March 21, 2019

Bible Quote

"Of all the images which have been used to describe the English Bible, that which calls it a 'cathedral book' seems one of the most apt. It conveys the idea of a structure, great and ancient, the offspring of many minds which have in many ages striven to produce a home, a shrine, worthy to contain and honor that which was to them the best and the noblest of all possible visions. One thinks of the multiplicity of effort which has gone into the making of such a church as Canterbury. The building has been laid out on a venerated site and on ancient foundations; as it has progressed, these foundations have been discovered to be inadequate; new ideas of beauty have dawned on the builder…But in spite of changes and accretions and refurbishing, the aim of the whole abides. Men are to gather under its roof to worship the God who has led them from a dim light up to that bright one which radiates from the presence of his Son.

Like one of our old cathedrals, then, is our English Bible. Side by side with what is of supreme beauty, it shows us sometimes what is to us merely curious; but in neither case – of the cathedral or the Bible – are we at liberty to treat the curious thing with an unkind contempt, for we have found it in the house of God. That which was dear and holy to the mind of Origen or Augustine deserves to be gently handled by us who, believe it, are very likely less clever, and quite certainly less good than they." - M.R. James

March 19, 2019

Suffering as Speech of Love?

Give Us This Day recently had a thought-provoking meditation on the gospel of the Transfiguration from Sr. Miriam Pollard:
...And the everlasting question of suffering refuses to die a respectful death.

I remember an essay by Bede Jarrett in which he warns the reader that what he says is extravagant and semi-heretical, and still he says that our suffering is the mirror or manifestation of something within God; that in God, in the depths of the mystery of the divine, is an extravagance of love that can only be expressed in pain.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

Is pain the flip side of that love, the inmost habitation of eternal desire, the urgent luminescence of that mountain encounter—the mount of glory and the mount of crucifixion?
I looked up the Dominican Bede Jarrett and while I couldn't locate that particular quote I did see this regarding the multiplicity of religious orders:
"It will, for instance, be granted that all admit the need of some austerity, some penance, as an instrument of training, and far more as the main language of love; and in this they do but repeat what even human lovers have endlessly discovered. Love finds words inadequate to hold all its deep meanings, and can only feel in sacrifice and in self-sacrifice a satisfactory outlet to its desires.

Suffering is the only full speech of love.

But how shall this suffering be selected ? What is reasonable and what merely fanatical, fantastic ? Or rather, what may not be selected in any passing mood ?

This the various religious Orders have settled each for themselves, holding much in common, yet holding much also in severalty ; for to each, as to some city state of ancient Greece, belongs its own spirit, its own education, its own music, its dress, its work, its plan of building, its schedule of daily duty, All these things are deliberately chosen in order to suit the needs of certain types of mind, and the whole assembly of them constitutes the particular asceticism of each Order."
And more from Bede:
"God sends us suffering because He loves us; we accept suffering because we love Him. Love is the only answer that can be made to suffering; it is the only explanation of suffering save that of the Christian Scientist who denies that suffering really exists.

The Christian alone teaches that suffering is to be embraced. The idea is based on the fatherhood of God for it supposes that the father only allows such suffering to come to each child as shall be for its own good... It is not, therefore, simply was a punishment that we should look on suffering, for such a view of it will add more troubles than it can answer. Suffering is also the very expression of love; almost the only language that adequately describes its feelings.

Love, then, which can alone explain suffering when it comes, can also alone give us the the strength to accept it joyfully, for life is only tolerable when it is permeated with love. There are hardships for everyone; do what we will we cannot escape them. Yet it is not the troubles of life, but the way we bear them, that makes life tolerable or not. To repine, complain, cry out, does but dig the point-head deeper into the flesh. The monk was contented in his cell, but the prisoner essayed night by night to escape: their conditions were the same, but their hopes and desires were different. The whole secret, then, of life is to adapt our desires to our conditions. Love puts into bondage as many victims as hate; but those whom love’s chains bind are glad of their lot. We are told, indeed, that God punishes with suffering all workers of iniquity; but those also whom God loves He chastens; and for ourselves who y, fitfully indeed yet honestly, to love, we can feel sure that it is only the strength of His embrace that we feel. Love, then, alone will help us to understand life and its sorrows.

Of course, the full realization of this is the attitude of the saints; for them seem to have achieved that same state of soul to which St. Paul confessed that he had reached: ‘For which cause I take pleasure in my infirmities.’...Our Lord found it perfectly compatible to shrink from suffering and yet to be resigned to the will of God, so the combination of union with the Father and anxiety about suffering is not necessarily impossible.

Sorrow, caused by Love and can be made tolerable only by Love. For it is the Crucified who alone explains the Crucifixion."

Spent some time researching a familiar line from Morning Prayer, Is 45:17.  It feels like a broken promise:

"But Israel will be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation, you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting."

There are a myriad of ways around it, beginning with different translations, some of which say basically, “you won’t permanently be disgraced or put to shame.”

You could also spiritualize it, as applying to the residents of Heaven or the Church’s final destination.  You could look at it as applicable to Christ only.

Even better, the NABRE and a non-Catholic commentary has it in quotes, as in quoting the nations.  The nations (presumably not inerrant) are exaggerating, saying, “gosh, we were wrong and you’ll never be disgraced.”

March 18, 2019

I Don't Get It, Part MDCCCXXII

Opened day with a little Moanin’ Joe. Trumpian tweets are their daily content provider. You don’t need producers on that show since it produces itself, or rather Trump orchestrates it remotely.

Sunday political talk shows have likewise declined. A good example of this is to hear Chris Wallace of Fox News hammer an administration official yesterday asking why Trump doesn’t make a speech against Islamaphobia given the news that an evil Australian killed people in New Zealand. You can’t make that shiza up. Wallace must be crazy for urging a crazy man to make a speech that he believes will magically take the crazy out of crazy people. Maybe next Chris will ask why Trump doesn't do a rain dance to help out with California droughts.

There’s the oft told lament of the nationalization of the news, such that people don’t care about their local scene but focus on things they have much less direct control over, namely the president. Now there’s the internationalization of news such that people are focusing not even on crime in our country but crime on the other side of the world.

The Sunday political shows have gone the same way of dullness as the nightly comics if for different reasons: for the Sunday shows, the soundbyte politics is regurgitated from what’s already been said on Twitter more incisively, and for the comics what used to be humor has been outsourced in favor of political outrage.

March 17, 2019

Papal Elections Have Consequences (even in small midwestern dioceses)

The Columbus Dispatch is going after the yet-to-be-installed bishop (Robert J. Brennan) of Columbus already. I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt given Brennan already has one strike against him (being appointed by Francis).

But the Dispatch seemed a tad overeager in the latest piece, saying he contradicted himself when he said he had nothing to do with abuse cases back in his old diocese whereupon it was learned he had talked to victims of abuse.  The paper considered that involvement, while he figured that wasn’t official involvement but pretty much business as usual given the level of abuse in that diocese.  I lean towards his side on that question.

But there are other reasons I’m uneasy. Just five years after ordination he was appointed secretary to the bishop, which certainly seems a good career move if you’re ambitious to be bishop. And there’s no better barometer on whether you should be bishop than if you don’t want to be one.

Reading between the lines, one can see that the appointment to a bigger assignment for Brennan was a fait accompli given the timing of the Francis pontificate and former Bishop Campbell turning 75 during it. Certainly didn’t help that the new U.S. apostolic nuncio appointed by Francis in 2016 - who has a decisive impact on who gets recommended to the pope - advocates for illegal immigrants and joined demonstrations and meetings with Texas-Mexico border bishops. You can’t get a better fit for that nuncio than Brennan, who took it upon himself to learn Spanish to better minister to legals and illegals in New York. In the Francis era it's surely more useful to know Spanish than theology.  On the other hand, Brennan was made auxiliary bishop by Pope Benedict (although I suspect mere auxiliary bishops get scant attention from the pope).

