April 10, 2014

Kick it Diarist Style

Jonah Goldberg goes diary style!:

In order to turn a grind into a groove, I'm going to kick it diarist style. “What is diarist style?” you ask…Well, diarist style isn't quite a column and it's not quite a “news"letter, but you just might get a slice of cantaloupe at the end, if by cantaloupe you mean something that only in the vaguest sense could be compared to a cantaloupe. A loose inspiration for my technique is the old "Diarist” feature in The New Republic of the 1980s; a bunch of unrelated observations very loosely hung together by a topic sentence that masquerades as an unbelievably forced segue.

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Work battered me; I felt like Fort Sumpter. I was hog-tied and whip-corded by the rather complex programmatical computer program. It was tiring more so because of the unexpected nature of the task; I'd anticipated a short putt and ended up needing a long drive. And difficult to debug! This one gives up her secrets reluctantly, like Lake Superior giving up her dead. But 'twas at least an easy inaugural day of the workweek. Took it by the “smooth end of the handle” then, as Thomas Jefferson once advised.

While on elliptical read more of the excellent country music songwriter's book. Hilarious and a perfect spice in my reading repertoire. Need a funny, brainless book to liven up the mix much as “This Town” did for me earlier this year.

Then read more of O'Malley's history of Vatican II. The author is painfully biased on the side of the more progressive proponents of the Council but it's a decent read as far as information goes. You do get a sense of how difficult the key issues were and I think to a certain extent both sides can now say, “I told you so.”

Progressives can say, “isn't this so much better, especially given Islam, how we're on the right side of religious liberty? And that Catholics are reading and studying the bible now? And that they can understand the Mass better? And that with less clericalism the flock is better set up to understand its duty to evangelize instead of just relying on priests?”

And the conservatives can say, “Oh didn't I tell you? Look at how we've stripped mystery from the Mass, decreased reverence, undermined the authority of church leaders! Look at the statistics on Mass attendance, vocations to the priesthood and religious life…How much good did Vatican II really do?”

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I always read the Deuterocanonicals and wonder what, exactly, St. Jerome had against them. I always think of him as THE ultimate Bible expert given that he translated them from the original languages at such an early date in church history. I found this on the 'net so it has to be true:
In his later years St. Jerome did indeed accept the Deuterocanonical books of the Bible. In fact, he wound up strenuously defending their status as inspired Scripture, writing, “What sin have I committed if I followed the judgment of the churches? But he who brings charges against me for relating the objections that the Hebrews are wont to raise against the story of Susanna, the Son of the Three Children, and the story of Bel and the Dragon, which are not found in the Hebrew volume (ie. canon), proves that he is just a foolish sycophant. For I wasn't relating my own personal views, but rather the remarks that they [the Jews] are wont to make against us” (Against Rufinus 11:33 [A.D. 402]).
I always think I'd like to read some of the salty St. Jerome. He's got some of that St. Pio type of person in him, the type that tells it like it is and lets the chips fall where they may.

So I ran to my Logos app and found the letters of Jerome. Sweet! And I came across this immediately - loved the first line:
After shipwreck one has still a plank to cling to; [ed. note - A favourite metaphor with Jerome to describe the nature of Christian penitence.] and one may atone for sin by a frank confession. You have followed me when I have gone astray; follow me also now that I have been brought back. In youth we have wandered; now that we are old let us mend our ways. Let us unite our tears and our groans; let us weep together, and return to the Lord our Maker. Let us not wait for the repentance of the devil; for this is a vain anticipation and one that will drag us into the deep of hell. Life must be sought or lost here.
This is well-stated by St. Jerome:
Does any one wish to praise Origen? Let him praise him as I do. From his childhood he was a great man, and truly a martyr’s son....So greatly did he abhor sensuality that, out of a zeal for God but yet one not according to discernment, he castrated himself with a knife. Covetousness he trampled under foot. He knew the scriptures by heart and laboured hard day and night to explain their meaning. He delivered in church more than a thousand sermons, and published innumerable commentaries which he called tomes. These I now pass over, for it is not my purpose to catalogue his writings. Which of us can read all that he has written? and who can fail to admire is enthusiasm for the scriptures? If some one in the spirit of Judas the Zealot1 brings up to me his mistakes, he shall have his answer in the words of Horace:
'Tis true that sometimes Homer sleeps, but then
He’s not without excuse:
The fault is venial, for his work is long.
Let us not imitate the faults of one whose virtues we cannot equal.
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Oh the occasional gold nugget I get from Lino Rulli's Catholic Guy show. Yesterday he talked about potentially having Greg Kinear on the show, an actor who is playing a role in an upcoming film based on the bestselling novel about the boy who went to Heaven. (I think the book is called “Heaven is Real”.) And co-host Fr. Kegron said that he doesn't want to read the book because it makes Heaven so much less mysterious. It makes too much like Earth! I much agree. Like the kid makes it sound like, “oh yeah and I saw Uncle Joe up there. He said to say, 'hi'”. And that you see your pets up there and all that and Lino said a funny and true thing about how for most people God is like number 5 or 6 on their list of who they want to see, after their kids or parents or grandparents or pets.

