November 30, 2002

I was stunned to see Eve Tushnet's quotation of Daffy Duck: "I'm not like other people. I can't stand pain. It hurts me."

Is there nothing new under the sun? In 8th grade a friend and I had come up with a line we thought startingly original: "I don't like pain. It hurts!".

Which reminds me...back when I was on AOL and was prompted for my "favorite quote" for my profile I noticed there was somebody else with my fav oxymoronic phrase, "Credo quia absurdum". Go figure.

November 29, 2002

Winter’s rude embrace
a marriage of dark and cold
a shrewish bride and brutish groom
principle of double-effect negated:
she smacks with one hand
he smites with the other.
"Hastings and Rivers, take each other's hand;
Dissemble not your hatred, swear your love."
- Shakespeare.

True Story
The sign of peace was a sign of war. The pair were slapping each other silly. The elder brother had attempted to offer the sign of peace and the younger said, “Hey, you won’t catch me raising my hands or shaking hands or any of that shit.” The elder said, “well at my parish we’re all a lot older and we hug and kiss cuz you know we’re a lot closer to the end."

The end times, especially our own, tends to concentrate one's mind wonderfully.
Warring Cats Sleeping
fallow felines
slaybacked slackers
cast caution to the four winds
paws askew, unguarded bellies
vulnerable in slumberous oblivity
a truce in the War of the Poses
an unconscious amour
born of mutual fatigue
and the trust of closed eyes.
A Long and Winding Post...
A tip o' the cap to two fecund posters in the blog world - Flos Carmeli & Tenebrae. Steven's latest post about the slavery-uber-alles situation at Mount Vernon felt inexorably Christian, though reading it was a penitential act for which I hope to receive some sort of indulgence. But he hath the high moral ground. My inclination is that our society has gone from a glaring omission of attention to minorities to a catering to them that borders on the unhealthy, given that this sort of catering ups the ante and lead to a selfishness and an insatiability on the part of the aggrieved. (How much do we read about "No Irish Need Apply" signs that were posted on business across the U.S. in the late 19th century? Every group in the history of the world can point to some unbelievable atrocity committed against them. Some just know history better than others, and generally the more you know about the atrocity committed against your group, the madder you get. Knowledge of history can be a negative, since forgiveness is exercised with so much difficulty.)

But, I recognize that that attitude is not the better angel of my nature. I'm thinking that Christians have to enjoin political correctness, for example, to the fullest extent we can in order to please our brothers and sisters sisters and brothers. It seems a small price to pay to refer to someone as the "chair" or as "chairperson" instead of the "chairman" if it honestly makes someone happy (see Stevenson quote below). William F. Buckley may scream foul, but it seems like we should what we can, even if it be hopelessly inadequate. A woman I know is against the Catholic Church because of the issue of woman's ordination. Would that be enough? We ordinate a woman. The next step would be do we have enough women priests? How come there are only 10% women priests after 20 years of women's ordination? come the Church won't give women the right to choose?

But I'm digressing royally and perhaps am being unfair in making assumptions. I'm apparently squandering what spiritual benefit I got from reading Flos's post. I must run in the direction contrary to my nature. My nature is to be selfish.

(Providentially?), I just read Stevenson's comment today (quoted and approved by no less an authority than the future saint Dorothy Day) that "my duty to my neighbor is more nearly expressed by saying that I have to make him happy". Thus we need to please, include, love and make happy everyone including those who are the least among us in numerical terms as individuals and collectively - the handicapped, minorities, the poor, et al, to the point we can. And to do so as gleefully as grace will provide. In giving in to demands by aggrieved groups in matters that may not seem important to us, we are presumably making individuals within those categories happy.

The yin and the yang...
Dylan's posts fascinate me, especially the "serenity prayer ain't for me" one. It seems to me he is right on the mark concerning our Lord and the Blessed Mother having moments of non-serenity. Yeats, in one of his poems (I believe "The Second Coming") refers to Christians as stony and sleepy, as somehow not fully alive. This is false, obviously, though we certainly are asleep compared to the beautific vision to be enjoyed in the next world, but I wonder if Yeats saw this as an aspect of Christians of his day who not only dared not to risk, but to also castrate all negative emotions. To borrow from "Desperado": "you're losin' all your highs and lows, ain't it funny how the feeling goes...". What loss or disintegration to my personality would occur if I be stripped of all my tenebrae? I must trust that it be not loss, but gain. The paradox is that the saints are more perfectly themselves than sinners! There is more diversity among the saints than among the damned.

Honesty is a good thing, though there is a tension, a dissonance between what I feel and what I should feel - like giving God thanksgiving. Am I being dishonest in thanking God when I don't feel thankful? Perhaps I should pray "Please give me the gift of appreciation." or "Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief".

Better at 20?
Tis in some ways easier to be a better person at age 20 than today, because I knew less (and knew it) and needed more. I was needier in terms of money, in terms of the need for friendship, in terms of knowledge. Goethe says "Christianity gave us a reverence for what is below", but it's easier to have reverence for everybody if you're already in the below category looking up. In knowing less, I judged less. In not being able to discern between right and wrong, I was more blind to my flaws and to others' flaws. I was more respectful of authority, because I had not yet seen it abused.
Happy the men whose strength you are!
    They go from strength to strength -
Psalm 84
There is an idea abroad among moral people that they should make their neighbors good. One person I have to make good: myself. But my duty to my neighbor is much more nearly expressed by saying that I have to make him happy - if I may.

