November 30, 2009

Various & Sundry

My favorite meditation piece today: “Christ opened up Heaven to us in the manhood he assumed,” - St. Iraenus. The possibility of Heaven was given to us by Christ. What greater reason to praise and thank Him! Where once in Heaven the bodily were looked down upon and not accepted, not worthy of making the cut, now the Creator Himself became body and brought the body to Heaven so that all the angels and archangels and heavenly spirits might not look down on us anymore, the curse of Adam lifted.

* * *

Reading a book on Mexico City that is patently biased and one-sided which I won't name rather than give further publicity to it. The anti-religion viewpoint could not have been made more clear than if the writer’s name were Hitchens or Dawkins. He denies the existence of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego but - humorously in the glaringness of its omission - he can’t deny the existence of the tilma. The materialist sometimes won't deny that which he can see with his own eyes, but will ignore it if it doesn’t fit into his pre-arranged views. Thus, sadly, all the wonder of the image is lost for him. He does not even address how something like that could last for hundreds of years when science has shown that tilmas of that sort degrade over a fraction of that time. It’s an ongoing miracle, but that goes to show that even ongoing miracles can be ignored. Proof again as if we needed it that what is needed, even in the face of the miraculous, is faith.

* * *

The NY Times has an article about KSM, the terrorist mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, and he was said to be very surprised at America's reaction to 9/11. He did not anticipate the incursion into Afghanistan or that we would seek out Al Qeada operatives across the globe. In other words, he underestimated us. Just like Saddam Hussein, who thought we were a paper tiger. It's stunning to see how out of touch with reality those folks were but I suppose in hindsight it's recognizable if only because by definition if you're willing to attack the U.S., then you're going to think we're a paper tiger.

* * *

Heard an encouraging homily not too long ago from the new friar at the downtown Dominican parish. It concerned the gospel was where Jesus cleared out the Temple at Jerusalem (which is the favorite passage for those with anger management issues). But the gospel was twinned that day with a reading from 1st Maccabees about how Jesus was simply fulfilling this old passage, being a "type". In Maccabees, they cleared how the Temple of pagans so that the Jews could worship in purity again, but what Jesus was doing was clearing the court of the Gentiles of animals. There would be no need to clear the court of the Gentiles - that wasn't the holy ground, was it? Or was it!? He was, symbolically, making room in His temple for we Gentiles! In Heaven there are many mansions, and he was building more mansions for the Gentiles. How lovely is that thought? Also, he mentioned that Jesus never objected to the Jewish practice of praying for the dead, so that would be another point in favor of the truth of Purgatory.

For Those About to Read...

...I salute you. (My homage to AC/DC; I'm still looking for a rock band that will riff on things biblioholic.) Now for the Mexican trip log:

Day 1 - Sunday

It was utterly predictable I’d be bowled over by this place. After all Aaron has great taste and he recommended it. It’s physically beautiful here, the art and architecture exactly what I would have chosen had I done the choosing. I feel a stab of guilt at such luxury, wondering if I deserve it. Do I contribute enough at work do warrant this sort of reward? Tom Wolfe’s description in “The Bonfire of Vanities” of the arbitrageurs haunts even though I make a tiny fraction of their money. I’ve always found there’s nothing like a vacation to make me want to work harder, or work to make me want to vacation harder.

We arrived before check-in and they told us our ocean-front wasn’t yet available but we could go for another room on a higher floor that overlooked both pool and ocean. I asked to see the room, perhaps pushing my luck, and it was a good view but not goose-bump inducing. We waited for the original room by eating dinner, which is where I got the first inclination that the downside of an “all-inclusive” resort is that the food is unlimited. Every day is a buffet. Bring out the Alka Seltzer! So I had ribs and a salad and washed it down with a liter of Negro Modelo. And cheesecake for dessert. Oh my was it good.

Hunger slaked, we headed back to our real room and it was suitably magical. “I feel a Spanish crest upon my chest….” I have the urge to read Reid Buckley’s “Servants and Masters” a novel thick with Spanish atmosphere and intrigue.

The balcony hung suspended over azure/green waters crashing the shore. It was the closest to the ocean I can recall to being while in a hotel room; the only thing closer was when we sat out on a balcony above the ocean, on a cruise. It’s a fine specimen of a room with beautiful furnishings. I put my Sarah Palin book on the bedside reading table and the combo looked splashing. Yet how can I read amid such splendor? Instead I hit the balcony for a vacation cigar as the sun sets and the blue waters fade to black.

The sports bar we ate at had about a dozen screens in every direction and the Bengals played on one of them, which made me happy. The main screen was inexplicably devoted to the Chargers-Broncos game and unaccountably there were a ton of Charger fans in the place. Every time San Diego did something good there rose raucous cheers from the jersey-clad visitors. Go figure, as Cancun is a long way from San Diego. But travel always offers surprises, even amid mundane things like that.

I explore the hotel and it’s pleasingly labyrinthal quality and it brings to mind how man was meant to explore, and not just the physical but the intellectual and spiritual. There’s a Proverb that talks about it being the glory of man to seek out what the Master has hidden, quoted by John Paul II in “Fides et Ratio”.

Day 2 Monday

The sun starts early down here -- just after 6am there’s an orange circle on the sea’s horizon. I think about the Sarah Palin book I was reading last night, how in 2004 she started ftraining for a marathon and went on long runs feeling not a restlessness or ambition so much as a calling, that she would be called to do more and that she could do more. (I felt like that about my Bingo career only it turned out to be not a calling, haha.)

“What gets you excited to wake up in the morning,” she quotes herself in her speeches at graduations. “What is the desire of your heart? God put those in you not to tease or frustrate you - He created them in you to give you direction! To put you on the right path - He bridles your passion!” Palin writes that she told herself “You’ve got to go out there and fly! Go and do more!” This was in the lead-up to run for governor.

* * *

About 75% of the earth is covered with water, but since we experience only a tiny portion of it our perception can skew. Because we live on land, we may act as though 95% of the planet is land. Similarly how easy it is, if we don’t pray enough, to think that God is a small part of the overall picture when He is the picture itself. From the Word Among Us meditation today on the passage from Daniel: “This has great practical application for us, as we must choose each day the proper balance of how much time we spend consuming the world’s philosophies, attitudes, and values, versus how much time we spend consuming God’s word in Scripture.”

The pool area is flanked by ornate 3-foot cement pillars and fronded with red Spanish-style slats that lend a dappled shade effect. The music, though mostly innocuous, is loud enough to be distracting. Beethoven’s 2nd plays in my ear, incongruous with the Tijuana music over the loudspeakers. The pool has the advantage of bar proximity and is a scene undulating with bottoms of curvy females on their stomach or flipped with their obelisks aspiring skyward. Gresham’s Law as it applies to pool-side thoughts: the flesh drives out musings about the effectiveness of Keynesian economics. Overall, perhaps by design, it feels very cruise-shippy. Pretty waters / a tranquiscient/ neologism / full of fresca.

The surf is white as Sparky Anderson’s hair, which I mention only in a bid to go down in history as the only person ever to compare Anderson’s hair with the surf. (Note to self: google 'Sparky Anderson's hair' + surf.)

Plan to read and exercise on this trip though drinks not likely to be under severed either, given the all-inclusive (a term forever stained by Michael Scott of The Office fame). Last night the Negra Modello’s hit the spot - two “freebies” brought up to the room. Paid forward. It felt too easy, like bank robbery in the 1800s.

