An Ode to Date Nights

Gustav Klimt, The Kiss

By: Alexia Jolie Villa

My husband and I have been married for almost 14 years, 10 of which we’ve spent as parents.  We are deeply, deeply grateful for our three healthy young children, who have brought so much meaning to our lives, both in terms of challenges and joy. 

However, no matter how much we love our kids and love spending time with them, I’ve instinctively felt for a very long time that it is important – actually, necessary – that we regularly spend some time alone as a couple. The passing of time has turned this feeling into a certainty.

The first time we went out on a date after becoming parents was a year after my eldest child was born. Looking back, frankly, we waited too long, but, as a first-time mother, I just didn’t realize the importance of such moments. We didn’t do anything particular: just went out for a quick pizza and a movie at the theater. But I remember very clearly what a revelation it was to me to be able to focus exclusively on my husband again, basking in feeling attractive for him and in the feeling that I was having FUN with him again, especially after spending a very hard few months as first-time parents.

Ever since then, I’ve tried to spend at least two hours every week alone with my husband, leaving someone else – either a grandmother or a babysitter – to look after the children. We don’t have to do anything fancy, though it is very enjoyable to have dinner at a nice restaurant. A simple walk to fetch the newspaper or some fresh fish will do. We rarely go to the theater because that means we can’t talk to each other, and there is so much we need to talk about – our plans for the future, musings about the present, our hopes, dreams, fears, doubts – and so little time to do it during the week, between my husband’s work and everything I need to do to take care of our home and children.

Of course, there are stretches of time when we can’t have our date because life gets in the way: the kids get sick, there is something else going on during the weekend, or it’s one of “those days” for me.

But it is so fundamental to have that bit of time alone with each other. 

Whenever my husband and I have the opportunity to focus solely on each other, without anyone or anything else demanding our immediate attention, we have the opportunity to focus on the magic, both physical and spiritual,  that brought us together and still holds us together. We talk about those things which represent the origin and foundation of everything we hold most dear in our lives: our children, our home, our dreams, and the good we bring out in each other that adds to the good in the world. To me, imagining my marriage without romance feels like imagining life without poetry, without the search for what is divine in the human experience.

This is Jordan Peterson’s definition of sexual romance: “The adventure, pleasure, intimacy, and excitement people fantasize about experiencing when they are feeling in need of a touch of the divine.”

There are many ways to capture the divine in our everyday lives – with our children, with nature, with family, books, music – but there is something special about sitting with your husband and being overwhelmed by the awareness of the power that lies in your love for each other. Despite the inevitable flaws we will both always have, we have the power to create and nurture new life and to transcend everything, including those personal flaws. We just have to believe in our bond strongly enough, and be willing to offer in exchange the necessary amount of blood, sweat, and tears.

Auguste Rodin, Cathedral Hands

There is a deep sense of awe and gratitude that the simple touch of my husband’s hand is capable of inspiring in me. When you’ve been married for a while and have had to get through many difficult moments or weeks or months with your spouse, and you know how to get on each other’s nerves, it is a miracle that we are both strong enough for those moments of connection. 

To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage

Lao-Tzu

The resilience of intimate connection means that you’re both still alive. So much of our daily lives are spent on the brink of tragedy: one second too late and your car crashes, or your child chokes, or you hurt seriously injure yourself. I don’t know how long I will be alive. I don’t know how long my husband will be alive. I don’t know which challenges life will throw at us in the future, and neither does he, but I do know that we’re capable of savoring the moments we have with each other.  We can use the passion and gratitude we have for life to help us to survive any tragedy that may occur in the future.

My beloved is mine, and I am his

The Song of Solomon 2:1-17

My husband is my knight in shining armor: isn’t that how we all need and want to see our husbands? And don’t they need to see us as their ideal woman, whom they cherish and will do anything to protect? Men and women alike, we need to be reminded as often as possible by our spouses how important we are to them. There is no a better way to do that than with some dedicated attention, especially in view of the long term. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to someday be one of those elderly couples who’ve been through the whole life spectrum – work, raising children, all manner of psychological and physical challenges – and still look at each other with stars twinkling in their eyes?

Norman Rockwell, The Old Couple

The Frodos of Fatherhood

A powerful scene in the Lord of the Rings is a wonderful metaphor for fatherhood. Frodo, the insecure and lowly hobbit of the Shire, is given a colossal task – take the Ring of Power into Mordor and destroy it.  He is shown in vision the terrible destruction that awaits the world should he fail in his quest. The elf queen, Galadriel, is there with Frodo. After this terrifying vision, rather than softening the blow, she tells him, “This is your burden to bear, if you do not find a way, no one will.”  With this harsh and necessary perspective, this imperfect hobbit goes out into the dark world.  He overcomes great obstacles.  After much tribulation, he climbs the stairs into Mordor.  He is spurred on by the knowledge that the future of mankind rests in his hands and his hands alone. He is indispensable.

