October 04, 2010

This & That ...

Looking over an expanse of recently acquired books via the going out of business sale of a local bookstore (75% off). Such beautiful, fine volumes! The Dickens biography especially calls, as does the great basketball book of Bill Simmons that I have yet to finish.
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Dandies, that's what they are, the Fox Sports guys. Three-piece suits and handkerchiefs carefully folded in their vest pockets. All to talk about football. Go figure. What's next, tuxes?
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Chernow's new biography of George Washington is over nine-hundred pages long proving either that modern biographers need editors or that there are those for whom trivia enthralls in a non-utilitarian sort of way. George Washington may've slept there, but I don't have time to read about it.
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State judges align themselves publicly with a political party, so I find it curious/humorous that their party isn't indicated on the ballot. Seems a pretense given that most judges' philosophy can be deduced from their political affiliation.
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I'm hyp-mo-tized by the transparency and candidness of a pastor at a downtown church. In the bulletin he says, "People jokingly, and sometimes not so jokingly, label me as the pastor who spends too much money and is occupied too much with financial affairs...Yes, I spend money, but I do not regret it. Money is meant to be spent. It keeps people employed and gives parishioners a sense that things are being attended to."
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It's surreal that Big Brother insists I register my kayak.
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Heard an EWTN radio show about combating vices. It can't be done on willpower, they said. It has to come from the Spirit. This goes to my confusion over the amount of effort, or effortlessness, is necessary to overcome sin. Everybody says that only through God is change possible, yet I tend to see the willpower as equivalent to human effort. In the past I've thought that it's a mystery; that human effort and divine help are hopelessly entangled. Maybe that's true, but I have my doubts now. The saints don't seem confused about where God starts and they end - they give all the credit to God. They say that without God they could've done nothing. If the line between God and man is obscured, how does man give proper praise to God? (Of course, our very existence is due to God, so every good we do is a praise of God.)
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I've never wanted to write a novel that I wouldn't want to read, which is why I've never written a novel. In other words, I'd want it to toss off insights and pleasure-giving phrases on every page and preferably every paragraph and I can't achieve that. It's something I get only rarely from the best novelists; it's too bad I don't like to read cheap fiction. I wonder if it's "selling out" to write beneath one's own taste, or whether that's merely pride talking in the way a teacher may not want to teach that which he or she considers too basic. But the essence of sharing, it seems to me, is to share what you value. If you don't value Harlequin romance, then offering it would seem a sham.
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Listening to the Pretender's Don't Get Me Wrong with the lyrics about an impromptu meeting-turned-to-love while "just passing in the street." Seemingly a random moment. And I thought that a analogy of our relationship with God, where at any moment we might be surprised by His sudden overture. Certainly my meeting my wife was a chance one. Life can turn for the good on a moment's notice. I think of how Mary might've received the angel Gabriel at just a random moment, a moment that changed everything.
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It's a November weather day: 50, fully cloudy, with occasional sprinkles. It's the sort of day that I could see welcoming with nostalgia and open arms were I a full-time resident of Southern California, but here now it feels like the semi-permanent return of an unpleasant roommate. Still, I look at it as a refreshing challenge to renew my relish of "the great indoors". Though what would be cool would be to have a room with a 10' by 10' sunroof!

Yesterday was the big main library bookstore but blew it off. I have so many treasures already, so many wonderful books, not the least my Chesterton collection. The odds of finding something there I liked were decent, but that's why I didn't go. I don't need anything usurping the place that Chesterton currently deserves.

Besides, I get tired of driving. Chesterton himself opines:
The motor car has progressed because nobody is happy where he is. The idea of leisure has become the idea of getting away somewhere else in the hope that by some extraordinary chance it may be better...Modern civilized life is so miserable for both rich and poor, because of its vulgar and stifling atmosphere, that people are always full of that divine human illusion that if only they rush around the corner they will find something that is a little better, and they make round the corner exactly like what they have left.

Though let's stipulate that Chesterton had an interesting job and one that involved a lot of interesting travel.
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Watched HOUSE; seemed pretty soft-porn, with a main character lounging around nekkid in bed all day. Didn't need to see that. (Although I recognize that perhaps my definition of 'soft porn' has been sliding.)
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Corporate fads come and go, and the latest one in our "shop" is treating our multitudinous cabinet as celebrities, such that we can sign up for "exchange sessions".

