Irish Papist

Irish Papist
Statute of the Blessed Virgin in Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Church, UCD Belfield

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Crib and the Christmas Tree in Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Church, University College Dublin



The pictures are a bit dark but I I felt like capturing the crib and the Christmas tree before they're taken down. (I hate it when Christmas decorations come down.)

I'm so lucky to have a church in my workplace. I'm even more lucky to be able to attend daily Mass there, during term. (And depending on my timetable, but my immediate superior kindly tries to contrive it so I can attend as often as possible-- on the condition that I pray for her, she says.)

I imagine these are the kind of privileges that Irish Catholics will soon have to do without, given the decline in vocations and the burgeoning hostility to the Faith. But who knows? I was very heartened by the reports that attendance at Christmas Mass seems to have increased this year. And it does seem to me as though congregation sizes are holding steady and maybe even rising in the short few years I've been attending Mass. It may be only a few years, but with the number of practicing Catholics supposedly in freefall, you'd expect the decline to be noticeable even in such a short span.

Swift's Satire Still Hits the Mark

You are also to understand, that I allow no Man to be a Free Thinker, any further than as he differs from the received Doctrines of Religion. Where a Man falls in, though by perfect Chance, with what is generally believed, he is in that Point a confined and limited Thinker; and you shall see by and by, that I celebrate those for the noblest Free Thinkers in every Age, who differed from the Religion of their Countries in the most fundamental Points, and especially in those which bear any Analogy to the chief Fundamentals of Religion.

Dean Swift, Mr. Collins's Discourse of Free-Thinking

Idea for a Romantic Comedy

The Last Man in the World. A fellow who is an arrogant ass is wooing a lady who resists his advances and finally tells him "I wouldn't want to be with you even if you were the last man in the world." He bitterly wishes this were true so that she would have to eat her words. Behold, he wakes up the next morning and he is indeed the last man left in the world, as all the others have disappeared. Cue lots of comic scenes about what a world empty of men and run by women would look like.

The protagonist is obviously highly coveted now, being the only man in existence, but even though he has beautiful ladies of all kinds chasing him, he still can't click with his lady love (an ordinary gal, of course) who remains stubbornly true to her declaration.

Somehow, with great effort and self-sacrifice and learning of valuable lessons, he manages to reverse his wish. And, of course, gets the girl.

How has this never been done before? Maybe it has. Copyright me, just in case...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I Don't Even Want to Talk About This

I am so tired of talking about homosexuality. A former President makes the most predictable and clichéd comment imaginable about the Church's stance on homosexuality, and expresses an opinion that everybody knew she held already, and somehow it's not only news but a top headline.

Two of my colleagues in work were discussing her remarks approvingly today. One of them made a comment about how everybody in Ireland was brainwashed by priests (who were supposedly treated as gods) a few decades ago. I didn't say anything. I just let it pass. (I overheard this rather than being involved directly in the conversation.) I feel a bit guilty but I get so worn down.

It never seems to occur to them that they might be the ones who are brainwashed.

The other person in the conversation did mention that, apparently, Church attendance was said to have risen this Christmas. I heard the same thing from my father. If this is true, it's wonderful, and something to be grateful for.

Under the Surface

It seems one of our most resilient intuitions that truth is under the surface of things, that the most immediate perceptions of our reality are true only in a limited way and that a deeper truth is hidden from our eyes. I don't mean this only in a philosophical sense. It seems to me to be true in every way.

We find the idea that truth is oblique, or even occult, to be irresistible. I don't know any way of looking at the world that doesn't make this assumption.

The scientific worldview, for instance, quite obviously sees reality as being something very, very different from the world presented to our senses. From the curvature of the Earth to the curvature of space/time-- whatever that might be-- you can't even dip your toe into science without being confronted with a strange and rather inhuman realm, where our ordinary concepts come under enormous strain.

You can't walk into an art gallery without having something of the same sensation. Isn't the whole appeal of a visit to the art gallery that we find ourselves seeing in a whole different way? Think of a good still life. Think of the rather ghostly phosphorescence on the grapes and the chalice and the fish's scales. (I've always found the very words "still life" haunting.) The stillness, the air of eternity, the air of preternatural solidity seems to take us into a different world-- a world that is the same and yet different to the world we inhabit most of the time, one that is somehow always there without us really seeing it.

