Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Sins of the Mother

Donal Graeme recently posted some passages from 2 Maccabees and Tobit, about the care of the dead. Bruce Charlton just posted a study about the care of geniuses.

Tobit cared for the dead physically, burying abandoned bodies. Judas Maccabeus cared for the dead spiritually, by arranging sacrifices for their sins. The care of the dead is a foreign concept in Protestant religion but is important in Catholic and Orthodox Christianity.

The study Charlton quotes says that geniuses frequently lack many normal life skills because of their high intelligence and need care and protection from others. Genius does not provide individual fitness, rather it provides group fitness, if the group cares for its geniuses. Charlton notes the decline of genius, and fixes on the lack of care in recent times for geniuses.

My mother came from a social-climbing middle class, Midwestern Irish Catholic family. Her father had a law degree, but was not successful as a lawyer and worked as a utility company executive. Her brothers became big-shot corporate executives, and her sister a big-shot university administrator. They were all tough people who didn’t suffer fools or weaklings gladly, if at all.

Considering this it’s a little strange my mother married my father. He is a somewhat introverted, highly intelligent person who is good with people he knows well but not a social competitor. She was aging out of the marriage market and he was a nice Catholic man, so I guess that is the reason.

I think toward the end of her life my mother was pretty sick of my father. He had had some setbacks and their circumstances were reduced. She didn’t have the life she had hoped for.

My brother, the oldest child, showed great promise. In the Irish Catholic tradition as the oldest son he got most of the attention and resources. My sister, the next in line, I think was of a little concern, as she didn’t show interest in being traditionally feminine, in clothes and ladylike comportment. I remember when she was about 14 my mom had her go to a clothes and makeup school at some department store, which ended with the students performing in a fashion show. It didn’t help. But being a single, not feminine woman is a perfectly acceptable life choice in the culture, so that wasn’t a big deal I don’t think.

I on the other hand am much like my father, and as my mother was disappointed in him, I think she was also disappointed in me. My brother had a weird way of negotiating the nasty lower middle-class/working-class environment we lived in, but it was completely lost on me. I don’t know if anyone would describe me as a genius, but I never had the mental capacity for difficult social situations and I needed a lot of assistance from my parents, which wasn’t forthcoming.

My mother valued social status and social facility highly. Part of achieving social status is adopting the values and attitudes of the powerful, which in the west now means progressivism. On an individual level it’s foolish and vain. On a society-wide level it’s deeply evil, as seen by the massive social destruction these people have caused. On a personal level, my mother had two problems with me. One was that I was just a weak loser, and I needed to suck it up. The other was that the people I was having trouble with were usually on a lower social level than me, people my mother would have considered “poor” although they weren’t, and Mexicans.

I needed help and care from my mother, but I got abandonment with a certain amount of contempt. My sister thinks she was a good mother. I don’t know exactly what my brother thinks, but he gave me “Toxic Parents” secretly for Christmas once. Almost everyone who knew her would describe her as a wonderful person.

I am almost the only person aware of her sins, by virtue of being the person she sinned against. The dead soldiers may be considered to have sinned against Maccabeus, since by using the talismans they brought their own deaths and left him weaker, but he took up a collection for the sacrifices anyway. Only he could provide this care, so he did it.

Duty is thought of as a pagan concept, often derided as works in Protestantism, but I think it is important in Christianity as well. We do many things because no one else can. The dead are helpless and dependent on us, and it is our duty to care for them. So I am saying the prayers for the dead for my mother all these years later.


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