Why Colonel Sartoris?

Allow me to explain the puzzling title. Colonel Sartoris is William Faulkner's greatest character. He exemplifies those values that his society cherishes, namely tradition, patriarchy, courtliness, and courage. Though modernity's slow march tries to strip him of these things, Sartoris continues to live as he always has, knowing that "the past is never dead. It's not even past." He seeks order in the honorable folkways and mores of his forbears. Let us not forget his example.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


"A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes."  -- Proverbs 13:1

The word "heed" does not appear once in the New Testament (NIV translation).  In all of the Bible, it appears a mere twenty times, with fully half of those in Proverbs.  Ecclesiastes records four "heeds"; Ezekiel, 2; Psalms, 2; and Micah and Samuel both with one.  Were one to practice exegesis by sabermetrics, I guess you'd look to Proverbs--that's where it appears most; that's where it's significant.  As a student and teacher of ancient language myself, though, I'm tempted to examine every single usage in the original language.  That's a great template, but it proves problematic because my Hebrew skills, at this point, are precisely nil.

So I will examine the English text--a good, second-best option.  At the very least, the context around the words will help inform me of the meaning of "heed."  And I'll start with Proverbs, because it contains the most words, and, because it's written by a single author, its usage is internally consistent within the book, providing us a significant mass of usage to parse its meaning.

I put the verse above up to show the typical structure of a verse in Proverbs.  A correct, wise, and godly course of action is stated, and its counterpoint--the ill-advised, foolish, and sinful--follows.  It is a juxtaposition of both persons and their actions.  Thus, while we might readily understand the meaning of the words in the first clause, the second must necessarily sharpen that understanding.

Taking the first verse of Proverbs' thirteenth chapter, the verse holds out a son and his action in relation to some form of counsel--here, his father's instruction.  And the second independent clause holds out a "mocker."  It does not explicitly say "a son who mocks."  But these two independent clauses are juxtaposed in this sentence for a reason.  So let's look at the verbs used, the action of the sentence.  We see "heeds . . . instruction" and "not respond to rebukes."

"Heed," per Merriam Webster, means simply "to pay attention."  That definition does not necessarily hold up when compared to this verse, though.  For "heed" here is explicitly contrasted with "not respond[ing]."  In other words, there is not only an attentive component, one of notice, but also one of action.  "Respond" has, at its core, a component of adjusting one's own behavior, of correction.  When one "responds" to someone, one necessarily takes into account something else.  "Heed," therefore, must itself have a component of adjustment to it.

Adjustment does not mean "consideration" or "taking into account."  It means, instead, to alter a course of action.  I can consider many inputs before I change my decision.  But if I adjust my decision, I have altered it in response to some information I have received.  And THIS is the point of Proverbs--the wise man is not wise simply because he's privy to the correct, prudent course of action, that he hears what he should do.  Nor is he wise because he can divine what he should do.  He's wise because he does--he acts on--what he should do.

The argument for "what he should do" equating to the truth is beyond my simple explication of Proverbs 13:1 at this point.  I may very well get to that later, but Proverbs, as a book, explicitly holds out a correct, wise, righteous course of action and thought, and a crooked, foolish, sinful course of action and thought.  Whatever the epistemological validity of a "correct" or a "righteous" course of action, it is worth noting that it does not prescribe "thinking about" something as wisdom--it prescribes doing as wisdom.  And that is a hard battle to fight, for sure.  But wisdom, of all things, is worth pursuing.

And Proverbs equates pursuit to action--and not just thought.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Presses Stopped after Ligers Roar

Tuesday, March 15, 2011
CHAPEL HILL, NC--Much of the Chapel Hill community was concerned with their team not hitting shots.  Off the basketball court, though, a small segment hit pretty much everything they looked at.  As the rain level started to rise, and the temperature started to drop, Chapel Hill's own Ligers, the CoRec Recreational League Softball team comprised exclusively of law students, bared their fangs and took hold of a softball game like Mary Ellen "Bucky" Bonner takes hold of a bad cite-checker.  The Ligers intimidated their opponents--the "Carolina Week," an all-journalism-major team-- . . . and then inundated them, not only at the plate, but also with heads-up defensive play and explosive base-running.

The Ligers emerged from hibernation a tad slow--the Carolina Week scored a total of four runs in the first inning.  The outfield, with Mary Ellen Bonner and Stu "Pottstown" Pratt at right, Skipper Scotty Strickland at center, and Mabes "Mudville" Mabry at left, let a couple runs get by on the slick-running astroturf that night.  And the Carolina Week's starting pitcher came out throwing some of the best junk balls that the Ligers will probably see all year.  Still, the Ligers, with Skipper Scott Strickland as third base coach, managed to grind out two small-ball style runs to keep them in it.