The same applies to poetry. A poet usually sees the same things as we do, but in a radically different way. In the poetic worldview, everything is saturated with significance-- a cat cannot stretch on the floor without meaning something. An advertisement for a sun holiday is laden with poignancy. And again, this seems like an apprehension of something that is always there but that we don't always see-- and when we are truly moved by poetry, we want (like St. Peter on the Mount of the Transfiguration) to remain in that mental world always.

Marxists see past (or claim to see past) the welter of ideology and politics to the harsh economic power-plays underneath. Freudians (if they exist anymore) see all our conscious struggles and preoccupations as mere disguises of our deeper, more primitive urges. (And think of that famous misquotation, attributed to Freud: "Man requires two things for happiness, love and work". I don't think it's exactly true, but I think it shows a certain amount of insight. And like all the other viewpoints I'm considering here, its very appeal lies in its counter-intuitiveness, in its air of underlying the drama of life that strikes the eye, with all the infinite desires men seem to harbour.)

I think this deep-seated intuition that deep truths are oblique is also to be seen in the human tendency to create mythologies.

Something funny I've noticed about mythologies is that, even though we use them to make sense of our own experience and our own lives, it seems essential that they are set in a world and an atmosphere very different from our own. I think this is true in the case of both religious and secular mythologies.

It is obviously true of pagan mythologies. Mount Olympus and Asgard are not on any map. The Tuatha De Danaan were not your average folk.

But it seems just as true today, of secular mythologies. Take the rise and rise of the superhero genre. Or, even more, take phenomena such as Lord of the Rings or Star Trek or Star Wars. These are more than just books, TV shows or movies to many of their fans. They are a whole way of looking at the world. I recently served a student (a female student) who told me that "Star Trek: The Next Generation is my life and my friends." And fictional worlds that serve this purpose tend to be ones that are, as it were, fictional the whole way through-- where all of the trappings and terminology are very different from our own. You don't hear about Downtown Abbey nerds or Friends nerds the way you hear about Star Wars nerds.

I think the same is true when it comes to the "mythology" of Christianity. Of course, I don't mean "mythology" in the sense of being false. I mean "mythology" in the sense of a body of stories and images that make sense of our place in the universe, and give us a sense of values and priorities and meaning.

There is something extraordinary in the fact that so many people in the world of mobile phones and the Hubble telescope base their lives upon the words of a man who lived in a world of demoniacs, shepherds, tribes, elaborate Temple rituals and healing pools, and on a book steeped in a world so radically different from our own. What is even more extraordinary is how seldom this is remarked upon. Militant atheists do indeed make sneering claims about "Bronze age savages", but for the most part, the critics of Christianity attack it upon other grounds. They don't dwell on this incongruity.

You might ask why this should matter, since truth is timeless. And that's true in an abstract sort of way. But it still seems strange that the lives of twenty-first century man, who knows about open heart surgery and galaxy clouds and subatomic particles and cloud computing and financial conglomerates, should be illuminated by stories and sermons from a world that seems so much smaller and simpler than our own.

But it's not just the archaic nature of the Bible that seems strange, when you think about it. It's the weirdness. The Bible is a very weird book. Things routinely happen in it that never happen in the experience of most people in the modern world-- angelic visitation, manna falling from the sky, the sun standing still, seas parting, asses speaking, lifespans that extend to centuries, townspeople demanding carnal knowledge of visitors, daughters sleeping with fathers, and so forth. And, even aside from the miraculous and uncanny elements, much of the Bible consists of very odd material-- endless genealogies, the apparently erotic poetry of the Song of Songs, very dry chronicles of kings and wars.

And the oddest thing is how fitting this all seems. Just imagine if the Bible was a book of helpful maxims, like The Little Book of Calm. (I haven't read The Little Book of Calm. It might be unfairly maligned for all I know.) Imagine if it was a book with no stories or no characters, nothing that tied it to a particular time or place, but simply a list of rules like: "Love your neighbour as yourself." Doesn't that seem awfully anti-climactic, awfully bland?

Or imagine if the Bible had none of the "difficult" parts-- Abraham preparing to sacrifice Isaac, the Deluge, the death of the firstborn of the Egyptians, God's deadly wrath upon Uzza for simply seeking to steady the Ark, the infamous line in the Psalms about "dashing little ones against the rock"-- what if everything in the Bible was so non-controversial that nobody could ever find it offence? Again, such a scripture would seem banal. We have an intuitive sense that the word of God should be, at least in parts, shocking and unsettling and mysterious. And knotty.