* * *

Looking at the great ocean reminds me of how capricious life seems to be, as if a mere accident of geography (put anyone without a boat anywhere in the vast expanse of ocean and they’d be shark food). I think of how many have people through the centuries have had short lives and how length of life is meaningless compared to how one lives. In the ancient world, the fragility of life was so apparent that “life was less something to be made as something to be endured” per D. McMahon. McMahon also quotes a Greek history in which Croseus is “only saved after he renounced the belief that he was, or ever can be, happy while still alive.”

I’m also reading “The Machine” about the ‘75 Reds. Excellent stuff, like crack-cocaine for the baseball fan. I take note what others are reading, including two Kindles seen down here “in the wild”, one a DX and the other a Kindle 2. Book sightings:
- Dan Brown’s latest
- “Soul Made Flesh”
- “Glimmer Train”
- A Tom Clancy novel
- “Caravans” by James Michener
- “The Day Heaven and Earth Changed Places”
- “A Long, Long Way”
- Another “Going Rogue” reader
- a Ken Follet novel
- a Grisham novel

Day 3 - Tuesday

The look and feel of the balcony is very similar, almost identical, to that of the balcony on a cruise ship. There’s the same strong wind, the same loud noise of surf. Because the surf is marked with red flags (heavy surf) it’s likely louder than is typical. “He collects the waves of the ocean; he stores up the depths of the sea.” - from today’s Shorter Christian Prayer book (Ps 33).

* * *

The customer service here at the Casa Magna is at times otherworldly. Got back from a run and I’m offered a wet towel at the door, a small cold towel held with silver calipers. Simply amazing if overkill. Later the wait staff brings Pacifico beer or a Negra Modella or a strawberry daquiri precisely at beer o’clock. After a workout one needs plenty of fluids, so set me up with a beer iv.

Today we set up off-off-pool, which is like off-off-Broadway only sunnier and quieter. All-inclusive means never having to look at prices, which is something I haven’t done since my parents were young.

An itinerant beach cigar salesman beckons and I’m a sucker. “You are good people,” he says after I give him a twenty dollar bill for a five pack of Cohiba Cuban cigars. I just hope they’re not exploding cigars. How do I get them home? Has Obama lifted the sanctions against Cuba yet? The next day I meet another itinerant cigar salesman. “Almost free,” he says. I think this is capitalism at its finest - breaking the near monopoly on cigars the hotels have by dramatically undercutting their prices.

* * *

Reading Lewis Buzbee’s book on biblioholism & McMahon’s on happiness now after having finished “The Machine”. Buzbee says “we fear for ourselves what we’d never imagine for others.” In the background ’70s tune “Shake Your Booty” plays and I still hear it in context of “fast dances” of my formative years. The song seems fraught with danger despite the silly lyrics - perhaps the most dramatic difference between lyrics and tune in history? Or maybe not, come to think of it. Next up is “Get Down Tonight” and it’s hard to read about bibliophilism to the old beat.

Or German historian/philosopher Max Weber. I love this - he took a trip for which the prospect was to raise his spirits and provide the mojo in order to write the first half of the book he would be known for. Get this: he traveled intensely for 3 ½ months in the U.S. And I feel guilty for a week vacation. I think the Europeans have it right.

* * *

Dinner at the Argentinian Steak House was ridiculously good. Over-the-top good. The servers came out with the entrees and it feels like a choreographed - everybody in sync, in rhythm, with steak knives appearing before our very eyes along with filet mignon and creamed spinach. The béarnaise sauce was other-worldly. Then dessert; a layered dark chocolate cake for me. The dinner was the best I’ve had in a year or so. Then out to the lobby, as ornate as the promenade deck of a new cruise ship and with live music playing again. The cruise-ification of Cancun resorts? If so I can’t complain. On the balcony I feel like Di Caprio in Titanic, wind in my face, sea at my feet. Uh-oh, not a good analogy…

DAY 4 - Wed

Into every life and vacation a little rain must fall and it did today. I was surprised there are “only” 200 sunny days here a year; I would’ve guessed closer to 300. So today was one of the 165 from the get-go and so I traveled by tour bus, by which I man regular bus, to and around downtown Cancun. Not a whole lot to see, truth be told, or at least so it seemed. I always think that a completely resort-style vacation is lazy - don’t want to be provincial and not explore other cultures but I’m not sure Senor Frog’s is culture. To be fair, that was just the downtown core and there were other streets that might be of more interest but for the language barrier.

Clouds obscure the sunrise. Mornings here are like the Discovery Channel’s “Sunrise Earth” come to life. I love the cut of the hotel’s jib, everything ovaled and arched instead of the hard angles and rectangles of doors and passageways up Norte.

One person may see, in the sea, only randomness and chaos, while another sees regularity, consistency, dependability. It depends on attitude and faith.

Dinner at night at the Japanese Steak House. I don’t get out much, so this was like going to old Japan. The hostess was in a kimono, chopsticks were available and the music was the kind they play at massage centers - very Eastern. This was the first time I can recall being at a Japanese steak house. We got a “regular” table instead of one where they cook right in front of you. Got Sumashi soup, shrimp tappan keg, (or something like that). It was all good. Steph had seaweed soup, the seaweed tasting just as you’d think seaweed would taste like. Sorta like spinach. There was this very fine rice noodle in the soup and I asked what it was and Steph humorously said “squid hair”.

DAY 5 - Thurs

Cumulous clouds, or Columbus clouds as I call them, ‘cumulate against the horizon while the sun subtly rises behind them. A signature of orange is writ in the sky…

* * *

After a desultory morning reading mix of Ray Bradbury and Walker Percy, headed out for play time in the world’s biggest swimming pool. You always know the surf is solid when there are mostly adults out there as in this case. The waves were so big that you’d want to just stand there and admire them, as if they were mammoth home runs, but mostly you’d want to get out their way. Riding the crest, I tried to enjoy the split-second view atop , as if from a 2nd story condo forty yards into the ocean. The surf threw me like I was a feather paperweight in a gale storm (okay, slight exaggeration) and I kept my arms moving in a defensive gesture lest I get thrown against rock instead of sand. It’s the first time I can recall really respecting the waves. But oh my but the espirit de corps among the wave hunters when we commandeered the high ground and rode down the splashy chutes to shore, only to have the same sea spray us from behind by waves borne by wind-froth!

There’s a swim-up bar at the pool - ordered a Mango daquiri thus fulfilling a childhood dream, or at least early adulthood dream, of swimming up to a bar to order a drink. I’m finding the sweetness of daquiris a fine precursor for beer. The latest is Mexican beer tried is: Montejo. We ran into a loquacious contractor at the swim-up bar who does cement work and who, as it turned out, did jobs for my dad and uncle. Small world alert! We joked that he’s spending my Dad’s money. “Fix or six beers and I’m done,” he says. “You can tell I’m not a big drinker since I’m buzzed after three Corona’s.”

Poolside I start reading “Moby Dick”; I watch the sea and looked for that “appalling beauty - lit up by a horizontal spangly sun, shifted and glistened like a living opal on the blue morning sea.”

Day 6 - Fri

The pool is too architecturally attractive for us not to be pulled into its sway this last day. We set up mid-deck, o’er looking the white tops between the Mayan columns accompanied by a stiff breeze and soft jazz.

