November 30, 2004

The Ass Menagerie

My wife, on her "sister sold 'er" cruise, has me dog-sitting. The new one has separation anxiety so acute he starts to squeak when my right hip isn't attached to some part (I don't wanna know) of him. Worse, the green-eyed monster hath incited our dog Obi to Plessy v Ferguson my other side, effectively Gulliverin' me come bedtime. And off the coast of Obi there's a satellite Puss and by the shore of Chance another. Four furry animals and one unfurred one on a bed creates a body heat that has me singing with Bruce "aaahhhm on fire" followed closely by Simon's "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Animals":
Sneak out the back Jack
makin' new plans Stan
no need to be coy Roy
just listen to me...

hop on the bus, Gus
don't need to discuss much
just drop off the key, Lee
and get yourself free.
     -all lyrics used without permission
Order in the Court

30+ years after Alvin Toffler wrote "Future Shock" (in which the author argues that we have become shell-shocked by the fast rate of societal change) it seems a political party's success is less a reflection of its ideology (or non-ideology) than it's ability to act, as Jonah Goldberg writes, as a "port in the storm":
According to the conventional wisdom, Bill Clinton was the candidate of "change" in 1992. I don't think so. I think he was the candidate of order. He may have been the Man from Hope, but he played on peoples' fear and exploited an image of Bush as a passive, "aloof" president unconcerned with the roiling changes in society. People forget that the Harris Wofford senatorial race revealed and galvanized popular anxieties about healthcare. The central issue was that in an age of ever-increasing job-turnover, health care (and retirement) became a huge concern because your job was your access-point to a vast array of social services...

Indeed, one of the reasons Gingrich was such a useful foil for Clinton is the inherent contradiction within the conservative movement. Conservatives are the chief defenders of a capitalist, free-market system, and the capitalist, free-market system is perhaps the most profoundly unconservative social force in human history. Markets topple established customs, they raze settled communities and erase whole ways of life. Conservatives defend this system not out of greed, but out of principle. Freedom without economic freedom is a farce. And economic security provided by government planners has, historically, been the security of guaranteed impoverishment. But that doesn't negate the fact that as much as I like libertarian economic policies, they can be a real handicap at the polls.
    Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

We'll be just outside of Orland, a town of about 6,000. Not too far from civilization at all. But you can't hear the freeway from there, and at night it actually gets real dark. Beautiful mountain ranges to the east and the west are in full view. If we stay there (and we may not if a smaller place nearby becomes available) I hope to plant a small fruit orchard, a vegetable garden, and some grapes or kiwi. We'd also like to keep some acreage in pasture for cows, goats, geese, and whatever else.. - Jeff Culbreath of ECR, inducing jealousy

He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative. - G.K. Chesterton on new "3 Streams" blog

are you high? i have a feeling that you were still reeling from the movie, so you are excused for your hyper-enthusiasm. that said, it's a great flick. - smockmomma of Summa Mama's to Victor on the movie "The Incredibles"

Deucedly few posts containing "qua." - Tom of Disputations on his new liturgical year's blog resolutions. Amen.

[Safire] endorsed Bill Clinton in 1992...on the grounds that George H. W. Bush was a liar. This was a bit like courting Helen Thomas because Cameron Diaz has bad skin some mornings. - Jonah Goldberg of NRO...(this blogger voted 3rd party)

On one of our two trips to the hospital the past couple of days for blood tests, I was, as you often are at hospitals, surrounded by the elderly. It always gives me great food for thought, to be sitting there with a newborn, in the midst of people at the other end of life. I marvel that someday, this little guy will be there, as well, God willing, with 80 years of life behind him, that started with us, right here. I pray that it is a good and blessed life, and in gratitude for my part in bringing it to be. And I also think, with not a little trepidation, of my own journey in that direction. I suppose everyone settles and everyone finds joy in whatever stage of life they're in, but it just seems so unimaginable to me to be in a stage of life where producing new life is no longer possible...oh it continues, with grandchildren and so on, and perhaps there will be a time when it fills me with relief to know that the role of procreation is on others' shoulders now. But while there is much gained as we grow old and are able to produce and share our wisdom in other ways, there is such a sense of sadness in losing this particular power, this particular, miraculous way of co-creating with God and nourishing life. - Amy Welborn

yes some day  
we just might meet
a king with names carved into his hand

until that hour for us wine’s pressed
a good vintage of blood
for parched lips
        -excerpt of poem by Thomas of Endlessly Rocking

Strange sometimes to think about dying... someone said somewhere how once a year we pass the anniversary of our death without knowing it.... - Alexa of "Frank-in-a-sense & Mirth"

All must imitate the holiness of God (Lv. 19:2). It is by loving others, explains Jesus, that the Christian does that, is distinguished from the gentiles, and becomes a child of God. But whence comes the strength to do this? The apostolic tradition reverses the situation and understands that it is because we are children of God that we can imitate God, for the God whose love becomes the principle of our activity. - New Jerusalem Bible note (1 Peter 1:22)

...I don't buy interpretations of Jesus as a total anti-institutionalist, who meant to replace formal connections with personal and emotive ones (or with no connections). Only in our modern society are family relations merely personal and emotive. Jesus' statement that his followers were his true brothers and sisters wouldn't have been taken as sentimental, but radical. - Camassia

The only thing I am upset about is I am still rather zoftig. I only can fit into my yoga pants these days and I do not look like I do yoga. - Pansy of "Two Sleepy Mommies", who recently gave birth.

You can't be a beacon if your light don't shine
You can't be a beacon if your light don't shine
There's a little light in all of us by God's design
But you can't be a beacon if your light don't shine - Donna Fargo song
Fr. John Catoir Advent Meditation:
The best spiritual goal you can give yourself this Advent is to claim the joy that is your Christian inheritance. Jesus lived and died to bring us joy, but we must free ourselves from the sadness, bitterness and discouragement we may have slipped into over the years.

Cultivate a joyful spirit, in just the same way you would train yourself to develop good character. If you want to project a joyful presence, you must will it. You can't be joyful by the sheer power of your will alone, but with the help of God you can turn a dispirited life into a joyful one.

Far too many people are couch potatoes glued to their television sets. The daily news reports can be toxic. Too much exposure to the woes of the world can be damaging to your mental health, as well as your spirit of joy. You may find it helpful this Advent to limit your TV viewing and to seek other ways of controlling your intake of negativity.
"Dear Lord, open my heart to joy. Help me to focus more on your love and less on my unworthiness."

November 29, 2004

Review

Saw the Incredibles o'er the weekend due to the surreal claims made for it and it was a good movie though my enjoyment of a movie tends to be inversely proportional to my expectation level going in -- and between Victor's & Peony's recommendations it was dangerously high. The Passion of the Christ, by way of contrast, was exactly the opposite due to the lousy trailers. The constant slow motion of Judas throwing a sack of coins at the Jewish leaders was sleep-inducing, so TPOTC greatly exceeded expectations. (I never seem to have this problem with books for some reason.)

I'm surprised at how good others think this movie. It was certainly jammed with positive messages; this "super family" has a range of gifts, all of which were needed to escape the evil one, a metaphor for the Body of Christ. There were some nice lines like when the mother told her daughter "we don't have the luxury to doubt". And the malevolent disgruntled former fan of Mr. Incredible says "if all of us are super, then none of us are super!".

Still, as Ham of Bone can attest I'm not a movie connoisseur so I'd be most interested Bone's reaction since he's the movie lover. Unfortunately his frugality prevents him from seeing movie until they can be rented from the library...

Meanwhile, from the IMDB.com site:
"I was blown away by this movie. I am an avid fan of Nietzsche and a sometime interested person in Ayn Rand. Whoever wrote this movie may be (it used to say "is," which was stupid) paying tribute to them.

Did anyone else see a criticism of the Christian slave morality, or any of Nietzsche's ideas of the superman or Ayn Rand's reverence for great men who triumph over those who try to hold them back? The similarities are too many to number; I don't think the issue is whether these themes are present, because they are indisputably there. The only question is to what extent."
"Re: philosophical implications
by - Duderonomy 6 days ago (Tue Nov 23 2004 00:08:54 )

UPDATED Tue Nov 23 2004 00:21:55

--------------------------------------------------------
Hahaha, i hope you're not serious. Check every other movie about super heroes or almost anything at all for the so called similarities you're talking about. Reverence for great men who triumph over those who try to hold them back? Are you serious? Have you ever seen any other movies? ever? Because that's just about the most general omnipresent quality that you are going to find in movies. You're right these things are there, but they don't have anything to do with nietzsche or rand. They're just common plot devices that are used because they create drama and allow the audience to become emotionally invested in the story. There is absolutely no reason to believe they were taken from a philosophical text, I would know, I'm a philosophy major."
Quotable

Throughout the history of the Church, there would seem to be two distinct classes of saints. There are saints who personify active love and tenderness and there are saints who personify energetic action and the spirit of eager propagandism. We contrast St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic, St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Vincent of Paul and St. Ignatius, in the same way as we contrast Boussuet and Fenelon or even Raphael and Michaelangelo, Mozart and Beethoven. --Henri Joly
Ven. John Henry Newman on Shakespeare:
Whatever passages may be gleaned from his dramas disrespectful to ecclesiastical authority, still these are but passages; on the other hand, there is in Shakespeare neither contempt of religion nor scepticism, and he upholds the broad laws of moral and divine truth with the consistency and severity of an Æschylus, Sophocles, or Pindar. There is no mistaking in his works on which side lies the right; Satan is not made a hero, nor Cain a victim, but pride is pride, and vice is vice, and, whatever indulgence he may allow himself in light thoughts or unseemly words, yet his admiration is reserved for sanctity and truth.
and literature:
Man's work will savour of man; in his elements and powers excellent and admirable, but prone to disorder and excess, to error and to sin. Such too will be his literature; it will have the beauty and the fierceness, the sweetness and the rankness, of the natural man, and, with all its richness and greatness, will necessarily offend the senses of those who, in the Apostle's {317} words, are really "exercised to discern between good and evil."...

