February 28, 2013

This & That

Giddy from the discovery (and coincidence given my recent lament about not buying a bunch of books at a time) of a boatload of Kindle books priced at $1.99-$3.99.  Bought like crazy: “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis, “Simply Jesus” by N.T. Wright , “A Jesuit Guide to Everything” by James Martin, the story of Handel's Messiah, “God Wants You to be Happy” by Fr. Jonathan Morris, a Christopher Hitchens bio of Thomas Jefferson, a book chronicling the story of Atlantic City and its famous boardwalk.

Hopelessly and helplessly behind in my reading now, as if I wasn't before. But at those prices how can one resist? I forget that the crucial variable in determining whether to buy a book or not is not its cost financially but its cost time-wise. I have more money than time when it comes to books. The trick is to read the books I want or need, regardless of monetary price.

Of course, buying a bunch of books on Kindle is not nearly as much fun as having the books themselves. It's sort of like how it'd be more fun to have a thousand pieces of gold to play with and stack up rather than just have a high number on a bank deposit statement.

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Thinking of getting “Rebuilding Catholic Culture” due to it promoting the Catholic Catechism as the way forward in the New Evangelization. And speaking of the Catechism, read some great, great excerpts from it today, a book jam-packed with good news. I tend to look a gift horse (i.e. confessio divina) in the mouth.The catechism says:

“Catechesis strives to awaken and nourish in the faithful faith in the incomparable greatness of the risen Christ's gift to his Church: the mission and the power to forgive sins through the ministry of the apostles and their successors….'Priests have received from God a power that he has given neither to angels nor to archangels'…”
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Extant memories of the cruise are fading. I no longer easily feel being submerged in that salty tang watching fish swim decisively by. Or the excitement of the nightly entertainment there in the big auditorium, the hearty bell-laughs at the hard-working comedians. Or the gal dancers who reminded me of the wisdom of one woman writer who remarked simply, “Guys just like looking at pretty women.” How great was that first day exploring the ship head-to-toe? If I had to do it over I'd sneak in one of the “Crew Only” doors and try to see where the other half lives. Especially now after reading this book about their lives below.

Of course there was that brilliant, brilliant sun. Man alive but sailing past Cuba (“Cuber” as JFK sometimes called it) was nice. It's just different down there in the Caribbean compared to Florida. Warmer. More summer-like. Sunnier than even the Sunshine State. And the perishable quality of the cruise, the mere four days, somehow made it more special.

Current conditions: 39° Rain

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I wonder why do we not say 'Alleluia' during Lent when it means 'praise God' and yet we can say “Praise to You Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory”? Mysteries of the church volume 43.

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It's kind of odd now to remember how infrequently one heard a Pope's voice.

I'm thinking back to 1990, say, with Pope John Paul II. No internet, no cable, no EWTN at least not in our neck of the woods. So when I had the chance to order a CD-rom with his voice (chanting Our Father among other things), I jumped at it.

How novel it felt! How connected I felt. And how strange it is now to imagine a time when you can't YouTube somebody's voice in 10 seconds from the device in your pocket.

But it's still strange, as was pointed out on Lino Rulli's show today, that we won't see Benedict again. It is strange to see a public figure suddenly “go black” although there are cases of it happening with sickness, as with Ronald Reagan or now Margaret Thatcher.

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Strong run down in the weightroom. Felt downright quenching. It's funny how much more I'm enjoying running these days. Maybe it's the indoor thing that just works better because I don't know how far I've got to go - don't look at the clock hardly ever and when you're running outside you always know how far you've got based on your location. Plus with the lack of scenery I can zone out. And think about things, like the cruise ship under the aegis of Caribbean weather.

 I learned from the cruise ship guy that passengers are known as “cones”, either because we look like traffic cones when all wearing our life preservers at muster, or because it's like the movie the Coneheads where people eat everything in sight. I figured the crew had an unflattering name for us, though I 'spose it could've been worse.

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“Dante dances the romance lost, the love that never was,
and the great love missed because of dreaming.”  - Jack Gilbert

In low moments I once felt faux-safe by
the freedom desperation confers,
in sea dreams of castaway lights;
Oh the places you will go
if desperation calls!

“If I was broke!”
(I'd live in a cardboard box
with my books and be gloriously jobless.)

“If I was wanted by the police!”
(I'd escape to a foreign country,
cross the river into Mexico
like a desperado.)

“If I was depressed!”
(I'd up and run to Hawaii,
Germany, Thailand and
find my mojo elsewhere.)

“If I couldn't find a mate!”
(I'd get one of those Russian brides
by priority mail.)

But man doth not live by contingency plans alone
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

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However chancy life looks, with its economic uncertainties and physical and mental trials, in the end you have to trust God.  Our “golden years” may or not be golden and the very term seems to have about it a “protests too much” quality. No one needs to label their youth as “golden” since that's usually self-evident. We call harsh things by pretty names to lessen their sting (see: “pro-choice”).

Certainly William F. Buckley had a hard time of his last years, which is sort of daunting given his spiritual and intellectual attributes. He became "self-medicating” with Ritalin and other drugs. But then his son said he had that in common with all great men - they are used to controlling their situation. Which gives me some comfort since I'm not a great man. From the Washington Times review of Christopher Buckley's memoir:

“Buckley was increasingly 'self-medicated.' 'Pup’s self-medicating was … a chemical extension of the control he extended over every other aspect of his life … Put it this way: Few great men — and I use the term precisely, for Pup was a great man — do not seek to assert total control over their domains. … Great men (and yes, of course by that I include women) tend to be the stars of their own movies.'”

Stars of their own movies. The constant temptation of life! How incredibly different is that from the Virgin Mary's life, she who was the star of another movie - God's movie - a part for which she did not apply for nor dream of.

If she had been starring in her own movie, would she have ever imagined a role so audacious as Mother of God? Would she have ever included a hurt so deep as to see her son humiliated and crucified? The heights and depths of God's movie, as opposed to ours, are much deeper than we have the stomach for. And yet God's movie is the only real show in town. All else is make believe and waste.

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So I read more of the cruise ship book, fascinating but certainly not in accord with St. Paul's advice that we think of “higher things” as Christians. The author is master of “too much information” (I really don't know how it is that nowadays one's sex life is somehow fodder for books but I suspect it's related to the fact that the book was self-published) but at the same time I do have a grudging respect for how much work he evidently put into the book. He sweat the details, would study what made stories interesting, thought constantly about how the book would go and is a pretty darn engaging writer for a computer guy. Another left-brained worker wanting to use his right brain.

The contrast between the catechism and the cruise book is striking but in a strange way complementary. The catechism feels like a chore in the beginning but eventually leaves me glowing and with a good taste in my mouth. The cruise book is immediately satisfying but eventually goes stale and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

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Sometimes it seems the modern definition of the word magic is “anything that can't be verified by scientific method.” Thus the Eucharist, grace, Holy Spirit promptings are all pilloried as “magic” The great falsehood of our age!

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