September 23, 2014

Early Baseball



Read delightedly of the book The Summer of Beer and Whiskey (it had me at “summer”, or maybe “beer”, certainly by "whiskey"). It's an engaging history of the very early years of baseball.

Nugget of interest: Read where Oscar Wilde spent about a year visiting America, including going to a Cincy Reds game I believe. 1882-ish.

The book explains the popularity of baseball in those days to our desire for the interplay between communal activity with brilliant individual achievement, emphasis on the latter. Which baseball does showcase pretty effectively. The football counterpoint might be the quarterback and running back, both of whom have a huge individual role to play in football. But when your team is on defense you have no individual to key off since there's no pitcher equivalent in football. The 1880s version of baseball was quick-quick-quick. Fast-paced. No endless drag-out of batters stepping out between pitches, no commercial timeouts between innings. Games lasted between 90 minutes and 2 hours. Perfect.

Mark Twain called baseball the perfect image of his America: “the drive, push and rush and struggle of the raging, tearing, booming nineteenth century!” Wow. That feels like a completely different game than what we have now, a game that feels leisurely, lazy, and relaxed. It's almost like he's describing football, not baseball. Although perhaps baseball in the 1880s was the football of its generation: very driving, pushing and rushing compared to the alternatives. (Golf?) Probably in 40 years football will seem to slow to us and we'll look back at football as boring.

Kindling

Everyone knows the beginning of the Declaration of the Constitution right?
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of ... Kindle e-readers!
Yes it's that time of year when Amazon unveils the new line of Kindles.  Always saliva-worthy.

A short history of my Kindlic propensities follows, and while Amazon has perfected the form factor with the Paperwhite 2, with each  previous iteration the incremental benefits perhaps doesn't justify the expense.
Kindle 1: ugly, clunky, but lovable because it was untied to computer and could wirelessly download books! I waited months before ordering which displayed a level of gadget restraint never heard of before or since. 
Kindle DX: upgraded to this because I wanted a bigger screen. I always felt like Kindle needed to have pages the size of those you'd see in a hardback. Two columns. The type was faint though; not great contrast of letters on background. I'd planned this to be my “lifetime Kindle”. Lol as the kids (used to?) say. 
(Girl not included)
Kindle mini/basic/baby: I bought this for my mother in 2011 because it was unearthly cheap ($79) compared to previous models, but I found I liked it so much I got one for myself! Small screen didn't bother me as much as I thought it would and I loved the elegant look and feel of it.  Portable enough to fit in my pocket.  
Kindle Paperwhite 1: Bought this because the big "problem" with the basic Kindle was reading at night, the hassle of my wife not wanting the light on and the inadequacy of the cheap reading lights I had. I liked the touchscreen idea too. At this point I was beginning to suspect I would buy every year's new model. This seemed reasonable given what I assumed the new annual pricetag would be: $119 and falling, with re-sale of my old Kindle in the $60 range. Amazon threw a monkey wrench this year with their Voyage. 
Kindle Paperwhite 2: Bought this because although the old light was certainly functional, the uneven distribution bothered me early and often. Call me OCD and irresponsible.  And this Kindle solved that perfectly, with gorgeous distribution. So at this point, theoretically, there's no real reason to upgrade. Right. 

Paulian Scripture

Riveting first reading last week or so from St. Paul. It's the beginning of 1 Cor 8, and it talks about how going against conscience - even if it's not concerning something objectively sinful - is sinful!

In other words, “if you think it's sinful, it is, even if it's not.”? Pity the poor scrupulous?!

In this particular case, Paul is saying that meat consecrated to idols is fine, but if someone thinks it isn't fine and does it because he sees you partaking in it, then you've contributed to that fellow's downfall.

The Bible commentaries have varied things to say:
the weak Christian will be undermined: he will be encouraged to act against his (erroneous) conscience, and all acts against conscience are sinful…. [Those who know the meat is okay] have overlooked Christ’s teaching about stumbling-blocks (skandala): that an act lawful in itself may become even a mortal sin if it is foreseen that it will place difficulties or temptations in the way of a weaker Christian.
Consciousness (syneidēsis, vv. 10b, 12) arises from knowledge (syn-eidenai). The term “consciousness” first appeared in the papyri as of 59 c.e. Paul probably took the term over from its use in popular philosophy. As used by Paul it retains its traditional meaning of self-awareness. There is no need to see in Paul’s use of the term the modern notion of moral conscience.
Those with a weak consciousness... Their old habits had left a residue on their self-awareness such that it was not governed by their present Christian beliefs. Their self-awareness would be defiled were they to eat food they considered to have been offered to idols.
Those who are weak would be led to idolatry because of the knowledgeable person’s indiscriminate eating in temple precincts. They would eat food offered to idols as if it were truly dedicated to one or another idol
Their salvation (cf. 8:6) is lost because they have been led to engage in what they considered to be idol worship.
It is the believer’s responsibility not to trip up weaker persons (Chrysostom) who might think that there is some spiritual power in food offered to idols, a power they might acquire if they eat (Ambrosiaster).
So I guess the problem is that some of these people who thought eating meat sacrificed to the gods was sinful, ended up doing so anyway and felt some sort of divine benefit from it. Maybe it's sort of like the guy who tells another guy that drinking a pint is not sinful, but for the other guy, call him John, it always leads to sin in the form of, say, cleptomania and he derives the "benefit" of theft.  But that's not the same as John thinking drinking itself is sinful and thus is going against his conscience which is, thereby, sinful.  Maybe the act of eating it and going against his conscience was not the sinful part so much as feeling that the fake gods were in fact real?

And also “conscience” as self-awareness is interesting given how we associate it with the modern moral conscience.  Are these concepts so different?

September 11, 2014

Fed by Feedly


I don't go to the attractive Feedly app/website to read blogs too often despite the fact that I find the treasures contained therein more energizing and enlightening than, say, Facebook. But oh what a thick symphony of inspirations and intrigue it contains! Art appreciation. Music appreciation. The fascinating Fulton Sheen controversy. The words of classic scholars from long ago. The words of monks and near-monks (Heather King).

Before dipping my toe in Feedly I listened to a couple Metropolitan Museum of Art talks, and then heard the complete Mahler 1st symphony for free via the Berlin Philharmonic offering. The wonders of the 'net don't quit.

On Fulton Sheen, my half-baked, could-be-completely-wrong impression is that Cardinal Egan didn't care about losing Sheen's body or cause to Illinois, but then Cardinal Dolan came in and he likes having Sheen's body in the cathedral and doesn't want to give that up. There also could be some feeling that Sheen belongs in Manhattan after getting shuttled out to the boondocks in his later years. From my perspective, the highlight of St. Patrick's is that Sheen is buried there and I can't be alone.

Anyway, the whole thing surprises me if only because public dirty laundry between prelates is rarely aired. And it certainly doesn't make Dolan look good given the agreement made by Egan and the Peoria bishop in good faith. I feel sorry for the people who donated money to the cause now if the cause is indefinitely suspended.

