October 19, 2016

This & That

Sowing the seed. That was the gospel at Sunday's medicinal St John's Byzantine liturgy. I've heard or read that passage maybe a hundred times but today for the first time I heard it not as a forever binary thing, as if each of us is predestined to be either good soil or bad, and so less as a threat of Hell but as a reminder of the present moment. That the seed is not just down once and it's all over, but that God is continually speaking to us and our hearts may be stony or weedy or good soul in that particular moment.


Quote happened across..."Here is the authentic voice of the Slav. These people hold that the way to make life better is to add good things to it, whereas in the West we hold that the way to make life better is to take bad things away from it."


Valuable homily the other day about how there's no certainty like inner certainty, meaning the Spirit speaking to us from within. There are no external proofs to understand, for example, the problem of suffering. It takes a going inward not outward.  The homilist said that at first, when he was just out of seminary, he thought his experience was unique as far as receiving some quasi-mystical of experiences of certainty - but he said after hearing many confessions he realized it was a "universal experience".


Went to a talk by a visiting Monsignor/professor on the subject of voting. He emphasized the legitimacy of single-issue voting on the pro-life issue.  In fact, the whole talk was geared around policy issues, while the elephant in the room for me is character. How can you possibly make a decision between two of such questionable and scary character?  I should've asked it in Q & A.


Provocative passage from Dr. Keith Mano novel. He recently died and was a writer for National Review back in the '80s:
I learned one thing this morning - the disconcerting power of nakedness. Flesh signals to us. It engages the mind, the endocrine system - and, yes, even the spirit. All the resonance of Christian symbolism - cross and crucifixion, bread and wine - is gathered, it would seem, to counteract and answer the image of a single naked woman.

October 07, 2016

Justice & Mercy - First Things Link

Interesting commentary:
Wild promises of a “Francis Effect” have not materialized. Certain traveling salesmen have used the catchphrase to hawk changes in Catholic practice on divorce and remarriage and more: If only the Church would soften its tone and adjust its practice, the millions of Catholics who have left it would come rushing back.

Now, one need not resort to regression analysis to puncture these predictions. Common sense should establish that the Great Pumpkin has not arrived—but where common sense is lacking, one may draw on the data. This is what I did last week in an op-ed for the New York Times. As survey findings from Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) reveal, notwithstanding the immense publicity attached to the idea of a Francis Effect, in America, at least, the downward trends in Catholic life have only continued during the current pontificate.

I view mercy and judgment as working naturally together; they tend to see them as being in conflict. Pope Francis himself often speaks as though the two are opposed. On the debate over communion for the divorced and remarried, he almost seems to think that it is counter to forgiveness to tell someone to go and sin no more. No doubt Francis and his defenders would say their account has room for both judgment and mercy, just as I would say that there is a time and place to speak of mercy rather than judgment. Still, the basic difference between our views remains. How to resolve it?

One answer comes from Bernard of Clairvaux, whose Sermons on the Song of Songs I have been reading. In the sixth sermon, Bernard describes mercy and judgment as the two feet on which Christ swiftly runs to meet us. “Beware that you do not neglect either of these feet,” he says. Instead, we must be grateful for the imprints left by both mercy and judgment in the Christian heart. Bernard then commences a rhapsody of praise:
No longer of judgment alone or mercy alone, but of mercy and judgment I will sing to you, O Lord. I shall never forget your precepts, mercy and judgment will be the theme of my songs in the house of my pilgrimage, until one day when mercy triumphs over judgment, my wretchedness will cease to smart, and my heart, silent no longer, will sing to you. It will be the end of sorrow.
We require both judgment and mercy. My conviction on this point does not stem from a feeling of superiority, or a pedantic obsession with doctrine and rules. It comes instead from the experience of my own human frailty. I know that I have sinned and deserve punishment. I also know that I am redeemed by grace. If the Church ceases to speak of either one, how can it reach me with the comfort of God’s love? To support me in my weakness, I need a Church that stands with both of Christ’s feet, on which Mary poured out her nard.

Matthew Schmitz is literary editor of First Things. 

October 04, 2016

Three Days in Birmingham, 'Bama

So I decided to take my parents to Birmingham since my Mom's long been interested in EWTN.

