Showing posts from 2017

To a Fault: Word

Fault: Could be a better listener

Describe an experience: Please write a short story (approximately 2,000 characters) about a time in your life when this fault created a situation that had negative impact on your life.
I have a hard time hearing certain things people say.

Someone says: “I love you.” I hear: “I would love you if...”

Someone says: “Good job.” I hear: “That would have been good, but...”

Someone says: “I admire you.” I hear: “...but not as much as so-and-so.”

Someone says: “You did well in that bout.” I hear: “...but not as well as you should have.”

If it is praise, it bounces off of me. If it is support, I don’t trust it. If it is advice about how I could improve, all I hear is criticism.

I try to believe people when they say nice things to me, I really do. My mother’s daughter knows how to accept a compliment.

“Thank you,” I say. And I mean it. But there is always a part of me that is waiting for the sting.

Because I know it is coming.

Particularly when I ask for help. I…

To a Fault: Body Talk

Fault: Feel ashamed of my body

Describe an Experience: Please write a short story (approximately 2,000 characters) about a time in your life when this fault created a situation that had a negative impact on your life.
You mean there are people who aren’t?

I have been ashamed of my body since I was seven or eight and started worrying about my weight. There was a chart in one of my parent's medical books for tracking the height and weight percentiles for children, so I knew that I was fat compared to others my age. I spent the next three or four years tracking myself on that chart, always on the pudgy side, until magically I lost weight when I was eleven. But that was only the beginning.

Up and down, up and down. Sometimes I am able to lose weight, then the carb addiction kicks back in, and I pudge back out. I appreciate better now how I used carbs when I was a teenager, to dull the pain of feeling left out, but of course at the time all I knew was shame. The weight has come and gone…

To a Fault: Meta-Game

Fault: Don't laugh much or have fun

Describe an experience: Please write a short story (approximately 2,000 characters) about a time in your life when this fault created a situation which had a negative impact on your life.
In my mind, fun is something I have to earn.

It took me years to allow myself to enjoy coming to fencing tournaments like the one I am competing in this weekend. It's expensive in a proper First World Problems kind of way. There's the coaching and the club fees, the equipment and the commute. Then there's the travel to the tournaments, typically air fare for our national events, plus the hotel for several days. And, of course, the registration for the event. A single weekend can cost up to $1000 easily, and to compete at the level I do, I need to do several of these competitions a year.

It adds up. And I don't deserve it.

It was worst when my son was fencing and we would go to Summer Nationals together. You'd think it would just be a treat, g…

To a Fault: Eyeroll

Fault: Can be contemptuous of other people and myself

Describe an experience: Please write a short story (approximately 2,000 characters) about a time in your life when this fault created a situation which had a negative impact on your life.
Sometimes I don't know whom I contemn more, my academic colleagues or myself.  They say such boneheaded things!  Like: “We can get more majors in History if we emphasize that studying history will give students research and analytical skills that they can use in other professions.” (Thus refusing to define a positive reason for studying history as such, while at the same time reducing our discipline to its lowest common denominator among the social sciences and humanities.)  Or: “We need more diversity among our faculty and students.” (Meaning, of course, diversity within the parameters set by the federal affirmative action guidelines.)  Or: “I think we need to consider race and/or gender and/or ethnicity here.” (Because whatever else we have b…

To a Fault: Masks

Fault: Feel inadequate when introduced to new people

Describe an experience: Please write a short story (approximately 2,000 characters) about a time in your life when this fault created a situation that had a negative impact on your life. I have a hard time selling myself. I know, it's hard to believe. Here I am, professor of medieval history at the University of Chicago, and I feel inadequate when introduced to new people. Maybe I should start a club, Inadequates Anonymous. “Hello, my name is Rachel, and I feel inadequate when introduced to new people.” I have a fantasy that none of my colleagues in academia ever feels like this. (I'll wait...) I almost never use my academic Chicago status as a way of introducing myself. Almost. In over twenty years, I have used it once, and once only, to significant effect. (It was important, I had to use everything I had to get that special someone's attention. Then I was NOT going to sell myself short!)  Otherwise, my Chicago status se…

To a Fault: “Squirrel!”

Fault: Have a hard time planning for the future because I am interested in everything
Describe an experience: Please write a short story (approximately 2,000 characters) about a time in your life when this fault created a situation that had a negative impact on your life.
I do not know Latin as well as I should.  Sure, I studied it for three years in high school. By my senior year, I was the best at Grammar in the state. I was the best in the country in Grammar the year before that. I won medals and trophies in Decathalon (grammar, reading comprehension, vocabulary, Latin derivatives, mottoes, Roman history, mythology, literature, geography, and Roman life) as well.  But I didn't stick with it in college after my first or second year, despite changing my major from Physics and Math to History and Religious Studies. It was too easy, or so I thought. I already knew Latin well enough to be the best student in Classics. Why study it more when there were so many other things to learn?  …

To a Fault: Routine

Fault: Seriously dislike having my routine or schedule upset. 

