October 31, 2009

Boundary Excerpts

Some excerpts from Townsend & Cloud's Boundaries:
First, let's make a distinction between selfishness and stewardship. Selfishness has to do with a fixation on our own wishes and desires, to the exclusion of our responsibility to love others. Though having wishes and desires is a God-given trait (Prov. 13:4), we are to keep them in line with healthy goals and responsibility.

Even with God's help, however, it is crucial to understand that meeting our own needs is basically our job. We can't wait passively for others to take care of us. Jesus told us to "Ask...seek...knock."...Even knowing that "it is God who works in [us]" (Phil. 2:13), we are our own responsibility.

This is a very different picture than many of us are used to. Some individuals see their needs as bad, selfish, and at best, a luxury. Others seem them as something that God or others should do for them. But the biblical picture is clear: our lives are our responsibilities.

____


God will match our effort, but he will never do our work for us. That would be an invasion of our boundaries...The sin God rebukes is not trying and failing, but failing to try...Passive "shrinking back" is intolerable to God, and when we understand how destructive it is to the soul, we can see why God does not tolerate it. God wants us to "preserve our souls". That is the role of boundaries; they define and preserve our property, our soul.

I have been told that when a baby bird is ready to hatch, if you break the egg for the bird, it will die. The bird must peck its own way out of the egg into the world. This aggressive "workout" strengthens the bird, allowing it to function in the outside world. Robbed of its responsibility, it will die...The best boundaries are formed when a child is pushing against the world naturally, and the outside world sets its limits on the child. In this way, the aggressive child has learned limits without losing his or her spirit. Our spiritual and emotional well-being depends on our having this spirit.

_____


Overidentification with the other's loss. Many times people have not dealt with all their own disappointments and losses, so whenever they deprive someone else with a no, they "feel" the other person's sadness to the nth degree.

_____

The serenity prayer is probably the best boundary prayer ever written...It says basically, "God, clarify my boundaries!"

_____

When parents greet their children's disagreement or disobedience with simple hostility, the children are denied the benefit of being trained. They don't learn that delaying gratification and being responsible have benefits. They only learn how to avoid someone's wrath. Ever wonder why some Christians fear an angry God, no matter how much they read about his love? God's discipline teaches, not punishes. "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness." (Heb. 12:10)

_____

The child's newfound fondness for "mine" does have roots in our innate self-centeredness - part of the sinful depravity in all of us that wants to, as did Satain, 'make myself like the Most High' (Isa. 14:14). However, this simplistic understanding of our character doesn't take into consideration the full picture of what being in the image of God truly is.

_____

Anger is a friend. It was created by God for a purpose: to tell us that there's a problem that needs to be confronted...It's an early warning system; unresolved anger leads to depression and anxiety.

_____

Being created in God's image also means having ownership, or stewardship. As Adam and Eve were given dominion over the earth to subdue and rule it, we are also given stewardship over our time, energy, talents, values, feelings, behavior, money...Without a "mine," we have no sense of responsibility to develop, nurture, and protect these resources. Without a "mine," we have no self to give to God and his kingdom...With correct parenting, they'll learn sacrifice and a giving, loving heart, but not until they have a personality that has been loved enough to give love away: "We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

October 30, 2009

Baseball's Costliest Walk

Interesting WSJ column:
As anniversaries go, it's one most baseball fans would like to forget. Fifteen years ago the leaders of the Major League Baseball Players Association advised their members to walk off the job, thus beginning the ugliest, longest (232 days) and most damaging work stoppage in American sports history...

President Barack Obama may not have been correct earlier this year when he credited Judge Sotomayor with "saving baseball," but she probably did save the 1995 World Series.

ESPN's Peter Gammons summed it up best: "She saved the owners from themselves. Sotomayor forced the game to resume and charged that they bargain in real faith, and baseball under Selig went from $1.3 billion to a $7.5 billion business."

October 29, 2009

From the Poor Clares Newsletter

"St. John Vianney truly recognized our dependence on the Priesthood. He understood that without Priests '...we would not have the Lord. Who put Him there in the Tabernacle? The Priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The Priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for the journey? The Priest! Who will prepare it to appear before God? The Priest - always the Priest... After God, the Priest is everything.'"
- In honor of the Year for Priests from the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration at St. Joseph Monastery

More This n' That

From Bradbury's "Zen and the Art of Writing":
Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don't use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition...My story, "The Shoreline at Sunset," is a direct result of reading Robert Hillyer's lovely poem about finding a mermaid near Plymouth Rock.
____

What poetry? Any poetry that makes your hair stand up along your arms. Don't force yourself too hard...You say you don't understand Dylan Thomas? Yes, but your ganglion does, and your secret wits, and all your unborn children. Read him, as you can read a horse with your eyes, set free and charging over an endless green meadow on a windy day.
More here.

____

Sitting out on the front porch because we can - we can given the weather's not unreasonable (mid-50s) and the beauty is astounding. Bright yellows and golds and reds predominate among the glorious deciduous trees. Our Japanese maple is a brilliant kingly red now, with little fern-like delicacy and bonsai-ish demeanour. The burning bush at the corner of the house is a paler red, the color of a blush wine. The walkway is coated with a thick pelt of tan and yellow leaves from the maples. The fountain sings and the air smells exuberantly fresh, almost spring-like in its coolness and streamishness, like an Irish Spring commercial.

____

Caught a bit of Jimmy Swaggert on the tube yesterday, looking much older and calmer, seated instead of pacing, his face free of the sheen of sweat. He was with a couple younger men in front of a huge color-coded map of the Middle East. He was reading Revelation 20 and talking about a second resurrection and the coming rapture. Apocalyptic talk is all the rage, perhaps fed in part by the Mayan calendar famously ending in 2012. Jim Bakker seemed in the same mode as I recall. It's helpful to see what these evangelists are talking about because they likely reflect what's on people's minds, much as Glenn Beck's windfall popularity says something about the fears of deficit spending.

October 28, 2009

This 'n That

Fall beers from the Salt Lake City Tribune, which reports that it snowed there yesterday:

Click to enlarge
* * *


From the novel "Shadow Country":
Papa gave me this fine idea of my Dear Diary long ago when I was little. He was riting in his lether book under the trees. It had "Footnotes to my Life" berned into the cowhide cover and a little lock. I asked him what his book was about and he took me in his lap and smiled and said Well honey its a daily jernel. He wouldn't never show it to a sole he said. I powted and intreated. Never? Perhaps one day Papa said. He warned that any diary that was not completely privet is no longer a diary because it is no longer honest and cannot be a trusted friend.


* * *

Is there a contradiction between these two statements?:
"I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain." - John Adams
and
"Give people plenty and security, and they will fall into spiritual torpor," wrote Charles Murray in In Our Hands.
How many generations can study tapestry and porcelain before freedoms erode? Of course Adams wasn't naive: "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide."

On a brighter note, what a World Series this could potentially be. I think the two best teams in baseball are clearly meeting; it's no fluke that the Yanks and Phillies are in it.

October 27, 2009

All My Rowdy Bloggers

I've been meaning to re-write the Hank Williams' tune All My Rowdy Friends to All my Reading Friends:
I got ink smudge on my blue jeans, dropped a Bible on my hand
Lord, it's hard to be a reading man.
I got readers who can write, I got readers who can rhyme
I got readers who can do anything in between,
I got to get ready, make everything just right
'cuz all my bloggin' friends are coming over tonight...

REF:
Do you want a book?
Do you wanna read?
Hey honey this is ole TSO,
Ready to get the thing started.
Got BookTV on the set,
Got some tea on ice
And all my readin' friends are coming over tonight....

Now my readin' pad is in the suburb 'hood,
It's long, long way from here to Hollywood,
But I got some natural booksmells out on the floor
And ole Walker Percy's grandson just walked through the door.
Got a little bookroom here just made for ten,
And you can jump out and you can jump in.
You can do anything that you want to do,
But uh uhh, don't you step on my bifocals...

Do you want a book?
Do you wanna read?
Hey this is ole TSO,
ready to get your winter started.
We got C-Span on the tube and some tea on ice
And all my bloggin' friends are coming over tonight...
Do you want to read, hey do you wanna book?
Hey hey this is rockin' Randall T
Ready to get the wintertime started.
Got Brian Lamb on tap and some tea on ice,
And all my rowdy blogger's coming over tonight.
Dat's right. Come on in!

