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Issue VI

We plod forward. In the grips of the Great Lakes' winter buffets, we have nothing better to do: the lawn needs no cutting, the golf courses are three feet under, the lakes are frozen, our Speedos are even more out of place than usual. And we don't own snow skis or a snowmobile. It's TWE or ennui. Enjoy.

Sola Fides Not Cutting It?
"Gallup and Barna," evangelical theologian Michael Horton recently lamented, "hand us survey after survey demonstrating that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general." Lest American Catholics and mainline Protestants get cocky, their poll numbers aren't any better and may be worse.

But is it surprising? Horton's list includes "self-centered." That seems superfluous. All sinful dispositions are self-centered, especially the ones he lists. This is America, the land of liberty and capitalism, terms that have increasingly become covers for "individualism" and "acquisitiveness," which in turn are merely nicer ways of saying "selfishness" and "greediness." Sin proliferates, precisely because it is all rooted in self-regard. It should surprise no one that the greedy person is also more likely to be a sexually promiscuous person. The pollsters merely provide proof of things that have been known for over two thousand years. Why we need such proof, that's another topic entirely, but it is related to the title of this piece.

Gooey but True
"The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions -- the little, soon-forgotten charities of a kiss or smile, a kind look or heartfelt compliment." Samuel Taylor Coleridge. That's something that should be on a Hallmark Card, but it's true nonetheless.

Stoic's Porch
"Our individual natures are part of universal nature. Hence the chief good is life according to nature, that is, according to one's own and to universal nature." Zeno

Idle Hands and the Angel's Workshop
Joseph Pieper wrote an entire book, Leisure, the Basis of Culture, to celebrate the act of doing nothing. Similarly, G.K. Chesterton once wrote of “the most precious, the most-consoling, the most pure and holy, the noble habit of doing nothing at all." He also wrote: "It's because artists do not practise, patrons do not patronize, crowds do not assemble to worship reverently the great work of Doing Nothing, that the world has lost its philosophy and even failed to invent a new religion."

If leisure is so good, why would we want to deprive those most leisure-prone beings–children–of it? Common sense indicates children ought to have leisure, and lots of it. Researchers are finally catching up with the common sense. From

"'As a society, we have talked ourselves into believing that we have to make every moment count, and that we have to fill our children as we would empty vessels,' says Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D., co-author of Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less.

"Hirsh-Pasek, a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, continues, 'Parents feel compelled to give their kids every advantage they can afford. So they cram their days with art, music, sports, and even weekend enrichment programs.' Is it any wonder that when youngsters have a free moment, they complain that they're bored? More likely, they simply don't know what to do with themselves.

"'There is a myth that doing nothing is wasting time, when it's actually extremely productive and essential,' says Dr. Hirsh-Pasek. 'During empty hours, kids explore the world at their own pace, develop their own unique set of interests and indulge in the sort of fantasy play that will help them figure out how to create their own happiness, handle problems with others on their own, and sensibly manage their own time. That's a critical life skill.'

"What's more, the pile-on of extra-curricular activities, on top of several hours of homework as they get older, may actually backfire. 'Many overscheduled kids are anxious, angry and burned out,' notes child psychiatrist Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., co-author of The Overscheduled Child. 'They display a range of symptoms from headaches and stomachaches to temper tantrums, an inability to concentrate in school, and sleeping problems. In the long run, it may be harder for them to make confident choices and decisions about what they want to do on their own.'

"More importantly, by cramming activities into a child's schedule, you deprive him of something very special: The joy of just being a kid."

Curious About George
"One way for us to end up being viewed as the ugly American is for us to go around the world saying, we do it this way, so should you. . . The United States must be humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course." George Bush, Ante-9/11

Issue VI's Six Best-Titled Books
6. Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography, by Lemony Snicket
5. The Unimportance of Being Oscar, by Oscar Levant
4. Dave Barry's Stay Fit and Healthy Until You're Dead, by Dave Barry
3. Confessions of an English Opium Eater, by Thomas De Quincey
2. Middle of My Tether, by Joseph Epstein
1. The Memoirs of an Amnesiac, by Oscar Levant

Word Worm
Illeism: Excessive reference to oneself in the third person. "Republican politicians, like Nixon and Dole, have had a tendency to be illeists."

Thanks for reading. Issue VII comes in seven days.