*

From yesterday's first reading it's sort of ironic, perhaps, is how Paul says basically, “this is not written in Scripture but I feel that it is best…”. But what he's saying became Scripture!:
In regard to virgins I have no commandment from the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. So this is what I think best because of the present distress: that it is a good thing for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek a separation. Are you free of a wife? Then do not look for a wife.
And indeed a Catholic commentary notes the tension:
Paul had not heard of any pronouncement of Christ on this subject. It does not mean that the rule which follows is only a private opinion of Paul’s. He speaks as an apostle, authorized to decide in Christ’s name.
I suppose that means that Paul's letter is binding only specifically to the audience immediately intended.

*

Much enjoyed Lino Rulli interview, of all people, the infamous Toronto mayor Rob Ford. I keep thinking Ford reminded me of John Candy, but it seems like Google tells me more people think of him as Chris Farley. Candy and Farley's comedic personas aren't too distinct, I suppose, and I think Ford does look more like Farley.

*

More web collations:

André Gide, Journals (January 5, 1922; tr. Justin O'Brien):
"My good days of work are those I begin by reading an ancient author, one of those that are called “classics.” A page is enough; a half-page, if only I read it in the proper state of mind…"

Cf. Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Notas, 210 (tr. Michael Hendry):
"The reading of Homer every morning, with the serenity, the tranquillity, the deep sensation of moral and physical well-being which it instills in us, is the best provision to endure the vulgarities of the day."
Via Heather King:

You want to know why the innocent have to suffer, why the poor have to suffer, why the Just Man had to die.
I used not to know the reason for these things.
When I discovered the reason it was Christ Himself who told me.
You ask Him this evening; He will tell you
And perhaps He will add the phrase which meant so much to me when He was explaining that universal salvation depends on the vocation of some to pay for all.
'You shall not escape from love.'
If in the Kingdom we ask the innocent who suffered for sinners, the poor who paid for the rich, the tortured who shed blood for the powerful, whether it is just or mistaken to pay so dear, we shall hear them tell us:
'It was necessary so that no-one might escape from Love.' “
–Carlo Carretto, The Desert in the City

George Gaylord Simpson (1902-1984), Attending Marvels: A Patagonian Journal (1934; rpt. New York: Time Incorporated, 1965), p. 260 (brackets in original):
Our first stop was at the Tetas de Pinedo. [Preparing a lecture once in Buenos Aires a refined friend urged me to call them the "Mamelones," that being a more elegant word, but tetas they are to the local people, tetas they are on the official maps, and so tetas they shall be in my work.] These are two large rounded hills, standing near each other and rising above the coastal plain with an appearance, as the name implies, extraordinarily like two gargantuan breasts.

*

From here:

I turned on the radio the other day while driving through my ramshackle post-industrial town, and I heard the adagio movement of a piece I know well, Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 27 in B-flat Major. I know it well because, when I was seven or eight years old, my mother had an LP of it that I would play over and over again. We had bought it while out grocery shopping; I had seen a display near the exit of LPs on sale for something like forty-nine cents, and this one had an image on the cover of one of Marc Chagall's designs for The Magic Flute -- Papageno, the birdcatcher -- though I didn't know this at the time. I begged my mother to get it. While driving the other day, I found that, though I hadn't heard the piece for years, I could sing every note of the piano solo and the melodic orchestral line. I noticed that the performance on the radio was actually played on the fortepiano, a forerunner of the modern piano, and that, delightfully, the soloist interpolated a fragment of Mozart's song "Komm, lieber Mai" into the cadenza in the coda of the last movement.

*

From St. Joseph's Abbey:

Jesus is real flesh and blood, resurrected and still here with us; and his place is always with the downtrodden and needy, for he is small like them. And this morning once again he pronounces God’s blessing on human poverty, a promise of blessing for all who are oppressed.
Commentators remind us that the Greek word for “poor” in the Beatitudes means literally “beggar” not just a poor person with a few possessions, but a beggar.* The truly poor are those who have nothing at all; the poor are those who have no choice. As monks we want to take our place with them.
In some way our poverty is all we have to offer the Lord. There is too much- so many things exteriorly, more so interiorly; and we may feel like we are stuck with it all. In the monastery we become more and more keenly aware of the reality of our very real inner woundedness and poverty and our desperate need for Christ, a need, a longing to be mercied continually. It’s just the same old story.
But this poverty is everything to us; it is all we have to offer Christ, offer the Church - the reality of total dependence on the mercy of God from moment to moment.  Ours is certainly not the crushing poverty of the economically poor and destitute; we dare not compare it. Still it’s all we’ve got- all the stuff we’ve got no choice about. And we believe it’s the very place where blessing and mercy can intrude and take root- poverty as blest by God’s loving regard. We are truly blessed, when our poverty is blest as an emptiness to be filled to overflowing with Christ’s peace and most affectionate compassion. This is everything for us as monks. And what is more, we believe that our true blessedness depends upon our willingness to become ourselves mercy-doers, mercy-makers for all who are poor.
And so we hope, and each morning we go to the altar of God, the God in Christ who alone gives us joy and freedom and peace- his very self as food. So much needs yet to be accomplished and prayed through. Our lives lived together in this monastery help to notice and watch and pray.

*

From "Everything That Rises" blog:
Our society’s model for the museum visit is All You Can Eat: you pay some portion of the exorbitant suggestion admission fee – now $25 at the Metropolitan Museum, I think – and then blast through the rooms, gorging on masterpieces, and wind up in the gift shop feeling stuffed, even sick.
It doesn’t have to happen that way.  With a free hour in Washington the other day, I popped into the Phillips Collection, near Dupont Circle, where admission to the current exhibit is $5 with a university ID and the permanent collection is pay-what-you-wish.
The current exhibit was of American work from the collection.  In an hour, I saw everything – well, everything except the Rothkos, which are hung (displayed is the wrong word, and so is exhibited) in a room where only three people are allowed at one time.  I saw everything – but I looked, really looked, at something like a dozen paintings, and no more. That way, I could hope to see them, really see them.
And I gave full attention to just one painting: Ben Shahn’s Still Music, from 1948.  There’s so much to see in it: the counterpoint between the soft washes of color and the firm line of the drawing; the several lines of horizontal movement (stand shelves, chair seats, chair hinges, stand bases) running over and along the intermittent vertical lines of the stands, like notation running across the bar lines of a piece of music; the tremendous energy of the painting working against the plain truth that the chairs and stands are empty. Here the music, made in this place for a certain passage of time, has gone wherever it is that live music goes.
The philosopher of art Richard Wollheim liked to spend an entire day at the National Gallery in London considering a single painting.  I could have spent a full day with Still Music.
Failing that, I now come up from the Metro at Dupont Circle relishing the knowledge that although the exhibit is over, the Shahn painting is part of the permanent collection — so is still in permanent residence nearby.   

September 10, 2014

Sighted Near Campsite. #iconic

48 Hour Camping Triplog


Creek. Tree. Stone. Primal.

Rustic camp, set up right next door to this living, breathing stereoscope of nature. Four hour drive with stop at Walmart for lantern, then much deliberation over picking a campsite, them tent, canopy, air mattress set-up…

Wild rhododendron give the place a Smoky mountains vibe. In fact this feels like Zoder's Inn, $220 cheaper and 3 hours closer. Now to relax!

