July 27, 2016

Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog

I'm reading this book about the prophet Jeremiah by Eugene Peterson, the translator of The Message bible. He's a huuuuge fan of Jeremiah, to put it mildly. It sounds like he is his spiritual soul mate and guard against mediocrity, an irritating thus needful message to this devoted medocrite.

I guess it's not surprising given he's so driven that he translated the Bible singlehandedly, ala Knox but unlike Knox without being asked to. He believes in himself, and I mean that in the best sense – that he believes God has made him in His image and empowers.

I find it amazing because so few people are fans of the famously downcast Biblical author. He seems too harsh, too negative, for our time. Which is why it's interesting to see this paean in print. The contrarian in me approves.

He writes:
Good people, virtuous lives, mostly seem a bit dull. Jeremiah is a stunning exception. For most of my adult life he has attracted me. The complexity and intensity of his person caught and kept my attention. The captivating quality in the man is his goodness, his virtue, his excellence…It is understandable that there are retreats from excellence, veerings away from risk, withdrawals from faith. It is easier to define oneself minimally (“ a featherless biped”) and live securely within that definition than to be defined maximally (“ little less than God”) and live adventurously in that reality.
Elsewhere:
“The whole meaning of history is in the proof that there have lived people before the present time whom it is important to meet” - EUGEN ROSENSTOCK-HUESSY
And:
All the great stories of the world elaborate one of two themes: that all life is an exploration like that of the Odyssey or that all life is a battle like that of the Iliad. The stories of Odysseus and Achilles are archetypal. Everyone’s childhood serves up the raw material that is shaped by grace into the life of mature faith.

July 26, 2016

Latin Mass Recap

Went to a Latin low summer mass Sunday; I  find the long silences oddly comforting (Pope Benedict was always a proponent of that). It's a good time to pray, reflect, absorb the religious art.  It's strange is how uncomfortable I am with silences during the regular Mass, like during Offertory or after homily or Communion. They seem endless. They seem like “planted silences” that are not intrinsic to the liturgy, like they're out of context somehow. For sure the thirty second silence after a homily or Communion seem ridiculous because it's so brief that you're just anticipating having to stand up again. But with the Latin mass the priest is praying at the altar, facing away, and seems a good time to ponder things “in our hearts” like Mary did.

I thought about how I like the Latin Mass in part because I don't have to participate as much, which is certainly not the best reason. The priest does so much for you that you feel you are receiving more than giving.  If Mass is primarily about receiving God and outside of Mass more about giving the God you've received then it works.

The Latin mass is for the lazy like me because 1) the priest seems to pray many of the prayers for you,  2) there aren't many responses, 3) you don't have to say “Amen” when you receive Communion, and 4) you don't have to shake everyone's hand at the sign of peace. It's a very peaceful liturgy. You can tune in and tune out as you will, you're less self-aware, and it's comforting to know that priest up there is delivering prayers on your behalf. To borrow from jogging terms, the regular Mass is all associative, the Latin mass a mix of the associative and dissociative.

(Byran Loy wrote that “Associative thoughts during running a race are based on the performance itself. You think thoughts like monitoring bodily sensations such as muscle pain and include internal commands like 'relax the shoulders'. Associative runners consider their emotional state like 'I feel light and fast today.' They are focused only on the task at hand.”

“Athletes who dissociate, however, may think about things unrelated to the task at hand as a means of distraction. These dissociative thoughts, according to Schomer could include reflection on past events and planning for future events. Athletes who focus on the environment (looking at trees) or listen to music while running are also dissociating.”)

Saw someone praying from a prayer book as they stood in the Communion line, which was a fine idea since the lines felt awfully slow (the priest gives Communion to everyone - no Eucharistic ministers here - and he does so with a typically Latin reverence, making the sign of the cross with the Host individually before you receive).

July 25, 2016

The DNC Emails

As NR's Jim Geraghty wrote today: "The WikiLeaks hacking of the Democratic National Committee is terrible . . . but also delicious.".