And it started with a flop, for my parents at least. They could've gotten to China more quickly than from Cincinnati to Alabama.

My situation went well enough - everything on time. Waited in line at TSA check-in behind a young priest I've heard say Mass downtown several times. I didn't want to bother him by introducing myself, figuring he gets enough attention with the roman collar. Overheard him say later that he was traveling for a retreat.

Dad calls tells me the improbable news that his flight was delayed for hours due to mechanical difficulties and he would miss the connecting flight to Birmingham. They couldn't promise to get him to Alabama till 11:30pm.  Then the backup flight to Atlanta had problems. Bad news.

On my Delta flight I ended up sitting behind the young Dominican on the flight and overheard him have a long talk with the stranger seated next to him about God's love and Heaven and Hell. A priest is ever on duty, offering homilies even outside Mass.

I had Friday on my own now, so Uber'd to EWTN studios where a Franciscan gave the tour, starting with a half-hour documentary on the life of Mother Angelica. Then went to the small studio where they film about 90% of EWTN shows and I was shocked by how small it looked. Tall ceilings, for sure, to accommodate the galaxy of light fixtures and cameras but the place was tiny! Everything looks bigger on TV. It's sort of like the Wizard of Oz - you'd think you'd see this great big operation and here the filming is done in this plain space with facades and backdrops like movie sets.

Our group of about dozen went down a long hallway with many little rooms that do different tasks, like film editing or archives or Spanish language or subtitles. Then we went to a window that looked out over the giant satellite dishes that ping servers way up in the atmosphere. There is a whole huge garage that serves as a backup power supply in case of lightning strikes, and to further guard against them there are these small fuzzy-wires that deflect and "encourage" lightning to fall outside the property. This has the unfortunate side effect of making properties around EWTN more prone to lightning strikes.

I saw those seven huge satellite dishes and thought of the power they represented in terms of shooting a message or image all over the world, but later saw the exposed Eucharist in the Adoration chapel and it looked like a different kind of satellite dish, the Power behind the power.

The Franciscan guide seemed a bit underenthused about his task. I think he was stressed by the fact the main route to the studio was blocked by construction, which meant he had to lead two groups to the studio based on those who could walk and those who couldn't. He golf-cart'd some of the group who were too elderly to walk up the hill and around the construction. It was an impressive grade I must say, but then I live in flat Columbus where every grade is impressive.

Walked outside and felt amazement at how summery it felt. Nothing like going to Alabama in late September to experience the complete reversing of autumn. Saw a funny sign that said, "As A Penance Do Not Smoke on Monastery Property." Then Uber'd back to downtown Birm.

The driver was talkative if a bit Trumpian. He was an older gent who went from security guard to Uber driver yet had "three successful businesses" over his lifetime. Since he's driving a Uber in his advanced old age, I assume the same three businesses must've sadly became unsuccessful.  Back to the hotel by 5pm, I went in search of beer and food but ended up touring the Birmingham Public Library and its impressive reading room. Then walked by Linn Park and the statuary and fountain, to St. Paul's, an old Catholic church that was (naturally) closed tight, and then to the closest grocery which was named prosaically "Family Supermarket".

It's not too far from downtown but it felt dicey enough. The vibes were definitely rough neighborhood, but the search for beer that could be purchased cheaply overruled any thought of danger. There were a lot of guys loitering around a sign that said "No Loitering", I wanted to take a picture of them with the sign in the background but of course I'm not that stupid. I went in quickly, picked a six-pack (no fu-fu craft beer here, that's for sure, ha). Saw a paper plate doubling as a sign that said, "If You Get Caught Stealing, You'll Go to Jail".


Day two and surprisingly jam-packed it was. From seeing stone art created by Brother Joseph of a local monastery, to seeing the otherworldly EWTN church complete with inaccessible cloisters, to a ghost tour telling us that our hotel (and the rectory on the church grounds we're visiting tomorrow) is haunted. Never a dull moment.

I had planned on uber-ing to EWTN convent and church grounds but instead we called an audible given the outrageous price tag of $140 less $20 coupon. For that price we could rent a car and have plenty of flexibility with plans, and I was never more grateful for the fact later, when having a car meant the freedom to get off the road at 2pm and get a Snickers and coca cola. Because I was 'xtremely hungry by then. Man does not live on breakfast alone.