So color me not super excited/enthused by the prospect of the bishop fund drive this year.

March 10, 2019

Cruise Trip Log

Up by 7am for this travel day and grateful for the (rare) multiple hours before a flight. 2:40 flight so don’t uber till 12:40. Started packing at 8:30; by 8:45 headed out with dogs for a last walk, then off to pet kennel (faulty GPS directions annoying, coupled with navigation difficulties on the new car). Finally got there and Max was all in, loved the idea, while Maris wanted to head back home.

More packing, short elliptical workout and shower and - voila! - by 11:40 all done and ready. All the overhead accomplished (meanwhile Doug and Jean have already been in Fort Lauderdale for hours!). But I wasn’t keen on getting there early - it’s surprisingly difficult to pack, get dogs dropped off, etc.. on a work day before an early getaway day. Or so I like to think. Nice to have shower, food and java in me. Ready to rest!

So Doug and Jean got there early and drank and partied and played badminton all day and too tired to come over to the mermaid show (actual live “mermaids” - females with fins - swimming in a tank at a restaurant at our hotel). If you’re too tired for mermaids, you’re too tired for life. Seems very Vegas-y. And in fact, this hotel has hosted stars like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Marilyn Monroe, and, during the 1960s, the New York Yankees during their spring trainings. Hostess said bar is identical to how it was orginally. Doug had gotten ripped off by not staying at our nice hotel. Some fly-by-night intermediary website cancelled his reservation.

A woman came around at The Wreck Bar to round up signatures of everyone in the bar in order to appear on TV. We were planning on leaving since we just finished eating but were tempted to stick around for the sheer spectacle of it. Only in Florida! We signed the waiver, and I tried to get Doug and Jean to come but understandably they exhausted from their trip - Phyllis had gotten up at 5am the past two mornings. It was kind of funny to see Jeannie teasing Doug in her texts about his lack of energy despite being four years younger than her. Funny because Doug is usually the one with all the late night energy teasing Jean or me. But 50 aint’ 30, that’s for sure.

The (un)reality TV show is centered around female wrestlers, WWE. They didn’t look like wrestlers, that’s for sure, being dressed up, wearing TV pancake makeup, and looking more svelte and than bulked - more Housewives of L.A. than Hulk Hogan. For awhile I couldn’t understand what professional wrestlers had to do with a mermaid show (were they going to be mermaids for the night?) but it became obvious when around 9:15 we suddenly had the four “characters” (wrestlers) waltz in and take the table in front of us followed by a couple camera men, a lighting man and a boom mike.

Steph thought it anticlimactic and it was but then television always is. I looked at the earnest camera man who had been there since 8pm, an intelligent looking guy, and I kept thinking that he was thinking: “I studied photography for this?!”. Felt bad for him.

He always getting me in the shot which annoyed me because I couldn’t gape at the spectacle and had to pretend disinterest. Around 9:30 the mermaid show began and it was certainly different, although at the same time it was pretty much what you’d expect - sort of synchronized underwater ballet performed by bikini-topped women with legs wrapped in sheaves of fin. Think Ethel Merman meets Daryl Hannah in Splash. They held their breath for quite some time and we were told ( I was skeptical) they could hear everything in the bar and that we should offer encouragement and cheers.

Had two delicious Cigar City Jai Alai IPAs at dinner. It was chaos as it was and I had to seek out the waitress since they weren’t taking orders or dropping off checks due to the filming.

Day 2

Full day on cruise, 10:30am on! Ship is Independence of the Seas, which is our first time sailing although seems very similar as our typical one (Liberty). All these names sound alike (i.e...Freedom, Independence, Liberty...). Uber was smooth and ran into Doug and Phyllis in line for boat! What a coincidence! Doug was bringing extra wine and needed me there so without that fortunate meeting he would’ve lost at least one bottle. He snuck in with us platinum members though he’s only gold status.

Headed up for a 10:30 feast at wind jammer. Earliest by far we’ve ever boarded a ship. Lunch slowed as we waited for Jean and bill to join. Bill humorously went up multiple times to buffets and meticulously looked over every fragment of food. Around 1:15 we hit our cabin followed by sunbathing topside. I ran for 25 mins before beer o’clock with Doug and Phyllis. 3:45 muster, ugh.

Post-muster = Heaven! Peace beyond all understanding is gently moving out of port, the wind low, the water a lullaby, the sun a caress. Very contemplative. Funny to go on a cruise with 4500 people and feel a blissful rest akin to being on a deserted island - that is, the island of a private balcony.

It feels almost mystical - the shellacked waves beating a path directly towards our cabin, (we facing the western side of the ship presently). A bountiful reap of sun, seemingly magnified by the waters. I have a great hunger to read and a great hunger to just soak in the scenery.

It’s the best cruising gets, the calm period just outside of port, before the fierce ocean winds make the balcony loud with howling wind.

Today Doug and Jean, who prefer late dinners, are eating after the 7:15 comedian show. We’re doing solo dinner at 5:45. Don’t want indigestion before bed like yesterday. But tomorrow, formal night, we’ll go with their timing so we can all be together.

Dinner wasn’t exactly my thing. Our “private dining” experience consisted of a table separated from the next one by three inches. It’s basically one long table separated into segments by a tiny amount of space which allows the fiction of “privacy” without any of what privacy is actually for. Very jesuitical. The folks next to you can more easily hear you talking than your spouse who is sitting across the table (rather than three inches away from you on your side).

So we had a woman sitting next to us was solo since her husband didn’t want to get dressed up to go to the dining even though there was no requirement to dress up at all (I wore shorts and flip-flops). She was a talker and talk she did, telling us her life story, which at least is an improvement on small talk. Had a joint on Bob Marley grave tour and could barely make it up the hill. The odd thing is she and her husband are retired and yet they made little income during their lifetime such that she receives only $660 a month in social security and he $1800 a month. This translates to about $30k a year. And yet they cruise frequently, just the two of them, and only book the very expensive junior suite because the bathroom is bigger. They are doing a back-to-back cruise this time, staying on the boat for another 5-day cruise after this 4-day cruise is done. They also go to the restaurants you have to pay for (instead of pre-paid). So guessing they probably came into some money via inheritance.

Afterward we went to the comedy/variety show, just a 45 minute introduction that was mostly fluff except for the short 15 minute comedian part. He was pretty funny and I would like to have gone to his full show but it was at 11:15, way too late.

Day 3

Surprised to learn Royal is now charging $10 for breakfast room service, boo. That did seem too good to be true. Their business model seems to be to keep the rate as low as possible and then nickel and dime you. I guess no such thing as a free breakfast, even on a prepaid plan! We went ahead and did it anyway since one of our huge delights is eating breakfast on our balcony while overlooking the ocean (from 6 stories up).

It was delicious, and it’s such a cool thing for me since I’m always bringing food home when at home, so it’s great to have someone deliver to me. Since you can order any amount of food for the same price, I had a ham and cheese omelette, cereal, a donut, bacon milk, coffee, orange juice! A kingly breakfast.

In fact, a cruise is arguably the closest thing a commoner can experience to mimic living as a king: unlimited food, servants cooking and cleaning for you, commanding view of the sea, and “jesters” entertaining you. Basically frictionless living.

Surprised how easygoing the wind is this trip. Usually it’s a wind tunnel. Not sure if because boat only going to one place (Cozumel) and so is going slow, or if the weather is just cooperating. Regardless it’s been a joy to be on balcony so far. Wondrous hours on balcony until duty called in the form of exercise at gym. Saw Jean in there hard at work! Made plans to meet at Windjammer post-workout, so we had a second big meal at 12:30! Then up to 12th floor for some sun time. The rest joined me a half-hour later and Doug wanted to do something active (of course) so I went with him and Bill to a “flowrider” where you boogie board against a strong current in a pool. We started waiting in line but then went on a tube ride instead. You go down this water tube and that was a good adrenalin flush. Doug of course thought it was nothing, a baby run.

