Michael Battalio

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Annual Christmas E-mail

While I'm at home I get a chance to catch a random five minutes of NPR here and there during my drive to and from work. (Go ahead and laugh, I like NPR.) On Monday mornings the news features a spot during the time I usually leave the house called "This I Believe." It's a short essay written by a different person each week in which they describe what it is they find fundamental to their existence, and one doesn't often get the usual answer. On my way to work last Monday (the 18th) the segment featured a Franciscan priest. He had an intriguing statement about faith. I'll do my best to summarize:

Faith is a mystery. Our definition of faith is the opposite of what it is supposed to be. Scientists can deal with the existence of black holes and a principle that demands we not be certain of most things going on in the universe, but those with contemporary faith assert that we must know everything beyond any veil of uncertainty. People of that faith demand closure and clarity, but those who possess real faith are the ones that can accept ambiguity and paradox.
The people who know Holiness are the most humble, and those who don't know try the hardest to show that they are humble. The ones who have come to terms with the mystery are the ones that can say they honestly don't know, but the ones who haven't are the ones who pretend to know everything (remind you of anyone you know)

How amazingly astute and true all of that is. Isn't that the definition of faith, to believe when there is no proof? For the longest time, I had difficulty dealing with that. Why have reason when I shouldn't use it? Faith should serve my every need. I got past this obstacle with a metaphor. Faith and reason are the shoes on my feet. I'll get a lot further with both than I'll ever get with just one or the other alone.

Reason is what makes us human, but faith is what gives us our humanity.

I don't get much more stream of consciousness than that thankfully. Enjoy the season, appreciate the little things, and take the time to give yourself some credit for making it as far as you have.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Politics of a choir related nature

A thing I've learned in the last few months is that whenever you get
a group
of two or more people together, there will always be politics. I say
because a huge amount of it has been going on in two church choirs
I'm in. I
won't go into the one I'm in while in Starkville, but the choir I'm
in here
in Vicksburg is startling me at how much political maneuvering goes
with me
oblivious to it. I'll do my best to describe what's going on without
offending anyone if someone from the choir comes across this. At the
my choir is in full Christmas mode. That's what we are focused on,
before a packed house an hour before Christmas vigil Mass starts on
the 24th.
It's what we've always done. One of the best pieces we perform is a
in D violin duet which has always been performed by one of the best
violinists I've ever known, who attends college at the moment, and a
school aged girl who's rather good herself. It's a wonderful
and one of my favorites anyway. This year though the choir director has
arranged for his son to play instead of the college aged girl. He just
straight up told her mom that he wanted his son to play, didn't even
ask the
girl usually playing it if it was okay. Now, keep in mind that his
son is
about a decade younger than the girl he is replacing, and nothing
against the
son, but he isn't nearly as good as she is. I understand forcing
kids along
helps motivate them, but this is just the director using his power to
vicariously through his son. It isn't fair to the girl that has
always done
it. And it makes the choir sound bad if the directors son messes up
he is under so much pressure. He and the high school aged girl
practiced it
in front of the choir a few nights ago, and it was rather lacking. I
see how it can be anywhere near the level of how it has been in years
with just a week and a half of practice time left for them.
I was going to site another example from the choir, but this post is
too long
now. The lesson of this post being never take anything for granted;
(no matter how innocuous) in organizations (no matter how charitable)
always abuse their power. It is human nature. It's a sad fact of life.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Half way through college

I'm halfway through college again. After having an unpleasant
freshman year,
an unfulfilling third semester and an unequivocally depressing fourth
semester, it's finally gotten to the point where I'm enjoying
myself. This
last semester, the fastest one I've been through, I've found the most
rewarding. I've decided upon a major (for the third time) that I
think I will be happy with. I've settled upon a few reasonably
diverse and
entertaining groups of friends. And after struggling to cope with
a couple of times over, I've finally gotten to a point where I can
have a
healthy relationship; I don't have to have my girlfriend around all
the time
just so I can feel fulfilled. The latter is definitely the most
point I've come to during this last semester. All the "loves,"
crushes and
girlfriends over the past half a dozen years that I've used to fill
my lack
of self worth all seem a bit childish. Hindsight being 20/20 I can
see that
it was actually a good thing that none of them worked out. Whether
or not my
current relationship works out, I know that if it does end, it won't
end with
me slumping into a six month long depression. Knowing that things can
quickly change, but that you can change just as quickly with them is
a good
place to be in life.

2003-2016 Michael Battalio (michael[at]battalio.com)