Describe an experience: Please write a short story (approximately 2,000 characters) about a time in your life when this fault created a situation that had a negative impact on your life.
I was not there when my father died.

It was early in March 2005. I had been sick for several weeks with a high fever and was behind in my writing. I had an important article due and a tournament coming up. It was going to be my first ever Veteran NAC. I had just turned 40 and was looking forward to competing against women my own age.

The weekend before the tournament, Dad had a mild stroke. I talked with him on the phone after he got out of surgery, and he seemed to be recovering, even though he had a terrible cold and his voice was affected by the swelling in his neck. I had been planning for us to go see him in a couple weeks during spring break, so I promised him I would be there soon. I couldn't come sooner (or so I told myself) bec…

The Lady and the Dragon

Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be no…

The Chicago Way

There was a reception on campus yesterday afternoon in honor of John Boyer, our newly reappointed Dean of College. I have been back in the classroom for two weeks, but since coming out for Milo this was the first function I have attended where I expected to see a fair number of my Chicago colleagues.

I was nervous, to say the least. Would they talk with me? Would they shun me? Would I find myself standing awkwardly in a corner, the cynosure of all eyes?

Yeah, right. Are you kidding me? This is Chicago. We eat Nobel prize winners for lunch. Mere provocateurs barely raise eyebrows.

Or maybe I am just really, really good at being a Happy Warrior. After all, I've been training with the Master these past six months.

See? I'm stuck now, not sure how to explain. It was all so...normal. For Chicago, that is.

One colleague admitted to seeing Milo's interview with Bill Maher, but smiled and waved me off when I tried to explain how Milo chose his outfit for the occasion. (It was hig…

“Jesus Wept”

I've been here before. Yesterday, I made my confession on Facebook in a post shared only with my Friends:
No matter what I do, about this time every year I get hit with such angst about my work, my writing, my scholarship, my career, I want to quit. In previous years, I have associated it with getting disparaging peer reviews of my work--I have had many, it is not just my blogging about Milothat has been polarizing! I had thought this time round to have cheated the Devil, but it appears not. Not sure whether this is a warning, an apology, or a plea for help. Just sayin’. I'm here again...where I had hoped not to be. My friends, as always, have rallied round, but I cannot will away the gloom. I am stuck here, trying to argue my way out of despair.

“I'm just grieving for my father, whose death day (March 10) comes around every year at this time.”

“I'm tired from working so hard on my book, then my blog, and now having to go back to teaching. I never took a proper break.”


A Most Deplorable Conversation

Michael Rectenwald, Professor of Liberal Studies at New York University, famous as the Deplorable Professor who made jokes about PC culture in his tweets, hosts Fencing Bear in a collegial conversation about Milo, academic freedom, the heresies of the Left, the idea of the secular, the problems with J.S. Mill, and fencing vs. trigger warnings on campus.

Watch here

Free Speech Fundamentals FAIL: J.S. Mill

I have a love-hate relationship with J.S. Mill's On Liberty.

I love that Mill describes the Middle Ages as a time when it was possible for an individual to be a “power in himself...if he had either great talents or a high social position.” Not so, according to Mill, in the present age:
At present individuals are lost in the crowd. Mill was writing in 1859, but it could almost be now, don't you think? Does any of this sound familiar?
In politics it is almost a triviality to say that public opinion now rules the world. The only power deserving the name is that of masses, and of governments while they make themselves the organ of the tendencies and instincts of masses. Mill blamed the “whole white population” in America for this state of affairs, while “in England” it was “chiefly the middle class.”
Their thinking is done for them by men much like themselves, addressing them or speaking in their name, on the spur of the moment, through the newspapers. Can you imagine what he wo…

The Jesus Story

Sixteen hundred years ago, a man asked a friend for advice. The man was anxious because he had gained a reputation as a teacher for speaking well, but when students were brought to him for instruction, he became tongue-tied. He was particularly upset because at times in the course of a long narration he found his speaking profitless and distasteful even to himself, and he was worried that his teaching was doing more harm than good. “Help me!” he begged his friend. “Tell me what to say!”

His friend replied: "First and foremost, you need to enjoy what you are talking about." Actually, that is not quite what his friend said. It was somewhat more formal. But the gist was the same. "In reality," the man's friend replied, "we are listened to with much greater satisfaction...when we ourselves also have pleasure in the same work; for the thread of our address is affected by the very joy of which we ourselves are sensible, and it proceeds from us with greater ease …