July 29, 2013


Ah some fine morsels from Moby-Dick
(Sperm Whale).—This whale, among the English of old vaguely known as the Trumpa whale, and the Physeter whale, and the Anvil Headed whale, is the present Cachalot of the French, and the Pottfisch of the Germans, and the Macrocephalus of the Long Words. 

([Blue Whale aka 'Sulphur Bottom']).—Another retiring gentleman, with a brimstone belly, doubtless got by scraping along the Tartarian tiles in some of his profounder divings. He is seldom seen; at least I have never seen him except in the remoter southern seas, and then always at too great a distance to study his countenance. He is never chased; he would run away with rope-walks of line. Prodigies are told of him. Adieu, Sulphur Bottom! I can say nothing more that is true of ye, nor can the oldest Nantucketer.

Interesting blog from Eric Scheske on science and religion: 


“Just as science can play havoc with metaphysics, metaphysics can play havoc with science.” Etienne Gilson

There is a natural antipathy between the two. Gilson goes on to point out that metaphysics stifled science for centuries, just as science today stifles metaphysics. Empiricism is the belief that only those things that are scientifically verifiable exist . . . or are worth studying or have meaning.

So, science is arguably returning to metaphysics the suppressive abuse that metaphysics dished out to science for such a long time. Thing is, metaphysics never denied science altogether, but merely claimed its (rightful) primacy and often asserted its primacy indelicately, whereas science’s suppression rises to the level of wholesale denial of metaphysics’ existence.

It’s also worth pointing out that two wrongs don’t make a right. Both metaphysics and science–and mankind in general–are best served when both are recognized and respected. Metaphysics’ earlier suppression of science doesn’t justify science’s suppression of metaphysics today.


Finally got around to my weekly reading of the ever splendid Catechism for the Year of Faith.  There is a firm insistence on the ubiquity of grace, of God's constant efforts on our behalf despite our human experience of constant struggle. The two are not incompatible - Christ lived it, receiving great sustenance from His Father while at the same time bearing under the struggle of the Crucifixion:

The Catechism addresses my friend's Ron's complaint about why doesn't God talk, literally, in his ear:

God calls us all to this intimate union with him, even if the special graces or extraordinary signs of this mystical life are granted only to some for the sake of manifesting the gratuitous gift given to all.

And something from John Muir in First Things blog:

No Sierra landscape that I have seen holds anything truly dead or dull . . . everything is perfectly clean and pure and full of divine lessons. This quick, inevitable interest attaching to everything seems marvelous until the hand of God becomes visible; then it seems reasonable that what interests Him may well interest us. When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.


Read some of the Dispatch before church as well as some National Review on Margaret Thatcher in this case. It's kind of funny how elites monitor each others' brainpower: one official in the Thatcher cabinet said she was not that smart, and Thatcher herself suggested Reagan wasn't that smart. Sometimes I think character matters more than brains and I think that's been shown in spades by the Nixon and Obama administrations, although having dumb policies (with good intentions) didn't help LBJ who, in many ways, wrecked the country more than Obama and Nixon combined. (Not that LBJ had a pristine character, of course.) But nice to have both brains and character if you can get it.

Read more of Pope Francis: Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio. Rich, deep. It's a quasi-interview style like some of the Ratzinger books. Part of me wants to learn if then Cardinal Bergoglio's style and manner was truly effective in staunching the flow of Argentine Catholics to evangelical start-ups, but that need for proof, for confirmation that something will “work”, is my empirical self falsely entering in the picture. As Mother Teresa taught, we are to build heedless of success. God doesn't call us to be successful but faithful.

Something of an “ah ha” moment when I learned how influenced the pope was politically by Communism, faithfully reading a Communist publication called Our Word and Proposals when he was younger. Not the best political formation, perhaps, but then I'm sure he could say the same of me, growing up on National Review.


Speaking of NR, from the most recent issue in a review of a Robert P. George book on natural law: “Where the family is weak, government is bound to become the great provider. In George's estimation, the libertarian tendency to try to combine limited government with relaxed morals is delusional. The sexual libertinism that underlies most of the support for abortion and "same-sex marriage” is in fact the enemy of liberty, not its friend.“

I read about a poor black woman with five kids trying to live on a McDonald's minimum wage salary. They interviewed her in Forbes magazine and her difficult circumstances stem from the usual suspects: out-of-wedlock births married to a lack of education. Gosh, if you don't take education or sexual intercourse seriously enough you seem to pay an awfully heavy earthly price.

It's perhaps a sign of wisdom to recognize the limits of wisdom, or the limits of what can be done. Pundit Charles Krauthammer says that some problems can't be solved, such as the problems in the Middle East and the collapse of the black family. Both do seem intractable problems. Politicians, at least by their words and actions, seem to have given up on the black family but not quite the Middle East given the strenuous efforts at peace-making of recent administrations. 


From a Chesteronian blog:

I know for me my time alone enables me to be more kindly disposed toward others. As Chesterton said, "It is in society that men quarrel with their friends; it is in solitude that they forgive them. And before the society-man criticises the saint, let him remember that the man in the desert often had a soul that was like a honey-pot of human kindness, though no man came near to taste it; and the man in the modern salon, in his intellectual hospitality, generally serves out wormwood for wine.”


Cardinal Ratzinger in Co-Workers of the Truth:

"Some years ago, there appeared a volume of photographs by a well-known master photographer that bore the title “The Image of God”. It contained photographs of human beings, whom it pictured in all their potentialities and lack of potentialities: poor and rich, young and old, well and ill, ordinary, intimidated, tormented, exultant, proud, important. But when one leafed through the book, always with the title “The Image of God”, “The Image of God”, in heart and mind, one became very uneasy; one set the book aside in deep depression and asked oneself: What kind of God looks at me from these pictures? At the very least, a God who is self-contradictory, or one who is powerless, or even one in whom an evil power resides unseen. But when one regarded the photographs more closely, it became clear: God cannot be photographed, not even by photographing human beings. The human being is the image of God; but photographs of human beings are not photographs of God. He is not so easily seen."

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