Styrations greet the eye like sedimentary layers of a mythical gemstone: foam-white, to turquoise, to black-blue speckled with a thousand points of white wave. I’m glad we moved from our too-suburban patch of concrete off-off-pool. Sure it was quiet and sunny but it lacked the sights. Above and stage-right stands the adobe left wing of the palace, with its patio-balcony floors so sheer and smooth the chairs glide with greatest of ease.

Foreknowledge of the vacation’s end harshes the mellow. Ran into cement dude Jerry and Pat again today and found out they are regular Cancunites - they come down every 2-3 months using discounts earned from a Marriot awards credit card. Steph met a lady from Canada who lives six months in Canada and six months in Ecuador to escape the winters. She says the standard of living is so low there that she hired a maid for $12 a day. Today’s big read was Chabon’s “Manhood” book after a fruitless search for truth and poetry in “Moby Dick”’s more discursive parts.

Day 7 - Sat:

Six a.m. pre-sun rise and it’s surprisingly cool on the balcony, a heavy breeze and a cloudy sky. One last morning…breakfast at La Capilla…a visit to the hottub where I soak a sprained ankle. Watched a sailboat go by. Then onto the airport where I read Josh Hamilton’s book “Beyond Belief”. Fine story of redemption. I like the inspirational baseball story, of stories of excellence and overcoming. Liked “The Machine” and even to an extent Joe Torre’s overdog team “The Yankee Years”. Reading about Paul O’Neill was enough in that. It was never the same after he left the Yanks or the book, so I haven’t finished that one yet.

For Hamilton, it’s surely a lifelong battle and I’ve heard there was a brief relapse into non-sobriety early last year, a year in which he also struggled at the plate.

We make it to Cincy airport and stumble through a Borders. A bookstore in an airport is a breath of poetry in a prose world. I felt intoxiprinted by the wares, spurred by the romance of the terra incognitios of various books, mostly the Five Points section of Rutherford’s historical novel “New York” (Five Points being of particular interest in provoking wonderment how people could live that way) and in Bill Simmons’s “Big Book of Basketball” with all the redolent memories of factoids past, like whether Kareem was better than Wilt. Say but the names and I feel the nostagia: “Jerry West…Oscar Robertson…Lew Alcinder…” Ahh…

November 23, 2009

Posts will be scarce...

...due to an anticipated time of being off-line for vacationary purposes.

November 21, 2009

November 20, 2009

And Then There Were Two...

So the pro-abort Harry Reid Health Care Bill had four stalwarts who stood firm against cloture as of 8am this morning. The hall of heroes included: Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Joe Lieberman and Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. Suddenly, in the space of a few hours, Ben Nelson folded like a cheap suit and Lieberman somehow doesn't appear to be needed. And now I hear that Reid has the votes or will be able to get them by Saturday night. Sad.

Beer Log

Well I've had the chance to try a few of the beers purchased at Jungle Jim's exotic beer market down in southwestern Ohio. My grades:
___________________

Otter Creek Pale Ale: Solid pale if somewhat forgettable: Grade B

Stoudt's Triple (Belgian abbey-style ale): It was okay...a bit too hefe-weizen-ish for me. Grade: C

Lion Stout - Hello! Now there's a wake-me-up stout. Utterly fantastic. "With flavors of dark chocolate, coffee, and smoked/roasted malt," says one website. The find of the night. Grade: A+

Abita beer amber: Very nice drinkable beer. Grade: A-

On deck? A breakfast stout:

What a label! Wouldn't mind a little 'breakfast stout' for breakfast.



Note: no actor was used in the making of this photograph.



For all you stout hunters out there, here we see the stout in its native habitat, the refrigerator.

I'd have taken pictures of the Lion Stout bottle but it's rather plain-looking. Can't judge a beer by its packaging.

Speaking of alcohol, I came across both this and this today. Go figure.

November 19, 2009

Highlighting 101

How I longed to hold the pages
of the Sacred Book so fair
mark my highlights, marginalia
if defacing that so rare.

Hindsight has it, as it will,
now the words in green and pink
but what the Maker does desire
we use flesh instead of ink.

November 18, 2009

Lame-Stream Media Strikes Again

I'm with Dom here: AP goes rogue with the facts. Had to laugh that that was the best the AP could come up with. It reminded me of Hitchens' essay contra Mother Teresa: "this is the best you could do?"

It's gotten to the point where I can't quite figure out if I like Sarah Palin for herself or whether I like her for her enemies, and the vituperative reaction she inspires in all the right people. Throw in her nice legs and it's even more difficult to be objective. Tis true that she's no intellectual, and I rarely find her replies meaty or poetic, but on the other hand I've such a thirst for the unscripted politician that she's refreshing in that way. She's at least capable of surprise and independent thinking, which is more than can be said of most of our moribund Congress.

Radio Priest

Turned on the local Catlick station and heard the voice of our beloved former pastor, now gone into retirement for about half a year: "There are things coming!" I hear him say:
"We may not be called to be great preachers but we are called to witness to our conviction that life is greater than the present moment..that life has a destiny...that it is headed somewhere...that there is something about life that compensates for the sorrows and illnesses that we have including the burdens of old age...there is a greater context for all of that. It's not just the present moment. The trials of our lives are our apocalyptic moments."

"If religion is a tool of life rather than a pilgrimage, a journey, then we isolate our life of faith. It becomes just one more tool among the tools in our toolbox.I f I'm sorrowful or I need a favor I go to church and pray... Religion then does not capture my soul. It is not a revelation, it is not apocalyptic. A classic case is in the great movie 'The Godfather'. Is there any relationship between faith and life in it?"

"Apocalyptic means there is something far beyond the present moment. It's a symbolic language..it's what really good poetry is supposed to be: to express the inexpressible. In apocalyptic literature our sense of the reality that is around us is stretched. Greater, deeper, vaster reality...how can we handle the present moment if we don't believe in this greater reality which we can scarcely comprehend? We can't comprehend what lies ahead but we seek to encase that which we cannot comprehend in good liturgical music, monuments, grave stones, burial rituals - all of that is supposed to remind us of the future. But funerals have changed in recent decades to look at the past or the present. Our culture tells us that whatever is happening right now is the only moment that matters or exists.

"Apocalyptic literature jars us out of the present moment. We are in the midst of a world that is beyond us. Ask God to expand your horizons and open your eyes to that which is beyond you, in creativity, trust, and faith."

November 17, 2009

Parody Blog updated..

...with Obama's bow to George W. Bush.

