high school

A Canticle For Leibowitz

Book Review

In reading The Knowledge, several of the quotes at the beginning of chapters were ones from A Canticle for Liebowitz. Given the book was one of Paul's favorite books in high school, I thought I would read it again. I mean, really, it's been so long since I've read it that it is almost as if I hadn't read it, so it could be new for me again. Though, let's be real, reading a book as a kid, then reading it as an adult means you are reading a new book.

One of the defining ideas of the book is that, well, humanity pretty much destroys itself with a nuclear war, sending the world back to the dark ages where anarchy rules along with mutants and the church. No surprise there, the book was written in the sixties when the overt threat of nuclear war was far more in the front of people's consciousnesses. I would argue that the threat isn't really that much reduced, people as a whole have just moved on a bit. The threat of a nuclear bomb is sufficient, no one REALLY wants to use it.

In Canticle, people used it. People destroyed the world. Humanity survived. Humanity rebuilt. Humanity had the same stupid existential arguments, the same pettiness, the same everything that makes us human. Which means, of course, that we would regain the world, only to destroy it again.

In reading the book this time, I was struck with just how much of the discussions we had as a group in high school included the arguments and discussions from the book. I suspect just as my world was shaped more than I'd like to admit by the books I read in high school, this book shaped Paul's world. I could be projecting.

Many of the philopsophical discussions stuck with me, and I had to pause reading to think about them. I wish I had someone reading the book at the same time, so that we could talk about it.

Underwear: part 1


When I was in high school, we lived in a house with 2 bathrooms: one for my mom and her husband, the other for the three of us kids. Bathroom use worked out fairly well, as BJ's school started a 1/2 hour after Chris' and mine, and I liked to sleep in. ("Liked"? Who am I kidding? I still like to sleep in.)

Chris would take a shower first in the morning. Yep, we're a family of morning-showers. He had the unpleasant habit of leaving his dirty underwear in the bathroom when he was done showering. Even after we asked him not to, he'd leave them on the bathroom floor. Every morning BJ and I would stumble into the bathroom to get ready for school, Chris' underwear greeted us.

We tried many tactics to get Chris to pick up his underwear. We complained to Mom. We picked them up and left them on his bed. We played soccer with them as the ball, in front of him and his friends. We used them as weapons of mass destruction.

No luck.

Each morning, they were still there, waving at us with a fragrant, freshly worn underwear smell. Eventually I gave up. I stopped hounding Chris to pick up his dirty underwear, and started picking them up myself. And what a thankless job it was! A little sister cleaning up after her older brother! Oh, the shame!

Except that I didn't put them in his dirty clothes pile.

When he left his dirty underwear in the bathroom and I picked them up, I put them in a bag (plastic, tightly sealed) in the back of my closet. One by one those dirty underwear migrated from the Chris' butt, to the bathroom, to the dungeon of my closet.

I didn't think much of the underwear. I just picked them up and put them away. Eventually, there were no underwear on the bathroom floor in the morning. Ta dah! I had done my job and done it well. No more underwear on the bathroom floor! Joy!

Strangely, however, Chris didn't complain. Who wouldn't notice that you've gone from lots of underwear down to, say, 2 pair. But I didn't hear him say anything about them. 2 pair: the one he was wearing, and the one in the wash.

One day, a while after the morning brush with discarded underwear had stopped, I heard my mom complaining, "How can you have only 2 pair of underwear? I just bought you new ones two weeks ago! Where did they go?" Chris, "I don't know." as he started another load of laundry.

Ooops. Someone noticed.

I went into the back of my bedroom closet, pulled out the (now quite heavy) bag of dirty underwear and brought it out to the livingroom. And handed it to Chris. In front of my mom and BJ, both of who looked stunned. I explained why I did it. BJ smiled. Mom said nothing (though I suspect she was laughing inside at my cleverness). Chris was relieved to have underwear again.

He never left underwear on the bathroom floor again.