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The weather is inching up towards fine-spiritedness. It definitely has its moments of late especially when the sun is out and the wind is down. Still not porch-sitting weather but I tried it out anyway for a few minutes. The grasp of winter is loosening its death-grip.

Meanwhile the Reds lose regularly as could be predicted by events beyond their control: very difficult opening schedule combined with too many injuries and the killer loss of Chu-Chu Soo.

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Set up my new Google Chrome browser, thanks to Mozilla firing their chief for having done the unthinkable and contributed to an anti-gay marriage campaign. You can't make the intolerance up. I'm sure Google isn't any better than Mozilla but it was motivation enough to switch browsers. It was surprisingly enjoyable, setting up the bookmarks on the bookmark toolbar, organizing the favorites folder and playing with the new look and feel.

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A nugget from the Rachel Cusk piece in The Paris Review:
The electric light, with the absolute darkness outside, made people look very fleshly and real, their detail so unmediated, so impersonal, so infinite. Each time the man with the baby passed, I saw the network of creases in his shorts, his freckled arms covered in coarse reddish fur, the pale, mounded skin of his midriff where his T-shirt had ridden up…

I thought about "look[ed] very fleshly and real, their detail so unmediated, so impersonal, so infinite" was similar to how people on the beach look with details not unlike her description of a fellow with "mounded skin of his midriff where his T-shirt had ridden up". And yet it's hard to see her interpretation of this. I see the beach as a sort of unexpected revealing, a small intimacy, what she sees as "impersonal" and "infinite". I do get the unmeditated part though. Unmediated by clothes.Ah and sad, but I think I'm going to have to give up The Americans. Way too much nudity.

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Chinese spoken in next cube over;
they laugh in English.

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Another from Cusk:
I remembered the way, when each of my sons was a baby, they would deliberately drop things from their high chair in order to watch them fall to the floor, an activity as delightful to them as its consequences were appalling. They would stare down at the fallen thing—a half-eaten rusk, or a plastic ball—and become increasingly agitated by its failure to return. Eventually they would begin to cry, and usually found that the fallen object came back to them by that route. It always surprised me that their response to this chain of events was to repeat it: as soon as the object was in their hands they would drop it again, leaning over to watch it fall. Their delight never lessened, nor did their distress. I always expected that at some point they would realize the distress was unnecessary and would choose to avoid it, but they never did. The memory of suffering had no effect whatever on what they elected to do: on the contrary, it compelled them to repeat it, for the suffering was the magic that caused the object to come back and for the delight in dropping it to become possible again. Had I refused to return it the very first time they dropped it, I suppose they would have learned something very different, though what that might have been I wasn’t sure.

So true, that imperviousness to suffering in babies and others. Reminds me of some who spend into debt relentlessly without being chastened despite bankruptcies. I suppose there is in addiction a sort of repeal of the normal cost-benefit analysis: addicts want what hurts them and makes them miserable (such as in the case of Heather King's alcoholism in which there was no joy in drinking) although admittedly perhaps there's still cost-benefit going on since to give up on the addiction is a different kind of ache, and a big one given the pain of drug withdrawal.