Every young father is Frodo. 

He is unsure of his ability to perform the difficult task asked of him. He is weak, inexperienced, and immature. Like Frodo, he prefers beer to responsibility. Yet if he fails in his task, the world suffers. 

Watch Frodo as he discovers the urgency of his quest. 

You can see the feelings of inadequacy in his countenance. He looks to the elf queen, “You are wise and fearless and fair, Lady Galadriel, I will give you the One Ring, if you ask for it. It is too great a matter for me”. 

I have seen this look before, I remember it well. It was the same look my husband had in a hospital in Hawaii, as he was handed our shrieking first-born son. I was bed-bound due to my C-section. My 24-year-old husband was left to scale the cliffs of parenthood largely alone. 

He tried to hand our son off to the nearest nurse. She wisely left the room – he would have  to figure it out. 

Frodo made many mistakes. He trusted the untrustworthy and for a moment he even gave into the power of the ring. But, through God’s grace and the assistance of others, he made it. He was the man for the task. An imperfect but willing young father is also the man for the task. The Frodos of Fatherhood are heroes despite their imperfections. They do not shirk from their duty.  As they carry the burden, they grow stronger under its weight.

The man that embarks on the adventure of fatherhood will not emerge the same man. “There is no real going back”.  He will gather scars along the way. He will learn what he is made of.  The future of our world truly does depend on the everyday man, or hobbit, taking his child in his hands and bearing that precious burden. 

My husband is a different man now than that young man unsure of himself in a hospital room.  Now 13 years and 4 kids later, he doesn’t fear the duties of fatherhood but carries his burden well.  Like Frodo, his journey of Fatherhood has included tribulation and overcoming obstacles. Yet Frodo seems deeply traumatized by his experience with evil, for his burden was a wicked one and grew heavier.  Yet as Fathers carry the righteous burden of their own precious children – it does not grow heavier, but lighter. Looking back, I love that brave 24-year-old man that tried to pass off our son to the nearest nurse, but he was a smaller version of the mighty man we have today.  He now has a greater capacity for hardship, self-sacrifice, empathy, and spiritual discernment. Fatherhood, for him, has been primarily a journey of joy and laughter.  We, his family, see him for the Hero he is.  

Happy Father’s Day to all our Heroic Dads.

Small acts lead to great victory

“The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Lewis describes the power of a small “good” action. One of Aesop’s fables describes the terror of a young mouse, caught by a hungry lion. He pleads to be released, “Spare me!” begs the poor Mouse. “Please let me go and some day I will surely repay you.” The lion laughs, how could such an insignificant creature help him? But in his mirth, he releases the mouse. A few days later the lion is caught in a hunter’s net. His angry roars reached the mouse. He runs to the rescue and chews the Lion free. “You laughed when I said I would repay you,” said the Mouse. “Now you see that even a Mouse can help a Lion.”

We may feel we are as insignificant, but this mouse didn’t. He heard the cries of the lion and ran to the rescue.

The sacrifices we make today equal peace and happiness in the future. These offerings are often begun simply by opening our eyes to the needs of those around us. The accomplishment of each “good act” requires a sidelining of distraction and selfish inclination, and actively engaging with the soul of another.  This miracle of selflessness is that it is so often accompanied by joy.

I hope we can have the attitude of this mouse – No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. For parents this may mean: resisting the impulse to anger, putting down the phone and cuddling with our toddler, staying up late to talk with our struggling teenage daughter, encouraging our sensitive child to face a fear. These small acts will lead to great victories.

-Ally

I loved his Babylon Bee article which hilariously demonstrates how a perspective on the smallness of our roles as Mother’s is so very wrong.

https://babylonbee.com/news/i-accomplished-nothing-today-says-mom-who-cared-for-infinitely-precious-children-of-god

Reading Lesson, George Hardy, 1889

In Defense of Men

Herodias with the Head of St. John the Baptist, Paul Delaroche

The last few years have been rough for men.  The #Metoo movement, Kavanaugh hearings, Women’s marches, and the ubiquity of the term “Toxic Masculinity” have been bad publicity for our brothers. While some of the criticism of male behavior has been justified and perhaps even necessary, it’s not hard to see tares growing among the wheat of righteous indignation. For instance, “man-hating” has now become more mainstream and normalized. As one sitting U.S. senator said in anger about recent sexual controversies, “Who is perpetuating all of these kinds of actions? It’s the men in this country. And I just want to say to the men in this country: just SHUT UP and STEP UP, do the right thing for a change.”  

For a change.  Maybe a little harsh? 