I have never fancied that we [Christians] should have reasonable ground for surprise or complaint, though man's intellect puris naturalibus did prefer, of the two, liberty to truth, or though his heart cherished a leaning towards licence of thought and speech in comparison with restraint.

November 28, 2004

Group Polarization

Came across a quote today in a George Will column that explains something I've noticed existed but didn't know had a name for it: "group polarization". I think it helps explain both the liberal Call to Action and the ultra-conservative "rad Trads" in (or around) the Catholic Church. From the Will column:
There also is what Cass Sunstein, professor of political science and jurisprudence at the University of Chicago, calls "the law of group polarization." Bauerlein explains: "When like-minded people deliberate as an organized group, the general opinion shifts toward extreme versions of their common beliefs."
Regarding Fervor
I fear you are looking upon lack of sensible and interior consolation as a want of fervor, so that finding yourself dry, you lose courage and fall into faults for which you do not immediately make reparation, and this leads to tepidity. Then you imagine that in order to begin again holily, as one does when full of fervor and devotion, it is necessary for you to feel the fervor you have lost. But the contrary is the case: in order to bring back fervor you must begin by humbling yourself and by practicing mortification just as though you were urged on by sensible consolation. it is not fervor which makes people humble, charitable, regular, and mortified, but the practice of these virtues which makes them fervent.
-- St. Claude de la Colombiere

November 27, 2004

Canine Interest

I’m looking after my sister-in-law’s dog, a beagle mix named Chance who's reportedly an “old soul”. Unnervingly patient in all his actions, he especially shows it in the subtle way he expresses his wish to relieve himself. He merely looks at you unblinking, the rim of his eyes bloodshot with worry, until you finally get the message.

Returning, he’ll wait for some unseen signal before making the jump into the recliner. He waits monk-like for the obtuse one to make room, then waits some more until there’s some distance between my legs whereupon he immediately makes himself comfortable.

Later, in a different chair, I turn my head to find our dog beside me. He's wearing a huge stalactite of saliva on the edge of his mouth and from the length and girth it looked like it was some time in the making. He's begging for a spot of beer; apparently the swig I’d given him just after I’d opened it wasn’t enough. While I admire the spittle it breaks off and falls on my bare arm, wetting the length of it. To paraphrase Tammy Wynette, sometimes it’s hard to be a pet owner. I gave him more Warsteiner and dried my arm.
Surely Unintentional

The first time I heard this song, I coulda swore he was swearin'.
Unintended Consequences?

From here:
Cardinal Ratzinger recognized in the advent of 'the pill', the seed for the warping of human sexuality and thus the eventual societal acceptance of homosexuality. "It is true that the pill has given rise to an anthropological revolution of great dimensions. It has . . . changed the vision of sexuality, the human being and the body itself. Sexuality has been separated from fecundity and in this way it has profoundly changed the concept of the human life. The sexual act has lost its purpose and finality which before was clear and specific, so that all forms of sexuality have become equivalent. Above all, from this revolution comes the equalization between homosexuality and heterosexuality."
Arendt on Aquinas

The problem for those who long to systemize things is that it's probably already been done. Hannah Arendt, in The Life of the Mind, writes of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Summa:
No later system I know of can rival this codification of presumably established truths, the sum of coherent knowledge. Every philosophical system aims at offering the restless mind a kind of mental habitat, a secure home, but none ever succeeded so well, and none, I think, was so free of contradictions. Anyone willing to make the considerable mental effort to enter that home was rewarded by the assurance that in many mansions he would never find himself perplexed or estranged.

No rhetoric, no kind of persuasion is ever use; the reader is compelled as only truth can compel. The trust in compelling truth, so general in medieval philosophy, is boundless in Thomas.
Various & Sundry

The latest This Rock magazine is pornography for the Catlick booklover. I'm trying to hold back from buying the whole catalog of Sophia Press and RC Books. Their tenuous financial position and my hunger for their books would seem a match in heaven --but for my own tenuous financial position.
_

I'm pretty flexible when given advance notice...(rim shot)
_

WYSIWYG is a popular expression meaning "what you see is what you get". Perhaps a more interesting acronymn is "WYAIWGS" - "what you are is what God sees". That is all that matters. I think I know the lyrics to every hymn we sang during grade school, and one of them that means more now is the lyric "Knowing that I love and serve you,is enough reward". Back then it was plain I loved and served God so that seemed a rather suspect reward. Now I see love for God more as a continuum rather than black & white, from the coldest Christian to Blessed Mother Teresa. Truly Purgatory, let alone Heaven, is a great reward, for it means that we've loved and served Him.
_

Recently finished Kathy Shaidle's "Twelve Steps" book and she makes the case that our defects are not for us to remove. They are God's to remove. Thank God that Oskar Schindler wasn't a saint for he was in the position to effect great good, defects and all. Kathy mentions how her elderly grandmother always insisted she have maid service even though she cleaned everything up before the maid came.
_

My wife is out south on a boat in the Caribbean somewhere. She’s on a five-day all-gal cruise and if it feels hurtful that flesh-of-my-flesh is experiencing the warmth and food pleasure of a cruise. There is something to be said about a [Caribbean ] cruise in grey November, when the Edmund Fitzgerald sank and the trees have lost their clothes and stand exposed to the cold wind, confessing under the torture of their leave-stripping.
_

Made the mistake of going to the bookstore over the weekend and within minutes books clung to my ankles, shins and thighs like hungry children. I was lucky to get out of there with my wallet only one book lighter. Almost instanteously I had the following volumes in hand: Graham Greene's volume 3, Cornwell's "The Pontiff in Winter" (I'm curious what the enemy thinks), Wodehouse's bio, Manguel's "A Reading Diary", Arendt's "Life of the Mind", Umberto Eco's "on Literature", Himmelfarb's "The Road to Modernity: the story of the French, British and American Enlightenments", de Botton's "Status Anxiety", "Will in the World"...
_


Fast Break

A steal!
begetting momentary privacy
      a sudden leave-taking
like the last day of school
when the squawk of shoes on a gloss hallway
triggers the electricity of potential.

Oh the joy of forgetfulness!
     just jonesin’
in the joy of reacting
to the hounds after the big orange sun
in your hands and under your care and
you live by instinct pure:
     running like hell
under the protection of a dribble.

November 24, 2004

Ohio

The New York Times, echoing the '50s plaintive cry "Who Lost China?", now asks Who Lost Ohio?, (presumably seeing them in equivalent terms).
A quiet disbelief descended on the room. You could hear the creak of a folding chair, a ringing cellphone, the intermittent sob. "This is the end of the United States of America," I heard one man declare as he left the room.


The Other Paper also weighs in
Interesting John Derbyshire Essay in NRODT
I am not quite ready yet to give up belief in the conscious self. Although the neuroscientists are chasing the self through ever narrower and darker passageways of the brain, they have not caught it yet, and there are good reasons to believe they never will. Roger Penrose's book about fundamental physics offers one of those reasons. Physicists have been pursuing matter for much longer, and with much more fruitful consequences, than neuroscientists have been pursuing mind, yet still the nature of physical reality eludes us. What is the physical world composed of? If you make it through the 1,000-odd pages of Penrose's book, through the explanations of tensor calculus, Clifford algebras, spinors, twistors, Riemann surfaces, and Feynman propagators, you may have an inkling, but that is all you will have. If you can't hack all that heavy-duty math, you won't even have an inkling, ever...

Math professor Michael Harris tells a true story about a conversation held in his presence during a conference in M¸nster, Germany, last year. Over a restaurant dinner, three professional mathematicians resurrected an issue from the great "crisis of foundations" that racked mathematics in the early 20th century — during roughly the period from Russell's paradox (1901) to Gˆdel's theorem (1931). This crisis arose because mathematicians had begun inquiring into the logical and philosophical underpinnings of their subject, trying to find the fundamental axioms underlying all of math, seeking unshakably firm foundations for the process of mathematical proof.

