June 30, 2004



Pastoral Thoughts

Red, he wore,
for the Roman martyrs,
a pastor who shepherds
with consistency if not flash
and in his everydayness
provides stark contrast
to the victims of Nero.

And yet there’s something oddly comforting
in his workmanlike performance
in the heavenly task
making bread Body
and wine Blood.

A one-to-many relationship
has priest to congregation
such that I thought myself
contentedly invisible
until he stuck out his hand
and called me by name.

Like Jesus.
Auf Deutsch

German is apparently harder for babelfish to descipher, but I get the jist of Scipio's comments about death and about how the approach of the moderns differs from ages past.
Whoville Residents

We've all heard stories of 120-lb women who are able to lift cars if their children are in danger of being crushed. Somehow they find an energy that is superhuman, or at least far greater than anyone could've predicted.

I wonder if there is a spiritual analogy when it comes to faith. if our daily hypochondriacal faith struggles make us feel puny perhaps, in the face of seeing someone else for whom we're profoundly moved to pray for, our faith will grow like the heart of the Grinch - 3 sizes that day!
    Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I realized that one of my great accomplishments in life has been to do contour plowing on perfectly flat surfaces. When I look back over my Christian life it is a history of setting hand to plow and looking back. - Steven Riddle isn't alone though few of us could've said it so well.

At the root of plutocracy is the awful idea of Efficiency. But human beings are inefficient. Families are models of human inefficiency; that is why they are, and always will be, even unto the end, the final guarantor of liberty. All the world may be an anarchy of efficient inhumanity; a mechanized madness of perfect efficiency; and yet, if human beings yet flourish, even in such dark days, they will flourish because Efficiency is checked at the solid door of the family home. For liberty itself is inefficient. What is efficient about free men trading stories over mugs of beer? What is efficient about a woman cultivating her own garden, a small but soaring slice of creation, wherein she becomes and embodies the imago Dei? - Paul Cella, via Jeff of ECR

I see many, many attempts at [fraternal] correction that appear to be cause-oriented, along the lines of, "But what that guy's doing is wrong! I've got to say something!" That's a mechanical response, and humans (as reason and faith together proclaim) are more than machines. If the effect you want is to release the emotions what that guy's doing causes in you, then go into a deserted place and reel off an imprecatory psalm or two. If the effect you want is for that guy to stop doing something wrong, then first ask yourself whether he will acknowledge your authority and perceive your love if you say something to him...Put this way, it sounds obvious, but in practice I find it's hard not to leave it up to others to find the love in the way I express myself. That, of course, is to put love of myself ahead of love of others, and who would fault the other for not doing the work to perceive my love for him buried under my love for myself? - Tom of Disputations

You know, if PapaC were really smart....he would pay 1/2 Price Books a small sum every month to bar me from the store. He would come out ahead. - MamaT of Summa Mamas. Don't tell my wife.

If The Flintstones is supposed to be set in the time before Christ, why was there a Christmas special?....If you try to fail but succeed, then which have you really done?...Check out Extreme Catholic's St. Blog's word frequency count. Some words I'd like to see next time: buy...kathryn...lively's...books - Kat of Livelywriter

esperando nacer - (Spanish for "hoping to be born") - evocative title of Hernan Gonzalez's new blog.

Someone once remarked that if German theolgians saw two doors, one marked "Heaven" and the other marked "Discussion on Heaven," they would go in the second. There is no doubt in my mind which one the Swiss father would enter. He loved knowledge because it led to the Lord. - Ronald Reagan in a speech on Hans von Balthasar, via Philip Blosser

What are the odds that Kerry has ever even *heard* of von Balthasar? How many American Presidents or politicians can *you* think of who could discourse about von Balthasar? The trope that Lefties are Highly Intelligent and Educated while those on the right are all brainless monobrowed rubes has *really* shot its bolt. - Mark Shea on Philip Blosser's post
Various & Sundry

I don't recall any Scriptural references to Jesus being tempted by the devil in the Garden before his Crucifixion but it's an interesting aspect in Gibson's movie because it gives light to the parallel between the two in the garden, Adam and Jesus, and how their choices differed. If Adam's paradise was in fact paradisical then you have a sinless man (Adam) choosing to sin amid plenty, compared to a sinless man (Jesus) choosing not to sin amid a poverty.

*

Mary asked why, of all the great writers, I'm attracted to Flannery so much. I think it's because she combines everything I'd like to be: heroic, a great Catholic, a great writer. She was a modern who was thoroughly un-modern and that speaks to me profoundly. Of the Catholic writers I'm familiar with she's the only one who seems truly a saint. I've read Merton's journals, and he's not the person I thought he was. Percy I like and find great sympathy but I don't look up to him. Flannery I do, and her Habit of Being is the sine qua non of my affection for her.

*

I'm seeing anew the necessity of courage. In Pearce's book about C.S. Lewis he said that courage is the basis for all virtues.

On the drive to work I'm listening to the life of John Calvin and it's intriguing how terror appeared to play a role in the beginning of his (and Luther's) ministry. Calvin had planned to be a private scholar and wanted no part of Christian ministry. He stopped in Geneva, intending to stay one day, but Reformers there begged and pleaded with him to organize a new church (the citizens of Geneva had just voted against staying Catholic and in the chaos needed an intelligent man with vision). The Reformers resorted to threats when Calvin refused, one of them putting a curse on him if he did not stay. Calvin was terrified by this and agreed. Luther is said to have been terrified by a thunderstorm walking home from the university and made a similar decision in its wake.

*

Went to CommunistFest, the little Columbus music festival where women supposedly bare their breasts though I’ve never seen it. I go every year in search of the Other, to see different looking and acting people. Many walk around with enough metal in their face to set off the airport radar gun. The fest seems to draw misfits and misfits are what the Church ought to be welcoming. Our churches should be a magnet for misfits.

Maybe they're doing crazy things to themselves in order to provide a reason for their ostracization. Then they can feel good knowing they're being rejected for superficial reasons. Why give them a reason for being ostracized in the first place?

*

Humbling article containing a minefield of stiletto points:
Hence Keck’s baleful assessment of contemporary Christianity: "The opening line of the Westminster Confession is now reversed, for now the chief end of God is to glorify us and to be useful to us indefinitely."


No wonder that Flannery O’Connor likened sentimentality in religion to pornography in art: they both cultivate immediate sensate experience for its own sake.


T. S. Eliot once observed that our unconscious habits, especially our leisure lives, serve to shape our souls and form our imaginations far more decisively than all our deliberate efforts to acquire high culture.


William Temple spoke similar wisdom when he declared Christianity to be the world’s most materialistic religion. Redemption is an outward and public and visible thing wrought by the flesh-assuming, world-inhabiting God. The objective work of Jesus Christ is the center of the Christian life, upon which all subjective conversions are based, themselves enabled by God’s own gift of faith.

June 29, 2004

A Flannery O'Connor Blog

Finally done what I've wanted to do for awhile - collect all the Flannery O'Connor quotes I've collected into one blog. For future reference, I'll link it on the left side of the stage.
Populist Elitists

There's a constant tension in our political arguments to move from an elitist disgust of the masses to a reverence for them depending (of course) on whether we agree with the masses on a particular issue.

Neither the left or the right is immune. One self-described "moderate" newspaper columnist said she now calls herself an elitist, apparently having given up on democracy. She knows best, but in lieu of not having power, she hopes the Supreme Court will set things right by allowing gay marriage and continue to protect the killing of babies.

Victor David Hanson sings the praises of democracy in his book on Sherman in but he doesn't try to square two main points he subscribes to:

A) the Civil War was really about slavery, notwithstanding the hollering about states' rights.
B) 75% of Confederate soldiers did not own any slaves

There seems a problem. Either the large number of Southerners who approved of the war despite not owning slaves were dupes of the plantation elite or they really believed in the war wasn't about slavery but about theories of how the Constitution should work. Perhaps it was just the natural nativism that Southerners didn't like Northerners telling them what to do.

I was thinking about this while reading of Michael Moore, who turns out to be something of an oxymoron - a populist-elitist.
Sancta Sanctis

Cat got my tongue today so I'll post this piece from Enbrethiliel:

"What Alkdilwen said, I will never forget: 'Why can't a saint have a mental illness? I've known holy people with mental illnesses. I believe St. Anthony really did see the devil, but would it have made any difference if he had just hallucinated? God can work with that, too.'

She's very right. If God can use something like wealth, which seems so opposed to His ideal of poverty for the sake of the Kingdom, as a channel for His grace, then He can also use mental illness. In fact, since mental illness is much more of a cross than financial wealth--and true poverty compared to mental health--it must be a greater means of sanctification than many people give it credit for.

Now back to Brideshead Revisited for a bit. (SPOILER WARNING!) One of the characters starts out so unhappy that he becomes an alcoholic. With great naivete, I assumed that, the novel being about how God's grace touches different people, he would completely conquer his disease by the end of the story and even be able to drink normally once more. Well, that's not how it turns out.

Still struggling with his alcoholism, Sebastian (for that is his name) makes his way to a monastery and asks to be taken in as a novice. (Aha, I thought: he shall become a monk and that shall cure him.) The Superior wisely turns him down, as he later explains to one of Sebastian's sisters: "I did not think that there was anything I could do to help him except pray."

Then the sister, who is telling the story to yet another character, says of the monk's treatment of Sebastian, "He was a very holy man and recognized it in others." (I thought: yes, I understand that the monk is holy, but Sebastian is still an alcoholic. What is so holy about that?) A few pages later, she gives one of my favourite passages in the novel, which serves to explain:
I've seen others like him, and I believe they are very near and dear to God. He'll live on, half in, half out of the community, a familiar figure pottering round with his broom and his bunch of keys. He'll be a great favourite with the old fathers, something of a joke to the novices. Everyone will know about his drinking; he'll disappear for two or three days every month or so, and they'll all nod and smile and say in their various accents, "Old Sebastian's on the spree again," and then he'll come back dishevelled and shamefaced and be more devout for a day or two in the chapel. He'll probably have little hiding places about the garden where he keeps a bottle and takes a swig now and then on the sly. They'll bring him forward to act as a guide, whenever they have an English-speaking visitor, and he will be completely charming so that before they go, they'll ask about him and perhaps be given a hint that he has high connections at home. If he lives long enough, generations of missionaries in all kinds of remote places will think of him as a queer old character who somehow part of the Hope of their student days, and remember him in their masses. He'll develop little eccentricities of devotion, intense personal cults of his own; he'll be found in the chapel at odd times and missed when he's expected. Then one morning, after one of his drinking bouts, he'll be picked up at the gate dying, and show by a mere flicker of the eyelid that he is conscious when they give him the last sacraments. It's not such a bad way of getting through one's life.
Sebastian's alcoholism was not healed (on earth, at least), but it was made holy. That line about the generations of missionaries who would always remember him made me cry the first time I read it. Making someone that low and humble and simple part of the hope of what are already very hopeful "student days" is the kind of beautiful idea that only God would have. Blessed are the poor in spirit indeed."