Looking at my life, I am surrounded by good men who work hard, love their families, and do so with very little recognition.  Most men I know try to live good moral lives, but they are imperfect. The truth is we are all capable of evil and goodness, and that capability has little to do with our sex. The world is not as black-and-white as protesters or activists like to imagine.  Too often, we women fail to see the weaknesses of our own sex or the strengths of the opposite. But headlines and initiatives send boys this clear message: “There is something seriously wrong with men.”

“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties (or genders) eitherbut right through every human heart.” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 

Of course, there are men falling short, and many women have good reasons for their prejudice.  There are abusive husbands, power-hungry male leaders, and shiftless young men.  We should not give these men a pass for their failures.  Many women, traumatized by tyrannical or mean-spirited fathers, lack the foundation a good father could have provided, so they see no reason to trust men. 

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” ~Sigmund Freud

Modern plagues that affect men, such as pornography and excessive video game usage, are also not helping women with their trust issues.  

Yet we seem to extrapolate the worst in one man to the furthest reaches of mankind. Sin, in all its variations, is never committed collectively but individually.  No man should be made to take responsibility for others’ sins; nor should we generalize one man’s mistakes to be indicative of all men. Consequently, labels such as toxic masculinity or demands for “men to shut up and step up for once” are misandry. 

Men Disrespected

As society becomes increasingly hostile towards men, not just for their vices but for their natural proclivities and traditional roles, boys take note. Men and boys want to be respected, and when they sense disrespect, they disengage. Girls are more willing to work for respect and will often go to extreme lengths to prove their worth. By contrast, boys are less likely to put forth much effort unless they are respected first

We may believe that respect must be earned (as the Senator suggests, we will let men speak again when they are worthy of speaking), but this attitude rarely works. It is respect that motivates men. A generation of boys now faces a disrespectful world,  unsure of their purpose. Don’t be surprised if they are unwilling to treat society any better than it treats them. 

“It’s an act of courage to trust.  If you trust someone, you open the door to reciprocity and negotiation and cooperation, and you entice the best part of the person forward.”

~Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson is on the front lines of combatting the harsh world young men now face.  He isn’t simply sympathizing with young men; he gives them a clear path out of nihilism and self-pity. He is telling them to step up.

In one of his Biblical lectures where he explored the necessity for “men to stand up and take responsibility,” Jordan Peterson stated with emotion that boys “are starving for that message … because now you are cursed from a young age with the notion that you’re part of what is wrong with the world and you’re adding to the tyranny of the social systems … that is soul-deadening; it’s anti-human.”

He continued, “My sense is instead, if you were able to reveal the best of yourself in the world, then you would be an overwhelming force for good.”  

Jordan Peterson’s rise to fame was largely upon the backs of these starving young men. He is the father figure many have never had. In interviews, he often gets emotional speaking about the plight of young men in society.  This extremely intense five-minute clip shows his genuine concern for them.

The Feminist Rage

Feminism is a word with many connotations and very little actual meaning. It is often seen as a movement favoring women’s rights, respect, and opportunity. Who could oppose that? My own mother is an old-school Feminist. She raised her kids, got a Master’s Degree, and now works as a psychotherapist. Nearly every modern person in America would have agreed with first-wave feminist ideasthe right of women to vote, gain an education and determine their own future.

But modern feminism is different. We are now on the 4th wave of the feminist movement, and the women marching in the 1920s would likely be appalled and even disgusted by the antics of modern feminists. The anger, bitterness, and crassness indicative of many modern feminist leaders have turned the average woman against feminism. (Remarkably, 70% of American women surveyed do not define themselves as feminists.)  Some may claim this negative new version isn’t really feminism. Perhaps so, but the tares have overtaken the wheat when the leaders of the Women’s March promise the next few months will be a “Summer of Rage.”

Douglas Murray, the author of The Madness of Crowds, spoke to these iterations of Feminism in a recent interview, noting that compared with first-wave feminism:

In Second-wave feminism, man-hating or misandry starts to creep in, saying things like, “we don’t need men” and that goes on in the ’70s, but it’s still fringe. By third and now fourth-wave feminism, this misandry exacerbates to the stage we are at now, fourth-wave feminism. This isn’t a movement seeking to find agreement or compromise or any kind of equitable arrangements between the sexes. It isn’t seeking to make sure that women aren’t held back from achievements. Instead, it’s seeking to try to carry out an act of historic revenge, which the perpetrators believe will, in some way make up for what they perceive correctly, as it turns out, to have been lesser opportunities in the past for women. … But the desire of these groups seems to be, let’s go way past equality. Let’s make men feel awful. Masculinity is the problem, never femininity.

So in using the term feminist, I refer not to the original inspirational feminists but to this 4th wave of revenge-seeking women.  If you look online, you will quickly find them. They are distinguished by their man-hating and anger. Unfortunately, the crowd tends to follow these especially loud and passionate voices.