Well, the three diners all expressed different opinions on the issue in question, which is a very crucial one. ("The ontological status of the continuum" — but you don't need to know this to understand my point.) Harris sought to pursue the discussion down into deeper matters . . . but found that his colleagues did not have the necessary knowledge, and didn't actually care. These foundational issues, though interesting in their own right, and fine for a few casual conversational exchanges over the dinner table, do not really matter in the day-to-day work of most mathematicians.

We Americans are heading into a "crisis of foundations" of our own right now. Our judicial elites, with politicians and pundits close behind, are already at work deconstructing our most fundamental institutions — marriage, the family, religion, equality under the law. The human sciences are showing human nature in a strange new light. Yet perhaps all this will matter as little in the daily lives of Americans a few decades from now as Russell's paradox and Gˆdel's theorem matter to working mathematicians today. Perhaps we shall come to our senses and stop trying to analyze and deconstruct our humanity down to the bitter end. Perhaps we shall realize that in order to get on properly with life, as with mathematics, a great many things just need to be taken for granted. What will our new metaphysic be? Perhaps the one that sustained Bertrand Russell's grandmother: "What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind."

November 23, 2004

Writing a Marathon

The Washington Post has noticed NaNoWriMo aka "National Novel Writing Month".

We all have different definitions of completely useless activities differently and blogging dances tantalizingly close to that line as it is. I look at the write-a-novel-in-a-monthr's as I do marathon runners: with awe mixed with "and what's the point, exactly"?

And that is all to the bad. Utility uber alles is one of the worst aspects of modern life. It's that impulse that gives euthanasia some of its impetus. Play, or purposelessness, is one of our God-given attributes.

John Updike spoke of this in relation to art:
There should always be something gratuitous about art, just as there seems to be, according to the new-wave cosmologists, something gratuitous about the universe. Art, out of its own freedom, should excite and flatter our sense of our own. Professionalism in art has this difficulty: To be professional is to be dependable, to be dependable is to be predictable, and predictability is esthetically boring - an anti-virtue in a field where we hope to be astonished and startled and at some deep level refreshed.
Our Avuncular National Uncle Has Stepped Down


a pensive Rather

I've always liked Dan Rather more than Jennings or Brokaw, despite his obvious biases. Dan made life more interesting, didn't he? From stomping off the set when a tennis match ran long to his colorful horny toad lingo, the guy just couldn't stop being interesting.

My only regret is not watching him during the last election returns. I gravitated towards MSNBC & Fox. My loss. The minute I did turn on CBS on Nov. 2 he was interviewing one of the Kerry daughters, avuncular as always, but I lost the will to keep watching. His elevated exit-poll driven mood was too much in contrast with my own.

Dan was always supremely capable of surprise, and the appeal that has for me is surely a character flaw. I know I should like the steady, consistent, bass-throated Brokaw who gave voice to the Greatest Generation. But I can't help liking underdogs and Rather was that in spades at least among the "Big Three" anchors. And Rather's liberalism always struck me as of the honest sort, as if he didn't know any better. That might be giving him too much credit and in the end I might be blinded by cornballisms like "This situation in Ohio would give an aspirin a headache." But this blog has always attempted to be Ratherian in the sense of being somewhat unpredictable. If I have failed I can only say...

Courage.
    Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I had a parent of one of the male Confirmation students tell me that his son wanted to take the rapper Method Man as his Confirmation name. His father told him that this would not be an acceptable name, but trying to meet his son on his level suggested St. Methodius. - Fr. Bryce Sibley of A Saintly Salmagundy

By the way, you've turned me into a beer snob....unless it's good beer, I don't drink it. Tall, cheap drafts of bud light really don't do it for me....a nice ice cold heiny does. - Bill Luse's daughter in email to Bill

I remember listening to Kim Hahn's story once. Her father asked her to pray the prayer, "Lord, I will do anything you want to do, say anything you want me to say, go anywhere you want me to go." And Kim couldn't pray that prayer. For her it was too scary at that time. So instead she prayed for the strength to be able to pray the prayer!! Until one day she eventually could say it. That's kinda where I'm at with the Scott Peterson thing right now. But I think on looking at Mr. Serenelli's life, he might be a good intercessor for me, and for Scot Peterson! Maria Goretti, the forgiving victim would be a good intercessor as well, since she just naturally and openly poured out her forgiveness for the wrong that was done to her. Two good examples I think. - Elena of My Domestic Church

Someone who embraces pacifism because of the Sermon on the Mount/Plain should take care to keep her clothes on. - Neil on Tom of Disputations' blog

and Tracey said Besides, men are just like contact lenses
cause men can be hard
and men can be soft
but mostly they can just get lost
  - excerpt of poem from Kathy Shaidle of "relapsed Catholic"

My mother had some minor female-type surgery right after ["Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?"] first came out--years and years ago. After they gave her the drugs to "relax" her, they came to wheel her down to the operating room. She was so "relaxed" that she sang that song AT THE TOP OF HER LUNGS all the way down to the operating room--not stopping until they clapped the oxygen mask over her face! - MamaT of Summa Mamas via email

I learned a lot from Gerard Bugge over the years. Not just from what he wrote, but what he chose to write about, and how he wrote about it. This morning, I found what was probably one of the first things I'd read of Gerard's, a post to bit.listserv.catholic from 1995. In it, he wrote: "I am taken with what Chesterton calls "The Romance of Orthodoxy" ... the truth is that I rediscovered the beauty, power, consistency of orthodox Catholicism and have some of the fervor, perhaps, of a "convert". I also believe that orthodox catholicism and catholic orthodoxy is the wave of the future; alon[e] capable of captivating the whole person: mind, heart, soul, imagination, body and emotions." This call to experience the Faith as a romance, and the thankfulness which came through almost everything he wrote over the past few years, are what I will remember most of Gerard. - Tom of Disputations

I can handle bad music better than I can handle bad theology. One is a matter of taste, the other of doctrine and dogma. Kumbaya may be boring and not terribly appropriate, but it is theologically correct to ask God to "come by here" when we are in need. It is not, however, correct to assert that we become bread and wine or that we can raise ourselves up without the help of God. I wonder which came first - bad catechesis or bad church music. - Alicia of Fructis Ventris

What concerns me is that I may occasionally slip into easy-believism, that Christ saves me, over and over, seventy times seven, and my sin is inevitable, so why try to conform my life in holiness? He redeems me, but I must what? present my heart for His redeeming fire? present my sins to be forgiven and go gather up new ones to present? present my good works to show good will and cooperation? present my intellect and don't think anything, be passive and inactive, so I don't sin? It's a little baffling, even though I know the correct answers and where to find them anew. - therese Z. commenting on Roz's Exultet site

There is always a window of opportunity to turn away from sin, no matter how small it may seem. It is always there. It's called "Free Will". Otherwise the sin of despair would be legitimate if God didn’t allow His Grace in our lives…most especially during those times of temptation. - Alexa of "Frank-in-a-sense & Mirth"

And for those concerned about my physical condition lately (thanks, Susan, for your warm and encouging email, which I won't have time to reply to today), I will be seeing my main doctor this Thursday, God willing. - from last post of Gerard of "Blog for Lovers", shortly before his death Wednesday morning

The 3 Bs of Success 2004: Boston (Red Sox), Bush, Buckeyes (Ohio State beats Michigan.) - Ham of Bone of Social Engineer

When someone tells you to ask yourself, "What would Jesus do?," remember that at least one valid answer is, "Freak out and knock over tables." - Commenter Doug to David of "Man With the Black Hat"

We're doing fine, albeit with a little caution about jaundice, which necessitated sitting in the picture window all afternoon in only a diaper (Jacob, not me). - Amy Welborn
Well...

...now those rants always look pretty silly in the clear light of day, don't they? Let's cleanse the palate with a little Updike (from Early Stories). Here he describes a common childhood feeling:
...I feared I would be physically sick and lay on my back gingerly and tried to soothe myself with the caress of headlights as they evolved from bright slits on the wall into parabolically accelerating fans on the ceiling and then vanished: this phenomenon, with its intimations of a life beyond me, had comforted wakeful nights in my earliest childhood.
He also writes movingly of church and ushering:
...to witness the windows donated by departed patrons and the altar flowers arranged by withdrawn hands and the whole considered spectacle lustrous beneath its patina of long use...surely in all democracy there is nothing like it. Indeed, it is the most available democratic experience. We vote less than once a year. Only in church and at the polls are we actually given our supposed value, the soul-unit of one, with its noumenal arithmetic of equality: one equals one equals one....

It was pleasant, even exciting, when the moment for action came, to walk by his side up the aisle, the thumb of our feet the only sound in church, and to take the wooden, felt-floored plates from a shy blur of white robes and to administer the submission of alms. Coins and envelopes sought to cover the felt. I condescended, stooping gallantly into each pew. The congregation seemed the Others, reaching, with quarters glittering in their fingers, toward mysteries in which I was snugly involved. Even to usher at a church mixes us with angels, and is a dangerous thing.

November 22, 2004

Today's Rantasaurus Rex  - (Today's rant is sponsored by CVS and intended solely for entertainment purposes. Please use as directed and patronize our sponsor.)