Then at 4 o’clock we had a free-throw shooting contest. Eighteen contestants (Doug bowed out saying he couldn’t shoot) so Bill and I toed the line. The top 6 or 7 would advance. I made 3 of 8 and Bill made 2 of 8 and you needed to make 4 to make the finals so we were out, boo. It was nice to shoot some hoops though and it was worth it for that and to burn a couple calories. Feel like I’m 20 again when dribbling the basketball.

Later Steph caught me trying to smoke cigar on the balcony so I was banished to the Siberia of the pool smoking area where a movie was playing at 150 decibels. From one of my books, written by a cardinal of the Church: “Noise has no moderation, like a ship without a captain on a raging sea, whereas silence is a paradise, like a limitless ocean.”

Nice formal dinner. Bill wore a tie and Doug a suit and tie but I went casual as was my plan. The food was better tonight, an amazingly good steak.

Day 4

Today was the big day, the Cozumel day. We docked around 7am and got a late breakfast served after packing and readying for Mexico. Jean and Bill were surprisingly early for them, arriving at 9:40am versus the 9:30 agreed upon time but more daunting was that Jean, who had booked this excursion didn’t have a starting time. So we were flying blind even though we did have a destination: Marti’s Sporting Goods. It wasn’t easy getting there as three of our party of six got separated from the other three when a Mexican policeman blocked our access to the sidewalk. I yelled “Bill!” but he heard too late and we headed through a maze of stores before rejoining the others. Well, except for Doug who had gone looking for us, so we waited for him for awhile. Apparently the policeman wanted to make sure that we walked by the stores instead of just going the direct route to get to the main street.

Finally we arrive at Marti’s but there’s no sign that this is where we should be until a Mexican dude named Jared shows up. It seems as though our timing couldn’t be better as he showed up just when we did. He said we should’ve gotten a confirmation email with the time but Jean couldn’t find it; later he said that she had made the reservation for Feb. 2nd instead of March 2nd and that he had showed up more or less as a lark in case someone showed up. He found the $90 deposit and Bill and I paid our part and voila, we were on the tour. Jean and given us her ID/Password last night to check her email (since she didn’t buy the Wifi package on board) for time of event, but website said “invalid password”. Then today she couldn’t log onto her PayPal due again to failed password.

Our first stop was a local tequila joint (Tequilera Reyes) handled adeptly by a practiced salesperson who gave us a short history of tequila and later gave us many, many tastes. I’d say I had at least ten half-shots. It worked its magic and all of us were amazed how smooth and un-tequila-like these drinks were. So much so that Billy paid $239 for the top of the line 18-year aged bottle. Wow. I bought a $99 minimum sipping quality, a seven-year aged, and Doug and Phyllis bought a couple amaretto bottles.

Next stop was an authentic Mexican bar (Los Mangales), that, by virtue of it being 11:30am, was almost empty. We came in and, cue the music, someone put on some loud Mexicano music - and we had very, very spicy chicken wings and Dos Equis beers. The wings, chips and six beers and the total came to...drumroll... $10. Wow. That’s the price of one drink on board ship.

We traveled to the unpopulated eastern side of the island by van while drinking copious amounts of a cooler full of beer, cans of Kloster Light, which tasted the same as Bud Light. Open container is allowed in Mexico, in a car or on foot. As Jean said, why are why not living in Mexico where the weather is good and you have the freedom to drink outside in public! America, land of the semi-free.

Next up was Coconuts, a colorful thatched bar that offered stunning views of the Caribbean on a picture-perfect (literally picture perfet) sunny day. The bar was festooned with t-shirts from colleges and schools all over the U.S. including, surprisingly, one from Aaron’s Lasalle high school. OSU was naturally represented but no Miami. There were also a lot of women’s underwear and the staff brought out albums of gals who had visited and showed their boobs for a free margarita.

Coconuts offered very strong margaritas. Just ask Steph! I had a brew instead.

Our next bar was a little mom & pop shack along the ocean. Doug and Phyllis got in a tiny hammock for pictures. We got free shots there as well. Steph gave me hers of course.

And our final stop was where we could eat a free lunch (well, included in the price) and afterward snorkel. Doug, Bill, Jean and I went in and fed the fish some tortillas. There were a good number of fish but mostly all big-bodied silver fish, only one pretty blue “Nemo”.

The van headed back at the dock where I found a unique coffee beaded rosary (using actual coffee beans) for Mom. Back to the ship around 4:30 our wallets much lighter but much fun was had. Even Steph, despite (because of?) the over indulgence.

Smoked a cigar briefly with Doug and Phyllis at teeming swimming pool with painfully loud music on. Since Steph strictly enforces no cigar smoking on balcony, I’m left with smoking only in auditory hell (up on 11 with the vulgar 150-decibel music). Jean and Bill did their own thing for dinner so just Doug, Phyllis and us in the dining hall.

Day 5

Breakfast and coffee was scheduled to be delivered at 7:30 but 8 o’clock went by and then 8:30 and then 9 and so I went down to pick up coffee to wait some more. So much for my kingship! Short-lived indeed. So goes the kingship of all earhtly kings. We eventually gave up and ate at windjammer.

Thought of water on the sea and how it’s odd that no matter where you are sitting on the boat the sun forms a line directly to you. The optics of this is (sort of) explained on Wikipedia: “This is due to the fact that when sunlight falls on the ocean's surface, it's reflected in all directions, but you see the illuminated line due to the light rays that are specifically entering your eyes.”

Feels sort like of a metaphor for God since although he’s shining on everybody at the same time, it feels like, when you’re praying he’s shining directly on you? Like how he’s simultaneously communicating with everyone but it feels individualized.

Surprised how much warmer the temps on this cruise are compared to January or early February trips. Could be due to weather luck or maybe a month difference really matters in Caribbean. The ocean view reminds me of a large farmer’s field of corn: sun undulating on the royal blue of the waters or the dark green of silken stalks. Both endless, flat vista. Uncluttered and clean-swept. Moving canvas of blue.

The odd thing is that land is the exception rather than the rule on this earth and yet it feels the reverse given how we all se land about 99% of the time. Similarly, even if there’s life somewhere else in the universe, life is the huge exception rather than the rule. Just ask the folks on Mars or Pluto.

Jonah Goldberg the other day mentioned how the oceans are mostly barren deserts but if you throw a concrete brick it will “create” life, an ecosystem, because amoebas and algae can form on the brick because it gives them something to hold on to. From there little fish nibble at the new food source, then larger fish and so on till you have a burgeoning reef. This is why environmentalists approve of used oil rigs being simply knocked down and allowed to drift to the ocean floor. Sometimes it takes a derrick to raise a village.

For some reason the old Dionne Warwick song “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” came to mind and so I played it on my iPhone. The irony is that the dreamy escape from busy L.A. to then backwater San Jose is dated now that San Jose is the center of Silicon Valley. “Fame and fortune is a magnet / It can pull you far away from home.” Wise words spiritually as well.

Spent nice time on deck, perfect temp with slight breeze, but at 3pm comes deafening music time. Gives me an earache and I’m pretty far from the source of the music. Later, wonderous balcony, beautifully quiet and quietly beautiful.

I see cruising as a semi-nature vacation - like camping but with a steadier supply of food. Ha.

At dinner, Jean wanted to rally and beat fatigue by drinking a combo of hard liquor and Red Bull. She had two of them, despite having never drank a Red Bull before! Bold!

Doug ended up $250 at the casino which made me think, dang I should’ve gone with him. I didn’t think anyone actually won money there. And he did it mostly by playing that most easygoing of card games, blackjack.

Day 6

Silky smooth roll from boat - breakfast at 7:45, left by 8:25 and at hotel less than an hour later. My latest reads: “Alienated America” by Tim Carney and a Florida novel called “Trap Line” by Carl Hiaasen. Cool to read about fishing boats while in Florida on (and now off) a ship.