(But wait! What yonder ponc lies in front? It is my exercise routine, alas and drat! I must walk a bit…)

So I walked a mile, just to absorb the gorgeous scenery. It's Brad Paisley country. I walk the creek and look up the side of a mountain hushed with the magnificence of God. The forest is dense and mysterious. Godlike. I think: “I could use more silence in my life.” More time standing dumbfounded in front of trees. Here is nature - and water - without the needling distractions of crowds as are found omnipresent in Hilton Head (even on the bike trails!)

There's a reason monasteries are founded in remote locations. There is quiet. Here is quiet. Here are mountains that have produced many a godly Baptist man, like Billy Graham. I hear Thoreau singing!

*

Murakami:
“As if pulled in by a magnet, people gather on the banks of the river. Seeing a lot of water like that every day is probably an important thing for human beings. For human beings might be a bit of a generalization—but I do know it’s important for one person: me. If I go for a time without seeing water, I feel like something’s slowly draining out of me. It’s probably like the feeling a music lover has when, for whatever reason, he’s separated from music for a long time.”

Author Edmund Morris laments the “screen-ization” of life, how so many prefer virtual experiences to real world ones. But I find this hypocritical coming from a writer. What are words but simulacrums? Can't reading be seen as a substitute for “real life”? Describing a forest is a completely different thing than experiencing one. In fact, you could say pictures are closer to the real world than words describing pictures.

*

So what is it about being in the forest like this that so enchants? Such a simple thing, setting up a campsite in the woods yet I ran ecstatically a couple miles, transfixed by the passing woods and mountains. Idyllic spot: of the eleven rustic campsites we're the only campers. Yes, we have the whole Bluejay campground to ourselves! That will likely change tomorrow but I'll let tomorrow take care of itself.

This morning spent a few minutes reading “Jesus” by Fr. James Martin.  Am wanting to read the collection of essays Edmund Morris has out now. When I heard there was one on the Library of Congress, the poetry of his rapture carried me away. I also wouldn't mind reading his wife's book on Claire Luce. She lived a rather colorful life. Certainly I'd like to read about her conversion story to Catholicism and about her close association with the great Fulton Sheen. (Alas! I read his cause for sainthood has been suspended. Sadness.)

DAY 2

Sleep is not why you go camping, given the “rigors” of an air mattress and uncontrolled heating/cooling, but I did appreciate last night's white noise in the form of the rushing creek bed outside our tent encampment. Steph thought it sounded like it was raining, which is also a comforting backdrop for sleep.

It gets cold in the mountains at night, or so we found out. Not having heavy blankets wasn't ideal, so I woke up a couple times and put on a t-shirt and later additional thin blankets. Also had to pee, which isn't totally convenient other than being able to go pretty much anywhere outside that I wished.

Woke up and lit out for some electricity so we could make our Keurig. Nothing at the first couple restrooms/party shelters we stopped; not even the bath house on the main campground. So we had to “borrow” an empty campsite's electric.

Then we did a short road tour of the area outside the park. Nothing prettier than a house situated on a broad plain, witnessed from a surrounding height.

At the camp store's entrance, four men of varying ages - a early 30-something cop and three older gentlemen with wrinkled visages like those of old time farmers, stood talking like you might see in Mayberry. Just shootin' the breeze. Would've loved to have listened and eavesdrop. I heard them one say “twenty years in the mine ain't long,” or words to that effect.

The big break was we didn't get any rain yesterday or last night. Rain is to camping what a flat tire is to bike-riding. Supposed to be another fair chance of the dreaded event today and tonight.

Lazed around until about 1, at which point we took a walk down to the amazing waterfall. We walked around there and sat there for awhile, even entering just above the falls via dry rocks. Then down the road, past the horse campgrounds, to where it forked off into two different trails. So maybe a mile and a half walk, enough for Buddy. Saw a black snake, presumably a Northern black racer, climbing the slick wall of rock along the path.

Wondered if this creek empties into West Virginia's New River, the place we went whitewater rafting. Thought about the oddness of a river, coming seemingly out of nowhere, built from rainwater. Or rather built from creeks, which are built from run-off rainwater. The great Mississippi seems almost created ex nihilo, starting from a tiny sprig of water. Maybe from a spring? Either way it seems amazing that the earth's water has arranged itself into these creeks that feed rivers that eventually feed oceans.

*

Ahhhh….yes…another wonder-restoring hike. Two miles, same as what I ran last night, but it felt like Hocking Hills of old with those grand vistas, the far tops of the mountains having some sort of magical pull for me, that distant inaccessibility somehow charismatic purely on account of being distant and inaccessible. The free, wildness of those tree-clad peaks. The succor of sun on those lucky tops. And all of this contrasted with the foreboding glade, the dark tangle of firs and birch and oak.

The cool thing about this trip is we stayed the same amount of time we would've at a Hocking Hills cabin but without the amenities of hottub and television and comfortable bed. But so far so great! The highlight and inspiration of Hocking, like Camp Creek, are the hikes down the long lanes past lawns and forest and mountains.

Felt strange to be completely disconnected. No cellphone service, no wi/fi. But probably good for the soul. Am now reading some of Shelby Foote's Civil War trilogy because it fits the scene: old-fashioned, epic, 19th century living (but for this ipad…).

I feel quasi-nostalgical already on this trip. The campfires. The smell - so fresh, so leaf pungent. The walks. The thrill of being outside at twilight turning into night. The flushless, walkless bathrooms (at least for number 1). The creek, the trees, the rocks. The sight of trees seemingly growing out of rock. The lichened stones. Maybe even the black snakes. Seems like we're just hitting our rhythm and it's time to go home. But better to leave wanting more than leave wishing for less.

But as Steph said, “this is medicinal.”

*

Took me a West Virginny bath! Just headed on down to the clear, rushing stream, soaped up my face, hair and underarms and rinsed in the refreshingly cool water. While lot quicker than bath house trip.

*

I wonder if anybody just walks gold courses, to admire their beauty?

*

Too cool: I hear what sounds like coyotes or wolves howling in the distaff distance.

*

I randomly came across this from this year's Old Farmer's Almanac and it pretty accurately describes what we're unwittingly doing:
Without a doubt, a walk in the woods lifts our spirits and makes us feel good. In Japan, this has developed into a new form of therapy and preventative medicine known as shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” which involves taking a stroll among the trees, breathing it all in.

A woodland walk affects all of our senses…and our health. Even a short walk in the forest will lower blood pressure and pulse rate, decrease fatigue and tension, increase the number of anticancer proteins, and encourage the growth of disease-fighting white blood cells. Some of these effects occur after we inhale chemical compounds from plants, fungi, and bacteria. These include phytoncides, which trees and other plants emit to protect themselves against insect attacks and rotting.
So, like drinking, I'm camping for medicinal purposes. Ha.

Sleep this second night was plentiful if compromised by the deep chill and inadequate blankets. I put on a T-shirt and a sweatshirt both, but the air was so cold I developed a cough and wondered if I was getting a cold. But then I thought to pull part of the blanket over my face and thus breathing warm air was able to get back to sleep and not feel like coughing.

