December 22, 2017

Seven Quick Takes

Grandson Will was a wise man in purple robe and scarlet hat and looked quite dapper. You can't go wrong with kids in costumes. It was crack-cocaine for grandparents. Extremely good photos taken with off-the-chart cute factor. They sang ‘Away in a Manger’ and a couple songs I wasn’t familiar with.

Will looking to his left, perhaps at an angel
Cardinal Ratzinger on Christmas:
Many people—indeed, in some sense, all of us—find this too good to be true.
Our invariable response is a doubt: Can this be true? Is it really possible for God to be a child? We are reluctant to believe that the truth is beautiful, for in our experience, the truth usually turns out to be cruel and dirty; and where this initially seems not to be the case, we dig and dig until our assumption turns out to be correct.
He came as a child, in order to break down our pride. Perhaps we would have capitulated before power or wisdom … but he does not want our capitulation: he wants our love. He wants to free us from our pride and, thus, to make us truly free.
Interesting that Benedict doesn’t say merely power but power “and wisdom”. How could God have used wisdom to break down our pride? Perhaps to tell us all the answers we so desperately seek concerning why there is suffering and death and Hell? God’s wisdom is so great that it would presumably cow us just the way a display of physical power would.

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You know you're at an orthodox parish when you see these books in a car in a parking lot:


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So Trump has a year behind him and it's been a pretty decent one. I may have to eat my anti-Trumpian words said pre-presidency and rue my non-vote for him. Especially since the thing that bothers most people I don’t care a fig about -- his tweets.  Just as in the stock market future good news is already "built in" to the price of a stock, so too his tweets are what they are and ought be ignored. Of course still three years left, an eon in governing. But perhaps he’s proving anyone can do the job of potus.

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Read some of Victor David Hansen’s Second World Wars, which was rather grim. Wars plural in the title because there seemed little connection in some of the war being fought (i.e. in terms of types of battle and geography of). 60 million were killed, 80% by Axis and 20% by the Allies and yet the latter won. This was because the Axis killed mainly civilians while the Allies mostly killed soldiers. The notable exceptions include the American firebombing of Tokyo in March of ‘45 where 100,000 were killed in a single day, which was worse than Nagasaki and equal of Hiroshima. And yet we hear so little of it! The mind-blowing thing about it was that despite doing that kind of damage to Japan’s capital, the Emperor was uninterested in surrender.

This feels unfathomable to me and I googled for the unanswerable: “why didn’t Japan surrender before the atomic bombs”. But maybe not so unanswerable: the Emperor was not much interested in the welfare of Japanese as the continuation of the institution of Emperor; it wasn’t until the Russians invaded combined with the two a-bombs that Japan surrendered. It makes me wonder if the Russian invasion did it alone, without the atomic weapons - I think the Emperor was more worried about the future of his office with the Russians than the Americans?

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Interesting to muse on the parallels between John the Baptist and Mary as proposed in a book on the Baptist. Both have their birthdays and death days celebrated in the church, which outside of Christ is unique to them. Both have one mission and one mission only, that of being the forerunner to Christ or the mother to Him, and thus neither were have known to have worked a miracle (in John’s gospel this is explicitly asserted regarding the Baptist). Both express a deep humility, Mary’s fiat and John’s “You must increase and I decrease”.

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We're trying to clean the basement which is the Job of all jobs. There’s a tsunami of junk down there, as if all the world’s material goods were vacuum-suctioned into our basement. Affluenza 101. There were $90 purses that Steph didn’t know she had - it felt like a shopping trip for her.

First up we emptied the crawl space and threw away the above-ground swimming pool, a kid’s buggy, and high-chair among other things. I hauled stuff up and down the stairs for a good twenty minutes. A decent workout when dragging weighty things up. Gravity is not your friend in those situations.

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I find it routinely shocking - if shock can be called routine - by the disparity between the beauty of spiritual writings versus the oft rather grim reality of sin and shadow in the author. I think this first hit me when I read the quasi-scriptural Thomas Merton books and then read, ugh, his journals.  Pope Francis as well, who is capable of the most uplifting and lofty thoughts while, at other times, be snarky, harsh, and unjust. I guess this is the way it’s always been (St. Jerome anybody?). I don’t think we can listen only to saints and just close off the way God can use flawed instruments.

Lino Rulli recently complained about how he knows many of the famous public Catholics who give lectures and write books and he says many of them don’t really have their act together in private so he doesn’t read their books. That’s an example of what I mean, and what I routinely fall into (including with Pope Francis).

It’s a sore temptation to wall off those we perceive rightly or wrongly as “hypocrites”, but we are all hypocrites to one extent or another and that attitude seems to focus on the messenger more than the message.

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Read some of the Roy Moore fail.

Politics has gotten so bewildering so fast. Looking back, the initial shock for me was that the country would hand over the reigns to a no-name Democrat senatorial lackey (Obama). ‘08 was the first sign that something was seriously wrong. Sure, Bill Clinton’s rise despite his sins was very surprising, but he had a resume and a decent record.

Obama’s victory was just bonkers, seemingly a hopeless white play to atone for slavery. But as it turned out, it wasn’t atonement at all, it wasn’t racial - it was pure, sweaty desperation, a blind groping for a savior. This would show itself again in the election of Trump, the ultimate outsider and high-risk’r.

Something happened between ‘04 (Bush election) and ‘08. Someone must’ve messed with the nation’s water supply - maybe it was the rise of the New Atheism popularized by Hitchens, or the economic decline of the middle class, or the advent of social media, or the shredding of the credibility of any institution. Regardless, it seems around 2006 or 2007-ish. Right around when Facebook and the iPhone took off.

And on that happy note, Merry Christmas!  Keep hope alive for Hope is alive.

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