Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Love and Praise

In the old stories there was the possibility of magic potions, or in other traditions enchantments, such that the person would fall in love with the next person, creature, or thing they saw. Sometimes the object of desire was some monster, or an unattainable prince or princess. These things usually happened to young people. You can get some good stories out of it.

It is also quite interestingly true. It captures the blindness people in love might have, to the dismay of their friends and parents. But the specific element of "The next thing he sees..." is also sometimes true.  It is more especially true of young people, but not exclusive to them.  We have all seen young men or young women who are fairly obviously just ready to fall in love.  They don't know it themselves necessarily, but others may pick up the signals.  When things go just right - and they sometimes do - she is ready to fall in love and he is suddenly smitten by her grace, her wit, her beauty and moves toward her, and she, seeing his approach, is surprised by her own heart being drawn to him.  Men had been interesting but mostly theoretical up to that point.

We cynically note that it might have been another, for either of them. Yet sometimes the pattern repeats and he is ready to fall in love again after some heartbreak, awaiting only an appropriate object for his affection.  First love is not always the best love. Writers of songs and stories assure us that it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.  There is something good about it even if it ends badly.  There is an enlarging of soul, a being taken out of oneself to focus on love of another, even if it is unwise, intemperate, or flawed. As a sidenote* when people are obsessed in a more pathological way, they are not often being "taken out of themselves" by love for another. It is usually a disguised form of narcissism, where they want the "other" to notice them, their pain, their devotion, and the happiness of the other is not even considered.

I am reading CS Lewis's Reflections On The Psalms,** one of his last and best works.  It lacks the dramatic verbal illustrations of his earlier works (though there are still plenty), but it seems immensely solid.  In the chapter "A Word About Praising" he puts forward the idea that praising anything is a mark of improved emotional and spiritual health.  We are taken out of ourselves, we are enlarged.  Being in a state of heart that is ready to praise is better still. It is not only good for us, it is beautiful, as the young person who is ready to fall in love warms the heart of those who see it, however much they also worry.

We want to praise things, and that is good.  The praising is the completion of the act of love and admiration.  We see this in the torment of those who cannot declare their romantic love, even for good reason, such as being married to another. The declaration is part of the whole deal. So much more, says Lewis, is the praise of God. It is not anything that He needs.  We do it so badly it seems amazing he can bear to listen to it. To praise God is to recognise who He is, and complete that with a declaration. Also, the praising helps make it true, even when we don't feel it and even rebel against it.

There is additionally the insight, mentioned by Ben Franklin and supported by some recent research, that if you want someone to like you better, don't do a favor for them - ask them to do a favor for you. Giving money to a cause cause one to like it more. God commands us to praise because it is not only an appropriate recognition of reality, but because it works.

*Or perhaps not a sidenote. This likely fits in to the whole question of emotional and spiritual health.
**This really is a sidenote. I noticed that the use of commas and periods around quotation marks and parentheses in that book is different than what I thought was correct.  I looked these up on usage webpages when I got home and found that I have indeed been punctuating correctly. (Whew!) Can anyone shed light on this?  Is/was British convention different?  The book came out in 1958.  Did we used to do things differently?  Are there differences between manuals on this?


Roy Lofquist said...

Punctuation is, to a great extent, a convention. Its purpose is to clarify meaning, to indicate fragments of text that belong together or to indicate an aside or as a substitute for a footnote. The style should reflect the expectations of the intended audience.

The most notorious difference between American and British punctuation is the "Oxford comma". The American convention is to omit the final comma in a list. Thus "Lunch is soup, salad and a sandwich". The Brits write "Lunch is soup, salad, and a sandwich". The American style "feels" right on this side of the pond but it doesn't always work. "Steinbeck wrote The Wayward Bus, Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath". Modern usage has pretty much replaced the semicolon with a dash.

I, having been a programmer for more than 50 years, tend to over punctuate. Parsers are literal minded beasts so extra punctuation is purely defensive. The worst of all is COBOL where each statement is terminated with a period ("."). The period is the least visible of all the punctuation marks and its absence can completely change program flow.

DOuglas2 said...

Compositors―people who layout printed material with type―made the original rule that placed periods and commas inside quotation marks to protect the small metal pieces of type from breaking off the end of the sentence. The quotation marks protected the commas and periods. In the early 1900s, it appears that the Fowler brothers (who wrote a famous British style guide called The King’s English) began lobbying to make the rules more about logic and less about the mechanics of typesetting. They won the British battle, but Americans didn’t adopt the change.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Excellent comments on the punctuation. We also use the Oxford Comma in the AVI household. Some call it the Princeton Comma.

And yes, the invisibility of the period can be a big deal in BASIC as well, IIRC.

I should write up my experience with BASIC 50 years ago and how that changed things going forward.

jaed said...

Doing the technical writing for a Unix system manual once, I had an editor absolutely insist on my putting commas and sentence-ending punctuation inside the quotation marks I was using to delimit commands. You know, the stuff you have to type in literally, so that including a stray punctuation mark will cause the command to NOT WORK. But the style guide called for putting such punctuation inside the quotation marks, and by God I was expected to abide by the style guide.

The same person was disturbed by my calling the ` character a backquote. Insisted that it must be referred to throughout the manual as "an accent grave". (Those who have used Unix will be either choking or giggling by now.)

I lasted about four months at that job.

Roy Lofquist said...


Yup. Lots of odd ducks in the computer world.

jaed said...

I was the odd duck in that situation. ;-)