Poor Doug and Jean trapped in airport Hell.

Here at B Ocean Resort, generous sun, absurdly blue sky, and the Florida chic of pastel blue buildings and orange pool umbrellas. German-speaking couple in front of us. Burnt from sun yesterday, so satisfied with some shade in the slight breeze. The infinity pool idea is something of a mirage since you face the pool not the ocean. Pool bodies here adhere strictly to age: the older, the fatter, perhaps proving that slimness is less a personal virtue than a byproduct of youth.

Lady at pool reading book “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober”. Which is the much anticipated sequel to: “The Expected Joy of Being Drunk”.

Water here is clear and the two-tone hues fetching. Sand is like quicksand so running was a heck of an effort. Spring break so lots of college kids. Not ideal week to be here! Guy at counter said every hotel in Lauderdale booked up.

Hotel playing loud music (of course) but at least it’s 80s tunes. Some I haven’t heard since the 80s. Feels downright time-warpish. Young girls with bodies shy of the perfections to come, like green-ish bananas.

We briefly visited the second pool till 5:30 and then headed on bikes (available as part of resort fee here) towards a Winn-Dixie 2 miles away. We got a little over a half mile up the road before turning around. Too much traffic on roads and too much foot traffic on sidewalk. Plus there was a big uphill stretch Steph wasn’t keen to do. So we headed back and found a small market on the other side of us and I picked up snacks and beer.

Ordered room service at 7 and by 7:30 had delicious blackened fish sandwiches with frees and salad. From 8-10pm we watched a Office marathon. Surprising how well the shows held up. Seems like a couple of those episodes we may’ve even missed. It was Season 3, episodes 22-25, before it jumped the shark.

Day 7

I think this is the most southerly beach we’ve stayed in Florida ever (don’t think we actually stayed in Key West). New Smyrna Beach is a whopping 230 miles north and the waters and sand are correspondingly very different, Fort Myers on the other side of Florida is about 50 miles north. The temperature difference is surprising. For Sanibel in January and February the average temps are mid 50s to mid 70s... here the averages are low 60s to high 70s. Whopper-sized temperature difference between here and Columbus: 77 versus 13. I suspect that’s the biggest differential ever seen while on a vacation.

Teen next to me says, “Holy shit.” Young people here unwittingly offer homage to the tradition they’ve inherited in a thousand ways but perhaps most obviously by language. All words and phrases short of neologisms are handed down from their elders.

More crowded already at 9:30 as yesterday at 10:30 and worse they’re playing music that sound like dying quail. And so in go my AirPods.

Great “turn-about” line in Cardinal Sarah’s book about silence: “Love is always humble, silent, ...on is knees before its beloved... Jesus was on his knees, washing his apostles feet.” Wow, another sign of my missing Christ’s love for me, of a mutual devotion. (Actually, his is much more intense.) I reflexively think it’s a one way street given the mismatch in lovableness.

Saw a ship seemingly going up on the beach. It encouraged me to walk to where it had “beached”; turns out there’s a sharp right turn on the beach separated by giant boulders. The ship was labeled Maersk, a huge Danish international container shipping company and the largest by fleet size.

Steph not happy with this place given the ugly brown sand that doesn’t pack down, the loud spring breakers, the expense, the location (on busy road with cop cars sirens constantly blaring to catch bad college kids), and the fact that an attendant tried to deny us a beach chair at 4:40 because he was packing up before 5pm “chair closing”.

But we had our 20 minutes on the beach. Then we stayed for awhile on beach towels as I smoked a cigar. Back to the pool as it had chilled at windy beach, and we let the sun go down while on uber-comfy loungers there...


March 08, 2019

Why So Many Illegals? Thank Bill Clinton

Interesting backstory to why Mexican illegal immigration took over over past couple decades from Eric Scheske's podcast:
"When I grew up in this town there were like two Mexican families and then by the next summer they're all over the place. What happened?  I heard this from Benedict Groeschel.  He pointed out to me, and I've verified it since, that it was Bill Clinton who caused the problem. For generations, at least 50-100 years, Mexicans had come up from Mexico to work in the agriculture industry and they relied on that money, busted their humps in United States for six months, went back and hung out and took it easy for six months in winters in Mexico.  They came and went and it was quite peaceful.  Labor unions pressured Clinton administration in 1990s to shut down that program and reduce number of workers to come across the border to increase union wages. It didn't work, we needed the workers and people here didn't want those jobs and all that happened was they had to sneak across the border in order to do the jobs their families had been doing for generations.

But once they snuck over they didn't want to sneak back the next year, it would be far too risky, so they just stayed here. That's where the problem came from.  That's the primary cause of this Mexican population that we have, that Clinton just basically shut down the work visa program.  That was bad enough, but then we as a country one up'd that.  Mexicans who stayed ended up getting other jobs, in factories and other places, but when you hire someone they have to fill out an IRS form that has the social security number.  The IRS would reject it because the Mexican had just made one up. So the Mexican would make up a new number and the IRS would say nothing. At that point the IRS and federal government knew that factory had an illegal alien working there.  And they did nothing - and do you know why they did nothing?  Two reasons: one, we needed the workers and the unions got their victory on paper only.  But two, more importantly, the Democrats shining gem in their history, what they think is their shining gem, Social Security, was broken.  And they knew it was broken as baby boomers began to retire, so they bring in all these Mexicans, you accept their bogus SSNs and deduct 7.6% of their salary for Social Security, you put them into the system to bolster your broken system and you know the Mexicans then cannot draw the money later because they gave a bogus SSN.  It's quite insidious, these Mexicans are not wealthy people, you are basically depriving the poor of their wages."

February 23, 2019

Used Car Price Confusion

My car strategy has long been to buy a new car and keep it for 10 years.  This time though I decided to buy a used car with low miles (under 25k).  I found one I liked on Carvana at a price I liked.

Out of curiosity I’ve looked at some of the prices for the same exact vehicle on Carvana and CarMax websites but with more miles.  And what I saw surprised me.   There doesn’t seem to be a corresponding decrease in price of the car commensurate with increased miles.

I’d pictured car depreciation as more or less straight-line until the end when the value decrease slows dramatically. 

So I graphed (in blue) my own rough prediction of car value decrease over time (uniform until around 110k miles), and, in green the various real world prices.  The first green one is the car I bought and the only non-outlier. Or it’s possible I got a good deal and it’s the outlier. 

The X-axis is number of miles driven, in thousands. 

February 21, 2019

Biggest News Shocks of Last Quarter Century

Off top of my head, these are the things that most surprised me over the past 25 years:

Resignation of Pope Benedict.  Lesson?: God knows.
9/11.  Lesson: They hate us, they really hate us. Also that modern evil does not always rely on half-assed emotion-based strategies.
O.J. found not guilty.  Lesson: Race relations is, was, and always shall be fraught.
Blue dress with DNA. Lesson: One person's trash is another's souvenir.
Catholic apologist's Bud MacFarlane's marriage. Lesson: religious orthodoxy does not guarantee much.


Episcopal Prevarication: Lesson: Put not your trust in princes (of the Church)
Media Corruption post-Trump: Lesson: Flee to conservative media, fast as you can!

On New Fashion of Socialism and Other Pundit Quotes

From WSJ:
The American left went into decline after World War II, as the U.S. economy rebuilt. One can’t overstate the central role that private-sector labor unions—auto, steel, mines—played in keeping the Democrats centered.

Whatever their tensions with industrial capitalism, American union leaders like George Meany, Lane Kirkland and Leonard Woodcock knew their success depended on the private sector’s success. With the private unions’ decline and the rise of public-sector unions, whose lifeblood is tax revenue, a significant brake on the party’s roll toward socialism disappeared.
NRO's Jim Geraghty:
For those of us who find Trump’s character abysmal, his rhetoric unworthy of the office he holds, and his judgment erratic at best, his defeat by the Democratic nominee in 2020 would end up reversing some serious policy gains and most likely move the country fast and far in the wrong direction. Continuing Trump’s presidency is going to cost conservatives quite a bit in terms of respect for the Constitution; traditional cultural values; our established military alliances; our already seriously degraded standards for public discourse; and expectations of respect for all Americans of all races, creeds and colors. But the price of not continuing the Trump presidency keeps increasing even higher.
NRO's Charlie Cook:
If what McCabe is saying is true [about the flirtation with the 25th Amendment], this is the greatest norm violation of the Trump presidency and it's not coming from Trump. 