In a society that fears men’s very nature and views any masculine ambition and competence with distrust and skepticism, Peterson is a counter-cultural voice. His firm and consistent message to young men is simple: if you improve, then the world will improve. 

Yet some don’t like the idea of Jordan Peterson helping young men. They assume if young men are drawn to something, it must be bad.  This shows the depth of the distrust of men. As one commentator notes, “Progressive critics have tended to assume that if a lot of white men are buying Peterson’s message about responsibility, there must be something sexist and/or racist in the message itself.” (In reality, his followers are actually quite diverse.

The Patriarchy

Though we hear a lot about “The Patriarchy” from modern feminists, it is a concept rarely definedeven amidst frequent insistence that it is causing enormous suffering in the world.  The word patriarchy actually means “rule of the fathers,” reminiscent of the patriarchs of the Old Testament who were meant to rule in righteousness.  It is ironic that in our age of so many consequences from fatherlessness, the Patriarchy is now being blamed for so many of our modern tribulations.  Feminist extremists see Peterson as a symbol of their version of the as Patriarchyan evil gang of men oppressing women at every opportunity.  But this view is simplistic and out of date. Women now live in an age of unparalleled equality and opportunity, but we too often remain stuck on old grievances. (In the same moment, modern feminists ironically tend to ignore genuine modern misogyny manifest in porn, casual sex, and prostitutioninstead opting to view these as somehow empowering for women.)

Unsurprisingly, these people aren’t always open to considering another perspective. As Peterson notes, men and women have had unique roles throughout human history, but they have, by and large, worked together to overcome great suffering.  Cooperation was necessary to raise a family amid physical and financial hardship.  So while there have been tyrannical men, tyranny is not a good long-term policy for kings or husbands. Gender roles developed not primarily due to oppression but because of the natural differences between men and women. With technology and modern advantages, these natural differences become less apparent.  

As Peterson states,

“The way I think we should view the history of the world is that men and women labored under virtually impossible conditions … and they did their best to cooperate, and to compete. But to cooperate so they had some possibility of a modicum of security and satisfaction.” 

“That is the right framework,” he underscored, and “within that, there are power games played by those who are corrupt.” 

In a GQ interview, the feminist interviewer stated, “The patriarchy is a system of male dominance … the fact is that the vast majority of wealth is owned by men, and the vast majority of capital by men.”  Jordan Peterson responded, “You are talking about a very tiny proportion of men. [The fact is] a huge proportion of people seriously disaffected are men, most people in prison are men, most people who are on the streets are men, most victims of violent crime are men, most people who commit suicide are men, and most people who die in wars are men, people who do worse at school are men.  Where is the dominance here precisely? What you’re doing is taking a tiny substratum of hyper-successful men and using that to represent the entire structure of western society. There is nothing about that that is vaguely appropriate.”

You Hate What you Don’t Understand

Despite many remarkable claims to the contrary, there are differences between the sexes differences that matter. We are more alike than different, and our differences are often greatly exaggerated, but pretending they don’t exist is another kind of distortion. In terms of temperament, Jordan Peterson summarizes the three most statistically significant differences between genders in temperament:

  1. Men are more interested in things/ideas and women in people.  
  2. Men are more aggressive and women more agreeable.
  3. Men are less emotional/neurotic, and women tend to be more emotional/neurotic.

I find it fascinating that these main differences are all related to the three most hot-button issues and buzzwords often highlighted by feminists:

  1. Patriarchy = Men are more interested in things and ideas (these interests tend to translate into making more money in a capitalist system since scientists and inventors make more than teachers and social workers)
  2. Toxic Masculinity = Men want respectand will use aggression to get it and women want to be loved.
  3. #Metoo = Women view sex more emotionally than men, and this can cause conflicting expectations/traumatic experiences for women, while men minimize these experiences because they are not as emotionally connected. 

A lot of the anger you see from feminists toward men comes from a naivete, misunderstanding, or lack of compassion for the inner world of men. Rather than harnessing their innate feminine traits to show empathy and nurturing, these women end up demonstrating the very traits they detest in the opposite sex: aggression and indifference.

Empathetic Women’s Appreciation vs Men-Hater’s Bitterness

So what is to be done?  We see mischaracterization and stereotyping of the average guy from modern feminism, and men have little power to defend themselves from a crowd that has presumed in advance their guilt. Some men, sensing the toxic reception of their culture, increasingly seem willing to become what they are believed to benihilistic, aggressive, and misogynistic (see Twitter for evidence).  Men need respect first, remember?  

In all these ways, the mischaracterizations and disrespect of modern feminism matter.  They seep into the consciousness of men through media, social initiatives, and doctrines taught in school.  We need women who know the goodness of men: wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters, women who love men. They can share the missing perspective.