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

When you see it exposed, say to yourself: Thanks to this Body, I am no longer dust and ashes, I am no more a captive but a free man: hence I hope to obtain heaven and the good things that are there in store for me, eternal life, the heritage of the angels, companionship with Christ; death has not destroyed this Body which was pierced with nails and scourged… This is that Body which was one covered with blood, pierced by a lance, from which issued saving fountains upon the world, one of blood and the other of water… This Body he gave us to keep and to eat, as a mark of His intense love. - St. John Chrysostom via McNamara's Blog

Today, after the horrors of the [twentieth-century] totalitarian regimes (I remind the reader of the memorial at Auschwitz), the problem of theodicy urgently and mightily demands the attention of us all; this is just one more indication of how little we are capable of defining God, much less fathoming him. After all, God’s answer to Job explains nothing, but rather sets boundaries to our mania for judging everything and being able to say the final word on a subject, and reminds us of our limitations. It admonishes us to trust the mystery of God in its incomprehensibility. Having said this, we must still emphasize the brightness of God, too, along with the darkness...The God who is Logos guarantees the intelligibility of the world, the intelligibility of our existence, reason's accord with God, and God's accord with reason, even though his understanding infinitely surpasses ours adn to us may so often appear to be darkness. The world comes from a Person, and is Love - this is what our biblical faith tells us about God. The world is not just... appearance, which we must ultimately leave behind. It is not merely the endless wheel of sufferings, from which we must try to escape. It is something positive. It is good, despite all the evil in it and despite all the sorrow, and it is good to live in it. God, who is the creator and declares himself in his creation, also gives direction and measure to human action. - Pope Benedict XVI

He, nailed on the cross, cries out the cry of forlorn humanity, 'My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?' People who are keen on exegesis explain to us that at that point He was rehearsing a verse of a prophetic song. If you have seen anyone die a violent death you can't well imagine Him at the last moment rehearsing a prayer He had been taught when he was a little boy! Besides, it is an error of vision -- for it is prophecy that is turned towards its fulfilment, not fulfilment that is supposed to recite words of prophecy. No, it was something real. - Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh via Dylan of "dark harp"

The great luxury Protestants have in debates with Catholics is that Catholics recognise and respect the authority of Sacred Scripture, even if they disagree with the interpretation of it; Protestants have no such regard for Sacred Tradition. - Sancta Sanctis

We were cultured then, purchasing old volumes and new music and bathing in the flickering light of the cinema. They came for the books first; later they scaled the sturdy cases and found the vases, the decanters, the Italian glassware. - Mrs. Darwin on children

The great problem of our statesmen has been from the first, How to assert union without consolidation, and State rights without disintegration? Have they, as yet, solved that problem? The war has silenced the State sovereignty doctrine, indeed, but has it done so without lesion to State rights? Has it done it without asserting the General government as the supreme, central, or national government? Has it done it without striking a dangerous blow at the federal element of the constitution? In suppressing by armed force the doctrine that the States are severally sovereign, what barrier is left against consolidation? Has not one danger been removed only to give place to another? - Orestes Brownson, writing in the 19th century, via Bill of Summa Minutiae

When your strawman argument is also a non sequitur, it makes me feel like you're not even trying. - Tom of Disputations tweet

The Golden Globe Awards Show brings together all of the biggest talents in Hollywood under one roof. Watching such an occasion on TV inevitably causes people to ask themselves certain questions. My husband asks: “Where are the terrorists when you need them?” - Betty Duffy

Darwin: "Every female blogger on this thread right now wants to be you. (Doesn't have the same ring, does it...)"

Betty: "May not have the same ring, Darwin, but probably more accurate because I have a new Oreck."

Anon: "A wise philosopher once said that it's not your Oreck, it's what you do with it."

Betty: "Anon, you may tell your wise philosopher that I prefer to think not what I should do with my Oreck, but rather, what should my Oreck do for me. With such lengthy attachments, the Oreck can reach places where no man has been before, like my ceiling fan." - Betty Duffy thread

You must – do you hear me, my young friend? – you must work harder than you do. I suspect you of being a bit of a loafer. Too many whores! Too much rowing! Too much exercise! A civilised person needs much less locomotion than the doctors claim. You were born to be a poet: be one. Everything else is pointless – starting with your pleasures and your health: get that much into your thick skull. Besides, your health will be all the better if you follow your calling. - Flaubert to de Maupassant via SR

November 16, 2009

The Homily in B-flat Major

Sunday Mass at St. Margaret's. Was momentarily annoyed by being crammed in by late-comers but eventually the Mass took me over. God's gift of Himself in the Eucharist. Fr. Jeff's homily was about perspective: is the day partly cloudy or partly sunny? Does the end of the world - or our end - bring us fear or hope? "Fear is useless, what is needed is trust," said Jesus, in the gospel of Mark. And yet so often I think I can use fear to my advantage, as preparation somehow.

Similarly I can approach Christ with fear or trust. Fr. Jeff mentioned how the symbol of hope has long been an anchor. The function of the anchor is to prevent the ship that is storm-tossed from drifting to the rocks and becoming shattered. Christ is our anchor to prevent us from perishing on the shoals of this life's troubles and temptations. The temptation to despair, towards discouragement, and sloth are ever near me. "Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to stand before the Son of Man." And today I did just that.

Saturday's fullsome readings, from the book of Wisdom, included this line: "And as he alighted, he filled every place with death; he still reached to heaven, while he stood upon the earth." How could Jesus, who is Wisdom, bring death? If one thinks of Baptism as death, death to ourselves, then he did bring death to the masses. Instead of death by way of justice, he brought death to our deaths, via His mercy.

I asked myself during the homily: "am I like the judge who fears neither God nor respects others?" Hopefully the mere fear of not fearing God is a sort of fear that affirms that I do. The Allelulia was particularly hopeful: "God has called us through the Gospel, to possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thes 2:14)

The Sunday readings alternated the complementary themes of despair and hope: in the First reading: "it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress" and yet the Psalm is "You are my inheritance O Lord!" and the 2nd reading: "For by one offering Christ has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated." (Heb 10:11-14,18). How often do I forget the forgiveness of sins! How often do I feel unworthy just in the day-to-dayness, in my lack of trust and then I read something like that and it gives me hope. So often I feel like a running-back getting 1 or 2 yards a carry but there is always the chance that God will spring me for 99 yards. God has the element of surprise about Him. "Now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool...where there is forgiveness of sins, there is no longer offering for sin." I am now made free by the blood of Christ. May I use my freedom well!

November 15, 2009

Caught All the Fish

Our desires are bottomless. A Brad Paisley song:
I filled up two shopping carts late last night
One was full of fishing gear, the other Miller Lite
The checkout lady laughed and said you think you've got enough?
And i said yeah, you're probably right and filled another two carts up

Gonna catch all the fish, gonna drink all the beer
Gonna hanker down, we're staying here
Might take all day, might take all year
Till we catch all the fish, till we drink all the beer

So i picked up the boys at dawn and we were on our way
It hadn't been ten minutes before jimmy's cellphone rang
His old lady asked him how long we'd be on the lake
And i said you tell her we're staying here however long it takes

Gonna catch all the fish, gonna drink all the beer
Better warn her now, better make it clear
Might take all day, might take all year
Till we catch all the fish, till we drink all the beer

Just as long as there's a can left in that cooler
Just as long as there's a bass left in that lake
That just means we've still got some work to do here
Just as long as there's still gas left in that tank

As long as there's a can left in that cooler
As long as there's a bass left in that lake
That just means that we've still got some work to do here
As long as there's still gas left in that tank

Well, we caught all the fish and we drank all the beer
And we ran outta gas, now we're stuck out here
A bunch of empty cans and worthless fishing gear
'cause we drank all the fish and we caught all the beer
Well, i mean we caught all the fish and drank all the beer

November 13, 2009

Chabon's Memoir & Mine

At last we have our generation's Updike, a chronicler of "Wacky Packages" (circa 1973) and one of the fellow survivors of the last generation of children who had time and adventure on their hot little hands - back in the age before structure and organized sports took all the fun away. "Kids are natural cartographers," he writes, and I recall the interior map of my childhood neighborhood at the intersection of Sando (a name that would fit well on the Flintstones and thus lent it a positive air) and Fairfield, which bordered the Elysian river and its frank smell of creek bed which wove into our hearts a love for nature.