The drive to and from work takes me through the lovely Third Ring of Hell known colloquially as suburbia.

Here you'll find the constant construction of new and exciting places to shop, such as a Big Lots or, pinch me, an auto parts store. Yet every time a new building begins its rise I hold out the forlorn hope that it's a bookstore. And ever time I get snuckered again, like Charlie Brown did when Lucy got him kickin' wind instead of pigskin.

On Dante's drive today it became apparent that the new building right next door to the Discount Tire Center is a Firestone Tire Center. Now don't get me wrong - as Shrek2's donkey might say 'everbody loves tires' - but it's the painful duplication that gets me. The consolation of competition causing lower prices is thin gruel indeed. You can't snuggle lower prices. And it's currently 16.5 minutes to the nearest bookstore and 22.375 minutes to the nearest great bookstore. On Tuesday's and Thursday's I'm the one on the corner holding the "Will work for books" sign. All I ask is a tiny 30-square one in lieu of another Quik Mart.

And don't get me started on pharamacies. We are the silicon valley of drug stores. There are three of them within walking distance. A blind man could find one purely by trial and error. And they're not so much pharamacies as huge multi-acre "farmacies", gigantic drug silos with grain elevators for distribution purposes.

I guess the story is pick your neighborhood carefully. A suburb is truly a reflection of the collective interests of the residents. Evidentally we pop a lot of pills and never rotate our tires.
More St. Joan of Arc

Continuing on the story of the Maid of Orleans, I googled to find what happened to her betrayer, the odius Bishop Cauchon. It is superstitious to think the manner of one's death is a reflection of how one has lived, but this was too strange to pass up: "Pierre Cauchon died suddenly, while he was being shaved, at his fine hotel Saint-Cande, on December 18, 1442, at the height of his honors." Must not have been a Bic. He was posthumously excommunicated.

Also found this link (scroll down to "THE FUNERAL-PILE OF ROUEN") on St. Joan:
The story of Joan of Arc is the most extraordinary story of Christian times: the most dazzling and the most secret...However rash this may be, it is necessary indeed to try to form, as best one can, an idea of the true mission of Joan, a mission which rises in tiers upon several different planes, and which one conjectures to be as vast as it is mysterious.

In the first place, it seems to me that, first and above all, Joan (it was in the fifteenth century that she lived, and underwent her martyrdom) was sent as a marvellous adieu of the Lord God to medieval Christendom on the point of ending.

In spite of the vestiges of barbarism which it still carried, this Christendom was the highest summit of Christian civilization in human history. Let one think of the admirable faith of the whole Christian common people of that time, and even of the great of this world (although they may have lost everything through the ambition and the moral weakness of the majority of them). Let one think of the immense work of reason, -- in the highest spheres of thought, and under the light of faith, -- accomplished by this time; of the intellectual and moral heritage which we owe to it, of its mystics, of its saints, of the builders of its cathedrals, of the idea of honor, of human dignity, of the service of the poor, which, however betrayed it may have been able to be in practice, it nevertheless bequeathed to us. Let one imagine to oneself St. Louis and St. Thomas Aquinas eating at the same table . . .

God loved this medieval Christendom, and rejoiced at all the goodness and holiness there was in it. In the moment when it was about to perish, He made to it in the person of Joan an altogether extraordinary gift, -- not as recompense (to whom would it have been directed?) but as sign, sign of love and of gratitude. It was as if Heaven had made a gift to the earth of an incomparable icon of blue and of gold, in a screen studded with flowers of Paradise moistened by the Precious Blood and by the tears of the Blessed Virgin.

But this blessed icon was that of an executed girl criminal, -- executed by priests of Christ: and the gift of Heaven brought also to earth a sign of the divine severity toward the blunders and the violences which so stained with blood medieval Christendom, -- especially toward that Inquisition of which the atrocious caricature exhibited by the trial of Rouen was signed with the wrath of God. Causae ad invicem sunt causae. The end of medieval Christendom entailed the end of the medieval Inquisition; and the medieval Inquisition was one of the irreparable historical mistakes by which medieval Christendom was to perish.

The adieu of the King of Heaven to medieval Christendom, -- the primordial aspect of the mission of Joan and of her passage upon earth, -- was at one and the same time an adieu of sublime gratitude and an adieu of inevitable chastisement.
Commenting

Like a faithless husband, I occasionally cheat on my blog by commenting elsewhere. To make things right, I'll cut & paste comments made on Amy's blog concerning the angst secularists feel about religion in the public square. My take is that an absence of religion is a kind of religion - certainly to look at the world and believe it all is chance requires as much faith as theism.
_

So what informs the secularist's vote? There is no way to avoid metaphysics. Stanley Jaki loved to quote E.A. Burtt's assertion that 'the only way to avoid metaphysics is to say nothing'."

Or to not vote.

The problem with the natural law argument is people won't accept it if it's not what they consider "natural". Thus Mario Cuomo says Church teaching on abortion isn't natural law while Cardinal Ratzinger says otherwise.

The way I see it is that it's a free country. A vote is a vote. What informs my vote - be it religious or otherwise - is none of my neighbor's business.
Keeping Hope Alive

One of the first websites I ever read in the Catholic sphere was by an ex-Marine named Kevin Whiteman, who called himself "Catholic Caveman". He's an SSPX'r and we recently exchanged emails in which I said that the next generation does "get it" and that there is hope on the horizon...

Now Tim Drake has a new blog and book that back up that optimism.

I especially liked this post:



"Brother Pio belongs to the Bronx's Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. He is unique among the priests and brothers for his skateboarding ministry in which he skateboards along the Bronx's streets, passing out Miraculous Medals and evangelizing the youth."
J of A

Inspired by recent Luse-ian posts, I dug out my unread copy of Mark Twain's "Joan of Arc" and spent a langourous evening with it.

The book starts turgidly so I did something I rarely do - I skipped ahead. I cut to the chase. I went for the scene of her asking for troops. One of her interrogators says if God wants to help France, why would he need troops? She answered, "He helps who help themselves. The sons of France will fight the battles, but He will give the victory!"

She had a good sense of humor. After cajoling a hardened soldier named La Hire to pray, she laughed uproariously after this his prayer: "Fair Sir God, I pray you to do by La Hire as he would do by you if you were La Hire and he were God."

Later an officer comments
"Joan probably knows what is in him better than we do. When a person in Joan of Arc's position tells a man he is brave, he believes it; and believing it is enough...

"Now you've hit it!" cried Noel. "She got the creating mouth as well as the seeing eye!"
Clinton, Bush & Keillor

I try to listen to part of A Prairie Home Companion weekly though in recent months Garrison Keillor's fear and loathing of conservatism has increased exponentially. Last week he said that he thought there ought to be an amendment to ban evangelicals from voting. Though I'm not an evangelical, I'm close enough for guvmint work. As our old saying went, "humor at my expense is not humor".

Still, I wonder at the genesis of the Bush hatred is. Something deeper is going on here. Certainly the war is reason enough, but they hated him before the war. And they hated Reagan. It might be that elites simply can't stand to be without influence and Reagan and Bush were/are notably impervious to elite opinion.

Perhaps the reason the right hated Clinton and the left hates Bush is because the left most appreciates flexibility and intelligence. The right most appreciates courage (whether personally brave or not) and sticking to principle. So it's natural the right would find Clinton unpalatable, given his lack thereof. And it's natural the left would feel the same about Bush, not known for flexibility.

Keillor, through one of his characters this week, suggested chagrin at not having more impact on the election. This was confirmed by a recent post on his website:
I gave a bunch of political speeches this fall and nothing much came of it, but it's enough to have given those people the chance to sing the Star Spangled Banner, I feel. Just as, though one works hard on the Lake Wobegon monologues, when someone writes in to tell me that those tapes are useful for putting small children to sleep, one feels a little deflated and yet — it's always good to be useful.
It must be especially hard for famous authors like Keillor and billionaires like Soros, who are used to exercising influence, not to be able to do so.

November 20, 2004

Books I'm Trying To Stiff-Arm

Here are recent finds I'm trying hard to avoid buying since I don't have the money or shelf space:
Travels with Barley: A Journey Through Beer Culture in America - Ken Wells;
Wodehouse: A Life - Robert McCrum
A High Wind in Jamaica (New York Review Books Classics) - Richard Hughes
Saint Joan of Arc - John Beevers
I Am Charlotte Simmons - Tom Wolfe
Introduction to Christianity - Joseph Ratzinger
In Good Company - James, S.J. Martin

November 19, 2004

Perfect Country & Western Song

A fine candidate for greatest country song ever is George Strait’s “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?”, which begins with arguably the most plaintive lyrics ever heard:

“Cold Fort Worth beer just ain't no good for jealous;
I try it night after night.”


Like a laconic cowboy, the song says a lot in a little. You get the whole story in the first two lines: cheating partner he cain't forget, trying to fill the void with something that don't fit. The human condition in a nutshell. The use of “jealous” instead of “jealousy” is inspired - it's as if he didn’t have the energy to complete what we already knew. The song is tight. No wasted words.