Let’s examine the differing perspectives on men from appreciative wives and mothers versus man-attacking feminists, who can assume evil intent lurking behind every male action.

Contrasting Messages About Men:

Appreciative Mindset                                            Embittered Mindset

Thanks to the millions of men who died in wars to protect our freedom.

It was men who started these wars; women rulers would usher in utopia.

Thanks for doing all the manual labor and dangerous jobs that women can’t or don’t want to do.

Boys’ interests are socially constructed by the patriarchy because men want to keep their “boys club.” If men are more capable of manual labor, it is only because historically they stole all the meat from women (real feminist theory).

Sorry for the burden of hyper-sexuality due to a biologically-driven need to propagate humanity.

Men are just pigs, and women should be able to walk around half-naked without being leered at by creepy men.

Thanks for protecting your family from outside threats.

Men are insular and violently hostile to any diversity. Women don’t need protection!

Thanks for working hard all day to support your family.

Successful men are power-hungry and part of the patriarchal tyranny trying to subjugate women.  

Envy in Modern-Day Feminism

When our worldview is clouded by envy and bitterness, no good news will likely reach our hearts, and no defense will make a difference. Why are there so many women unable to gain a greater love for men? Surely, as discussed above, there are bad experiences with men which contribute to distrust. But often, in the musings of feminists, I sense an undercurrent of envy.  

I attempted to watch the movie Ocean’s 8 the other day. It is similar to the other Ocean movies except worse and all the men are replaced by women pretending to be men.  I have never seen such an obvious attempt to rectify a childhood grudge at being rejected from your brother’s boy’s club. Can’t women come up with our own ideas? So often, rather than demonstrating the magnificence of feminine creation, we see a mimicking of male creation. There seems to be an inability in many modern women today to appreciate the strength of our own gender and perspective. 

It’s striking how a modern feminist perspective is anti-man but also sees developing male attributes as progress.  We will never be a better version of a manand why would we want to be?

Imagine what could happen if we stop envying the lives of men and appreciate the life we can have as fully-actualized women!  Read Jane Austen, examine the art of Mary Cassatt, the writing of Dorothy Sayers, and the prophecy of Julian of Norwich.  Women have not been in the halls of formal power to the extent of menbut we have always been vital creators. Women have talents and gifts and purposes to fulfill and we have wonderful men to help us accomplish them.  We need men, and men need us.  

“We men and women are all in the same boat, upon a stormy sea. We owe to each other a terrible and tragic loyalty.”

~G.K. Chesterton

Who Will Stand Up for Boys?

Perhaps the most significant tragedy is the message this trend of “man-hating” sends to our impressionable boys. As the data confirms, our boys are lost; many have no sense of purpose. The now-antiquated notion of men as protectors and breadwinners for their families once gave young men an ideal and a goal. Now, “women can take care of themselves,” and fatherhood is downgraded and deemed unnecessary by society. In schools, energetic boys are too often treated like defective girls (and literally treated disproportionately to rectify this psychic energy). STEM, sports, and business initiatives likewise abound for girls while boys remain unchallenged. Innocent young boys are asked to accept “male privilege” and take the sins of their patriarchal ancestors on their own heads. Should we really be surprised when boys absorb discouragement from this kind of culture? Among other things, this is an opportunity for mothers to step up and teach their sons why being a strong man is crucial for the future of mankind.

Who will conquer the Man-Hater? It has to be us, women who love men, imperfect though they are. In an interview with Camille Paglia, a proponent of individualist feminism, Jordan Peterson speaks about why it needs to be “sane women” to stand up against their man-hating sisters. Respectful men are often defenseless against the attacks of bitter women. Men taught to respect and value women find it difficult to put up a fight since any such resistance would quickly be seen as displaying their “toxic masculinity.“ 

Mothers have a vested interest in men’s success, for our boys are little men. We can defend them because we gain unique levels of understanding and empathy “in the front row” as we witness the development of boys and the inner lives of our husbands.  We discover their motivations, feel their frustrations, and encourage them in the face of their fear.  When we raise our own beloved sons, we see all men in a different light.  We see the aggression and teasing between brothers, but we look forward to them defeating their sister’s bully.  When we raise teenage boys with raging hormones, we gain sympathy for the weight of heightened sexuality in men, and we view our own husbands with more understanding. When we see our boy intently kicking a soccer ball against the garage after a devastating loss, we understand words may not always be needed. 

What a blessing a good, strong man is! As we see our beloved husbands take on the role of fathers, we discover they can give our children things we can’t or don’t want to give. I don’t need to wrestle with my kids on the floorthat is Dad’s job.  I don’t teach my boys math through football scores or to “toughen up” after being pegged by a baseball. Fathers can be the calm, stable presence kids need.  When I see my husband make the sacrifices he doesgoing to work every day and still coming home and finding time to play with the kidsI gain a renewed appreciation for all men who quietly go about their duties and never demand much appreciation.  