What caught my eye was how Wasserman Schultz called up Phil Griffin, MSNBC President, to complain after Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski called for Schultz to “step down”.  Geraghty writes,
That just confirms our suspicions that Democrats are more sensitive about press criticism and have more backdoor avenues to shut it down or discourage follow-ups. 
Wikileaks founder adds:
Debbie Wasserman Schultz called the president of MSNBC to haul Morning Joe into line, which it subsequently has done. I noticed this morning, Morning Joe actually discussed it themselves, trying to shore up their own presentation of, you know, a TV program that can’t be pushed around. But, in fact, they did not mention the call to the president. That was something that is still unspeakable. And it was a 180-degree flip in that coverage.
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A month earlier there was an off-the-record meeting with Phil Griffin with this stated aim in a DNC email:
This is an opportunity to say hello and touch base on the timing and setting for a voting rights town hall; and to stress that we want to have greater collaboration with their team on having the Democratic Party represented on their shows. MSNBC has largely moved to having their contributors and talent do most of the on-air commentary and we don’t get many opportunities to have the Party represented. While Mika [Brezinski] won’t be there, you should point out that you’re reaching out to re-engage with her. Our relationship with NBC/MSNBC is severely frayed given what they perceive as a snub with the last debate, and CNN getting favored treatment. Griffin may raise that concern, and ideally we could lower the temperature and seek common ground. 
*

The DNC memos show again the twining of media folk and political folk (internecine in the Mika case, when it comes to Democrats and the media).  Here's the infamous email demanding she apologize:
This is the LAST straw. Please call Phil a Griffin. This is outrageous. She needs to apologize.   DWS [Wasserman Schulz]
*

I also was amused by this donor vet email:
Hello-  Can we please vet George Lindemann, Jr. to give to the DNC and attend a POTUS event? Thank you! 
A long Lexus/Nexus string was the response, along with a shortened explanation:
George Lindemann – convicted of three counts of wire fraud in 1995 and received a 33-month term in federal prison; Investigation stemmed from a federal investigation where over 50 horses were killed in a 20 year period in acts of insurance fraud; nothing new as of 5/9/16
Unwilling to see the obvious (a strenuous donor advocate), he responds: "Thank you Chad.  He would not be hosting, just writing and attending."

So it has to be spelled out: "Sorry man.  He fails for everything."

Because advocating that babies be killed in the womb is a-okay in Democratland, but not dead horses or insurance fraud.

He's a Uniter, not a Divider

Trump as the international subject while on the Camino pilgrimage:
[An older gentleman] speaks a few words of English and so it was that for about 45m we all sat chatting with the Italian woman as the intermediary and us all piecing together three languages to arrive at one conversation. Know what we all laughed about? Donald Trump.

July 22, 2016

The Hot Dog Eating Contest

Our department is having a hot dog eating contest to feed the hungry. I wanted to enter but eventually concluded I don't need the gastric indiscretion. It comes down to speed more than stomach size since it's how many you can eat in five minutes.

I bought a ticket and you pick which contestant you think will win and if they win you win a prize. I was hovering over the buckets, trying to decide who was worthy when one of the participants happened by:

Su Su (slim Chinese girl): “Vote for me!”
Me: “I can't, look at you, you're too thin!”
Su Su: “Didn't you see who won the big hot dog contest? A small Asian?”
Me: “Oh I think I remember that, yes.”

So I ended up putting my ticket in her bucket, thinking maybe a lifetime in food-deprived China has made her a good speed-eater.  Perhaps she comes from a large family. They always eat fast.

*

Took a lunch walk and there was so much stimuli, the irrepressible lushness of a fountain and sun on green leaves at a downtown condo near the cathedral. Impressed me to the point I stopped to take a picture though it doesn't do it justice.


The urban shops and streets were vibrant in the bright noon atmosphere. It made me wistful for travel during this quick-perishing summer, namely to pretty places like my alma mater.

