July 28, 2015

Art Balms

Among the magic treasures spotted at the Columbus Museum of Art this past Sunday:

Who doesn't love a ship? From the 1830s, New of York.


Christ holds a goldfinch, which has potentially multiple meanings: http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/pharos/collection_pages/middle_pages/563/TXT_BR_SS-563.html 

Love the tiny lamb at the foot of this painting and the symbolized gentleness.

Created by a local black folk artist back in the 1970s; depicts Crucifixion going
all the way back to the blacksmiths who created the nails. 

*

Spotted online, some of Herman Melville's poems.  It doesn't float my boat too much, but I'm riveted by how riveted he was by a figure of fascination to us both: Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson:

Mortally Wounded at Chancellorsville

The Man who fiercest charged in fight,
Whose sword and prayer were long -
Stonewall!
Even him who stoutly stood for Wrong,
How can we praise? Yet coming days
Shall not forget him with this song.

Dead is the Man whose Cause is dead,
Vainly he died and set his seal -
Stonewall!
Earnest in error, as we feel;
True to the thing he deemed was due,
True as John Brown or steel.

Relentlessly he routed us;
But we relent, for he is low -
Stonewall!
Justly his fame we outlaw; so
We drop a tear on the bold Virginian's bier,
Because no wreath we owe.
*

And another poem about the Jack man:

One man we claim of wrought reknown
Which not the North shall care to slur;
A Modern lived who sleeps in death,
Calm as the marble Ancients are:
'Tis he whose life, though a vapor's wreath,
Was charged with the lightning's burning breath -
Stonewall, stormer of the war.

But who shall hymn the Roman heart?
A stoic he, but even more:
The iron will and lion thew
Were strong to inflict as to endure:
Who like him could stand, or pursue?
His fate the fatalist followed through;
In all his great soul found to do
Stonewall followed his star.

He followed his star on the Romney march
Through the sleet to the wintry war;
And he followed it on when he bowed the grain -
The Wind of the Shenandoah;
At Gaines's Mill in the giants' strain -
On the fierce forced stride to Manassas-plain,
Where his sword with thunder was clothed again,
Stonewall followed his star.

His star he followed athwart the flood
To Potomac's Northern shore,
When midway wading, his host of braves
'My Maryland!' loud did roar -
To red Antietam's field of graves,
Through mountain-passes, woods, and waves,
They followed their pagod with hymns and glaives,
For Stonewall followed a star.

Back it led him to Marye's slope,
Where the shock and the fame he bore;
And to green Moss-Neck it guided him -
Brief respite from throes of war:
To the laurel glade by the Wilderness grim,
Through climxed victory naught shall dim,
Even unto death it piloted him -
Stonewall followed his star.

Its lead he followed in gentle ways
Which never the valiant mar;
A cap we sent him. bestarred, to replace
The sun-scorched helm of war:
A fillet he made of the shining lace
Childhood's laughing brow to grace -
Not his was a goldsmith's star.

O, much of doubt in after days
Shall cling, as now, to the war;
Of the right and the wrong they'll still debate,
Puzzled by Stonewall's star:
'Fortune went with the North elate,'
'Ay, but the South had Stonewall's weight,
And he fell in the South's great war.'

Herman Melville

What the Huck?

So I hear some outraged media types all atwitter and hot and bothered over something Mike Huckabee said, so I googled the comment and am underwhelmed and not feeling outraged. I feel shortchanged.

My take is that only the Israelis can say if Huckabee's oven comment was over the line, not Democrat operatives (aka the media).  Lord knows Iran getting a nuclear bomb and potentially using it on Israel is equivalent to the ovens.

What I'm not getting about the whole Iran deal is how it matters, ultimately.  Because won't Israel bomb Iraq with or without our permission should Iran be close to going nuclear?

I also see that the Administration's mantra: "Anytime, anywhere" with respect to inspections actually means "it depends on what you mean by 'anytime'.  Obama's chaneling Bill Clinton's "depends on what the meaning of "is" is.

*

Elsewhere spotted: Nice zinger-tweet from Alan Jacobs: "New book by Jen Gunter: 'What To Expect When You Have Products of Conception'"

July 24, 2015

Excerpt of a Poem Found in Anthology

[This sounds "theology of the body"-ish, what with this point about bodies saying truths. Excuse the my lack of formatting the lines of her poem due to lack of Kindle highlight formatting.]