To my fellow women and mothers, may we share the good news of masculinityspeaking out in defense of men when they are being collectively bashed. May we take the unique challenges of this moment as an opportunity to inculcate our boys with a sense of purpose and teach them to disregard the derision of our society. We need to recognize men’s differences and appreciate their strengths. We need to value the unique and irreplaceable role of fathers in our homes. We need to be among the sane voices that affirm masculinity and the power of a good man in an increasingly man-hating world. 

-Ally

The Accolade (1901), by Edmund Leighton

*This piece is a revision of a previous piece “Mom’s Verses Manhaters written in Dec 2018.  A version of this piece was published in Public Square Magazine on June 13, 2022.
https://publicsquaremag.org/uncategorized/in-defense-of-men/

10 Books for Young Women

Young women today are distracted and over-scheduled. They are confused and made anxious by our modern turmoil. Rarely do they find time to ponder the deep things of life. Yet, a powerful book, read in youth, can shape a life and calm a stormy heart.

This summer let’s encourage our daughters to read and to read deeply – not shallow and meaningless literature, but a book that will make them see the world anew. For years I have given Mere Christianity to graduating seniors. I have had a few of my young friends write me years later telling me about the book’s impact on their perspectives.

Below is a list compiled by Lucinda Grow, 18, of her most loved books. Lucinda is my niece but is also one of the best-read, deepest-thinking, and well-rounded women I have the pleasure of knowing.

Joseph Farquharson (Scottish,1846-1935), “Summertime”

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery is a cute romance story about emerging into emotional womanhood. This is my favorite romance book because the main character changes drastically. She is walked over and ignored by everybody until she becomes a woman who takes up a role in the world. 

Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is a fantasy novel following a young girl named Meg. The story is about the battle between good and evil and the ultimate triumph of God’s love.

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald is a beautiful child’s fairytale on the surface but has allegorical elements that point to the unseen truths of the Kingdom of God. The story left me feeling more thoughtful about how faith influences daily life. 

The Light Princess by George MacDonald is a fairytale romance about a cursed girl who lost her gravity. The actions of the heartless girl display the necessity for sorrow in order to deeply experience both love and joy. 

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is the biography of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini as he lived through becoming a pilot during WWII and a prisoner of the Japanese Navy. The themes of dignity, resilience, redemption, and forgiveness are powerful and profound. Humor and amazing historical facts also make it compelling.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is written from the perspective of an older devil guiding his nephew as he leads a mortal man to Hell. The ways in which sin is disguised by the demons and made excusable to the mortal man have helped me become more conscious of the importance of daily commitment to God.

Mere Christianity by C.S Lewis lays out the logical necessity for the existence of God and the divinity of Jesus Christ. This book helped me fully realize that logic and reason are in harmony with faith in God. 

What Men Live By is a short story by Leo Tolstoy about a shoemaker named Simon who helps a freezing man on the street. This act of selfless compassion is shown to be true Christian love through which God is able to bless His children. 

John Scott’s Treasured Volume is an anthology of poems that were once popular with the American public. Reading a couple of poems when I was too busy to commit to a book gave me a daily dose of philosophy and beauty. 

Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss is the account of a girl’s daily life as she matures and develops a relationship with God. This book taught me to be more patient with my own imperfect efforts toward being more Christlike. 

A Disappointed Supporter

There are few men I respect more than Dr. Jordan Peterson.  Anyone familiar with my writing knows that I have written many pieces relating his work to motherhood and femininity.  I have listened to and followed him regularly for years.  While I don’t agree with all his views and am aware of his flaws, I still find myself often amazed by the brilliance and depth of his wisdom, compassion, and intellect.  Through my website, I have tried to introduce more women to his insights.  I hope I have been successful and I hope I continue to be.  

However, I am disappointed in Dr. Peterson.  Two days ago he tweeted out an image of a model on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition – she was much heavier than most models featured there so this cover is controversial.  His tweet was simple “Sorry, not beautiful.  And no amount of Authoritarian tolerance is going to change that.”

Changing Standards

When I saw this tweet I wasn’t confused by his meaning – I knew immediately that he was getting a deeper philosophical point.  In conversations with Stephen BlackwoodRoger Scruton, and Bishop Barron he has delved into the philosophical idea of “beauty”. He has discussed the parts played by postmodernists and Marxists as they attempt to tear down all traditional and objective measurements – creating a world of pure relativism.  I agree with many of the points made by all these men and have written on these topics.  I believe that beauty is real, I believe there is objective truth, and I have seen how brutalist architecture and postmodern art have turned what was once a beautiful and glorious, artistic creation, into a narcissistic charade.