There was also the stimuli of the impressive gothic church, one I'd not been for awhile. And I forgot about the Holy Door! Where devout millennials take selfies while walking through!

July 20, 2016

Dual Uses

I confess to sometimes feeling the temptation of seeing God as a utilitarian, to see us as widgets in need of shaping before going to "market" (Heaven), with earthly life being that rather toilsome process.

It's surely a provincially human thing to see only half the equation, to fail to see that God prefers to accomplish multiple things with one action.  Jesus accomplished our redemption (a transactional concept) while simultaneously demonstrating his seemingly foolhardy love for us (irrational).  With God, the rational and irrational kiss, like mercy and justice.

You could look at the act of eating as merely fulfilling a bodily need for nutrition and sex as purely for procreation. These seem the utilitarian, mechanistic view of things. But why can't God make things for two (or more) uses?  The penis is an example of a dual-use instrument: you can (rationally) remove urine or in orgasm experience irrational pleasure.  Thus similarly intercourse, as the Church teaches, can be for procreation and unification.

Of course the materialist says the pleasure from eating or sex is merely an evolutionary enticement to accomplish the missions of growth and reproduction, but why can't it be that God prefers that we experience simultaneously pleasure and the utilitarian functions of feeding ourselves and continuing the species?

If God were interested in the utilitarian he'd have been happy with Paul, then Saul, who seemed a rather well-shaped Pharisee, rather than Mary Magdalene, who had issues.  The paradox is that love is the ultimate "product" He seeks, even though love is not a product in the way we think of it.

The Gift of a Moist Towelette to a Dying Man

I was looking through my D.C. pics and came again to the wall-hanging of St. Veronica receiving the image of Christ.

Whatever the historicity, it occurs to me how incredibly disproportionate and thus God-like, the response. She wipes the face of Jesus on the road to Calvary, a tiny, almost infinitesimal relief given the suffering he was enduring. It's not as though Jesus had merely mowed the lawn on a hot summer day and someone offered him a moist towelette and a lemonade. He was in extremis.

But I was touched by how he offered something of himself far greater than what she gave him, a "souvenir" par excellence, and something supernatural.  We give the natural and he gives the supernatural.

I thought about how I always mistake Jesus as expecting incredible things when, perhaps this day, he asks only that I smile at a stranger. Or refuse a haughty moment, a look of lust. He can multiply the loaves and fishes and can multiply the smallest actions. Thank God.

*

Quotable:
    In a weak person, power becomes cruelty;
    a sense of inferiority
    is carried to the level of brutishness.
    God has no sense of inferiority.
    God is sovereign.
    God can do all,
    and so he judges even his felons,
    even his sinners,
    with kindness and mercy.
    But this just and merciful God also sanctions,
    because his mercy is not weakness.
       –Archbishop Oscar Romero

July 19, 2016

Our National Soap Opera... or "As the Donald Turns"

I find it amusing and oddly satisfying that after decades of hearing liberals falsely call the GOP candidate du jour dumb and stupid, we've finally shown them what dumb and stupid looks like.  It's sort of like, "you're stupid for failing to recognize how smart our previous candidates were!"

And the silly furor over Melania's speech represents another case where I feel I live in an alternative universe.  Plagiarism, schlagiarism.  Personally I'd rather politicians copy whole speeches and believe them versus write their own and be lying. (Lying is the new black, by the way, given our two presidential candidates.)

The "speechgate" outrage is an example of fiddling while Rome burns. It helps Trump: provides more publicity and press makes ass of itself, a twofer. Worrying about Trumpian plagiarism is like cancer patient worrying about a hangnail. And to the extent it shows Trump campaign ineptness that's a positive; disorganized fascists are the best kind.

If there's a upside to nominating an illiterate guy with AAHD it's that most of the calls a president has to make are jump balls and thus resistant to study.  You can't study your way into an effective health care system or a safer Middle East, witness Obama and Hillary.  I think someone with a coin tossing heads/tails could've done as well as Obama did in his eight years.

