September 25, 2018

Done With Catholic Schools

It's anecdotal of course, but the fact that some of my nieces and nephews rarely attend church despite going to Catholic schools from cradle through high school is  souring me on Catholic schools. To put it mildly.

I'm feeling like the Church shrinkage is due to poor Catholic education at least in part. And certainly the bishops and the institutional church are hapless; it’s no accident that the bishops tried to start a TV network that was dead-on-arrival while an obscure monastic nun made EWTN a fixture on every cable box.  The problem with EWTN now is that it lost its star power (Mother Angelica) and now likely appeals only to the elderly. But I could be wrong.

And it was interesting to hear on a news podcast an author (Franklin Foer) say that the addiction to smart phones has a spiritual cost as they distract us from the eternal, non-superficial questions. It seems a perfect storm: modernity’s profound religious ignorance combined with a tech age of constant distraction. Looks like there is no hope, only Hope.

The answer is prayer, not money, but on the latter I think the way to go is to support non-institutional third parties like the Augustine Institute and the St Paul Center, both aimed towards high school kids and seminarians. Scott Hahn is also doing a lot of work in this area and the fact that two of his sons are in the seminary shows me he’s doing something right. So I stopped donation to local Catholic grade school and to the bishop's fund drive and started one to Augustine Institute.

A Twitter thread from professor Gregory Hillis, on the current bleakness:
I have students in my intro theology class write spiritual autobiographies and almost every one written by a Catholic witnesses to the failure of the Church in educating families and children in the faith.

I've thought a great deal about what needs to change. My first suggestion would be that catechesis needs to be mystagogical in approach so that children in particular are immersed in the experience of God, apart from which its doctrine and morality remain incomprehensible.

I mean by this primarily that attempting to teach the faith apart from an immersion in a genuine and profound understanding and experience of the sacraments is bound to fall short. Prayer and theology should never be separated.

My second response would be that young people have many questions and they should feel welcome to ask difficult questions without being made to feel as if they're virtual apostates for questioning the faith.

We're long past the time when theology teachers and clerics can simply say "Because the Church says so." They need to be allowed to doubt, allowed to explore, and allowed also to understand & experience the generous response the Church has always given to well-formed consciences.

I'm a convert as well, and many of the cradle Catholics I know who understand the faith are those who have explored it on their own independently of the church. They shouldn't have to do that.

September 24, 2018

Kavanaugh (Sing like Van Halen's "Panama")

I’m kind of obsessed with the Kavanaugh hearings. It’s beyond frustrating that Sen. Grassley let slip the golden opportunity he had to get Kavanaugh confirmed when Dr. Ford was making all these unrealistic demands and wishy-washy senators like Collins and Flake were getting peeved at the arrogance of Ford (or her lawyers)...  Grassley could’ve manned up and said, “no Ford” and gotten the vote done. But he dillied and dallied, enthralled with the woebegone farce of having a “fair hearing” which is the most ludicrous thing ever.  It appears the 85-year old is stuck in the 1980s - didn’t he get the memo that the Dems play bloodsport? It’s a straight party line vote now and will be for as long as the eye can see.

It's too bad the whole confirmation process wasn't two days long and a vote done immediately.  Kavanaugh was already vetted six ways from Sunday but for some arcane reason this Congress has spent almost three months and still hasn’t gotten him out of committee.  You can’t make it up.

It’s ironic that about the only congressional prerogative that the Congress wants to hold on to is the “advise and consent” of presidential Supreme Court appointments — and, of course, they’re doing an abysmal job of it.

It feels almost quaint now that the Founders intended for the Congress to make laws, declare wars, and balance the budget when the Congress now does little but grandstand, smear, and tacitly approve law-making by executive and judicial branches all so they can keep their precious jobs.

But as much as I feel like the country is going downhill I do recall that states like dysfunctional California -  and cities like Chicago and Detroit  - still muddle through somehow and survive despite their horrible governance. I guess people are resilient even given bad leadership.  Until they aren't.

September 21, 2018

When Two Titans Clash

Arguably there's no one in the public square I more admire and follow than Jonah Goldberg and R.R. Reno (National Review and First Things respectively). 

So I was shocked when Reno wrote a hit piece on Jonah and his new book. Wow. I go back longer with Jonah but Reno has the gigantic influence of being formed by Catholic Christian faith.

Reno comes off as unhinged though, sadly.  Just makes it as personal and vituperative as possible.  While Jonah’s book’s great fault lay in how he refuses to see the West’s soul infused by Christianity, and Reno’s left field rejoinder is histrionic and sympathetic to Woodrow Wilson and FDR. Jonah says a little nationalism is good, but it’s a jealous god and demands more and more. 

John Zmirak opines on the clash of the titans and seeks a middle ground perhaps: 
Catholic theocratic "Integralism" and soulless, ahistorical Liberalism are equally futile and destructive. The vital synthesis of English liberties and Christian resistance to intolerant governments is what forged America.
_


Speaking of stars, the morning prayer psalm that asks “oh stars of light, give praise to God!”  is more meaningful now that I have a more intimate relationship with the stars thanks to the new transom in the sunroom. I see them now, and they feel more real to me.  It still kind of astounds me that Mars and Saturn, both so far away, were so present on the southern horizon last night. They had both seemed kind of abstract to me, pictures in astronomy books back in grade school but now they’ve come alive and they seem like they’re only a mile or two away.   It’s funny how approachable the stars can be if one suspends disbelief in the rational knowledge of their great distance. No wonder the ancients were far more conversant with the stars given they probably didn’t feel that far away to them as well. 

September 20, 2018

Waylaid and Off-Kilter

I feel waylaid and off-kiltered by the news of one the early Catholic bloggers (one with extreme high-octane intellect) died in a bicycle accident.  Left a wife and college-age children, about my age.  He was wearing a helmet yet apparently still died of head trauma.  In one of those morbid things I tend to do, I went to his blog and read his last comment to one of his posts. Just feels so sad. 

He was a strong debater but not into ad hominems or straw men attacks, which made him feel like a throwback and the rare seeker after truth.  
_

I recently encountered someone on FB who had his back up and we got into it. It’s always surprising to encounter rough seas on the FB page of a Catholic, but Lord knows I should be used to that by now.  The funny thing is that my expectations have not altered going way back to circa 2003 when I got blasted by somebody on a Catlick blog for sport.  

Anyway, I was told to do something to myself that is anatomically impossible and is, or would be, against Church teaching. So I’m shocked a Trad(ish) Catholic would recommend I do something to myself against the tenants of the Church.  As is typical in these situations and as my pride is wont, I swung back hard although I didn’t ask him to contravene Church teaching, so there’s that. 

So today I read a lovely post on the same FB page (not the commenter mentioned above but the FB owner) who wrote about trolls: 
One of the clearest evidences that there is life outside of Facebook is that people will endure abusive, offensive comments from friends because they know that there is more to that friend's character than their FB persona suggests. The rest of us have to take it on faith, though...
It's how I know that Christian charity exists, that some people are given chance after chance even after most people would just block them.
And lo and behold my nemesis chimed in and humbly admitted he was trollish and then mentioned the loss of his wife to cancer and I realize that his life and mine may be on the same green earth but he’s seen troubles thus far that I pray I don’t have to endure.