I can see the map in front of me - the limits of the known world at half-mile increments in most directions, though truncated in some by busy roads which were parentally ruled out as hostile territory, Injun territory. Our house sat next to a neighbor with a prominent gut who wore white t-shirts with holes and whom you suspected would be at home with a 40-ouncer, and next to him was the opposite, tony WASP-ish Protestants who made their own wine and soon fled the neighborhood for wealthier climes. But distinctions between adults only become noticeable with age - back then they were all lumped into the large category of "tall people with jobs".

Directly across the street was "the unknown neighbor" and down from him was Gary Porter which we mispronounced as "Grady Porter" since that name seemed to fit better; it had more heft and gravity for there was something slightly sinister about him and his house. Mostly it was their mean dog who struck fear in the hearts of all the neighborhood children and whom I had the pleasure - oh the sheer joy of it! - of outrunning once when it was loose. But it scared the hell out of me.

The civilized world consisted of two parallel streets as well as fragments of where the streets intersected with others. Two blocks, but two blocks that contained infinite wonders, especially at Halloween when all houses became figures of great interest, and at Christmas when many non-Scrooges lit up their houses in generous displays. The bourgeois put up a string of lights; the bohemians put pedal to the metal.

In Chabon's book, his father sounds familiar: "Some people, one imagines, may be naturally buoyant of heart, but with him, good spirits seemed, far more admirably, to be the product of a strict program of self-improvement in his youth - he believed, like most truly modest men, in the absolute virtue of self-improvement."

Even of his marriage, and the desire for rootedness resonates with me given how closely I identified with my best friend's German-American parents: "God, it was a seductive thing to a deracinated, assimilated, uncertain, wandering young Jew...". Or to a deracinated, assimilated, uncertain, wandering young Catholic. I chose German as my high school language of choice because of my familiarity with my friend's upbringing, not even realizing until years later that my own family is of half-German heritage.

Of our generation he writes how we are "supposedly cynical, wised-up, skeptical" and I have to admit that surely was why Letterman was such a cult hero back in the early '80s, back when he was anti-establishment and cynically cool. (The older I get the more I realize how much more a creature of the culture I really am despite my adolescent delusions of individual grandeur.) I wasn't into MAD magazine much, other than the fun of folding the back cover to reveal what lay hidden which you could do in the store for free. I hadn't the money it seems now.

I hadn't realized how far back that sort of cynicism of advertising went, that even as early as '73 there were peel-off stickers that mocked the appearance and name of some well-known brand of household product. "A bottle of fetid-looking salad dressing labeled Fish-Bone, a Bustedfinger candy bar with a big swollen finger poking through...". There was something almost Gothic about it which was appealing in a Halloweenish sort of way. I don't know that at the time I considered it mocking products and advertisements so much; to me "Dial soap" was still revered for its 99% effectiveness at banishing germs, if you cared about banishing germs, and I don't think "Vile soap" hurt the branding. But to this day I recall a classmate who'd made a gross rhyme to the words of the "Our Father"and I was appalled: "was nothing sacred?" I wondered, literally.

Chabon writes about marriages and calls himself a "close observer of other people's marriages":
"I have noticed that in nearly all the longest-lived ones, if there is space enough in the house, each partner will have a room to flee to. If, however, there is only one room to spare, it will always be the husband's."
Man caves we will always have with us. Not exactly something you'd find in Theology of the Body 'eh?

Wi-Fi Madness

There once was a phrase "reefer madness"
that supposedly described the weed cannabis,
but I find myself hooked
on something less crook'd
that is, wi-fi at bookstores so fabulous.

November 12, 2009

Paglian Thoughts

From Camilie Paglia (strikethru mine, due to the Dems being pro-abort):
To bring the poor and vulnerable into the fold has been a high ideal and an urgent goal for most Democrats. But this rigid, intrusive and grotesquely expensive bill is a nightmare. Holy Hygeia, why can't my fellow Democrats see that the creation of another huge, inefficient federal bureaucracy would slow and disrupt the delivery of basic healthcare and subject us all to a labyrinthine mass of incompetent, unaccountable petty dictators?

Me Too....

One of the respondents to the Q&A on the salute to priests included this in response to "How did you come to know Jesus":
I actually found that defending my faith has been most helpful in learning about the faith, which in turn brought me close to Jesus.
Back in the late '90s my wife was being challenged and influenced by a friend of hers who believed the Catholic Church was the "whore of Babylon" in Revelation and it spurred in me a much deeper investigation into the faith and scriptures.

Swiftian Kudos

The colt-like anti-doyen of country music won the CMA for Entertainer of the Year last night - Taylor Swift (aka TS as one of the signs in the crowd displayed).

Only 19 years old, I have mixed emotions because on the one hand it would seem to reinforce this "cult of youth" our society has.

But it's her freshness and lack of affectiveness and cynicism that are so fetching and I thought about the rightness of her and not, say, the middle-aged George Strait to win - why? Because awards seem made for youth the way Christmas presents are made for youth. They appreciate it, they exult in it, and their confidence and sense of being loved is grown by it. For those who have already won so many awards it can't possibly mean as much or it I should say it shouldn't mean as much. It is the natural order of things. One gets until one can give, and it's time for Taylor to get, just as it is for the established stars to give up some of the limelight.

On the other hand, would I expect Tiger Woods to be "okay" with not winning a tournament simply because he'd already won a few?

November 11, 2009

If You Think It's Fiction...

...but it's not! It's Betty!" *

You just knew this was going to be a good one from the opening quote followed by the casual toss-off:
I was living in England, doing a couple of terms at Oxford U. on Renaissance Art, Shakespeare, Dante, and Wisdom Lit of the Old Testament. I had left a fiancé in the States...
How many fictional scribblings have I started off with some variation on that theme, the variation being fiancée? Too many to count. (Either that or the ol' reliable, "I was in 'Nam in '67, doing a second tour...", inspired by the prank calls of a friend to a local radio station.)

I caught the Oxford bug vicariously via Iris Murdoch and the ads for summer lit programs in the Sunday New York Times. I was a goner after reading an article about the girl who loved Middlemarch who fell for the boy who loved Shakespeare...
George Elliot’s Middlemarch was caught
by second-hand intoxication
from an Oxford late-life student
following Austen’s oeuvre.
It was the mid-80s, before the Internet made clipping newspaper articles superfluous. I saved articles from dozens of papers, collecting them like S&H Green Stamps. Among the most memorable described a young lady’s account of meeting a young man at an Oxford series covering English literature; she was deeply into George Eliot’s Middlemarch while he was a Bardophile. In my mind's eye she had the face of Jennifer Connelly and a body made for sin.

The moral? Days spent reading about other readers reading in Oxford can ruin you for a lifetime.
_______

* - (Sing to ancient jingle that no one born after 1970 will recognize: "if you think it's butter, but it's not! It's Chiffon." Yes Betty Duffy quotes Anna Karenina and I quote old television commercials. Alas. And old songs too: "Nobody does it better...though sometimes I wish I would." Indeed the label on her post can be answered in the affirmative: tis a sin to write so well.)

This & That...