I also know that this woman, in posing for a magazine cover should perhaps expect such treatment. I would never want my daughter or anyone I love to pose for a magazine like this and I wish she hadn’t.  I know that likely she was chosen as part of a larger ideological push to redefine or leave undefined any human ideals.  

And yet. There in that image was my fellow woman, my sister. I might not agree with her choice to be on the cover, but she is precious nonetheless. His words burned. Even knowing his thoughts were deeper than his statement..still, as a woman, I expected better. 

Truth and Goodness

Some may say – well that’s just your feelings.  Look at the facts, look at how destructive all this culture-shifting has been!  To that, I say, As we seek truth should we cast aside our love and consideration for one another?  We certainly shouldn’t affirm what we don’t believe or accept, but he could have said nothing or phrased his critique in a less personal way. Should we be “stupidly” honest and lose hold of those few open-minded souls left, those who in seeking truth expect it to be accompanied by goodness?  What of Christian charity?  Truth untethered to goodness, with no concern for the individual, will not change hearts and minds.

Should we speak the truth in a pitiless way so it is rejected before being considered? JBP has taught me to always consider the alternative view, and to be humble enough to assume I am wrong. Often we hear the famous Ben Shaprio tagline “Facts don’t care about your feelings” and it rings true. Too often the concern over feelings have meant a trampling of truth. But for a man of great sensitivity like Jordan Peterson, he knows that feelings still matter. Positive reinforcement of good behavior is always more successful than harsh criticism.

The Beauty of A Soul

His statement – “Sorry, not beautiful”, while likely not actively chosen to insult this real woman, was it actually true? Is she, because she is overweight, really not beautiful? 

Peterson is a deep person – he sees things from many angles and states that he “is very careful with his words”. He knows that the “beauty of a person” cannot be lumped into the same category as the beauty of architecture, art, or music.   A person was not designed under postmodern philosophy or Marxist ideology – people have souls, and they are complex, and beautiful in many ways.  Imperfections of the face or body can be miraculously forgotten as the beauty of living souls come forth. But I also believe there is a more subjective preference for physical attractiveness than Jordan Peterson is admitting. The woman pictured surely had a beautiful face – is that to be discounted because she had larger thighs? Do we paint her with an ugly brush because she doesn’t meet every criterion of beauty?  

If we look at this woman and say – she is overweight, she can never be beautiful- we are exposing a materialist view of the world. This view sees us all as worthwhile only by our position in a hierarchy, and our ability to succeed by some evolutionary measurement. Those with excess weight are at the bottom of the beauty hierarchy. This is certainly one way to view the world, an increasingly common one.  The materialist view obscures every woman and man’s true worth and true beauty, it is sterile and unfeeling.  The materialist sees each person as a mechanism among mechanisms – more or less productive than others. 

Yet much of Jordan Peterson’s appeal is his ability to speak so beautifully and clearly about an alternative view, a more holistic, spiritual, and perhaps feminine view of the world. The view that sees the Divine worth of every soul, that says we all have value – despite our weaknesses and imperfections. As women, we should not be, and rarely are, ignorant of social standards and hierarchies.  We should seek out improvement in our physical lives. There are emotional and social benefits to seeking to improve ourselves, Jordan Peterson often advises us on how we can improve through small and consistent efforts.  Yet I believe, and Christianity teaches us, we should gain our worth from a higher plane that performace or outward beauty.  Transcendent truth acknowledges the beauty of our soul.

The Cross Women Bear

Women give birth to new life – we raise precious spirits and, if we are mothering properly, we don’t let their standing on a hierarchy alter our love and concern for them.  If our little girl has ears that stick out, or our son has a big nose – they are still beautiful.  This feminine perspective is what encourages us, imperfect beings, to progress. It should be integrated with the more masculine concern for competence and action.  An integrated world is not found on Twitter – so we should not be surprised by brutal criticism of a woman’s body unleashed there. There every post seems to be quickly defined as leftist or alt-right, ultra-feminist or misogynist. So we shouldn’t be surprised by a statement like – “Sorry, not beautiful”. I just didn’t want it to come from Dr. Peterson. 

Perhaps what I felt most disheartening about his tweet is it portrays Dr. Peterson as a cruel man, and he is not.  While Dr. Peterson has never claimed perfection and few but his most ardent supporters would make such a claim – we could always count on him to care.  He is brought to tears when speaking of the struggle of others.  He takes time with anyone that stops him on the street. His years of providing therapy, working with students, and struggling with his own depression have made him empathetic and kind-hearted.  But here was an image of a woman, a real person – and he opted for, “Sorry not beautiful.”