Someone chimed in on the FB post and said, “I am lacking in Christian charity, so I tend not to post controversial things.”   Ditto for me.

And no less than Pope Francis has led the way inasmuch as he says he does not read his critics as it’s not good for his mental health. I think that’s true for most of us. (Although the Holy Father's recent homilies, like Trump's protestation that he never watches CNN, shows that he's at least tuned in to what his opponents are saying.) 

Everyone is going more towards their “natural” political and religious camps given that the unnaturalness of social media encourages spleen-venting and thus the unlikeliness of logic-based, civil discourse.   

The other telling thing is how Pope Francis went through a very dark period during the late ‘80s in which he has to basically just be a priest, which apparently was unsatisfying for the lack of power and influence. He went to a Jewish psychologist for six months of weekly visits for mental health help. This tracks well with his highly ambitious persona (such that he would feel at sea in just being a priest). 

Interestingly, he says he can’t live alone, again for mental health reasons, so that’s why no papal apartments.  This would seem to mitigate the meritoriousness of his eschewing the regal papal apartments.

September 12, 2018

Reno in First Things

R.R. Reno in First Things senses the end of conservative accommodation to the longstanding attitude of “keep the church together at all costs by sweeping disagreements and corruption under any available rug".  Seems the McCarrick mess followed by the Vigano letter has been a permission slip for conservatives to stop kowtowing to the status quo, or to emperor-bishops wearing no robes.

It reminds me of the Trump nomination, how Republican primary voters finally got exhausted with the long project of trying to go along by getting along by buying into the Democrat premise that Republicans needed to do better on diversity, racial accord, political correctness.  Like how Romney could scarcely defend himself from charges he was involved in a war against women which later was “confirmed” by stray comment showing his dedication to the Democrat ideal of patronizing women and minorities by saying he had “binders full of women” on his short list for some office.

There comes a time when even conservationists no longer want to conserve the current environment. I thought Trump was a mistake but I began to marvel at a world in which a Republican president felt free enough to speak his mind with such candor (if limited truthfulness). It was a modest revelation and a guilty pleasure. Trump reminds me of the citizen legislator who isn’t there for a career and is wiling to be unpopular.

And I have to feel like Pope Francis didn't sign up for this when he was made pope some 5 years ago, that he'd have to deal with gay clerics engaging in clericalism, or more accurately fornication.  For the pope to be blindsided by Viagno is just movie-script-like drama that would be almost too unbelievable to make the celluloid. 

I’ve been reading the book Conspiracy about how Peter Thiel secretly kept his powder dry against Gawker for outing his being gay, and how over years of picking the time and place for battle ended up backing Hulk Hogan and bankrupting a malicious outfit.  While Viagno, unlike Thiel, went about it in a much more slipshod and emotional way, he too planted this bombshell such that it upstaged the papal visit to Ireland and elicited the famous “no comment” from the pontiff.  I imagined, rightly or wrongly, that the image cagey Francis was forced to do something difficult for him - to not retaliate verbally perhaps because he thought Viagno might have something and that he could get caught in a thicket.  Francis seems to have weathered it well from a PR standpoint since the press was on his side to begin with and the lack of comment seemed to make a non-issue, ginned up by angry conservatives.

August 28, 2018

Trying to Make Sense of Absurdistan

I've been lately wandering lost in a haze of information overload, the scandal du jour that begets and begets and begets and just keeps on begetting. From the '16 election that lifted a reality TV star and insult champion to the presidency, to the now very non-rhetorical query: "Is the pope Catholic?" -- the last few years have been, uh, attention-getting.

So a few disjointed thoughts. (Are there any other kind?)

The sentimental view of religion is certainly taking a hit.  Oxymorons abound: "Catholic Ireland", "Holy Father", "pope resigns", "World Meeting of [Hetero?] Families", "hush money".  It's a world in which a cardinal tweets to his sister "Nighty-night baby, I love you."  It's a world where politicians object to bishops being called "politicians" since no politician could be so tone deaf.  It's a world in which the bishops talk about national boundaries but not the protection of the physical boundaries of seminarians. It's a world in which the flock is called upon to direct the shepherds (ala M. B. Doughtery: "I’m not looking for a perfect Church, I’d appreciate one in which bishops demonstrated anger at rapists and some determination to stop them before proceeding to try and guilt the the laity for being scandalized by it" and "Imagine the Apostle Andrew reacting to Judas’ betrayal, 'We should write up some bylaws against betraying our Lord unto death'”).

Weird sh-t is happening everywhere, like Catholic author Taylor Marshall inexplicably retweeting Alex Jones. Twice.

Well interesting times and all that jazz.
 _

Baylor professor Alan Jacobs describes the parallels of Trump and Francis:
Like Donald Trump, Francis makes dramatic and apparently extreme pronouncements which send the world into interpretative tizzies. When he says things like “Who am I to judge?” Catholics who support him effectively say that he should be taken “seriously but not literally” — just as Trump supporters say about their man. Both men generate massive, thick fogs of uncertainty.

Like Donald Trump, Francis cuts through political complications by issuing executive orders and blunt power grabs, as when he dismissed the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta and is seeking to replace him with a “papal delegate” under his own personal control, a move of questionable legality.

Like Donald Trump, Francis is an authoritarian populist: he bypasses institutional structures and governs by executive order, but believes that there can be nothing tyrannical about this because he is acting in the name of the people and is committed to “draining the swamp” of his institution’s internal corruption.

Norms are created by institutions, and we live in an age of week and despised institutions. This is how populist leaders arise: when a great many people believe that institutions exist merely to serve themselves, they come to despise not just those institutions but also the norms associated with them, and applaud leaders who scorn and seek to tear down the whole edifice.

General contempt for our institutions, government and church alike, makes them too weak to enforce their norms, which first enables corruption — the kind of corruption American Catholic bishops and members of the Congress of the United States are guilty of — and then produces populist figures who appear to want to undo that corruption. But the institutions are too weak to control the leaders either, so those leaders are empowered to do more or less whatever they want to do. This is the case with Trump, who will surely last at least until the 2020 election, and also, I think, with Francis, who will probably last until he dies or chooses like his predecessor to resign.

Moreover, since neither Trump nor Francis is interested in doing the work needed to repair their corrupt institutions — they don’t even have any incentive to do so: the ongoing presence of ‘swamps’ is what lends them such legitimacy as they possess — all the products and enablers of corruption are safe. This is why the American bishops who spent decades enabling and hiding sexual abuse are probably feeling pretty good about their prospects right now.
This past Sunday the homilist said the problem is that many clergy live “soft lives” attentive to luxuries and this encourages others to become priests who want not only softness but outright infidelity. A slippery slope. The beach houses and grand homes of the hierarchy attract the wrong element.

It reminds me of how many say that Washington D.C. was ruined by air-conditioning. Once a/c came to the city, it became desirable. Once it became desirable it started attracting hacks who wanted to live there forever and thus made re-election their goal instead of improving the country, so they didn't have to go back to their godforsaken home districts that lacked the sizzle and glitter of the ever-growing capitol.

At least I have full closure on Pope Francis now. I unfollowed him on Twitter, lol as the kids say. The Viganò memo without the backdrop of what we already know about Francis would've felt out of left field. As it was, for me, it seems right down 2nd base. Smoke, meet fire.

