Saturday, April 02, 2011

Blue Kentucky

Last Sunday I wrote about basketball as the civil religion of Kentucky.

This week, the feeling is even stronger. The University of Kentucky men's basketball team plays a Final Four game tonight. Today, our town was blue and white. In the grocery store, the bank, the coffee shop, on the street - by my count every third person was wearing blue and white and/or the word "Kentucky."

The commonwealth will slow down at 8:40. This is a binding fact among people of all classes. Civil religion's high festival is upon us.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

College Couples Parting With a Handshake

I have been re-reading the wonderful anthology of marriage and courtship texts, Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar, collected by Amy and Leon Kass. In the selection from Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind is this gripping complaint:

When I see a young couple who have lived together throughout their college years leave each other with a handshake and move out into life, I am struck dumb.

Bloom fears that they suffer from true apatheia, from numb, passionless souls. I think the cause is not quite as bad as that. I think many college students have absorbed an ideology that they should not settle in to adult life until they are old - say, 30. College couples have all the normal human desire to find their mate and get on with life, which in any other culture and time they would just go ahead and do. They have an idea, though, that they should go experience things before they find their spouse.

The married couples who come to my "Family Life" class are subversively suggesting, by their very lives, the alternative idea that experiencing things with your spouse makes for a great adventure.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kids Increase Married Parents' Happiness

Some studies had found that having children did not clearly increase parents' happiness, while others found that it did. Luis Angeles has cleared up the mystery, I think: Kids increase the happiness of married parents, but decrease it for single parents and cohabiting couples.

Moreover, Angeles found that married parents' happiness increased with each child up to three kids, which he thinks is the amount of kids most married couples want to have. Married mothers were made happier by having children than married fathers were - with three kids, mothers were made about twice as happy as fathers.

[ Luis Angeles, “Children and Life Satisfaction”, Journal of Happiness Studies, 2009]

Monday, March 28, 2011

11% Extremely Satisfied With Their Lives

I was sent a tidbit from a new Gallup poll. When asked, on a five-point scale, to rate how satisfied they are with their lives, most people (58%) said they were satisfied. Eleven percent chose the strongest ranking, saying they were extremely satisfied with their lives.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Basketball as Religion

Today is one of the great movable feasts of Kentucky's civil religion - the NCAA men's basketball tournament. The feast happens for a month each year, and Kentucky gets to participate almost every year through several avatars, most especially the University of Kentucky. This year has been a heightened collective effervescence. The team beat the top-ranked team in a very close game the other night. 90% of my friends' Facebook posts for the next ten hours were about the game.

Tonight the UK teams faces off against a traditional rival power, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Which means that the Bluegrass will simply stop functioning from 5 to about 7 tonight. I bet half the households in the middle of the state, and probably a quarter of the rest, will watch or listen to the game. Facebook will be full of running commentary. Tomorrow's conversation in all venues, high and low, male and female, of every color and nominal creed, will at least touch on the game, whatever the outcome.

Which is fine. Civil religion unites. The content does not have to be the most elevated, as long as it is shared. Indeed, there is only a minority taste for the most elevated content (or the least elevated, for that matter). Civil religion faith and practice pretty much have to be middle-brow and middle-morals. But if everyone is willing to care, and share their caring, then civil society is renewed. Which is a good thing.