Women are not naive to the standards of beauty. We all know that thinner is generally more attractive. There is certainly a push to change these standards, because “ideals” are judgemental – and none of us want to be judged. Some of our pushing away from ideal standards of beauty may actually be beneficial to women – considering only a handful of women actually look like pinup models.  However, perhaps this cover is too far – it seeks to ignore the natural preference and attraction to those we view as “healthy”. The editors were likely leaning into the realm of domineering social engineering. The hypocrisy of Sports Illustrated is quite alarming. Their swimsuit edition has been objectifying women and setting up a false and unattainable standard of beauty for years, one plus-sized model will not correct that.  We should look to other sources as we seek out beauty.  

Women want to be beautiful. But rare is the woman that is not plagued with self-doubt about her “beauty”.  We never seem to feel good enough, pretty enough. This is a cross we must bear.  But crosses can be made lighter by the brotherly love of others, they are made heavier by their condemnation.  This is a cross Dr. Peterson could certainly make lighter through his empathy and wisdom.  Yesterday he made it heavier.  

Finally, I am saddened because now fewer women will trust Jordan Peterson. Calling a woman ugly to an audience of millions will have an effect.  Unfortunately, in one hasty statement he confirmed the lies his critics say of him – he is a misogynist, he has no compassion, and he is ideological.  But none of that is really true. He is so much better than that tweet. He is not some internet troll.  I wish we didn’t live in a world where people can take one tweet and turn it into a sign of your true character. It was a moment of haste and I believe he likely sees the error in it.

So why write this essay about a silly tweet? Because even in errors I think we can learn a lesson from Dr. Peterson. We can learn that even the wisest and compassionate among us may at times get caught up in their own intellectual web.  Even the best of us may forget the humanity of those we label our ideological adversaries.  Jordan Peterson is a good man and he is doing good work. He has flaws, he is impetuous, and perhaps not fully in tune with the feminine perspective – but he has much to teach.  I just hope that perhaps – as he has taught me so well – he will remember to “be precise in his speech” and perhaps look in the fog from which this tweet came – and bring that shadow into the light.

Ally

On Pessimism…

An Optimist and a Pessimist,
Vladimir Makovsky

As the world becomes more materially prosperous and safe we, strangely, see a rise in pessimism. We doubt the good-will of our neighbors, we look back at our history with disdain, we fear bringing children into our chaotic world. Cynicism and doubt are often justified, but do they tell the real story? What follows are the thoughts of some wise thinkers that may help us as we contemplate the proper orientation towards life: optimism or pessimism?

….

“Pessimism is not in being tired of evil but in being tired of good. Despair does not lie in being weary of suffering, but in being weary of joy. It is when for some reason or other good things in a society no longer work that the society begins to decline; when its food does not feed, when its cures do not cure, when its blessings refuse to bless.”
G. K. Chesterton

“The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.”
James Branch Cabell


“I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.”
Antonio Gramsci

“A pessimist is a man who thinks everybody is as nasty as himself, and hates them for it.”
George Bernard Shaw

“If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist? Would not a man rather have so much sympathy with the coming generation as to spare it the burden of existence, or at any rate not take it upon himself to impose that burden upon it in cold blood?”
Arthur Schopenhauer


“Both optimists and pessimists contribute to society. The optimist invents the aeroplane, the pessimist the parachute.”
George Bernard Shaw

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
Oscar Wilde

“They cannot indulge in any detailed or merely logical defense of life; that would delay the enjoyment of it. These higher optimists, of whom Dickens was one, do not approve of the universe; they do not even admire the universe; they fall in love with it. They embrace life too close to criticize or even to see it. Existence to such men has the wild beauty of a woman, and those love her with most intensity who love her with least cause.”
G.K. Chesterton

“My acceptance of the universe is not optimism, it’s more like patriotism. It is a matter of primary loyalty. The world is not a lodging-house at Brighton, which we are to leave because it is miserable. It is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it. The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is the reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more. People first paid honor to a spot and afterward gained glory for it. Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they loved her.” G.K. Chesterton

“Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when Joy is the fundamental thing in him, and Grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive state of mind; Praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; Joy is the uproarious labor by which all things live.” G.K Chesterton

“The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

An Answer to Fragility

As we see our society become increasingly divisive, intolerant, and materialistic we see a rise in mental and moral weakness. This weakness comes in many forms. The mentally weak find it hard to cope with the intrinsic difficulties of life. But a moral failing is growing alongside this fragility of the mind, an inability to empathize. Many, rather than feeling concern or empathy, turn in judgment upon the “snowflakes”. Rather than seek solutions, they condemn them and criticize their sufferings. When things fall apart we need people to step up, show concerned-strength, and help fix it. This clip gives a short overview of one man demonstrating this concerned-strength, Jonathan Haidt. He has researched and written extensively (The Coddling of the American Mind, The Righteous Mind) on the trend of increased fragility in young people. I want to recommend this YouTube Channel, Dad Saves America, which has great resources for those, particularly men, who want to do more than judge our world, but help it.