The Wedding Vow

Sharon Olds

We stood beside each other, crying slightly with fear and awe. In truth, we had married that first night, in bed, we had been married by our bodies, but now we stood in history—what our bodies had said, mouth to mouth, we now said publicly, gathered together, death...

It was a vow of the present and the future, and yet I felt it to have some touch on the distant past or the distant past on it, I felt the wordless, dry, crying ghost of my parents’ marriage there, somewhere in the echoing space—perhaps one of the plummeting flies, bouncing slightly as it hit forsaking all others, then was brushed away. I felt as if I had come to claim a promise—the sweetness I’d inferred from their sourness, and at the same time that I had come, congenitally unworthy, to beg. And yet, I had been working toward this hour all my life. And then it was time to speak—he was offering me, no matter what, his life. That is all I had to do, that evening, to accept the gift I had longed for—to say I had accepted it, as if being asked if I breathe. Do I take? I do.

But They Didn't Have Ellen














The early Mormons are surely spinning in their graves shocked that even religious liberty, the first clause of the first amendment to the Constitution, wasn't enough to secure polygamy, but The Ellen DeGeneres Show and public opinion are enough to legitimize gay marriage in the eyes of the law.

July 21, 2015

Obligatory Weather 'Plaint

Weather reports are now changeless as God: rain, clouds, thunderstorms. They ought to do breaking weather news for sun, not storm, since rain is the default. I can see it now: The National Weather Service has issued a severe fine weather alert for Franklin and surrounding counties. Sunshine has been spotted thirty miles west of Columbus. In the event of actual sunshine, you will be instructed to venture outdoors…

Ah that's probably wishful thinking since the best we can hope for is a sunshine watch not warning.

July 14, 2015

One Hand Gives, the Other Takes Away

It's kind of funny (if it wasn't sad) when you see one Supreme Court justice (Roberts) so desperate to apply a fig-leaf to the Court's loin, while another (Scalia) so intent on revealing the truth that the emperor hath no clothes. From the Scalia dissent:
"It is hard to come up with a clearer way to limit tax credits to state Exchanges than to use the words 'established by the State.' And it is hard to come up with a reason to include the words 'by the State.' other than the purpose of limiting credits to state Exchanges. '[T]he plain, obvious, and rational meaning of a statute is always to be preferred to any curious, narrow, hidden sense that nothing but the exigency of a hard case and the ingenuity and study of an acute and powerful intellect would discover..' Lynch v. Alworth-Stephens Co., 267 U. S. 364, 370 (1925). Under all the usual rules of interpretation, in short, the Government should lose this case. But normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved....
"Ordinary connotation does not always prevail, but the more unnatural the proposed interpretation of a law, the more compelling the contextual evidence must be to show that it is correct. Today’s interpretation is not merely unnatural; it is unheard of. Who would ever have dreamt that 'Exchange established by the State' means 'Exchange established by the State or the Federal Government'?... It is probably piling on to add that the Congress that wrote the Affordable Care Act knew how to equate two different types of Exchanges when it wanted to do so."
 The Court’s next bit of interpretive jiggery-pokery involves other parts of the Act that purportedly presuppose the availability of tax credits on both federal and state Exchanges."
The irony is that by trying desperately to protect the reputation of the Court he ultimately undermines it.  He makes the Court look silly (when it doesn't look malicious, such as in the finding a right to an abortion). It reminds me how the Church tried so hard to protect her reputation (by allowing pedophile priests to go to other parishes) that it ended up damaging her reputation much more severely.

The case is textbook in that it also neatly explains how it is that the Bible has been so often misinterpreted or ignored.   I used to wish, naively, that Jesus had emphasized Peter as the rock more often in the gospels, or that He would've made it even clearer (how could He?) that the bread and wine becomes his Body and Blood.  But words are fragile things in the face of a powerful desire for an alternate reality.  Even miracles, we have on good authority, aren't enough.

*

In other news...Watched the adorable Nikki Haley on Meet the Press. She may end up being the Sarah Palin that Palin so utterly failed to be: a smart woman governor and presidential prospect. Admirably adult.