* * *
I'm not an alcoholic, having tried but found that it unduly interfered with my reading, but I think that most of us are poor in one sense or another and can relate to her post.

June 28, 2004


__

Belloc Quote
The air was full of midsummer, and its mixture of exaltation and fear cut me off from ordinary living. I now understood why our religion has made sacred this season of the year; why we have, a little later, the night of St John, the fires in the villages, and the old perception of fairies dancing in the rings of the summer grass. A general communion of all things conspires at this crisis of summer against us reasoning men that should live in the daylight, and something fantastic possesses those who are foolish enough to watch upon such nights.
On FFL

Sherman defended his destruction of Southern property by saying it's "better Southerners be poor and alive in Georgia than rotting in the mud of Northern Virginia." That may well be true. There is nothing poorer than being dead to quote Flannery O'Connor. The dead cannot speak; aborted babies have no voice. We have to be their voice.

I like that this organization because it speaks to women, who are the decision-makers both literally at the point of a crisis pregnancy and figuratively in the voting booth (Clinton's pro-abort judges would not have been nominated because Clinton wouldn't have been elected without the support of women).

I also tend to think that the "feminist" tag has been hijacked.

June 27, 2004

Kill All The Terrorists?

I'm reading a short bio of William Tecumseh Sherman in "The Soul of Battle" by Victor David Hanson and the Ohioan comes off rather well: "Sherman, we forget, really was a professor and college president. Of all the major Civil War generals in the field, Sherman was the best educated and the most voracious reader...Sherman was naturally bright and superbly educated in both abstract and practical sense - while in transit to California, he drilled his soldiers between reading Washington Irving, Shakespeare, and 'everything I could get'...". The real dilemma of Sherman, Hanson writes, is "to understand a man who wrote of the need to slaughter hundreds of thousands but killed very few, and with real reluctance."

Sherman came to the conclusion (unlike Grant & others) that the way to peace was not by killing as many Confederates as possible. Hanson quotes Liddell Hart:

"He had come to realize that in war all conditions are more calculable, all obstacles more surmountable, than those of human resistance. And having begun the war with an orthodox belief in the sovereign efficacy of battle as a 'cure all' he had learnt that the theoretical ideal of the destruction of the enemy's armed forces on the battlefield is rarely borne out in practice and that to pursue it single-mindedly is to chase a will-o'-the-wisp. Because of his original orthodoxy it is all the more significant that he reached the conclusion that the way to decide wars and win battles was 'more by movement of troops that by fighting.'"

Hanson writes, "Sherman also understood, as did no other Union general, the close tie in the Southern mind between pride and property. If he burned Georgia unmercifully, it may have been because he had lived in George, South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana and knew exactly what material damage would do to the psyche of the South."

So Sherman discovered that the way to change hearts and minds in the South was by burning property and not by killing soldiers. So how to break the will of the terrorists? I don't know the answer, but I suspect, like Sherman, it's not the wholesale killing of them.

The war in Iraq, for me at least, was never about terrorism although I don't know that you can separate the two in the terrorist mind. I think we were obligated to either go to war or withdraw completely by lifting the economic sanctions which killed far more Iraqi civilians than did the war. For me, the policies of George Herbert Walker Bush are more suspect that George W. Bush. Whether we should've gone to war in '91 is a far more interesting question than whether we should've gone to war last year. But, and I really mean this, what do I know?
Sylvan Thoughts

"Trees of Miami, Beautiful Trees…
Truth, Remembrance, Youth –
Of These You Brood
In Your Ancient Reveries."

--Percy MacKaye
(poet laureate of Miami University in Oxford during the '20s)

I'm not a tree-hugger but I play one on hikes sometimes. I'll hug a tree and inhale her mossy bark. John Derbyshire in NRODT writes of them:
What wonderful, mysterious things they are! We have been sharing the natural realm with these creatures since the very beginnings of human consciousness, yet they are still as strange to us as, if they had any sentience, we would be to them. One is not surprised to recall the quantity of lore and superstition our remote ancestors attached to trees, much of it gathered up in Sir James George Frazer's vast book named, significantly, The Golden Bough. The historian Paul Johnson, who is also a weekend artist, has written somewhere of the great difficulty of painting trees - a thing that, after several decades of trying, he still does not feel he has got right. One of the best known (and most parodied) American poems is titled simply "Trees".
Dick Cheney & the F-word

What bothers me about Dick Cheney's use of the f-word in conversation with Sen. Patrick Leahy was not its usage per se but that he lost his cool. The other party is often rightly accused of "rule by emotion", so for the conservative and normally cool-headed Cheney to lose his cool is especially noteworthy.

But this is mostly a problem because I fear it means Cheney will be less likely to espouse prudent policy decisions because of his animus towards Leahy and others on the left. Now granted Leahy is mostly a purveyor of evil, a marcher and flag-waver in the culture of death, but he could be right occasionally. And unfortunately policies don't come from the sky untainted but arrive surrounded by personalities. And it's much harder to do the right thing when those you dislike think it's the right thing.
Dreams

Alas, I'm the Irish storyteller who wasn't. Only my dreams tell tales; in my conscious state I couldn't make up a story to save my life. But in my dreams there are wonderous concoctions that keep my interest far better than any movie. Dreams are tailor-made movies - tailor-made for our unique recipe of issues and pushing our unique "buttons".

The less fiction I read, the more likely I am to dream, as if the night's responsibility is to make up for the day's loss. And if my days be Jeckyl-like in their constant reproachments towards the positive, the nights can be Hydes.

Dreams tend to crumble into dust upon entry in the morning sun. I can pick up a piece here or there, sniff a narrative thread for awhile, but great chunks of it have dissolved by the time I'm fully awake.

June 25, 2004

Excerpts of Poems by Diana Der-Hovanessian
OLD WORDS

Sometimes it takes five words
of buoyant, tensile English
to explain one ancient leathery word.

Old words lie weighted, glittering
for centuries in the sun
like brittle stones.

And Armenian words have worn thin
like old coins, changed, exchanged in vain,

gaining a soft patina unmatched
except by old monasteries in the rain.

*

MUSE

Tonight, feverish, head-aching, trying to sleep
I mumbled "Leave me alone", then leaped
up, frightened you might really go,

to write the words you dictated one by one,
wondering who (you or me) was meant
as the lost exile you wanted found.

I could sleep without you prodding me awake;
and read merely for pleasure's sake.
Without you my day's pace, quick or slow

would be guiltless. I could like in the sun
or work without your persistent
"It didn't happen unless it's written down."
From Today's Magnificat magazine

Cardinal Newman, who my great-grandchildren will probably refer to as St. John Henry Newman, on what faith is:
...without knowing accurately what we are doing, not knowing either what we give up, nor again what we shall gain; uncertain about our reward, uncertain about our extent of sacrifice, in all respects leaning, waiting upon him, trusting him to fulfill his promise, trusting in him to enable us to fulfill our vows and so in all respects proceeding without carefulness or anxiety about the future.
Old Journal Entries Never Die...

...they just get posted some day. I'm going through old entries for a project I'm working on and came across a couple that were kind of interesting. The first is from June 15, 1997 and describes that initial talk that Scott Hahn gave after Mass. I didn't know him from Adam at this point, and got it quite wrong that he was an Episcopalian (he was a Presbyterian pastor):
Nice chat at Mass today from a former Episcopalian minister who converted to Catholicism. He admitted in his former life he had tried to subtly convert catholics to protestantism, but in the end finally couldn’t square John 6 - “those who eat of my flesh and drink my blood shall have eternal life” since the original words pre-translation meant this literally & not symbolically. You could tell he’d struggled with it, taking a leave of absence and probably losing a some friends. Jesus said, ‘they know not what they do’, and cradle catholics could say ‘we know not what we have’ with respect to the Eucharist. His family huddled in group prayer after Mass, combining the best aspects of the Prot’s outgoingness with the Catholic’s Mass. Too bad this guy had to take a demotion; he obviously can’t become a priest.
Ham of Bone Starts Work Monday!

Great news - Ham got a job. Longtime readers will remember him as my out-of-work friend. He'll be working on a 2-month consulting contract with the option of perm hiring. Thanks for your prayers.
Why'd the Democrats Make it Close?

It's not my job to question the wisdom of Democratic primary voters, but Sen. Kerry seems an odd choice. He might win in November but why did the Demos decide to even make it close if they really hate Pres. Bush so much? I think any number of other Dems would've made better candidates and probably had Bush in a choker hold right about now.

It goes without saying that I wouldn't have voted for any of the Democratic candidates. But if I, a conservative, can see some good in a candidate then it stands to reason that he or she would get a large proportion of moderate and swing voters. This was proven back in '91 when I could see some good in Clinton and he was subsequently elected. I couldn't stand Al Gore and he narrowly lost.

So, drawing on my credentials as your average, conservative Midwesterner whose state will play a major role in this year's election I'll mention my take on the former Democratic candidates for VP-picking purposes. Since they all share policies that I don't like, this will obviously be subjective, but I take it that's how the swing voters vote. Without further ado: 1) loathe: Kerry, Wesley Clark 2) Can tolerate: Lieberman, Graham of Florida 3) Could almost like: Gephardt, Edwards.