July 15, 2016

Author Find: Jack Cashill

So a couple weeks ago friend Ron sends me a link to an overheated article on the Clinton conspiracy front. Specifically, it listed all the death and destruction that seems to follow them, some of the deaths curiously premature. The one that got my attention was Sec. Ron Brown, who died in a plane wreck with a bullet-like hole through his head with no autopsy done. Of course every time there's no autopsy that leads to nefarious conspiracies, but I did search amazon books for books about Brown and came across the author Jack Cashill. 

His book on Brown's death wasn't in ebook form, but I was interested enough to read a sample of another Cashill book and then buy it: Deconstructing Obama, about how Bill Ayers ghostwrote Obama's famous memoir Dreams of My Father. Damned if he doesn't make a very strong case. He's a talented writer as well; I'm as “over Obama” as the next guy but somehow I was riveted by this story of our sham-in-chief. 

I immediately downloaded his book on usury as well (Popes and Bankers) and thus far he's describing the great tension in how usury was contra Jewish and Christian teaching but managed to become commonplace. (I got interested in the subject after reading Zippy Catholic's ebook contra usury, some months back.)  Funny line from it:

"Through it all, this poster child for the subprime meltdown remained confident that she would not be evicted. As she confided to the Boston Globe, likely without consulting her source, 'The Lord is on my side.'"

I also saw that Cashill wrote a book praising Joe Frazier and denigrating the secular deity Mohammed Ali, which is another plus in his favor. I gotta keep an eye on this brazen truth-seeker. Because sometimes the conspiracists are right.  

July 07, 2016

Outsider Candidate Usually Wins?

If Trump loses this year it would reverse a 20-year trend where the more outsider candidate has triumphed.

Insider/Outsider measurement, with "degree of outsiderness" in original election (scale 1-10; in parenthesis):

1992: BClinton (7) versus G Herb Bush (1)
1996: BClinton (7) versus Dole (1)
2000: W Bush (5) versus Gore (2)
2004: W Bush (5) versus Kerry (2)
2008: Obama (8) versus McCain (3)
2012: Obama (8) versus Romney (5)
2016: Trump (10+) versus HClinton (1)

July 05, 2016

Instant Seasonal Change, Just Add Water


“Poets of place hymn paradisal castles of Summer; Poets as diverse as Charles Olson and T.S. Eliot write eloquently of their different Gloucesters.”
--Donald Hall

Glorious to have Friday afternoon served on fine china weather-wise. Replete with the sort of sunshine you can't buy: warm 75 degrees but with a slight wind and low humidity. No dog days come early.

It's bittersweet of course, not meant to last. The Jimmy Buffet lyric in “A Pirate Looks at Forty” comes to mind: “Never meant to last” - he meant money, but it's applicable pretty much to everything in this life. Ephemeral as the news of the day.  And sure enough by Saturday I was back in port of "Cloudumbus".

But Friday was a stunner of a day, so good it was practically showing off. Slight breeze, 76 degrees, the sky a hue of blue rarely seen in these parts. It's so good that I actually wanted to take the dogs a walk. Enjoyed some of the field behind our house both on the walk and now afterward sitting in the middle of “my” field.

Summer is a season that almost makes poetry superfluous - it is poetry writ leaf and bough. The long view of cropped grass interspersed with trees here and there remind me of an English country garden.

I'm always surprised by how nice a June night can be even at say 7:40 at night. It's equivalent to 3pm in April. Ninety minutes till sunset and even then the sun goes down fighting, or should I say lighting.

The first of July is when time incomparably blurs for me. The race from my birthday to the Fourth is always startlingly swift, presumably because time always passes fastest when you're having a good time. I'd like to make a citizen's arrest on Time, for speeding.

