June 27, 2013

Another Excerpt

Interesting thoughts below taken from National Review's Kevin Williamson in his book The End is Near:

Familiar fraternal organizations such as the Masons, the Elks Lodge, and the Odd Fellows, together with smaller groups and organizations specific to particular ethnic and immigrant populations, included an astonishing number of Americans in the first half of the twentieth century: About one in three Americans over the age of twenty-one belonged to such groups; that number, however, understates their prevalence, since many of those members were the heads of households whose wives and children were covered by the social insurance policies they offered.

The U.S. Catholic bishops informally (and sometimes quasi-formally) lobbied for the passage of the PPACA—and then complained bitterly when the same Leviathan they’d gotten into bed with decided to force Catholic institutions to buy insurance paying for services they object to on moral grounds, such as abortifacient drugs. Imagine how much better things would have gone if instead of lobbying the government for a coercive, one-size-fits-all solution to the very real health-care problems facing the United States, the Catholic Church had gotten into the mutual-aid insurance business itself. If the 150,000 employees of Coca-Cola are a big enough buying bloc to negotiate a great deal for themselves, how much better could the 77 million Catholics in the United States have done—especially with a nonprofit provider made up of the beneficiaries themselves? If such a thing were organized at the diocesan or parish level, it would replicate many of the social benefits associated with the old fraternal model of self-insurance.

... if somebody could remind His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan that millions of Irish-Americans, Polish-Americans, and Italian-Americans, almost exclusively Catholic, used to within living memory take care of themselves and their neighbors—being their brothers’ keepers, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, providing for orphans and widows, the whole enchilada—without any help from the political powers (which is to say, without rendering too much unto Caesar), and maybe introduce him to Kickstarter, he might not have to worry too much about Washington telling him that he has to pay for mifepristone on Monday after sermonizing against it on Sunday.

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While the Church is hardly an NGO (as Pope Francis reminds us), it does seem like Catholics had more of a "can do" spirit back in the 19th century. We faced prejudice then and instead of trying to change the public schools and demand fairness within them, we built our own school system.

Quotable....

Excerpts from a Pope Francis book...last one is Bergoglio's personal prayer

“Prayer should serve to unify people: it is a moment when we all say exactly the same words”, declares Rabbi Skorka.

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“Prayer is speaking and listening. There are moments of profound silence, of adoration, waiting for the time to pass.”

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The new pope also knows well the reality of the Evangelical sects, which are spreading more and more in Latin America. Luis Palau, one of the world leaders of Evangelical Christians, has told stories of his friendship with Bergoglio. And the pastor of Buenos Aires, Juan Pablo Bongarrá, recalls: “He asked us, too, to pray for him.”

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Also interesting is the reference to the pastoral experience of the Cardinal of Buenos Aires, which, in connection with the formation of candidates for the priesthood, recalls the choices made in his diocese: “We accept into the seminary only about 40 percent of those who apply. There may be, for example, a psychological phenomenon: pathologies or neuroses of persons who are looking for external security.


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He presents faith as a gift that must be passed on, a gift to be offered to others and to be shared as a gratuitous act. It is not a possession, but a mission.

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through the Year of Faith, we remember the gift we have received. And there are three pillars to this: the memory of having been chosen, the memory of the promise that was made to us, and the alliance that God has forged with us.

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the creator of both difference and unity is the Holy Spirit himself.

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     I want to believe in God the Father, who loves me as a son, and in Jesus, our Lord, who has poured his Spirit into my life so as to make me smile and thus to bring me to the eternal kingdom of life.      I believe in my past, which was transfixed by God’s look of love, and on the first day of spring, September 21, he led me to an encounter so as to invite me to follow him.      I believe in my suffering, sterile because of the egotism in which I take refuge.      I believe in the misery of my soul, which seeks to gorge itself without giving . . . without giving.      I believe that others are good and that I must love them fearlessly and without ever betraying them so as to seek any security of my own.      I believe in religious life.      I believe in wanting to love much.      I believe in dying daily, being consumed, which I flee, but which smiles, inviting me to accept it.      I believe in God’s patience, which is welcoming and good like a summer night.      I believe that Papa [i.e., Mario Bergoglio] is in heaven together with the Lord.      I believe that Padre Duarte is there, too, interceding for my priesthood.      I believe in Mary, my mother, who loves me and will never abandon me. And I look forward to the surprise of every day, in which love, strength, betrayal, and fear will appear, which will accompany me until the definitive encounter with that marvelous face that I continually flee, although I do not know what it is like, but that I want to know and love. Amen.