I do find it almost amusing to see how the national media thinks the removal of the confederate flag from the SC state capitol as worthy of twenty minutes of an hour weekly news show.  Shows the unbelievable power of symbol. You'd think that someone had just cured cancer, or racism, when all that happened was a flag got hid from view. People and media are certainly foolish enough to be entertaining.

I feel a bit uneasy over the continued erasure of regional differences. Soon all will have the sins and blindnesses of the north without the virtues of the south.

July 13, 2015

Pope and Capitalism

I'm fascinated by the pope's anti-capitalism stand in part because I'm so curious what he makes of the gains made in millions of people in India and China brought about by capitalism. Perhaps that the relieved poverty is only temporary?  Or the toll capitalistic practices can take on the environment are not worth it?  Or that statistics are lies by another name?

A New York Times piece has an interesting quote:
[Pope] Francis has such a strong sense of urgency “because he has been on the front lines with real people, not just numbers and abstract ideas,” Mr. Schneck said. “That real-life experience of working with the most marginalized in Argentina has been the source of his inspiration as pontiff.”
Is it simply that Francis prefers an anecdotal approach than one involving measuring? Is it simply that he hasn't met anybody whose life was improved by capitalism? (I doubt he's buddy-buddy with any Chinese entrepreneurs or Indian middle class workers. Meanwhile, even rock star like Bono, hardly conservative, defends capitalism.)

I'm not sure why "numbers" are counterpoised with "real people" as if numbers of real people lifted from poverty is abstract because it involves a number.  Maybe unless you can put a name and face with a number... I guess it's the same impetus of a pro-life group posting pictures of aborted babies on billboards -- i.e. that unless you see it, you don't believe it.

July 10, 2015

Ode to the Donald

Oh, say can you see by the Don's early light
What so proudly he hailed at the Apprentice last screening?
Whose broad swipes and blight tars thru the merry-less fright,
O’er the sham tarts we watched were so silently screaming?
And the Donald's red glare, his bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through this sight that our nation is bare,
Oh, say does that star-bangled ego yet wave...

Football Cards I Have Known















July 08, 2015

Non-Imprimatur'd Thoughts


I read somewhere an opinion piece suggesting men are necessary as priests as a sort of acknowledgement of the weakness of men, that without this “carrot” they would be indifferent to religion even more so than is already currently the fashion. Already women comprise sixty percent or more of congregations, and there's the sense that if they became priests that number would rise.

And I thought of that while I read something about the breakdown of the family, suggesting the respect and responsibility men had back in the '40s and '50s was irreplaceable. From a short story in Paris Review:
“…at least patriarchy existed. I mean, as a social system it was able to perpetuate itself. There were families with children, and most of them had children. In other words, it worked, whereas now there aren't enough children, so we're finished.”
It's perhaps that God condescends to the weakness of the male that he allows him positions of authority like father or priest.

*

One could see the ocean as impossibly large and impersonal, as something so big that it's a resource wasteful and easily wasted --  but with a slightly larger frame of reference you notice it's a mere speck in the solar system let alone the galaxy let alone the universe. Given that perspective, it's incomparably precious.

I think of the water cycle, the way vapor from the ocean rises to clouds and snows or rains miles away, and I think of how careful nature is to recycle, such that we could learn a lesson.

*

The pope's encyclical is engaging because it's not too abstruse or theological, but neither is it the dumbed-down cliche-driven bromides given at weekly audiences. Those weekly audiences are pep talks, like what you might hear in the huddle in a football game. Here Francis is at his most persuasive by explaining the why of it, not sound bytes.

*

The first reading today was Jacob's hip problem after wrestling with God. It made such an impression on his fellows that the Israelites began avoiding the eating of the sciatic muscle, presumably as a way of remembrance and reverence. You'll know Jacob by his limp, in Heaven, just as Thomas (and us) shall know Jesus by his wounds. When God and man come together there are injuries, bruises, collisions of wills.

“I have seen God and lived,” says Jacob, the Old Testament's version of salvation and God's approval. To look upon God or to enter the Holy of Holies was to court death, or ecstasy. Now we receive Christ in the sacrament, more holy than the Holy of Holies, but know that the Judgement Day will be a risky, risky business, and so in that sense not too different from the ancient Jews.

*

Thursday I hitched up my pony (my bike) and made out while the getting was good. Put my earphones in and listened to music while cycling to the very end of the bike path. First time this year. The old saying about corn, “knee high by the fourth of July” is now “eye high” by this Fourth of July.

