral. Cub Scouts. There’s one more science center classes left before summer. A lot of piano this month – state competition, regular recital, and then a scholarship audition.
  • We’re continuing, at a leisurely pace of about once a week, to do the Mapping the World with Art curriculum, which he really enjoys.
  • Oh, if you want a good source for season-related poetry and quotes, go here – it’s great.  It’s a wonderful source for both copywork and general seasonally-inspired poetry reading and sharing. 
  • Lunch eaten to Horrible HIstories. (Now that Lent is over…he gave up TV for Lent, and didn’t complain once…)
  • Alabama Shakespeare is performing As You Like It, so next week, all three of us will start familiarizing ourselves with that..  (They are also performing King Lear, but I think we’ll stick with the comedy. )
  • Wanderings? Tigers for Tomorrow – a rescue facility for, well, tigers, and other cats as well as some bears, wolves and so on.  Excellent, thought-provoking tour.  The weather is now turning gorgeous, so definitely more adventures to come……Mental wanderings? Lots of drawing of imaginary worlds and cataloguing imaginary animals, and creating music on the keyboard and piano…

I think we’ll follow the same kind of path next year, simply getting a little more intentional with both the Latin and the writing. I hope his math progress can track with Beast Academy’s release schedule, but I’m afraid we’re going to continually be just a bit ahead.  He should, no matter what, be ready for the AOPS Pre-Algebra in 6th grade.  If you’d suggested that to me before Beast Academy, I would have scoffed, but now, about to finish up 4 and looking forward to grade 5 in the curriculum, I can see very clearly how the BA road is leading straight to AOPS – methods and ways of thinking that were new to my older son as he engaged with AOPS for the first time two years ago are being introduced in Beast Academy – so that when the 10-year old meets them in a year…he won’t be meeting them for the first time.

The last time I threw out a post like this, some concerned person wondered if the poor little fellow was having room to play in his busy schedule.  I’ll simply remind you that for us, “school”  –  takes three hours a day, tops. Then….recess for everyone!

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