June 20, 2013

One Man's Strategy

Sounds like a plan:
My Secret to Reading A Lot of Books
http://lifehacker.com/my-secret-to-reading-a-lot-of-books-514189426

Refining the List

To refine my list I use Trello. For example, when this summer began I took a bunch of the books from my Evernote list that I felt like I wanted to read and put them into a Trello Board called Books. On this board I categorize them into two lists: “To Read” and “Backlog.”
My Secret to Reading a Lot of Books

June 19, 2013

Quotable

Challenging reminder from yesterday's Word Among Us meditation:
"St. Catherine of Siena once ascribed these words to God: 'I ask you to love me with the same love with which I love you. But for me you cannot do this, for I loved you without being loved. Whatever love you have for me you owe me, so you love me not gratuitously but out of duty, while I love you not out of duty but gratuitously. So you cannot give me the kind of love I ask of you. This is why I have put you among your neighbors: so that you can do for them what you cannot do for me -- that is, love them without any concern for thanks and without looking for any profit for yourself. And whatever you do for them I will consider it done for me."

June 17, 2013

Diaristic Wanderings

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), “Night in June”:

I left my dreary page and sallied forth,
Received the fair inscriptions of the night;
The moon was making amber of the world,
Glittered with silver every cottage pane,
The trees were rich, yet ominous with gloom.

The meadows broad
From ferns and grapes and from the folded flowers
Sent a nocturnal fragrance; harlot flies
Flashed their small fires in air, or held their court
In fairy groves of herds-grass.

Am sitting in the coolest spot west of the Big Apple, a perfectly little appointed bar cum coffee cum chocolate shop. Really well-designed, it opens up on the picturesque Short North district. I overhead another patron tell the cashier how amazing the place is given how it opens up to the street. I won't say it's been a lifelong dream of mine to sit here on this sumptuous leather couch with a catbird seat overlooking the urban scene, but certainly all my runs past this joint have prompted the itch.

Unfortunately it's a coffee joint too hip for something so blasé as, you know, coffee, so I'm forced to order an expresso shot of less quantity than my dog usually drools during dinner. But I figured I had to order something to avoid gaucheness of taking up their space. I just didn't think it would take the gal so long to make it, especially while seats were rapidly being taken. I'd have rather just donated the money and gone without the expresso and the amount of time it took to charge my card could be measured in centuries. Fortunately by that time I'd reserved my couch seat and let her find me.

It's the sort of place I'd love to call my own - that rare combination of a dark, rich wood interior leavened by gobs of natural light via gigantic openings. Like a library exploding with light.

I don't know what it is that I like about a coffee(ish) joint, about landing in a place where I can write or read or people-watch out glorious windows on a glorious day. It appeals in my imagination.

Lots of gay pride stuff on the communal coffee table here. Not surprising given the Short North is a sort of gay mecca but I'm not exactly sure why being gay is a reason for pride any more than being heterosexual is. It's not something impressive, requiring hard work and dedication or natural skill. Pretty silly if you ask me but rather indicative of the decline of our civilization. Calling evil “good” is also an indicator.


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Backyard gleanings:




More than two dozen police assembled at the intersection a few houses down: a DUI checkpoint that ended up stopping over 1,000 drivers. Two were arrested for DUI. There's American “justice” these days: guilty until proven innocent. We walked down with Buddy to take in the scene; it's almost incomprehensible that it could take that many law enforcement types to do a checkpoint. You'd think maybe five or six. Our tax dollars at work. Saw neighbor Tom out watching the festivities. “I love this sort of thing,” he said. “Yes it's like our own live episode of COPS!” I replied. Yes, we must not get out much.


Mom thinks I'm underutilizing my writerly talents. I told her she didn't flog me as a child so I have little to write of memoiristically-speaking, and there's not a huge market out there for diaristic weather entries.  She called back and said maybe it would be better if I didn't write a book on the family because some would be hurt.

June 14, 2013

Map with Etymologic Roots


Found here.

Who Needs a Broken Heart?

