"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Birthdays Today

My Girls of the Day were not accidental.... today is the birthday of Jane Austen, born in 1775.  

Austen's works are among the few novels that I pick up every few years to reread.  (Although, come to think of it, I haven't reread Emma or Pride and Prejudice or Mansfield Park or Sense and Sensibility for awhile... better get that on my list!)  So simple -- she is famous for noting that the material for a novel could be found in a small town in the English countryside and 3 or 4 families -- Austen's novels about young women and their paths to marriage are among the more profound statements of Christian morality I've read.  

A moment in Emma captures this quality beautifully:  the highly intelligent, beautiful and rich Emma Woodhouse ridicules Miss Bates, a kindhearted spinster, at a picnic while trying to flirt with the ne-er-do-well, Frank Churchill.   For making a joke to impress Churchill at another's expense, Emma is reprimanded by Mr. Knightley, a true gentleman (whom she will ultimately wed).   The point is simple, yet central to Christianity -- we do not use other people for our own purposes, we do not casually cause harm or hurt feelings.   If we are strong, we protect the weak, we do not exploit them.   A great, great novelist, up there with Tolstoy and George Eliot in my Top 3.


My old man loved jazz, and particularly small-group, traditional jazz.   One of his favorites was a San Francisco-based trombonist named Turk Murphy, who was born today in 1915.   I hope Dad is at Earthquake McGoon's in heaven, listening to Turk right now.   Here's Turk:

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