I am trying to express a very definite idea that has often occurred to me, but that is difficult to put into words.

One way I can try to explain it is by taking the phenomenon of death-bed conversions. Take, for instance, the reputed conversion of Oscar Wilde to Catholicism in his final moments. I don't know whether it really happened or not. I hope it did. But, whether it happened or not, why is the story so believable? The flippant, homosexual, hedonistic, anti-moralistic Oscar Wilde-- it seems only appropriate that he should have accepted the Faith in his last moments. It does not seem like a screaming contradiction to his life, but more like a fitting culmination. It's hard to imagine him becoming a Puritan or a Jehovah's Witness or a Muslim or a Mormon at his last extreme. But Catholicism seems to fit like a glove. Why?

Or, again, take the death-bed conversion of King Charles II. Here was a King who was famous for being a hedonist and for his many mistresses (and illegitimate children). He was also a keen patron of the newly-founded Royal Society, which marked the beginning of the Scientific Revolution in the West, and (in many ways) the beginning of the materialist worldview that destroyed Christendom. And yet, it doesn't seem at all unusual to hear that Charles II converted to Catholicism at the end. Again, it seems fitting.

Perhaps because both men were men who went down a particular road as far as any man could travel it, and found that it led them to Rome. Something about the Catholic faith seems like the end of every quest and the medicine to every ill. In this it is truly Catholic, that is, universal.

It may seem like I'm wandering from my topic, but I'm not. It is the fact that Catholicism has this under the surface quality about it that makes such deathbed conversions seem plausible and fitting. It doesn't seem ridiculous that someone like King Charles II or Oscar Wilde was seeking for God under all the apparent riotousness of their lives, under the surface.

In the same way, it doesn't seem ridiculous that converts to Catholicism don't nitpick at every doctrine and every implausibility in the Bible-- or even seem to worry about it very much. The essential mysteriousness of the creed seems to be both satisfying and easy to swallow to anybody but a pedant. It seems like the signs of sanctity and the evidences that are available are enough to convince most people-- with no great mental struggle. Often with no mental struggle at all.

And this "under the surface" characteristic of Catholicism seems to typify its relation to everyday life, too. I think the Catholic faith is like chips (or French fries, as Americans call them). It goes with everything. I never feel that the Faith relies on the power of suggestion, that it seems credible to the sound of hymns and the scent of incense, but that the spell fades away in the toiletries section of the supermarket or at the bus queue in a cold day. The peacefulness of an empty church seems to undercut all the crowds, all the parties, all the industrial estates, all the TV shows, all the rocket launches. It seems to comprehend them.

G.K. Chesterton may never have said: "The Catholic Church is like a thick steak, a glass of red wine, and a good cigar." But whoever said it was really on to something. Everything about Catholicism seems seasoned, stylish, insightful, dignified. Whether it is accepted or rejected, nobody really seems to find it ridiculous or banal or tawdry. Everybody seems to instinctually feel that it has depths. I contend it has deeper depths than anything else. Because it's true.

Of course, this is all subjective. If this doesn't strike a chord with you at all, my words are wasted. But I hope that it might-- not only with Catholics, but even with non-Catholics or potential Catholics.

To Michelle on Two Hundred Days of Marriage

I never knew Americans
Put funny red and green caps on
Before they give each other gifts
On Christmas Day. How my heart lifts
To picture you so solemnly
Putting it on in front of me!
You looked just like a little girl--
The sweetest elf in all the world.

It is two hundred days since we
Exchanged vows of fidelity
And four years since the day we met--
But, oh, the sights I won't forget
In that short time! I see your face
In many a different time and place--
The supermarket, the merry-go-round,
The Luray caves deep underground,
And more than I can mention here
And all of them to me are dear
But none more so, my second self,
Than you as a pretty Christmas elf.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I Found it!

A picture of Peter Hitchens laughing!

Jacob and the Angel

I wrote this poem a few years ago and now find it irritatingly pretentious, but here it is anyway. (I don't like poems where the poet is looking down from Heaven in judgement. I prefer poems where the poet is the one in the grip of some emotion.)

Jay pulls his boots off and slumps down
In front of the widescreen TV.
He flicks the switch. A killer clown
Leers out in sordid sympathy
With all the fury in Jay’s soul.
The world’s too much for his control;
You might see murder in his frown.
I will not let you go until you bless me
.