I sipped precious java in front of a campfire until eating a by-then-cold but still good sausage/egg/cheese biscuit. Sudden upon us it was 10am, and I knew Steph wanted to pack up and head home but I asked for a 10 minute hike. Turned out to be closer to twenty because the scenery was so life-giving. A mere shaft of light could transport me, offer a moment of transcendence. The song “Wolverton Mountain” came to mind, as did the writings of John Muir.

But like all mountaintop experiences, this time literally a mountain top experience, I had to come back to earth. And so we toiled from to pack up everything with Steph-ian meticulousness. Then the drive back, begun at 11:30 and ended just before 4.  A fine way to end the summer!

August 29, 2014

Various Thoughts Conjoined by Helpful Asterisks


So A.L.S. has raised $100 million dollars due to the ice bucket challenge, showing the power of a virility, or viral-ality. The Catholic diocese of Cincy banned it from Catholic schools since ALS group involves in /advocates embryonic cell stem research. Steven Riddle had a good graphic on FB that pointed out how the amount of money we raise for illnesses is different from what actually kills us. For example, breast cancer raises by far the most despite being relatively low on the kill list.

There may be a certain illogic to over-funding causes that kill fewer people but we're not Spocks, not reducible to numbers, and it's understandable. Breast cancer disproportionately affects women and it's a honorable thing to respect women, to put them first. Disease also differs not just in mortality rate but in the fear associated around it. Alzheimer's, for example, may not kill as many as other diseases but its horrific nature makes it more fearsome than almost any. Similarly A.L.S., which is the opposite of Alzheimer's in that it takes the body and leaves the mind intact.

*

I often get enthused over trivia. Take this morning. I was uplifted by the utterly inconsequential event of selling my OSU laptop sleeve for $15. Since I haven't used the sleeve in years, this was roughly equivalent to finding $15 in the street. With the added benefit of removing clutter from the house. One man's junk is another man's treasure, as they say. My immediate reaction was to think of spending the found money on a book instead of giving it to the poor like Pope Francis would! Alas and alas.

I found it while going through my desk looking for documentation concerning a genealogy question. I showed it to my wife, who said, “no one will want that. Throw it away.” Instead I took it to work, published a description on the classified website and within 20 minutes had two people saying, “I want it!”. Obviously $15 was too cheap, ha. As I told Steph, if you put an OSU logo on manure, people would want it. It was originally $39, so for $15 used I suppose it was a deal. One thing's for sure, folks watch that classified site like a hawk. Second thing I've sold there of three I've tried. (Only a Civil War history book didn't sell, alas. Didn't have OSU logo on it.)

*

I had this sudden desire to bring a Bible to work, to put in my cubical. I want the words of comfort and correction near me. Just knowing they're there, even if I never pick it up (which I likely won't). I 'spect I have enough Bibles to spare one towards this purpose. In fact, I've pre-ordered another one, a $57 list price Ignatius press offering called The Didache Bible. Comes out in October. Was pleased to get it for $35 on amazon a month ago since it's now $41.

*


So I'm also mesmerized by another ridiculously banal earthly good, that of growlers at the new grocery store. It just opened today and so I called and found they sell fresh draught craft (pardon the rhyme) beer in the growler size. So tomorrow I'm going to have some giddyup and get over there and explore the world of growlers for the first time. They say growlers only stay fresh for about 7-10 days though. Not sure how it compares expense-wise versus bottles either.

*

I'm underwhelmed by the summer forecast from the Old Farmer's Almanac. Said our region would receive above average summer temps when, of course, we ended with below average temps. Weather forecasting is no more accurate than astrological predictions.

August 25, 2014

Interesting Comment on LOGOS Software

Perceptive comment from M.J. Smith on the differences between Catholic & Protestant Bible study on Logos Bible Software (where Logos = Protestant branding and Verbum = Catholic branding):
Simplifying greatly, the Verbum prespective is more a collective exegesis where there is an emphasis on how the passage has been interpreted and used over time. The Logos perspective is more a delve into the original language in detail - whether you really know the language or not - so that you are not trusting the translators (or anyone else .... except all the commentaries) to give you the REAL meaning of the text. Mind you, Verbum anticipates that you will delved into scripture in as many languages as you can to the limits of your competency and Logos expects you to read Commentaries galore ... so it isn't a stark contrast.

Found Around the Web

My bad memories don’t bother me much. They’re tucked away back there somewhere, but mostly out of mind. It’s my good memories I’ve spent half my lifetime trying to overcome.
Oh so true. For me personally, there's a part of me that relishes the sins of youth. There's also part of me that wants to write it off as pagan.

Of the opposite tendency, to write off the past Fr. James Martin wrote in his book on Jesus:
Denigrating the “before” is common in the spiritual life. After a conversion experience, one is tempted to set aside, downplay, or reject one’s past. In Thomas Merton’s biography The Seven Storey Mountain, the former dissolute student turned Trappist monk largely characterizes his former life as bad, and his life in the monastery as good. Of the “old” Thomas Merton, he said ruefully, “I can’t get rid of him.” In time Merton would realize how misguided a quest that is: there is no post-conversion person and pre-conversion person. There is one person in a variety of times, the past informing and forming the present. God is at work at all times.
It took me years to realize how limiting this approach can be, because it closes us off from seeing grace in our past....After entering the Jesuit novitiate, I slowly began to believe that all that had gone before was not as valuable as what had come after. I had undergone, to use an overused word, a “conversion” and so had put on the “new man,” as St. Paul says. This was indeed true. But I felt no need for the past, and sought to find God only in the present and in the future. In doing so I was negating all the good that God had done for me in the past. Sometimes we close the door to our past, thinking that since we have “progressed,” the past has little to offer. But we need to keep the door to our past open.
Those smiles reminded me that God was with me all along, forming me. As God is doing in every moment of our lives.
I've come to a similar understanding, that even in those periods of feeling bereft of God, He was there. I can't, therefore, devalue that time. And, in one of those Godincidences that make me smile, the opening hymn at Mass yesterday had something like, “you are my past, present and future”. One should be kind to one's younger self, after all, since today's current self is tomorrow's younger self.

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Really loving The Sunday Word commentary book of the editor of The New Jerusalem Bible, Henry Wansborough. Of this Sunday's gospel he says:
That is the importance of the naming of a child at baptism: Jesus takes us to himself and we become his. The early Christians called themselves ‘Those over whom the name of Jesus has been called’. We may have been named Mary or John, but the name of Jesus has been called over us and we have become his.
Another meditation seen elsewhere (Daughters of St. Paul):
God is an outlandish giver of gifts. The Master of the Universe entrusted himself, body and soul, into human hands at the annunciation. Mary alone, of us all, honored the gift of incarnation with an unsullied fiat throughout her life. God gives himself, body and soul, into our hands in the Eucharist, and the response has been mixed. Sacrilege upon sacrilege have been committed, and saints have been forged and fortified beyond all expectation. Jesus entrusts his authority to bind and loosen into the hands of Peter and by extension, to the other apostles and their successors. In human terms, Jesus is simply too trusting for his own good. During Lent 2000, Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan gave the spiritual exercises to the papal household. In one of his sermons, he preached on the defects of Jesus: Jesus has a horrible memory (of our sins); his math is not accurate and his logic off-balance (the one lost sheep is as valuable as the ninety-nine!); he takes far too many risks; and he clearly doesn’t make wise financial calculations. These “defects” come from his great love—that gives all, trusts all, and empowers all. 
It feels very wrong, but often enough I like the commentary on the gospel better than the gospel reading itself! This is true for me recently with the parable of the workers in the vineyard, where the latecomers ended up with the same as the early toilers.