Towards the very end of the path I came across that rarest of rare sights: a bluebird. Man but that's a beautiful bird. Though surely not more so than a cardinal and yet I'm numb to cardinals having seen them so often. We only seem to appreciate the rare, the scarce! Is that why no prophet is without honor except in his own hometown?  A hometown prophet (like the cardinal) is too familiar to people to warrant appreciation and belief?

A fine ride it was on intermittent sunshine, sun that would soon falter and weaken and die, going to sleep around noon-thirty after which it became relentlessly overcast and rainy.  “A Republic, if you can keep it,” said one of the Founding Fathers of this nation. “A sunny day, if you can keep it,” sayeth I today.

*

The Fourth was, shockingly, sunny.  We checked out the fireworks that night and it's just so much more amazing in person versus the television screen and it makes me think that so too is the experience of the astronauts in space back in the '70s compared to our watching them on TV. Some things just can't be replicated or approximated.  Really, I'm not sure why the bother to televise them.

Then the next day to the ol' ball orchard. There's nothing quite like the moment you first glimpse the ballpark through the narrow walkway (section 140 in this case). It's “visual poetry”, seeing that expanse of green with only the outfielder and pitcher in view (we arrived after the game started). I felt with that first glimpse the way Emily Dickinson felt about the sea:
    Exultation is the going
    Of an inland soul to sea–
    Past the houses, past the headlands,
    Into Deep Eternity!
    Bred as we, among the mountains
    Can the sailor understand
    The divine intoxication
    Of the first league out from land?
So a nice couple hours at the ol' ball orchard despite the cloudiness and the shock of beer prices - $22.50 for two of them. Culpable, to buy beer at those prices. I think beer at a ball game is price inelastic, to borrow a term from Econ 101. You can charge pretty much anything and you'll have suckers.

*

Light ups like slots
Lightning bugs at dusk
Running the 8:55 bus
To immortality (a mate and offspring).

*

While plenty of people assert, validly, that God still works miracles in our day, there's no doubt that He doesn't raise people from the dead anymore. Or at least I haven't heard of it happening. That suggests that miracles should not be used as a proxy for God's care and concern for us. One can be certain that if more miracles and dead-raisings would truly help us, God would do it. And the proof of that is the Cross: St Augustine wrote, “He came to the marriage bed of the cross…and when he sensed the creature sighing in her breath, he surrendered himself to torment for his bride in a communication of love.” As much as I tend to think miracles show God's love, it's really not so because miracles are simply an expression of power and take absolutely no effort on God's part. Becoming man and dying on a cross takes effort and shows a level of love that dwarfs the mere exercise of power.

*

Kind of interesting to think of Christ as the "real Pan".  A shepherd of flocks and herds.  Man and God (as Pan was goat and man).  Christ's sudden appearance (Resurrection appearances) caused terror initially. "God of nature or the universe". 





July 01, 2015

Vignette Reportage


Sing, muse, of lakes of books, nay, seas of them, all for $2 each regardless of merit. And similarly huge selection of $2 DVDs.

I'm speaking of the Half-Price Books clearance sale held at the huge Ohio Expo Center held annually (and last weekend). We walked in Saturday to a warehouse filled with long tables of books: a tsunami of books, a greedy bibliophile's delight or curse -- curse because you can't look at a fraction of them. It's a drown-a-thon, and to have an hour there is to just smell the coffee grinds.

I bought but was surely influenced heavily by the cheap prices. It's hard to keep one's head in that heady atmosphere. The trick is to ask myself: Would I buy this for near full price? Would I be likely to buy it in the future? If so, get it, otherwise no.

Day 2, Sunday, we went back for more and I picked up Frost/Nixon and Borat  on DVD which was sweet as hotcakes and syrup. Both were movies I'd toyed with paying full price for, so ironically the DVDs are probably what I ought to have concentrated on.

Saturday was chilly and cloudy and windy, like San Francisco but without the sun or charming Victorians. We gamely happy hour'd out on the front porch, covered up in blankets. Mark Twain said the coldest summer he ever spent was in San Fran, but Columbus this year might be in the money.

