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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Quick Takes

1. I have been doing better at responding with love, especially in my parenting. I’ve noticed since I came back that I’m more patient, a *little* more forgiving and even doing a better job at overseeing their nutrition as I try to give them more complete meals: french fries AND baby fruit instead of just french fries (we ate out that day).

2. For a while now I’ve been striving to find the right balance between my kids and family and my computer and other interests. I knew that caring for and playing with my kids is important and I enjoyed that, but at the same time I couldn’t help fretting over the number of unfinished blog posts, the photos that date back to September and the little moments of growth and reflection scribbled onto random pieces of paper that I wanted to get typed up and written out before I forgot what they were referring to. It was a real source of stress and it was making me rather cranky and not very charitable.

Over a conversation with N my faith study leader, I realized that writing things out (or typing up notes and posts etc) helps me to reflect, learn and grow. As a result of our conversation, finding regular time to write and reflect became a priority, along with dedicated afternoon prayer time and this formed the basis of my new routine:

-1 hr prayer/reflection,
-1 hr photos etc (hobby)
( and sometimes 1 hr in the evening for photos, relaxing etc.)

Dividing up the time for a specific purpose has really helped me to prioritize what’s important (my sanity and spiritual growth), and to use the free time I have well. This new routine has worked wonders: I am getting regular time alone to pray, reflect, read and write, and it is keeping me sane. In addition, I am less attached to my pc outside of this time frame, AND while I’m away from it and with the kids, I am no longer worrying and stressing about the posts and pictures that aren’t getting done!

The only problem will be the days when I have play dates or tutor sessions in the afternoons. I have to work harder on those days to carve out that quiet reflective time, ideally beforehand.

3. Awhile back I changed the way I offer intentions for the non-believers in my life by offering individual sufferings for one person at a time, and cycling through my list of people, but this week I decided to focus all my efforts and prayers on just one person for the entire day. And it’s been a beautiful experience, as I dig a little deeper I’m developing real compassion for them.

Focusing on just one non-believer a day is giving me a special place in my heart for that person each day, and a special moment to deepen my love for them and my call to bring them to the Lord, as I ask God to show me His heart and theirs. And it’s been different with each one, each is in a unique place in their life and in their heart and it has been such a blessing to dig a little deeper and really get to know the people I see every day; to uncover their true souls, and what their heart longs for.

4. I told my mom that I’d been wanting this cd when we were at the Catholic Book store where she volunteers, so I wasn’t surprised when I opened it on Christmas day. This week I listened to it for the first time and I agree with Jen that it is a great meditation. With little kids at home it’s hard to find time/motivation to pray the rosary and I would like to be able to do it more. The cd has meditations but it also walks you through the entire thing. I decided it would be great for the car and it is. Best of all, some days you just need to get away or get some alone time with God, and now I have a spiritual retreat, whenever I need it, just waiting for me in the driveway.
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5. I was re-listening to some of the Christmas music on my youtube playlist and am really drawn to this rendition of the Huron Carol by Heather Dale. It’s sung in English, French and original Huron and it’s just beautiful.

6. It seems that having to take all those extra classes, especially the developmental psych one is going to pay off even more. My best friend who is in psyc received a request for a tutor for the class, but since she hasn’t taken it herself, she referred the student to me. I talked to her on the phone today and she will be coming over tomorrow afternoon for a few hours to get started. I’m really excited, I’ve never done this before and am not sure just how to help but she is confident between us we can make it work. I’m really excited about this!

7. This week I think I finally discovered the secret to a good smoothie. I love smoothies from orange juilius etc, but whenever I try to make something good at home, it’s never been that good, the taste has never seemed right and there were always chunks of berry at the bottom that never got blended. I always thought it was mostly because the smoothie vendors have special blenders, but I think I’ve found the one thing that had been missing from my smoothies before-frozen yogurt. I’ve had yogurt smoothies and they’re alright, but the one’s made with frozen yogurt seem so much cooler and smoother. I tried it out on wednesday and my mango smoothie was pretty tasty-I think I’ll just hold the milk next time and we’ll be all set. (Indeed, today I made a most excellent mango pomegranate smoothie!).

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I thought I’d post this up. It’s the best (most interesting) paper I’ve ever written I think.
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Integrity is known as a thick moral concept. It is seen as a trait and a virtue by most, but aside from having something to do with morals and character, it is difficult to grasp just what the virtue is. For some it is simply adherence to moral principles, for others it is being true to yourself. Cheshire Calhoun examines the three most common conceptions of integrity before presenting her own view. Using these four conceptions of integrity I will analyze each one with respect to the mafia. If a view in any way accords integrity to mobsters then it fails the test because Mafiosi cannot be said to have integrity, since integrity also requires moral goodness.