Interesting and helpful essay from Joseph Pearce on what's love got to do with it
The sobering lesson of Romeo and Juliet falls today on deaf modern ears
 














Oh what’s love got to do, got to do with it,
What’s love but a second-hand emotion;
What’s love got to do, got to do with it,
Who needs a heart
When a heart can be broken.
— Tina Turner


This primal difference between the two loves—one true, the other false—is at the heart of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The play satirizes the false understanding of love, lampooning the language of the Petrarchan love sonnets and the adulterous finesse of amour courtois. On a deeper level it highlights the dangers of seeing love as rooted in feeling or emotion. For a Christian, and let’s not forget that Shakespeare was a believing Catholic, love is not a feeling but an act of the will in obedience to a Commandment. It is freely choosing to sacrifice our own interests for the good of the other. False love, being a slave to feeling and passion, is essentially irrational; true love, being a free choice in obedience to a perceived truth, is essentially rational. 

Throughout Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare connects passionate or libidinous love, rooted in feeling, with the “gossip Venus” and “her purblind son,” Cupid (Eros). It is from Venus that we get the adjective venereal, as it is from Eros that we get the adjective erotic. Romeo’s “love” for Juliet is both venereal and erotic—it is a servant of his libido. Thus, in the opening lines of the famous balcony scene, Romeo proclaims that Juliet is the sun, the light by which he sees, eclipsing all other perspectives. This “sun” is at war with the “envious” moon, equated with Diane, the goddess of chastity: “Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon.”  Romeo desires that Juliet should kill chastity and cast off her robes of virginity, her “vestal livery”, which “none but fools do wear”. His description of Juliet’s livery as “vestal” connects her to the goddess, Vesta, to whom the vestal virgins consecrated their virginity. In the Christian culture in which Shakespeare was writing, the adjective vestal was applied to any woman of spotless chastity. In stating that only fools live chastely and in his hopes that Juliet will “kill” chastity and “cast it [her virginity] off”, Romeo is showing his disdain for traditional Christian virtue. The same contempt for Christianity was evident in his desire to have the “sin” transmitted by his and Juliet’s first kiss: “Sin from my lips? O trespass sweetly urg’d! / Give me my sin again.”

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And who needs a heart if a heart can be broken? The answer to this is simple, though seemingly unknown to the world in which we live: We all need a heart and we all need it to be broken! As Oscar Wilde reminds us in The Ballad of Reading Gaol, “God’s eternal Laws are kind / And break the heart of stone.”

June 13, 2013

Subjective versus Objective

This just in: it's easier to go to work when it's rainy and ugly, which it was this morning, but you can't keep June down for long.  By 2pm it was sunny and mild. This scenario seems like it could never have happened in, say, October. You get the feeling that the sun, like sex, is really for propagation; that sun is an instrument towards the goal of photosynthesis and plant production. There's more “pressure” on the sun to appear in early June than early October. Or maybe that's the materialist's view instead of the romantic's.

It's St. Anthony's day, always a great one given this wonderworker's works. I liked the first reading from 2 Cor 3 today, St. Paul always being so positive and so encouraging. I read the passage in the NAB, the NJB and the Knox and I really appreciated how Knox went the extra mile in making it clear. His translation definitely feels on the dynamic end of things rather than the literal. It's funny but years ago I wanted a slavishly literal translation since it seemed closer to God and less altered by man. But now I much prefer a clearer translation. Perhaps this is a result of not seeing God as so utterly transcendent but more immanent and that He can work even through translators, i.e. more trusting of humans since we are, after all, part of the Body. Or perhaps I've just seen how I get more out of a translation that I can more easily understand.

Learned of a friend's anger which seems at times almost involuntary. It's a fascinating thing because it involves that gray area between impulse control and free will - at what point, when we lose our temper, is it beyond our control (if ever?).  I thought that the gift of the Holy Spirit always gives one the ability NOT to sin if one chooses, via His helps, but that ignores how the church in recent years seems to have taught that some sin is objective but that our free will has been so compromised either by sin or nature that we "involuntarily" sin.  For example, the early Church Fathers I doubt would ever conclude that denying Christ, even under torture, was not mortally sinful. I wonder whether today one could say the same. Would the Church hold that because our free will was so compromised by the torture that, subjectively speaking, it's a venial sin at worst?

Stuff...