Later that night we watched some Alaskan Bush People , a reality TV show.  The thing about the family depicted is how strikingly individual each one is. Most are pretty eccentric - something more typical in the country than the city, perhaps due to the lack of leveling conformity of culture. Or perhaps due in this case to a bedrock layer of acceptance. It's only with that sense of love undergirding us that we can be fully who we were meant to be, in all of our wild weirdness, and not captives to trying to please others by being someone we're not, by wearing masks. Hence the saints are said to be wildly unique.

Brief Thoughts on Gay Marriage Decision

What has the Supreme Court to do with Christianity? Nothing. It seems like for some of those without religion, the court system is their vindication, the instrument of absolving of sin. The nine “priests” on the Court have ruled that the homosexual lifestyle is a-ok, and that's what they wanted most. “We are not our desires,” is one of my favorite church catchphrases. To say “I am gay” is to reduce one's complexity and dignity to mere desire for same-gender sex.

Sadly the way these things happen is we swing widely from one extreme to the other - there's no middle ground.  Thus we enslaved blacks and now prefer them via affirmative action and college placement.  Similarly our society once bullied and demeaned gays, but now they will be looked upon as saints and anybody criticizing their lifestyle will be persecuted.  Alas.

But God (not some human form of what we might call "love") wins in the end.

June 26, 2015

Today's SCOTUS Rant

So the panel of political hacks also known as the Supreme Court came up with a decision that suggests the rule of law in terms of the written word is a fiction. The emperor wears no clothes. As Scalia said in dissent, “words have no meaning.” It's gobsmacking that justices decide they can interpret anything in any way. The Obamacare decision teaches kids that actions don't have consequences, that you can write a statute any way you want it and the Court will back you if your “heart is in the right place”, even when your “heart” says there's a right to kill an unborn child.

The amazing thing about our current system of government is you can write bad law and have it edited and amended in your favor by the SCOTUS.

The other longer term stunner is how with one of the defining issues of our time, healthcare, the Republican party simply bowed out. For decades. It's pretty amazing that half of D.C. sat it out and couldn't come up with a plan over the course of twenty or thirty years. And then be “outraged” when the Democrats came up with one and passed it and the SCOTUS played the role of Nancy Pelosi and helped write it after the fact. Republicans seem to think that serving in office is similar to the role of homecoming king and queen in high school: you just wave to people in parades.

I'm not overly comfortable with where this 'words have no meaning' leads. It feels like we're just winging it, that nobody is competent at their job, that standards and rules are for suckers or the politically unconnected. See Lois Lerner, who is said to collect a lifetime retirement pension north of $100k.

I guess it irritates that the third branch of government has become so political, that Roberts worries more about the effect of the law than the letter. This is likely a flaw in me - law was made for man, not man for the law to paraphrase Jesus. And it's surely possible that Roberts wants to conserve the Court's reputation in the minds of ordinary Americans to prevent a future complete breakdown of social order. You have to have one of the three branches with some credibility I suppose is his thinking.

It irks me though that we're not getting “what we paid for”, or rather what our Founders paid for with their blood and treasure, that of a disinterested judiciary not subject to the whims of the voter. That's the beauty of the law, I thought, being blind to repercussions. But I guess that's also the ugliness of the law, being blind and not taking into account the complexity of individual cases or how it will affect people. Reading Dickens' Bleak House reminds one of how the law can be an ass, even/especially when interpreted by the letter.

Perhaps I'm too imbued with the spirit of sports, particularly baseball, which has rules applied consistently with (mostly) admirable results. Baseball always seemed the most impartial of games, where you were judged by your statistics and not affiliation. (Of course the MLB was not immune to prejudice pre-Jackie Robinson, but players in the Negro League were judged by their stats, mostly.) I always thought of the Supreme Court as the most baseball-ish of the branches, and it's telling that one of the analogies used to explain the Court's role is as an umpire “calling balls and strikes”.

And obviously it's frustrating how Republican presidents seem 50/50 as far as appointing conservative judges while Democrat presidents have a near perfect record with liberal judges. Are Democrats just naturally better at politics?

Ross Douthat thinks the reason Roberts ruled as he did was because he had no faith that a broken legislative branch could recover from a SCOTUS veto, and that makes sense. Roberts has shown that he's about ends, unconcerned over means, and if the Republicans in Congress can't deal with Democrats then there's disaster if the Court overturns. In a sense it's a miracle Obamacare got enacted whatsoever, so having it be coherent was surely a bridge too far. Such is the state of our politics today, although one could also argue that the Peter Principle applies in the sense that the world and government has gotten so complex that nobody can perform well in it. Obamacare implicitly argues that it is beyond our capability to provide health care effectively.