We trekked to Enterprise rental after breakfast at 10am. The front desk was staffed by a single soul, and every time the phone rang a little part of me died. Patience is a virtue, but on a vacation with the precious minutes tick-tick-ticking...

But then a crazy thing happened - it was our turn up and then an even crazier thing happened - she suddenly went up to the key rack and gave us keys to a car. Just like that. One minute we were waiting, the next we were checking out our new Jeep without all the paperwork that makes a car rental look a lot like getting a mortgage.

It was an ebulliently summer day in fall Birmingham and the roads were clear all the way up I-65 north to Hanceville. An easy ride if off the beaten track; you certainly don't run into the Shrine accidentally. We came to rolling hills with horses and white fences that led up to a magic kingdom: a large Spanish castle which contained a huge gift shop and conference room and then we explored the large colonnade and piazza leading to a magnificent church.

Everything in the 380 acres seemed top notch: clean and sparkling as Disney World. Immaculately maintained pavers and scenic grounds. Inside they even provide pull-overs and trousers for people who wore shorts or something sleeveless to the Shrine church. They take modest dress seriously here.
We spent some time in church while an unseen nun led a Rosary from behind the gild cloister. Then everyone sitting in front of us in church suddenly got up and walked left, sort of like how a flock of birds suddenly switch direction based on some unheard/unseen signal. Since it was four minutes till noon Mass, the smart money said that Mass would not be in the church but might be in some undisclosed location. I followed the crowd and the crowd was right - doors opened to allow us into the lower church (which is where Mother Angelica is buried in a mausoleum crypt). And where Mass shortly began.

It was a weekday Mass long in duration and the first Mass I'd ever been to where the priest skipped the Sign of Peace but the people did not - the mostly Mexican and African-American congregation shook hands while the Agnus Dei was prayed.

After, we walked over the church grounds and I looked for ways to get into the cloister because it was forbidden (joke). We saw a Nativity grotto where a woman with an empty holy water bottle asked where it might be found - a large holy water fixture was in the front to the right. Was it odd the holy water was up front? Or that the woman missed the very large fixture? Who could say. Mom didn't see it either.

The JP II Eucharistic Center wasn't open till 2, so we decided to skip that. So at 1:30 we headed off to a new adventure recommended by Aunt Joan, a "little Jerusalem" carved by monks. On that information alone we were able to find the location of what the 'net called Ave Maria Grotto, a roadside attraction actually featured as a certified Roadside Attraction. It was only 12 or so miles away so we went and I was surprisingly impressed by it. It had a sort of magical quality, this wonderland of miniature carvings of St. Peter's and Marian shrines and the Holy Land. The folk-ish art had a cumulative effect.

Next up I snuck in the Abbey church and walked boldly past the altar into one of the monk's carols, checking out their reading material (handsomely produced Latin hymnal books) and taking pictures. I saw a monk at a side altar in front of the Blessed Sacrament and tried to walk oh-so-slowly so as not to disturb him, something unlikely at best given the squeak of tennis shoes. Or maybe I was doing the godly thing and just exercising his patience so he'll have a higher place in Heaven.

Next we traveled back to towards the hotel after that stop for that lifesaving candy bar at a grocery bar that sold no beer. That's so not Ohio.

By 4pm we were back in the land of Birm and we had drinks on the hotel patio. Who does not love drinks on a patio in summer weather? Nobody ever born. We had dinner and then headed out on the Historic Ghost Walk.

The ghoulish guide was as eccentric as you'd expect a ghost-man would be, telling us he had two human skulls, a tooth from a local murder victim (a pendant around his neck), and a human heart in formaldehyde. This is the definition of oversharing. But I have to say he was extremely good at his job - very entertaining, talked loud enough, ooozed enthusiasm. Different from the Franciscan who showed us around the EWTN studio, although admittedly the material is a lot different. Hard to get too excited about how sound editing versus ghost-haunting.