Oh yes, this is the loosey-goosey Jamaican-mon weather of yore. Yesterday marked the first official visitation of the length and width and breadth of summer. I walked with grandson Sam down to the park by his house at 7pm and the world was bright as a peacock and complemented by the fullness of heat and humidity, a good ol' fashioned barn-burner, Midwest-summer style. Definitely a corner turned when it's 86 degrees at 8pm. Very pleasant to enjoy the walk and out of doors after eating dinner in the climactically freezing conditions, relatively speaking, of the G household.

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So we purchased a bug zapper that supposed kills insects up to an acre away. Feel mixed emotions about it since it seems counter to the environment. Seems like we'll have less of the natural predators of mosquitoes. Fewer bats, which come out at dusk and lend an aura of wildness to the festivities. But then I'm all for not getting West Nile disease.

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A nice elliptical workout while reading the Catechism: a very efficient way to edify and rectify (the latter my weight). Reading at Mass today was how God writes the law in our hearts now and that may be one of the most difficult things to believe in all the Bible given all the confusions and confusions around discernment. It doesn't feel like we're necessarily all that much different from the ancients.
 
The Catechism emphasizes the rather radical amount of freedom God has left us:

“God willed that man should be 'left in the hand of his own counsel,' so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him.”
No doubt about it, God leaves us a lot to our own devices. Worryingly so. “Man is rational…and thus like God,” wrote St. Irenaeus, perhaps not anticipating the election of Barack Obama or the many scores of people who offered their sympathies to Jean Stapleton a few years back “on the death of her husband Archie.” Surely our rationality is over-emphasized even if the potential for it is there. The Catechism makes the bold statement that it was God who put the desire for happiness in our hearts, “in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it.”

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Still impressed by Mark Shea's cri de coeur. A tour de force of abnegation:
One of the things that lives under the rocks in my heart has been a deep and abiding fear, a kind of heart conviction about the universe that long predates any conscious relationship with God I formed as an adult…I’m not saying it’s a truth about the universe. I’m saying it’s something more like a broken bone in my soul that never knit right. And what it comes down to is a pattern of assuming that I am, at best, a tool of God, not a son of God and certainly not somebody God loves. And with that has been a fear that, at the end of the day, once my utility to God is spent I would be tossed away like a candy bar wrapper.

June 12, 2013

This & That

Oh the sheer poetry of Melville!
One often hears of writers that rise and swell with their subject, although it may seem but an ordinary one. How, then, with me, writing of this Leviathan? Unconsciously my chirography expands into placard capitals. Give me a condor's quill! Give me Vesuvius' crater for an inkstand! Friends, hold my arms! For in the mere act of penning my thoughts of this Leviathan, they weary me, and make me faint with their outreaching comprehensiveness of sweep…
I must say this edition of Arion's (of Moby Dick) has the most appropriate gothic-looking font, one called “Goudy Modern”. Very appealing. Makes me appreciate the printed book.

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Kind of fun to go back and read the Yelp reviews of the universally beloved Zingone Bros, the Gastronome 491, and World Coffee in New York. Of World Coffee someone wrote:
Like most shit in Manhattan, all this place really has going for it is location. I love sitting in the window eating their mediocre and overpriced breakfast special while watching the Upper West Side wake up, walk dogs, and pick up oddities from the bodega across the street. And when the dogs take a dump you can just avert your eyes and look out on the park across the street and the old apartment buildings.
It was kind of humorous that a coffee shop got so many reviews and was so controversial, receiving many 4 and 5 stars and quite a few 1s and 2s. Only snobbish Upper Westsiders would get their noses out of joint over a coffee joint, as if the fate of the western world rested on their reviews. I did feel a bit of a pang of regret when someone mentioned it being next door to the highly praised Natural History museum. Definitely should've gone there instead of to the lame City Museum of New York, although the Nat'l History website didn't really excite me. Would've been nice to have had one more day in the Apple I suppose, or at least avoided the City Museum and the 9/11 memorial.

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Thought this statue was holding an iPhone! It's a crucifix.