Night closes on him like a noose;
The grinning faces on the screen
Are so intolerably obtuse;
Even their happiness so mean
He sometimes thinks a nuclear bomb
Might be a liberation from
The crassness of the nightly news.
I will not let you go until you bless me.

He reaches out to switch it off
But then he stops. A ginger cat
Is licking her kittens. Somewhere, love
Is struggling to survive. At that,
He sits back and a look more mild—
The hungry wonder of a child—
Comes on him. It might be enough.
I will not let you go until you bless me.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Christmas, Catharsis and Cinema

Well, it is the Feast of the Epiphany, and Christmas is drawing to a close. This is the time we witness those poignant sights-- Christmas trees in dumpsters (or in "skips", as we say in Ireland) and people taking down festive decorations.

I wrote a poem about this a few years back:

The time is past for tinsel
The holly’s out of date
The clockwork Santa’s lost the will
To celebrate.
The workday world is rousing;
It hates a paper crown.
What’s left of the carousing
When the Christmas tree comes down?


There's a second verse, but it's terrible.

I was in America for Christmas. I've just returned to Dublin today. The whole experience has left me feeling rather restless and pensive.

Travel always seems to leave me with this sensation; a haunting feeling of emptiness, or rather, of thinness. Standing in an airport and watching the thousands upon thousands of people go by always fills me with a disagreeable sense of being a unit, an atom, a part of a faceless mass. Though I've always believed in the beauty of the ordinary, I don't get a sense of this when I travel. In fact, I get an overwhelming sense of banality. Admittedly, that has something to do with the awful books and magazines that are to be found in the airport shops. Nothing could be more depressing than the idea of the whole Western world reading the same handful of techno-thrillers, self-help books and Booker Prize winners.

Perhaps even worse are the brave attempts that airports (and airport businesses) make to evoke a sense of local character. This always strikes me when I pass the Oak Café bar in Dublin Airport. This has information panels on the walls explaining the Ogham alphabet of ancient Ireland, and (if I remember correctly) waxing poetic on the importance of wood in ancient Gaelic culture, as well as attempting to draw a parallel between old Irish myths of journeying and air travel. The attempt to throw a little bit of "ethnic" icing on something as essentially flavorless as air travel only makes it seems colder and more soulless.

But worst of all was a poster I saw yesterday in JFK airport (I flew through New York), which enticed the viewer with the idea of swimming in a sacred river previously reserved for priests of some native religion or other. The quarrying of the sacred and the unique for the sake of titillating tourists could hardly come in a crasser form.

I get the disturbing sensation of being a ghost in a world of ghosts, forlornly seeking to find and feed off some pulse of real, full-blooded life.

This sense of alienation is heightened by the inevitable Christmas socializing, often with people you don't know very well. I spent a weekend this year visiting a couple who I like very much, and who are both good and willing conversationalists. Other people were there, too. I liked all of them, and I appreciated the invitation, and I enjoyed the weekend, but at times I had to go for a walk outside or just lie down in my room, the strain of "making conversation" for hours on end being so oppressive. "Everyone else feels the same", Michelle told me. "There are a lot of introverts here today finding this really hard work". Of course she was right. I don't think I'm especially sensitive or somehow superior to social rituals.

But the whole thing left me feeling I was gasping for air. Life is so short, and we spend so much of the time we have waiting in queues and at bus-stops and in waiting rooms, casting about for something to think about. Or we spend it in social situations where we are casting about for something to say. And too much time in these situations makes life seems thin and lacking in nutrition.

The same thing, I think, is true of Christmas as a whole. I find myself feeling a strange conflict when it comes to Christmas. In one way, it's not only my favourite time of the year, but my examplar of what the whole year should be like-- traditional, innocent, cheerful, cosy, celebratory, full of rituals and customs.

But, in another and a strange way, I find myself resenting Christmas. As a lover of tradition, I don't appreciate how Christmas has become the tradition, the vortex which seems to suck up all other traditions and festivals. I don't think living for the weekend is a good idea, and I don't think stuffing all the year's festivity into its last few weeks is a good idea, either. We have so many Christmas songs and Christmas movies and Christmas TV specials and bumper Christmas issues of magazines. But the rest of the year is rather denuded of traditions. In England, apparently, Guy Fawkes's Day has almost disappeared. It's as though people are overdrawn not only financially, but energetically, by Christmas.