Lotus Quandry

"Don't Reply to All!"
Firmly went the reply
to all
for the twelfth time
leading someone else to say
"Stop saying 'stop replying to all.'"
"You are more of the problem then the actual emails."
____

Heard one of those magical country songs, on XM Willie's Place, titled "Pearl Snaps" by a Jason Boland. About the constancy over time of pearl-snap shirts, those country shirts of yesteryear:
Cheap bourbon whiskey and pearl-snap shirts
Are two things that stay the same
So when the world starts spinnin' and your head hurts
There's a cheap bourbon whiskey and pearl-snap shirt

Yeah the Shade Tree mechanic is a dinosaur
You can't cuss, you can't smoke or spit on the floor
And don't you hit on a woman 'cause she might sue
You can't buy beer in the state past two

But that cheap bourbon whiskey and pearl-snap shirts
Are two things that stay the same
So when the world starts spinnin' and your head hurts
There's a cheap bourbon whiskey and pearl-snap shirt

Well now Buddha is legal but Jesus ain't
The saints are all sinners and the sinners are saints
And it's not how you play, it's the final score
They don't show M*A*S*H* on the tube anymore

But that cheap bourbon whiskey and pearl-snap shirts
Are two things that stay the same
So when the world starts spinnin' and your head hurts
There's a cheap bourbon whiskey and pearl-snap shirt

Well now your lovers usually leave at the drop of a ring
And Daddy doesn't smile when a mockingbird sings
The kids are in school, but they're all packin' a gun
The losers live forever and the good die young
____

Over the weekend headed south to Cincy to Jungle Jim's mart where I would hunt down exotic beers using only a mild-mannered credit card. Unfortunately there was no Deseret nitro stout for me, even granted that the bottled version could not possibly match the draught version. Also rode bikes as the sun hung by a thread on the horizon. A family member confessed her biblical angst, quoting a former pastor whose words years ago about "not knowing where Jesus was born" (nevermind Matthew & Luke) seemingly resonates with her far more than any other words about Christ he might've said, which only goes to show that we remember only what shocks us. As the Crossan scholars race against each other towards the goal of unbelief, may God's love shock us instead.

November 10, 2009

Can't Make it Up

Parody is Therapy updated with news of the military's policy of "don't ask/don't tell" for jihadists.

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Deb has the last line of Dante's Inferno tattooed around her wrist. "And then we went out and saw once more the stars. ["E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle."] - Dylan of "dark speech upon the harp"

Learn the heart of God from the word of God. - St. Gregory the Great via McNamara's Blog

I teach a catechism class for adults at my Parish, and I’d been dreading it all week. What incredible over-confidence, to think I have something to teach these people. All week I have felt helpless about the poverty in the third world. I don’t know how to make the government operate how I want it to operate. I don’t know how to make my kids behave how I want them to behave. I don’t know how to be happy with all that I have. I have no answers, nothing to teach, no easy solutions....Except for the Holy Spirit...This happens sometimes, that I just feel ineffective in my positions. I’m no kind of mother, no teacher, no writer. Even striving to be Holy feels like an act of self-indulgence—because who can sit around examining their conscience when there are such abominable things happening in the world?

Last week discussing the Beatitudes with Pedge and Irene, I felt incredibly sad with its message. Blessed are the peacemakers, the poor, those who hunger for righteousness. I was none of the above. I was just about to comment on my ineptitude at living the Gospel when Pedge said, “I really am all of these things at one time or another. Sometimes I’m a peacemaker. Sometimes, I’m poor of spirit. Sometimes I hunger and thirst for righteousness.” This keeps happening to us, that we can both read the same Gospel passage and glean from it the exact opposite. Today we read about the widow putting her last two coins in the basket, and I felt sad thinking that I haven’t given enough. And Pedge felt glad, because she interpreted the two coins as love for God and love for neighbor, and she felt that God had positioned her life so that she could give just those two things. Driving in my car tonight the Veni Creator Spiritus reminds me that there is room for all of these different interpretations. There is room to find the cup half empty, or half full, because the Holy Spirit is going to speak to each one of us as individuals. The Holy Spirit is going to inspire Pedge to remark, “What gives God more Glory, to beat ourselves up because we have been given so much, or to be glad and spread what joy we have because it has been given to us by God?” Teaching my class, I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me...It’s the only solution I have, because I have nothing else to offer.
- Betty Duffy

There is an evil tendency underlying all our technology - the tendency to do what is reasonable even when it isn't any good. - Robert Pirsig

Talking about spiritual matters to a secular audience is like doing card tricks on the radio. - Mark Karr

A conversation just held at the monastery:
Fr. Jack: So Thursday is the absolute latest the World Series can end?

Me: Unless there's rain.

Fr. Joe: Or an earthquake.

Me: Or the rapture. In which case only the Yankees will be around to play.
- Michael of "Psalm 46:11"

Surely the most benign drunk in the history of letters was Charles Lamb. Serious drinkers unpredictably alternate nastiness and charm – think of Berryman and Cheever...It’s said that if alcohol were discovered for the first time today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration wouldn’t approve it. - Patrick of "Anecdotal Evidence"

“It is autumn. Chestnuts-boughs clash their inflamed
leaves. The garden festers for attention: telluric
cultures, enriched with shards, corms, nodules, the
sunk solids of gravity. I have raked up a golden
and stinking blaze.” - Geoffrey Hill quoted by Pat of "Anecdotal Evidence"

"You, Lord, are my refuge.” My refuge is not the grocery store, or a wild-stallion daydream, or a cigarette, or sweet food, or the internet, or my book, or my writing. Here, with the incense, the golden sunburst around the Eucharist, the red and white satin vestments, the candle smoke, the elderly parishioners—my fellow children, here, is safety, peace, a refuge for my troubles. - Betty Duffy

November 09, 2009

Various

Archbishop Chaput's list of books he wishes every Catholic would read. Via the Rozinator.
____

Happened across a verse by verse bible commentary. Not sure who's behind it.
____

Buddy the Wonder Dog is semper helpful. He sees me, on consecutive days, scrubbing the carpet with Nature’s Miracle in order to remove a cat urine odor, and I find him later, on separate occasions, rubbing that spot with his coat as if to take on the odors of the world in my stead. And he whose nose is far better than mine. Or maybe he did it because he wanted me to rub his coat instead of the floor. Or maybe he likes the smell.

Buddy, whose motto is: "Let no smell go unsmelled!"
____

So where are the grey November days of poem and bitter song? Not here, not yet. Today was sunny and 63 degrees, the sort of day minus the wind I could bike ride. I took Buddy on a hike at Prairie Oak out of a sense of obligation, to pay my respects to Mother Sun. The Psalmist writes that we are to praise God’s love in the morning, His truth at night. I understand the love in the morning, given that the refreshment and gift of the new day and the climbing sun. But truth in the night? Christ is the way, the truth and the life so we are to praise Christ at night for He is the one who took on death/night and devoured it.

____

The Word Among Us has for sale Jesus’ Sacred Heart 2010 Prayer Journal with plenty of space for writing. This seems appealing, as does a Bible with wide margins available for marginalia, but I doubt I’d use either given my penchant for the word processor.

Fine meditation on worry in the latest issue of “Word Among Us” regarding. It’s a review of the book “Surrendering Our Stress”: “the author states that ‘worrying is often directed toward all the ‘what ifs’ in our lives.’ But then she gives an effective antidote to worry: ‘Tell God what we need and be confident that he will answer our prayers.’”

