February 13, 2012

Thoughts Sacred & Profane

Neither Mark Steyn nor George Will are Catholic, nor are particularly close friends to the Catholic Church, so I suppose it isn't surprising that both gave a stinging retort to the Church for more or less going on with Obamacare and now being shocked at the results, i.e. that Obama would send down this sort of ruling.

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For one brief, shining moment Obama managed to unite the liberal and conservative Catholics, from Chris Matthews to John Kerry to George Weigel, all arm-in-arm. Alas the unity couldn't last. I can't recall in my lifetime another instance of such togetherness.

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I'm often intrigued by two exchanges between Jesus and his mother at two junctures: the fifth joyful mystery ("finding in the Temple") and the second luminous mystery ("the wedding at Cana"). These are bookended in my mind, in how Jesus and Mary seem to change roles with respect to his ministry. In the first instance, it's as if Jesus is ready to start his public ministry and thus is found in the Temple preaching, as it were, to the holy men there. But Mary and Joseph find him and bring him home and he obeys. Then the opposite thing occurs at the wedding: Mary is ready for Him to begin his ministry, while He is reluctant. But again Jesus follows her lead and begins it. I think this sheds light on how Mary had pondered the incident at the Temple, all those years before, and had prepared herself for having to eventually let him go (most dramatically and sadly at having to let him go to the Cross). It also gives me a sense of the holiness of Mary that Jesus made himself so subject to her.

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We've always had a lot of squirrels, but now there seems to have been bred a new super squirrel or squirrels, because they've been able to surmount the bird feeder despite the anti-squirrel guard. They've also managed to build a nest in the truck and, not so helpfully, chew the ignition wires. The buggers are becoming quite a trial. I long for the days when squirrels were dumber.

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Religion & depression post via T. Borchard.

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Finished the lively and word-fond James Wolcott memoir. Surely the mark of a talented writer is shown by the fact he compelled me to read things not of especial interest to me, like that of the career of Pauline Kael. His is a sort of exuberant, fire-hose prose and I'll miss it. A few provocative lines that I'm not sure are necessarily true but very interesting:

Alfred Chester, who wrote in a review of John Updike’s Pigeon Feathers, “Despite the currency of the phrase, we really don’t want writers to say anything because, as soon as they do, we get bored. What we do want is for them to feel something, and to make us feel something.”... “Teach us, O Artists, not to settle for guilts and anxieties, for twitches and embarrassments! Teach us, O Artists, to feel again! Because emotions are the only thing that artists have to say—and emotion can make us gigantic and tragic. (Ideas never can; they can only follow, like dogs. Ideas, however pertinent, however great, tend to remove us from reality; feelings always bring us back again. Ideas never explain experience; feelings are experience.)”

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Writing as deskbound craft, profession, and calling already comes pre-outfitted with so many diaphanous veils of solitariness that word-delight alone—the pleasure of all the billiard balls clicking and emptying into the pockets—doesn’t compensate for an audience that doesn’t answer no matter how nicely you call. I never felt this way writing about television for the Voice, even though television watching was considered then (less so now) a sedentary, light-bleached act of inanition that The New Yorker’s former TV critic Michael Arlen once compared to masturbation.
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There's sometimes a case of reconciling earthly gifts and the cross. Perhaps it's easy to become imbued entirely with one mindset or the other: life is a cross, a sad valley to be endured and offered up, or life is a gift, a pleasurable thing for which we ought to be grateful to the Giver. Christian discipleship doesn't seem to be about accruing earthly pleasures even towards the laudable goal of thanking the Maker though. Luke Timothy Johnson writes in Living Jesus:
"We find nowhere in the New Testament an understanding of Christian discipleship compatible with a life devoted to one's own success, pleasure, comfort, freedom from suffering...The imitation of Christ in his life of service and suffering - not as an act of masochism for the sake of suppressing one's own life but as an act of love for the enhancement of others' life - is not an optional version of Christianity."
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Newsweek, of all magazines, has a cover story about Christian persecution, actually using the term "Christophobe" in place of the familiar "Islamophobe". Very heartening to see Newsweek address the issue, but disheartening to read the article and see how little I can do. Pray, of course. Our government could also start leveraging foreign aid to incentivize better Muslim behavior, but that's not real likely to happen.

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What a tranquil effect have the words of Dinesen's classic Out of Africa. I read, and it melts the distance to that airy 600-acre coffee farm in the African highlands. My eyes involuntarily close, my breathing slows, and I am in the epic. Of young plants, protected from the sun, she writes, "obscurity is the privilege of young things." And how like my latest trip to Sanibel feel her words of airy Africa: "Up in this high air you breathed easily, drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart."

5 comments:

William Luse said...

Doesn't the current Newsweek also have an article by Sarah Palin about her boy, Trig?

TS said...

I didn't see that one - only saw the cover article.

William Luse said...

Here it is: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/02/05/life-with-trig-sarah-palin-on-raising-a-special-needs-child.html

Artibles said...

If you feed the squirrels separately from the birds they will be less bothersome. I often provide little fitfulls of seed in a circle around the birthbath for them, or fill a separate basin on the ground and that keeps them out of the feeder. Just a thought.

TS said...

Thanks - my wife was going to try that and I was dubious, thinking it would attract more squirrels. But it can't hurt and now given your comment I'd say it's worth a try!