It's not that I think it's unfair for God to give the latecomers the same pay, but because it makes the Kingdom sound like very contractual, a wage-earning type deal. The question of course becomes “how much work is enough? Have I done enough?”

The Daughters of St. Paul commentary pretty much turns it all on its head, saying flat out that God doesn't have or need money and that thus "the parable must be about something else":
Regardless of how good or bad we feel ourselves or others to be, we are all laborers, “useless servants.” If we were wise, we would take on the attitude of the truly evangelical image of the tax collector in the temple: “Forgive me, Lord, I am a sinner.” At some moment in our lives God will convict us of our sin, and in the same moment, he will wrap us in an unexpected, incredibly powerful embrace of love. At that moment we will realize that grace is “his own money.” He gives it as a gift to everyone, even to me. I will discover then that I am the last laborer hired, and I am still paid for a full day, because there are no wages. There is only the gift of God’s love and the merits of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, which belong to all the sinners he came to save.
*

Another tidbit found on the web today comes from Therese Brochard,who daily struggles with untreatable depression:
In 1959, when Victor Frankl published his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he discussed the research of his one his colleagues, Edith Weisskopf-Joelson, professor of psychology at the University of Georgia. She wrote:
Our current mental-hygiene philosophy stresses the idea that people ought to be happy, that unhappiness is a symptom of maladjustment. Such a value system might be responsible for the fact that the burden of unavoidable unhappiness is increased by unhappiness about being unhappy.
She believed that Victor Frankl’s logotherapy—a mental health strategy based on finding one’s life meaning—“may help counteract certain unhealthy trends in the present-day culture of the United States, where the incurable sufferer is given very little opportunity to be proud of his suffering and to consider it ennobling rather than degrading.” 
Now mind you, that was BEFORE the positive psychology movement. BEFORE the happiness craze—the media’s obsession with smiley faces and thousands of publications promising the way to joy. BEFORE mindfulness efforts and Buddhist monks showing us we can meditate our way to bliss. BEFORE all the tomes on the neuroplasticity of the brain and how we can think our way to contentment, one happy thought at a time. BEFORE Facebook and the documentation of happy lives!
That's pretty interesting commentary because it reminds me how we think there's something intrinsically wrong about having a cross. The gay person thinks it's a queer thing, no pun intended, to have to deal with unhappiness in the form of not being morally allowed to act out on it. The person in an unhappy marriage thinks it odd not to get a divorce in order to secure happiness. There's a whole lot of that going around. It's a short step from the Declaration's “pursuit of happiness” to “the right not to have a cross”.

August 22, 2014

Too Funny....One Star Book Reviews

Found here:
Leaves of Grass:
“I doubt I’ll pick it back up unless I run out of books to read, I’m too poor to buy any more books, all my friends turn on me and refuse to loan me anything else, and all the nearby libraries are set on fire simultaneously.”
The Sun Also Rises:
“This book reads like a series of Twitter posts by an arrogant alcoholic hanging around with his irresponsible alcoholic friends.”
Romeo and Juliet:
“First of all, the whole thing is almost all dialogue.”

Little Deutschland

Did my annual German Village tour the other day since the weather was supposed to be picture-perfect (it was). I set out belatedly at 1:30pm, driving south a mile and then taking the bike out of the trunk and traveling down the cobblestone roads that lead to all kinds of visual (and olfactory!) treasures. German Village is a treat, a hideaway, a foreign land of beauty right in our own neck of the woods. Who needs Savannah or Beacon Hill when you have these sublime visions of quaint brick houses and rich drapery in the form of trees, bush and flower?












I biked about six miles, just going up and down the European blocks, exploring. I came across the famous Schmidt's Sausage Haus, which always looks to me like a movie set. Later I came across an even more quaint German restaurant (“Jurgen's”). Stained glass windows of lederhosen men and dirndl-clad gals. I thought: “why can't it be my birthday soon and why can't we go there for it?” Alas my birthday always seems to be smack in the land of Busy, and usually it's all I can do but to get us to nearby Nasty's, an anondyne sports bar with loud rock and fried food.

There are a few eccentric yards, with cryptic outdoor statuary or, in one case, a chicken amid the sunflowers. (Sunflowers seem to be especially popular down there.) Schiller Park exuded it's usual charm. A huge phalanx of flowers along the main throughway. And this year I noticed something I'd never seen before: a fountain of a girl carrying an umbrella, the water weeping over the sides of the 'brella. Nice touch, added in 1993.

Another cool find was a tiny little nook of a park, near the corner of 5th and Berger, that was once called “Dog @$*@ Park” when it was a dismal bedraggled lot. Then one year a green-thumbed volunteer turned that space into a glorious space to behold, “Frank Fetch Park” it's now known as, full of flowers and bushes, fountain and paver stones. I read briefly there on one of the benches as a way of prolonging the beauty.

Then wanted to see St. Mary's church but, unfortunately, it was locked up tighter than Shiite chastity belt. So sad, the end of an era. Used to be ever open, like a gushing stream. They do have noon Mass there though so maybe if I'd gotten there earlier I could've inhaled the spirituality and refreshment. A visit to German Village without St. Mary's is definitely not the same.

Headed to the Book Loft, 32 rooms of books (but who's counting?) as well...

August 19, 2014

Ye Olde Obligatory Trip Log

First day of our "amost wasn't" trip. Like the mailman and Hollywood, I suppose the show and mail must go on.  This time two days late due to our dog being sick. It was a pretty restful drive - traffic surreally light despite or because it was a weekday. We lit out of Columbus belatedly, around 6:45am, but the trip felt almost effortless given how good a traveler our dog Buddy is.

The highlight of the trip was taking a sabbatical after about four and a half hours of driving. I'd suggested it might be fun to take Buddy on a micro walk on the Appalachian trail (and give him a chance to hopefully poop), so I looked to see if there was an exit off I-77 that might serve for that. I didn't find anything too promising but figured a state park in West Virginia might work. And so we stopped off, serendipitously, at Camp Creek State Forest and Park. We were greeted at the entrance by a fawn in the woods, and Buddy barked like there was no tomorrow at the pseudo-dog. The smell of alpine woods was intoxicating, the fresh mountain air and stream. We hiked along a street closed to visitors, having the place pretty much to ourselves. Later we drove around the sparsely populated campground. The highlight was seeing this gorgeous mountain stream waterfall. Water over stone. Primal. We could've sat next to that stream for hours.


Didn't read much on the trip (definitely not while driving, ha) - just some of George Will's new book on Wrigley Field inspired by listening to an interview by Brian Lamb. Arrived at 7:30, located the new condo, and then began the process of "home-izing" it: moved all the junk off the balcony into a spare bedroom, unpacked our belongings, and set up our Apple TV. A difficult operation, trying to thread the HDMI cord in through a crack of space between the television and the wall but motivation is 99% of solution. Sweet to have our "comfort shows" available, namely "Out in the Wild: Venezuela", a reality show rather than a drama. We gravitate away from dramas when our own drama is going on.