June 24, 2004

Washington & the Seeming Aloof

Steven Riddle makes an interesting point about the fallacy of first impressions:
There was a time at which I believed all of the revisionist "stuff" about him [George Washington]--an incompetent leader, a cold and distant unfriendly man, a dullard. But as I have come to know him better I realize that were people to judge me by demeanor (which, of course they do all the time) I would be set with the same labels, and yet, I have to confess a certain amount of confusion about this. I am not deliberately cold nor distant, but someone who does not know me well will often discribe me as aloof and terrifying. (You can't even begin to imagine how funny this is without having seen me--I'm about as terrifying as a gerbil.) So I have felt a certain kinship in judgment.
I used to work with a guy back in the '80s who was a very strong Christian but never said three words together. His face was ashen and you got the sense he didn't get out much. His cubical was festooned with words from Scripture. He was not unpleasant to work with and he never said a bad word about anybody but I always wondered if this was his natural personality or if his single-minded devotion to Christianity made him quieter and more reticent and retiring. A natural reserve that does not cozy to too-soon intimacies is probably the mark of better Christians than me. Thomas Aquinas was so reserved he was considered a dullard and acquired the moniker "Dumb Ox" by schoolmates. That was soon disproven.

Postscript: Steven's musings on history got me thinking. The great thing about an interest in history is how it feeds itself in a search for first causes. If I study the Civil War period, it's natural to be interested in what actually led to it, leading to the 1820s-1850s when the debate raged. This leads back to the Founding Fathers, to figure out what they thought of slavery and states' rights. A strong interest in John Adams led me to the David Fischer's "Albion's Seed" which describes the Puritan migration, which leads to an interest in 16th century England...etc...
    Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

...The weekly exercise where everyone not listed feels p*ssed off.

Even a well-catechized 18-year old, or at least most of them in North America, would benefit from a university-level introduction to theology, philosophy, and literature. Campion was never about secluding the students and innoculating them against modernity as your post implies. We offered the students a series of courses which showed them the amazing interrealted nature of the above-mentioned disciplines. We wanted them to exercise truly human powers and conder what it really means to be a human being. We never tried to have them flee the world--we gave them the opportunity to live in it and not have to be of it. We gave them the opportunity to be adult catholics. Even the best confirmation program cannot and should not do or be that. Faith formation is not the same thing as intellectual formation. Pray for the small-minded souls at Guadelupe Associates and never buy a book from Ignatius Press. - Professor Stephen Cordova, commenting on Campion College's demise via Erik's Rants & Recipes

When he takes away what he once lent us, his purpose is to store our treasure elsewhere more safely and bestow on us those very blessings that we ourselves would most choose to have. --St. Aloysius Gonzaga, via Steven Riddle

I feel he [John Senior, author of The Restoration of Christian Culture] is right about a lot of things--the predominantly evil tendancies of television, the need for devotion to our Lady, family and small nature-and-Reality-based community as foundation for genuine Christian culture... He is evidently a Distributist, which name is noised about quite a bit at school, but doesn't come out into the open very often, except in the Poli-Sci department which tends to be Capitalist. The big question: how much is idealism and how much is practical--or how much *needs* to be?.... - Therese of "Destination:Order"

Help me think of other saints who blazed up early and died young. I am very attracted to them, probably as contrast to the scratched, bug-covered windshield through which I view the Lord and His Mercy. - Therese Z of Exultet

Men have forgotten the greatness of God. - Bishop Sheen of Heaven

I survived five days and four nights of solitude while the rest of the family was up in Massachusetts. I got very little done around the house (though I didn't let the dishes pile up), but slept a lot. I got very little done around the house (though I didn't let the dishes pile up), but slept a lot. I rented the MST3K The Brain that Wouldn't Die and Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility and watched the former twice and the latter three times (once with Thompson's commentary); I think she did an excellent job with it. - Bob, the Trousered Ape. Three times? I'm impressed. Bob is one heckuva sensitive male.

Magnitude in spiritual things is not measured by poundage but by perfection. - Fr. Farrell via Bill of Summa Minutiae

Our emotions are slippery and autonomous things. Even once we learn to calm them somewhat and keep them in check, they will still come and go as they please. Just because you have emotions that nudge you toward evil, that doesn't mean you have sinned. Just because you have lovely emotions that nudge you toward benevolence, that alone doesn't mean you've done anything praiseworthy or that you are particularly spiritual. What have you chosen to think, and what have you chosen to do? What have you chosen to say, and what did you decide to leave undone? There's where you can see whether you love your neighbor or not. - Fr. Jim of "Dappled Things"

One line is ringing in my head today - offering God thanks for the "joy that has come to us out of our work" during the past week. I often feel a bit rueful when I hear it. The line makes me think of the swinging of an ax or hammer, putting up preserves, painting a house, toting that barge and lifting that bale on a brisk autumn day where you can do a solid something with tangible results, take a deep satisfied breath, and brush the sawdust off your hands with a sigh of satisfaction. What is the Work from which I rest on the Lord's Day? I talk to people, hunch over my computer, sit in meetings, develop that flat left ear from lengthy phone conversations, encourage, write and rewrite, grouse, snack and sit. I'm not sure what to think or say about that. It doesn't feel virtuous. I suppose it's worthwhile, though the connection between work in Corporate American and doing genuine good seems tenuous at best sometimes. - Roz of "In Dwelling"

There's the pragmatic, "ours is not to reason why" approach, which points out that Scripture tells us to choose good and avoid evil if we want to be saved, not if we know we are going to be saved. We follow Christ's commandments because following His commandments is our job; worrying about how what we do meshes with Divine predestination is above our pay grade. - Tom of Disputations on Predestination

Every society has the means to protect itself - even if it means the temporary loss of civil liberties. - Walker Percy
O'Reilly's Populist Factor

I get a kick over how little Bill O'Reilly cares about appearances. He is a true populist, ambitious for ratings but indifferent to critical approval. You'd think his thirst for audience, now slaked, would morph to a thirst to be taken seriously by the elites but it seems just the opposite. O'Reilly not only does not even try to make the show look more PBS-y, but seems to consciously or unconsciously run in the opposite direction. He hasn't forgotten his roots. Last night he had on detective Beau Dietl, who perpetually manages a three-day beard and looks and sounds Levittown-ish. O'Reilly hired a reporter named "Aphrodite" covering the Scott Peterson trial. No kidding - Aphrodite. She's pretty and tends to ramble a bit. Somehow I can never picture Lehrer or Jennings saying, "What do you think, Aphrodite?". But I guess that's part of Bill O'Reilly's charm. Given Fox's reputation for being a network of bimbos, other TV journalists would say, "I'm not going to hire someone named Aphrodite. It would hurt credibility." There is something wonderful about someone who knows who they are and is impervious to the opinion of the elites.
Clothes Horse...Not

My interest in clothes over the years has waned, going from "small" to "can be seen only with the aid of an electron microscope". This has some unfortunate side effects, such as ignoring this tear in my Dockers. I think it's a well-placed rip though. It's just below my back pocket. My take on this is this: no straight man will ever see it because no straight man looks at another man's arse. So this eliminates 55-60% of the population at work (the ratio of men to women here). Of the women, 20% will not notice either. Of those who notice, 30% will take pity, thinking it must've just happened when actually it happened weeks ago, and 70% will correctly assume I'm a slob. So if I've done my math right only 22.4% will think I'm a slob. Not bad.

June 23, 2004

On a bike ride through a poor neighborhood

Two houses, alike in dignity, in fair Columbus. One bears the fruits of neglect, weeds garnishing an exposed foundation. It recalls the 1930s: low and dishonest. Across the street stands a quaint chalet, a house as small as it is gem-like. The windows are festooned with lanterns, baskets of flowers warm the window ledges and the hedges are clipped to English garden perfection.

June 22, 2004

Whole Lot o' Scandalizing Going On

Therese (Destination: Order) reviews H. W. Crocker and his book "Triumph":
He was one of our Major Speakers last semester, beginning his speech with a "joke" that scandalized the student body and maybe some professors as well. A girl at the DSMME retreat recommended this book to me: a dynamic, page-turning 500-pg history of the Church! Well, it is amazingly dynamic, fitting in lots of history and dates while still being engaging and slightly novelesque. Mr. Crocker does *tend* to emphasize the more gossip-rag elements that pop up over the course of the centuries, or at least phrase them in modern vulgar attention-grabbing phrases. When Origen goes to certain extremes, I prefer not to hear it, or if at all, not at the head of the chapter in sensational tones. I do plan to read this book, however, as a good Church History refresher, and to compare with what I've learned before.
I emailed asking what Mr. Crocker's joke was, just for my own edification. I wonder what constitutes scandal for a Christendom student and I suspect it's far to the other side of my own. The ongoing "uber-Catholic" college experiment (Christendom, Campion (now defunct) and Stuebenville & others) is extremely interesting, especially in watching students emerge from protected environments and in watching their reaction to culture.
71
That's about how many of the 100 top-grossing films of all-time I've seen. Via Hokie Pundit. The ones I haven't are:

8. Jurassic Park
9. Shrek 2
11. Finding Nemo
19. Pirates of the Caribbean
23. Matrix Reloaded, The
25. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
26. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (film, not cartoon)
31. Toy Story 2
38. Cast Away
39. Lost World: Jurassic Park, The
40. Signs
41. Rush Hour 2
47. X2
52. Exorcist, The
53. Mummy Returns, The
54. Armageddon
58. Toy Story (1995)
66. What Women Want
70. Jurassic Park III
72. Planet of the Apes
78. Ice Age
81. Elf
87. Tarzan (1999)
89. Chicago
92. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
93. Hannibal
94. Catch Me If You Can
99. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Happy St. Thomas More Feast Day

One of my patron saints. Family of St. Thomas More:



"I will not mistrust him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to him for help. And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning." - from a letter written by Saint Thomas More from prison to his daughter Margaret

June 21, 2004

St. Aloysius Gonzaga, known for purity of heart

Thoughtful post from ThereseZ reflecting on the innocence of St. Aloysius Gonzaga and the differences between saints who "have a past" and those who don't. The opening prayer at Mass today is deeply affecting:
Father of love,
giver of all good things,
In Saint Aloysius you combined remarkable innocence
with the spirit of penance.
By the help of his prayers
may we who have not followed his innocence
follow his example of penance.
Of Interest to Germ Phobics

I'm unduly fascinated by this discussion around Karl Keating's newsletter, where he says: "The chalice or cup used at Mass is just as likely (or just as unlikely) to transmit disease as is any other cup that is shared among multiple people. The Consecration has no effect whatsoever on this."