Douthat matches my feeling, that it's another sign of how we're fast we're waning as a country:
But it was depressing, over all, in what its genesis and outcome say about the state of our politics. It’s a case that exists in the first place only because yesterday’s go-for-broke Democratic-led Congress passed a mess of a law that an increasingly imperial executive branch has had to tweak and rewrite ever since. And it was litigated and debated under the (sadly plausible) assumption that today’s dysfunctional Republican-led Congress wouldn’t be capable of the negotiations required to actually fix the legislative problem the plaintiffs identified.
That’s my pessimistic, decline-of-the-republic reading… It’s always been clear — well, at least to me — that the chief justice is a pragmatist and a political animal, and conservatives have benefited from his outcomes-based rulings in the past. (To take just one example: His ruling on the Voting Rights Act read more like a brief for something Congress ought to do to change the act than a principled case for how a court should interpret the existing law.)
“Principled” is not an adjective you'd use with the Roberts court indeed.

UPDATE: So, no surprise, the Court found language in the Constitution - written in invisible ink! - that said marriage can defined any old way.  Rod Dreher has more doom.

June 25, 2015

24 Hours in Hocking County, Ohio


FRIDAY:

Whoda thunk I'd be sun-starved in mid-June? Whoda thunk that every day last week no nice one-season-room patio time?  Call it a "half-of-one-season" room?

Even in Cloudumbus that's pretty rare in June. But we've had just a remarkable string of gray, cloudy days. Temperature-wise it's warm, but man doesn't live by temperature alone. It certainly brings home why I visit Florida and Hilton Head.

June weather rebounded with a giddy-up briefly on the 23 and 24th, just in time for my going back to work, naturally if uncannily. But it's pinch-me time, the solstice, which literally means “sun stands still” and it was nice to further that aim by taking my birthday off and spending time relaxing, making time stand still, to some extent. "The best day of the year is the longest, June 22," wrote poet Donald Hall.

Forewarned is forearmed they say, but despite being forewarned that the time between my birthday and July 4th and then the end of July is whip-fast, there's not much I seem to be able to do to slow it down. It is what it is as the great modern philosophers say.

*

Quick-pack on Friday afternoon and by 5pm we were on the road, arriving in the hock of hills (aka Hocking Hills) by 6:30. We're staying at a modest place (no wi/fi and no phone coverage) about 9-10 miles beyond Laurelville, which is about 20 miles beyond Circleville. In other words, out in the boondocks.

There's nothing quite like exploring a new place and this one has a killer gravel hill driveway requiring 4-wheel drive when it rains. It's a cement block structure with cement floors, so that's good for our dog since she'll be tracking mud all over sooner rather than later. The place with a postage-stamp cleared backyard surrounded by deep and enthusiastic woods. I tried a bit of the trail with Maris (for "Stella Maris", but aka “Mare-bare”, aka “Nightmare bare”).

We crated her briefly while we headed to the fabulous next-door biker burger joint. I got a black and blue burger to go, and Steph a black bean burger. Yummy. And homemade chocolate cookies for dessert. The mom & pop diner had a decent craft beer selection, including the oddest beer I've ever had. It's called “Not Your Father's Root Beer” and it tastes, I swear, exactly like root beer. And yet it's like 5.8% alcohol. Crazy how you can have that amount of alcohol with no bitterness, no hops, no beer aftertaste. A novelty drink for me, since I obviously prefer the taste of beer to root beer, but quite an ingenious concoction.



I'm reading the new encyclical down here because it jibes so well with the beauty of this natural environment. “Nature is nothing other than a certain kind of art, God's art…” he writes.

Francis argues that the best way to ensure man doesn't harm creation is to speak of an all-powerful Father who alone owns the earth. This reminds me of how the only way to ensure the rights of the unborn any American for that matter is to insist that our rights do not come from government but from God, as stated (but sadly ignored) in the Declaration of Independence.

That rhetorical device of the Holy Father's seems pretty brilliant evangelistically, to ask nonbelievers to take a more positive view of religion because it's the best way to stop people from damaging the earth.