(One example of this is the connection between Christmas and the ghost story, a connection that goes back to M.R. James and Charles Dickens before him. So it is a venerable tradition, but it seems a lamentable one to me. Why should Christmas have ghost stories too? Shouldn't Halloween have the ghost stories? Why should Christmas have everything?)

And, with all this, Christmas still seems unsatisfying. I am not talking about the religious festival. The religious festival is wholly satisfying, wholly meaningful, wholly engaging. Christmas carols seem to only really come alive when they are sung as hymns, in a church.

No, I mean the secular festival, of which we are all partakers, whether we want to be or not. Christmas is a huge societal celebration of-- of what, exactly? Nobody seems to exactly know. We feel that it should be a time charged with significance, but when we put any weight upon this, it tends to give way beneath us. I feel slightly naive and embarrassed, writing this. But I think the truth is that, for all our conspicuous irony, we do yearn for some kind of emotional experience at Christmas. We want all the lights and the carols and the decorations and the get-togethers to add to something greater than the sum of their parts. We want some kind of emotional breakthrough. But we always come away disappointed-- at least, I do-- because of a frustrating lack of any essence to the secular Christmas. What's it all about? Nothing, really.

But writing this-- and thinking about it, as I have been over Christmas-- makes me ask, what are we looking for, anyway? Not just at Christmas, but at all other times of the year? What is it that we are always seeking?

For my part, I think "catharsis" is the best word I can come up with. I realize I am, perhaps, abusing the word. I understand that it had a very specific origin in Aristotle's dramatic criticism, relating to the release of repressed emotions, specifically pity and terror. Nevertheless, I think its meaning has (legitimately) expanded in popular usage, since it seems to express something that no other word does.

I use it to mean an intensity of emotion and experience which is something we crave-- or, at least, something I crave.

Perhaps I am extending the use of "catharsis" in the same way Lewis extended the use of "joy" or James Joyce extended the use of "epiphany", and perhaps all three are not so different from each other.

Catharsis, to me, is when we overflow with emotion, or fascination, or excitement-- the very opposite of casting about for something to think about, or something to talk about, or something to be enthusiastic about.

It may be objected that this is simply a mood, a whim, something essentially subjective and fickle. I don't think so. To me, moments of what I will term catharsis tend to have a lasting effect. The moment passes, but the memory lingers, and remains with us, and continues to bring us joy.

Here are some of my own personal sources of catharsis.

Eating and drinking. I feel rather embarrassed to admit this, but eating and drinking always tend to give me this deep sense of satisfaction. Whether this is an oral fixation, gluttony, comfort eating, or some other symptom of mental or spiritual malaise, I wouldn't venture to say. I would claim, however, that eating and drinking never seem to me like a compensation for something else. I never don't feel like eating or drinking. And food and drink tend to heighten other pleasures, not replace them. I never feel so absorbed in anything that I forget food.

I mean more than just that I enjoy eating and drinking. I mean that eating and drinking fill me with a sense of life's fullness, and make the world seem friendly, and add to all other pleasures-- for instance, conversation, or enjoyable weather. (I'm thinking about hot chocolate on a frosty day here.)

And food and drink does, truly, linger in my mind in a way that seems life-enhancing. For instance, I am just now remembering eating a tuna salad sandwich in the Bamboo Café in Richmond, about a year ago, while reading the introduction to a book about the German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg. I felt utterly content in that moment, and the tuna salad sandwich was part of it. There it is.

Reading. What can I say? If I walk into somebody's house, I immediately gravitate towards the bookshelves. Books seem solid and real in a way that nothing else really does. A book is a companion in a way that nothing else can really be. The intimacy of the writer addressing the reader is, in a way, a deeper intimacy than any other. But I wrote a whole post about this.

Writing. I never feel more alive, more filled with a deep, deep sense of satisfaction, than when I am writing.

Serious, deep conversation. Awkward and desultory conversation is one of the worst things in life, but animated and eager conversation must surely be one of the best. Even listening to animated and eager conversation is a pleasure. Is there anything more beautiful in life than the sound of two people conversing on a subject that they really know and love, whose depths they can sound out?

Deep conversation is cathartic in the dictionary sense of the word, as well as the expanded sense that I am using here. Reader, how often have you come away from a deep conversation-- perhaps one with someone to whom you had not spoken much before-- positively glowing, feeling a powerful sense of release and exhilaration?