This is why I tend not to partake of the cup. The Byzantine Catholic Church I favor has the Eucharist by intinction, but I don't think that's germ-free either since they deliver it via a spoon and although you're not supposed to clamp your mouth down on it, surely some do (infants might - the Eastern rite give the Eucharist to all the baptized).

Think this is a problem only with the new Mass? Not to gross you out (okay, to gross you out), here is what one commenter wrote about pre-Vatican II:
Having served as an altar boy prior to Vatican II changes, I am always surprised by the fuss that is raised about germs. It was not at all uncommon to see string of spit extend from the communicant's mouth to Father's finger as he drew back, having put a thin Host on their tongue. It was, and still is, difficult to put the Host in someone's mouth far enough that it will not fall out, and not make contact with their tongue or lips. And I have yet to see a priest even wipe his fingers (except for the foregoing example; Father would wipe hie hand on the purificator on my left arm). So I fail to see the issue of "germs" from the cup, and not from the receipt on the tongue as opposed to in the hand.
We Can Swear!

This line is pretty sad:
"We don't have those constraints, which provides for more colorful coverage," said Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, whose Daily Kos is among the most visited political blogs. "If I want to use profanity in a post, I'll use profanity."
...from here. Is this all that blogging offers? Opinion with profanity? "Wooo! We can cuss and the mainstream media can't!". That's not something to boast about that.
Against Happiness

This NY Times article scribe apparently hasn't read the Beatitudes. Interesting though:
Sad people are nice. Angry people are nasty. And, oddly enough, happy people tend to be nasty, too.

Such (allowing for a little journalistic caricature) were the findings reported in last month's issue of Psychological Science...The very idea that happiness could harm a person's character -- that it could be associated with prejudice, for example -- would have been unthinkable to ancient philosophers. They believed in an indissoluble bond between happiness and virtue. The virtuous man, they held, was bound to be happy, since he knew himself to be in possession of the highest good, a good that could not be taken away from him even when he was being tortured on the rack. With modern times, however, came the subjective "well-feeling" definition of happiness: when the fellow in the white coat asks you if you're happy, just check your mood, compare your circumstances with those of the people around you, then tell him how contented you feel.
Various & Sundry

Sadly, had to go to a funeral visitation this weekend. One person told me of the pain of the last days of the deceased. She said bitterly, "we don't allow animals to suffer like that!". What does one say? I asked if the morphine was working and she said she thought so but it was so unsettling to see her regain consciousness only to moan and see her eyes rolling around unfocused. I quoted Flannery O'Connor saying that tenderness apart from Christ leads to the gas chamber, but talking about suffering when one doesn't suffer much leaves a bad taste.

Also found out an acquaintance is a fan of the Brown's DaVinci Code. She says she is open-minded about the historicity of the DVC so when she heard who I went to see she said she wants a copy of Amy's book. The harvest is rich.

*

Speaking of Amy...My brother has a master list of every major celebration in the world and wants to hit them all in his lifetime. Cinco de Mayo, Oktoberfest in Germany, Mardi Gras, the running of the bulls, etc...I have a less ambitious plan, and to even refer to it as a plan would be a stretch. I'm meeting bloggers! Yeah I can claim two sightings: Eric of "The Mighty Barrister" and now Amy Welborn.

Combined a visit to the 'rents Saturday with hearing her deliver a talk in a Cincy church. The accoustics left something to be desired (fortunately Amy, being a former teacher, projected better than the previous speaker) and the ineffective cooling system caused one poor man to pass out (9-1-1 was called and the paramedics assisted him).
My mom requested a book, so I had one signed for her. It's fun to see bloggers in person. I'd have liked to have stayed till after her signings, but the book-signing queue looked daunting. I looked around for Michael (I'd spied him while waiting in Amy's line) but couldn't find him. Meeting bloggers reverses the natural order. Instead of seeing a person and then learning more about them, you learn about a person and then see them.

*

I had an email correspondent mention that he was tired of seeng the papist hat. The hat might get old but it was funny for me because it symbolized a certain catholicity. I could see some over-the-road trucker with two-day old barbecue sauce on his bib overalls, cigar stains on his teeth and a scraggely Ernst Tubbs beard and lo & behold! Atop his head sits a papist hat slightly askew, incongruous with its Baroque script and also for its irony since "papist" is historically a term of derision, not something worn as a badge of honor.

June 18, 2004

THE SEA
Before our dreams (or terrors) persisted
in mythology and cosmogony,
even before time coined itself in days, there existed,
already, the sea. It was. Who is that old, undisciplined,
violent creature, who's gnawing away under
the pillars of the earth, who's also chance and wind,
one and many oceans, and abyss and wonder?
Staring upon the sea, we see it as though
for the first time, sensing the splendor of all free
and elemental things: like afternoons, the glow
of the moon, or a blazing fire. But who is the sea?
And who am I? In time, when my days are passed,
and my final agony's done, I'll know, at last.
-Jorge Luis Borges (translated by William Baer)
There's Something Oddly Appealing...

     ...about A "Papist Trucker Hat"

Via The Ratzinger Fan Club. If your taste is more animalistic, try Reginald.
Et Tu Fox News?

Meanwhile...the cover-up of the homosexual angle of the scandal is mentioned by newspaperman Rod Dreher:
...your comment did bring to mind something a Fox News staffer told me at the Dallas bishops’ meeting two years ago. I told this person that Fox should find and interview Michael S. Rose, whose “Goodbye Good Men” had just come out, and who could illuminate a key aspect of the scandal that most media wouldn’t touch. The staffer told me that they had orders from the very top of the network not to touch homosexuality in their reporting from Dallas.
It's Always About Faith

Dom reports there's a bad moon on the risin'. Don't know about you, but I'm suffering from "shock fatigue" when it comes to scandal revelations. The troubles ultimately come down to a lack of faith, as Ratzinger said. But why should that be surprising? Jesus asked if there be faith in this world when He comes again. And Randall Sullivan, author of "The Miracle Detective" detected this too:
One thing that was troubling was that so many people I dealt with in the Vatican in positions of authority seemed almost half-hearted about it. I was more reverent in a lot of ways than they were, and more able to see the absurdity, the limitations of an overly rational, skeptical, scientific perspective. These limitations were more obvious to me than to many of them. But that is really about the Church as a human institution, but the faith itself, the Catholic Church is still for me the ultimate guardian of the faith, it’s closer to the origin of the faith. That’s what I’m pulled back to.
Walker Percy writes about the lack of faith in "The Thanatos Syndrome":
"But when he invited me to serve Mass routinely, I refused. I told him the truth: that since I no longer was sure what I believe, didn't think much about religion, participation in Mass would seem to be deceitful.

He nodded cheerfully, as if he already knew. 'Don't worry,' he said, doing a few isometrics in the hall, pushing and pulling with his hands. 'It is to be expected. It is only necessary to wait and to be of good heart. It is not your fault.'

'How is that, Father? I ask him curiously.

'You have been deprived of faith. All of us have. It is part of the times.'

'Deprived? How do you mean?'

'It is easy enough to demonstrate," he says, shrugging first one shoulder high, then the other.

'Yes?'

'Sure. Just consider. Even if the truths of religion could be proved to you one, two, three, it wouldn't make much difference, would it? One hundred percent of astronomers have discovered that the universe was created from nothing. The explanation is obvious but it does not avail. Who can handle it? It does not signify. It is boring to think of. Ninety-seven percent of astronomers are still atheists. Do you blame them? They are also boring. The only thing more boring would be if the ninety-seven percent all converted, right? It follows that there must be some other force at work, right?"
"Everyone who would live piously in Christ Jesus shall suffer Persecution" - 2 Tim 3:12

There's a tendency to swing towards one extreme or another with regard to suffering - either loathe it and avoid it at all costs or see it as an end in itself.

A quote from Wilde in "The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde" (written while in prison):
'Sorrow, then, and all that it teaches one, is my new world. I used to live entirely for pleasure. I shunned sorrow and suffering of every kind. I hated both. I resolved to ignore them as far as possible, to treat them, that is to say, as modes of imperfection. They were not part of my scheme of life. They had no place in my philosophy.'
Joseph Pearce continues:
Each individual passion play of each individual life was but a dim shadow of the Passion Play enacted at Calvary...[But Wilde's De Profundis] overstates in its sorrow the place of the Passion, ignoring the Resurrection. The crucial nature of the Crucifixion is seen by Wilde almost as an end in itself and not as a means to an end. Yet the Passion of Christ, properly understood, pionts always to the Resurrection. His mysterious Sorrow carries with it the promise of a mysterious Glory. In his suffering Wilde allows the darkness of the sorrow to eclipse the brightness of the glory. The means eclipse the end.

June 17, 2004

Saying the Surprising

Hokie Pundit has left the building, or at least his current blog, in search of a bit more camouflage.

Part of the appeal of reading blogs, or books, is to see the universality of the human condition by hearing what we might be thinking but were unable to articulate for one reason or another. Maybe we didn't even know we thought it.

But this universality can be experienced only when the writer is honest and blogs are often that. Bloggers are also willing to surprise. Where else would you hear someone say they'd happily repeal the 19th Amendment, as Jeff Culbreath wrote? So Robert of HP seeks a place where he can surprise more often. Happy Trails RB!
Ode to a Donut

I've decided to live for awhile off the capital of the physical activity I did at the beach last week by starting every morning with a donut to go with my coffee. The coffee is there out of habit; I started drinking it in the hope it would improve mental alertness in the morning. It now serves mainly as an oral pacifier. It's especially useful during meetings because you can disguise inappropriate emotions (such as anger or laughter) with a sudden lurch towards the cup. A co-worker refers to coffee as his "morning Guinness" but that is a tremendous insult to the Dublin brewer.

But this donut thing is new and entirely different. I don't know much about donuts, never having much of a history with them, but let me tell you: they are good. I had a white-topped one today with cream filling and the juxtaposition of textures and the symphony of sweetnesses is something hard to describe. I nearly swooned at the scent of vanilla that was unexpectedly encountered just before taking a bite.