Tuesday:

So here we are in the familiar flora and fauna, Spanish moss and rhododendrons. A balcony. A courtyard. Sun. It reminds me of early summer at Miami U., which overlooked a courtyard of similar dimensions and architecture. I can see just beyond the condos the taller structure that looks French reminding me of the architecture at the Continent Apartments circa 1987, and prompting a desire to read the book on Paris I have on my Kindle. I can dream of Europe in August in South Carolina.

Read the following quote on architecture, via George Will:
Ernest Dimnet was a French abbé who frequently traveled and lectured in the United States. His business was soul, and he said: “Architecture, of all the arts, is the one which acts the most slowly, but the most surely, on the soul...It has been well said that architecture exists not for the structure itself but for the space the structure creates by enclosing it.
Last month was the third coolest July ever for Ohio, so the sun there feels tentative and instantly perishable. But here in paradise it's sun daily, clouds need not apply.   When God gave me Irish genetics He was teasin'. Morning sun lingers on the back, east-facing balcony and so I enjoyed that till about 12:30. Then much pent-up demand on the exercise side of things. Ran like the wind! 3.5 miles. A lot more than usual anyway.  Later fought amazing waves for a half-hour or more. The undertow was pretty surreal and the waves powerful due to Hurricane Bertha about 80 miles off the coast. Glad it didn't make landfall to put it mildly.

So after the two hours spent running on the beach and swimming in the surf, headed back to the Casa for a brief lunch and to collect beachware for the day: Kindle, beer and iphone.

I did try to live my "vacation life" in one day: after gathering beer and Kindle, rode bike up to Sea Pines gate and back, just to revel in the incomparable play of light and shadow along that path. There's a reason people flock here. Then rolled to beach and read some of a Hilton Head book ("Unpacked and Staying") before reluctantly heading back at the relatively early hour of 4:30pm. Nice to hear some rich Latino music too on the iphone - the party music goes well with the beach.
Constellations of sun,
naked bun and forgetful rum
I long to marrow the suck out of life
and savor the flavor of rife.

Some say Bette Midler's The Roseis less poetry than purple prose,
and some say I'm a romantic
in the seconds I'm not a pedantic.

From the tit of Samuel Adams
I quaff the brevity
You may call me fat and middle-aged
but I hope that's just levity.
WEDNESDAY:

Ah sigh I could get used to this. 1:30pm on a sun-rich beach reading White Tiger novel.

Woke and read a dollop of resource-rich Logos Bible app. Egg and ham breakfast. Around 11 headed to BI/LO, not to be confused with Buy Low, and picked up key supplies like beer and super glue. Oh who am I kidding? Super glue is not a key supply.

Biked down Pope Ave and saw a gator just on the edge of a lagoon. Got off the bike and headed down for a picture, ideally a selfie with the alligator inches behind me. Unfortunately the edge of the bank was wet marshland and didn't want to soak my shoes, so for want of that little bit of comfort I have no picture of Mr. Gator and me.

*

It's kind of funny how memorable a book that Gerry House offering. From the name, Country Music Broke My Brain you're thinking it ain't Shakespeare. And yet I was sad when it was over, oddly for the gossipy read. Reading seems such a crap shoot: thousands if not millions of them serviceable and satisfying but far fewer memorably lasting. And this one all from hearing a quick mention of it on Sirius/Xm radio.

*

Drink first, ask questions later.  Started brew o'clock at 3:10 (to Yuma). A long solid read session, beach walk and swim. Nice routine! I could get used to it. One slight problem with retirement is that it's not retirement to a beach.

THURSDAY 

I was a child when a song by Tammy Wynette was popular in our household. It was called Good Lovin' and it went, in part:
If you don't believe what I'm tellin' you is soPut your man right out in the street and watch him goRight to the arms of a woman who couldn't even hold you a lightWhen a lotta good lovin' would've made everything alright.
Now it sounded to me like “Put your man right out in the street and watch him go, Bob Cousy!”

I'm fairly sure she sings something between “watch him go” and “right to the arms” but the 'net has failed me, lyrics-wise. But far more certainly, she doesn't sing, “Bob Cousy!” after the famous Celtic pro basketball guard. But at the time I was into basketball, especially historical figures (historical to me at least) like Cousy. and I liked the pairing of “watch him go!” with “Bob Cousy”, imagining the fleet-of-foot guard dribbling around some six-eight behemoth. The song, in other words, gave me something that certainly wasn't intended by the writer. In fact I had no idea the song was even about love, or a facsimile thereof. It was satisfying.

I wonder how much of the ambiguity of art is satisfying because we get different things from it. Similarly Scripture is sometimes ambiguous and centuries ago saints might've thought one thing about a certain passage, maybe gleaned some powerful insight, while later biblical scholarship shows that that wasn't what the passage was intended to mean. I think God can work even through misunderstandings of words and his Word.

(LATER: Turns out she's saying "watch him go, raaht to thee ... arms of a woman," et cetera.
The disputed words are "right to the." With a very Southern i-sound in "right" and an over-emphasized vowel in "the.")

*

My first time at the beach, on Tuesday, it felt so temporary, like I'd never get enough beach time this foreshortened week. I felt like an interloper among beach veterans. (Veterans, mind you, of just two days.) But today I feel solaced by the time here, such that I even dared come down late today, around 2 after a bike ride.

Inevitably I think about the swift-flowing river that is Summer and its passing….I still long to play golf and run or bike ol' MU before she's past.

The daily wash of beauty via Beauty. I'm sort of amazed I can be so appreciative of the surroundings, of the palm trees and Spanish moss and cane and light and shadow.

Thought about how the Miami president runs with students every Saturday morning. The cool thing about being as extrovert, it would seem, is you get credit for being generous with your time when it doesn't actually cost you anything. Extros get their energy by being with people, so they can spend time with people and fill up the tank at the same time. Not sure there's an equivalent advantage for introverts.

*

Love that feeling of magic early in a scenic bike ride. Never do I feel the charisma of “summer afternoon” so easily on a bike ride. (Oh, or maybe on the hammock…or being next to the sea… Or..). Anyway, loved the simple thing of seeing the neat beds of auburn pine needles everywhere along the way. Nothing quite says “Hilton Head” like pine needle beds. Palms? I think of Florida. Spanish moss? Savannah. But pine needle beds the color of Irish hair equals Hilton Head.

*

I don't have opinions on this beach; I have only the present moment. As if the sun isn't reassuring enough there's the sound of fresh-flown waves, available every minute of every day, like God's consciousness, so unlike our own intermittent pattern.  I join the amniotic waters again today, reveling in the flow.

*

There's something confusing and “opposite world” about seeing these young people in the reality show Out of the Wild check their visages in a mirror after a couple weeks in the wild and be appalled. They all looked perfectly fine and photogenic to me, but they were crestfallen. Reminds me of something I read recently, that we spend the first half of our lives wishing we looked like somebody else and the second half of our lives wishing we looked like our younger selves.

FRIDAY:

So the drip-dram days come to an end, tis Friday. I'm writing in the window'd nook overlooking the green of day. The rich Hilton fatigue has set in, the pleasantness of physicality writ redundant.