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Every day I wake up and ask the Lord that I be contributory, not comparative. - Robert Spitzer S.J. paraphrase

This trembling mystery: love cannot exist without pain. Love brings the pain; it lets pain in. The key to all that makes us vulnerable. And alive. And hurt. And alive. Pain can exist without love, but not the reverse. All creation is loved into being. Did that make the Creator vulnerable, too?... Once the great pope, John Paul II was found, embracing the Tabernacle in his arms, and crooning a Polish song as a parent would use to comfort a child. When asked about it, he replied, “I don’t know how else to comfort Him…” - The Anchoress

Liberals are critical of [authority], although they’ll use it when they’re in power. Conservatives would tend to be less critical, but equally dependent upon it. Consequently, when you get into the church, you get the conservatives unhappy because bishops aren’t using power the way they’re supposed to, the way they want them to. You get liberals who are unhappy because [the bishops] have any power at all. Both of them are defining themselves vis-à-vis the bishops rather than vis-à-vis Christ, who uses the bishops to govern the church. It’s not a Christ-centered church, as it’s supposed to be, it’s a bishop-centered church. - Francis Cardinal George via Roz of Exultet

Listless Mass responses can be funny, tired people mumbling "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad" (like Ben Stein's Clear Eyes commercial, wow). - Dylan of "dark speech upon the harp"

We have now hit 3 deers with 3 different cars in less than 5 years. I should call our fleet of cars deer magnets. - Jim of Bethune Catholic

I have a mustard seed, and I'm not afraid to use it. - Roz of Exultet, paraphrasing Pope Benedict

I believe that spouses can be faithful to one another for a lifetime, but it takes work, and vigilance, and it’s scary how thin the line can be between a seemingly innocuous interaction and an outward turning change of heart. And even so-called minor breaches of trust are contagious. For every husband who looks at pornography, there is a wife googling her ex-boyfriend. - Betty Duffy

How does one read a novel: skipping ahead to the resolution? No, but by savoring the words and the discoveries as they unfold. By risking one's own humanity in the narrative and identifying with the human problems of the protagonists...This is not a book of analytical theology or a classic of Western spirituality like The Cloud of Unknowing. It is not a book that lays out a AAA TripTik for the perfect life. It presents no schema of rungs on Jacob's ladder or rooms in a castle or petals on the Mystical Rose. Instead, it's like a mystery novel that begins with a certain corpus delecti. - excerpt of "Is It Possible to Live Like This: An Unusual Approach to Christian Experience" by L. Giussani via Fred of "Deep Furrows"

"Everything happens for a reason." Well, no, says one of my students. She wrote a story about losing her father last year...there was no good reason why her father should have died. Death separated him from those who loved him and depended upon him. Plus, he was a nice guy...Which led me to wonder: if he died for no reason, was he also born for no reason? Or are those different questions? - Bill of Apologia

Iditarod Dog

...i.e. my dog pulling my bike:
...where I learn it's surprisingly difficult to take a picture with your cellphone while riding with a dog pulling you. He's connected to the bike by a ten-inch leash though you can't see that.

October 26, 2009

72 Hours at Salt Lake City

Thursday

The mountains drew me first, like in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Devil's Tower; I was only forty minutes in Salt Lake City when I began walking towards them, up and up and up the San Francisco-like hills. My legs must be Protestants for all they did was protest. I didn't listen because I was on a mission.

Closer and closer I wound, taking pictures with the cell phone to document the progress, (including taking a photo of Darwin Street for Darwin Catholic) until at last up near the top and I could see the swatch of grass that was set over the hills. I could see the red brush and the daisies and I looked down over the whole of Salt Lake City and was filled with wonder and I felt like Jesus overlooking Jerusalem when he said, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem...how long I've longed to take you under my wing!.." and then it occurred to me in a flash - that here was my answer to the problematical nature of freedom. Jesus, in the flesh, sometimes rue'd our freedom too! He lamented what we do with our freedom, longing for us with his thirst so long unrequited, as if he was tempted to gather us in without our free will. And so if God was pained by it, how can it be a problem for me?

I'd asked a Christian I respect some questions about boundaries and about God and about freedom and she said to always start from the premise that God is all powerful and all good. Where she had me tongue-tied is this in response to my dislike of freedom: "but how could you ever love? How can there be love?" and indeed the cliche about love making the world go 'round is literally true. My dislike of freedom ultimately stems from my dislike of the idea of Hell but it's hard to argue with love, it's sort of the reverse of the Hitler analogy. Hitler, being evil personified, is a conversation-stopper because everyone agrees Hitler was evil. Similarly with love, it's a conversation-stopper because everyone agrees, or should, that that's the only reason to live. My take against free will is that it can cause Hell (much like St. Paul wrote that the law causes transgression) but on the flip side, it's the only way to show love.

* * *

The plane ride left a bit to be desired, as we sat on the runway in Chicago for an hour and had to go through one of those x-ray scanners that makes you look nude, which I really don't appreciate. I had to bite my tongue to avoid saying "this is proof that the terrorists have already won."

Behind me a woman mentioned "Utah" a lot, as well she might given that that's where we were headed, but funny that every time I heard it I'd remember my dad's old colleague, whose name was the same as the state's. It seemed to get mentioned with great frequency in our household back in the day, he evoking much emotion in my mom and dad, whether good or ill I can't tell now. (It was boring adult talk, of no interest to a child. What did jobs and work have to do with me?)

I start my rosary, closing my eyes and silently saying the prayers, when after the first decade I suddenly have a picture of my compatriots back at St. Pat's, probably saying the rosary around this time too, and lo and behold I look at my watch and it's 12:16pm - the bells at St. Pat's ring at quarter after and then the rosary prayers begin their prayers to Mary and I was joining in happily at the same time.
* * *

So it was love at first sight when I saw Salt Lake City from the air such that after checking in my room I tried to change my Saturday flight to Sunday, to stay an extra day. But it was too expensive, alack and alas.

"Majestic as hell," I thought as I went towards that mountains but then I remembered hell isn't very majestic. "Majestic," I offered instead, and I wondered why the appeal of these mountains, why did the Westerns so captivate me so lately, only in my modern incarnation (i.e. post-30?). "It's so western here," I thought, sillily. Of course it is, I'm out west.

An email correspondent mentioned it was "God's country" and I knew what she meant now. It really is. Flying over the dry desert land reminded me of the Middle East, and the big mountain just south of the hotel (the Plaza) seemed to me like Mt. Arafat. No wonder I felt like I was overlooking Jerusalem when I was atop that hill. Vacations awaken the kid in me like almost nothing else.

I walked for hours, feeling properly "Droodish", which is the novel in which Dan Simmons mentions Charles Dickens' penchant for twenty mile hikes. The mountains seemed close but are actually farther away than they appear, at least on foot. They are the opposite of God, who seems far away but is actually quite near.

I happen upon a laconic old mountain man, wrinkle-skin'd and bearded, bedecked with an orange vest and white safety helmet, appraising me through squinty eyes. "Yore not from 'round here." he says, in my imagination.

* * *

I found a home-cooking place with what appeared to be an appetizing menu. It was called The Pantry at Lion's House and was also a historic home - this was where most of Brigham Young's twenty+ wives and children lived. I ladled on the stuffed pork chops and roast beef and salad and "Brigham's Favorite" a sarsaparilla drink with a picture of Brigham Young looking like Thoreau. (All those 19th century dead white males look the same.) There was rice and salad and chocolate milk too. Yum.

Then it was on to see the Mormon Tabernacle, where I walked around the beautiful edifice while congratulating myself that I was open-minded enough to appreciate their temple despite their doctrine.

Next went on a beer run, literally. Found a corner market that didn't have beer. Yes, DIDN'T HAVE BEER. I could literally not believe it. Having no car meant I had to leg it to wherever, if ever, they sold beer in this town. In Ohio, it's against the law for a corner market not to sell beer or at least that's my impression.