In her essay, Standing for Something, Cheshire Calhoun sets out to get to the bottom of just what integrity really is. The first picture of integrity she looks at is that of the Integrated Self. On this view a person with integrity will have a firm grasp on what he finds important and any short term desires that conflict with his long term goals will go unsatisfied. He will identify one hundred percent with his desires, he will come to these desires only through practical reasoning, and he will not make decisions on a whim. The main idea is wholehearted endorsement of long term self interests (Calhoun, 236).

A second common concept of integrity is the Identity View. This is the popular view of standing for something and being true to yourself. On this view a person with integrity remains true to his core values and never sells himself short. Unlike the Integrated Self view a person does not have to wholeheartedly endorse every desire, just the most important ones that are core to who he is as a person (Calhoun, 242).

The third and possibly the most popular view of integrity is the clean hands view. On this view endorsements are determined by the person’s own reasoning and there is a bottom-line threshold of things that a person would never do, no matter what the consequences of his failure to act.
On this view, people without integrity violate their own views (Calhoun, 246-250). A person who believes that abortion is always wrong but who chooses to kill her own baby because the pregnancy was inconvenient is not only a hypocrite, but also a person who lacks integrity.

On this view, there is the idea of a further possible vice to the virtue of integrity: the vice of moral preciousness. Perhaps integrity can be taken too far and tip off into a vice in the same way the Aristotelian virtues could. This vice is seen when a person puts their own moral purity above everything else, even above doing the right thing. An example that illustrates the desire to preserve one’s own moral perfection is the person that the gunman asks to kill one hostage to save the other nineteen. His conscience would tell him he should just suck it up and save the nineteen but he is unwilling and unable to bring himself to actually kill another human being.

Such a situation is not the norm, and a person can still be said to have integrity without ever being put in such a position, even though integrity is seen in the face of adversity. Calhoun writes, “In an ideal world, some things ought never to happen, and there are some acts no one should ever be called upon to do.” (Calhoun, 251). This is one of those cases where the rules do not apply. I see it in the same light as killing out of self defense. In an ideal world it is absolutely impermissible to kill, however, we do not live in such a world and there are such moral grey areas where killing another human being does not have the same moral constraints. It is always wrong to voluntarily kill another human being, but someone being put in such an unpleasant position is under coercion, and when coercion is involved it is no longer a free choice. For this reason, I would argue that in such extreme cases, whether the person chooses to do the awful deed or not, it is no detriment to his integrity.

Calhoun illustrates a similar example, where the extreme circumstances clause does not apply.
A pacifist named George is offered a job at a chemical and biological weapons plant. The idea is that if he took the job as a researcher he could drastically slow production, something worthwhile to him. However, he feels working for the company would be supporting an evil. Thus he has to decide whether to decline the job and preserve his integrity, when he could have saved lives, if only he had been willing to ‘get his hands dirty’ (Calhoun, 251).

In this case the decision seems clear. George is reluctant to take the job because he is against the main product, but for him to work at the plant secretly sabotaging their efforts, and getting paid to do it, how is he violating his core values? He is taking both money and labor away from them by working there so I think he is actually supporting his cause and thus does nothing to damage his integrity. That said, even if working for the company was still somehow contrary to his beliefs, I think it is completely acceptable to temporarily outwardly shelf one’s views, while still holding them deep down, in order to better bring them about later, thus achieving a greater success in the end. In this case ‘dirtying one’s hands’ is bringing good out of evil, so it does not constitute a loss of integrity.

On the Integrated Self view, a person could wholeheartedly endorse immoral pursuits and still be said to have integrity. Such is the case with the mafia. When a person becomes a member of the mafia it becomes the most important thing in their lives. One of the rules of membership explicitly states a Mafioso must “Always be available for Cosa Nostra, even if your wife is about to give birth.” (Pisa). Clearly, this is a case of wholehearted endorsement, as mafia business takes precedence over family, even above the birth of their child.

Looking at the Identity view, when a person joined the mafia, it became a part of who they were, as deeply rooted as any other endorsements for non Mafiosi. That said, it is uncertain whether all mobsters could be said to have lost their integrity when they joined the mafia. “When you join the mafia it expects to own you, heart body and soul. You become essentially a new creation in the life, and the life starts from that point on” (Lent). Ultimately it comes down to a question of whether going against one’s current beliefs by adopting a whole new belief system costs a person their integrity or simply redefines it. I would like to argue that it should be the former. If a person’s integrity can be completely redefined, then a person’s values can change more than once and this seems problematic. One of the reasons integrity is so highly prized is because it is something that can be lost, and thus something we must work to preserve.

While it seems clear that anyone who enters the life is dirtying their hands just by doing so, on this view that is not necessarily the case. One would think that these men had the same deeply formed values like everyone else that killing and stealing were wrong, and were just doing it anyway for the money, but for some at least, they grew up into the life, thus would likely not hold the same values as most people. Mafia groups actually called themselves families, and the mafia family came before anything else. And their mafia family, is what they stood for, the one thing they would be willing to die for. The mafia code was their bottom line.