And then the deluge came.  Not only did the sky open up, but so did the Ligers' offense.  In that inning, they scored five runs, thanks to power-hitting by McCotter, Cowan, Biggers, and the rest of the lineup, and smart base-running.  "Yeah, I think it all began when I hit that ball through the gap," said Ligers' first-baseman R. "Tricky" Dick McCotter.  "After that, [the pitcher's] confidence was just shot."  And so it seemed, with the Skipper, the Hillary "Liger" Lyon, Dan "the Swatman" Cowan, Colin "Don't Call Me Fairness" Justice, and Bigglesworth Biggers (and even Mudville Mabes) all contributing to a huge five-run inning.

Making their last defensive stand in the pouring rain, the Ligers continued to play heads-up ball.  Jeremy "Slick Willy" Wilson continued the same steady, confident game at the mound that he showed all night, and he was able to throw together a strike-out and two fly balls to end the 5th.  Mudville caught a clutch fly ball to right, but the real web gem came when the Skipper, paddlewheeled in from deep center to lay himself out to catch a blooper that landed a few feet behind second base . . . and in his glove.  "Yeah, uh, I guess that my emotion just got a hold of me.  The drills--when you practice that stuff, you don't even think."

Ozzie-Guillen-style "smart ball" notwithstanding, let's hope the Ligers continue "not thinking" as the season wears on--it apparently translates to victories.

Jackson "Mabes Mudville" Mabry is a free-lance writer based in Chapel Hill, NC and Dallas, TX.  His work has appeared in The American Spectator, The Atlantic, National Review, Sports Illustrated, and The Sporting News.

Monday, March 7, 2011

House & Heels (and Texas)

No, this is not a new, alliterative magazine title a la Garden & Gayun.

Today is March 6th.  What happened then?  The fall of the Alamo.  Santa Anna  overwhelmed 180 heroic defenders of the by sheer numbers (almost 10:1), but, in doing so, clenched his own defeat.

A few weeks ago, I promised a followup post about Eddie House to my Tiger Woods diatribe.  I will summarize my thoughts on House as follows: (1) actions have consequences (corollary: when you act like a moron, you're treated as such); (2) when you work in a highly regulated, high-profile field, you know or should know that your actions are scrutinized; (3) thus, when you act like an idiot, don't be surprised when you get caught and face teh consequences.  Applying that rubric to House: don't act like an idiot and then cry like a wuss when you're told that you can't make lewd gestures on television.  And---even if you think the rules are stupid---show some respect for yourself and for your team.  You'll look better.  Even if you do . . . you won't look NEARLY as good as the University of North Carolina TARHEELS.

The Heels played with an unmatched level of grit, pride, and class.  I wouldn't have attributed these traits to this team back in November, but now I cannot think of a single team in the NCAA---at least within my memory---who better exemplifies these traits.  What I saw on Saturday night was, truly, epic.  First, I have to hand it to Roy Williams for molding these uniquely talented players into a team.  All we have to do is look at the box score: Seth Curry, 20 points; Nolan Smith, 30 points.  No big surprise---these guys put up similar numbers all the time.  But the Heels?  Harrison Barnes, of course, led us in scoring . . . but with EIGHTEEN POINTS.  That's only THREE more than Kendall Marshall, and only four more than Tyler Zeller.  John Henson came up with 10, and Dexter Strickland added eight more (although if crowd reaction somehow added additional points to a basket, he probably added, conservatively, an additional twenty or so).  That, gentlemen, is a team.  That is telling your players to set their picks and get the ball to the open man.  That is teamwork.  And that is Roy Williams.

Going into the game, the campus was packed tight with anticipation.  Even at the law school, people had a hard time talking about anything other than the Duke game.  I have never seen the campus so eager or excited about this game.  We lined up behind them, as if our conversations, angst, and hallway-banter might translate to hardwood baskets.  But who cares, because this IS Carolina basketball, and that's what we do.  We get behind our team, both before the game, and during the game.  The Dean Dome was rockin'.  I couldn't believe how loud it was.  I have been there before at games, and I am usually non-plussed.  But this time, I was completely taken aback by our enthusiasm and energy.  I'd like to think that it showed, but I don't cotton to that notion.  I want ALL of our players (especially our seniors)to at leats have th eoption to goet