New Year

Reposted from last year:

You know that song that everyone sings in movies and on TV at New Years Eve?  If you’re like me, you know the song,  you can recognize the melody but have no idea what the words are! Well, here you go!

“Auld Lang Syne” is the name of the song. The lyrics come from a poem by the Scot, Robert Burns and is in an older Scottish dialect. The phrase “aul lang syne” means literally “old long since” and is idiomatic for “long, long ago”.  Here is an excellent version of the song with a translation following:

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and days of old lang syne ?

CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for days of auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since days auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since days of auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

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Why I Hate Christmas

[N.B. This is a re-post from last year, but I thought it worth sharing again]

OK, I don’t really hate Christmas.  But there is a part of it that I despise.  I remember once being at a Christmas party where several people exchanged gifts – all the gifts, it turns out, were gift cards.  These folks basically just swapped cash, an empty gesture if the balances are equal, and the only one who really benefits is the merchant.  I thought, “Couldn’t we just skip the gift-giving and celebrate the birth of Christ? Why these meaningless exchanges of goods?” Surely whatever money we spend on gifts could be put to better use.

Now, there are times in which gift-giving is a joyous experience.  Take the following commercial for example:

I’ve often come across something that “would be just perfect for so-and-so.”  And I knew it would bring them great happiness to receive it.  And sometimes I’ve even received such gifts.  But those are few and far between.

C.S. Lewis in his essay, “What Christmas Means To Me,” identifies four reasons that this whole burden of gift-giving should be condemned:

1. It gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to ‘keep’ it…in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out–physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making…They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.

One needs only hear the annual horror stories of “Black Friday” sales to know this is true.

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2. Most of it is involuntary. The modern rule is that anyone can force you to give him a present by sending you a quite unprovoked present of his own.  It is almost a blackmail…

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3. Things are given as presents which no mortal ever bought for himself–gaudy and useless gadgets, ‘novelties’ because no one was ever fool enough to make their like before. Have we really no better use for materials and for human skill and time than to spend them on all this rubbish?

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4. The nuisance. For after all, during the racket we still have all our ordinary and necessary shopping to do, and the racket trebles the labour of it.

We are told that the whole dreary business must go on because it is good for trade…But can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter just to help the shopkeepers? If the worst comes to the worst I’d sooner give them money for nothing and write it off as a charity.  For nothing?  Why, better for nothing than for a nuisance.

So, will I abstain from buying gifts for mom, dad, and grandma?  Probably not, but if we are casual aquantences and you get me a gift, don’t expect one in return – I’m drawing a line in the sand.  Here, and no further!

Merry Christmas!

Happy Birthday to Wendell Berry!

There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say “It is yet more difficult than you thought.” This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.

~Wendell Berry (1934 – )

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Happy Birthday to G. W. Leibniz!

TO LOVE is to find pleasure in the happiness of others. Thus the habit of loving someone is nothing other than BENEVOLENCE by which we want the good of others, not for the profit that we gain from it, but because it is agreeable to us in itself.

I claim that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated without this principle: nothing exists without a reason. This principle holds not only in mechanics, where it concerns whether from a given magnitude, figure and motion, another magnitude, figure and motions, follows, but also in matters that of necessity are not mechanical, which I show as follows.

~Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716)

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Happy Birthday to G. K. Chesterton!

Chesterton is far too quotable to do justice, so here are three quotes from him related to the topic of “Reason”

Reason and the Heart:

Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of ‘touching’ a man’s heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it.

Reason and Imagination:

Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination.

Reason and Faith:

It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all. If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, “Why should ANYTHING go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic? They are both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape?” The young sceptic says, “I have a right to think for myself.” But the old sceptic, the complete sceptic, says, “I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all.”

~Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936)

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Happy Birthday to Walker Percy!

You live in a deranged age, more deranged that usual, because in spite of great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.

The influence of Kierkegaard on Percy is apparent:

The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.

~Walker Percy (1916-1990)

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