I think The Breakfast Club is a movie that dramatizes this very well.

Deep conversation doesn't have to be about one's own emotional or personal life, as it is in The Breakfast Club. But even a really engaged conversation on some neutral topic-- comedy, or capitalism, or claustrophobia-- can carry with it this sense of interpersonal encounter.

Friendship, Family and Love. This hardly needs expansion. But I will say that our deepest relationships, in my view, are not simply a steady source of bliss, but rather the context where so many of our most profound experiences happen.

Religion. Some Christian writers (including C.S. Lewis) are dismissive of "religion", seeing it as a kind of generic social phenomenon from which true Christianity is entirely distinct. I've never liked this idea. I would rather affirm what is good in other religions, and in religiosity in general, and in the religious impulse even in its humblest forms, than to contrast it with a kind of bed-of-nails Christianity where everything comforting, cheerful, cosy and human is torn away from us.

I sometimes wonder if non-religious people realize what simple pleasure and even fun is to be found in the practice of a faith. I feel a bit wary about writing this, but I can't help thinking it's true. Sometimes I get bored at Mass, but on the whole, I love going. I love praying before the Blessed Sacrament and reading about the Faith. Everything in life, unless we are to float from whim to whim, involves some element of effort, some irksomeness. But I wonder if unbelievers realize how little irksomeness is involved in the outward observances of religion? How did religious devotions come to be seen as dull and deadening, when they are just the opposite?

Notice I have avoided talking about the profound, unwavering joy that comes of religious conviction. I feel shy about claiming that I have even attained a far-off glimpse of this. I would rather insist that even the most casual manifestations of religion are a source of the catharsis I write about here. Even stepping into an empty church for a few moments seems, to me, more satisfying than any number of parties. People who don't practice a religion seem, to me, to be missing out in a very obvious way. I wonder they don't feel it.

Movies. This is of particular interest to me right now, and is mentioned in my blog post title, because I watched a lot of movies over Christmas.

Here are the movies I watched:

When Harry Met Sally, on the flight to America (Delta airlines have an entertainment system whereby passengers can choose from about a hundred different movies)
Argo, on DVD, with Michelle
Steel Magnolias, on DVD, with Michelle
Groundhog Day, on DVD, with Michelle
Identity Thief, on DVD, with Michelle
The Hunger Games, on DVD, with Michelle
Silver Lining's Playbook, on DVD, with Michelle
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, with Michelle, in the "Cinebistro" in Richmond, Virginia-- a cinema where you can eat dinner while watching the movie.

I enjoyed most of them. When Harry Met Sally was a lot of fun, and I'd never seen it before. Steel Magnolias was my suggestion, and was just as mawkish and sappy as I'd expected. Identity Thief took a thin premise and stretched it as far as it would go. There were a few laughs but it was mostly vapid. Argo is brilliant and deserved its Oscar. The Hunger Games was well-made but the basic situation was so nightmarish that I couldn't really enjoy it. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, despite an unpromising and cartoonish start, built to a very moving and satisfying finale.

Silver Lining's Playbook was nasty art-house rubbish, and Groundhog Day is the most awesome film ever created.

I very rarely feel that time spent watching movies is time wasted. In fact, watching movies seems to me to be one of the most intense and rewarding activities there are. I think human beings need stories like we need Vitamin D.

Nor do I feel that movies are a purely passive, transitory, diversionary activity. I always feel I have lived a little more, a little deeper, after watching a good movie (or even a not-so-good movie). I feel added to.

And I also feel movies can be a powerful bonding agent between a couple, or between friends, or between family members. It's a shared, intense experience. It's even a shared journey. It provides terms of reference for life ("this is like that scene in The American President...")

Some of my sweetest and most romantic memories with Michelle are of watching DVDs. (DVDs especially. Our forays to the cinema have been less fortunate, so far. I suspect that DVDs are a more romantic format, anyway, taking romance in the interpersonal sense.) We've done plenty of outgoing and adventurous and social things, and I remember them with fondness. But somehow being curled up on a sofa watching Made of Honor or My Big Fat Greek Wedding seems just as memorable to me, and just as worthwhile, as descending into underground caverns or standing at the Lincoln Memorial.

Sad? No, I don't think it's sad. I think it's cathartic. So there.