I wandered here and far, asking strangers if they could spare a beer, and after a bum steer I eventually came across a Catholic cathedral and lo and behold Mass was just starting. I went in and it was shocking to hear a beautiful choir, dressed up in their choir black and whites. I can't tell you how odd it was to walk into a weekday mass and hear such beautiful sounds coming during the opening hymn. Our Sunday mass isn't as beautiful sounding as their weekday mass. Then homilist gave a short but potent homily. He said:
"Did Christ come to bring peace or war? Both. Do stairs lead up or down? If you are seeking truth, then you will find peace and joy. If you are not then you will find division. May He always purify us and not destroy us."

Friday

Friday morning after doing a bit of fruitless genealogy research headed off in search of public transportation. The Salt Lake City library was said to be on the Trax (local light rail) tour, so I hopped on and waited patiently. But such is travel that the unexpected happens as when we'd come to the end of the line. Waited to get another train going back to the hotel.

The tour guide, an electronic voice, left a bit to be desired.

"Arena 300 West South," she or it said, failing to mention anything about the sites we were passing, many of which were probably of undying importance. But you get what you pay for. The old saw "a failure to plan is to plan for failure" but with vacations it helps to "plan" a bit of serendipity.

And serendipity happened in the form of going by a bohemish bookshop in an elegantly distressed old neighborhood. I disembarked and made a bee-line towards it, immediately wishing I'd had my netbook with me so as to have coffee and join the club of bookish surfers.

After looking around at the rare books ("Priests and People of Pre-Famine Ireland" looked interesting), picked up a slim biography of Herman Melville.

Then got back on the Trax, the traveler's best friend, and headed towards the university district where there was said to be the Red Butte Gardens and Arboretum. The first stop was, indeed, the Salt Lake City library, where I took a brief look around before re-boarding Trax.

The Red Butte promised to be a tough find seeing how it wasn't on my detailed map, nor could I find even the street it was on. This wild goose chase turned out to be an unfortunate time hog so eventually I cut my losses and headed back to area of the hotel.

Walked around and found a Deseret book store and I wondered idly if the last syllable rhymed with "bay". (This last is truly what is meant by recording every stray thought in a travelogue.) Went inside and found it to be heavily, exclusively Mormon, so looked around for the Pratt biography but the only one there was far too expensive.

* * *

Made my way to another spot I'd saw while on the Trax "tour" - the handsome Beerhive Pub - to mull over whether I should get a taxi out to the Great Salt Lake. It was called "Beerhive" as a tweak on "beehive" which was what Brigham Young thought was a symbol of industry.

The Great Salt Lake has water six times saltier than the ocean and it's second only to the Dead Sea in that category. Wanted to see just how floatable water like that was even though I could perhaps easily duplicate this effect by simply putting on a floatation device in a swimming pool. I always tend to sink in water even though I was an ectomorph before I was a mesomorph before I became an endomorph. It seemed a bit pricey an endeavour and time was short since I still had to eat before the 7:30 Tabernacle concert.

But the Great Salt Lake could wait - instead I had a stout and I thought about how our Mormon brothers and sisters can sure brew a stout. Wow! Now that's what I'm talking about. Stunned by the plentiful diversity of beers on the menu - a beer lover could order something different every day for months, I went with the barkeep's recommendation, a long named beer that started with Deseret and ended with stout but was popularly known as the "nitro stout".
Update: "Deseret Edge Latter Day Stout (Nitro)" to be exact.

It was delicious as the day is long - full of flavor and neither too heavy nor too light. I can't believe I only had one but I was on a tight unplanned schedule.

Whilst sipping I called my wife and then read the enviable Sam Weller bookseller newsletter. It included nuggets like: "Also laid in [the book] is an embroidered Brigham Young bookmark on a postcard of Young with 21 wives." Rimshot! I also liked the deadpan oxymoron of "inexpensive at $4,000" concerning a first edition of The Lord of the Rings.

I perused a local publication on the beer scene:
"Never has a place benefited so much by a product that the majority of the populous doesn't consume, as Utah does with beer...There are 1500 breweries/brew pubs in the U.S. and Utah is home to arguably five of the top 100."
Indeed, I'd have liked to have had more time to explore that particular claim.

* * *

To the Great Salt Lake! I pulled the trigger and cabbed out to the sublime wonder. Silver waves came in slow and regular as the ticking of a grandfather clock, with the constancy and gentleness of God. I look out at Antelope Island in the distance, so named for some of its denizens.

I had decided to swim but very cold water has a way of changing one’s mind. Instead I hiked and jogged and enjoyed the natural wonder.

Back to the hotel again and then to a quick bite at the Pantry before on to “the Tab”, the Tabernacle, where I heard a wonderfully engaging and instructive maestro (why do all these old guys in music seem so young of heart and body? Is it the music or the exercise of conducting?) I heard some of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, as well as a Beethoven concerto and Mendelssohn. (The maestro called the latter 'the music of hope'.) A huge tactical error, really the only one on this trip, was to miss seeing the famous organ and choir in performance. I should've done that Thursday eve instead of doing genealogy research.

Saturday

Woke Saturday determined to do more before noon than most people do before 11:30am. Got up, hit the buffet, went to mass. Crashed back the room for awhile, checking out the mountain view from the comfy chair.

Careful planning (I'd checked the store hours on the 'net that morning) revealed that the Weller's Books didn't open till 10, so I waited around till 9:50 and hit the Trax and, amazingly, was there by 9:53. Got to love free public transit. My exorbitant hotel tax dollars at work.

Thought I'd have to wait outside till they opened but lo & behold they already were and the coveted window seats were taken. Still I opted for a fine little table, perfectly sized for a laptop and coffee. I played writer, feeling all Amy Welbornish, and wrote like the wind.

I had checked out a book from the hotel library, where "checked out" means borrowed sans paperwork. (I returned it later.) It was The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, the unusual name attracting me. His middle name was "Parker" probably proving that his parents had a propensity for alliteration. (Rejected names include "Parsley" and "Parlous".)

It's an very engaging read and interesting for its historical look at the early Mormon settlement here. Pratt writes of his conversion experience and it's compelling.

He writes:
This thought occurred to me as soon as I heard Mr. Rigdon make proclamation of the gospel. Peter proclaimed this gospel, and baptized for remission of sins, and promised the gift of the Holy Ghost, because he was commissioned so to do by a crucified and risen Saviour. But who is Mr. Rigdon? Who is Mr. Campbell? Who commissioned them? Who baptized them for remission of sins? Who ordained them to stand up as Peter?...it was plain that the Baptists could not claim the apostolic office by succession, in a regular, unbroken chain from the Apostles...
It helps explains some of the appeal of Mormonism: a tinge of gnosticism (secret knowledge of long hidden golden plates...) and a slaking of the thirst for "valid" sacraments (maybe he never examined the claims of Catholicism or was simply scandalized by the behavior of gambling and drinking Catholics).

Mormonism combines the hunger for sacraments while at the same time "explaining" why Christianity was so broken for so many years via this new revelation. The "new" always sells well (see our president) and so they've combined the "new" revelation with the "old" of the sacraments, and say they have an apostolic succession via this lost tribe visiting the Indians way back when. I would think a major problem surfaces in that the DNA of American Indians is not Semitic.

The Catholic cathedral of the Madeleine not only had remarkably beautiful and affecting paintings of Christ and Mary Magdalene but was partially a scriptorium of apologetic verses, what with at least five prominent biblical quotes engraved in the sanctuary and along the back. John 6, Matthew 16:18 and a verse from Paul particularly targeted, it would seem, at Mormons: "Even if an angel should come and proclaim a different gospel...let him be anathema." The church was built around 1900, in a quite a different age but this seems a healthy and necessary response to heresy, and in protecting her own members from the LDS attractions of a culture heavily Mormon.

* * *

Drank jet black coffee at Sam Weller's bookshop in downtown Salt Lake. Dog tired from burning the candle in the middle as well as both ends. But the coffee promises to invig, to prompt vig in me. Tis a wonderful atmosphere filled with olde world smells - books and coffee beans, coffee beans and books - and I looked for the poetry of Dylan Thomas or e.e. cummings but find none. My repertoire of poets is small.

My desire for another nitro stout was strong enough to check what time the Beerhive opens but alack and alas it's a nooner, meaning that I'd only have 15 minutes there.

The Internet said Weller's opened at 10, but when I arrived at 9:55am there was only a couple tables left and no window tables, much to my dismay. The great planning that went into this has semi-failed me, though there's always the chance of a window opening up. Location, location, location. I could write in my hotel room or I can jump on the free Trax service and in 3 minutes be at Bohemian Heaven, where jeans and pony tails are the rule rather than the exception.