February 17, 2019

Four Green Fields and Psalm 45

In the great Tommy Makem Irish song Four Green Fields, there’s a penultimate line that sends chills: “But my sons have sons, as brave as were their fathers...”.  There’s the tension of the “already and the not yet” given that the testing of the sons of his sons is not yet complete.  

I came across a resonance of that in Scripture today, Psalm 45:16: “Instead of thy fathers, sons are born to thee: thou shalt make them princes over all the earth.”   Other renderings: “Instead of ancestors, you shall have sons..”  Or from the more informal The Message: “Set your mind now on sons— don’t dote on father and grandfather. You’ll set your sons up as princes over all the earth.”  

The Venerable Bede in the 7th century ardently referred to this Psalm verse in his exposition on the twelve loaves “bread of offering” in Leviticus: 
And in this way it is brought to pass that the table of the Lord is never left destitute of bread, but as soon as one loaf is taken away another is put in its place, as long as the churches never lack ministers of the word who follow one another in succession. They always manifest the faith of apostolic piety and the purity of apostolic action, continuing as in that most beautiful verse in which it is said in praise of that same holy church: “Instead of your fathers, sons are born to you; you will make them princes over all the earth.” In other words, that is as if it were being said to the tabernacle of the Lord: “Instead of your old loaves, new ones are prepared for you; you will designate them for the refreshment of the spiritual hearts of the faithful in all the world.” (ON THE TABERNACLE 1.7.11)
It seems an example of how something in popular culture can pluck the strings of an ancient longing and truth. 

February 15, 2019

Of Dogs and Gospel

One of the inexplicable things about Max and Maris is how when I’m praying, Max will leave and Maris will enter the room.  And Steph was holding her Christian small group at our house last night when they began to read Scripture.  Max exited, Maris entered. 

I’m going to have to get some holy water and spritz it on Max.  Take him to St. Maggie’s for the St. Francis day blessing.

Speaking of dogs, local priest Fr Charles on the “dogs” gospel (Mark 7:24) where the woman asking for a healing said even the dogs get scraps from beneath their master’s table:
“This is the only time I can think of in the gospels where Jesus is bested in an argument. And it comes not from a learned professor of the law or Pharisee but a simple Gentile woman.   We can say the woman won the argument but in a way Jesus won too, won from her a deeper level of faith, trust and humility.  If we’ve felt insulted by God’s silence to our prayers, this gospel is for us. We’ll know we’re on the right track if our response is change within like this gentile woman, to realize we’re not “owed” anything by God in terms of his justice. God plays hide and seek with us, like all lovers. We must not be too proud to play it with him. We must not be too “rational” to play.  Jesus loses the argument and wins our hearts. We win the argument by losing our hearts.”

February 14, 2019

Continuing Where Billy Joel's Song Left Off

I've always liked the non-sequitor nature of the catchy old song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (example: “Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson,…), but alas it ends in the 1980s.

So let's take it through the '90s and beyond, using the last verse as the starting off place:
"Wheel of Fortune", Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz
Hypodermics on the shores, China's under martial law
Rock and roller cola wars, I can't take it anymore

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning…

Wall falls, blue dress, Y2K, Tyson’s best
O.J., Princess Di, Columbia in the sky
George Bush, Taliban, 9/11, Afghanistan
Donald Rumsfeld known unknowns, diary of Bridget Jones!

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning…

Facebook, Harry Potter, nipplegate, selfie fodder
Netflix, Kardashian, Lady Gaga's instagram
Barack Obama, Tea Party, you can keep your doctor see
gender neutral bathrooms, gay weddings hookah fumes!

Ref: We didn't start the fire
It was always burning…

Hamilton! Amazon, Lock her up, Bernie conned
Hand size, Hillary, server gone, low energy,
Russian probe, deep state, wall no built, Princess Kate,
AOC, Donald Trump, save us Justice Kavanaugh!

Ref: We didn't start the fire
It was always burning…

February 06, 2019


Surprisingly stirring State of the Union last night. Trump’s gut instincts on what appeals to average people are pretty impressive. Said a lot of things that ring true and that “needed saying”. Reaganesque in a way, since Reagan had that same quality of just telling it like it is, consequences and media hissy fits be damned.

I feel like Bush 41 and Bush 43 State of the Unions were always ducking hard truths and trying to “bring everybody together”. Which is a fool’s errand - none of these speeches bring anyone together really. Bush 41 didn’t even win a second term and Bush 43 was Hitler for the Left no matter what he said.

The only purpose, I think, of these speeches is to inspire those who voted for them. Unfortunately it’d been so long since I heard a Republican president inspire me that I couldn’t understand the appeal of them or why anyone watched. Until last night. Now I get it and understand why Obama’s tedious lectures were so charismatic for his minions. Now it’s our turn, with Trump, to explain our world view, or closer to it. It’s a beautiful thing when Trump talked about the value of human life. He took the Dems to the woodshed on abortion, as well he should. Confronted the Sanders crowd with the evils of socialism in context with Venezuela. He made a bunch of smirking women in white jackets look like jackasses.

February 05, 2019

A New Bishop

Probably only of interest to Central Ohio readers, but we got a new bishop in town, straight out of Long Island (say like "Compton").  Has what sounds to my ears a very authentic New Yawk accent.

Mentions of Bishop Brennan on the web are few and far-flung.  He got a mention when he led a group of Latino pilgrims on very involved Way of the Cross:
"In the Latino cultures, it's a strong custom to have an elaborate procession through the streets," Brennan said. "I've read about it, but I've never seen it before. Right now I'm so impressed by the people's hard work and devotion. They've put a lot of time and effort to make this happen."

He gave a lecture on "The Gospel of Mercy":
Description: Looking at Reconciliation through the lens of the Joy of the Gospel.
Suggested for: Catechetical leaders, catechists, pastoral associates, youth ministers

Cardinal Edward M. Egan, retired archbishop of New York, recalled Bishop Brennan's days as secretary to his good friend, the late Rockville Centre Bishop James T. McHugh. "I would come to see him, and the door was always answered by a young and wonderful priest (Bishop Brennan) who could not have served that bishop any better than if it was his own father."
"He's going to make an excellent bishop," said Joyce Costigan of Bishop Brennan. A parishioner of St. Mary of the Isle in Long Beach, where Bishop Brennan has been pastor since 2010, she said, "He makes you feel at ease no matter what crisis you are having."

A former student of the late Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., [at Fordham] Brennan has been appointed auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Long Island.

The CCD works with the Catholic Biblical Association (CBA) to offer these grants by accepting applications only from the CBA. The objective of the CBA is to promote academic study in the Scriptures...
Bishop Robert J. Brennan, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Center and member of the Liaison Committee between CCD and CBA commented: "It is encouraging to see the renewed interest in biblical literacy at all levels of formation and life of the Church. I'm glad that CCD and CBA grants encourage practical responses to this interest. "

And for the canonization of St Oscar Romero:
Come celebrate this wonderful occasion here at St. Anne’s Church....This will be a Spanish Language Mass but all the community is invited. BISHOP ROBERT BRENNAN—MAIN CELEBRANT Diocese of Rockville Centre Lite refreshments to follow in the lower church. CANONIZACION EN ROMA DEL SANTO MONSENOR OSCAR ROMERO EN OCTUBRE 14, 20

January 24, 2019

Roger Kimball on Time and WFB

Interesting Roger Kimball article on William F Buckley in The Traditionalist, a freebie magazine that came in the mail.