"Darling, while you're busy burning bridges,
Burn one for me, if you get time.
'Cos good memories don't fade so easy:
Does Fort Worth ever cross your mind?”


The only case where the singer doesn’t mince syllables is the refrain and that’s for a purpose. Stung by rejection, he wants a little distance. “Fort Worth” stands in for himself. Instead of "Do I ever cross your mind?" he asks if Fort Worth does.

The tune & voice? Classic.
Drinking Game Suggestion & Blogging about Metablogging

I didn't read Gerard's blog as much as I ought to have. His optimism and cheery disposition are a necessary antidote for these times, perhaps for all times.

One of the things that fascinates is the diversity among St. Blog's and the different approaches taken. There are intensely personal blogs and less so. My temptation is to think of those bloggers who never met a personal pronoun as minor saints. Certainly Donna Marie Lewis is the Cal Ripken of bloggers when it comes to that. A possible drinking game is to pick a month in her archives and take a drink every time she posted about Ven. Newman or St. Philip Neri. And I admire her for it because it's difficult to imagine saying things that Cardinal Newman didn't say better. Video meliora... Still, I'm not sure it's necessary to give up the personal even though narcissism is to blogs what hot air is to popcorn. The way I look at it writing is a form of therapy and cheaper than a $100 an hour analyst.

And in "The Christian Imagination: G.K. Chesterton on the Arts", Chesterton defends the amateur and those who would practice art without a license or talent. And what of autobiographies of unknowns? Every life is said to contain at least one novel. Perhaps even one blog. Regardless, narcissism will be recognized by the market and go unpublished & unread & or no blog hits. Penalty enough.
Balthasar...

...on the humor of the saints:
The book on the humor of the saints has yet to be written. Goethe has given us a short excerpt of it in his Philipp Neri, der humoristische Heilige (the humorous saint), particularly in the latter's far from reverential exchange of notes with Clement VIII. But what merriment do we find as early as Irenaeus, when he pricks the shimmering bubbles of the gnostic world systems! And in Clement of Alexandria, too, when he juggles with these systems like a circus artist.

What a boyish spirit of adventure in Bonaventure's "Chart for the soul's journey to God"! What flashes of humor (for which one seeks in vain in the solemn Reformers) in Ignatius Loyola and Teresa of Avila! And, nearer to us in time, what charming mischief in little Therese, to say nothing of Claudel's homely laughter (through tears of passion).
R.I.P.

+ heart +

Gerard on the Church:
And so, the more the dissenters dissent, the more I hope to believe -- remembering the words of St Paul that "love believes all things"! The more the critics criticize, the more will I hope to love her! She is my mother, my hearth, my home! She has given me Christ and with Him all good things. And I love her with all my heart and soul!
_

Carlo Coretto, too, expresses incomparably the paradox of the Church: her scandal and her abiding motherhood:

"How much I must criticize you, my Church, and yet how much I love you! You have made me suffer more than anyone, and yet I owe more to you than anyone. I should like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence. You have given me much scandal, and yet you alone have made me understand holiness. Never in the world have I seen anything more compromised, more false, yet never have I touched anything more pure, more generous, or more beautiful. Countless times I have felt like leaving you, my Church; and yet every night I have prayed that I might die in your warm, loving arms."
Old Journal Entries Ne'er Die

The blogger at Laudator Temporis Acti offers Thoreau's thoughts on keeping a journal.

Looking over my old journal entries, I was tempted to post some of them but then I laid down until the feeling passed.

I suppose part of the (quite limited) appeal of an online journal is the immediacy of it. One thing I've never seen on blogs is the posting of old diary entries - this seemed fertile ground for "jumping the shark" purposes. Sure, there have been re-postings of meaningful blog entries regarding the issues of the day. But never just a re-posting of a diary entry. So without further ado, this from five years ago today:

Had pizza for dinner tonite. It was alright. Watched Seinfeld. LOL! I like how Jerry has all that cereal. Cereal is kewl.

Okay, I jest. I made it up.

November 18, 2004

Excerpt of Richard Wilbur's “Caserta Garden"

A childhood by this fountain wondering
Would leave impress of circle-mysteries:
One would have faith that the unjustest thing
Had geometric grace past what one sees.
via a review.
   Ssssshhhhhhhh

says Noonan.
Excerpt from Prayer Primer, by Thomas Dubay:
We will suppose at this moment that we are in a state of grace, that we have not chosen an idol incompatible with God. Yet the list of possible impediments to further growth is painfully plain: lack of showing warmth towards an unattractive person, willed showing of impatience, gossiping about others' faults, overeating, laziness, grouchiness, undisciplined use of television, radio, the Internet.

Don't Get Around Much Anymore

Went to a party last night that had an internationale flair, a regular yew-nighted nations. It was much fun to meet people of so many different cultures, including but not limited to: South Africa, Venezuela, India, Netherlands. Was especially interesting talking to the guy from Johannesburg.

There were also fellow Americanos, including the owner of the house we were in. She lives with her gay significant other and on the tour this blogger refrained from making a comment when someone asked "is this the master bedroom?" The house was as beautiful as it was big; from a distance it looked like an apartment villa. We didn't pull up to a driveway so much as to a parking lot.

It's always humbling to meet new people. Strangers treat each other with such respect and solicitude. Hard edges are not in view. With familiarity comes not so much contempt but taking the other for granted.

The Netherlands couple complemented each other well. He looked as Austrian as Arnold Schwarzenegger - calm Nordic blue eyes abutting a high forehead and strong jaw - and was completely impassive during a charades-like game called catchphrase. His wife's face, on the other hand, was a motion picture of emotion. Amazingly expressive eyes rolled like waves on the high seas. She had something of fellow European Teresa Heinz Kerry about her, although who knows about Kerry's eyes? They were always behind sunglasses during the campaign, protected from snoops.

November 17, 2004

Remembering the Edmund Fitzgerald



What the words mean, via Elena.
Unless Ye Become as Sox Fans...?

Elizabeth Wirth Exhorts the faithful:
I turned it on again only at the beginning of game five, after we had somehow managed to hold on for an extra-innings victory in game four. Scanning the crowd, I saw a Red Sox fan holding an enormous sign that said, simply, "Believe."

Believe? Now? No one had ever come back from a zero-to-3 deficit in a seven-game series. Yet here was someone who chose to declare publicly that he was unequivocally with the Red Sox, believing, until the end. I was humbled by this person's sheer perseverance in the face of repeated defeat.

My only question is: why is it that baseball fans are the ones showing the world what it means to hope, love and persevere? Why are they giving more meaning to the words "miracle" and "believe" than we are, as the Church?

I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I would have rejoiced more had I risked more in the believing.

The fact is that we as the Church often don't even give our faith the attention—or hope—we do to spectator sports. How many of us have been on our knees praying "Believe!" during the humiliating season of the Boston church scandals, or as embryonic cloning marches forward, or even just attending church week after week amidst the general apathy in our pews? Or do we rather, like myself, flip off the Church in disgust, shake our heads, and say we'll be on board again once things start turning around?
NY Times Review of T.C. Boyle's Latest Novel:

Moral norms change, but the link between sexuality and moral discourse seems as fundamental as the sexual impulse itself.

That may be the moral, so to speak, of ''The Inner Circle,'' Boyle's fictional rendering of the relations -- personal, professional and sexual -- between Kinsey and one of his (invented) acolytes. Kinsey -- ''Prok'' to his intimates, including his wife -- is in some ways a perfect subject for this sly and intrepid novelist. While I would hesitate to burden an imagination as marvelously peripatetic as Boyle's with anything so confining as an overarching theme, he has more than once cast a skeptical eye on a peculiarly American reformist impulse -- a desire to cast aside artificial social arrangements and constraints and to perfect human nature itself. Like John Harvey Kellogg in ''The Road to Wellville,'' like the free-loving communards of ''Drop City'' and like many of the environmentalists and adventurers who amble through the pages of Boyle's other novels and stories, Prok is devoted to the idea of a healthier, less hung up and somehow more natural way of life. As elsewhere in Boyle's work, the conflict in ''The Inner Circle'' is organized around the clash between this utopian impulse and the countervailing desire for stability, harmony and compromise.
Always an encouraging sign when the NY Times suggests a linkage between sexual behavior and morality.
Good & Evil vs Rich & Poor

It turns out that reports of Americans voting their values was greatly exaggerated. The gay marriage amendments had little impact; Bush improved most dramatically over his 2000 percentage in states that didn't have the amendments. Not only that but in 2000 16% of Americans felt abortion was always wrong and in '04 it's still at 16%. But why spoil the media's storyline?

Still, what fascinates me is not that values didn't impact much, but that the media thought it incredulous that any voters might've chosen their values over their pocketbook. There's a bestseller out called "What Wrong With Kansas?" in which the author basically asks "why haven't we been able to buy those suckers off yet?".

Dennis Prager on Bill O'Reilly said that the left's values, many obviously quite valid, involve only the material. Progress must be measured through the lens of economics, in an almost Marxist fashion. They do not see the world divided between good and evil but between rich and poor. Very provocative that Prager fellow.