But later there is joy unconstrained as I write Dylan "I'm in the window! I have reached the apex of civilization! Sitting at a bar stool actin' like a durned fool, watching the people go by..."

* * *

I peruse again the well-produced newsletter of this shop with it's interesting lines from the proprietor:
"As early as the 1980s, I began theorizing about the future of books in society. I arrived at ideas derived largely from the precedent of the effect the camera had on painting in the 19th century. Over the years, I have refined and tracked my predictions and now feel kind-of smart for arriving at concepts that have been strengthened by events over the intervening years....computers have now forced books to a higher cultural plane. The body of the book was largely neglected between the 1940s and the 1990s. Look at books from that period: nearly all were made to the same design standards...all aspects of the book are being reconceived as the computer permits books to transcend the mundane packages to achieve creative and beautiful marriages between text and object, in a sense, connecting the soul and body of the book...the market has shifted from content towards object."

* * *

Went to Mass earlier today and even on vacations I have to do battle in prayer, for prayer is a battle, a battle for my attention and sincerity. Sometimes I win, sometimes not, but it helps to persevere. After mass said the rosary and felt the mercy in the beads. It leaked out into my hands and I used it to cross myself in lieu of holy water.

It seems important to reinforce those moments of light that occur such that I typed them out on my cellphone's notepad, cryptic notes to suggest truths that, unless I 'scribe it in print, will fly away. "lead us no test    forg killr    2days pslm mary". Of which I'll now pen:

On the walk back to the hotel after Mass, I considered how wholeheartedly I could get behind Christ's teaching us to pray that we not be led to the test. The proximate cause was seeing a person on the street, a stranger who looked different from me, and reminding self that "all His works are wonderful" including this and every person. But then I considered: "easy to say about that man. What about if someone murdered Steph? Would you forgive him?" This temptation to discouragement is from the devil I decided. I prayed with new alacrity not to be led into temptation.

One of the things that's unnerving about this Church of the Madeleine is how no one says any of the responses. At least not audibly. So the priest says them. So I had to laugh when the Psalm went "this is the people that longs to see your face". A motley crew we were, and no one more than me! God was probably thinking (say with Yiddish accent): "This? This is the people that long to see my face? Oy vey!")

But that's not quite fair because one elderly gentlemen had the look of Christ about him. At the sign of peace we waved to our neighbors; he was 4 or 5 rows ahead of me and by the time I turned back towards the front after quickly blessing my neighbors behind me, he gave me a lingering glance and mouthed the words "peace be with you". I saw him leaving after Mass and he radiated a warmth and holiness with his very body movements that I couldn't help but think that this is what St. Paul meant by "present(ing) your bodies to righteousness for sanctification". To use our lips to smile or our eyes to look kindly is presenting our bodies to give glory to God.

The spectacularly beautiful and consoling painting over the altar depicted the Crucifixion with angels holding cups to catch his blood for us, and with the words "Christ Died for All" in gothic script. I thought how that was possible in part because of Mary's fiat. As the corny song goes, "great things happen when God mixes with man". I sang it all the way "home".

* * *

So it was a little after 11am and it was back on the Trax to the hotel where I hit the hottub and soaked my aching legs while downing the traditional last-day-on-vacation consolatory beer. To make sure the first one took I had a second. For medicinal purposes only of course. The Coronas weren't nearly as good as the Nitro Stout but then the Beerhive wasn't open till noon...

Epilogue

I remember it like it was yesterday - probably because it was yesterday - when I held court in the Algonquin there at the roundish table at Weller's Zion Bookstore, there where my quiet compatriots studiously read emails or watched movies on the smallest screen - yes, I remember it like it was yesterday and yet now it seems so far away. "Can it be that it was all so simple then / or has time rewritten every life?"

Indeed it was all so simple then. Coffee. Books. Writing. Window seat. Ah yes, those were the days my friend, I thought they'd never end!

But they could and they did. Yesterday when I was young I took the Trax to the densely-housed House of Books whereupon the minutes seem like seconds and the hours like minutes. I recall with great fondity the hottub whereupon I spent my lingering last half-hour, and then to the spacious leather cushions of the hotel library couch, where I awaited my chariotman, who took me to the aero port.

"Boss, boss, de Trax, de Trax!" Rode I around the campus of the university where kids boarded along with their familiar camarderie and charisma, living large behind big sunglasses.

Into the Salt Lake City library I penetrated, a modern architectural marvel but since I'm stuck in the 19th century was under-awed.

Oh, and the hotel elevators, with their annoying lilt'd electronic voice that announced, as if with an exclamation point, "9th floor!", but which, as the days wore on, became remembered fondly and I began smiling at the voice as well as the children on the plane trip home for the Kingdom is awash with them.

I recall the first brush of the moutains from my hotel window, my gratitude for their closeness in view.

I recall the opening moments in the genealogy library when long corridors of files held potential answers and reminded me, if in an opposite sense, of scenes from the film Lives of Enemies where the East German secret police files were similarly endless.

The long walk that first day with the comedic element of plastic bags beginning to develop holes due to the weight of pop and other food accoutrements. By the end my muscles ached but my refrigerator full. Thanks be to God.

Cellphone Pics Gallery


Sam Weller's Zion Bookstore


Weller's Bookstore


I could think of worse occupations than bookshop owner


Ad from SLC newspaper


The Lake So Big and Salty They Named it Great


Antelope Island on the right


From the hotel window...


Cathedral of the Madeleine

October 25, 2009

America the Beautiful

I'm always semi-amused by the hypocrisy of the anti-hypocrisy crowd.

For years when Bush was president, he wore a target and the elite media shrugged.

But with Obama's ascension there are editorials denouncing the haters or preaching peace, understanding and love, i.e. can't we all get along?

The latest example comes to us via Ellen Creager of the Detroit Free Press who, in fairness, I cannot say if she asked us to count our blessings during the Bush administration. I sense not, based on the unintentionally hilarious adjective "lately":
"Lately, it seems like TV talking heads who seethe with hate and sarcasm have boiled our nation to whatever petty dispute is brewing in Washington. How dare they? Washington is not the soul of the United States. Not even close."
Lately? Did she know of the existence of MSNBC during the Bush years? The Left can tolerate any sin but hypocrisy, except their own hypocrisy. They hold the family values crowd to family values - should we hold the anti-hypocrisy crowd to anti-hypocrisy? Should Michael Moore walk the walk? Or am I hypocrite for suggesting the the hypocrites hie to values that they ascribe to when I don't always measure up to my values? It maketh the head hurt.

But her last two sentences are right on and what I liked most about her column was these lines from the writer Paul Theroux who, as Creager accurately points out, is not known for sentiment:
"In the 3,380 miles I'd driven [across America], in all that wonder, there wasn't a moment when I felt I didn't belong, not a day when I didn't rejoice in the knowledge that I was part of this beauty, not a moment of alienation or danger...in the most beautiful country I'd ever seen."
Indeed, and as I recently pondered the beauty of a few square miles in Utah, I too saw a reflection of the great beauty of America, as well as her Creator's.

October 21, 2009

The "P" Word

Power. David Brooks claims in a recent column that Glen Beck & Rush Limbaugh are powerless. But it's interesting to see that Barack Obama, who was politically astute enough to beat Hilary Clinton and John McCain, has taken on FOX News. There seems something of a disconnect?

On Morning Joe, an NBC correspondent was asked about why the White House is dissing FOX News and the answer was that Axelrod and the others see FOX as not a news network but a "point of view" network. Joe Scarborough immediately asked the obvious - "are there other 'point of view' networks around?". And then the correspondent eventually got around to the real point, that the White House was hurt and upset by the Van Jones and Acorn stories. It's personal. But as Scarborough asks: "are they not real stories?"

How Morning Joe Lost It's MoJo

It's a sad if frequent tale: show does well, audience swells, show sells out.

Morning Joe, the political talk show hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski made it's reputation on the backs (mouths?) of Pat Buchanan and Peggy Noonan. The energy and smart banter between the hosts and Buchanan and Noonan made it a must-watch for the Washington denizens.