The way Kimball looks at Buckley’s sybarite life is that WFB was engaging in the Jewish/Christian ethic that life is good as found in Genesis. He loved enjoyment, including the use of the latest gadget, a far cry from the Stoic life of convert Russell Kirk:
Our secular age is unfriendly to Catholics, to religion generally, but the irony is that secularists are often less jubilantly worldly than their Jewish and Christian compatriots. “God made the world and saw that it was good.” That bulletin from Genesis might have been the motto of his life.

My point is that Buckley was an affirmative, not an apophatic, character. 
Kimball also muses on time, what it is and its perceived speed:
[Poem inscribed on the pendulum of a clock in a church in England]:
When as a child I laughed and wept
Time crept.
When as a youth I dreamed and talked
Time walked.
When I became a full-grown man
Time ran.
And later as I older grew
Time flew.
Soon shall I find when traveling on
Time gone.
Will Christ have saved my soul by then?
I sent that poem to Bill and he acknowledged the poignancy of the sentiments expressed. During the last year or so of his life, I suspect Bill’s quotidian attitude towards time took on a darker hue. But eschatologically, I like to think, it remained gloriously affirmative.

But to focus exclusively on the world-consuming quality of time is to make the mistake Macbeth made in his famous tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow speech. Raphael presented another, more salubrious, more joyful side of time’s career. For time is not only the grave of every hope, it is also the condition of every success. That grain should ripen or love blossom is a gift of time. It is only a version of nihilism that discounts time, the source of every worldly benefaction, for the sake of time the ultimate repository of every merely worldly aim.
Kimball ends with a visit to Buckley's grave:
How appropriate Buckley now reposes in this this modest, unworldly, self-effacing glen.

January 22, 2019

The Bear is Woke

Fixating on infuriating unfairness of the Covington Catholic kids controversy. Between that story and the Buzzfeed kill piece on Trump it’s been high season for the joke that journalism has become.

Like it or not, we’ve woken the bear. The bear meaning the mainstream media’s overt and menacing bias.  It's enough to drive one into wearing a MAGA cap.

For years we limped along, trying to placate the bear, trying to distract it with bread crumbs. Oh we all knew it was dangerous and biased but we winked at it, saying in effect, “Oh you mean old bear, we know you want to eat us, but we respect your position in society and we’ll go to your Ursine Correspondents’ Dinner and we’ll meekly apologize for our conservatism if you let us do business with you.”

The thinking was analogously, "Never mess with a mammal that spills blood by the barrel."

But two things fatally (fatal for conservative causes I'm thinking) enraged the bear: one, creating a more friendly, alternative bear (Fox News) to work with.  A niche bear, which was a provocation like no other. And two, electing Donald Trump, bear-hater-in-chief.

Now the die is cast. All that remains is supporting the hell out of conservative legal causes, and to journalistic entities National Review, and to more centrist big media types like WSJ.

Long term, I think we'll have to figure out a way to support legal outfits in part because the national media at best ignores and at worst encourages anti-American behavior on religious freedom.  Which is infuriating since that means giving money to lawyers instead of to the poor or for evangelism.

January 16, 2019

The Daily Outrage (film at 11)

A lot of news to process of late. “For we are brought very low,” said the Psalmist and indeed the Church has been humbled. Gone are the days when Catholics could take secret pride in our pontiff before other Christians, be he JP II or Benedict. Gone are the days when we could even trust our bishops to tell us the truth.

There’s something healing in it, like how forest fires destroy but ultimately contain the seeds of rebirth.  There’s certainly a relief in not having to pretend that things are fine. When you’ve been stripped of clothes and are standing naked, you don’t have to try to hide that middle-age paunch. It is what it is.

I’m still taken aback by the downfall of Fr. McCloskey coupled with the devastating early Alzheimer’s onset. I fight against the highly irrational narrative that wants to link the two, either in an early sign of the disease by way of lack of impulse control or as divine punishment (perish that thought, good Lord).

His story is another reminder to embrace the truth about us: we are worthless and we are priceless. It’s a constant effort to keep both in mind given (my) tendency to veer towards admiration or disgust.

Speaking of the latter, Cardinal Wuerl’s denial of previous denials and subsequent admission of forgetfulness after ... oh, heck, it’s way too hard to keep track. It’s all sitcom all the time, Jack Tripper pratfalls and "nighty, nights!"  We're all naked now.

I also felt disgust over the treadmill of outrage (hence this outrage) over so many people clicking on the G*llette video and thus rewarding the company. But it works! That’s what publicizers are paid to do. Create publicity. One can hardly fault someone for being good at their job.  And I certainly engage in my share of hyped outrage so it's hardly fair to quibble with how others get their daily quotient.

Really, this is no time to be an INTJ.  It's too target-rich an environ.  In times like these I wish I were an INTP.

January 15, 2019

Catholicism and Evolution Before Lebron Game

Over the weekend I read an article in Scientific America about how humans have evolved to need activity much more than ape ancestral relatives.  The tone of it was, in the end, off-putting in its assumption of natural selection as the be all and end all. Specifically, one early human variation died out due, presumably, to not having a big enough brain or eating enough meat.  The author implied this was tragic and could’ve been the fate of homo sapiens.

And suddenly my reading went off-track.

This led me to google evolution from the Catholic perspective, ideally something that could be fully researched before the Laker game at 8:30 since I wanted to see Lebron (turns out the game in question is this Saturday).  Given my weak scientific and theological knowledge this Internet survey course seemed a mite ambitious.

I quickly surfed a lot of eye-glazing if important material.  I was surprised by the billion comments on Msgr. Pope’s post alone, many having something reasonably important to say.

Msgr. Pope had offered the important reminder that when science says “random” (merely a lack of cause and effect) we believers say “God”:
"'Mutations in DNA are random, and in natural selection, the environment determines the probability of reproductive success...Organisms are merely the outcome of variations that succeed or fail, dependent upon the environmental conditions at the time.'
"Now what this means is that God is excluded as a cause by an unqualified evolutionary theory. It would be fine if scientists were either silent on the question of God. Or, perhaps if they simply stated that things may be acted upon by an outside force or intelligence but that is beyond the scope of their discipline. But that is not what is being said by many proponents of classical evolutionary theory. They are saying that biodiversity results MERELY from natural selection and random (i.e. non intended or non-purposeful) genetic mutations. They are saying that observable effects of biodiversity are wholly caused by something natural, random and without any ultimate goal or plan.
But a Catholic cannot accept all of this. Even if a Catholic wants to accept that things have evolved in some way (whether through macro or microevolution) a Catholic cannot say that this process is simply random, chance, blind, or with no purpose. We believe that God alone created all things, and that he sustains all things. Neither do we confess some sort of “deist” God who merely started things off and then lets them take their own course. Rather, God sustains and carries out every detail."
Commenter Sarah fixates on my fixation:
"Evolutionary theory presumes death is the prime actor in the emergence of new life forms: Death wipes away some “unfit” forms, and permits the emergence of mutations that eventually lead to higher forms.
If Adam’s creation is forced into the evolutionary framework, it implies failure and death actually set the trajectory for his particular ascent. Was death always Law in the natural world, so it even governed Adam’s rise from the dust? That seems problematic. How may that be squared with the idea that Adam was created immortal, yet lost his immortality by sinning?"
One "fun" if very unpersuasive answer:
"Adam was created with the prototypes in the light-event of Genesis One. Evolution is a fallen process brought about by Adam’s sin. That is why species go extinct. God cursed the Earth as a punishment for Adam’s sin. I think the million dollar question is when Adam and Eve appeared back down on the ground from Paradise. Blessed Anne Catherine suggests that it was a mystical event, and I assume that Adam and Eve were created prior to the evolution of all the types and yet transferred back down to the ground after the Earth had been cycling in a fallen course for many a year. Is this possible? For God all things are possible. And if one accepts the theological idea that Enoch and Elias were taken up to Paradise awaiting Antichrist, this is a similar idea. They are taken up to Paradise, the Earth cycles for thousands of years and then they are transferred back to the ground toward the end of the tribulation."