The meditation also says:
“Learning to redefine personal struggles and stresses as testing, rather than considering them afflictions, provides an opportunity for growth. I thought of Job, who lost his children and wealth, and had to endure the discouraging counsel of his wife and friends, but reframed his devastation by thinking on a higher level. His proclamation, “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25), reveals a heart yielded to God and focused on ultimate reality. I also thought of Corrie ten Boom, imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp: Every day, she redefined her horrible circumstances as an opportunity to evangelize and draw others to the Lord.”
In the readings from Mass the other day there were a couple of lines that struck me, such as: “Christ…will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.” That’s the passage that got me thinking about the two comings of Christ and how each has a separate purpose. If we live without assurance of our final salvation, we do live with knowledge that we are forgiven from sin. Too often I fail to appreciate the latter by focusing on the former.

Amendment Passes

In a pro-life legislative victory that both sides are calling the most significant since the ban on partial-birth abortion, the House of Representatives voted 240-194 on November 7 to bar the use of federal funds from paying for most abortions in its health care reform legislation.

See how your representative voted here.

The Ohio "Hall of Shame":
Ohio Representatives who voted the PRO-ABORTION position against the Stupak-Pitts Amendment were:
Dennis Kucinich; Marcia Fudge; Betty Sutton; and Mary Jo Kilroy.

November 08, 2009

Basbanes Excerpts

From Patience & Fortitude by N. Basbanes:
[Harold] Bloom told me that his exhausting reading regimen was such that several years earlier he had exacerbated a severe case of bleeding ulcers and aggravated a heart condition that required him to undergo major surgery from having read for great periods of time without pausing for rest. "I have done nothing but read all my life," he said, pointing to a pile of volumes stacked high beside the well-worn leather chair in his New Haven, Connecticut, living room...
And this, concerning the New York Public Library, quotes a man named Gregorian:
"My notion was that people with means will not assist a dying institution. They will pay for a funeral for old time's sake, but they will not assist a dying institution. So when I came to New York I maintained that death is not an option, so don't even think about it. New York Public Library must survive, and our first job was to stress how centrial it is, how crucial it is...It was built with marble, it was built to last, because culture has to last, knowledge has to last. My attitude was that the cause was so valuable that if I succeed, it would be a miracle, if I fail, I would be a great martyr. Either way, I could not lose."

November 06, 2009

Chabon Excerpt

This goes out to all those harried & harassed mothers. Michael Chabon was praised by a stranger for being "such a good father" when he took his son shopping at a grocery store, which inspired this riff in his book Manhood for Amateurs:
I don't know what a woman needs to do to impel a perfect stranger to inform her in the grocery store that she is a really good mom. Perhaps perform an emergency tracheotomy with a Bic pen on her eldest child while simultaneously nursing her infant and buying two weeks' worth of healthy but appealing breaktime snacks for the entire cast of Lion King, Jr. In a grocery store, no mother is good or bad; she is just a mother, shopping for her family...

Good mothering is not measurable in a discrete instant, in an hour spent rubbing a baby's gassy belly, in the braiding of a tangled mass of morning hair. Good mothering is a long-term pattern, a lifelong trend of behaviors most of which go unobserved at the time by anyone, least of all the mother herself.
____

...all mothers are (in their own view) bad. Because the paradoxical thing, or one of the paradoxical things, about the low standard to which fathers are held (with the concomitant minimal effort required to exceed the standard and win the sobriquet of 'good dad') is that your basic garden-variety mother, not only working hard at her own end of the child-rearing enterprise...but so often taxed with the slack from the paternal side of things, tends in my experience to see her career as one of perennial insufficiency and self-doubt. This is partly because mothers are attuned, in a way that most fathers have a hard time managing, to the specter of calamity that haunts their children. Fathers are properly supposed to serve as protectors of their children, but in fact men lack the capacity for identifying danger except in the most narrow spectrum of the bad. It is women - mothers - whose organs of anxiety can detect the vast invisible flow of peril through which their children are obliged daily to make their way. The father on a camping trip who manages to beat a rattlesnake to death with a can of Dinty Moore in a tube sock may rest for decades on the ensuing laurels yet somehow snore peacefully every night beside his sleepless wife, even though he knows perfectly well that the Polly Pocket toys may be tainted with lead-based paint, and the Rite-Aid was out of test kits, and...

My dad did what was expected of him, but like most men of the time, he didn't do very much apart from the traditional winning of bread.

Calling All Reps

Roz of Exultet tells of committing an act of citizenship. I love the faith it requires to write John Dingell a letter, the equivalent of having a few loaves of bread and expecting it to feed thousands. So her act inspires me to throw off my sluggishness and torpor and do likewise with my similarly hopelessly unpersuadeable representative (Rep. Kilroy). With God all things are possible.

Let's Play....

...why's my bookbag or e-reader equivalent so heavy?

It's a cornucopia of reads I'm juggling, including but not precluding Bob Greene's "Late Edition" (a lament for the demise of the newspaper industry), Ralph Martin's "The Fulfillment of All Desire", Norman Stone's "World War One: A Short History" and Michael Chabon's "Manhood for Amateurs".

Still looking at "The Autobiography of Parley Pratt". "The Whiskey Rebels" by David Liss looks interesting.

Speaking of whiskey, heard an interview not long ago with bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley. Stanley, who comes from deep Bible belt country and records a lot of hymns, was so bold as to say that he didn’t like that his co-religionists are so anti-alcohol.

He may even owe his life to spirits - on those long road trips, driving at 3am, sometimes it was the constant nips of whiskey that kept him awake. It’s politically incorrect in these days of MADness, but there’s a truth to it. I’ve always found alcohol to be a stimulant in the short run, probably because of its euphoric effect. I look back now on those certain sleepless nights in the past and wish I’d have had the carelessness and foresight to treat myself gently, by drinking madly. It may or may not have eventually led to sleep, but it would’ve calmed my nerves concerning the lack thereof. Of course it isn't a longterm solution but..but I can picture ol’ Ralph tucking some whiskey ‘neath is belt on those late night hours singing to himself and bandmates gospel hymns.

November 05, 2009

I'll Serve No Whine...

Last week felt like premature vacation endulation, which of course seems silly after reading a NY Times sobering report on all the post-traumatic stress syndrome reported by returning soldiers (modern war is so unnatural; can the human psyche bear it? On the other hand I tend to underestimate the resilience of the human spirit). The premature endulation was the result of not taking Monday off, the prolongation and exclamation point on the Salt Lake trip in which I'd planned to hit Bob Evans and any number of magical places in Columbus (Polaris Barnes & Noble) where I could pretend to be still in exotic Utah.

I could get used to the relaxation of it, the routine of breakfasts at the hotel buffet, of the hottub, of the crisp morning jaunt to Mass, of the trail of ancestors at the library, of the museums within walking distance, of the smell of Mormon in the morning, of being a "regular" at Weller's books - the morning java in the window seat amid the scent of endless books. One can scarcely underestimate the cumulative effect of good breakfasts followed by rich coffee. Yes, indeed, I undershot on Utah, I left too soon. End o' whine.

Accounting

The priest got up to the lectern and started his homily by saying he was tired of confessions that go like this: "Bless me Father for I have sinned...It's been 4 months since my last confession. I had an impure thought, I broke the speed limit and I got angry with my wife...."

He said either the person confessing was a saint or there was an incomplete examination of conscience. He especially wonders if these confessants were missing the sin of judging others.