But success corrupts and absolute success within Washington corrupts absolutely. Brzezinski already has a book coming out, a sure sign of shark jumpage. (I can imagine her advisers saying, "With your big audience you could write about squirrel hunting and it'd sell!").

Their success was the beginning of the end because suddenly all the hacks in D.C. began coming out of the woodwork asking for airtime, pushing Buchanan and Noonan off stage. It's become a cavalcade of used-up has-beens, never-weres and book shills. Barney Frank was on recently and was tossed softballs, but when Helen Thomas came on to plug a book I knew we'd seen the shark a jumpin' and we were heading towards infomercial territory. That's when I knew Morning Joe, that rare bright spot in political talk, had lost it's mojo.

October 20, 2009

Infant Sanctifier

Beautiful prayer from the Devotion to the Divine Infant of Prague, found at the National Shrine in D.C.:
"Jesus, I believe that all graces have their source in you, the Head of the Mystical Body, the Church. I also believe that these graces reach us, the members of the Church, through Mary. Mary brought you to Elizabeth and the unborn John, and with You she brought grace and blessing. Your mother is the instrument and means by which you impart to us your graces. Within herself she bore You, the Source of all grace; it is Your will that she impart this grace to others. I thank you for making your mother the Mediatrix of all graces.

How beautiful is the praise your mother gives God at her visit to Elizabeth! It is a glorious hymn of thanksgiving for God's mercy toward her and all mankind in sending a Savior. How pleasing to You is this praise that comes forth from a heart that loves You so much and is so humble! I joine your mother in thanking You for all the great things You have done for her, and, through her, for all mankind.

Jesus, Infant Sanctifier, from Mary, the most pure Virgin, You assumed flesh and blood so that You might redeem me and become the food of my soul in Holy Communion..."

Oh the Tragedy!

Dylan has never heard of cornhole!
Invented in Cincinnati at some point in the past, it has now spread to Columbus and surely to points far beyond, perhaps as far north as Powell, Ohio and as far west as Shelbyville, In.. Cornhole is to family gatherings what Jon and Kate are to bored teens.

(Disclaimer: picture above was found on web and is not of me.)

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I taught the class about lectio divina and then had each student choose a passage to pray. Afterwards we had a discussion about any insights. One guy chooses the agony in the garden and he pointed out how many of the elements of the "Our Father" can be seen in the garden. 1) "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name" = Jesus prays, "Thy will be done." 2) "Give us this day our daily bread" = Jesus = Jesus sweats blood and is about to offer his body 3) "and forgive us our tresspasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us" = Jesus heals the ear of the soldier 4) "and lead us not into temptation" = Jesus says "pray that you will not fall into temptation." 5) deliver us from evil = I don't know :) Pretty cool, I thought. - Paul Herboth on Facebook

In summer, too, Canute-like; sitting here, one is often reminded of the sea. For not only do long groundswells roll the slanting grain and little wavelets of the grass rippple over upon the low piazza, as their beach, and the blown down of dandelions is wafted like the spray, and the purple of the mountains is just the purple of billows, and a still August noon broods upon the deep meadows, as a calm upon the Line; but the vastness and lonesomeness are so oceanic, and the silence and the sameness, too, that the first peep of a strange house, rising beyond the trees, is for all the world like spying, on the Barbary Coast, an unknown sail. - From "The Piazza" by Melville via Steven Riddle's "A Momentary Taste of Being" blog

My favourite was: "Don't give anyone unsolicited advice, because it's never listened to, anyway." The irony, of course, is that the above comment was some unsolicited advice, which was also not listened to. EP countered immediately: "Let's thank God for real friends, who give unsolicited advice to us because they care that we're ruining ourselves!" - Sancta Sanctis

The original sin of health care coverage was making health insurance you get through your job excludable from taxation...it means that none of us are concerned by expenses...or are only by (1 - the tax rate). - Commentator on "Uncommon Knowledge"

Get your laws off our sacraments - Title of Bill White post concerning governmental claim of authority over marriage

I think that seeing people in modest period dress in Church, while vaguely edifying maybe, makes it seem as if Catholicism is a throwback that has no application in the modern world. As if there's just no way to be holy in modern clothes, which I know is not true. Didn't St. Francis de Sales say that he would have Christians the best-dressed people in a room? Anyway, people who wear prairie dresses for modesty's sake tend to forget how tightly fitted the actually dresses from the 1880's were. Remember how tightly Mary has to lace her corset to get her dress to fit properly? People didn't start wearing this baggy shapeless stuff until the flapper era, and then it was short….I think we can safely say that it's an offense against God to wear something that's an offense against both beauty and truth. - - Mr. Darwin on Betty Duffy's blog

It's hard to imagine Mel Gibson saying that sober. - Terrence Berres, on a Vox Nova anti-Israel blog post

Cold beer is bottled God...My tongue, for all the ice-cold God I drink, is hot as a camel-saddle sandily mounted by baked Bedouins. - Dylan Thomas, The Collected Letters, via Dylan of "dark speech"

Have children. Because as you get older you’ll see, in abashed humility (because of all the things you did wrong in their raising) that the most important, coolest thing you have ever done in your life is play whatever part God has graced you to play in setting interesting new people loose in God’s world. Everything else pales. And this reason has nothing to do with your legacy or your name or your physical desires to be a mommy or daddy or your unfulfilled dreams or wishes. These children will someday leave you in the dust. Literally. It’s about the gift of them – not to you, even, but to God and God’s world - Amy Welborn

Walking in the woods..the kids point the [remarkable fungi] out: “There’s a red one! That one’s yellow! This one is pure white. I think I’ll name it the Baptism mushroom.” Yes, my good, pious children name mushrooms after Sacraments. - Betty Duffy

There was that feeling - at least there was when all of this was new to us - of opening our eyes and then realizing 'I get to go down to the paper again today.' Like when you fall in love for the first time, and you blink to wakefulness in the throes of that new love and, even in your grogginess, you know without knowing why that this is going to be another good day. 'I get to go down to the paper again today.' - Bob Greene in "Late Edition" on his early newspaper career

October 19, 2009

Martyrs & Object Constancy

Today we ponder the amazing stories of the North American martyrs, or our Canadian martyrs (as our Canadian brothers and sisters call them).

Reading the stories you realize how absolutely secure they must've felt in God's love to endure such torture.

In the normal course of human development, that sort of security takes time. In the book Boundaries, the authors explore the principle:
The ultimate goal of mother's 'being there' [for her child] is a state called emotional object constancy. Object constancy refers to the child's having an internal sense of belonging and safety, even away from the presence of the mother. All those experiences of constant loving pay off in a child's inner sense of security. It's been built in. Object constancy is referred to in the Bible as 'being rooted and established in love' (Eph. 3:17) and as having been 'rooted and built up in [Christ]' (Col. 2:7). It illustrates the principle that God's plan for us is to be loved enough by him and others, to not feel isolated - even when we're alone.
An aside: the authors Cloud & Townsend see the boyhood incident of Christ leaving Mary & Joseph for the Temple as a part of the natural separation-individuation process: "'I have values, thoughts, and opinions that are different from yours, Mother.' Jesus knew who he was not, as well as who he was."

Put Not Your Trust in Princes or Sports Teams

Loss by the OSU Buckeyes to unranked Purdue drew this sad face from a fellow fan:
Reminds me of that American Indian with a tear in the old '70s-era commercial.

Nakedness

Read a bit of Mother Angelica's book on Scripture and got to thinking: Adam hid himself, hid his nakedness, but the nakedness wasn't about sex as it was about vulnerability. If one substitutes that word we have God saying, when Adam covered his privates, "Who told you that you were vulnerable?". In other words, when we are in deep relationship with God we feel invulnerable. When we sin, we see how vulnerable we are to God's judgment. "The first sign of disobedience to God's will is fear," says Mother Angelica. I thought of how Jesus was naked on the cross, how he was made vulnerable because he'd taken on our sin. The bad fruit that we'd ingested he ingested too, like second-hand smoke.

Weekend Musings

Hiked along a stone wall with green moss covering the top and a few sharp stones jutting up like Irish ruins. The scene reminded me of those stone fences in Ireland, and the dark green ivy nearby recalled a friend's grandmother's house on "ancient" Beninghoffen drive, at least it seemed ancient to me back when I was there.
The homes near the hiking path reminded me of the quaint old house of a family friend of long ago. In my mind's eye I see their dwelling as small even by 1975 standards and I see, accurately or not, it made of stone with an arched door, like something out of Frodo's village in Lord of the Rings.