Needless to say, I'd better grab the jogging shoes.

Update: Bill Luse dashes cold water via email: "Some people don't realize that the risen dough of a doughnut (of the kind, anyway, that most people scarf like popcorn) is not baked, but fried in deep fat like french fries. I'd advise not thinking about that while you're eating them."
Poem from a Nun
The Divine Poet

As she read,
she was simply ecstatic
"Shakespeare", she said
"it's a sonnet."
Words he had penned so long ago
And to this day
They overflow.

So rich this man's words -
They intoxicate,
Like rich liqueur defies the taste
Filled with the echo
of God's Grace.

But now,
not of Shakespeare
do I wish to speak -

I think of the
One Word
that speaks of Peace.

This Word,
as you may have already guessed
Was uttered but once,
One word, not a line -
Uttered by God, the Poet Divine
This Word is His Son
and this Word is now mine.

- Sister Mary of the Holy Spirit, O.P. via Disputations
A Click Away



via Half-baked 'taters
PKD & Artist Types

Bone and I were discussing and recussing Phillip K. "Don't Call Me..." Dick and his rather tragic end. Artists and poets tend to live short miserable lives often marred by addictions and mental illness. I finished the Oscar Wilde story and his end was likewise inglorious. For my lack of true creativity, thank you God. (Although thanking God for that which does not personally ail me, when it ails my brother, seems weak. Thanking Him for the gift of life and his life he offers all of us - those are treasured and savored.)

How long you live is obviously no indication of goodness but it is interesting that non-fiction writers live longer than fiction writers and fiction writers live longer than poets. Writers of non-fiction, it seems, have to go outside themselves. They have to do research and the job uses less of the right side of the brain. Poets tend to go inside themselves and use primarily the right brain.

Walker Percy blamed the short lives of poets on a "re-entry" problem; artists leave the world and receive a creative high in their poetry and when they return to the seemingly mundane they have trouble readjusting. This was the problem Ignatius Reilly of "Confederate Dunces" had in prayer. After spending time with Jesus, your neighbor can seem a letdown if that prayer wasn't truly for God and was not infused with the desire for service.
Quotes from Pearce's "The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde"

On the delights of the Greek NT in prison:
Every morning, after he had cleaned his cell and polished his tins, Wilde began to read the Gospels afresh from a Greek Testament, a dozen or so verses every day. 'It is a delightful way of opening the day...Endless repetition, in and out of season, has spoiled for us the naivete, the freshness, the simple romantic charm of the Gospels...When one returns to the Greek it is like going into a garden of lilies out of some narrow and dark house.'
On the Blessed Sacrament:
..'Rome Unvisited' is shrouded in the imagery of masks. There is, however, a crucial and fundamental difference. Whereas physical masks can be lies or distortions which conceal the facts, metaphysical masks can be signs or sacraments which reveal the truth. As Wilde would state many years later, 'the truths of metaphysics are the truths of masks'. Thus in 'Rome Unvisited', the Pope, in elevating the consecrated host, 'shows his God to human eyes / Beneath the veil of bread and wine'. The Blessed Sacrament is a mask which shows God to the people. It is a veil that reveals.
Hodge Podge of Discontinued Items...

Yahoo Headline says: "Court Allows 'Under God' on Technicality"

...God replied that he would allow the court to continue to exist, but not on technicality since His Mercy isn't a technicality.

*

Oscar Wilde's favorite Christian book was "The Imitation of Christ" when he was in his 20s and Dante's Divine Comedy when he was in his 40s (and in prison). Wilde ended up in poverty and his wife said that to give him money would only result in drunkenness and no work. I guess many writers (like Ham of Bone, whose unemployment stint resulted in three screenplays) need to have their back to the wall in order to work. I wonder how much art has been lost with the rise of the middle-class (and its attendent comforts). Not that I would trade.

*

Someone visted via the Google search:

"kathy shaidle jeff culbreath"

Something you're not telling us Jeff?

*
Who knew Newt was so busy?One of his reviews was for O'Reilly's "Those Who Trespass":

"It is a double-edged mystery with a clever New York detective and an attractive New York columnist, who, of course, fall for each other (actually told with more subtlety than I associate with O'Reilly). But the real entertainment is in the devastating description of television news and the maneuvering, commercial/careerist values, which dominate the profession."

Speaking of O'Reilly, I think he must be reading this blog. Yesterday he opined that Iraq will eventually have another blood-thirsty dictator because people get the government they deserve. Back here I suggested another thug may come to power but thugs are sane until proven insane, as Hussein was. Not that I'm taking any credit; pessimists will be proven right 70% of the time and are thus taking the easy way.

*

For Debate: Laura Ingraham is more attractive, truthful and fun than Ann Coulter.

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Sent letter to the editor of our major metropolitan newspaper concerning recent frontpage headline that went, "Kerry Speaks Up For Middle Class". Used Reagan's line "there you go again" and said I was middle class and he wasn't speaking for me. The editor responded: "I was a bit surprised to see the headline yesterday morning. I've spoken with the headline writer about it. Kerry can claim to speak for anyone he wants to speak for, but the headline stated it as fact instead of a claim."

June 16, 2004

    Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I am deeply grateful, gentlemen, but I think I've seen my name cheek to jowl with "horse's ass" just one time too many. -Bill Luse, on defenders asserting on Paul Cella's blog that Bill is not a horse's ass.

Cella had the right idea, which is: don't feed the troll. Sorry to see that TSO, Chris, Culbreath, and Mr Luse himself violated this good advice. - Commenter Scott, reflecting on the wisdom of responding to ad hominems.

TSO, Chris, and Culbreath often set bad examples. I was just following along. - William Luse, serving up his own ad hominem *grin*

I remember the first "hobby" headstone I saw - a golf bag and clubs - in a Catholic cemetery, of course. I would say, THAT was so important? except that I spend a lot of time on the 80 or so blogs I regularly visit. How does one engrave a picture of the Internet on a headstone? - Robert Wenson via email

There is a sense in which the spontaneous outpouring of emotion at the passing of President Reagan is a great sign of hope for our country. That millions of Americans awash in the world of shock-jocks, shopping malls, and MTV can still muster this much respect and gratitude is a good thing in itself. If I may be so bold, this proves once again that even Americans are monarchists at heart: we instinctively long for that benevolent patriarchal authority that is represented by men such as Ronald Reagan. Perhaps all is not lost. - Jeff of ECR

Absence makes the writer blog longer - Jeff of Curt Jester

My Father knows what I need and if I humble myself before Him (and perhaps even if I don't) He will provide it. However, if I do humble myself before Him, I will begin to recognize what I need, embrace it, and live the life of joy that comes from true service and true alignment with God's will. So long as I continue in my prideful way, I will fail to see anything and continue not to be able to separate my needs from my wants--and this way is purgatory here and hereafter. Directionless, waffling, pushed by every minor breeze. And as a son of the Living God, I do not need to accept that fate. Instead I can claim my inheritance by relying upon His grace. - Steven of Flos Carmeli

The question shouldn't be, is there a rule against premarital sex in the New Testament or isn't there. It's, 'can a premarital sexual relationship image the love and faithfulness of Christ?' - Camassia

What comes after the good old-fashioned Catholic statement, "We have the Real Presence and Protestants don't."... "Ha ha!" is good old-fashioned Catholic triumphalism, and perfectly ridiculous when frankly expressed. "So what?" is religious indifferentism, and completely incompatible with a Catholic understanding of the Blessed Sacrament. "Let's pretend they have It." is religious liberalism, and fundamentally incompatible with a Catholic understanding of the Sacraments. "Let's give It to them." is, as standing policy, to seek a great good at the expense of a much greater good. "Oh no!" is, I think, a suitable reaction when you think about what, or rather Who, the Eucharist really is, and what it means to receive Holy Communion, and what it means to be unable to receive It. - Tom of Disputations

I had a consolation! (small "c"). I realized that being as overweight I am is actually conserving on WATER consumption! I don't have to fill the tub with hot water nearly as much as I had to when I weighed 130#! So. See? There's always a bright side! - Alexa of "Domestic Excellence"

Most things remind me of Belloc sooner or later, and Dvorâk does, unmistakably. Why? Perhaps it is the delicious mix of pathos and frivolity in his art - that, and his ability to drink everyone else under the table... - Basia me, Catholica sum (Kiss Me, I'm Catholic)

I remember reading an interview with Barney Frank in the Post a few months back in which he said that if you engage in political tactics that feel really, really good, it's probably not the right approach. - Patrick Rothwell on Disputations

They're being seeker-friendly at the cost of feeding the sheep they already have. And, to be honest, few seekers I've met are really interested in a church that has a rock-climbing wall. - Robert of Hokie Pundit on the tendency of some churches to go a little overboard


 My Precious

 I tend to make purchases in $10-15 increments (i.e. books) so these bookends are out of my comfort zone price-wise. But I'm a sucker for artistic representations of the choice between good and evil, like the Bird Girl of Savannah. They are bracing images.
You Better Not Think...

They say the way to ruin your golf game is to think about your swing. And while that might not perfectly mirror the spiritual, Peter Kreeft makes a great point in his "Yes or No?" book using the Socratic method he favors:
Sal: Aren't we supposed to be thinking about our consciences, our sins?

Chris: Only to repent and confess and then to forget. If we keep thinking about how well we're doing, we won't do well. And we'll get into the trap of thinking one of three unhappy thoughts: either we'll think we're doing really well, and start feeling proud and self-satisfied and self-righteous, or we'll think we're doing badly and start feeling depressed and self-hating or despairing, or we'll think we're not particually good or bad, and start feeling bored and wishy-washy.

Sal: What's the way out? Those sound like the only three alternatives.

Chris: To stop thinking about ourselves so much. To forget ourselves and think about God and other people instead. That's heavenly.