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We were in south-central West Virginia this past weekend and Masstimes.org is usually pretty dependable but can be wrong on obscure Catholic churches in the heart of the mountain Bible Belt. 10:30 mass at at Sts Peter & Paul was 10am on masstimes.org and we'd arrived at like 9:45. So we decided to take off and maybe find one along the way. Went the wrong way on Route 19 and ended up not getting on I-64 right away but instead going over the country road (“blue highway”) of Route 60. Went by a lot of Civil War markers including one that looked like it said “Stonewall Jackson's Mother's House”. Not much luck on the church front until at 11am we happened upon a church along the road, one that didn't seem to be in Masstimes (at least didn't show up with my spotty 3G signal). It was in the metropolis of Boomer, WV and providentially Mass started in just four minutes. Steph elected to wait in the car since it was too hot for Buddy to be out there that long. I entered and asked the usher, a huge, beefy bouncer-like guy if I could bring my dog in the back (hoping things were more informal in a tiny hamlet in WV); he pointed to the priest a few feet away and said, “ask him” but I didn't want to bother him with it. Friendly people in this little church at Our Father time. The beefy usher turned around and faced me and his wife and grabbed my right hand. The lady some goodly way to my left came over and managed to grab my left. And so we said the Lord's Prayer. The one Body of Christ in action, if not exactly rubrically correct. The priest was apparently giving his last homily before moving on to another parish. What he'll miss was predictable: the people, the smell of the mountains on spring mornings, the camaraderie of the parish. I was surprised he listed what he wouldn't miss: coal dust (to many appreciative chuckles in the crowd), having to drive 30 minutes to go to a movie theater or shop, and having to wait till noon before the summer sun will peek over the mountain.

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Found these excerpts on a blog: 

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), “Night in June”:

I left my dreary page and sallied forth,
Received the fair inscriptions of the night;
The moon was making amber of the world,
Glittered with silver every cottage pane,
The trees were rich, yet ominous with gloom.

The meadows broad
From ferns and grapes and from the folded flowers
Sent a nocturnal fragrance; harlot flies
Flashed their small fires in air, or held their court
In fairy groves of herds-grass.

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Charles Cot­ton (1630-1687), “Anacreontick,” in his Poems on Sev­er­al Occa­sions (Lon­don: Print­ed for Tho. Bassett…, 1689), pp. 88-89:
Fill a Boul of lusty Wine,
Brisk­est Daugh­ter of the Vine;
Fill't untill it Sea-like flow, That my cheek may once more glow. I am fifty Win­ters old, Bloud then stag­nates and grows cold, And when Youth­full heat decays, We must help it by these ways. Wine breeds Mirth, and Mirth imparts Heat and Courage to our hearts, Which in old men else are lead, And not warm'd would soon be dead. Now I'm spright­ly, fill agen, Stop not though they mount to ten...
James Payn, in 1899 opined:
The rea­sons why old men have writ­ten in praise of old age are not far to seek: they say with Johnson,'Do not let us dis­cour­age one another.' They are in for it, and they make the best of it; it is not well to cry stink­ing fish.
 And one more:
Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866), Crochet Castle (1831), chap. VII (Rev. Dr. Folliott speaking):
[T]here is nothing more fit to be looked at than the outside of a book. It is, as I may say from repeated experience, a pure and unmixed pleasure to have a goodly volume lying before you, and to know that you may open it if you please, and need not open it unless you please. It is a resource against ennui, if ennui should come upon you. To have the resource and not to feel the ennui, to enjoy your bottle in the present, and your book in the indefinite future, is a delightful condition of human existence.

June 07, 2013

Sin Saloon

Enjoyed this comment found on Catholic Bibles blog:
Okay, confession time: I'm a traditionalist, Latin Mass going, original Douay Rheims Bible reading Catholic...who (not so) secretly finds The Message translation delightful precisely because it is so different.

Psalm 1:1
How well God must like you -
you don't hang out at Sin Saloon,
you don't slink along Dead-End Road,
you don't go to Smart-Mouth College.
Now, that might be way over the top for most of us, but then there are passages like this just a few verses away:

Psalm 3:3-4
But you, God, shield me on all sides;
You ground my feet, you lift my head high;
With all my might I shout up to God,
His answers thunder from the holy mountain.
I find that simplicity downright poetic.

--vladimir998

Seven (now with even more for the same price!) Quick Takes
...hosted by Jennifer of
Conversion Diary


Surprised to see famed blogger Fr. Z was/is visiting Manhattan. He writes that he's seeing the Met early and often and posted photos of some of the art he's seeing there.  Small world!  Funny that he and I should both find the Met so awe-inspiring and a primary purpose in going there.  Looks like he got there the day I left.