Elsewhere on the 'net, someone quotes disapprovingly Michael Corey on the loss of the dinosaurs:
Michael Corey concludes Evolution and the Problem of Natural Evil:
“Now we are in a position to understand why an omnipotent Deity would have opted to create the universe in a gradual, evolutionary manner, instead of instantaneously by divine fiat. He presumably did so in order to facilitate the human growth process as much as possible; but in order to do this He seems to have been compelled to implement the same evolutionary processes in the natural world that appear to be an essential part of the Human Definition.”
By this logic, every death and every extinction is significant only insofar as it is the means to an anthropic or human end. Only humans really matter to God.

At the opposite pole from Corey are thinkers for whom evolution is entirely a chance process, with no teleological end involved. Both of these approaches present difficulties for Christians as they think about extinction. The first approach devalues all nonhuman creatures by insisting that they are simply means to an end. The second ascribes little or no value to any particular state of creation.

Is it possible, however, to see creatures long gone as valuable in their own right, as ends in themselves, while not giving up the sense that they are part of a larger providential reality? In her thought-provoking book God and the Web of Creation, theologian Ruth Page refuses to see the deaths of various species as merely a means in the process of creating human beings. Page argues that the life of each creature, and the existence of each species, is an end in itself.
“Teleology is always now! It is with creatures as they live, rather than persuading them further up the evolutionary ladder. Indeed there is no ladder, a metaphor which gives comfort to human beings at the top. Instead, there is only diversity with different skills and lives. . . . [Therefore] creatures who die in the recurrent ice ages, or who are caught in the lava from volcanoes, have their importance to God, and their relation with God during their lives.”
Page discards the idea of an evolutionary ladder and contends that the relationship that God has with each individual creature gives the creature’s life meaning regardless of whether it serves the process of evolutionary development.

In fact, the very notion of “greater evolutionary development” would be suspect to her. The value of any given life is found in God’s companioning of a creature, God’s co¬experience of life and God’s remembering of that life.

This is a foreign concept in a society that idolizes accomplishment. What worth, what meaning, we ask, does a life have that does not survive? What is the meaning of a species that turns out to be an evolutionary dead-end, whose descendants do not have a place among contemporary flora or fauna?

For Page, value is found simply in the act of participation in life. “Fellowship, concurrence or relationship among creatures and between creatures and God is the greatest good of creation. The possibility of such relationships is what creation is about.”

In the creative space of possibility instituted by God in creation, each creature and each species brings glory to God in whatever form it takes. In light of this claim, Page concludes that “neither continuing background extinction, nor the devastation of species in cataclysms, tells against God’s companionship and possibilities of influence in the world.” God’s goodness and love are not called into question by extinction since the worth of the creatures that die is not reliant upon some future good; God was not using their deaths for some larger picture. From Page’s perspective, a world of dinosaurs, or of bacteria, is just as worthwhile to God as the world we currently see, because value is found in being.

As useful as this account is, I don’t think Page tells the whole story. To value creatures for themselves is a good and necessary correction of the anthropocentric approach that has long dominated reflections on the natural world. But it does not necessarily diminish the value of the individual to say that the individual has an impact that is bigger than itself. After all, the world has had a particular history. The chronological march of time gives the world direction, and past events are causally linked to the flourishing and diversification of biological novelty today.

Elsewhere an article quotes a Dominican priest and scholar who celebrates Darwin for loosing us from trouble:
Nature is poorly designed—with oddities such as blind spots built into the human eye and an excess of teeth jammed into our jaws. Parasites are sadists. Predators are cruel. Natural selection can explain the ruthlessness of nature, Ayala argues, and remove the “evil”—requiring an intentional act of free will—from the living world. “Darwin solved the problem,” Ayala concludes.
Another article references a professor from Notre Dame:
Plantinga says Darwin's evolution -- the descent of species with modification, driven by natural selection -- does not suggest either way the viability or inviability of theistic faith. God could have, within that system, caused "the right mutations to arise at the right time," guiding evolution so man was still made in the image of God. It is instead "naturalism," the belief in an evolution that is random and undirected, that pushes both the current limits of scientific knowledge and the boundaries of the hard sciences themselves.
The author of the piece who quoted Plantinga, Chase Nordengren adds:
However, I think the argument is theologically troublesome as well. It is characteristic of a kind of body-soul dualism to separate truth, in some ways a manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our souls, from the neurobiological output of our brains. Further, it treats truth as this concrete, delineated reality, as though truth were not the accumulation of facts and habits across generations and instances.
Truth is, theologically, Christ himself and goodness itself.
Knowledge of truth separates man in that sense, but is (almost by extension) an evolutionary advantage as well. We must fully understand dangers to overcome them. We know each other in order to care for each other. Understanding the world as it is helps us survive.
From both Eden's tree and Kubrick's monolith springs the knowledge that makes the difference for human beings. Whomever, or whatever, put them there, it is the humans themselves who ultimately reached toward that knowledge and accepted it. The reductive notion of a single cause of that leap -- either God or randomness -- fails to consider the breadth of unexplored evolutionary possibilities.

Finally, I was also taken aback by someone asking how Mary could’ve called herself “THE Immaculate Conception” when Adam and Eve were likewise conceived without original sin.  But I’ll reluctantly leave that for another day, hopefully one without a sporting event upcoming.

January 11, 2019

Notes on the Symphony

High tops and cowboy boots. Gosh it's been so long. I want the cosseting again. This was triggered by seeing knee-high boots on the second violinist in the CSO. I'd just arrived at the dress rehearsal.

Twenty minutes before I'd wound through the maze of a nameless parking garage - a forgettable floor inside a forgettable building on a forgettable street that I would surely never find again after the left-brain retreat - so I free'd myself from the labyrinth's clutches and found street parking on corner of Main and 3rd.  Ahhh relief....only about a half-mile walk to Ohio Theatre. Parking may be a pain but concerts are massage therapy for the brain.

I didn't look at the program but the music was instantly recognizable upon entry if not my favorite. Suddenly an unexpected treat: dancers from BalletMet.  I think immediately of Bill Luse's daughter. They form perfect 90 degree straight lines with their legs, rewarding the viewer with the feeling that entropy has vanished and order restored. Seeing the ballerina reminds me of a sometimes overlooked female superiority: the splits. Call it splits envy.

As always, the conductor reminds me of Jeff Bezos in his looks and mien if not wealth.

The music is soaring and powerful, akin to feeling the Caribbean sun on your face in mid-winter.

The pianist comes out with head down, moppish hair with more than a hint of gray through which he occasionally runs his hands. Looks the absent-minded professor type. He totes a leather bag that appears to have no clear purpose and plays without anything in front of him. Dark suit jacket and dark pants, he creates magic using his hands and the ivories.  He's 58, born in Armenia now an American living (where else?) in NYC. I like these itinerant musicians with their glamorous lives of music and travel and ... leather tote bags and good parking spaces.

January 09, 2019

Breakin' that Skein of Self-Reflection

Thomas Merton, like Pope Francis, was big on criticizing and lobbing complaints, particularly at the fellow Catholics around him.  But that's a feature, not a bug, turns out. Interesting to see a “lean in” admission/defense of Merton (by Thomas Moore) in the introduction to the monk's book Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander:
He is an unsentimental monk writing from a basic optimism, but fully aware of the follies and unsophisticated thoughts surrounding him. Don’t demand that he be aware of his own follies; for, every passionate person has to break through the skein of self-reflection, and live and talk with abandon.
Hey, turns out I’m allowed to be passionate and critical on Twitter and Blogger sans guilt! Yay me.