In the first reading from Romans today St. Paul reminds us that we will have to give an account of ourselves:
The life and death of each of us has its influence on others; if we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord, so that alive or dead we belong to the Lord. This explains why Christ both died and came to life, it was so that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. This is also why you should never pass judgement on a brother or treat him with contempt, as some of you have done. We shall all have to stand before the judgement seat of God; as scripture says: By my life – it is the Lord who speaks – every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall praise God. It is to God, therefore, that each of us must give an account of himself.
According to the OED account as the object of 'to give' means:
"A particular statement of the administration of money in trust: esp. in phrases; To give, yield, or render an account; to ask an account; to call or bring to account."
Some may be tempted to self-justify, in pointing to good works, or to self-accuse, in pointing out our sins. I looked up the Old Testament verse St. Paul quoted (Is 45:23-24), figuring that his listeners would know the context far better than me:
"By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
'To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.'
They will say of me, 'In the LORD alone
are righteousness and strength.'
"

November 04, 2009

A Salute to Salute

Interesting newsletter from the Archdiocese for the Military; new priests were asked their current reading and favorite Scripture verse:


Varia

Hit the library and picked up the PBS special "Wuthering Heights" and while I was there grabbed a few other books for the heck of it. Bringing home books has all the qualities of book shopping with none of the cost. It was a target rich environ and I wasn't particularly selective. David Liss's "The Devil's Company", "The Best of Gene Wolfe" and "A Syllable of Water: Twenty Writers of Faith Reflect on Their Art". Not bad actually. "Our Lady of Kibeho" was prominently displayed at the Columbus library. This from a town where Catholics represent only 10% of the population.

Speaking of that book, yesterday while our dog played the role of world's biggest lapdog, I was reading it, or trying to, when he ate the bookmark! Then he started to snap at the corner of the book. Later read a golden couple of sentences from Boundaries about whether you have a marriage based on the law or on grace:
Is the husband's relationship with his wife full of grace and unconditional love? Is she in a position of 'no condemnation' as the church is (Rom. 8:1), or does her husband fail to 'wash her' of all guilt? ..If she incurs wrath or condemnation for not submitting, she and her husband do not have a grace-filled Christian marriage; they have a marriage 'under the law.'"

____
"Kitty TV"
we joke about windows
the human television ignored
since our cat doesn't care
for the talking heads:
neither O'Reilly nor Olbermann
turns Laz's head.

But flip on Sunrise Earth
"The Skelligs of Ireland"
and wait patiently for the sun to rise
and the puffins to appear
and you'll have a cat
stalking the screen.
____

Had an abortive attempt at lunch last week to try the Netbookian experiment. Couldn't pick up a signal just outside the dismal Coffee Jo's at the Convention Center. (It had all the ambiance of a construction site.) Depressing gray clouds jutted from the windows which matched the color of the cheerless interior. The thing I need to remember is I can use my netbook without wifi - simply use the quite serviceable Microsoft Works processor.

November 03, 2009

No Need to Fear Charismatic Renewal

From Fr. Cantalamessa:
Baptism in the Spirit makes the Catholic Charismatic Renewal a formidable means willed by God to revitalize Christian life, says the preacher of the Papal Household.

Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik's Devotional

Roz asked where the Divine Infant of Prague devotional I've mentioned in the past can be found, and I found it here. The author was born fifty years to the day before me. It's not a devotion I would've thought appealing, which is likely why it's appealing. If that makes any sense...

Perhaps it does in the sense that I consistently misunderestimate God's mercy and consistently "forget" to see God's image in others. I think the concepts are related, because to the extent one sees God as very merciful, it's easier to see others as beloved of God. We tend to see others through God's eyes, or more accurately, through our eyes and imagine they this is God's point of view. If God were an impartial judge, then I might well see many (including myself) in a harsh light, because I would be seeing them through the lens of judgment.

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Literature reconnects me [to God], but at a further remove than does scripture reading and the saints. I was thinking about getting myself something that would help this problem. The other day I saw an ESV bible (I don't care for this translation) that was printed in a way to leave about and inch to two inch border on each page to record notes, etc. I thought that if I had some direct connection to writing it would help... The reading may not bring me close, but because I've chosen to write about it, the writing in itself does. Writing really is a form of prayer for me. Obviously one can write and not be praying; however, most of the time I'm writing I am raising my mind out of the miasma of self interest and into a different realm, a realm always tinged with God and impinged upon by God--but not the same realm of more direct prayer or writing more directly about God.- Steven of Flos Carmeli (email)

I would love to digress into the usual discussion of Galileo, what some seem to think is the ultimate "proof" of the stupidity of the Catholic Church when it comes to Science. Oh . . . except that the Church was right when it came to the science: Galileo's "proof" from the tides had a math error, and he neglected to hear from Kepler about some new data which demonstrated that the planets moved in ellipses, not circles. (We call them Kepler's laws, not Galileo's!) And yet, Galileo was right about the theology, because he quoted St. Augustine about the right use of sacred scripture . . . Whenever someone says "Galileo" and moans, say "Pasteur" or "Volta" or "Ampere" or "Piazzi" or "Galvani" or "Fresnel" or "Agnesi" or "Hermite" or "St. Albert the Great" . . . and LAUGH! - Dr. Thursday of "The Blog of the American Chesterton Society" via Sancta Sanctis since I can't spell Enbreth…

From a Taki's Magazine column, quoting someone named Hugo Rifkind : Mel Gibson gets drunk, says a few stupid anti-Jewish things, apologizes more times than he's had hangovers, and is vilified by Tinseltown. Roman Polanski "shags an actual child, and they love him." - Dylan of "dark speech upon the harp"

For all its immortal grandeur, the Fifth is not even Beethoven’s best symphony. Neither is it his Ninth. The great composer’s finest work, believe it or not, rests largely ignored halfway between the two: the 7th, in A major. If you don’t believe me, believe Ludwig van Beethoven. He called the Seventh his “most excellent symphony." - R. Levin

'My god,’ said Geoff, ‘so it’s true. We hold in our very hands the original draft of the hitherto unknown third treaty of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia signed by the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III himself.’ ‘Yes,’ confirmed Sally. ‘Who would have thought when we set off this morning for this remote Swiss village that we would end the day in possession of the very document which marked the birth of modern European statehood?’

‘Certainly not me!’ laughed Geoff.

’Nor me!’ guffawed Sally.

‘And to think,’ Geoff extemporised, ‘the Ratification of the Treaty of Münster occurred exactly three hundred and sixty-one years ago today!’ - from post titled "Present your research in the form of dialogue" on blog "How to Write Badly Well"

Hearing nuns' confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn. - Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

In a world in which most people seem to expect to have college age children when in their 50s and being "father of the bride" in their sixties -- there seems little precedent for someone whose children will range form 27 to 20 when he turns 50 is supposed to do with the rest of his life. In a sense, it's rather exhilarating. Uncharted territory. Age-ward ho! Yet because it's uncharted, one can't shake the odd feeling that pretty soon all the path will be covered, and one will be left standing around saying, "Well. Here we are. Where are we anyway?" - Darwin Catholic

Come forth from the holy place,
Sweet Child,
Come from the quiet dark
Where virginal heartbeats
Tick your moments.
Come away from the red music
Of Mary's veins.
Come out from the Tower of David
Sweet Child,
From the House of Gold.
Leave your lily-cloister,
Leave your holy mansion,
Quit your covenant ark.
O Child, be born!
Be born, sweet Child,
In our unholy hearts.

- excerpt of "Advent Summons" by Sr. Mary Francis, P.C.

November 02, 2009