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Mildly annoyed at the use of "blog" in place of "blog post".  The priest blogger at the Washington diocese said in a FB post: "New blog today" and linked to his latest blog post.  In my day "blog" referred to the site. Must look up the dictionary definition. Yes it seems like the current definition, perhaps already outdated, sees a blog as a website, not a website post.  We're all pedants I guess, just in different ways concerning different pet peeves.

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The homilist the other day said it was all about right order. That when we have things in the right order: God, church, family, work...It providentially answered Lino Rulli's query about why personal goodness does not translate to preferential treatment by God in this life: in one sense it doesn't matter (at the risk of entertaining a Stoic philosophy). If God is our idol and object of worship then the externals of health, wealth and happiness are extraneous. We already have the one true treasure. As a recent gospel went, we have to love God with all our heart, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. (In that last Benedict and Francis perfectly reflect this with Benedict focusing on our love for God and Francis on our love for neighbor - and how providential the timing with Benedict coming first, just as our love for God need come first and out of that flow our love for neighbor.)


Line from the Catechism: “Love seeks to be definitive.” And I thought about how the definitive aspect is available to all of us given our immortal souls. It's the forever-ness of our spiritual souls that make our love potentially permanent. When I look at others, so much of the time I see their bodies or their actions or their brains. The way they look, talk, think, etc… I hardly ever consider what they primarily are, that is as permanent-living souls created and redeemed by God. Sure we'll have Resurrected bodies some day, but the permanent aspect of ourselves - the part that never decays even for a time - is our soul. Permanence is what really matters.  I think the hard thing to figure is why the need for separation of soul and body for a time. It seems ill-designed. Of course sin is the answer, not God, but it just seems clunky, like the soul and body of a human should never be separated – albeit I'm biased, not being a particular fan of death. One of my Thomist teachers said that the human consists of body AND soul, and so when we lose our bodies we are not human anymore, not really. That's how important our bodily component is to our identity. God made us different from the angels and animals in precisely this way.
 

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 “Ahab wants the impossible: to know what Providence intends for him, a knowledge Melville associates with the unfathomable depths of the sea. When one of the captured sperm whales has been butchered and Ahab sees its head hanging from the hawsers, he address it: 'Speak, mighty head, and tell us of the secret thing that is in thee. Of all divers, thou has dived the deepest…Oh head! Thou has seen enough to split the planets and make an infidel of Abraham, and not one syllable is thine!'” - Philip Gura, Truth's Ragged Edge

Indeed this craving for that which we cannot know with certainty is part of what it means to be a creature and not Creator, and is frustrating.My tendency is to mimic the rich young man and say, “tell me what to do to be saved” as if there were a mechanical formula, a burnt offering of sorts, as if God wasn't personal but a lever to be pulled. As the gospel went, God seeks love not burnt offerings. You get the feeling that God is allergic to formula, to the safety of anything but trusting him.

So the proud Ahab is one type, and the humble Psalmist quite another (from Ps 131):

“Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.”


What's also intriguing is how Ahab and the Psalmist define depth and that which is secret so differently. For Ahab it's entirely negative – that which can “split the planets” (destroy, disturb order, tranquility) and “make an infidel of Abraham”. For the Psalmist it's something “great” and “too marvelous”.

I read the sermon on Jonah in Moby Dick, and think of the great parallel, of how Christ too was on a boat in danger of sinking, sleeping like Jonah during a great storm. What is the significance? Surely not a coincidence. Perhaps as a sacrifice, at least eventually. Jonah goes overboard to save his crew mates, and Christ dies on a Cross to save his.

Some of Melville reads like poetry.  Like: “Nor does this – it's amazing strength, at all tend to cripple the graceful flexion of its motions; where infantileness of ease undulates through a Titanism of power.” Did I not feel, in those words, an infantileness of ease undulating with a Titanism of power exhibited by the author himself?

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There's something resurrectional about starting the day in a normal workaday fashion and then, apropos of nothing, finding oneself looking over a gold-lit baseball field. How do such things happen besides in dreams? Well it was the annual work outing at Huntington Park. There's something special about arriving fifteen minutes before a game to soak up the music, sun, and anticipation. Even absent of players the field itself is a wonder, in fact I feel vaguely stupid to think so, as if I'd pay simply to gaze out on an empty baseball diamond. All too soon it was National Anthem time and I bought a hotdog and cracker jacks (nearly everyone else - excepting those who, more understandably, went directly for beer - eschewed tradition and chose boneless chicken wings. At fifty cents a wing it wasn't a bad deal.)