Hamilton may have been right next door to Fairfield but in many ways it seemed quite foreign. Older, more urban, much different architecture, with a large river running through it. For me, Hamilton was olde Europe and Fairfield was young America. The Miami river even looked like the Rhine or Danube in my mind's eye. There were monuments, like the power house, which was Hamilton's version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. There was the old Lane library, looking like a library should - full of history and quiet. The Billy Yank statue was Hamilton's Eiffel Tower.


_____

Somewhat sheepishly, returned E.E. Cummings book to Aeropagitica bookshop. I like the bookstore in part because of the name, it's Greek and nearly unpronounceable - how's that for counter-cultural anti-branding? I made sure to tell the owner I was keeping the other two books, since otherwise I'd feel ridiculous in not supporting a local bookshop. I made it worse by asking how much the slim volume of poetry by M.C. Escher was; she said that because they were trying to support a local poetry publishing house it was full price, $14.95. I balked; it's hard to support an unknown publishing house when I wasn't even supporting too well this semi-local bookshop with the odd name.

If the incense at church spurs a desire to pray, by the power of association, the smell of old books prompts the desire to read. This shop had a wonderful old German book called something like Deutscher Jugendfreund, German Young Friend I think, and I took a picture of the cover with my cellphone:



I page through a book of the best of May Sarton and come to a passage criticizing T.S. Eliot. She thought him too stern, lacking the sensibility of the gospel as "good news", and she blamed it on the fact during the '20s no one wanted to hear any good news, the decade being especially grim, coming right on the heels of the optimism-crushing Great War.

October 16, 2009

Justice & Mercy

A recent moment of Zen: long I've reflected on the Old Testament line about how "justice and mercy shall kiss" and how that would occur with the Parousia. But then like a bolt I realized it's alread happened in Christ; justice being the necessity that our sins be paid for and mercy being that God Himself, Jesus, pays the price for those sins.

From the Word Among Us:
"The extent that we believe in [the gospel] and lay hold of it is the extent to which its power can work through us. The choice is ours: We can be content that our sins are forgiven, or we can become ambassadors for Christ and begin using our gifts to transform society."

Buddy the Wonder Dog



For Enbrethiliel : God & Dog

Ponderables

Another bleak week weather-wise, full of cold & sturm, wind and drang. Highs in the low 40s, pure November in mid-October. A cold summer followed by a cold autumn...

So it's Friday and I'm lit and writ starved. I'm famished for the ravishment of print, in this case Peter Matthiessen's novel Shadow Country but also for spiritual reading like Mother A's book on Scripture. Instead I write about it. Go figure. The CTS Bible arrived in the mail yesterday and it's goose-bump city even if the print is a bit small for middle-aged eyes. But it's a keeper. Jerusalem version with notes and the Grail Psalms - don't have any Bible like it. (I'm starting to feel like the Steven Riddle of Bible collecting even though I'm still a long way from his total.) The bible I actually use the most seems to be The Catholic Comparative New Testament, which has no less than eight parallel translations. It makes St. Paul's writings clearer when one reads multiple versions of the same verse. (Note to self: tell Mom that.)
_____

Water aerobics has been much more colorful than usual lately. A man in his mid-30s has been wearing a woman's bikini the last four to six weeks. It's caused, as you might imagine, much controversy and talk; suddenly my own presence has become passe. My wife reports that the girls in the lockerroom no longer sigh and say, "if only my husband came with me to water aerobics!", instead they say, "what is with that guy in the bikini?!" as well they might. I think he "loves to shock us" as Letterman said of Madonna. Perhaps the proof is in that he's stepping up his game, no longer satisfied with the mere bikini, he now stuffs the top and wears a wig. Our aerobics instructor cagily think he's angling for a lawsuit against the club, hoping he gets tossed. "Follow the money," they say, but I'd have never thought of that. I thought he was a cross-dresser/exhibitionist, and where else can you wear a bikini if you're a guy in cold Central Ohio? He's hairy, i.e doesn't shave his chest, and appears to be making no moves towards "becoming" a female. Your guess. is as good as mine. He says he'd like to change in the woman's lockerroom given all the hostile stares he gets in the men's, but heck what red-blooded American male wouldn't rather get dressed in the woman's lockerroom? But I digress.
_____

I feel about the Netbook the way I felt about the invention of the fountain pen. Well, okay I wasn't around for that. But I do feel this ability to write anywhere is something very cool. My typing is so much faster than my longhand. Plus I don't have to later transcribe it. The sudden new access to my journal reminds me of the thrill I experienced when I got my first PC in June of '98. Or at least that's when I started my journal.

I'm surrounded by my coterie of books. The floors are full-lit of light, amber wood, reflecting much of the incandescence it took to overcome the effects of "dark October", to coin a phrase. The books all smell like fine Rieslings, an aperitif of print and goo, or glue, and I stack them nearby like a rich man might his money. I count them and catalog them, inhale them, read them, write of them.

It seems unreal that so short a time ago I could read outside in a t-shirt, the sun radiating down as if it were the most brightly lit interior ever seen. I like the occasional gray day, it being restorative and restful, and for the muting effect has on extroverts. 'It's not so bad,' I think, in my warm house, playing netbook and drinking a Spaten Dark.

The thing I have to guard against, the great evil (or boll weevil) is television. That must be put off till 9 or 9:30. Must write, read & pray until that point. That's at least two hours a night, two hours that are easily frittered away. The summer discipline was to read out on the back patio - the non-accessibility of the television seemed to help.

I remind myself that Kindle, Netbook, sat radio - it's all extraneous and possibly distracting from the true goal in life: holiness, not momentary happiness. Even now there's the temptation to think that there are other things out there that I'm missing out on, like the iPhone, or the Kindle DX (and a Wall Str Journal subscription) or MLB on the 'net, or a new desktop or ...?

One can easily see how easy it is to allow wealth to corrupt - my goal early on was to save like crazy and then let the time value of money occur and relax as I got older. But the problem with "relaxing" is less that the money is being spent - than the effect on us. Not only does it raise our standard of living before going into the leaner retirement years, but more importantly it can take our "eyes off the prize", that is Christ. Because there's nothing we can buy that is as helpful to us as is prayer and almsgiving.
_____

So I was in line for Confession the other day and a pretty young girl with hair so dark as if it were dyed stood in front of me. Given our height differential, I could easily see over her shoulder as she wrote in her diary. I was torn between looking and not; I wasn't entirely sure what the etiquette is. If someone is writing in plain view then do they mind if I read it? Is it like a blog in other words? I saw words here and there "prayer", "soul" and then looked away.
_____

Thinking about the parable of the prodigal son it seems as though both sons, at least until the younger repented, were focused only on the material blessings their father could give them. And they both didn't know what they had in terms of both spiritual and temporal blessings. How like us!?
_____

Steven Riddle has been bloggishly fecund lately; he's a Semiteophile and I think the Jews got it right in starting their year in the early fall. Everything feels so new and perhaps that's part of why Steven is so inspired. I love the way he's enjoying Melville and Joyce and despite my protestations to the contrary, I secretly love the opacities of folks like the ones he mentions. Lord, give me Melville or Joyce over Eudora Welty any day. It reminds me of when I translated some of Hernan Gonzalez's stuff and how more than a few phrases were untranslatable and yet that lent it a more fragrant air. Nostalgically it recalls to me my youth in reading tomes far beyond me. I can have the same feeling reading Joyce or Faulkner today. I really don't even want to understand everything in a novel, much as I really don't want to understand God fully, as laughable as even to suggest that is. A little mystery is good for the soul and keeps one hungry for more. For me, one of the most enticing things about God is how he is infinitely knowledgeable. No matter how long we're in Heaven, if we should be so fortunate as to make it there, we'll always be growing in knowledge.