He started talking about our very hotel and it seems the 4th and 6th floors are haunted, making us very glad we were on the 3rd and 5th. The hotel was previously the site of an 100-yr old apartment complex, with the obligatory history of mayhem.

(Surprisingly, the guide never said why Birmingham is called "The Magic City".)

We learned about the church we're going to Sunday, how the priest who married a young woman to a Catholic was shot and killed by a Methodist Ku Klux Klansmember and the killer got off the hook given how the Klan was large and in charge then. There's a movement locally to see the priest as a martyr for the faith given the circumstances.

We saw another old hotel nearby that is said to be haunted by Old Hank, Hank Williams Sr., who spent his last night alive in this hotel drinking himself to death (couch: "but what a way to go!").

The tour was great if a half-hour too long. In these days of short attention spans, he's really a throwback to an earlier age given the 130 minute talk/walk. Which actually was truncated from what was intended to be 150 minutes but for a Latino street festival.

Sunday, last day of vacation already. As always I think one more day would be nice, no matter the length of the trip.

8:30 it was at St. Paul's Cathedral. Gothic and suitably impressive, we headed back to the hotel for the end of the free breakfast period. Very nice hotel - great staff, ubiquitous and free 24-7 coffee, decent breakfasts.

Afterward we rolled via rental car to the EWTN studio chapel, the one that televises masses and did so the morning we were there.  We coulda been on TV.  We coulda been a contender! Wonder how early we would've had to have got there to have gotten a seat given how small the chapel is. But cameras were everywhere - at least 5, maybe more. And then we went to leave and - what! - we were locked in! But then I tried a different door and it was open, so we narrowly escaped being stranded in an empty church, missing our flights, and dying of thirst.

Next up was to return the rental car, so drove to Enterprise and Dad offered to wait with the car till they opened while Mom and I walked to the Museum of Art on another beautiful sunny day. We strolled for about 20 minutes or so when Dad texted cryptically: "Is mom in the room?". I said she was at the art museum with me but the text drove Mom crazy, wondering where Dad was and why he asked that question. So I ended up calling Dad after Mom's prompting and found out that he'd broken into Enterprise and the police had come! Or that he had walked into an open Enterprise at noon only they weren't there yet - they'd forgotten to lock up the night before. So Dad set off an alarm accidentally, which caused the police to come and look around the property before releasing him on his own recognizance. 

The Uncowed Pastor

First Things editor R.R. Reno comments on race here:
In recent decades, the white educated class in America has become minutely trained in racial matters. We’ve developed all sorts of code words and scripts to signal our purity. The less educated—and demotic personalities like Trump—often run afoul of this etiquette. For instance, some journalists cite Donald Trump’s mangling of the name of the new African-American heritage museum in Washington as a sign of his race “problem.”...

Today there is a strong consensus in our educated class that careful and delicate talk about racial matters, as well as other explosive topics, is indispensable for social harmony. The strength of this consensus is one reason why educated white Republicans find Trump discomforting. They worry he will damage the fragile gains of recent decades and stoke racial animosity...

Are we really going to change racial dynamics in American with community-based policing and multicultural sensitivities? Perhaps. But white Americans find race a dangerous topic. We do our best not to think about it, one way or another. In an odd way, therefore, this remarkable moment—one candidate accusing another candidate of the cardinal sin of American public life [racism]—may be inconsequential. Most blacks have already made up their minds about racism in America. Most whites are so paralyzed by fear of moral turpitude that they speak (and think) about racism in highly ritualized ways that don’t connect with anything substantial in their outlooks or lives.
Which makes the following post by a local white pastor all the more impressive for his willingness to "go there":
It seems like God is using the news to get our attention, again.  The question is will we recognize the message?  The troubles in the black community should get and hold our attention.  Is there any population in our country that is under more duress (admittedly much of it self-inflicted) than the black community?  There is more violence, poorer schools, a weaker family structure, higher unemployment, more abortion clinics, higher drug use and on and on.  The controversy over the phrase "Black lives matter" is probably missing an obvious, prophetic point.  I believe the black community is a special target of Satan because they have a crucial, God-ordained role to play in the flourishing of our nation.  The black community is a gift from God to our nation and the trouble they face, I believe, reflects their special place, that Satan recognizes but we often don't, in God's plan for our country.  Could the black community be a "Joseph" among us?  "On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable", says Paul (1 Corinthians 12:23).  Jesus said, "the last will be first".  There are riches from God invested in the black community which we (and they) fail to see.  The fact we are all so blind to this is just par for the course.  I believe God is trying to awaken our nation to recognize the assault of the Enemy of our souls on our brothers and sisters in the black community.  I urge every follower of Jesus to make the black community in our nation a special focus of fasting and prayer until there is a breakthrough and turning point in this national tragedy.  "Jesus looked at the crowds and had compassion (not contempt!) on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field" (Matthew 9:36-38).  Lord, awaken us and help our brothers and sisters who are suffering.  Use us in whatever way possible to see this tragic situation reversed until the black community across our nation is flourishing in every sense of the word.  Have mercy on us, Jesus.