In the past we could buy tickets for a chance for lunch or golf with one of the AVPs. I've witnessed online chats with some of these figures and I'm always impressed by how "content free" the discussions tend to be, sort of like watching politicians talk on the Sunday shows. Just as the politician's goal is usually to never make news, similarly the party line is predictably paraded perchance we be persuaded by a cult of personality.
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Read long from the inspiring Pearce biography of Chesterton. Pearce seems to share that Chestertonian sense of hope, at least that's always the thread I found running through his Oscar Wilde book. Chesterton's love for his wife was inspirational and it crushed her when he died. Another example of how earthly love entails loss and thus pain. To love much is to suffer much.

"The Rolling English Road" is a Chesterton poem that is taken to be just a drinking song but is actually an allegory of life. The young man is carefree, he grows older and becomes aware of social justice and patriotic duty, then he grows conscious of sin ("which would blast even the material beauty of the world but for the mercy of God") and finally "the approach of death expels the folly of youth and clears his vision for the good news of God."

Chesterton wrote about how there was too much focus on the spice of life, rather than life itself. Sports as religion was a theme and he said that "our world will end in despair unless there is some way of making the mind itself, the ordinary thoughts we have at ordinary times, more happy than they seem to be just now, to judge by the most modern novels and poems. You have got to be happy in those quiet moments when you remember that you are alive."

He became upset over the economic folly of "bullying people into purchasing what they do not want; of making it badly so that they may break it and imagine they want it again; of keeping rubbish in rapid circulation like a dust-storm in a desert; and pretending that you are teaching men to hope, because you do not leave them one intelligent instant in which to despair."

He defined the free man as "he who is in charge of himself. He may, and does, damage himself. He may smoke too much, drink too much, work too hard, walk too little; he may starve fanatically, either for fasting or for slimming. But he decides."

7 comments:

Bob the Ape said...

Heard an EWTN radio show about combating vices. It can't be done on willpower, they said. It has to come from the Spirit. This goes to my confusion over the amount of effort, or effortlessness, is necessary to overcome sin. Everybody says that only through God is change possible, yet I tend to see the willpower as equivalent to human effort. In the past I've thought that it's a mystery; that human effort and divine help are hopelessly entangled. Maybe that's true, but I have my doubts now. The saints don't seem confused about where God starts and they end - they give all the credit to God. They say that without God they could've done nothing. If the line between God and man is obscured, how does man give proper praise to God? (Of course, our very existence is due to God, so every good we do is a praise of God.)

I think that the saints can give all the credit to God because they have said, as Mary, the greatest of them, said, "Let it be done to me according to Your will." Their will needs be no more than - and no less than - that God's will be done. All one has to do is to say "Yes", with all one's heart and soul and mind and strength; after that, what can it be but all God? He wills - one does what He wills - there is no room for vice in this.

Need it be observed (can it, without almost infinite understatement) that this is a great deal more easily said than done? I certainly can't say I've done it myself. But - I did say yes to following my Savior, and in the thirty-six years since then (years of crawling, stumbling, falling in the mud, and lying in the middle of the road kicking and screaming) it has never occurred to me to turn off the road and go somewhere else. I did say yes when I got married, and in the twenty years since then it has never occurred to me to, even in the slightest, deliberately disparage or injure our marriage. To some extent, I know whereof I speak.

The willpower and effort come in when one doesn't exactly say yes, when one says, not "Let it be done to me according to Your will", but rather, "OK, I'll do it Your way." One can get along for a while, but sooner of later one gets tired, and the effort gets to be just a little too much. I've been there and done that, too. It's not the best way.

(Oddly enough, the word verification is "striver".)

Steven Riddle said...

Dear TSO,

I, on the other, relish the thought of Chernow's handling of Washington, given the superb treatments of Hamilton and J.P. Morgan he has done.

Oh, and your November day partially explains why I am having such a very cool, almost cold October. This morning was chilly and yesternoon was actually quite cool (for here) probably in the low 80s.

shalom,

Steven

TS said...

Thanks Bob, that helps.

TS said...

Yep Steven, I know I'm supposed to appreciate Chernow given his reputation, but I do have to wonder how many will read every page of the Washington bio!

Steven Riddle said...

Dear TSO,

I will! I will!

Don't care if it's corny, he's still a major hero to me along with Adams--Jefferson--well, I'm not so crazy about him.

shalom,

Steven

Darwin said...

Goodness, such things never went on back when I was watching House.... Which character was it? (Not Hugh Laurie, I assume?)

TS said...

'Twas Dr. Cuddy, the famous half-dresser at work, let alone home with House.