It was hot. Eight-five degrees hot. Not-acclimated-to-it-yet hot. With little wind either. But surprisingly there was a good contingent in the seats this time. I sat next to the always friendly Dan S., who monkishly records every out in his scorebook.


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Meanwhile succulent June calls, and everything so preternaturally alive! Every leaf, tree and flower has not a dead or lean thing about it! There's something awfully consoling, if momentarily so, in this time in which we see no death and can almost believe there is no death, the only season that can so boast.

These days I cut the grass almost hourly it seems, the wide golden swaths lit by late day sun.

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Wondered about Psalm 5 today, specifically about God that “no sinner is your guest” which seems to have been refuted by Christ when he sat down and ate with prostitutes and tax collectors. I likely take things too literally. The New American Bible has it as “no wicked person finds refuge with you” which can be read spiritually as no wicked person goes to Heaven. The NET version has it “no evil person will dwell with you” which brings home the point more firmly. “Dwell” suggests more of a permanent arrangement while “guest” seems temporary. Am tempted to pick up "Restless Flame", a historical fiction about St. Augustine recommended by Julie Davis of "Happy Catholic".
 


The delightful Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary is a tasty morsel! A nice article on ancient Babylon complete with pictures that you can zoom in via the iPad. Fascinating to see the place now, a wrack of sand and ruin. How did it fall? The article doesn't answer that, other than to say by 200 A.D. it seems to have emptied out. Amazing that such an incredibly wealthy and beautiful city could pretty much disappear while cities like Rome continue. Of course I suppose that's why they call Rome “the eternal city”. I wonder if Babylon deserves such a negative reputation as the Jews of that time credited it; surely any country that conquers you instead of vice-versa is going to be looked upon askance. Rome seems a lot worse, at least according to my limited knowledge.

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Couldn't resist the monthly live-streamed American Chesterton Society meeting. There's Dale Alquist against a bookish background, his sharp-looking study, answering questions (including mine, about what Chesterton had against jazz (answer: it was played during meals and he felt that was an insult to both the musicians and the chef)). It's a rather pleasant diversion given there's a chat window where you can pontificate and/or query your fellow sixty-plus viewers. Got to love an operation small enough with such a hands-on approach and such a lack of “buffer”. He's offering a first edition of Chesterton's The Ball and the Cross - signed by the great one (GKC) himself - which is enticing enough for me to enter the raffle by donating $25.

I was struck that Chesterton was not fond of women voting because he saw the family as a unit and they should vote as one with the husband as the representative. Which I can see. But less convincing was that he said that politics was a dirty business and women were above it. That sort of belies his passionate belief in democracy, doesn't it? I mean if you believe in democracy so strongly then shouldn't you want everybody to vote?

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Funny line in Andrew Greeley obit:

“I suppose I have the Irish weakness for words gone wild,” Greeley told the New York Times in 1981. “Besides, if you’re celibate, you have to do something.”

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I'm always notice the evolutions in womanly attractiveness, expressed in that continual drive towards more effective attention-grabbing. The easy way is, of course, via short skirts, but lately I've seen a lot of very short shorts as well. But the new evolution on the block appears to be these pants that define the buttocks with pluperfect fidelity. I'm not sure what the material is made of, but it seems to go behind simply wearing tight clothing. It seems as though this is some sort of space age material that is both comfortable (at least it looks comfortable) and is extremely body-conforming.

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One of the marks of our age seems to be the shrugging off of ceremony, occasion, specialness, especially specialness in the form of permanent vows, particular affection for their country, or even celebrating a given day on that particular day. Thus “Ascension Thursday” can be celebrated in some dioceses on a Sunday. Even more trivially, but somehow symbolic, backyard fireworks used to be for the 4th of July only but slowly morphed into being set off all of the first week of July in our neighborhood. And then late June. And then mid-June. And on May 31st I heard somebody already setting them off. What used to be essentially a patriotic symbol have now become a summer activity. By disassociating the celebration of fireworks from that particular holiday, he or she is ruining the specialness of July 4th for everybody.