But some on Twitter reminded me that the proper response to the scandals is not primarily anger but repentance on behalf of those who need it.  Sobering. The Christian response is not to weep not out of a sense of betrayal, but for the victims and Pope Francis and the enablers of abuse.
_

One priest tweeted:
The effect of a what has been going on in the Church will be to make the Church effectively congregationalist in its polity. The laity will attend a parish of their choice, and network with other like-minded Catholics through organizations (both on- and offline) to which bishops are marginal. In the Church today, all of the exciting things are happening outside of the management of chanceries, and all of the things under the purview of chanceries (e.g. Catholic schools) are failed institutions, which in some cases actively undermine people's faith. Note: I am not saying that this is *desirable*, I'm just saying that it is the case.
_

Amy Welborn provides historical perspective:
There have always – always, people – been terrible problems in the Church. It’s unfortunate that general historical illiteracy, combined with contemporary experiences of faith that are mostly determined by which party you happen to fall into, work to hide this plain fact from most people...

What is consistent, it seems, is the overarching instinct to throw your lot in with the prevailing culture and its values – power, success, money, sex, a particular social system – and be formed by that instead of the Gospel, instead of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
I thought of that in how it juxtaposes with Jeff C's FB post*. One could say, with Amy, that history teaches over and over that corruption even at the highest levels has always been. But perhaps it’s like being robbed - you know the statistics, that there is a lot of crime, but until it happens to you personally it still feels distant. And for the current pope to be implicated feels “more real” than centuries ago.

Perhaps part of the surprise of some to the degeneracy of many of these leaders is due simply to what a priest sermonized recently about, how there seems to be an ignorance that the grace of the sacraments - including obviously Holy orders - cannot penetrate without the proper disposition. There’s no such thing as osmosis or magic, he said. Disposition is crucial and that’s standard Catholic teaching. A rock in a stream of water won't absorb much water. As George MacDonald wrote, "Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because He would give the best, and man will not take it."

* - “Tonight, many excellent Catholics are grieving due to Archbishop Vigano's devastating revelations about Pope Francis - the grief and tears of betrayal. Perhaps you and I grieved much earlier, for different reasons, and have now moved on to a cold cynicism, but that's no advantage. Remember what that grieving was like and grieve again.”

August 22, 2018

Shepherds as the '62 Mets

As a FB friend put it, it would be darkly comic if it wasn't so serious. I'm not sure what's preferable: silence from bishops or the insulting responses, the latter a sordid mix of blaming the victim and claiming an ignorance that conjures the spirit and morality of Sgt. Schultz.   Such as Cardinal Farrell, head of the Vatican office for laity and family, who said he was "shocked" when he heard the allegations against Cardinal McCarrick.

From a Catholic News Agency article:
"[Cardinal O'Malley] added that the U.S. bishops are all 'anxious to understand' how McCarrick became a bishop, archbishop, and cardinal if there were known allegations against him, given the vetting process that bishops have to go through before they are appointed to such positions."
A FB friend nails it:
"Really? I, for one, think we're getting to understand this pretty damn well. McCarrick was made a bishop because he a) had stellar fundraising and self promotion abilities, b) had the support of other powerful clerics whose favorite sport was sleeping with other clerics and c) benefited from the chosen blindness of other clerics who chose not to see even what was shoved under their noses as O'Malley did in this case.

And remember, O'Malley is 'one of the good ones' in terms of bothering to deal with clerical abuse. Many others are WORSE."

August 17, 2018

Cartoon Diversity

Well it's mighty nice to see political cartoons in the Dispatch and elsewhere taking a non-leftist point of view. Startling even.  May their tribe increase.




August 16, 2018

Irish Fest 2018

Irish festival in Dublin, Ohio was a few weekends back. Dublin Ohio, incidentally, is more Catholic and thus more Irish than Dublin, Ireland. Who could've known?

Started with the Hooligans band after long drive from work. The to “Jiggy”, direct from the olde sod, a various-influenced band. Not too bad - at least not overly familiar. Female singer like a lounge singer. Short gold dress that hugged, with lots of cleavage for those who aren’t leg men.

Moved by a song that spike of an Irish legend, how a man lost his dear wife and after her death she reappeared to him in the guise of a beautiful woman (a stranger to him) and he refused to make love to her as he was still in love with his wife. Poignant. And intriguing as it touches on the male’s weakest point, his concupiscent sex drive, which is precisely what makes the story go, the nature of sacrifice. It would’ve been less impressive by a half if the sexes in question were flipped. It’s precisely that God became man that gives the story of the Incarnation likewise it’s juice.

Then headed over to meet up with Mark and Sandy to catch Bridget’s Cross. Again it felt overly familiar and I was losing steam.






Irish mass Sunday morning with Fr Stephen Hayes. A rousing homily as usual. He said our relationship with Christ is like a marriage, it takes work and that Jesus is sometimes prickly, and “feral”., in Father’s interesting choice of word. You can’t put Jesus in a box.

He said he recalled an old Irish lady who offered Father tea before he was to hear her Confession. As she walked by a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus she gave a stare that “would’ve killed Christ again had he not already rose.” He asked what was the matter and she said she was mad at him for failing to answer a prayer of hers but, she added, it’s “just a lover’s tiff.” Father could tell by that she had a close relationship to Jesus and that He was real to her, in all His prickliness.

Bright white-hot day, swelteringly authentic August heat. Watched the battle of the pipe and drum bands and got chills hearing the bagpipes playing the Marine hymn.

Heard interesting Spoken Word character (re-enactors) giving tips on the unsavory practice of stealing bodies for medical research back in the 1800s. Surprisingly well done! Costumes were priceless and toothless savage dude perfect. They must have had stage acting experience.

Later hit a bit of Drowsy Lads with Mark and Sandy and then The Town Pants at Celtic rock. With a name like that they gotta be good.And yes, a nice quench of amplified Irish! I drank in the wall of sound to the tune of a Guinness. Resilience is a beautiful song.

August 14, 2018

Seven to Twelve Quick Takes

Went down the “distraction wormhole”. Started reading a Mark Helprin novel, which mentioned the old buildings of a university. That led me to download a free book on Miami U., full of historical photos, and a mention of 1953 missing student Ron Tammen, which led me to blog of a gal who was determined to crack that cold case (she thinks government involved and he was placed in witness protection), which led me to google what she’s up to now -- a professional dancer for the Chicago Bulls! Well now, putting her journalism degree to good use, I think snidely.

She mentions her favorite quote, by Samuel Beckett: “Dance first. Think later. It’s the natural order.” Which in context was meant by Beckett in a disparaging way, how humans do things impulsively and repent later.

But she took it literally, and I like it too in the sense that it reminds me of the quote from Samuel Johnson, approving of exercise’s impact on mental health, way back in the 1700s: “The necessity of action is not only demonstrable from the fabric of the body, but evident from ... how much happiness is gained, and how much misery escaped, by frequent and violent agitation of the body.”

So yes, run first and ask questions later.

*

So on this anniversary of my brother-in-law's untimely death (who was a Pelatonia participant), I rode a couple hours down to Plain City and back. Enjoyable romp that began in the sun and ended in clouds. The trail was nearly empty as I rode down that elegant tree-and-farm-lined lane into the quietest of quiet country near trail’s end. It made me think of the London house we almost bought and how loud I-70 was despite being almost a mile away. We should have thought of house-buying as something requiring the patience of years, not a couple months.