September 27, 2016

Debate Jots

So the debate o' debates last night.  As someone wrote on WaPa, how did anyone watch debates pre-Twitter? The snark is needful and it's hard for me to take these candidates seriously.  Hillary chiding Trump for secrecy is like an Onion parody, as was her pious talk about cyber-security.  And Trump is ... well the country seems so cry-for-help desperate for change that it probably wouldn't matter if he mooned the audience.

Trump blaming the microphone and moderator for his failure is revealing as far as reflecting his core constituency of folks who are prone to blaming others and conspiracies for unfavorable outcomes. Unseemly from a billionaire "can do" sort of guy. The so-called great negotiator couldn't negotiate a favorable moderator.

Minute 15 of debate I thought: "Man, I guess Trump didn't need to prepare for debate."

Minute 60: "Man, Trump really needed to have prepared for this debate."

The wheels, they did come off.  Shrillary's rope-a-dope worked; second half Trump was punch-drunk.


Some good tweets found for gallows' humor purposes:
‏@fredsprinkle  We have reached peak irony as a civilization.
@JZmirak   Tonight Trump wasn't his old effective Archie Bunker. More of a sputtering Ralph Kramden. Hillary was steely, detestable Maude
‏@linorulli   9 months from now, there should be an increase in births and kids named Lester.
@Brendan_Fitz   The winner of last night's GOP debate was clearly the apocalypse. 

September 08, 2016

Why Clinton & Trump Never Say They're Sorry

The key to unlock the mystery of why we have two candidates who can never say they're sorry becomes visible by this simple Shelby Steele quote:
The problem, as always happens in human affairs, when you acknowledge a wrong, you say, 'yes, it was wrong, and we’re going to move away from that', the price you pay is that you lose your moral authority. And I think this is again one of the most important events in American history, that after the civil rights movement Americans, white Americans, but more importantly than individuals are institutions, lost a considerable amount of moral authority, because now blacks and other minorities could look at them, could point the finger, and could say, well, by your own acknowledgement, by your own acknowledgement you’re admitting that you—that America did us wrong. And so the moral authority that whites lost shifted to minorities and became extreme—it became an important source of power for minorities. White guilt is black power.  
Eureka.  You lose your moral authority and power if you admit you're wrong, hence Trump and Hillary's keen reluctance to ever admit they'd committed an improper action.  Both power mad, and thus the lesson of recent history is that admitting being wrong leaches power.

Now That's What I Call Prayer Specialization

Back of church at St. Pat's but what do my wandering eyes see?  A prayer booklet for lectors! (Not the Hannibal kind.)  Apparently they need lots of prayers.

I was in a hurry so didn't look in it much but I can imagine one would go:
"May he or she read like the wind!
 May they have sufficient saliva to properly enunciate the most difficult Hebraic words.
 May they not stumble on the way to the lectern, nor light themselves on fire accidentally via a candle.
 May they speak not too fast, nor too slow.
 May all their syllables come out in a syllaballically impressive fashion." 

August 26, 2016


The patron saint of impossible causes can never be stopped!  That would be improbable impossible!

From the Jennifer Fulwiler Show...

Was listening to radio show host Jennifer Fulwiler with guest William McKenna,  a doctoral resident in clinical psychology, family counselor, Catholic, etc...

Fulwiler says she's been muting people on social media fearing she will waste all her time on election arguments, which tend to be very unproductive. 

Partial transcript:  
Jen: It's so easy to make some snippy comment in response to something I don't agree with.  How do you not? 
McK:  Conversations, in my view, are fundamentally about education, not about winning.  I'm not there to win the argument, I'm there to understand, "why do you say that? help me understand?" .... We build empathy by listening.  It's not my job to change people, that's God's territory. My job is just to walk with you through in this journey we call life.
Jen:  It's tempting to think "I have to win, I have to show him that he's wrong" but that doesn't seem to get us very far does it?
McK: No it doesn't, look at it this way, when I work with marital couples it's the exact same thing only in a more intense way. The research shows us that in terms of marital conflict about 69% of marital conflict is a 'perpetual problem'.  Meaning it's not going to get solved. Meaning if I take a couple at the age of 30, they will be arguing about the exact same things when they are both 80.  The question isn't are we going to change here, but are we going to soften towards each other.  Instead of getting mad at your spouse when he does x or y, you kind of shrug it off and say, oh that's just Joe or that's just Jane and that's just what they do and I love them in spite of it. 
McK:  I have friends all over the spectrum. I have friends who are committed Communists and one who is a committed monarchist.  And the thing is I don't care about their beliefs, I care if, you know, they make me a better person and I always try to see the good in them.  Focus on their strengths and on common ground.  Politics is a dead end as far as arguing with family members. It's never worked and never will.

August 24, 2016

Images of a Trip

It's like a wake-up from a dream to a dream whenever I get up and open the slatted blinds - like theatrical curtains - to reveal the mood-altering vista of swaying palms and rolling sea.

It's Hilton Head time again and we made the drive in what must be the record time, time made enjoyable in part by the inestimably great Brian Lamb interviewing the inestimably great historian James Robertson, biographer of the inestimably great Gen'l Stonewall Jackson. That's just as good as C-Span gets.

Just now, via the magic of modern technology, I belatedly watched the wunderkind-swimmer Ledecke swim by herself for over half her 800 meter race, looking for all the world like Secretariat at the Belmont. Racing against herself without competition against the best of the world. Incredible.

I then check the WaPo and read an inspiring article about a woman with warts all over her body due to a long-term illness and her body. She learned to love herself despite it, with help of brain injury!

First “fun activity” of the afternoon was a needed run, a purgative thirty minutes on the beach followed by a heady half-hour bike along the dappled Hilton paths. Lushness personified, the trees are covered in vines and look like tall green papier-mâché men. As I age I notice I appreciate dappled light more, such as was found on the ride.

Day 2:

Another interstellarly awesome weather day, though hot as pancakes. “Feels like 99 degrees” offers the weather website. Gust sea air, gust like the wind!

I drop in on the beach at high noon and spend an hour while jazz plays.  A wide expanse of beach courtesy high tide. Slight sheen of sweat combined with wind provides relief.  Life in a Corona commercial.

Day 3:

Another bright shining morning as if fresh from a heavenly assembly line. Resolutely sunny and warm, 82 degrees at 7:45.

I leisured breakfast - phoned it in - by just making cereal and eating some cheese danish. My that danish was good. Who said the Danes have given us nothing by violent Vikings?

Read indoors and out, erring slightly with too much political news. Lunch back at the condo and then more reading – historical fiction written from the perspective of Thomas Jefferson's daughter. I'm learning more about Jefferson, how deep his depression after his wife Martha died after ten years of marriage. And of his temper.

I certainly had no idea Jefferson was so emotional. Jefferson, Adams, and Washington all had tempers and emotional storms.

"O whale! the mad fiend himself is after ye! blow your trump—blister your lungs!“  –Moby Dick
Yes, blow that Trump!

And in the novel, Melville mentions how they were desperately seeking the whale:
"Ah! how they still strove through that infinite blue-ness to seek out the thing that might destroy them!”
Melting Scripture today:
Consider how Christ endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.
And I thought of how that must be our attitude towards ourselves, that though we endure such opposition from ourselves and our sins, Christ endured ours so so must we.

The psalm at Mass was 23: “there is nothing I shall want”. I generally read this as a promise of God not leaving us in lack, but I could turn it around and say there is “nothing I shall crave” in lieu of Him.


Looking at the home IP camera I see the dogs looking out the window and think, surely falsely, that they are waiting for us. And that makes me miss them.

Good day was had by all - lunch at 2pm (frozen pizza and ham) and jambalaya at 7.

How scientifically illiterate be my wife and me? Enough to wonder why the moon causes ocean tides. Doesn't seem like that should be in the lunar job description. But then I always liked math and English and not science.

Steph at Walmart now picking up an open-sided tent. Wants to pitch one on beach for shade purposes. Makes sense given that it is blistering hot down here this time.

Day 4:

The water is the warmest I've ever seen it - bath water warm. It can't even cool your core temp because it's at your core temp.

Timing wise this has been sweet: rainy and cloudy in Cloudumbus while sunny and mild here. Plus I admit to not being crestfallen that Saturday, had we'd been home, we'd be helping someone move. God never gives more than we can handle.

I retrieved a portable speaker and put on some jazz as alternative programming to “cell phone lady”, the woman we so named who bitches loudly about work and people at work on her cell at the beach. Obviously we pitched our tent in a bad neighborhood.

I'd like to go on a historic tour of nearby Beauford but Steph seems rather satisfied just crashing here and why not?

Last night gave us time to walk a moon-and-starlit beach. It was a scene of otherworldly wonder: the full moon shining on the water, the clouds lit up all over the huge sky. Very dramatic, and lends a sense of the smallness and insignificance of man, including Trump & Shrillary. A good antidote for self-seriousness.

Today is the anniversary of Black Elk's death, a Lakota medicine man and warrior who survived Wounded Knee. From a meditation:
"In 1892 Black Elk married a Christian woman, and their three children were baptized. In 1904, after his wife’s death, Black Elk himself became a Catholic, taking the name Nicholas. Eventually he became a catechist and traveled widely, spreading the Catholic faith."
He was also devoted to "the rosary, Mass, and offered powerful preaching on scriptural passages”.

A former commissioner of Indian Affairs said that Black Elk had something within him, religious strength, that the world has lost and “must have again, lest it die.”


We lazily let the day slip from the bonds of the azure sky, letting 10am morph into 4pm with only a half-hour walk in between. As Herr Trump would say, a low energy day.

Day 5
"What a lovely day again! were it a new-made world, and made for a summer-house to the angels, and this morning the first of its throwing open to them, a fairer day could not dawn upon that world." –Moby Dick
Today did a thirty minute run followed by almost hour walk. 5.3 miles covered in da blazing heat. Yesterday went in the water for a very brief respite and received a jellyfish bite on my foot.

At night we we picked up some Mexican food at Fiesta Fresh (picture of St. John Paul II in their shop!) and enjoyed a late dinner at home.

Day 6

Cloudy finale down here; chance of thunderstorms later. Well we've had a great run of great days. Superabundant sun with no rain from Sunday through Thursday - five consecutive days.

Lazy morning after Mass - three hours of reading tweets and eating breakfast, drinking coffee. 12:42pm and it feels like the day just started.

(Later) Well surprisingly (not!) the weatherman was wrong - sun galore. And I relished the long traditional ride to Grant market and beyond. Just 13 mile ride - I could've done a lot more - but the last day of beach was calling and I had the capital idea (if sorely belated) of just walking farther in order to get to a private beach front.

I rode under the pine trees and past the golf course. Listened to country music and Dan Fogelberg. Bought peaches and a tomato at the ma pa shop. I admired the sheer lushness of landscape.

From Fogelberg, love these last two lines:
   "Born in the valley
    And raised in the trees
    Of Western Kentucky
    On wobbly knees
    With mama beside you
    To help you along
    You'll soon be a-growin' up strong
    Oh, the long lazy mornings
    In pastures of green
    The sun on your withers
    The wind in your mane"

EPILOGUE: I'm regretting my sunburn but it was almost totally unavoidable given how I put enough sun protectant on to cover ten samurai warriors for a month in Rio.

August 11, 2016

Coptic Monk

Desert monk used to be atheist professor.   (An Into Great Silence sort of short film.)

August 10, 2016

A Long, Long Time Ago...

In early July of 1997 I read a NY Times article about book lovers titled When a Love of Books Means a Life in Stacks. It featured NYC authors who have huge libraries and pictured Ann Douglas (who wrote a book about Manhattan in the '20s), as well as Edward Robb Ellis, who boasted of five sets of Britannica Encyclopedias among us 10,000 volumes.  Why you'd need that even in the pre-Google days defies explanation.

I cut the page out and framed it, and it's yellowed over the nearly two decades but still represents a treasured book room item if only out of nostalgia.

I took another look at it tonight and decided to google this Edward Robb Ellis character, a man with three names. And coincidentally I find I own one of his books (A Diary of the Century). So I own books of both of the authors prominently featured in the piece.

Ellis has the distinction of having kept a diary for a record 70 years with some 22 million words. He's got me beat, with my 18 years and 3 to 4 million words. Steven Riddle surely has has double want I've done in terms of years and words.

The Arms of Krupp / Trump

August 09, 2016

Pop Culture's Fascinating with Survivor Shows

I suspect the success of survivor type shows, which proliferate now, is subconscious testimony to people recognizing that a culture that encourages weakness and victimhood over self-reliance and Stoicism is not a good foundation not only for society in general (witness the financial bankruptcy path we're on) but even for our own individual happiness and well-being. I'm reading The Porch and the Cross: Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living by Kevin Vost (his book on Dominicans was recommended to us at Mass).  The “offer it up” mentality that the Church used to emphasize with regard to suffering and discomfort seems like that's the only viable way of life in this vale of tears, especially as we enter the valley of the shadow of death in our old age - that fearsome time when most everything gets stripped from us. (The survivor show Naked and Afraid is a literal stripping; Alone is a stripping of all friends and society.)

The ancient Stoics were able to withstand (cheerily!) the most heinous imprisonments and tortures, and it must be incredibly comforting to know you can handle whatever life throws at you.

It certainly feels like God's trying to tell me something given that my at the same time I'm reading Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir of a guy who escaped the grinding poverty and feelings of helplessness that paralyze Appalachia. He writes of his time in the Marines:
The trials of my youth instilled a debilitating self-doubt. Instead of congratulating myself on having overcome some obstacles, I worried that I’d be overcome by the next ones. Marine Corps boot camp, with its barrage of challenges big and small, began to teach me I had underestimated myself…I’m not saying ability doesn’t matter. It certainly helps. But there’s something powerful about realizing that you’ve undersold yourself—that somehow your mind confused lack of effort for inability. This is why, whenever people ask me what I’d most like to change about the white working class, I say, “The feeling that our choices don’t matter.” The Marine Corps excised that feeling like a surgeon does a tumor.
Also reading the Russell Kirk bio and he was a great devotee of the ancient Stoic philosophers. Christianity is Stoicism that can "touch the heart" and not just the mind, I've heard it said.

August 01, 2016

WFB on Trump

As if from the grave, William F. Buckley speaks of Trump, written 16 yrs ago:
Look for the narcissist. The most obvious target in today’s lineup is, of course, Donald Trump. When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection. If Donald Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America. But whatever the depths of self-enchantment, the demagogue has to say something. So what does Trump say? That he is a successful businessman and that that is what America needs in the Oval Office. There is some plausibility in this, though not much. The greatest deeds of American Presidents — midwifing the new republic; freeing the slaves; harnessing the energies and vision needed to win the Cold War — had little to do with a bottom line.
In the final analysis, just as the king might look down with terminal disdain upon a courtier whose hypocrisy repelled him, so we have no substitute for relying on the voter to exercise a quiet veto when it becomes more necessary to discourage cynical demagogy, than to advance free health for the kids. That can come later, in another venue; the resistance to a corrupting demagogy should take first priority.
So what else can Trump offer us? Well to begin with, a self-financed campaign. Does it follow that all who finance their own campaigns are narcissists? At this writing Steve Forbes has spent $63 million in pursuit of the Republican nomination. Forbes is an evangelist, not an exhibitionist. In his long and sober private career, Steve Forbes never bought a casino, and if he had done so, he would not have called it Forbes’s Funhouse. His motivations are discernibly selfless…