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I tried to work out what love is which is always sort of impossible since God is love and thus to some extent we're dealing with a Mystery. Love can be see as an end in itself since our end is God and, as I said, God is love. If love is seen as a means in order to get to God, that is perhaps shady theology, as if we can love Him before He loved us. We can't earn Heaven. If love is seen merely as self-sacrifice and human will (St. Paul writes that self-sacrifice without love is useless in 1st Corinthians) then you could see where love would be a means to an end. The love expressed by the martyrs, “the seed of the Church”, was a means to an end (the 'witness' of the Church) as was, of course, the death of Our Lord on the cross which accomplished our salvation. So there's a sense in which acts of love are means, but that's distinct from love itself I suppose. They are byproducts of that love accomplished really by God within us. Even Jesus said that the crucifixion and his words were not from him but from the Father (“Let this cup pass…if it is your will”.) Priest said part of dying to ourselves was treating others better than they deserve, which is the way God treats us.

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This sudden interest in history displayed by my humble suburb and my large corporation are understandable in terms of the drive towards the local, towards the “handmade” and not mass-produced.

Anchor Steam, the first craft brewery of the modern era, advertised fifty years ago: “Made in San Francisco since 1896”. “[It] enticed consumers to think about their beer in terms then increasingly uncommon: as the carefully created product of a certain time and a certain place. Made only in X since Y– it was the antithesis of mass production, where history matters little and place even less.”

I think back to when I was growing up in the late '70s and how something mass-produced was seen as better for at least three reasons: one, consistency and predictability of product. “It tastes funny,” was the most derogatory thing you could say in an unstable era that was seeking, above all, stability and predictability. Another reason is that it was generally cheaper. And a third is perennial: popularity carries its own reward. If something was popular it was cool, and if something is cool you can be cool by partaking of it. In other words, branding.

June 03, 2013

Mascot-gate

It's kind of interesting to see an irresistible force meet an immovable object: i.e. political correctness versus the Washington Redskins. I don't have a dog in the hunt though I have an interest because my alma mater, Miami University, changed from the Redskins to the Redhawks in '97 after about a two-decade power struggle.  (Miami University's use of the mascot predates the Washington Redskins by about half a century, but the NFL's power and prestige obviously dwarfs Miami's.)
Mascot Story
From the mascot of a noble chief to that of a cartoon bird: the story of our time.
National Review writer Jim Geraghty has this to say:
I have voted for a few Democrats in the past; one of my favorites was voting to re-elect the relatively competent and un-corrupt Tony Williams for Mayor of Washington, D.C., over his (effectively token) Republican rival, Carol Schwartz, was asked about her top priorities and she included changing the name of the Washington Redskins football team. If I were interviewing a candidate and they offered that response, I think I would have exploded from incredulity. I just think that this ought to be nowhere near the top 100 priorities of a mayoral candidate, never mind among their top five or six. It's not like the schools were achieving or crime was off the streets, you know.
Anyway, now some members of Congress are making another push for the team to change its name:
Ten members of Congress are urging the Washington Redskins to change their name because it is offensive to many Native Americans.
The representatives said Tuesday that they've sent letters to Redskins owner Dan Snyder, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Redskins sponsor FedEx, and the other 31 NFL franchises.
The letter to Snyder says that "Native Americans throughout the country consider the 'R-word' a racial, derogatory slur akin to the 'N-word' among African Americans or the 'W-word' among Latinos."
Among the group sending the letters are the leaders of the Congressional Native American Caucus, Tom Cole, R-Okla., and Betty McCollum, D-Minn.
Granted, this is a silly topic for members of Congress to spend much time on, and a relatively small problem for football fans, Native Americans, or the country at large. (Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Paul Woody reached out to the chiefs of the Patawomeck, Pamunkey and Rappahannock tribes in Virginia and found they didn't mind the name, and are, in fact, Redskins fans.)
Having said that . . .
If you were starting an expansion NFL team in Washington, D.C., today, you would never pick the name "Redskins", right?..So if there was no tradition with the name, there would be a broader consensus to change it, right? Yet as any sports fans knows, football fans love their team, and they recoil and deny the notion that they've been rooting for an ethnic slur since childhood.
So, let me offer a solution. Keep the name "Redskins"  . . .
. . . and bring in a potato mascot. Idaho's got one already:
http://spudman.com/images/subpages/blogs/2007/world_potato_conference/frank_muir.jpg

Thus, they remain the "Washington Redskins" . . . but the name refers to redskin potatoes.

June 02, 2013

Family Room Shelves

...with painting in upper right by Bill Luse: