Friday, July 18, 2003
A prescription for summer
Americans have the shortest vacations in the developed world. The average annual vacation in Germany is 35 days, in Canada 26 days, in Japan 25 days, and in the USA 13 days. Why? The irony is that we Americans live on a faster pace than much of the world and probably need vacations more. We are driven by multiple demands, tight schedules, instant messages, meals in the car, congested traffic, constant busyness. Even those who love their jobs are on a treadmill that inevitably moves from chronic stress to burnout. As we are driven more by everything external, we are less responsive to our own needs and resources.
Have you taken a vacation this summer? This year? Have you noticed that some of your most original ideas come in the shower, or while you are walking the dog? At least once a year we all need to push back the external pressures and take a vacation.
The prescription for a vacation is simple and has only two requirements: First, leave home. Leave behind the telephone, the computer, the unfinished repairs, the endless household chores. If you don't already have one, rent a tent or boat or cottage and escape. Second, take enough time. It takes more than a week to stop watching the clock and making mental lists. Do only one thing at a time. Permit yourself to get up late and read the extra chapter. Is today Tuesday?
A vacation is not simply down time. In the unhurried, uninterrupted moments creative ideas may germinate, priorities may come into clearer focus. Returning to work with a fresh mind and fresh attitude is more valuable than overtime.
Summer is short in New England. Put it on your schedule.
What now, my love?
The state's Supreme Judicial Court is poised to rule in favor of same-sex marriage. Over the years, I've been neighbor and loving friend to a number of same-sex couples. I believe this is a disastrous moment for us all · and inevitable, given the wayward drift of the culture and the courts.
"At the heart of liberty," wrote U.S. Justice Anthony Kennedy in the Casey abortion decision, "is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."
Antonin Scalia, one of the high court's surviving voices of sanity, calls this formulation by Kennedy, a bit derisively, the "sweet mystery of life passage," and, at another point, "the passage that ate the rule of law." It is about to devour our commonly held beliefs about marriage and family.
Justice Kennedy proudly reprieved his unhinged declaration of human autonomy in the recent Lawrence decision which swept away a Texas anti-sodomy law. He was calling into question a state's right to regulate behavior it deemed immoral or unnatural based on ethical · some would say religious · principles.
These days, so-called "natural law" sympathies on the part of all prospective U.S. Supreme Court justices are diligently weeded out in a politically charged confirmation process. Religious inclinations are blocked by that famous · and phony · Constitutional "wall of separation." But warring ideas about what is natural and inviolable are at the core of this debate.
The truth is that, for thirty years, the courts have been guided not by stable legal or moral principles but by the howling wolves of the Zeitgeist. It began with Roe v. Wade when Justice Harry Blackmun and his cohorts cobbled out of thin air a spurious Constitutional "right to privacy." Since then, millions of people have died · but then I guess it all depends on your definition of a "person."
At the state court level, Massachusetts Chief Justice Margaret Marshall recently reserved for the popularly elected legislature a decision on whether domestic partners should get insurance coverage. In doing so, however, she foreshadowed the coming revolution. Maybe it's time to "redefine the family," she said. Time it seems, to redefine everything.
Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum suggested we were heading toward a very slippery moral and legal slope. He was promptly labeled a bigot and suffered a national media mugging.
So while a Gallup poll shows most Americans opposed to same-sex marriage, don't expect them to say so. Meanwhile, advocates know they can gain by judicial fiat whatever is denied them in the court of public opinion. Oddly enough, the Globe finds no unanimity or universal joy among gays on the issue.
"They don't want to live that ideal (of marriage)," said a Provincetown store clerk. "There's a lot of straight people like that, too, who don't want to get married or who get married but don't play by the rules."
He's right. We've all been busy breaking rules and, in Justice Kennedy's phrase, defining our own "concept of existence." And soon we'll all be singing, "what now, my love?"
© 2003 The