June 15, 2004

RR Revisited

George Weigel on the Pope & the President:
Yuri Andropov, no fool, knew that the election of Karol Wojtyla as Pope was very bad news for the Soviet external empire and the Soviet Union itself; he set in motion operations that led, eventually, to the assassination attempt on John Paul in May 1981. But John Paul's "soft power" revolution had a chance for success because of the "hard power" context in which it unfolded throughout the 1980s: the rearmament of the West on which Reagan insisted and the robust ideological challenge that Reagan (who also survived a 1981 assassination attempt) mounted. Neither the Pope's soft-power revolution nor Reagan's hard-power challenge could have done the job by itself. Each needed the other. Together, they provided the keys to victory. Without formal coordination, even without very much discussion between the principals, Reagan and John Paul pursued, with astonishing success, parallel courses toward the same end: the defeat of Communism and the restoration of east-central Europe to freedom.
Steven F. Hayward on comparisons between Reagan and Churchill:
Despite Reagan's improving reputation since leaving office, this comparison will strike many as a stretch. This tells us more about how political life at the highest level is thought about today than it does about Reagan — or Churchill. Churchill's most popular biographer, William Manchester, employed as a hortatory theme the viewpoint that Churchill was "the last lion" — the last man of superlative virtue and courage, whose supreme greatness shall never be seen again on the human stage. Manchester attributes Churchill's greatness precisely to the extent to which Churchill was a Victorian anachronism in 1940, just as even some of Reagan's own senior staff and public admirers see him as an American anachronism.

Of course all of us are powerfully affected by our environment, yet the case of Churchill and Reagan offers a decisive refutation to the historicist premise that human beings and human society are mostly corks bobbing on the waves of history. Churchill and Reagan prompt this question: Given that both had numerous capable contemporaries from similar environments, why were they virtually alone in their particular insights and resolves? The answer must be that they transcended their environments as only great men can do, thereby bending history to their will. The political philosopher Leo Strauss wrote of Churchill: "A man like Churchill proves that the possibility of megalofuxia [greatness of soul] exists today exactly as it did in the fifth century B.C."

Reagan would resist being called our last lion; to those conservatives dispirited that there can never be another Ronald Reagan (forgetting that so many thought there could never be a Ronald Reagan in the first place), Reagan would say: Of course there can. To borrow from his first inaugural address, you "just don't know where to look."
italicized lists

It appears that the talented Lee Ann Morawski has left the building, or at least lacks a computer and the capability of blogging. A shame.

There seems a kind of poetry in simply listing one's ephemera, if it be neither too obscure or too familiar. In the niche between the two lives a liveliness:
I am very likely to read the traffic cone orange Assyriology books, the vintage 50’s mystery novels, the economic theories of Adam Smith and Alexander Hamilton, and the collected works of Shakespeare auf Deutsch in Fraktur. My poetry shelf is breaking. I finally unpacked my stereo and can assure you that a house is not a home without the following: Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Boston Tea Party, Sinatra with the Red Norvo Quartet Live in Australia 1954, Smetana’s Ma Vlast, Gin Blossom’s New Miserable Experience, and The Ramones Ramones Mania. The Mavericks’ Trampoline is handy and so is all the Cake you can stand, but the CDs mentioned above are required. Cardboard makes your whole place smell funny. Beer tastes good.
go figure

In the history of blogdom I doubt there has ever been, or will ever be, a blog as well-named as "Disputations". My jaw slackened and grazed the floor while reading commenters musing on whether St. Peter's denial of Christ wasn't a sin.

Tom doesn't miss fat pitches, so you'll have to see his replies. More happens in his comment boxes before 9am than happens on most blogs all day long. I applaud the courage of those who make Light Brigade charges under the Disputation cannon fire. It's a narcotic entertainment.

Tom used a phrase I thought was oxymoronic: "High Church Methodists".
Ham of Bone is reading a biography of writer Phillip K. Dick, whose work inspired "Minority Report" and "The Truman Show". A quote from "I Am Alive And You Are Dead - A Journey Into The Mind Of Philip K. Dick" by Emmanuel Carrere:
The concept of the Eucharist haunted Phil. He took completely to heart such expressions as 'whosoever eats of my flesh and drinks of my blood has eternal life.' To be able to say that a piece of bread is the body of Christ and have this piece of bread immaterially but incontrovertibly become the body of Christ seemed to him the greatest gift a man could receive, even though it was one that cannot be possessed. This was why it so saddened him when Bishop Pike renounced his ministry to start over in 'the private sector.' In The Man in the High Castle, Phil himself had celebrated - or at least had had his fictional double celebrate - the mystery of the Invisible Kingdom, albeit in a profane and inferior way, by depicting a world different from the one his contemporaries saw and holding this other world out as the true one. And in some mysterious way that neither Phil nor anyone else could prove, he was right.

"Phil continued to reproach himself for having committed the sacrilege of describing a negative Eucharist in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. He felt that in doing so he had empowered the evil demiurge...."

June 14, 2004

Scammin' the Scammers

It's always a joy to receive unsolicited fictional writings from friends half-way across the world. So without further ado...

Received:

THE DESK OF MR. BASHIRU.
AUDITING AND ACCOUNTING UNIT.
BANK OF AFRICA,OUAGADOUGOU
BURKINA FASO,
WEST AFRICA.

Dear Friend,

I am Mr. BASHIRU,the director in charge of auditing and accounting section Bank Of Africa(B.O.A) Ouagadougou Burkina-faso West Africa with due respect and regard. I have decided to contact you on a business transaction that will be very beneficial to both of us at the end of the transaction.

During our investigation and auditing in this bank, my department came across a very huge sum of money belonging to a deceased person who died on November 2000 in a plane crash and the fund has been dormant in his account with this Bank without any claim of the fund in our custody either from his family or relation before our discovery to this development....


Proposed Reply:

Dear Mr. BASHIRU (may I call you "Bash" for short?),

I thank you for your inquiry. I always enjoy the fine prose styles of those who con. Desperation makes the best writing don't you think?

You are in charge of both auditing and accounting. Isn't that a bit like the hen guarding the chicken house? Couldn't you just arrange for the bean counters to count creatively and then, as head of auditing, hold your palm out? That seems easier than trying to get money out of my pocket. But I don't want to tell you how to do your job. "I know nothing" (say like Sgt. Schultz).

You mention a deceased person having a large amount of dormant money, "U.S $20.2M (Twenty million two hundred thounsand United States dollars)" to be precise. Well I shouldn't have to tell you that twenty million doesn't go very far these days. Have you seen what they want for a Prada bag at the local mall? And have you been pricing beachfront property? Fuggedabout it.

To be honest, I wouldn't cross the street for thirty percent of twenty million. What you need to do is add some zeroes on that baby. I want to see your next note read, "U.S. 200.2 Trillion (Two hundred trillion twenty million United States dollars)". Or better yet "20.2 Fillion", which you will need to explain is a number so high that the United States government has not yet coined the term. Then you'll be talking. (I'd also bump up the percentage of the take to fifty percent; no reason to leave a sour taste in people's mouths. You get them to read that far you don't want to end on a low note.)

You're surely pinching yourself, amazed that I give this advice free of charge. I give and I give. However, if you found this advice helpful, please send money. This transaction is 100% risk free.
My Heroes Have Always Been Converts

I'm fascinated by conversion stories, be they creed, politics or breakfast cereal. There's something very credible about someone who has moved from the "default" position; it implies they've learned something and grown. There is something credible in the fact that President Reagan was middle-aged before he became a conservative. There is something credible about formerly-staunch Calvinist Scott Hahn becoming a Catlicker. (By the way, the SC paper down there says a Calvinist in Savannah is someone who has a rear window decal with the boy peeing on a Chevy or Ford sticker...but I digress.) And there's something very credible this post, from a former liberal. I say all this with a tinge of sadness because I can't be a convert. I already have all the right religion and probably correct politics. But don't cry for me, Argentina! Now I must practice what I know to be true, the most difficult part.
How Ronald Reagan Eased My Burden Saturday

Ronald Reagan will likely have a higher place in Heaven than me despite lacking the advantage of being Catholic and despite being divorced. He did too many good things while the camera was off; his charity appears to be much greater than mine and that is how we will be judged.

His divorce was something that bothered me back in the 80s. But over time I began to see how good someone could be despite having failed in that area. And this weekend, when I had to meet my stepson's father for the first time, I went in with negativity. But then it came: what if he were Reagan? Would I be so reluctant to shake his hand? Should forgiveness be extended only when it's not personal? And so it went smoothly, i.e. no fisticuffs...

June 13, 2004

Plug-O-Rama

If you can say a prayer for Ham of Bone I'd appreciate it. His humor, if gallows, is still there - on a web forum he listed his occupation as: "i make withdrawls from my bank account".

Second, a powerful memory at this blog - the "Mr. French" Theme song! Hit the play button on the left side of her blog.

I did not know that Jeff Culbreath's printing business is struggling. See him if you work for an organization that needs printing. Jeff should've charged more for the handsome prayer books; a working man is worth his wage, and those books are worth more than we paid.
Had occasion to go to a Commencement today and saw this poem in the program, from the Poet Laureate of OSU:
Pomp, circumstance, and other songs of a lifetime

If you're like me, you've got a big head,
not to mention a funny robe, full of music--
poems and melodies, the tunes
we move to, shower and shave by,
study, write to. Not just the incidental,

but the momentous music keeping time.
Our histories are measures of song,
Listen to your heart: drums of Africa,
sea-spume of blind, far-sighted Homer,
Sappho's honeyed love lyrics. Often,

music speaks for us, one note saying
a thousand words. Like Rodolpho
in Puccini's La Boheme, Sono un poeta.
I am a poet. Che cosa faccio? What
do I do? Scrivo. I write. This ceremony

is loud music--pomp and circumstance
of the life you began freshman year
or that first day of graduate school.
In my head I press Play, and the CD
of Big Days kicks on. I leap and linger

over moments too sweet, nearly, for words.
I'll never escape rhymes from the nursery.
Up above the world so high, like a diamond
in the sky. We knew from the start
our universe was aglow with wonder.

...