I marvel at some of the trees here, how straight they stand! Their trunks as freakishly and unwaveringly vertical as telephone poles.  It seems four black bear sightings were confirmed last year in this county. There's a picture of one in cabin, in what looks like area woods, not far from a wall-mounted 22 rifle.

SATURDAY:

Mega-rain this morning, from light to heavy. No worries though with a nice porch - sipped coffee and played tunes previously downloaded via amazon prime. 'Round 10am breakfast of peanut butter on toasted English muffins with milk.

Went on a noontime three-mile hike with Maris down the main drag, right through beautiful downtown South Bloomingville, ha. The rain was omnipresent, to varying degrees, but I didn't care. In fact I took off my hat and let the rain descend on my head, a primal childhood feeling that I experience every twenty years or so in adulthood.  Another benefit of the rain is how deep in green and shiny all the leaves look. (To make lemonade out of lemons.)

The “town”, using the term loosely, seemed a collection of perhaps a couple dozen houses slung along the avenue. One looked like the Walton's homestead but for the confederate flag. It's a place rich in local color and I saw two young boys in a small greensward between house and outbuilding with a bat and ball. They looked so “Appalachian-y” that I felt like I was in a Walker Evans photograph. Mulleted, unabashedly country, pale-white as if they'd never seen the sun (as well they might not have living in this canopied forest), high cheekbones and narrow chinned like Jefferson Davis. They praised my dog and asked the name and I told them, and they told me the name of theirs.



P.C. it ain't. 
Unfortunately as good and as relaxed as my time has been so far, (with miles to go and books yet to read) my wife has been killer bored. I see hottub, burger joint, beers, music and reading on the horizon, but she sees home. I suspect the boredom is due not only to the poor weather but the lack of internet connection.

Speaking of boredom, I read recently in the New York Times that the huge heroin problem in Vermont is due to teenagers feeling bored. Which is sort of counterintuitive given how ubiquitous entertainment is now. Maybe we're made for work, and when it's missing we get bored. Maybe we've evolved to work.

SUNDAY:

An amazing sight was beheld this morning: the sun. Whoever wrote that song from the musical Annie, about the sun coming out tomorrow, was obviously unacquainted with Cloudumbus. But today magic happened.

Sailed our yard from 4 till 6pm, by which I mean walked from corner-to-corner, enjoying even the shady parts given how hot the sun was. Savored the breezy if mosquito-laden spot in far right corner, then spent some time in the center of the tree line. Got bit multiple times despite putting repellent on. I'm a mosquito magnet. They are said to be attracted to those who eat bananas and drink beer and I do a lot of both, though never at the same time.

Even Columbus can occasionally produce an azure sky and the surreal clarity of a sterling day: temperature in the mid-80s, sun just beaming down beamily. I love the feel of heat-soaked pavers on my soles, the sheerness of summer. I hit the block for a walk in the golden, our dog Maris accompanying me and drawing significant (too much?) attention. Her fan club awaits: went a half-mile and three people greeted her.

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Later, mid-week, tripped to the minor league park. One of my favorite days of the year if partially due to the novelty of having a summer afternoon mid-week workday off. It's rare as snow in Jamaica. Let's play two!

Arrived at ball orchard pleasantly early: 11:40 for the 12:05pm start. I relish the pre-game atmosphere, the lack of crowds, the ministrations of the grounds crew (watering the infield to keep the dust down) and eating a hotdog and Crackerjacks ala the song of yore. And there was the sweetness of expectation. So soon came the National Anthem followed by the rather anticlimactic first pitch.

The uber-handy MILB app allowed me to study the pitchers, and I expected a duel given these were two sharpies, especially the Norfolk Tides hurler (Tyler Wilson). He's pitched in the majors and is expected back up. Ours was Nick Maronde, a respectable prospect. But Maronde gave up three runs in less than 5 innings, and Wilson pitched a shutout through 7.

There's something poignant about a minor league game. They try harder, the stakes feel higher. In the majors, you've made it already. It's sort of like March Madness college bball compared to the NBA.

June 19, 2015

A Lotta Reading Goin' On

Interesting to see a columnist in our diocesan newspaper (David Hartline) write that he went to Ireland in 2004 and said he talked to a priest who predicted what we see today:
He told us there was trouble on the horizon. He told us below the surface there was a lot of anger against the Church, some of it justified, but much of it from a position of pride and rebellion.