Last night Steph went out for dinner with friend, husband, their adult daughter and Melanie's sister. They inherited some money and aren't shy about spending it: they're staying in a $4,000-a-week place on a beach in Sea Pines. Retails for $1.9 million dollars (ours for $130,00). The sore temptation of money is to spend it frivolously if you've got it, something we're increasingly susceptible to. Certainly our vacations are proof of that. Not the most Christian of impulses.

I watched over sick Buddy, or rather he watched me, especially when I was eating. Brian's Song was on the tube, which I haven't seen since it first came out. At the time I thought it was the saddest movie ever made, tainted as it was by the ending and I've avoided it ever since. It's the Old Yeller of sports movies. Seems a bit more watchable now, although I did skip the ending. Which is sort of like saying that the movie Titanic is great pre-iceberg.

The funny thing is I'd assumed that the running/training scenes the actor who played Sayers had to slow down for the actor playing Piccolo, but it was the opposite. The white guy in this case was faster than the black guy! James Caan played some college football and was far quicker than the black actor whose name escapes. Via the magic of the Internet was able to read up on his widow, who remarried three years later and whose husband is very supportive of her keeping Piccolo's memory alive via a foundation of some sort.

*

The reading cognoscenti down here are impressive from what I can see. Not too many junk novels, although there's a whole lot of Kindle reading going on which, obviously, prevents snooping. Saw Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowland in the wild, as well as Kyle Idleman (don't call him Idolman!)'s Gods At War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart. Of course I immediately downloaded samples of both books which is why I can't read The New York Review of Books. A single issue of that and I'd be downloading samples from two dozen books and spend all my time trying to decide which to read instead of reading what's in front of me.

The World Is That Woman Now

Have you ever known anybody who had no internal filter, who would simply say the first thing that came to her head without stopping to think about how it would be perceived by others?  The world is that woman now, that person who says whatever she has to say, right from the heart, no filters, buddy.  - Bill James
Ain't that the truth.  And, like most things, it has a positive side and a negative one.

One of the reasons I think blogs took off in the '90s was this 'blogesty' was a new-found niche. Too many examples to mention, but look at what Zippy Catholic recently opined on concerning the treatment of depression. This is something you would absolutely never read anywhere else:
For someone who is depressed but doesn’t need immediate hospitalization, alcohol is a more effective and safer pharmacological treatment than antidepressants, if a drug is really necessary. It is better to avoid psychotropic remedies entirely; but if you are going to go there, at least do something that is a known quantity with a track record and a properly balanced social infrastructure.

Alcohol is something about which we have plentiful independent information: it isn’t caught in the vortex of economically motivated disinformation that David Healy exposes in Pharmageddon. Because its long term heavy use carries enough social stigma there is still some incentive not to get trapped in a situation of physical dependency, or to get out of one if you find yourself there. Nobody is going to stage an intervention to help you kick the SSRIs, but alcohol comes with some built in social mechanisms to help. Alcohol is quite effective at helping a person feel better in the short term, probably more effective than SSRIs; and it doesn’t come pre-packaged with a credentialed doctor who will hold you hostage to the prescription pad on the one side, and lecture you to keep drinking and not ‘go off your meds’ when you get to the point where the benefits are outweighed by detriments on the other. And nothing prevents you from having a qualified physician monitor your alcohol use.

So my advice to most people is that it is far safer to take up drinking than it is to see a psychiatrist, if you simply have to have a pharmacological remedy.
In a time where freedom is increasingly circumscribed by fear of lawsuit among mainstream media outlets, you have to love that. I admit to a jejune appreciation of boldness like that, wherever the truth may lie.

Sirius XM radio host Lino Rulli has that “blogesty” thing going on even though he's not a blogger. He'll say what's on his mind, candor-full as the day is long. Yesterday he said watching Pope Francis in South Korea was like "seeing two different Pope Francis's: one, lively and happy with the crowds. The other looking depressed as he said Mass."

Lino says most of all this pope is not an actor, calling him amazingly authentic in that he can't force a smile to save his life. This pope is surely the pope of our era?

Asides

Chesterton always packs insight and my latest read is no exception. In The Everlasting Man he talks about how it's part of human behavior to nod, bend low, humble oneself, pray, propitiate to the gods or God. That's because man instinctively, or maybe through experience, knows that before the fall comes hubris. From the earliest myths we hear of men not getting cocky and suffering the consequences, namely a humbling or death. So in pagan times they gave credence to the gods mainly as a way of reminding oneself of the need to be humble. Chesterton argues that it was only in the Christian Era that the object of worship became worthy of that worship; many pagans didn't really believe in the gods, or if they did they saw them as mercurial and untrustworthy. Jesus certainly smashed that given his physical reality, and his dying for us.

*

Was bound and determined to use what morning energy I had to get my haircut, so got that done. The black shoeshine guy, name of Teeshaun, did the honors on my shoes this time (for first time). Teshaun's a tough guy, a dude familiar with the street, and with drugs, but he was interestingly humble and gentle of mien. Angling for a tip perhaps but impressive nonetheless. He gingerly took my shoes off after first carefully untying them, treating them awfully respectfully. After he did the shine he came back and gently re-shod me and tied the laces. I think that's the first time I've had someone tie my shoes for me since my mother circa 1969. I was kind of touched and given my fatigue level rather grateful I didn't have to put the shoes back on myself.

*

Made time, for a change (first time all year), to go kayaking. Yes the “endless summer” suddenly is beginning to feel like it has an expiration date.

Fast quick it was noon and I realized if I was going to kayak I'd best get on it.  I lit out in the truck for parts scarcely known in awhile (at least six months): the lakes of a rural park. Began with a restful reading of poetry on my Kindle (Cummings) along the shoreline next to the cattails. I was in a pose of great repose when a park ranger vehicle slowly went by. It turned around and came back and then, to my surprise, the woman in the passenger seat rolled down her window and took several pictures of me! That's never happened before.

Took pictures my own self of the photogenic environs. The catch of fronds frolicking in the wind on the tiny lakeshore brought to mind the sea oats swaying at Cape Cod on the edge of the Atlantic. In my fertile imagination anyway.

Also some Cummings helped on that score. It's funny how sometimes a single word, vivid and dreamatory, can set me off to the edges of consciousness. In this case the word “lavender”, as in “lavender skies”. It's rather funny how few words it takes, sometimes, for me to achieve a “wordgasm”.

Then did some rowing. Rowed all along the main lake, skating the edges, rolled down the middle, before heading under the bridge to Dog Beach lake where I tooled around and enjoyed the sight of so much water against the bow. Once home still wanted more outdoors so took Buddy to local park and we admired the wildflowers (or I did - Buddy admired the cornucopia of other dog excrementory smells; there's no accounting for that).

Speaking of, sadly our dog has cancer. My wife, made of steel and iron, has, like all of us, an Achilles' heel: Her love for dogdom. What point does our love for created things become an idol? She said that God gave her a heart for animals and made an incisive comment: “are we to be lukewarm towards everything but God?” Therein lies the rub! To not be lukewarm towards God's creation and yet at the same time not put it above God. I have no idea exactly how to square that circle.