You're filled to overflowing with
the notes, the poems we've written
together. You know the score.
Continue to work hard for yourselves,
and one another. Find the ones who need

you to sing to, for them, in the world.
Graduates. this joyful litany, this hymn
our ancestors collaborated on with us,
the calling of your name today is music
to our ears. Sing that name proudly

- David Citino, Ohio State University Poet Laureate
The local newspaper regularly makes mistakes. Recently a fellow who is very much alive was depicted in an obituary. Here is my parody of an imagined misque:
JournalNews Regrets Printing Error

On Friday, the JournalNews was delivered to 90% of our subscribers with entirely blank pages. While this is not technically an error, since nothing inaccurate can be printed on a blank page, it is still an embarrassment given that some depend on the JournalNews for timely information. A normal day's paper will include thirty to forty errors, all of which were avoided by Friday's blank newspaper. Still, the corrections column in tomorrow's newspaper will include the entire text of the omitted paper.

Although we have checks and balances to catch false information, we do not have checks and balances to catch blank newspapers. To remedy this, we've hired a special proof-reader who will check to make sure there is print on pages in the future.

June 12, 2004

Vacational Postscript

Of the 20+ books I brought down with me, the ones I actually felt like reading included: a novel by Paul Theroux, "Kings of Infinite Space" novel, Victor David Hanson's "Soul of Battle" (about Sherman's campaign down south), Hahn's "Swear to God" and Pearce's "The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde". And of those, Pearce's book became the star, the only thing I read after Tuesday even though throughout I had a craving for something by Clive Cussler. Before I started this blog vacations were always a fecund time for writing so that post came by its length honestly. But partly I just wanted to see if I could write more words than Bill Luse in his comeback post.

June 11, 2004

President Ronald Reagan, R.I.P.

Prompted by Steven Riddle's blog...

I think it's wonderful that so many are recognizing Pres. Reagan by waiting many hours to view the casket. The more I read about him the more I appreciate him - how deeply he loved Nancy (i.e. his recently published letters), how optimistic he was (given how easy it is to be pessimistic), and how deep his religious faith ran. A very remarkable man and worthy of imitation, he made tremendous contributions to America and the world by his strength of character. "How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life" by Peter Robinson and Peggy Noonan's "When Character Was King" are highly recommended. "God and Ronald Reagan : A Spiritual Life" by Paul Kengor looks interesting.

President Reagan and the Pope had such a close relationship - much closer than the Pope & either of the Bushes or Clinton. So I wonder if things would've gone differently in '91 if Reagan were in office when JPII came out against the Gulf War. I wonder if either man would've influenced the other concerning what to do about Iraq's incursion into Kuwait. Those "alternative history" books fascinate. So often history is impacted simply by the personalities of the heads of state involved, how they get along and how much they communicate with each other.

I recall thinking, "what a dreamer!" when he gave the "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" speech. I guess it turned out I was the dreamer, in thinking Communism could survive as a system.
140 Years After Sherman
   ...another Ohioan goes South

Ze Flight

He’s in his early 20s, polite, well-groomed & well-dressed. In his hand is, yes, the DaVinci Code. The book has more lives than Bush has enemies. He apologizes needlessly for our getting up (he had the window seat). Sigh.

The plane lifts off and my wife notices what I’m doing.

“That’s an accident waiting to happen,” she says as I put a full cup of coffee in the seat pocket, balanced precariously between Skymall and the Delta magazine.

“That’s for sure,” I say, undeterred. She keeps an eye on the coffee and for the next ten minutes I take a perverse satisfaction, a vestige of Original Sin. I decide to remove it so as to avoid I told you so’s, having waiting long enough to have my own.

I notice that the requirements for those sitting in exit rows continue to grow more stringent with every flight. Someday there will be exams and physical tests to determine suitability. Standards for exit row husbandry grow while those in education and morality decline.

I can’t seem to get the '80s song “All You Zombies” out of my head, probably because I feel like one. 6 A.M. flights will do that. My fatigue is drug-like in its effect and I recall how my stepson once told me of a drug - peyote or something - that makes you feel really tired. I'm thinking, “why not just get early?”. It’s cheaper and I hear the rehab's a breeze.

Ze Arrival

Cardinal Newman once said that the man who confuses a feeling of physical well-being with any sort of internal goodness is a fool. The animal high spirits that a vacation engenders are of no merit. One runner said, “a good run makes you feel sort of holy” which is rot. The hell with feeling holy, I’d rather be holy. But I wonder if there’s a tendency to discount or diminish the natural even if it might serve the supernatural. If, after running five miles, I’m much more pleasant to be around, then I probably should run five miles often while not mistaking it for spiritual progress. God prefers to use natural means and it could mean that God led me to the book “The Joy of Running” and that I’m expected to use that. We are bodies, as well as souls. Johnny Cash used to sing, “Keep movin’ if you got the blues.” Good advice whether you got the blues or not I suspect.

I’m of two minds on bodily comforts. One is that it’s good to forgo them for the purposes of spiritual training. The other is that it is not my place to remove temporal supports, that that might be “tempting God” in the sense of asking him to do what I could, in a limited earthly sense, do for myself. Lent answers this question in the sense that there are seasons in which to purposely remove bodily comforts for spiritual training.


"They Say I’m Lazy But It Takes All My Time" - Joe Walsh

I read a line from a Paul Theroux novel and I think how true: “Far from making them seem like menials, these chores gave them an air of authority. Each time Ronda polished or dusted something, she seemed to be taking possession of it.” It’s usually when I’m mowing my grass that I not only become acquainted with the lay of my backyard landscape but feel a sense of ownership.

Another startling line from Theroux (which reminded me of Joseph Stalin, who was great with children but tortured his “friends”): “He was sentimental as well as sadistic - not so unlikely a combination of traits, a natural pair in fact.” It also recalled for me Flannery O’Connor’s line about how tenderness cut off from Christ leads to the gas chamber. And while I'm quoting: a Samuel Johnson line was remembered on the front page of today’s island newspaper: “I hate mankind, for I think myself one of the best of them, and I know how bad I am.”

*

A vacation is a weight-bearing instrument, sometimes buckling under the load. She bears the weight of months of numbness, the numbness induced by the auto-pilot life of regimentation. I read much of Joseph Pearce’s book on Oscar Wilde this week and Wilde wrote about the danger of jobs: “The evil that machinery is doing is not merely in the consequences of its work but in the fact that it makes men themselves machines also. Whereas we wish them to be artists, that is to say men." Pearce said Wilde words were prophetic and preceeded the code of the distributists several decades later. “His words could very easily be the utterances of Eric Gill, G.K. Chesterton, or Hilaire Belloc.” Wilde went on to say that art “must not begin in the scholar’s study not even in the studio of the great artist, but with the handicraftsman always. And by handicraftsman I mean a man who works with his hands; and not with his hands merely but with his head and his heart.”

I look from the balcony and the vista appears unreal. My doppelganger is here but I’m too enmeshed in the mundane to absorb this wonder, this massive ocean in front of me. I seek to confine its confines to what I can see - this stretch of beach and horizon - unaware that it goes and goes and goes. The priest began his sermon Sunday by telling us how Tillich began his theology classes. He’d say, “Who do you think of when you think about God?” (Pause.) “Everything you just thought was wrong. Too narrow. God is much more than we can conceive.”

We decided to fly this year because of a prior commitment on Friday and wanted to save time by avoiding the 12 hour drive there and back. But lacking this “down time” - the 12-hour trip to mellow and prepare - seems a loss. When we drive we hear music, we listen to books on tapes, we see the gorgeous mountains of North Carolina and the long, patience-testing plains of the Low Country in South Carolina. You arrive tired but your previous life is already half-way shelved, you are already in the zone of being “ready for surprise”. A jet flight is so quick you bring your troubles with you, like going to Heaven without Purgatory.

*

Mass Sunday at Holy Family. A gigantic crucifix hangs behind the altar and I don’t remember that being there in ‘01 when I last visited. It’s so big that I can see the blood on Christ’s knees from almost the back of church and the huge wood of the cross extends so far below His feet that it gives an odd feeling of superfluity, as if to show his sacrifice so extraneous and generous that it extends far beyond what mere utility would proscribe.

Before the final blessing the priest says, “I don’t like to embarrass anyone but I did notice that Scott Hahn and his family are here today” and then he thanked Scott and talked about how the parish is involved in a bible study on the book of Romans and that his commentary is being used. I lingered after Mass and watched a small group gather around Scott to shake his hand and speak of how inspired they were. “I’ve listened to all your tapes,” said one man. I didn’t introduce myself, thinking I had nothing to say that he hasn’t heard before, in fact nothing unique from what that man had just said. Also this wasn’t a book-signing, it was Mass. My wife - who I can usually out-cynic in a New York minute but not this time - said, “but we pay his salary” (interesting use of the word “we” but that’s another story). Suffice it to say Scott deserves his privacy. It was about seven years ago, before I’d ever heard of Scott Hahn, when another priest on this island introduced him before the final blessing, unstinting of his praise of him. I recall thinking, “who the heck is Scott Hahn?” and wishing the encomium were truncated. It was about six months later when I found “Rome Sweet Home” and recalled the priest’s introduction. I think it ironic that I’d brought his latest “Swear to God” and would be reading it within a few miles of where the author was staying.


On to the beach! Foreward ho!

Another run on the beach and my legs are so fresh and the surface so giving that my arms can scarcely keep up. This will not last, but I’m enjoying it while it does. By nightfall I feel more torn up than a defeated bull rider. I feel every muscle but the joy of movement lives. I've gained the athlete’s economy of motion and there is a small pleasure in sitting or getting up, in walking or standing.

Midway through the second day’s run I can feel my quadriceps begin to give out and the surrounding muscles are compensating - which isn’t good in the “long run” because they will eventually fail since they weren’t meant for forward locomotion though very helpful in the short run. I do feel a tinge in the groin, never a good sign. Muscles not meant to carry the load will do so uncomplaining only for awhile. A possible analogy: During the 50s the clericalism caused the Church to rely too heavily on priests for her forward progress. But when they gave out under the strain, the laity not only did not compensate but joined the ruin.

*

I notice that the roofs on the hotels look like pagodas. The beach is emptying as we linger late in the afternoon, kissing early the eve. A storm visited and left a debris of driftwood and chilly temps. But here at half-past six the sun still has palette enough to paint her warmth upon us. The unblemished sand lies billiard-smooth, its magic dust reflecting a hatchery of pointillistic lights stretching to the breaker of grass and thistle where the rabbits hide. A strange - if human thing - is to attempt to preserve or extend time by writing it down.