I was moved to move, mowed the lawn, cut down some “in the way” tree limbs, collected sunshine in a bottle and marketed it to those in the South hemisphere. The big project was building a bigger better fence along the front porch and beds. We doubled the size enclosed - better for the dogs and better for us because now we have easy access to a bench previously outside the fence. The black Victorian wrought iron looks quite splendid to my eye. It felt paradisal to be out on it at 5pm on summer afternoon, attractively dappled with light and shade.

*

By contrast, it was as cold and dismal a 4th of July as any in memory. Three years ago there was rain but I don't recall it being this chilly. Twain compared something to being as cold as “San Francisco in July” and it certainly feels San Fran-like here in these parts. Good reading and sleeping weather however.

I decided to make lemonade from the lemon-bad weather; I read the inimitable Ted Kooser while lazing on the hammock. Just a few pages and I feel much gratitude for his gifts. Our dog Max joins me, laying his head on my leg and that further relaxes.

Bad weather has its privileges - the neighbors are apparently stymied by the poor weather from cranking their stereo so I have this rare opportunity to relish the hammock next to their fence without being auditorily assaulted.

Technically we may own our property but that doesn't mean we can be where we want when we want - the neighbors (not to mention Mother Nature) have their say.

Listened to “Willie's Picnic” (Margo Price performing live at the Willie Nelson event) and drinking a 5pm beer under the forest canopy. Drizzle no match for the tree block.  Later Lee Ann Womack is singing a song about Jesus and the saints, unironically, which is pretty cool.

*

Yesterday my book ordered from the religious order Children of Mary came, entitled “I Will Think of Everything, You Think Only of Loving Me”. It's an anti-worry book extraordinaire, and I was transfixed by the first few pages, specifically where one of the sisters was fretting about someone she was counseling, trying desperately to solve her problems:
"Jesus said to me in my heart: 'Stay our of it.  It is between Me and her.'  Not long after that, I read a quote from St. John of the Cross telling us, in effect, not to be overly upset with the problems of others, because each of us must work out his own salvation." 
*

Quick Hits

I understand I can't write in Pope Francis for president because he's not a US citizen. But I can vote for Cardinal Timothy Dolan, so now I have my write-in. This was suggested (tongue-in-cheek) by Lino Rulli and his wife Jill, both of whom say they could never vote for either Trump or Hillary. Which I thought was pretty bold of them given politics can turn a good percentage of his listeners off so easily.

*

An early 19th century Librarian of Congress on that job opportunity that neatly describes my own work goal: “[It is] a congenial intellectual occupation [which would] keep my mind alert without severely taxing its powers.”

This librarian could be seen holding the reins of his horse carriage while reading a book!  That sounds dangerous.

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It's silly, but I prefer reading the daily Mass readings to reading Scripture on my own. It feels more “live” that way. It's a poor analogy, but it's like watching a baseball or football game played live versus one watched on tape from the day before.

*

Searched 'net for pictures of the unseen parts of the Library of Congress, the Congressional reading room (nice digs if you can get 'em!) and the Asian reading room. How'd the Asians rank? Be nice if I could stow away in that library and stay overnight, checking out the verboten places.

*

Always love that stained glass rendering at a local Byzantine church of Lazarus coming forth from his tomb. He's all dressed in his burial wrappings, and I thought of how carefully his family had attended to wrapping him only to see their work undone by God overriding death. Overriding what humans consider permanent.

*

I wasn't overly interested in Lincoln as a youth but, as Carl Sandberg said as he finished his Lincoln biography: “That son of a gun Lincoln grows on you.”

Peter & Paul's Lawsuit

It's not widely reported, but Saints Peter and Paul are plaintiffs in a joint lawsuit charging the Vatican with unfairness. Relatively obscure saints like St. Bartholomew get their own private feast day while the great Peter and Paul share a feast on June 29. “Like a room with bunk beds,” as color commentator Lino Rulli, put it. Attorneys for the plaintiffs say they have a great case.