But seriously, I did find the introduction a very good read.  Moore’s comment is not too far afield from what I was thinking not long into Francis’s pontificate, how by definition the passionate crusader must lack self-reflection. I wondered if you can even be effective Leftist voice [with self-reflection] since if you're going to change the world you have to be sure of what you're doing. There's no way Luther starts a Reformation if he was unsure of his rhetoric or if he gave his enemies the benefit of the doubt.

January 08, 2019

Jesus Wanted Open Borders?

Kind of fascinating how Dawn Eden has become radicalized in the Pope Francis era.  Mostly shown by her energetic tweets attacking Vigano and defenders of Vigano.  Yesterday she retweeted someone saying, "Jesus Christ would tear down a wall, and give immigrants the shirt off of his back. I know this, and I'm Jewish. What the hell has happened to Christianity in America?”

I tweeted “This just in! Lost gospel says that Jesus said countries shouldn’t have borders! Don’t tell Joan of Arc.”  An imperfect analogy, of course, given we're not at war with Mexico but I've noticed the whole concept of having a border (which means a wall/fence) is insulting now to the Left, who have moved strongly left on the issue.

Sarcasm aside, it's surreal to me how they see the only authentic charity as "government charity” through force (or lack of force, by abolishing ICE).  The Left might respond, "oh, you feel the same way about abortion, trying to use the government to enforce morality."  I guess.

So it’s seen as the Christian position to open our border and try to save millions of Mexicans and Central Americans while ignoring that our own middle class is falling into poverty and opioids.  Who on the Left cares if you send private charity dollars to Mexico in hopes of building up the economy there?

The lack of nuance of a complex issue is what leaves me breathless. There are huge societal impacts to having large numbers of immigrants without skills come here. There are benefits to be sure as well, even if they disproportionately benefit the well off. There are “unseen” costs involving a much greater need for social services and education, and more visible ones like multicultural tensions and fewer unskilled jobs for current Americans. Not to mention the political risk of tons of new Democratic voters unwittingly hellbent on hastening the country’s decay.

The issue is admittedly not given to easy answers. “How many is too many immigrants?” is a tough question.  What no one on the Left will never consider (which is how you know not to take them seriously) is: “How many immigrants is the ‘right’ number and to what degree should they be educated and have skills?”  Everything else is a cheap trick.

Last year heard a well-connected priest from our diocese (he talks to papal nuncios and bishops regularly about immigration), but he didn't have a solution to the general problem of Catholicism and state, which has been going on for 2,000 years.

But I do have a better feel for why the bishops tend to be so big on the issue.  The gist, according to him, is that Catholicism has always wanted to see the unity of the Body of Christ lived out on the ground as far as there being not nation states, hence the appeal of the Roman empire and later the Holy Roman empire.  The universal nature of Catholicism innately pictures a kingdom of Catholics irrespective of nationality, hence that's the reason the bishops across the world are so supportive of the European Union and the United Nations.

Origin said that the kingdom of Heaven should be mirrored on earth as well as possible; Catholics didn't even evangelize outside the Roman empire in the early centuries, equating Christendom with an earthly empire (in this case Roman) in which Christianity can be lived out more seamlessly, while the Arians did evangelize the "beyond the pale" to the Germanic tribes and thus therein lies much of the success of the Arians.

He said the conundrum was that we need Mexican labor so a wall won't solve that problem;  he said the old Ellis Island days of one port of entry was gone, that you couldn't really do that in this day of social media and instant communications, presumably because illegal immigrants will always find a way around.

January 07, 2019

Coriolanus Calling

Good Kevin D. Williamson piece on the plebes and the elites and Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. The problem with reading is everything leads me to something else, endlessly.  Fortunately this led me to Shakespeare.

The conservative Twitterverse was roiled of late by Tucker Carlson’s recent populist/viral pronouncement, about how the elites like Romney don’t care about us - some say he made some good points, others were of the mind (like David French) that he was wrong.

Part of the Tucker thing comes down to the familiar tension between personal responsibility and a leader’s responsibility. It seems almost impossible to square and ultimately is a judgment call that involves the judging of others.

Humans are complex and situations likewise and it’s pretty unrealistic to think anyone can come to a determination (such as where a person’s free will really ends). I was hoping Shakespeare might’ve weighed in on it, and Kevin Williamson quotes the Bard's play approvingly (in fairness, related to a different issue, that of the Twitter mobs) but according to the Globe Guide to Shakespeare says it’s not that cut and dried:
The story is a fable however you look at it, but it points in different directions: in one reading, Coriolanus is a hero deserted by a fickle populace; in another, he is a villain whose arrogance threatens dictatorship. Shakespeare makes room for both those positions and more besides, drawing on the politics of his own day to press home urgent and thorny questions about how democracy should operate.
The play has been used in the past for both a denunciation of democracy and “mob rule” to the opposite. But of course that's what makes great art.

January 04, 2019

It's the End of the World As We Know It...

I recall on Jerry's blog he talked about how he was going into a funk, the “black dog” of depression and anxiety, when his stepdaughter called and told him she wanted to play a musical instrument and asked if he had one. He had indeed played trombone in school and so spent the next couple hours looking for it all over the house with her, and then he taught her the basics of trombone playing.  He said he was lifted out of his depression and it had changed his outlook for awhile.

And just today I heard a podcast with the author of “Tribe”, Sebastian Junger, who said:
“Admissions to psych wards went down during the WWII blitz of London and back up when it stopped.  If you give people an urgent task it gives them the opportunity to stop thinking about themselves, and when you do that you cut short this awful feedback loop of something that’s called ‘anxious rumination’.  If you give troubled folks enough space to think too much and they think themselves into a circle and get more and more anxious and depressed.  A crisis pops them back into the present moment, a sort of zen idea to be in the present moment, right here right now and they can forget about their personal troubles. One British official said in amazement, ‘We have the chronic neurotics of peacetime driving ambulances.’”
Junger said that humans are evolved to deal with trauma, that there’s been traumatic events for all of our history (in the past much more so) and that if survivors of traumatic events didn’t gather food the next day there would be no human race eventually.  He said that what’s different now is that we experience our trauma in an isolated environment. A rat tortured by a cat for awhile and left by itself will develop ongoing symptoms of trauma.  A rat tortured by a cat but immediately reintegrated into the rat community will be indistinguishable from the other rats within a week.

People need to be needed he says.  This seems to explain the inexplicable, such as why my grandmother was aggrieved by no longer being able to cook for live-at-home son Mark.  I'd thought that a great boon to her.

I’m unsure if it’s just a natural condition of aging, that one feels that the “centre cannot hold” (or, more prosaically, that things are going to hell in a hand basket), but things feel tenuous, house-of-card-sy.  Fiscally, for sure, post-2008 (which showed even money market funds aren’t secure).  Politically, obviously. Environmentally. Drug-wise. Idols are being smashed, the handy definition of which being anything that “I can control that will meet my needs.” There’s a confluence at work and it’s writ large in tragic script of the local obits.

Part of me looks at the dysfunction and wonders, “how long?” And yet another part looks at Detroit and thinks, “the Tigers still exist; we’ll muddle through, we always have.” The Christian view is that resurrection follows every death or decline and that “children are an act of optimism—sheer belief that the future will outshine the present.” 

From a Salman Rushdie (“The Golden House”) at the fools’ gold the Boomers discovered:
[They] grew up in fantasyland, the last generation in full employment, the last age of sex without fear...but somehow in their years in the fairy tale had... given them the conviction that by their own direct actions they could change and improve the world, and allowed them to eat the apple of Eden, which gave them the knowledge of good and evil, without falling under the spell of that spiraling Jungle Book Kaa-eyes of the fatal trust-in-me Snake... Whereas now horror was spreading everywhere at high speed and we closed our eyes or appeased it. 
Seems there’s something for everyone these days, dystopian-wise. The environmentalists, the politicians, families, Christians, economists, schoolteachers, health care pros, dog-catchers (“Dogs and cats, living together..”), even (especially) this Pope, who, like the dog who caught the car, now isn’t sure what he wants to do with it.