*


Last eve I drank in some baseball, which was surely tonic-ful. Got to hear Joe Morgan talk during an A’s game. Man technology is beautiful.

*

Read some of McCarrick’s book of columns. He mostly skates around the sexual issues; perhaps because he felt like he’s okay since he didn’t prey on children (too much), or, that he had been forgiven his sins and thus had a right to lead the anti-abuse parade. Happy the man for whom God has buried his sins.

Read some of Romans, chapter 4, and that’s just a goldmine of a chapter. Certainly I must keep uppermost in mind how God *forgives*, it’s what he does most of all. A saint said he wants to forgive us like a mother wants to save her child from a burning building.

The commentaries: “The Law remains in force, but the keeping of the Law does not sanctify us; rather, God’s grace enables us to go beyond the Law through a life of charity.”

The money quote from the Knox translation:

When a man’s faith is reckoned virtue in him, according to God’s gracious plan, it is not because of anything he does; it is because he has faith, faith in the God who makes a just man of the sinner.

I also thought of Fr Hayes calling Christ “feral”. It has a negative, or at best neutral, connotation, but part of what makes our dog Max “wild”, at least in his utter unpredictability, is he knows no boundaries in his affections. He’s scarcely trained at all - he peed in sunroom and barked till midnight (God calls for us incessantly, if extremely quietly), but there’s also a tenderness and gentleness that I’ve not seen in our other more well-behaved dogs. A feral God doesn't equate to a demanding God, those are unrelated non-sequitors. Wildness in God is simply that He's larger than life, especially tame life.

*

Simcha Fisher:
"You think you want to run away from the church. You think you will find a place where there is not so much hypocrisy, so much entrenched evil, a place that isn’t built from layer upon layer of guilt and shame and depravity. You may find such a place; I don’t know. But you will not find in it a God who weeps and bleeds and dies, who has taken sin into His bosom, swallowed it whole, let it burn in his belly until it finally burns out. You will only find this God in the Holy Roman Rotten Catholic Church, where the depraved teach young men how to confect God.

It is a rotten church. But it is not rotten to the heart because Jesus is the heart. There is more bloodshed there than I expected to see. But Jesus is there. He knew about Uncle Ted, and he knew about everything else we’re about to find out. That is why he came. Remember this, whatever else we do."
Decent rebuttal to the Rod Drehers of the world.

*

Interesting WSJ piece on favorite 100 novels on how people thirst for story over lyricism (me the opposite!):
Perhaps, for many readers, it does not make much difference whether a story is told in print or images on a screen. The narrative itself is what matters. In fact, the Great American Read list confirms that there is a great hunger in our culture for grand, mythic narratives. The adoration of the Harry Potter books, like the nearly scriptural status of the Star Wars movies, involves more than just fandom. These are comprehensive universes, complete with their own laws and histories, heroes and villains, morals and meanings. They serve the purpose that was once served by epic poems like “The Iliad” or “The Odyssey,” or even by biblical stories: They dramatize the spiritual truths and longings that shape our world.

Indeed, while there are some books on the top 100 list that could be categorized as strictly escapist entertainment, what’s striking is how many of them have a serious, didactic purpose. Americans are a moralistic people—that’s one reason why we argue so bitterly about politics—and our books reflect our love of sermons. “Atlas Shrugged” is a sermon on individualism and capitalism, just as “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a sermon on feminism and patriarchy. “The Catcher in the Rye” and “ Siddhartha ” are books that help young people, in particular, formulate a whole philosophy of life.

Then there are tales of good fighting against evil, whether they take the form of teen fantasies like “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight” or use an explicitly Christian vocabulary, such as Frank E. Peretti’s “This Present Darkness” and the “Left Behind” series, which is set in a post-Rapture world. In a sense, you could say that the most influential book on the list is John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” from 1678, which helped to pioneer the combination of religious moralizing and fantastic adventure.

The need for such epic stories predates printed or even written literature and will survive even if books disappear, as many writers and readers now fear. In fact, the most interesting thing about the Great American Read list is the way it reminds us that stories are something separate from, and more fundamental than, what we call fiction, which is a fairly recent category, historically speaking. After all, it wasn’t until the 18th century that the novel became a dominant literary form, first in Europe and then around the world.

*

From Helprin novel: "It is possible to have eyes that are carelessly unobservant, that in failing their task they betray a listless soul." Well that’s a positive spin on lack of custody of the eyes.

*

This, from the sociologist author of Cheap Sex:
he end result [of porn] is spiritual passivity. And the empirical evidence supports this claim. Using two waves of survey data collected from the same people, University of Oklahoma sociologist Samuel Perry notes that pornography use predicted subsequent growth in religious doubts and declining personal importance of religion. Even being prompted to recall sexual experiences was found to diminish subsequent religious/spiritual aspirations in a series of controlled experiments conducted by researchers at a Belgium university.
*

Q & A from Peter Thiel on potential for lifespan to be 150 years:
Q: You don’t fear that at some point life is getting boring?
A: A couple of years ago, I was talking to a former math professor in his early 70s. He said “I don’t know if there is an afterlife, but I hope not because I don’t want to run into my exwife.” The mentality we should have instead: We want to treat the people around us, we want to be doing things, so that every day is such that you want it to go on forever. If you have a 5 year old kid around you who is bored, you don’t say: Hopefully you will die soon. You say: There are a lot of things to do. So there is no reason to be bored.

July 30, 2018

The Money Quote on the Woeful Shepherds

A Dominican priest, Fr. Peter on Twitter hit the jackpot, inasmuch as how these bishops and cardinals have such super-clean consciences:
One of the sources of scandal in the Church is bad moral theology. Specifically bad fundamental moral theology.

It's not quite that they reject norms about sexuality, or that they don't see those norms as a part of God's plan for our flourishing and happiness. (Though that certainly is a part of it as well.)

It's that, for all intents and purposes, proportionalism and fundamental option theory are alive and well in our church--because that is how our current generation of leaders was trained to think. They don't really believe that certain actions are intrinsically evil from their object alone, apart from their intention.

This isn't just about sexual matters. It's also about truth in speech. Which is why lying and covering up are so common.

For instance, I once had a superior who quite directly told me that he could lie to me or about me with a clean conscience, because he had a good intention for doing so. He didn't feel the slightest compunction for the damage he did.

It never occurred to him that he had to follow Catholic moral doctrine when he was doing his job. Bad fundamental moral theology has corrupted the practical reason of too many church leaders.

And since leaders generally have a (sometimes unjustifiably) high view of themselves, and since they pick other leaders, they tend to select for these traits, thinking them to be good leadership qualities, and continuing the cycle.
Helps explain the inexplicable.

July 24, 2018

Quick Takes Shaken not Stirred (or: College Light and the Mer-gods)

A Dominican in Ohio (formerly downtown at St. Patrick's) quoted St Augustine (in Latin) on the recent news:
Why is the Church black but comely? She is black by nature, but comely by grace. Why is she black by nature? Because she must needs own: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." Ps. 1. 7. Why is she comely by? Sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be clean wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Ending up buying a book containing columns of Cardinal McCarrick because it was free with amazon points. As if I’ll be able to figure anything out by it. The mystery of iniquity is definitionally mysterious.  Fr. Longenecker tweeted the truth that the biggest surprise is how McCarrick hasn’t admitted guilt and expressed public repentance. Kind of smoke of Satan-y. Also interesting to see Cardinal Farrell block his tweets and Bishop Tobin kill his Twitter account in response to story.

I’m not sure why it feels different with McCarrick other than I thought this whole issue was long past and yet McCarrick paid off people during only the past decade. Plus it rankles the sheer power he had - helping to choose a pope and influencing other papal electors.

*

Wondrously restorative baseball this morning. Just a couple innings (the first and ninth) of last night’s Reds. Got to listen to that tonic of broadcasters, Marty Brennaman. “Isn’t this game of baseball something?” after a Reds hitter slammed one deep, tying the game with two outs in bottom of ninth. And then a two-out rally to win - the game doesn’t get any better than that. I felt the way the late Charles Krauthammer always did before going to a baseball game - like a kid on holiday. As much as I “want” to follow other teams, mostly the Dodgers for their beautiful stadium (best in MLB according to many) and the Yanks for their astounding Aaron Judge, I keep coming home to the Reds, especially given we’ve got this generation’s Ted Williams (Joey Votto). Speaking of which, Votto was praising Williams last night and saying how Ted’s book “The Science of Hitting” was his baseball bible. He’s learned well.

Unfortunately Homer “home run” Bailey pitches tonight. Nails, meet chalk board.

*

Last night read more of the compelling myth-novel Circe. Finally a female novelist I can appreciate (besides O’Connor and Dinesen). I can see why it’s a best-seller for it has an otherworldly charm to it. Quotes:

They were a motley group: river-men with muscles like the trunks of trees, brine-soaked mer-gods with crabs hanging from their beards, stringy old-timers with seal meat in their teeth.

The land was drenched in boiling gouts of blood so potent that rare flowers sprang up where they fell.


The river-lords postured, faces dark with excitement. You cannot know how frightened gods are of pain. There is nothing more foreign to them, and so nothing they ache more deeply to see.


“My dear, [mortals] must always offer something, even if it is small, even if only wine poured at your spring, else they will forget to be grateful, after.”


He would bare his blue chest before them, strapped with god-muscles, and offer his hands, smooth as surf-rolled shells.


They took him to Nereus, old Titan god of the sea, who in turn introduced him to Poseidon, his new lord. Together they helped him shape his underwater palace, set with gold and wave-wrack treasures.

*

Visited Jazz & Rains fest this past deluge!




*

Read a review of a new documentary by Frederick Wiseman called Ex Libris, about the NY Public Library. The subject matter is crack-cocaine (even the title) so I looked where I could stream it, preferably for free. And low and behold via the website and app Kanopy I can view any of Wiseman’s previous documentaries for free using my Columbus library card. (Ex Libris won’t be available till the fall, after PBS airing.) I came immediately across a documentary about a Benedictine monastery titled Essene and that looks again like crack-cocaine. And one on horse racing. Always pleasing to discover a free source of infotainment. Ain’t that ‘net something.

*

The transom in the sunroom allows some night sky viewing and so I’ve been noticing a particularly bright star in the southern sky. I looked it up using an app: Arcturus, the fourth brightest star and far brighter than our sun.

Despite it something I’ve never noticed before or could identify, it’s been a major player for human eons. In Ancient Rome it signaled superstitious portents, for Polynesian sailors it guided them to Hawaii. In the book of Job it’s mentioned when God says to Job:

“Can thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? Or can thou guide Arcturus with his sons?”
The name comes from Greek myth based on its position so close to “the Bear”, or Ursa Major, the Big Dipper:

The traditional name Arcturus derives from Ancient Greek and means "Guardian of the Bear". ..it is a reference to its being the brightest star in the constellation next to Ursa Major, the Greater Bear.

One astronomical tradition has it based on the myth that Zeus transformed a boy into a constellation containing the star, and his mother into Ursa Major, this the boy guards his mother.
The light I see from it is about 37 years old given the distance it’s traveled, so the light was generated during my first semester of my first year at college.

July 17, 2018

SCOTUS Podcasts

Listened to SCOTUS podcast “First Mondays” hosted by two left-of-center folks. Sure, I listened partially for schadenfreude purposes.  I don't feel like the conservative cause has many hurrahs left and this could be the last one so I want to make ample use of it.  (The Republican primary goers decided to go out with a bang with Trump: "Fire all of your guns at once and explode into space." I hope I'm wrong but it feels like a short-term strategy, so I'm enjoying it while I can.)

It’s interesting that finally - after the election of Trump and the arrival of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh - some on the Left are actually asking themselves if the continued existence of Roe was worth getting Trump as president, and whether it has been smart to pin all of the left-wing-activist hopes on the shoulders of the nine robed elders. God bless America, I never thought I'd hear that concerning the "sacrament of abortion". 

Ultimately, it's probably less an admission of anything but as Jonah Goldberg often says, it’s that folks will use whatever means is most amenable to their consolidation of power, and thus the Court was a feasible target when there was no conservative legal infrastructure. Now that that's changed, they’re going to look elsewhere.

But what I really loved in the exchange below was an admission that leftish judges are about power, that they have no philosophy other than “Do what thou will” (and one of the hosts unwittingly and ludicrously implied that very thing by saying the Left should hijack the originalist language of the Right and assert that Roe is an originalist position).

Anyhow, the jury is still out on Kavanaugh. He's pretty swampy and gave Roberts the ammo to save Obamacare. But he's better than Kennedy and Barrett would've been a tough confirmation. From the podcast:
DE: This is a real victory for the conservative legal movement. It’s not just a victory for one person, this is something that took more than a generation to build… And that’s right. You look in the early ‘70s and Pres Nixon gets to make a bunch of appointments and a lot of them were disappointing to conservatives… The solution to that is to build a legal/cultural/social movement, the Federalist society and various movements, that advances a larger vision of the law, and to create a new way of thinking about the law, a new professional identity for conservative lawyers.

IS: You know it’s quite an achievement, it really is. The success was not guaranteed. It’s genuinely impressive.

DE: And it made me really think that the Left has to counter this, and what the Left has been offering really hasn’t been a great product. The Left doesn’t have a theory, never articulated a particularly clear theory of what judges should be doing and what their method of interpretation is…Ultimately the thing that is most important is having the power in getting to make the appointments to the Court, but on the margins I think it would be helpful for someone to articulate a clear vision…

IS: The problem is on the one hand [the Federalist Society] you’ve got this nice crisp set of ways of thinking about the law, that are, like, very structured and formal and pretty easy to do for the first time, and on the other hand you have a kind of “do what thou wilt” all-things-considered ecumenicism on the Left, which is just not intellectually attractive and is also hard to work with.
I wonder if there's a parallel to Catholicism versus Protestantism, that with Catholicism you have a structured way of thinking about the nature of authority, that is easier to do compared to the ecumenicism of "do what thou wilt" Protestantism, the latter not particularly intellectually attractive. As De Tocqueville wrote:
Religious powers not radiating from a common centre are naturally repugnant to [the minds of men living in democratic ages]...One of the most ordinary weaknesses of the human intellect is to seek to reconcile contrary principles, and to purchase peace at the expense of logic. Thus there have ever been, and will ever be, men who, after having submitted some portion of their religious belief to the principle of authority, will seek to exempt several other parts of their faith from its influence, and to keep their minds floating at random between liberty and obedience.
I think folks like Anthony Kennedy and Notorious RBG have long ago purchased peace at the expense of logic.

July 16, 2018

Annual Cellphone Photo Essay: German Village Edition

Headed out on Friday towards pastures green: the annual Columbus German Village bike ride. Only there for 90 minutes but it was a rich and lovely experience, variegated and sunlit from Heaven. Low humidity, 80s, and bluest of skies.

I landsharked the car and tooled through the beguilingly Euro streets. Along the way I stopped at a bakery on the southern edge (South ward street?), across from a bar with a rainbow flag and two well-dressed middle-aged women in drag smoking cigarettes. Under the bakery lights I saw a heavenly chocolate creation and purchased it for $3; it turned out to be a refrigerated King Don sans wrapping; it was labeled as such but I didn’t believe a bakery would simply repurpose a manufactured good.

I chanced my way to a dicey neighborhood with hoodlums lurking about, arguing and looking like drugs were close at hand.

I headed down the cobblestone streets still marked with the scratches of the heavy Wagner beer wagons, which carried their precious cargo to St. Mary’s pastor (among others) in the early1900s.

I traveled to the great Schiller Park, read about its history and the inspirational Schillerian quotes engraved. How short a life he lived! 40-some odd years but he had a lasting impact. I’m a bit surprised in 1891 he was honored above all other Germans in history by the thriving Village.
His 11-ft statue was unveiled, patriotically, on July 4th and bands and fireworks ensued for the 10,000 present. The letters ADN came to mind: “all dead now”, as Mom would say.

Everything was flourishing profoundly here in lush mid-July, the flowers blooming, the plants verdant from the zenith of sun and spring rains.

From the manicured lawns of the landed gentry class:



To gone-to-seed plantations:


From antlered decorations and barn-like villas:



  


 

To the other side o' the tracks:

 



  

I like how despite the fading of the pastor's sign, there's another sign pointing to it ("One Way") and then you see two letters of the street - "JE", as in "Jesus"! Pointing to the one way,truth and light despite our falling-down Church!


 

July 12, 2018

Sweet Summer

Creek bed reading

Dragonfly in the wild

Grandson in the wild

July 11, 2018

FB Nonsense

A friend of mine on FB is a big fan of political memes and so I figured I'd waste my time and refute the last eight he posted, which is sort of like banging my head against the wall for all its effectiveness but here goes, with my replies:


I'll take the bait:

1) Who wants a special prosecutor looking at everything they’ve done for the past 50 years?
2) See number 1; given an unlimited budget, lawyers gonna law. They run the country.
3) Mueller's team cares about is crucifying Trump, so they’re going to plead guilty to save their asses.



No, I've seen no empirical evidence of this whatsoever.


Of course it's "allowed". It's a free country and that even applies to the president. If people don't like it they can vote him out.


Sigh. Presidents don't "create jobs". Companies and business cycles do. Natural business cycles explain most of what people foolishly ascribe to presidents. Thus Obama was gifted with an economy in ruins and it rebounded as economies do.


Every president in modern times has been hated by the opposite party, so this is banal. Reagan was hated, W. Bush was Hitler, Clinton was hated, Trump is hated.

Ok, that one's fine.


Yawn. Anyone can make wild assertions. Prove it in a court of law Albert D.


"You can't lie on TV?" Big if true!

June 28, 2018

Vindication Day (please don't use as acronym) for Trump Supporters

Alternative title: "Lord, take away my schadenfreude...but not yet".

Liberal hysteria over Kennedy retirement merely confirms the outsize influence the Court wields and it feels utterly of reaping a sowing: Liberal activists have always wanted disproportionately a powerful SCOTUS...which is fine as long as you got numbers. The quaint notion of judicial restraint probably more appealing to them now.

In a way, it's playing out the way it's supposed to, that is with voter rationality. The Supreme Court morphed into something much larger than the Founders intended by going from interpreting laws to making laws (such as creating the invisible right to an abortion; Roe v Wade has long coattails.)

Given that one-third of the government is now effectively half the government (a cowering legislative doesn't even protect its own prerogatives), and given that that half of that government serves LIFETIME terms, then it makes sense that when you're voting for president you're really voting for him/her AND maybe two SCOTUS justices to serve for 30 years. In other words, it's silly to vote for president based simply on that person's merits. It's voting in a whole team, and not just cabinet but a SCOTUS for eons.

All of which is to say the GOP voters were likely smarter than me.

Me in 2016: What the hell is wrong with Republican primary idiots?

Me in 2018: Hmm...(clears throat)... er, well, maybe there's some sort of collective unseen wisdom in GOP crowds that I've missed.

Of course it's still early and Trump's character is such that we're always an millimeter from disaster. But as Rich Lowery said: "It's funny how life works--Donald Trump may end up being the biggest boon to constitutional fidelity in a generation."

Devout Christian George W. Bush was a terrible president and pagan Trump is a great one so far. Go fig.

So my entirely unearned schadenfreude is off the charts; reaping the success of Trump supporters.

This tweet from Chuck Todd was unintentionally hilarious:
Man, summer is going to suck... it will be ugly;... we have a full fledged political circus on our hands... up to the voters to decide what they want...

Let's re-write it, shall we?, had Hillary won the election and she was deciding who to replace Kennedy with:
Man, this summer has certainly taken on an exciting new twist.. Republicans will try to make it ugly, but it looks like Democrats have the votes.

*

Charles Murry posted a "I told you so" tweet  about the failure of Bill Gates Foundation on education, linking to his distaste for educational romanticism.

I'm thinking that culture matters more than money when it comes to education: my moment of gobsmack was when I learned there is peer pressure in black communities not to study at school because that’s a white thing. At that point I became convinced that trying to fix woeful school districts is like spitting in the wind.

And even if a school district could overcome deficient childhood development there still would be inequality since by definition every district/student can’t be above average given a bell curve.

Jonah Goldberg wrote: “To fret about political, social, or economic inequality in a free society is to fret about the problem of freedom itself, for in the presence of freedom there will always be inequality of some kind.”

The thing is, you have to fight like hell against the tide in order to save individuals, even if in aggregate it’s hopeless.

June 26, 2018

Lamentations and Exaggerations

Spent hour at 11:30pm the other night trying to stop the waterfall in our basement by fitting cast-off PVC pipes and other tubes to get the water sump-pump'd into the yard at large. I'm mightily impressed by the power and ingenuity of water. The Romans have their aqueducts while we try to engineer the reverse.

I was naive to the fact that the previously opaque water removal system (I'd naively imagined it was just a sump pump and didn't much worry if it worked) turned out to be a living, breathing organism only as strong as the weakest link.  There are many potential points of failure such as:

- Sump pump location wrong
- buried water line to street on east side not working
- buried water line to street on west side not working
- city sewer backed up
- sump pump malfunctioning
- gutters not working properly

And we've experienced all of the above.


*

I was planning my annual 5k race but it was cancelled due to “deep water on sidewalks”; cue the ol' "how did we ever survive as children?"

I decided to run the 5k myself since I needed a workout and I'm a big risk-taker, witness my $30 bet on Justify in the Belmont.  Got t-shirt "I Survived Deep Water on Sidewalks".

Spent a lot of time on phone trying to get answers to why we can’t get Ohio Utilities to accurately mark our back property. A fair amount of work on our end to fix their mistakes. I’m perpetually astonished at how incompetent most people are at their jobs. Lowes made a forklift delivery the other day and ran into our fence, taking out a six-inch portion.

This was all presaged by Robert Ringer in the 1970s saying that as society decays that we who stay  minimally competent we'll eventually shine by comparison. Job security.

*

Mass at 8:30; had Crosier priest from the Congo; asked for donations to build a Catholic school there. Moved by the black priest’s singing, including an affecting “My Lord and My God” sung in his native tongue while lifting the Body and Blood. Unfortunately heard only about 50% of his homily due to poor acoustics and accent.

*

Took in new library in town, three times bigger than previous one. Unique feature is a patio structure (all windows) that looks out over grass and trees (and nearby buildings).

The upstairs is pleasant - late day sun and comfy looking chairs. Even has a coffee bar! Not your father’s library.

Cold as ice inside, like many restaurants and some churches. Entry should have signage warning of potential frostbite. It seemed kind of humorous that they brag of sustainability and environmental things while keeping the air-co at 55.

*

I'm finding it harder to take politics seriously these days given that Americans don't (witness the election of empty suit Obama and his successor). It's hard to keep a straight face watching the network news or seeing a Trump tweet. All farce all the time. No wonder Christopher Buckley can't spoof modern politics anymore.

*

Spent about 90 mins trying to get our dog's hair mats out. I’m becoming highly motivated to find a groomer and take it seriously.  Who knew brushing out a dog’s coat wasn’t optional? Thes amazing thing is how quickly he came down with this - in May he looked his fine, sleek self but once he started shedding naturally it soured into mats by mid-June.

And that's the way it was, as Conkrite sayeth...


*

Snippets of a 1970s Minnesota memoir, dedicated to my fellow Cincinnatian Cat:

...children would punch in 5318008 [on calculators] and turn it upside down to reveal BOOBIES.

Sister Mariella, whom some call Sister Carl Eller, after the Vikings’ fearsome defensive end.

Silence is the safest way to get along, which is all I desire. In life, as in games of tag, I never want to be It. I only want to be Not It.

“We don’t wear [newly bought] shoes out of the store,” Mom whispers. “We’re not hillbillies.”

As for Mom, she grew up in Cincinnati, evidently fearful that hordes of hillbillies would wade—straw-hatted, barefooted, bib-overalled—across the Ohio River and into her backyard. This might explain Mom’s endless cleaning, the neatening of drawers, the discarding of anything that isn’t nailed down.

Her rectitude and naïveté were instantly on display in her fourth-grade classroom in the mid-1950s. Students lined up for recess in front of the chalkboard, and when the line marched out of the room, there was often a single word scrawled on that board. She would erase it, and the word would reappear the next day. After a week, my future mom finally asked the class, “Why does someone keep writing ‘Pussy’ on the board?” The children gasped and giggled. Mom pressed on. “Is Pussy somebody’s cat?” There was more giggling, and a girl raised her hand. “Miss Boyle,” she said. “That’s something a lady has.” This only confirmed Miss Boyle’s notion that Pussy was indeed a cat, and she let the matter rest, but not before telling my future dad, who palmed his face in disbelief.


Mom hadn’t wanted to move from Cincinnati, where Dad first took a job with 3M, to Columbus, Ohio, to which Mickey Mining dispatched him and where Jim was born. She hadn’t wanted to move at 3M’s behest from Ohio

Through all these moves, she held fast to the polestar of Cincinnati: to Graeter’s ice cream and Ohio State football and the Big Red Machine of Johnny Bench and Pete Rose.

Mom says “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph” or “God bless it” when she’s angry. These are stand-ins for profanity. She says “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph” instead of “Jesus Christ” and “God bless it” instead of “God dammit.” It’s a clever bit of Catholic alchemy, turning blasphemy into praise.

This same sense of relief supervenes whenever the commercials air during NBC’s annual Easter-season screening of The Wizard of Oz, a movie that instills no wonder in me, only terror. The music alone ignites the acids in my stomach, exhaling only when the commercials abruptly appear. They act like smelling salts or a bucket of cold water thrown over a drunk, snapping us out of one world and returning us to the real one. I am grateful for their temporary respite from tornadoes and witches and flying monkeys.

Exploring South Brook by backyard or bicycle, I develop an expert knowledge of the neighborhood topography, whose yard I cannot enter to retrieve a ball (the Sea Hags, the two elderly ladies we seldom see) and in whose house I should decline the milk (the Sundems serve skim, and my body is accustomed to the higher-octane 2 percent). The Redmonds have central air—stepping across their threshold is like stepping into a refrigerated boxcar—and the Raichs have a basement beer-can collection. The McCarthy boys are allowed to collect pop cans, while the Rushin boys are allowed neither.

Young life holds few pleasures greater than the school sick day. The hourly ministrations of Vick’s VapoRub, the back of Mom’s hand on my hot forehead, the thermometer jutting from my mouth like a Chesterfield cigarette...

[Or snow day.] And then I hear it: “Bloomington schools, public and parochial—closed.” Instantly it’s Mardi Gras and V-E Day and the Lindbergh parade all in one, and the flakes falling outside look like ticker tape.

June 18, 2018

Hilton Head Trip Log


Sun: Had Fr. Ferrell at Mass and he gave a moving homily, relating his personal experience of becoming a Christian in his late 30s and how his friends criticized and strongly discouraged his becoming a priest. He said Mass with much reverence and I like him the more I see and hear him.

He said something about how he’d wanted to live for something larger than himself to live for and my mind went to Anthony Bourdain and his suicide. Fr. mentioned how fragile and changeable our emotions are and again I thought of how Bourdain was described as “giddy” a couple weeks ago and morose for the three days leading to his suicide. Perhaps manic-depressive. I recall how G Gordon Liddy said he couldn’t listen to certain kinds of music and how Bourdain was listening to the mournful “House of the Rsiinn Sun” on loop a few days before his death. Sad and shocking.


*

Then come 1:30 I did my obligatory run in the 88 degree heat, a labor of non-love but got it done. Maybe 2 miles all together. Surprisingly the beach was cool, much cooler than expected. I almost thought it was going to be a balcony day. Read some of The March, the novel about Sherman’s march, while partaking of light session “all day” beers. Yum.

Mon: 

Sunny, cloudless, with reports (retorts) of rain in C-bus. We picked a good week!  Wordsworth:
Yea, all the adamantine holds of truth...
Her spirit, must it lodge in shrines so frail?
He mused —upon these chiefly —and at length,
His senses yielding to the sultry air.

Read delightedly of the ‘70s memoir Sting Ray Afternoons - it's funny that there in Minneapolis he had neighbors he referred to as the "McCarthy boys" and another neighbor family "the Richardsons".  Sounds like ours Also read some of the Peter Hitchens’ Rage Against God.

*

Chesterton:
Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice.
Tues:

Funny how songs of the way distant past come back during days lounging in the June sun. Today came a cross between the folkish bluegrass “Chicken Pie Song” and “Clap, Clap, Clap Your Hands Together” childhood ditty.

After breakfast headed out on a bike ride on 278 towards the farm market but only did about 6 miles. Then to beach for an abbreviated session - the rains came heavy at 2pm, just as the Dark Sky app predicted. Allowed me to get up to the place warm and dry with a minute to spare. The rains had staying power, 2-5pm. By the time it was sunny just stayed in condo and had Bloody Mary's.

Wed:

Walked with Steph on the beach for morning mile.  Come 3:30 clouds and rainstorm; the lifeguard whistles at me to come in out of water. But a satisfying day at beach nonetheless.

A tray table came that we'd had delivered via Amazon and planned to hang from our balcony.  Steph promptly dropped hex nut off balcony, tumbling into grassy obscurity. I wasn’t going to hunt for it given she dropped it and pessimistically assumed it was lost. It was. But it worked out for her benefit - went to hardware store named White Dog and met an instant friend - the owner is a dog lover extraordinaire and they talked dogs for at least a half an hour while Steph loved up the flat white Pyrenees dog that has many physical characteristics of Max, Max being part Pyrenees. Same paws and snout. But super laid back and a hefty but right-sized 135 lbs.

Later, saw three bucks (deer) feeding next to beach for first time.

Wed:

Saw on internet:
“Say not I am too young” is a phrase that reminds us that wisdom is aligned to charity (as St Thomas teaches:), not to age.”
That’s a pretty concise description of why there are a decent number of saints in the Church who died at a young age since wisdom is a function of charity, not chronological age.

And a tweet from a bishop regarding a Dorothy Sayers novel:
An older Lord Wimsey anticipates George Smiley in some ways:
“Tell them to bring up a bottle of Scotch and a siphon and some beer, for malt does more than Milton can to justify God’s ways to man.

Thurs:

Feel like I’m getting my sea legs! Late start for sure. The cumulative effect of books and beer and 9 hours of sleep a night. Kind of wondering why I’m so slow to relax this time; I suspect work agonies.

As the song goes, which I played on loop this morning,”Don’t Try to Live Your Life inOne Day”. Also some great “Turning Japanese” while doing a mile beach walk before Mass, arguably the greatest pop song of all time, ha.  Overcast a.m. before sun resurrection around 10am. Read a bit about whom some say was the greatest horse never to win the Derby, the philly Zenyetta. Didn’t mature in time to do the Triple Crown races.

Delish breakfast using our new tray table hooked to balcony railing. Yum.
On beach by 10:45, soaking in the rays in surprising privacy. Early June seems less crowded than August week.  Wondrous 4 hours there that went by in 3.5 minutes. Read some, cigar’d some, did nothing some.  ‘Round 1pm did my run, a strong 2.5 miles that shows I’m improving in fitness down here, at least running fitness.

Thanks to the magic of the Dark Sky rain we missed the rains by a few minutes, a good opportunity to head back up to hydrate and lunch.

*

I did a 7pm bike spin down to the Hilton Head Academy and back just before dinner. I’m not sure Steph appreciated my departure while she cooked, but I’m feeling the loss ... of vacation time.  Quiet desperation has set in, a desperation for beauty.

After dinner did an 8:30pm, walk. Still light outside.  Oh, beguiling ocean! It mesmerizes... Walked to the live band at the Holiday.  Meanwhile the sea continues its ceaselessness, the show that must go on. An old, fat couple sits at the edge of the water in chairs, wordlessly watching the waves while there’s still light to see by, as the young folks stream by.

I feel a longing for more time outside in this “midsummer’s night madness” (is there such a condition and could I have it?). There’s a world of difference between Thursday morning, when all is right with the world (i.e. two full days ahead) versus Thursday eve when the “sudden death” of Friday’s last day approaches.  We have a spaghetti dinner with corn on the cob and salad.

Fri:

Lounged the morn; to beach by 11am and off on bike around 1pm to the Stables to see the great horse Harley. And so his huge head was admired and feted.

Rode through the painfully beautiful cathedral-groves; tall southern pines that make one gasp in wonder, surrounded by Secretariat-red needle beds. All on a picture perfect June day, the apotheosis of season married to the apotheosis of place.

Back at the condo I immediately discover the iPhone I’d put in my back pocket had popped out at some point during the 8 mile ride. Thank God for “find my iPhone” app. I was able to track the location of the phone via my iPad deep in the heart is Sea Pines. (The guard at the entrance had pity and didn’t make me pay $5.). I parked in somebody’s yard hoping not to get towed and went on foot for about a half-mile. I saw the phone lying in the street, grist for a car, while meanwhile a car is coming! I rush out in the middle of the street like a madman holding up my hand in the universal motion of “Stop!” and then save the phone from destruction by seconds. All in a day’s fun. Technology, the cause and solution to many world problems.

Read another 20 pages or so of Jonah Goldberg’s absorbing history lesson.
Some historical fiction about Thomas Jefferson as well.

In retrospect it seems like a vacation’s purpose is simply to give you that Thursday morning moment that confers that all-is-right-with-the-world feeling, that expanse of sheer-dom and do-nothingism that in its best moments leads to poetry.

I felt it, for maybe an hour, a respite and a clock negator, my moment of zen or bliss or rumspringa.

Sat: Neat to see some of the rural Southern coast, from Beaufort to Charleston. Woke at 6am and by 9:15 our bags were checked for 10:30 flight. Smooth handoff of rental car. Felt a little nerve-racking time-wise, oh me of little faith.

Drove by Parris Island Marine base; later stopped to get gas and saw jaunty old black man with Marine cap pull up in motorcycle looking like maybe a part-time drill instructor.

The flights were painless - just one hour long each during which I consumed multitudes of the Secretariat book. Just love the dawning realization of the wonder horse they had on their hands after the Derby. Sort of reminds me (in an opposite fashion) of the dawning realization that Hillary lost the election, and how her team and her affiliated media (CBS, NBC, ABC, etc..) were affected.

By the time we Uber’d home it was just 3pm - earliest arrival ever after Hilton Head thanks to the friendly skies. By 4 we were picking up the dogs and Steph saw Sharon and the facilities for the first time. The dogs went bananas seeing us (and each other). They were clobbering each other even before being let out of the gate.

Lots of drama with the dogs later; I noticed Maris eating grass. I thought it odd she was doing it in the middle of the yard and I got more suspicious when it looked like she was pawing it. I went out there and Max followed me since he doesn’t let me out of his sight.

He breaks into a sprint and I realize he realizes Maris had discovered Fort Knox - it turned out to be a nest of at least a half-dozen baby rabbits. They all looked dead; Maris had made quick work of most of them. Max took one and went off a short distance to eat it while I hustled back to the house to get a plastic bag to collect them. By the time I got back and started gathering them, Max had finished eating the one whole and grabbed another. I tried to spray him with the hose but he simply relocated to the back corner of the yard. I finished gathering and disposing of them, then came back out. About five minutes later I see Max suddenly getting low and stalking Maris. This was unusual; normally he does that with dogs he doesn’t know and wants to fight with. He then raced towards her and turns out she’d found a new baby rabbit that apparently had made it not quite to safety. Max now ate this third one.
Hours later the dogs were still visiting the scene of the crime, like slot machine winners who think that by playing the same machine they’ll win more money, or in this case baby rabbits.