October 15, 2009

Random Thoughts

Schadenfreude alert: I'm feeling it for all the young people who voted for Obama who are going to have to pony up for health care. Let them make t-shirts: "I voted for Obama and all I got was higher health care premiums and a surge in Afghanistan". A bit wordy, I know. Would only fit on obese youngsters who no doubt will eventually be taxed punitively for their weight. Rue the irony. Sucks to be around when the empire's fallin' 'eh? (On the other hand, it may be better to be young than old when it's falling.)
____

Only in the la-la land of Big Gov't would it be logical to extend a huge government program (Medicare) via cuts in that huge federal program (i.e. the famous 'waste, fraud and abuse').
____

Proof that people my age are coming into media power arrives in dribs and drabs, like the fact that Fox & Friends played Cold as Ice by Foreigner and had the lead singer on the show. Two of the shows hosts are in their mid-40s. Then there's also the fact that there are two new best-selling books about the 1975 baseball season: Game Six, which is about the sixth game of the World Series, and The Machine about the Big Red Machine of that year. I'm figuring the two writers are in their mid-40s.
____

One of the things the Internet gives us is the ability to look at personal phrases and see if anybody else ever thought them. Such as the alliterative phrase if non-standard English "scrimping and scraving". Indeed they have.
____

Amy Welborn tweets/twitters: "Going to B&N for change of scenery." Ahh... I can picture retirement now: a netbook, Bob Evans, free Wi/Fi, and me writing and reading away while eating pumpkin pie*. Or at Barnes & Noble sipping a civilized cup of coffee and drinking in the bookish atmosphere.
____

Michelle Malkin called Ariana Huffington a "provocateur", which seems a bit like Bob Marley calling someone a pothead. Although in fairness to Michelle she's no Ann Coulter. I have to give credit to Ariana and some of the others on the left who are criticizing Obama for staying in Afghanistan. I figured the Left's anti-war talk would dry up like eczematic skin after Obama got elected.
____

I always recall Jeff Culbreath of "Stony Creek" linking to an article about how women wearing pants leads to more lust in men than those wearing skirts. I thought that was crazy talk - it seemed counterintuitive considering that skirts show more skin and the old saying goes "skin to win!". Certainly if the skirt is above the knees then they are more lust-inducing, but personal empirical evidence shows that indeed females wearing form-fitting pants (and what other kind are there?) are 57.2% more likely to induce lust.
____

* which reminds me of the ol' song John Anderson song (speaking of those in their mid-40s) Swingin':
There's a little girl, in our neighborhood.
Her name is Charlotte Johnson, and she's really lookin' good.
I had to go and see her, so I called her on the phone.
I walked over to her house, and this was goin' on.

Her brother was on the sofa, eatin' chocolate pie.
Momma was in the kitchen, cuttin' chicken up to fry.
Daddy was in the backyard, rollin' up a garden hose.
I was on the porch with Charlotte, feelin' love down to my toes.
and we were swingin' (swingin')
yes we were swingin' (swingin')

Little Charlotte she's as pretty as the angels when they sing.
I can't believe I'm out here on her front porch in this swing,
Just a swingin' (swingin')

PSA on Energy

Open letter to Sen. Sherrod Brown from a deacon (and geologist) at our church:

Dear Senator Brown,

I am writing you as a concerned constituent with over 20 years experience as an environmental scientist to express my opposition to H.R. 2454, the Markey-Waxman “cap & trade” climate bill.

In my opinion, H.R. 2454 (if passed) will result in significant damage to the U.S. economy while providing little (if any) reduction in the worldwide generation of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide.

First, H.R. 2454 will place an additional regulatory burden (i.e., the price of carbon permits) on domestic energy producers, which will be passed directly to consumers through higher energy prices. For example, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) estimates that by 2015,this bill would increase the price of gasoline by 6 to 8%, the price of electricity by 2 to 5%, and the price of natural gas by 17 to 26%. By 2030 these increased energy costs rise even higher.

The added burden of such an “energy tax” on top of the local, state and federal taxes (that are virtually guaranteed to increase under the fiscal policies being promoted by the Obama administration) will stifle future economic growth and reduce the average American’s standard of living. Unfortunately, the increased energy costs will adversely impact the poorest Americans the hardest.

Second, the deleterious economic effects of H.R. 2454 will result in significant net job losses throughout the U.S. In Ohio alone, between 79,700 and 108,600 jobs may be lost due to lower industrial output, the costs of complying with required emissions costs, and greater competition from overseas manufacturers (with lower energy costs) associated with this bill (NAM). Further, credible sources indicate that the creation of so-called “green jobs” will not provide an adequate counterbalance to the job losses which will occur under H.R. 2454. Based on Spain’s attempt at creating “green jobs” through government funding (cited by President Obama as a model) an average of nine private-sector jobs will likely be lost for every four government-supported green jobs created in the United States (Study of the effects of employment on public aid to renewable energy sources, March 2009, G.C. Álvarez et al., Universidad Rey Juan Carlos).

Third, other major industrial countries including China, India and Russia appear to have no intention of cooperating with the United States in H.R. 2454’s effort to reduce carbon emissions.

If the United States Senate passes H.R. 2454 and other major industrial countries refuse or fail to reduce their carbon emissions, then as Americans all we will have achieved is placing yet another onerous regulatory burden on ourselves and our children. I agree that the U.S. should put forth an effort to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the environment. However, if any effort is to be successful, it must accommodate economic reality and be based on sound scientific reasoning and be grounded in common sense. There are far better alternatives to H.R. 2454. For example, if we increased our use of natural gas and nuclear power (both domestically available) to generate electricity while reducing our use of coal-generated electricity, we would significantly reduce future carbon dioxide emissions.

In closing, I urge you to vote against H.R. 2454. Thank you for your time and your consideration of my concerns as your constituent.

Sincerely,
Rev. Jeffrey W. Martin
B.S. Geology, M.S. Geology/Geophysics
Licensed Professional Geologist in Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania

UPDATE: Reply to our deacon from Sen. Brown:
Dear Reverend Martin:

Thank you for sharing your views about clean energy legislation.

Effective clean energy legislation will reduce climate pollution and promote the production of renewable energy—but most importantly it will ensure the creation of new clean energy jobs and industries. Clean energy legislation must also ensure the competitiveness of domestic manufacturers and protect consumers by keeping utility rates affordable. We must work to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by making America a global leader in clean energy manufacturing.

For this reason, I recently announced legislation called the Investments for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technology (IMPACT) Act. This legislation, which was included in the House energy bill, would support manufacturers' transition to the clean energy economy and ensure clean energy jobs are created here in the U.S. This legislation would create a revolving loan fund for small and medium size manufacturers to retool and expand facilities to produce clean energy technology and energy efficient products. It is estimated this measure will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

I appreciate hearing your input on this important topic. As clean energy legislation continues to be discussed in Congress, I will work to ensure that an unfair burden is not placed on Ohio families and businesses. I will only support legislation that creates new jobs and economic opportunities across Ohio .

Thank you again for writing.

Sincerely,

Sherrod Brown
United States Senator

List Thursday

From the Ray Bradbury book, his favorite writers:
Dickens, Twain, Wolfe, Peacock, Shaw, Moliere, Jonson, Wycherly, Sam Johnson
Favorite Poets:
Gerard Manley Hopkins, Dylan Thomas, Pope
Favorite Painters:
El Greco, Tintoretto
Favorite Musicians:
Mozart, Hayden, Ravel, Johann Strauss
Pretty decent lists...

October 14, 2009

Obama Prize

Word has it that Obama won the peace prize so that the Committee could preemptively tie his hands with respect to what he might do in Iraq and Afghanistan. But if that strategy worked then infant Baptism would've made a lot more saints.

Henry D. Thoreau's Rep

I read with surprise the charge of 19th century convert/intellectual Fr. Hecker that Thoreau was an egotistical popinjay. (Okay, I added the latter for sound effect; Hecker wrote in a letter to a friend of Thoreau's supreme arrogance and pridefulness.)

But when I read HDT, back some twenty years ago, I noticed no such thing. Of course I was faithfully reading the Sunday New York Times back then, so I was pretty much immune to arrogance and self-absorption, especially given my own similar traits.

I happened across the book Thoreau as Seen by His Contemporaries, opened at random and found these quotes:
"The lecture on Wednesday evening, was by H.D. Thoreau, Esq. of Concord, Mass. The subject announced in the papers as 'Home, or domestic economy,' but the real topic was 'Myself - I.'"
Hilarious.