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So heard a Dominican on XM radio talk about how the Church's Lenten disciplines are not prohibitions for the sake of the exercise of power but directional indicators, which are meant to turn us towards the good. The preacher said that most people today want a “freedom of indifference” rather than a “freedom of excellence”. The first kind of freedom is a freedom to do whatever you want without goal or meaning. The second kind is illustrated by the virtuoso piano player. The pianist became great through practice and that practice leads to the freedom to play great pieces.

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Make the longish trek down to the barber I noticed tall skyscrapers of stone that showed darker streaks or patches where still damp with recent rain. I rather liked this human sort of thing, that buildings of inhuman height still bow before the Creator of rain by showing that evidence on their walls. As much as man may think he has tamed the environment even a simple thing like rain can alter the appearance of man's impressive works.

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There's a Bible professor on Twitter who posted a snarky picture of Willie Wonka with the caption, “So, Jeremiah 29:11 is all about you? Remind me again about your time in the Babylonian Exile”.

The prof says “I use Jer 29:11 in my classes as an example about the importance of context.” (The verse goes, “For I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”)

It reminds me of one of my blog tags: “Can't I love Isaiah too?”, recognizing, of course, that my historical situation is different that Isaiah's intended audience.

But really what a killjoy the professor is, as well as those who posted the snarky picture. Isn't that verse applicable to everyone, or does God not know the plans for some and wish to harm others? I know it's easy to cherry pick Bible verses, but really the Bible has comforting verses for a reason.

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They had Miss Development on the company radio show today. Development is pita (pain in the ass) in which we have to basically learn something new tangentially related to our job, etc.. It's a way to force you to feign interest in something you're not currently working on to check off some sort of activity that looks good on paper. But I like the “and/both” character of her answers: “We feel the employee owns his or her own development but we also expect supervisors to motivate and hold employees accountable.” Genius. Supervisors AND employees own their development. Why didn't I think of that? Reminds me of the classic “you have two number one priorities” line.

Then the host asked “what if someone is happy where they are and doesn't want to do development? Will that be used against him?” Again the pluperfect answer from a corporate perspective: “No, it won't be used against him but development is not optional.” A bit oxymoronic. How can this be?

I asked the following in the chat window: “How come development can't be seen more broadly, more in a liberal arts sense, such as taking a class in music appreciation, reading a classic novel, or learning a language?”

She said that was a good question but we need be focused on what can improve the bottom line more directly. Again predictable but I had to ask.

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Tiredage! A non-word so let the lawsuits fly. The day was sprung early; I moved with alacrity from bed in order to imbibe in my rich reading life. Reading is the reason to get up in the morning, with coffee a close second.

Read Bill Luse's buddy's novel, Rick B's, and it's surprisingly engaging. The guy writes with verve; humorous and biting. There are some excellent images in there, such as referring to the cycle of unwed mothers begetting more of the same as the “apostolic succession of single mothers”. A character in the story refers to the lower class as “mean but loyal”. It surprises me how interesting the writing. Eccentric but in a pleasing way.

Also read more of the intriguing backstage look at country music titled Country Music Broke My Brain. And then all about George W. Bush's new painting career (googled for images of the paintings). So interesting. Bush's painting hobby seems like something I might want to take up when retired ala Churchill, Bush and Bill Luse. Seems like that's a retirement activity par excellence. It's interesting that Bush would go in that direction though. He seems not the type. As he said in an interview with his NBC-employed daughter, whoda thunk he would be a painter and she'd be working for the enema?

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That Jennifer at Conversion Diary is normally pitch-perfect as far as understanding her audience, but I wonder if she's (over)plugging her book, ala Fr. James Martin. Doesn't even come out till the end of this month. On the other hand, I understand she's a new author and enthusiastic and in a blog you're going to write what's on your mind.

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Thought about the ceaseless nature of a priest's work, how our priest gave us the “balm of Gilead” today in word and sacrament as he does every Sunday. There's a Sisyphean quality to Mass: the priest performs a ritual that appears to have a temporary effect in that spiritual muscles will tighten inexorably and there is thus a constant need for the softening agents of word and sacrament. Reminds me how my uncle, a priest, saw his homilies as useless given most people don't remember them very long. Unlike, say, constructing a building, which has a long-lasting tangibleness. But that's to judge by human standards and ignores the great reality that our bodies and spirits are creaturely and are designed by God to need refreshment, and the highest good is the human, not the material.

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