*

Did some Logos lookups around the reading from Nahum today. The NABRE footnotes boldly go where no believer usually dares go:
"For never again will destroyers invade you": prophets are not always absolutely accurate in the things they foresee. Nineveh was destroyed, as Nahum expected, but Judah was later invaded by the Babylonians and (much later) by the Romans. The prophets were convinced that Israel held a key place in God’s plan and looked for the people to survive all catastrophes, always blessed by the Lord, though the manner was not always as they expected; the “fallen hut of David” was not rebuilt as Am 9:11 suggests, except in the coming of Jesus, and in a way far different than the prophet expected. Often the prophet speaks in hyperbole, as when Second Isaiah speaks of the restored Jerusalem being built with precious stones (Is 54:12) as a way of indicating a glorious future.

*

Does the suffering or persecuted Christian want to hear, "hey, the Cross is not necessary; we are 'Alleluia' people!"  The suffering want crosses to mean something in the light of eternity. Certainly I think those poor Christians in Iraq who are suffering must appreciate the "hard sayings" in the Bible, which is why persecuted Christians during the late 1st century appreciated the Book of Revelation, one that certainly has a lot of harsh (to our ears) verses.

The smell of August
like peat burning
in the woodsmoke air
Only desperation plays the song
that humans hear
only desperation (meaning, the poor)
heed Him who Is.

August 05, 2014

Bible Commentary Contest!

Hie thee here: http://www.catholicbiblesblog.com/2014/08/end-of-summer-contest.html to win a chance for some good Catholic bible commentary on some of St. Paul's letters.

July 15, 2014

Strange Gods v. iGods Faceoff


Came across a new book that would seem to cover the ground that Elizabeth Scalia already scoped out in her "Strange Gods".  This one, also written from a Christian perspective, is called (more felicitously I thought than Scalia's): "iGods".

The author said something I'd seen elsewhere, something perhaps a bit unsatisfying given the somewhat murky division between occasionally and more than occasionally:
Most idols begin as good things...When we shift from thinking about something occasionally (a romantic relationship, a promotion, a possession, our family) to obsessing over it constantly, we are turning an idea into an idol. It becomes the thing we cling to, that gives our life purpose and meaning. Idols are anything we're so attached to that we can't imaging living without... What would we hate to lose and feel lost without?  Where do our thoughts wander in our free time?

July 14, 2014

Stuff

Read more of Jack Gilbert's poetry. Oh but I'm going to be powerful sad when the book is done, as it shortly will be. For whatever reason I seem to have lost the Cummings bug, at least momentarily. Just a bit too cryptic and “cute” for me, the punctuation feels a bit gimmicky over time and it just makes me appreciate Gilbert's no nonsense, more prose-y approach more. I like that Gilbert brings up religious subjects.

Some excerpts from this a.m:
There is a film on water which permits a glass to hold more than it can hold. If probed, the water breaks. Before and after, both are truly water. But only one will support swans.
Deep, man.

And in its entirety (without line breaks unfortunately since this is a cut & paste from Kindle):

THE RING
They have Mary’s wedding ring in the Cathedral. I was eager to see it, but learned it is kept fastened in a box which requires keys carried by the district’s three main officials. The box is locked seven times in a chest and the keys held by their chief guilds. The chest is sealed in the wall of the nave, thirty feet in the air. Stairs are built to it just once a year. It is a very holy relic, and I assumed they feared thieves. Today, when I asked of it, I learned it is magic. The color changes according to the soul before it. Then I understood about the locks. The ring is not being protected. It is locked in.
*

So we're right in the sweet ache of summer, smack dab. It's still early July or at least mid-July, and I take comfort in that even though in the back of my mind I think it's never quite the same after the Fourth of July. It's that tissue thin difference between a woman of, say, 24 and one of 30. There's never enough summer (or youth) unless you live in L.A., and even some of those folks think they have seasons.

Jogged the Goodale route this time, around the park and the large pond with the spouting elephants. The beauty of the fountain in the sun, the statuary of the elephants, their trunks jaunty in the air, made for a breathtaking scene. Reminds me of some of the great shots of Fountain Square in Cincy as shown before some Reds games. Who does not love a fountain in summer? Certainly everyone in Rome…

Later I headed out to the local bike path where I had one of those old-fashioned long (for me) bike rides. Took the trail to the beautiful white farm house, turned right and took the next left, onto the quintessential rural road. Squint your eyes and you'd swear you were in Glynnwood, Ohio, aka God's country. I rolled down the road listening to music on the headphones, including a satisfyingly country/drinking (redundant?) song.

Then took our dog Buddy on a quick ten-minute walk at the park after confronting an orange traffic barrier with a sign saying Beware Aggressive Bird. Wow, that's something I've never seen before in my whole life. I guess if you live long enough you'll see everything. The bird ended up being less aggressive than advertised; with that announcement I was expecting, and half-hoping, to get dive-bombed. I was ready for battle; I would take on any bird using my comparatively large size to my advantage.

The red-winged blackbird was certainly loud and obnoxious, cackling overhead loudly and “escorting” me along the bridge but it wasn't exactly out of Hitchcock's The Birds and no humans (or dogs) were harmed during the walk.

It's funny to see how presumably a fear of lawsuits or safety-mania now involves putting up a sign to warn of a bird (maybe it's a terrorist bird?). I think with safety, as with wealth, (or the welfare state) there seems no natural stopping point: you're never rich or safe enough. It's also partly generational since each generation has an expectation of greater safety and wealth. Certainly I expect safer working conditions than were prevalent in the early 1900s, and no doubt my grandchildren will expect their children to wear not just helmets but full football-gear/pads for a bike or car ride. And no doubt their houses will likely be a lot bigger than mine.

*

Arguably these are the stages of enlightenment -- in order of increasing difficulty for people to believe --:  a) there is a God, b) He loves us c) He's still with us in Communion, really present and d) his Spirit is within us and our neighbor.

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Watched the action-packed finale of 24. Tight season with a sad, heart-rending ending: President Heller, diagnosed with Alzheimer's, comes to terms with the tragic death of his daughter by realizing pretty soon he would forget her death or that he even had a daughter. Alzheimer's has about it a special cruelty of loss, though in one sense it just makes God that much more amazing given that He's going to make it right, and not just make it right but bring some spectacular good out of it. I suppose if we didn't see the depths of earth how would we know the heights of God?  A rescue is no rescue if it's not from danger.

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Enraptured by a picture taken of our glorious backyard during the sun-zenith, and realized just how rare a feeling it is, to be out in the yard under those circumstances. Definitionally it can only happen on weekends and holidays, and most holidays seem to be occluded with social or other obligations. So that leaves just Saturdays in June, July and August and naturally it'll be cloudy or rainy for some of them (at least in "Cloudumbus"). So out of 365 days there are maybe twelve max non-vacation days I'm appreciating full sun at some point between 10am and 2pm in our backyard.

Ha, from Life of Johnson (I beg to differ!):
[Johnson] again advised me to keep a journal fully and minutely, but not to mention such trifles as, the meat was too much or too little done, or that the weather was fair or rainy. He had, till very near his death, a contempt for the notion that the weather affects the human frame.