In general, the members of the mafia are considered highly immoral. They lie, cheat, steal and even commit murder. So it is interesting that they actually had their own unique code of ethics. The commandment restricting membership explicitly excludes “anyone who behaves badly and doesn’t hold to moral values” (Pisa). So essentially, you had to be a person of integrity just to join, because the mafia had to know they could trust you. The rules were based on respect and loyalty, which are solid moral qualities. Gangsters were to respect their wives and stealing within the family was strictly forbidden. Mobsters were also expected to always tell the truth and to be on time. Failure to do so was seen as a sign of extreme disrespect for their superiors. Given their unique code of moral values, it seems a Mafioso could be said to have integrity. One can imagine the loyal mobster, born into the life, who follows all the commandments diligently, always pays up his share and would never rat anyone out. Could this person be said to have integrity?

One popular way of attributing integrity to shady characters is the idea that there are distinct kinds of integrity. Thus, while we would not want to attribute moral integrity to a mobster, the loyal mobster could clearly be said to have personal integrity, especially if this person was immersed in the life from birth, and thus never formed the same moral compass as the rest of us. The problem with this idea is separating integrity allows for the relativist idea of ‘personal principles’ and this seems contrary to integrity. Rather than being a struggle between moral and personal integrity, the loyal mobster illustrates a dilemma within the scope of morality, namely whether to compromise moral principles in favor of some other obligation (the mafia moral code). This is clearly a moral question (Graham, 240).

Calhoun says common views fail to account for the social aspect of integrity. First off, integrity is something to be prized. It is the people who demonstrate integrity that garner good jobs and friends. Furthermore, people will benefit from the integrity of others because integrity creates a community of trust. This fits well with the mafia, and is core to their rule system. The rules create an artificial community of trust and loyalty, the penalty for not complying being death.

But the social aspect goes further. On her view, integrity is basically an appropriate regard for one’s own views. That is, our views should be based on sound practical reasoning so that we do not think our opinions more worthy than they are. Also, we have to identify with them strongly enough, to believe that they matter, not just to ourselves but also to others. As a result, people benefit from others’ integrity because there is a greater diversity of opinions, getting us closer to an answer to the question ‘what is worth doing?’ (Calhoun, 257-258). Integrity entails keeping our own endorsements instead of selling out, and furthermore defending them for the benefit of others who share them. It is about caring what your community, politician, and/or world endorses, and truly believing that everyone should share your view. A person with integrity shares their view with the world. A Mafioso is not out to convert the world into gangsters, they just want to make some quick cash.

I have established that an individual mobster cannot be said to have integrity, but what about the mafia community as a whole? However, a society of difference is needed to demonstrate integrity. A person cannot be said to have integrity if they encounter no opposition and their views are never challenged. It is true that the mafia had plenty of opposition, but it was not the case that society was wrong while the mafia was right. Indeed, when it comes to treating one’s own judgments as ones that matter to others the mafia definitely falls short. Far from thinking everyone should be a mobster, the mafia was very selective about who could take part. For obvious reasons anyone with close ties to the police was excluded, but in addition, to be a full member a person was supposed to be Sicilian (Lent).

In addition to valuing one’s own opinion and defending it against others, Calhoun also advocates for epistemic trustworthiness. One has to be the sort of person who could rationally form good opinions that are worthwhile for the other deliberators to hear (Calhoun, 257). While this is an important consideration, it is not enough. Even a person who stands for what he believes is morally right does not necessarily have integrity. A person with integrity also needs to have moral trustworthiness. This means they have to be the sort of person who can reliably form solid moral principles and adhere to them. Graham explains: “What justifies my placing trust in someone is that he has my interests at stake and cares about what happens to me.” Thus, “Moral trustworthiness requires a genuine regard for the worth of the person.” As a result, no one with a morally questionable character can be said to have integrity. (Graham, 246-247). That said, it is clear that WE would not attribute integrity to mobsters, but within the organization other mobsters might. After all, the loyal mobster is always honest with his family, and genuinely cares about the other members in it.

Those who still think Mafiosi could be said to have integrity have the ‘love the sinner hate the sin’ mentality. They are trying to separate people from their actions, but this is wrong. Graham highlights a very important distinction: “Actions done in accordance with virtue and actions that result from the possession of it” (Graham, 249). Morality should always be a question of character and not of actions. Morality comes from the inside, out. Furthermore, a person of solid moral character would never commit such acts in the first place. With this distinction we can say someone acts with integrity but we do not have to say they possess it (Graham, 250).