November 16, 2004

   Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

When my husband died, family and friends gathered around me from far and wide. They brought food. They brought prayers. They brought comfort. But not one brought a certificate identifying himself as a bona fide “Bereavement Minister.” Was I duped by imposters???? I know a lady who, indefatigably, visits the sick, the dying, the lonely. Without the credentials of a genuine “Visitation Minister.” How dare she! - Kelly Clark of The Lady in the Pew

Gabriel Marcel famously said that life was not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived. Thus metanoia, "the re-creation of every bless-ed day" demands a certain kind of ease in the face of ambiguity. Without this mental/spiritual space, there is no room to grow. Paul's epistles describe it as seeing through a glass darkly. It is also experienced as a "cloud of unknowing." - commenter on Belmont Club blog

The thanksgiving we owe God is something apart from any discrete gift, and should even be maintained in the face of whatever tribulation and trial God allows in our lives. I suspect such thanksgiving must be directed at God alone, with ourselves completely forgotten, for it to be sustainable. "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD!" - Tom of Disputations

But over the last week, feeling that darkness, I have made an effort to turn toward God, even though I didn't feel like it. And the warming up has started--had started even before PapaC got to come home for the weekend!... When I face the smallest of trials my tendency is the exact opposite of the truly healthy! I turn away from the source of light and warmth. What a silly, silly girl. - MamaT of Summa Mamas. I know of what thou speaks MamaT.

For good or ill, I've become increasingly convinced that it is impossible in the modern age to keep the state from falling into the hands of those who want to use it toward moral ends (Sorry my anarcho-libertarian friends). People who are driven by moral passions and missions are simply more likely to do the hard work necessary to wrest control of the levers of government. This needn't be scary or bad and it can be great. But it is a fact. Which mean a society -- not just its government -- must be very, very concerned about the sorts of citizens it creates. In Holland, as Wretchard notes, radical Muslims could win the battle if for no other reason they care more about winning than the, until recently, self-indulgent, spoiled and lazy Dutch who've taken the tolerance and decency of their system for granted. - Jonah Goldberg of the Corner

FDN notes that the overlap among voters for Kerry and gay marriage amendments isn’t, in a way, all that interesting after all.  I see her point, but still think that in the current climate of opinion it’s a curious statistic.  Within several seconds of the polls closing, a narrative explanation of the election’s outcome hardened into conventional wisdom.  I hear it all the time:  there was a record turnout because conservative Christians, driven to hysterics by their homophobia and their hatred of abortion turned out in droves to support the president.  That this is counterfactual seems to make no difference.  - Thomas of ER

I know that the bias and incompetence of the news media won't come as . . . well, news to anyone, but my experience this year has given me new insight into the depth of the media's bias and incompetence. As a result of the Catholic Answers voters guide, I've had to give tons of media interviews (some of them linked here). I thus get put in the fascinating position of (a) knowing what I actually said to the reporter and (b) seeing what the reporter attributes to me in print. Lemme tell ya: It ain't even close! - Jimmy Akin

I have a theory that Democrats are secretly thrilled to have lost this election to George Bush...Nothing makes a Leftist happier than to belong to a victim class. - Captain Ed of Captain's Quarters

When I was in college, it astounded me that the professors of economics tended to reduce all of life to economics, the professors of political science reduced all of life to politics, the professors of natural science reduced all of life to biology, and so on. In other words, men have a tendency to exaggerate the importance of their own strengths. Economist F.A. Hayek understood this. He believed that intellectuals were almost always socialists because intellectuals over-estimated the ability of human intelligence to plan and order human society. This also goes a long way toward explaining the Kerry vote. Intellectuals tend to over-value intelligence and to under-estimate the importance of virtue. Furthermore, because of their gifts (which often includes wealth), intellectuals are somewhat insulated from the human consequences of immorality, whereas those of average intelligence and wealth are more likely to suffer because of it. Hence, the importance of "moral values" to those voters who were most likely to be devastated by the decadent culture of the Blue People. - Jeff Culbreath of ECR

We moderns have developed this ridiculous notion that a thing's genuineness makes it praiseworthy, regardless of what the thing actually is. But genuine meanness is not virtuous simply because it is genuine. The question to ask is whether the thing in and of itself is good or bad. Whether or not the sentiment behind it is genuine is secondary, and of a very different nature than the determination of the thing's value or morality. Am I saying genuineness is worthless? No. We should indeed strive to have genuine feelings and motives behind what we do and say. But it is the order that you have wrong: The good act comes first, and genuineness follows. The first question to ask is not "Do I really want to do this good thing?" but rather "Should I do this good thing?" If there is not honest desire behind it, do it anyway, and through doing it and keeping focused on the ultimate good that gives it value you will transform yourself into someone who does have a genuine desire to do it. - Bernhardt of "anti-socialist tendencies" blog

I, perhaps somewhat leaning to your ideology, am not so religious... but I am married to one of the most delightful, beautiful and dedicated Catholics on this earth. I delight in her absolute faith, her praying, her laughter, her zest for life, her acceptance of those of lesser faith (like me), her tolerance. All which seems so absent from the liberal atheist. - emailer to Jonah Goldberg, posted on The Corner

St Blog's anchoress, Karen Marie Knapp, one of those people whose prayers keep the universe from falling apart, could use prayers herself -- she is in the hospital with cellulitis and pneumonia and had surgery on Tuesday. - Peony of Two Sleepy Mommies
If you haven't already seen them...

...see Bill Luse's posts about St. Joan of Arc here and here. It's good to be reminded how God loves to surprise.
The Slope

The predictable horror of euthanasia:
After all, disabled people, the elderly, and those with devastating existential grief caused by, say, the sudden death of family members, may suffer more profoundly — and for a longer period of time — than the terminally ill. If "self-deliverance" is, in principle, okay for those who experience less suffering for a shorter duration, then how would we justify denying termination to those who would seem to have a greater claim to receiving help to die?

In fact, this is precisely what has happened in the Netherlands. After more than 30 years of permitted euthanasia, the category of the Dutch killable has expanded steadily; it now includes the depressed, the chronically ill, and the disabled, including infants who are born with birth defects. And now, the Dutch parliament seems set on lowering the age of consent to be killed to twelve years old.
Top Ten Signs You Are Too Into Politics

10) Mentally add ".org" when you hear someone say "move on"

9) Begin meetings at work with, "This is Tom, and I've approved this message".

8) Wake up in cold sweat after dream of "President Michael Moore"

7) More concerned with polarization in the country than polarization between family members

6) Know what RINO & CINO mean

5) You know Chris Matthew's wife's name  (Kathy)

4) You wonder if she's deaf.

3) You have carpal-tunnel from constantly refreshing the Corner's page

2) Favorite sport is detecting signs of media bias in Katie Couric

...(drumroll)... 1) You rally the troops with a "Dean scream" at local school board meeting
Funny Onion piece
Updates

I updated the Flannery O'Connor and Prose for Nigerian scammers blogs.

November 15, 2004

Quotable

From Newsweek's latest issue, on the pollster of the Bush/Cheney '04 re-election team:
Matthew Dowd, the campaign's pollster and McKinnon's partner in the "Strategery Department" (named after a late-night comedy show's parody of President Bush mangling the word "strategy"), was also a little out of place in such a button-down, fixed smile environment. The Yeats-quoting Dowd was a chronic pessimist. (Taped to his office wall was Dowd's favorite Yeats quote: "Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.")
More C-Span Moments

David Brooks says that studies show the more education someone receives the more likely they will vote a straight party ticket. He frames this as "the more education, the less independent your vote". Hmmm....I'll have to ponder that. So Brooks says that as the country continues to become more highly educated (leaving aside the definition of that) then we should expect more rather than less polarization.
_

Listening to David Hackett Fischer, author of "Albion's Seed", expound on how some cultures worship youth (ours) or age (Japan's). In Japan, he said, there are products on the market that deepen your wrinkles!
All Sex, All the Time

I have the proverbial mixed emotions about the new novels of three of my favorite modern novelists, T.C. Boyle, Tom Wolfe and John Updike.

Boyle's latest concerns Alfred Kinsey, of whom I have little interest or sympathy. Boyle wrote the excellent Drop City in '03.

Updike has written another sex-drenched novel in which the 70-ish year old protagonist looks back fondly over the adulteries of his middle-age.

Tom Wolfe, who wrote A Man in Full and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, tackles sex on campus colleges. On NPR he said that he wrote the passages dealing with sex as unerotically as possible, which induced much mirth in Hambone and me. Writing about sex in an unerotic way is an oxymoron, at least where we're concerned. Which, of course, may say unflattering things about us but so be it.
C-Spanic Observations

Heard Donna Brazile, Gore's 2000 campaign manager say, "I'm Christian, I'm pro-choice and I'm Catholic. We Democrats can feel good about the political positions we have."