I remember thinking, "Is this possible?" Indeed, it has come to pass. I remember saying to the priest that surely, if there was a scandal in Irish soccer, the populace wouldn't abandon soccer, so why would they do so with the Church? The priest said the rebellion wasn't so much against the Church as it was against God - a story as old as time itself.

I certainly have thought about his words lately, especially since the scandal at FIFA, the international soccer federation, came to light. Although bribery, graft, and other tawdry misdeeds costing hundreds of millions of dollars are alleged to have taken place at FIFA, I highly doubt anyone will stop watching soccer.

Yet people will leave the Church when scandal occurs.
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Read great dollops of the hot-off-the-presses Francis encyclical on the environment. Have savored it and highlighted it and am maybe a quarter of the way through the 192-page monster. Remember when the air was clean and papal encyclicals were a manageable thirty pages? I jest, the length is warranted and much appreciated given the subject matter, which touches on everything given how interrelated everything is.

I was sore tempted to read the snippets provided by Mrs. Darwin on FB but it felt like cheating, like looking ahead to the mid or end of a book. If I don't read the whole thing I ought avail myself though.

Francis quoting of Gen 6:13 on the Flood lead me to Verbum app and the plentiful rich commentaries held within. In the Brazos bible study on Genesis from R. R. Reno I hit allegorical gold:
A spiritual sense also follows the pattern of fitting punishment. To inundate sinners with the natural elements is to fulfill the desire of Adam and Eve to rest in finite things. God does not pour out an alien wrath or muster an invading force. He opens the floodgates of our desire for things of the earth. The flood is what happens when the decision of Adam and Eve is given free reign. We drown in the consummation of our finite loves. The soul that desires pleasures of food and drink becomes bloated and bursts. Envy finds perverse pleasure in implacable grudges. Anger burns and overflows. Greed piles up coins and hungers for more. We want to live by bread alone, and in the flood, God allows water, the primal power of finite, organic life, to reign supreme.
That is rich.

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Later read some of de Montfort's magisterial True Devotion to Mary. Unfortunately, he's come to the part where he identifies false devotion which, of course, means devotion tainted by sin.  It's kind of a discouraging tautology: “in order to pray effectively, you need to be saint. In order to be a saint, you need to pray effectively.” (I exaggerate, but that's the feeling I got anyway.) That's the downside of reading books by saints. They don't suffer fools like me gladly or have patience for nonsense.

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The commentary spurred by "Laudato Si" has been tsunami-like, but here's a unique take, that the Holy Father implicitly praises America:
The encyclical is written to the world, not just to the United States. Industrialization and its negative effects are not an American problem. Indeed, one could make a strong argument that this entire encyclical is targeting Asia, specifically, communist China and its satellites.

Communist countries are renowned for the ecological disaster they wreak upon their environments. Precisely because communism is atheistic, it exploits and destroys the natural ecology of the areas it inhabits to a degree that is astounding to behold. Indeed, article 21 is virtually a laundry list of complaints about these industrial areas.
"But our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations.."
Americans try to wring every last dollar out of a production cycle. As any businessman knows, it is more profitable to sell the "waste" products you don't know how to use to someone who does know how to use them than it is to throw them away. You can't use them, but someone else can, and they will pay. Precisely because the American economic system rewards the man who can make those kinds of connections, American production cycles tend to be much more "closed circle" than those of other countries. That's why our economy tends to be much more robust. Far from being a critique of America, this article can be seen as praise for American processes that don't conform to the negative stereotype...

No one mentions that the Pope praises the national park system. The first national park in the world was created by the United States. The Pope is implicitly praising the West as a whole and America in particular, but no one takes notice:
"37. Some countries have made significant progress in establishing sanctuaries on land and in the oceans where any human intervention is prohibited which might modify their features or alter their original structures."
When considering the top ten largest national parks in the world, America, Britain and Australia comprise 60% of the list, each having two of the ten largest parks. Eight of the top ten largest preserve areas in the world were designated as such by western capitalist countries. Nine of the top ten countries with the largest national parks are predominantly Christian countries. This encyclical is most certainly not targeting the West or the profit motive per se (more on that later). Instead, as can be seen in the very next article, Pope Francis specifically chastises South America and Africa for not imitating the practices of North America and Europe.