A few months later another writes of another Thoreau lecture:
"[it] was a mingled web of sage conclusions and puerility - wit and egotistical effusions - bright scintillations and narrow criticisms and low comparisons."
But is this a case where no prophet is honored in his home country? If Thoreau was seen as arrogant then, history seems to have proven Thoreau's self-opinion as true given his place in the canon of American literature. Or perhaps it's merely that we're all self-absorbed and arrogant now, it's in the air we breathe, and so we don't notice it in Thoreau like his contemporaries did. Or perhaps most people in our age do think he's an arrogant eccentric cuss and I just wasn't aware of it.

October 13, 2009

Dumb Person's Guide to the Orchestra

So all these music players are sitting around in a half-oval, as if around an imaginary campfire that gives heat in one direction, and then all of a sudden another player comes out and sits way up in the middle front. And everyone applauds! I'm thinking geesh what a great gig - you show up late and everyone claps!

But he wasn't even the latest. This tall feller all dressed up like a penguin with a long black tail, he comes up and everyone claps even louder. Then he rushes off-stage, as if he forgot to go to the bathroom, and then re-appears quick-like and everyone claps all the more! I think he run off just because he wanted to get more applause so I withhold me own. Funniest thing is he didn't play no instrument! He was up there the whole time taking up space and waving a pretend magic wand.

After half-time, which I might add they had no entertainment whatever, no marching band, no cheerleaders, they rolled out this big piano for what they called a "soloist". And this itsy bitsy girl comes out and man do her fingers fly 'cross that keyboard! She could flat out play! Then she hushes the orchestra and plays a couple of tunes I ain't heard of but I thought it rude to make the orchestra just sit there while she goes on and on. I don't rightly know if she cleared it beforehand. Seemed like she was improvisin'.

She quit and everyone stood up to cheer her quittin', which I thought rude. I got out my lighter and held the flame aloft...

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize... this farce is not worthy of comment so instead I'll concentrate on the beautiful and the true. - Dymphna of "Dymphna's Road"

The Jesus Prayer [is] a tradition that goes back to the earliest days of the Church. This is typically my choice of meditation style... By using the Jesus Prayer, on the inhalation one says silently, "Oh my Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me," and on the long exhalation, "a sinner." Keep this constant rhythm of inhalation and exhalation, connecting word to breath. The mind will still wander, but when it does, return the focus back to the Jesus Prayer. Again, over time, the mind will begin to experience stillness. - Michael at Psalm 46:11

Choice is a tyrannical master, and my habitual choice to remain comfortable usually leaves me paddling my boat in inefficient circles. This is why I have ultimately become a struggling music appreciator rather than a struggling musician... I find recently that my faith in music, my faith in the written word—this idea that it is a matter of life and death for some people, including myself—is at times subject to doubt. I’m glad Fulton Sheen says [that it is a matter of life and death], and that you say so too, so I’m going to rest on the side of faith tonight. - Betty Duffy

Writers and poets are famous for loving to be in motion. If not running, hiking; if not hiking, walking. (Walking, even fast, is a poor second to running, as all runner know, that we'll resort to when our knees go, but at least it's an option.) The great English Romantic poets were clearly inspired by their long walks in all weather: Wordsworth and Coleridge in the idyllic Lake District, for instance; Shelley ("I always go until I am stopped and I never am stopped") in his four intense years in Italy...Both running and writing are highly addictive activities; both are, for me inextricably bound up consciousness. I can't recall a time when I wasn't running, and I can't recall a time when I wasn't writing. - from "The Faith of a Writer" by Joyce Carol Oates via Steven at "A Momentary Taste of Being"

In response to their question, “What is going to happen to my child? The child didn’t get baptized,” St. Bernard said, “Your faith spoke for this child. Baptism for this child was only delayed by time. Your faith suffices. The waters of your womb — were they not the waters of life for this child? Look at your tears. Are they not like the waters of baptism? Do not fear this. God’s ability to love is greater than our fears. Surrender everything to God.” - Darwin Catholic on miscarriage

[Early] Christian sages were fiercely dogmatic by any modern standard. They were not fundamentalists, reading every line of Scripture literally, and they were, as [Karen] Armstrong says, “inventive, fearless and confident in their interpretation of faith.” But their inventiveness was grounded in shared doctrines and constrained by shared assumptions. Their theology was reticent in its claims about the ultimate nature of God but very specific about how God had revealed himself on earth. It’s true that Augustine, for instance, did not interpret the early books of Genesis literally. But he certainly endorsed a literal reading of Jesus’ resurrection — and he wouldn’t have been much of a Christian theologian if he hadn’t. Which is to say that it’s considerably more difficult than Armstrong allows to separate thought from action, teaching from conduct, and dogma from practice in religious history. The dogmas tend to sustain the practices, and vice versa...a spiritually inclined person can no doubt draw nourishment from the Roman Catholic Mass without believing that the Eucharist literally becomes the body and blood of Christ. But without the doctrine of transubstantiation, the Mass would not exist to provide that nourishment. Not every churchgoer will share Flannery O’Connor’s opinion that if the Eucharist is “a symbol, to hell with it.” But the Catholic faith has endured for 2,000 years because of Flannery O’Connors, not Karen Armstrongs. - Ross Douthat in the New York Times on Karen Armstrong's new book "The Case for God"

[Douthat] makes a fine point when he remarks that the early Fathers were dogmatic, but not Fundamentalist. Armstrong's Episcopalianified squishiness attempts to preserve theism from the hostile onslaughts of Dawkins and Co by shrouding the whole thing in a fog of non-committal niceness and PC pieties. Douthat blows the fog away by noting that actual Catholic faith, while lithe and supple and ossified by the stupid categories of ideology, is nonetheless possessed of a definite skeletal structure (which is what allows it to be lithe and supple). The difference between Catholic faith and current ideologies is that ideologues on the Right want only the skeleton (dismissing everything else as touchy feely) and ideologues on the Left tend to want only the breath without having the body attached. - Mark Shea

Our sermon reading this morning was from Ephesians 4. My mind got bogged down on the wording of the first verse of the sermon passage: "Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. (NRSV)"...Say what? Did any stylist or proofreader or English scholar check whether or not “live in the futility of their minds” is English? What possibly could “the futility of their minds” mean?...Are there any versions that make sense in their translation of this verse? Thankfully, yes: "So this I say to you and attest to you in the Lord, do not go on living the empty-headed life that the gentiles live." (NJB)...Isn’t it actually more accurate to convey the meaning of the original Greek text in such a way that the reader can understand precisely what Paul was writing in Eph. 4:17? What do you think can be done to help English Bible translation teams from including odd English word sequences, which are meaningless to many people, from appearing in their published translations? - - Wayne living up to his blog's name, "Better Bibles blog"

I love the feel of books, the look of books, and even the smell of books... I couldn't see myself reading a book in not-a-book form...Then I got sick (reading is the only thing that makes me feel better), too sick to get to the bookstore... And so I bought a Kindle. I read every day, for as many hours as I liked, and without restraint. I couldn't work; I couldn't go out much, and I didn't need to: there was always another book waiting in line (and on line) for my reading pleasure. I read like a madwoman. I would get drowsy, and on those long reading afternoons when the Kindle slipped from my hand, it fell silently on the pillow and I slept. I found myself talking to it, wishing it a good morning, explaining my time away from it. My Kindle was my constant, quiet, light, and refillable companion. Bliss. But.. I was, however, hurting my beloved bookstores. If they don't have people paying full price for books made of paper, they will perish. I could not give up my Kindle, so I made a bargain with myself. For every book I download on Kindle, I now go to my local independent bookseller and buy a book in hardcover. - Jane Isay

Spiritual childhood is the leavening agent in Marian devotion. Any Christian can come to grasp Mary's unique role in Salvation History, emulate her response to God, meditate on her Fiat and Magnificat on a daily basis, and yet not really love her... one would first have to become a child in spirit...The more one becomes like a little child before God, the more one is drawn to His Mother. - Sancta Sanctis

October 12, 2009

Perception

Email received, relating an event which according to Snopes.com is true:



Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

45 minutes:

The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money, but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

Findings:

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world.

He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story.

Joshua Bell playing incognito in the Metro Station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and people's priorities.

The questions raised: "In a common place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

Do we stop to appreciate it?

Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?"

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made.... How many other things are we missing?.......