And it's hard for me to get worked up over her statement partially because of the recent election results. Yesterday's danger becomes tomorrow kitsch. Nostalgia coats the '60s because the danger has, to some extent, passed. Nuclear bomb shelters are passe now. Jokes about acid-freaks are funny because few are currently bending their minds on LSD.

Of course the political kneels before the cultural and the cultural before the religious, so the election was small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. Only spiritual conversions will suffice, and the ground for that is as ripe in red states as blue. David Brooks made the point that as far as behavior goes there is little difference between people in red states as blue states. "The divorce rate is just as high in Blue America as in Red America" he said.

But Brazille's comments also don't faze because she already has cover in the form of ur-liberal Catholic, Mario Cuomo. Cuomo joins brilliance with seeming to want to do the right thing which is always an impressive combo. Not to say Brazille is slavishly following Cuomo, but it would seem as long as he is convinced of his correctness it's going to be that much harder to 'suade Brazile, to the extent she is 'suadable at all. Same situation on the right, of course, for those of us who appreciate the George Weigels and Michael Novaks of the world.

Of course the solution is to listen to what the Church says and try to think with the mind of the Church. I think Weigel does that with far more attention than does Cuomo but then you already knew that.
Interesting link:

- "when all the lights of the Tabernacle are extinguished the Kaaba will beckon in the desert":
But of course the process of secularization -- or 'value emptying' as Pell might put it -- has not been entirely uniform. In actuality, while whole chunks of the West have thrown out their traditional value systems, other chunks have been busy proseletyzing theirs. As Episcopalian churches have emptied the fundamentalist Islamic mosques have filled. That uneven development, if left unchecked, may eventually mean that the magnificent mechanism of secular democracy, which serves no value of itself, will be arbitrarily assigned a goal by the majority most willing to hijack it. Pell's observation that "the small but growing conversion of native Westerners within Western societies to Islam carries the suggestion that Islam may provide in the 21st century the attraction that communism provided in the 20th ..." will mark him in liberal Australian circles as a bigot. It should mark him as a wit, for he has managed to slander those they would least offend by comparing them to those they most admire.

November 14, 2004

Service

Today's Gospel reading at the local Byzantine Catholic church was the story of the Good Samaritan. The pastor gave a remarkably literal sermon about helping out people who are physically near death due to an accident. He didn't draw any spiritual parallels, perhaps because we assumed we could do that by ourselves. What should we do, he asked, if we saw an accident victim by the side of the road? First, most of us have cell phones, so call 9-1-1. Never move the victim. Many with spinal cord injuries are tragically paralyzed by those trying to "help". If you start CPR and you don't finish, you will be held liable for that person's death...Hmm...

Gratitudinal Adjustment

I'm still doggedly reading Randall Sullivan's book "The Miracle Detective". His travails are emotionally draining so I read it in small quantities. It's similar to my current re-watching of The Lord of the Rings; the constant sense of menace and peril take their toll. Anyway, in it he experienced miracles but expected fireworks every time. He was told he needed to find God now in service to others. He was told how ungrateful he was for what he'd been given. Did he not know how many came to Medjugorje and received so much less?

November 12, 2004

New Orleans Cemetery Images

    

   
State of the Union

Well I can’t kid you, the curtain’s come down. Daylight Savings Time's untimely demise has occurred and now begins the hard time. Winter's a bad moon and she's on the rise.

There are only two seasons: winter and summer. Winter is Nov-Apr & summer is May-October. The blended seasons of spring and fall are actually winter and summer respectively, sprinkled with Scottish highland days to be relished. Cleaving disproportionately to summer’s fair bosom are the work holidays, the vacations, the Irishfests and Octoberfests.

So, no more baking into the hot cushions of the back porch furniture drinking lazily into the beer sun. The end of summer is the end of Welfare-As-We-Know-It, an end of the entitlement mentality that imagines sitting outdoors smoking a cigar till 8 or 9 at night is a right. On the last 60 degree day in late October I flee home at lunch and hit the bike trail and ride into the azure sky and walk amid busted corn stalks tall as single-story buildings where I lose myself, go pee and no one’s the wiser.

Keenly, I'll miss the smell of the porch rain that gush-buckets from failing gutters. Keenly I’ll miss the smell of fresh tar from the neighbor’s driveway seals. Keenly I’ll miss the freshly mown hay of Denver's song, the cut-grass leavenings, the odiferous mulch, the feel of the basketball in my hands, the fragile tomato leaves who curse you for your early planting only to bless you in August with bright fruits too numerous to carry back to the house.

Still, summer costs. To remain stationary on a sunny summer afternoon is to die a little; it’s to look back on it with regret. To spend it in the binding of a book is to miss the warbling of birds and the babbling of brooks. Winter has the long dark nights so eager for imprint of film and book. In summer you lose IQ points. In the winter you explore labyrinthal worlds in film and novel because the world-present is encrusted with permafrost and the trees offer no escape and cornfield labyrinths are reduced to stubble.

And what of the darkness? Then what? There is the candle-lit season of Advent, the consolations of Christmas. And then the January thaw and February’s Lent, which makes the exile bearable, simply by recognition of our exile status. Words make the unbearable bearable: to say the unsayable is to tame it. To name it is to claim it, or at least to begin victory over it.
St. Alphonsus Liguori on Prayer
But, some one will say, since God can give and wishes to give me the grace of perseverance, why does he not give it me all at once, when I ask him?... St. Augustine says that we may long for it more vehemently. Great gifts, he says, should be greatly desired; for good things soon obtained are not held in the same estimation as those which have been long looked for: "God wills not to give quickly, that you may learn to have great desire for great things ; things long desired are pleasanter to obtain, but things soon given are cheapened."

Want makes the poor keep resorting to the houses of the rich; so God, to draw us to himself, as St. Chrysostom says, and to see us often at his feet, in order that he may thus be able to do us greater good, delays giving us the complete grace of salvation till the hour of our death. He does so in order that we, by preserving in prayer, may unite ourselves closer to him with the sweet bonds of love: "Prayer," says the same St. Chrysostom, "which is accustomed to converse with God, is not slight bond of love to him."

In the Gospel Jesus Christ exhorts us to pray; but how? "Ask, and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you." Would it not have been enough to have said, "ask?" why add "seek" and "knock"? No, it was not superfluous to add them; for thereby our Saviour wished us to understand that we ought to do as the poor who go begging. If they do not receive the alms they ask (I speak of licensed beggars), they do not cease asking: they return to ask again: and if the master of the house does not show himself any more, they set to work to knock at the door, till they become very importunate and troublesome. That is what God wishes us to do: to pray, and to pray again, and never leave off praying, that he would assist us and succor us; that he would enlighten us and strengthen us and never allow us to forfeit his grace.
Venial to Mortal

Malcolm Gladwell explains in The Tipping Point (subtitled "How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference") the unusual way former Mayor Guiliani tackled crime a decade ago in New York City: by sweating the small stuff.

Instead of concentrating mostly on perpetrators of bigger crimes, he started prosecuting - of all things - graffiti artists. Remarkably, the strategy paid off. The climate was changed and Gladwell makes a solid case for the effectiveness of Guiliani's approach.

I was thinking of that book after blogging about how the seemingly small miscue of overlooking Baghdad looters and how that paved the way to bigger horrors. Who would've thunk how widely the message sent by our overlooking the looters would resound? Maybe Guiliani or Gladwell.
NY Times Says Election Was Fair

The Times says bloggers are spreading conspiracy theories, despite:

"We know this was an emotional election, and the losing side is very upset," said Daniel Hoffheimer, the lead lawyer for the Kerry campaign in Ohio. But, he said, "I have not seen anything to indicate intentional fraud or tampering."

I'm sometimes tempted to think the internet is a net loss for democracy rather than a net gain. It tends to harden positions and reinforce tribal instincts. Of course, it's hard to blame it for everything. Michael Moore and Walter Cronkite manage to effectively spread disinformation without the internet's help.

And the Times print editorialists are often so hysterical they can't be parodied, which is an effective strategy as far as it goes - like a madman protects himself from accusations of madness by being plainly mad.
Rocco Buttiglione in the WSJ:
One of America's founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, was convinced that politics needed values it could not produce itself and had to rely on other agencies (mainly the churches) to nurture the virtues civil life needs. The state could therefore not privilege any church in particular but had to maintain a positive attitude to religion in general.

Jean Jacques Rousseau thought, on the contrary, that the state needed a kind of civil religion of its own and the existing churches had to bow to this civil religion by incorporating its commandments in their theology. Many scholars see in this idea of Rousseau's the seminal principle of totalitarianism. The tradition of Rousseau and of the Jacobins has survived in Europe in less virulent forms than in the not too distant past, but it's still part of the European political and ideological landscape.

November 11, 2004

What Went Wrong?

Was it over before it'd hardly begun? When the New Yorker and National Review agree on something....well... Funny thing is how so many said prior to the war that Arabs respect only strength, so we can't say we weren't warned.