Eating is something of a chore now, something to be sandwiched (pun pretended) between reading, swimming, running, biking. When it’s dark there’ll be plenty of time to eat. A 90-year old disabled person I know says that meals on one of her few remaining joys.

Marsh grasses lip the dunes and small crabs locomote distinctly. My wife is nearly finished with a book I’d borrowed from the library for myself, James Hyne’s “Kings of Infinite Space”. I started reading it on day one and found it unpalatable. I don’t want to read about work on the beach.

*

I’d be remiss if I didn’t keep an eye on cultural concerns here. The local legislature apparently passed a law requiring all women under the age of 30 to wear really small bikinis. Coverage here is receding faster than a balding man’s hairline. This “modesty” was presaged by a lean girl wearing a T-shirt that exclaimed: “Objects under this shirt are larger than they appear”. They walk the beach like aristocrats. Hopefully this post is long enough to discourage everybody except the terminally bored or those who might profit from it (they may overlap). Towards furthering the latter (at the risk of offering something that is obvious), here is a quote from the Pope in “Love and Responsibility”: “The sexual urge in man is a fact which he must recognize and welcome as a source of natural energy - otherwise it may cause psychological disturbances. The instinctive reaction in itself, which is called sexual arousal, is to a large extent a vegetative reaction independent of the will, and failure to understand this simply fact often becomes a cause of serious sexual neuroses.”

Tuesday in Paradise

the sea
A lapidarist works
with sound effects
and egrets have no regrets.


At Mass today they sang a hymn which I can’t recall now but with words significantly altered to avoid the loathed male pronoun. But not just “God’s love” instead of “His love”, which is understandable, but actual changes to the meaning just to avoid the whole subject. It ruins the song for me and I suppose it will for most of my generation except ardent feminists. (In a perfect world I would be lobbying for gender neutral songs and women would lobby for the classical renditions, but alas..) On the bright side the young who haven’t heard the song will hear this new rendition untainted. Our generation will pass soon enough and it will make little difference.

As a youth I loved the song “Praise the Lord, ye Heavens Adore Him”. I loved that the moon, sun and stars became animated in their praise of God. The words were completely changed in the song “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus” and I cannot approach it with anything close to objectivity. It was satisfying to hear the original words sung at our wedding. They couldn’t find the lyrics and I knew only the first verse by heart but fortunately I was able to find it in my library, in a 1970 hymnal I’d picked up at a garage sale for a quarter.

*

The foliage-draped paths are restorative. The beach inheres restlessness with the wind and the call of the surf and the wilding of the blood. The quiet bike paths are antipodal and soothe, creped with hanging moss and shade trees and dappled sun. I am the coxswain of peace:

ridin’ to a trance
like the dance
of the natives in Dineson’s book.

Spanish moss dances with dendrites
ghost ghasts hag the trees.

*

I hold the door for Scott Hahn after leaving morning Mass. I don’t think I consciously arranged that. Honest. But in a celebrity culture I suppose the best we can boast of is to trade up: J-Lo for Scott Hahn. My wife keeps nagging me to talk to him so I decide that better than talking to him I’ll see if I can arrange to be blessed by him. I’ll just sit behind him and greet him at the Sign of Peace. Would I not kick myself if he were canonized some day? Stranger things have happened and I suspect he’s farther down that path than most of us.

*

We saw a figure walking down the beach who looked like Jesus. He had the beard and long flowing locks, was carrying a bible in one hand and a stole in the other and wore the long white robe. Pretty well-done. My wife wants a picture so I go up to him and ask if I can take one and he says sure. He said his name was James Joseph and that he travels around like a missionary. He was featured on 20/20. I told him I saw him at Holy Family and he asked if I knew they had Eucharistic Adoration 24-7 there. I did not. He said that Mother Teresa said she got her energy from the Eucharist.

*

Ideally vacations, like movies, allow you to suspend disbelief by making you think “this is my life now”. When you’re a kid, this isn’t a problem; a week to a ten year old feels like a month to an adult. I wonder where the line is. I’ve never gone on more than a nine-day vacation so have never had the opportunity to really go in believing “this is my life now”, a belief that eradicates a sense of urgency, that “if it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium” mentality.

We don’t go to the beach, we take it - like the forces at Normandy but with more planning. Like gypsies we follow the tide but when she rolls out she creates long supply lines and logistical nightmares, the bedevilments of generals before us. Our base camp is far to the North now; to retrieve a beer requires a long hike across hostile territory in the form of hot sand and flying balls. The base camp consists of an extra chair, an umbrella, a cooler of beer, pop and water, seven or eight or nine books, a cigar and a lighter, a watch and earplugs, a walkman, a beach towel, tennis shoes, a sheet and a cast of thousands more.

Even longer supply lines lead to the condo - mondo distance away…

_

On the beach at night
in the utter darkness you can’t see but don’t fear
There’s nothing to bump into.

_

The waves are scattered with catamarans
skiffs that skate the sea’s surface.

Galloping steeds of surf
send armies along the coast
a vigil motion omnipresent
with water having salt
tasted but not seen.


In the haste to tick of the ToDos - groceries and bike rental on day one - I told my wife I’d take care of the latter. Two days later I noticed the sin of my haste - the rental car must’ve gotten scratched during the loading of the bike into the too-smallish trunk. And so we await the verdict from the Enterprise jury as to its severity and our expense.

A sense of constantly being responsible is one of the things vacations are meant to escape, as long as that responsibility is not of a moral nature. Given a key to our place without a keychain didn’t set off any alarm bells but it should have. It was lost in the afterglow of a two-hour bike ride.

Pearce writes that Wilde had the “wisdom of foresight which is the mark of prophecy”. On a trip to America Wilde said that “everybody seems in a hurry to catch a train.”

“This is a state not favorable to poetry or romance. Had Romeo or Juliet been in a constant state of anxiety about trains or had their minds been agitated by the question of return-tickets, Shakespeare could not have given us those lovely balcony scenes which are so full of poetry and pathos.” Well I’m feeling some self-pathos for the rental car situation.

Wilde called America “the noisest country that ever existed” and this was before the days of leaf blowers and gas-powered hedge clippers.

*

Clutch & grasps he at the extended hours
catching waves that never felt the human touch
grasps too the shrieking bird
talon’d fish a shish-kebob.

*

I like to get to the beach early
and bow to the unexpired day
By noon fed by prose and doze
By four on waves and haze.
Days’ consecutive don’t break my ardor
but gathers like the sea.

Day Five

One hopes to find some “action items” as “take aways” from down here, if you’ll forgive that brazen bizness-speak. I hope I take more long, leisurely runs. I’m certainly not in good enough shape. Swimming, biking and running down here are exhausting, and I never realized how in shape you have to be to have fun. Running, to be really useful, should be at least forty minutes long and that’s a stretch for me, a once-a-week effort. Once a week does not a habit make. Note to self: get in shape for the beach next time. My wife tells me of her co-workers who are triathletes, running 26 miles and biking 50 and swimming who knows how long. They are strange beings from another planet to me.

It’s day five and my previous writings look like feverous drivel. I look out at my “co-workers” on the beach and some of the faces are familiar now. Ralph McInerny wrote that he built a beautiful study at his house with large windows overlooking a golf course and sharp built in floor-to-ceiling book shelves but that, in the end, a study is a study and the environment matters little when your face is a few inches from a computer screen all the time you’re there.

But it’s different I think with this beach, my “study” for this week. The room at the hotel is infiltrated with shade and faux coolness and newspapers but most of all enclosure, that amputation of the sky, that which appears as a huge basin or, as Oscar Wilde put it: "clouds are the only thing unchanged from the beginning and they remind me of Renaissance paintings”.

One could have worse studies. The shock of reading under the quintilliant (if it ain't a word, it should be) sun at noon reminds me why we’re here. It all becomes clear after assuming the horizontal position. In the condo we bravely say that we’re ready to go back home. But when supine before the truth of the sky's majesty and beauty we remember why we came but also why we don’t want to leave.

It is interesting that one can’t get from here to there - i.e. feel like I do on Day 5 on day 2. I’m speaking of getting to the more sanguine, laizze-faire, sang-froid, “how many cliches can I sling” sort of attitude. You can’t hurry love. Technique is effected when the heart is changed.

*

Reluctantly, I sit behind Scott Hahn today at Mass today. Directly behind him would be too obvious so there’s a row between us. At the Sign of Peace he didn’t shake my hand but half-turned and smiled reticently, if that’s not an oxymoron. His child (maybe eight) raised his hand in blessing towards me and I felt like here was my blessing, the one I didn’t ask for and the one from who’d I had ignored. And it finally occurred during Mass to pray for Hahn, and for his apostolic endeavours, so there’s progress in that.

*

One feels keenly the sense of loss when the end approaches. The sun, the dying Gaul, stands in the Western sky as we turn our back from mother ocean that we might have the company of the Gaul. A week at the beach seems insufferably long given the Spartan entertainments of just book and radio and exercise. But it passed surpassingly fast and now we cast a gimlet eye at the prospect of that last mourning, a half-day at the beach, a grotesque centaur at which we stare at in disbelief, so fast went this second-to-last day.

A final bike ride. In the patches of sky in the dappled-noon schwarzwald I catch glimpses of the past. Was that my best friend’s father’s car? Are we on a camping trip to Lake Hope?

Back to the beach. There’s 1985 music on one station. It sings the truth - that I’ve become my father. His music stopped in 1958 and mine around ‘85. Did they make a bad song in ‘85 or is it just me? A couple Pale Ales serve as consolation and fortification for leaving this brine of sea, set in equal part salt as my own blood. Why do vacations open the trap door of memory so readily, music or not? Nabakov and Proust are good company, in their seeing something in the past worth recovering. I decide that the mass of men lead quiet last half-hours of desperation on vacations. But one can no more hold back time than the tide.

And so tomorrow the lifeguard will perform her umbrellic rituals again. And the turtles big as canned hams will pee on someone else when they carry him to safety. And the birds will go about their business as the rabbits will theirs and so. must. we.

Wash, waves, wash
in your climbing cliffs
and thunderous crashes!