December 11, 2014

Random Observations

When I was a kid I saw the exposed, sacred heart of Jesus and Mary as another indicator of sainthood (or divinity in Christ's case). It served a similar function as a halo, and was a signifier of their personal goodness.  Maybe sort of the way the Grinch's heart grew three sizes in one day. In other words, it was a barometer for holiness having little to do with me. But today I got to thinking that Mary's heart is quite different from a halo, that Heisman trophy of the spiritual life. The bulging heart depicted in art has a lot to do with me, with all of us schlubs, because it's directed at me and you, for me and you. The hearts of Jesus and Mary, seemingly bursting from their chests, do so in order to help us, each one of us, get to Heaven. And that seems something to celebrate and cherish.

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Interesting TED talk on NPR radio. Somehow they did experiments with monkeys such that the primates were found to prefer to get less chips if the chips were evenly distributed (unless they personally got more than other monkeys). The sense of loss/comparison is so keen that they would prefer getting 3 chips to 5 chips if another monkey got 6 chips. It didn't matter that they would get more chips under a less equitable system; they would actually prefer there be less overall wealth. Thus the railing against the 1% and the politics of envy seems partially the result of our animal brains.

The other interesting tidbit was a researcher wondering why certain countries - namely, Japan, the Scandinavian countries and China - save at a much higher rate than other countries like the U.S. And the researcher stumbled upon linguistic differences: the countries with good savings rates didn't parse out future, present and past. In other words, “it rain yesterday, it rain today, it rain tomorrow” all are normal for those languages.

The supposition is that when someone is constantly differentiating past, present and future, then the future looks more abstract. Seems like a stretch but interesting.

This, of course, is important not just in savings but religion, because one of the big problems today is we don't live with the next life uppermost in mind, to say the least.

One company sent emails with pictures of employees aged 30 years in their 401k notification and lo and behold employees gave more. Something about having the future right in front of us that leads us to sacrifice more now.

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Eric Scheske on the artist and drugs/alcohol (I think it's interesting to think of cocaine as a help given that so many writers like caffeine, both stimulants):
….we have the example of Roger Miller, who wrote a lot of great stuff while piped on cocaine. He kicked the addiciton and, the story says, never wrote another decent song. There’s also Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, which he cranked out while on Benzedrine…
So, bottom line? I don’t have one. Just a few educated guesses: A moderate amount of alcohol opens up the creativity; excess kills it. Marijuana and acid kills it. Bennies and cocaine? A moderate amount fuels the physical component necessary to create (a guy can’t write while asleep), but doesn’t contribute much to the creative element, except perhaps in a handful like Roger Miller.
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Speaking of a whole different sort of intoxication, really found Psalm 65, Knox translation, heady yesterday:
Let the whole world keep holiday in God’s presence, sing praise to his name, pay homage to his glory! Cry out to God, What dread, Lord, thy acts inspire! How great is that might of thine, which makes thy enemies cringe before thee! Let the whole earth worship thee, sing of thee, sing praises to thy name. Come near, and see what God does, how wonderful he is in his dealings with human kind, how he turns the sea into land, and lets men cross a river dry-shod; ours to rejoice in his mercy.
Noticed again how beautiful Baronius Press offerings are. Specifically the Knox Bible but also the Roman Missal, so I went through their website yesterday and bought a “pocket-sized” (not really; more accurately compact) Douay Rheims, which is one of the main translations I don't have in a nice format.  To make up for the buy sold my hefty Little Rock Study Bible. Put it up on our company classified site and lo it sold for $20 in twenty minutes.

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Read a lavishly long and interesting New Yorker story about the rise of Germany's Angela Merkel. Mini-biography, full of the telling anecdote. Cool and detached, she's something of an enigma which is why she's interesting to me. Very enjoyable read, though it seems she makes fun of/ does impressions of/ other world leaders, including Pope Benedict! Hey, leave my Pope alone!
A snippet:
A political consensus founded on economic success, with a complacent citizenry, a compliant press, and a vastly popular leader who rarely deviates from public opinion—Merkel’s Germany is reminiscent of Eisenhower’s America. But what Americans today might envy, with our intimations of national decline, makes thoughtful Germans uneasy. Their democracy is not old enough to be given a rest.

“We got democracy from you, as a gift I would say, in the forties and fifties,” Kurbjuweit told me. “But I’m not sure if these democratic attitudes are very well established in my country. We Germans always have to practice democracy—we’re still on the training program.” Kurbjuweit has just published a book called “There Is No Alternative.” It’s a phrase that Merkel coined for her euro policy, but Kurbjuweit uses it to describe the Chancellor’s success in draining all the blood out of German politics. “I don’t say democracy will disappear if Merkel is Chancellor for twenty years,” he said. “But I think democracy is on the retreat in the world, and there is a problem with democracy in our country. You have to keep the people used to the fact that democracy is a pain in the ass, and that they have to fight, and that everyone is a politician—not only Merkel.”

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Germans told me that anti-Americanism in Germany is more potent now than at any time since the cruise-missile controversy of the early eighties. The proximate cause is the revelation, last fall, based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden to Der Spiegel, that the National Security Agency had been recording Merkel’s cell-phone calls for a decade. Merkel, ever impassive, expressed more annoyance than outrage, but with the German public the sense of betrayal was deep. It hasn’t subsided—N.S.A. transgressions came up in almost every conversation I had in Berlin—particularly because Obama, while promising that the eavesdropping had stopped, never publicly apologized.
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Remembrance needs a focus, a rallying point. Perhaps this is part of why Jesus left us the Eucharist.

Evil needs a grave, a body too. From Wikipedia on one of the most cold-hearted of Nazi's:

"The exact burial spot is not known—a temporary wooden marker that disappeared when the Red Army overran the city in 1945 was never replaced, so that Heydrich's grave could not become a rallying point for Neo-Nazis."

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