From the New Yorker:
When the Americans moved into [Baghdad] but didn’t intervene to stop the looting that followed, a few things happened. The population, which had been tentatively awaiting and expecting to coöperate with the Americans—and it included many Baath Party members—were aghast at the way Baghdad in particular was looted as the Americans stood by; I think this queered people’s perceptions of the Americans and their intentions in the country very early on. This was palpable in Baghdad, as the first tentative applause at the Americans’ arrival turned to exclamations of resentment and disgust. People fell back on conspiracy theories: that the Americans had arrived for nefarious reasons, and that it was all part of a plan to destroy Iraq, which is, of course, what Saddam had told them for years.
From National Review's Rich Lowrey:
By now, anyone who can't recite the standard critique of what has gone wrong in the Iraq war just hasn't been paying attention.

It goes something like this: There was no post-war planning. What little planning took place was spearheaded by the State Department, and then maliciously ignored by the ideologues at the Pentagon, who didn't want to hear a discouraging word about managing a liberated Iraq. Consumed by Rumsfeld's fixation on light forces, the Pentagon skimped on troop levels and ignored the advice of its commanders. Anyone who said anything inconvenient about the war was systematically punished. In this narrative, "Pentagon civilian" becomes a dirty phrase.

Almost every particular of this indictment is wrong.

In fact, if one is playing a 20/20 second-guessing game over Iraq, the pure Defense Department pre-war vision that wasn't implemented would have avoided one of the pitfalls of what transpired: an occupation that alienated Iraqis and gave the U.S. sole control and responsibility over events in Iraq. The Pentagon favored the creation of an Iraqi government even before the invasion. And it pushed from the very beginning for a serious effort to train indigenous Iraqi forces, which would have given us a head start on what is now the consensus solution to Iraq's woes: that very training, so that Iraqis can carry on the fight for their country themselves...

Bush critics would never put it this way, but a failing of the invasion plan turned out to be its excess of humanitarianism. "We wanted this to be as humane as a combat operation — as war — can be," General Myers told the Senate Armed Services Committee in June. "[The idea was] to let regular Iraqi divisions [go], while destroying equipment and some of their people. If they melted away, then let them melt away, because they were conscripts, after all. So if there is a blame here, it was making some assumptions on how the Iraqi people would react to that, and I would submit we were probably too gracious in our victory in hindsight."

This is a recurring theme. Over and over again in Iraq, the administration would demonstrate a lack of the necessary toughness to succeed: in how it conducted the initial war, how it handled the post-war looting, and how it approached the problem of restive cities such as Fallujah. Even in the post-war planning, it was the soft side of the enterprise, the potential humanitarian crisis, that was given priority. In Iraq, the conciliatory gesture, the half-measure, took priority over the work of smashing the enemy and establishing order. In this sense, the number of troops mattered less than what they were told to do, or not do...Immediately after the war, widespread looting occurred..."Not preventing the looting was a huge mistake," says former CPA official Michael Rubin.
Let's Let The Dems Shoot Us

Easy link to send senators your thoughts on the prospect of Specter as head of the Judiciary committee.

From K-Lo in the Corner:
Hugh Hewitt today argues that we’re trying to silence Arlen Specter like the Dems ostracized Bob Casey. Yes, Hugh, there are plenty of RINOs, and I’m no fan of them, but didn’t you notice them all over our convention (vs. the Dems—tell spoke at the GOP’s, recall)? They' ain't being silenced. That said, with this Specter business, we are talking about judges. We are talking about the Judiciary Committee of the Senate. We are talking about Specter’s temperament (and not just one interview that he is stuck on trying to rewrite away) and the fact that conservatives won this election and shouldn’t shoot themselves in the foot when we’re about to face a possibly pretty--soon Supreme Court opening.
Blog asks which books have changed your life

Cherry-picking from the varied responses:
C.S. Lewis's Til We Have Faces changed the way I think about other people's faiths.

Charles Bukowski taught me that no matter what other people think of you, you shouldn't pity yourself. He also taught me that even someone who doesn't understand love (or want it) feels it.

Philip Roth has reaffirmed my belief that it is pointless to say that men and women are the same. They're not the same. This isn't to say they're not equal, just that they're different.

Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides made me consider how utterly different my life is from that of my highland ancestors, and the poverty and misery they escaped, and is a wonderful tonic...

I have also drawn a lot of spiritual sustenance from the poets of my own country (James K Baxter, Alan Curnow, R A K Mason, Rex Fairburn, Hone Tuwhare, to name a few) and still find Yeats and McDiarmid and Seamus Heaney deeply moving. It's an interesting question why I have no use for Englishmen.

The Diary of Anne Frank: I read this at a young age, and the experience still haunts me- I know i am not alone in this.
Email

Roz of Exultet writes:

Hey, I love Tivo. Never again will anyone in my house say "Shhhh. What did Tim Russert just say?" Instead, here's the scenario: (Tim Russert opines in the background.)

Spouse #1: "Dear, you know what I've been thinking . . . "
Spouse #2: "Just a second, sweetheart. . . .
Yes, darling, what have you been thinking?"

Not very compelling, perhaps, to people with a high degree of sanctity, but pretty practical for this worldly sinner.


This has the ring of truth. Combined with my similar experience I wonder: Is this a trivial example of how technology can put you "to the test" less? Is that always good?

Jonah Goldberg writes:
The point is that technology changes the times we live in but it doesn't change human nature (at least not yet)... Think of it this way: Hard work leads to character. There isn't a person in the world who's written on the topic who doesn't say something like that. Now imagine if you could take a pill that would automatically make you very smart and in perfect physical shape overnight. Intelligence and physical strength used to be well-recognized by-products of character building. With the pill, there's no building — just the final product. That pill would be more dangerous to a virtuous society than any "if it feels good do it" doctrine coming out of Brown University.
Hope Ain't Just a Place in Arkansas

The build-up to the election & the post-election backlash have been "interesting".

I recall a certain columnist from Indiania with whom I was in an email exchange a couple years back. She was an agnostic-Catholic or a Catholic-agnostic, depending how you look at it. Her faith hung by the proverbial thread.

It ain't hanging anymore. It's gone and her vituperativeness is real. The Church is now the enemy, aided by the scandals and by doctrines she doesn't like. The one-two punch of Catholics giving a bad example combined with unpleasant Church teaching is something only God can overcome.

I had a similar corresponce experience with a leftist who grew more leftist with every email I sent. (I get the message Lord.) While anecdotal, it certainly gave me more humility over my power to persuade. Or lack thereof. And of course the converse is true. How willing open am I to persuasion on disputable matters of importance to them? How much responsibility do we Christians have for the polarization?

On a recent retreat I asked the priest about blogs and about what responsibility I have and he said "why shouldn't you have a website? Everyone has a website. State your opinion!" When I explained I sometimes use it to vent he cautioned against that. But I wonder at the fine line between venting and not venting.

I digress. A recent article by Tom Hoopes in Crisis suggests that Christians don't do PR well. We really hosed (pun unintended) the gay marriage flap. He said that we should be talking about how bad homosexual behavior is for homosexuals, how their life expectancy is much shorter, more suicides, AIDS, and so forth.

On the other hand, Archbishop Chaput's column was equally eye-opening. How do you persuade in a society that is increasingly tone-deaf to a higher authority (i.e. to God) and even reason?

Prayer crucially. But better PR too. When good marketing intersects with the truth it is a beautiful thing. The group Feminists for Life really understand that. Abortion is bad for the woman, not just the child, and that often gets lost in the debate. "When a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is a sign that, by education or circumstances, she has been greatly wronged." said Susan B. Anthony.

November 09, 2004

Quick Hits

Jeff Culbreath makes an excellent point about how we view the world through our strengths. I also liked the point about how wealth can to some extent protect one from the ill effects of unvirtuous behavior (in this world only). Very shrewd.
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Living in New Zealand and being a day ahead of us, wouldn't it be nice if she she mailed us our posts and saved us the trouble?
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Thinking aloud about Steven Riddle's metablogic post... I think he deserves a higher place in heaven for honesty alone. His comments strike a chord with me and with my circumstances. If nothing else, is it not inspiring how we joust with the same issues for so long a time? Rather than becoming discouraged, isn't there something uplifting about refusing to believe that our past performances guarantee future results if that belief is based on the strength of God's grace?
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Heard a family member refer to the Tivo pause button as the "marriage saver". Funny. Every guy will understand that. Tivo has done for television what the crack pipe did for cocaine. Not to compare television to cocaine of course; that wouldn't be fair to cocaine.
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Bone's watchword of late is "OPM" - "other people's money", pronounced "opium". He wants to make a movie and he thinks OPM is the way to get there.

OPB - other people's (spiritual) beauty - is similarly attractive. I recall reading a quote a long time ago that went "love is beautiful in dreams, harsh in reality". I got a whiff of that during the reading from 2nd Maccabees at Mass Sunday. It was about a soul so full of faith that he was willing to lose his hands:
After him the third suffered their cruel sport. He put out his tongue at once when told to do so, and bravely held out his hands, as he spoke these noble words: "It was from Heaven that I received these; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again."
His faith is beautiful. I pray that I can admire from afar and not be put to the test.