Integrity in terms of wholehearted and deeply rooted endorsements allows evil doers to possess it, and viewing certain actions as morally despicable while ignoring the consequences just seems wrong. In the real world, always doing the right thing is not a simple endeavor and it is up to each person to use their best judgment when it comes to making difficult moral decisions. The fact that the world is far from ideal means there will be cases where people are called upon to do things that no person should ever be called upon to do. In such extreme cases, killing one to save nineteen (or the situational equivalent) is morally permissible, but not morally required.

When it comes to the mafia, they are putting themselves in the extreme situations, so their integrity cannot be spared. Integrity requires moral trustworthiness, and it is based on the agent’s character and never solely on their actions. Just because someone does morally good things sometimes is not enough to outweigh the bad things they do. Thus even one wrong move can cost a person their integrity. For these reasons, a Mafioso can never be said to have integrity.

Furthermore, integrity is more than a personal virtue, it has a social dimension as well. People with integrity are called to defend their views against the world on behalf of all those who may share them. “The courageous provide spectacular displays of integrity by withstanding social incredulity, ostracism, contempt and physical assault when most of us would be inclined to give in, compromise or retreat into silence” (Calhoun, 259). These people, the people with integrity, are the ones with the power to change the world.

References

Calhoun, Cheshire. Standing For Something. The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 92, No. 5. (May, 1995), pp. 235-260. 29 Nov. 2008 http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-362X%28199505%2992%3A5%3C235%3ASFS%3E2.0.CO%3B2-G>
Graham, Jody L. “Does Integrity Require Moral Goodness?.” Ratio 14.3 (Sep. 2001): 234. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Dalhousie University, Libraries-Prowler. 1 Dec. 2008 .
Lent, Chris and Tom Willis (Directors/Producers). (2008, November 20). The 10 Commandments of the Mafia [Television broadcast]. Ontario: CTVglobemedia.
Pisa, Nick. “Police discover Mafia’s secret code of conduct on Godfather. ” Evening Standard [London (UK)] 8 Nov. 2007,1. ProQuest Newsstand. ProQuest. Dalhousie University Libraries-Prowler. 29 Nov. 2008

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This is all in reference to the photos I wrote about taking in my last post.

I finally captured something from my childhood. I captured a scene that I fell in love with many years ago when I used to ride the city bus to school on early winter mornings. What grabbed me was the perfect blend of blues and oranges mixed with purples. (I still wonder how orange mixed with blue can make purple.) It didn’t happen every morning; it had to be the right time of day, there had to be a blanket of fresh snow and I think the sky had to be clear and not grey. (upon re-reading the piece perhaps this is not the case) One day after witnessing just such a morning I was so moved I wrote a little piece about it. I always think it was grade 7, though it’s in my scribbler from grade 9. It seems I wrote it on the bus, though from the neat letters I must have recopied it and re-worded it later while I was sitting in class.

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It’s early now and still quite dark. The sun has not yet risen on today, and I’m not sure it will. The sky is a misty grey-blue-purple against orange street lamps and falling snow. The ground is covered with about 5 cm of powdery white but the streets are clear – not enough (snow) to slow traffic on the busy roads where it melts on contact – but just enough to be a blanket over everything and cling to tree branches. Through the falling snow and the dirty snowy bus window I see the odd window lined with Christmas lights or decorated with icicle lights. Christmas has now come and gone along with last year, but hints of it still remain.

The sky is lighter now and a misty pale blue. The street lights are still on, their orange light scattered by melted snowflakes – on the glass and glistening on the wet road until a car comes, the snow clearly visible in the path of the headlights, as the car stops to wait for the light to change.

In this peaceful quiet state my mind wanders on the morning, or what classes I have today, or what someone said yesterday, etc. I can barely make out the blurred outline of the crane in the dockyard. What with dirty snowy and rain dropped windows and semi darkness and blowing snow it is very faint indeed. It’s as if it was far off on the horizon, not right close by.

Somewhere in the bus a cell phone ring jerks me out of my peaceful state like a bullet. My thought train completely derailed, I can no longer remember what I was thinking about just two seconds before. The awareness of exactly where on the route we are always seems to slip away somewhere along the stretch of car dealers. There must be at least ten of them. Maybe someday I’ll notice them all and count them before I no longer acknowledge their existence. And I come to somewhere along one of those store-lined streets with clothes and coffee shops, often near a Tim Hortons. And I look at the donuts and think, I don’t remember passing that big ad screen on the side of the casino, or that candy shop.
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Ultimately though, I am a little disappointed with the number of quality shots. We’re always supposed to be improving. I have to find a way to hold the camera really steady, even when I’m shivering lol (or get a tripod!). Some of the photos blurred and I didn’t notice in time to take another. This happens a little to often. Then sometimes I aim and focus with a source of light causing my photos to either appear over exposed or too dark. It’s another thing I tend not to notice until it’s too late.

Anyway, here are 3 of the best.

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