True realism always and everywhere is to find out where joy resides, and give it voice... For to miss the joy is to miss all.

Robert Louis Stevenson

November 27, 2002

Well, Amy's not fooling around here. A long dissertation on the bishops, S.U.V.s and distinctions between fallible and infallible teaching. It's a messy business...See Disputations' typically cool-headed response. Here is Avery Dulles' attempt to reconcile changes on the issue of religious freedom.

Amy sez: What some – Catholic and non-Catholic – don’t understand is that when Catholic religious leaders and teachers speak they are supposed to be interpreting Tradition for the present day, bringing it to bear on new situations. Now, granted, this is a difficult area, and one that is not infallible. Got it?

On one level, it makes little sense: when bishops teach on contemporary issues, they teach authoritatively, but not infallibly. Even – I dare say it – much papal teaching falls in this category. I’m still reading those bios of J23 (yes…) and am currently slogging through accounts of how radical Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris were in the context of previous centuries of papal pronouncements –especially on freedom of conscience and freedom of religious practice. Apologists can try all they want to say “Well, they weren’t really a change..” but they’re just grasping at straws. Yes, they were.

But the hard part is the fact that there is no dearth of misapplications and misstatements of tradition, even by bishops, and even by popes – especially the more specific the issue. Which brings us back to the knotty issue that got me started: Faith extends to all areas of life, including, for example, how I spend my money and how I treat the environment....But somehow, something goes screwy – something doesn’t seem quite right when religious leaders try to pin down that specificity and make pronouncements on economic policy, for example.

So here’s the question – how can religious leaders and teachers walk the line, balancing the commitment to help the flock understand the totality of the faith commitment, yet avoid making statements on the minutiae of life that make them look at best silly and at worst, like frantic little totalitarians?

November 26, 2002

Is there a place where our vanished days secretly gather?
- John O'Donohue, Anam Cara
Interesting article in the New York Times:

One of the ironies of Christianity in China is that in the first half of the 20th century, thousands of missionaries proselytized freely and yet left a negligible imprint. Yet now, with foreign missionaries banned and the underground church persecuted, Christianity is flourishing in China with tens of millions of believers.
There it lay, in the very beginning pages of my bible! The treasure of Sierre Madre, before my very eyes – the answer to a difficulty that gnawed, as a descendent of Cain. What solace to know I am not unique in this, and that already in Gen. 4. Cain is given the choice with how to deal with God’s greater acceptance of his brother’s gift. Here is the key in how to glory in the Immaculate Conception, or St. Paul’s road to Damascus experience! Cain teaches, by his bad example, not to be envious of the spiritual gifts given to others and in respecting God’s perogative. A limited predestination view, in the Aquinas tradition (i.e. not wretched double- predestination) seems salutary in a proper understanding of scriptures.
Excerpts from Richard Brookhiser's The Adamses: America's First Dynasty
Interesting excerpts about Henry Adams, especially given his proudly Puritan heritage and struggles with faith. It is also interesting in light of the fact that some want to minimize or de-emphasize Marian devotion with an eye toward ecumenicalism. Mary is perhaps needed more than we think. Adams seemed to think the Middle Ages an apex of some sort, and that they were united by art, Aquinas and love of the Virgin.

...[Henry Adams] and the Lodges took a tour of Gothic cathedrals, mostly in Normandy...Seeing these buildings made him feel reborn. They seemed to make all later art 'vulgar.' ...Lives, thoughts, and art were all shaped by the age's religious beliefs. So is Adams's account of them; throughout most of his book, he is himself a Roman Catholic of the period.

He presents it to the Virgin Mary. Around her, he argues, the hearts and minds of the Middle Ages revolved....[To Adams] Mary is necessary to the scheme of the universe, for she represents the principle of love and mercy. Without her, the justice of God, and even of Christ, would be too severely regular (Adams recounts numerous tales of favors done by Mary, even to - especially to - undeserving ones). 'This is heaven!' writes Adams. 'And Mary looks down from it, into her church, where she sees us on our knees, and knows each one of us by name.'

- Richard Brookhiser
Under the level winter sky
I saw a thousand Christs go by.
They sang an idle song and free
As they went up to calvary.

Careless of eye and coarse of lip,
They marched in holiest fellowship.
That heaven might heal the world, they gave
Their earth-born dreams to deck the grave.

With souls unpurged and steadfast breath
They supped the sacrament of death.
And for each one, far off, apart,
Seven swords have rent a woman's heart.
-Marjorie Pickthall, Marching Men
Most of us know dysfunctional couples who constantly fight and then make up spectacularly. It's as if they don't appreciate the person until they fight, after which they are so miserable that in coming back together their relief is multiplied. While I (thank God!) don't have that relationship with my wife, I sometimes sense a mild version of that in my relationship with God, for I feel much closer to him after I have sinned than if I've just muddled along in typically mediocre fashion....Thus in the immediacy of post-conversion struggles during which I at times "sinned boldly" (to borrow Luther's phrase) I also felt a closeness. All this of course uses the devilish word "feel" which is of course illusory, as God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.
       from verwheile doch...ruminations and factoids from the long Sunday read:
John Updike's favorite theologians are Karl Barth and Soren Kierkegaard.

I'm intrigued by the fact that religion is often considered by atheists as "wishful thinking" - something that people subscribe to make their death palatable. And perhaps that is true for some elderly. But for those of us whose death appears to loom in the far future, and given Christianity's difficult moral commands, it doesn't seem a very good explanation. Most people hardly save or think about retirement - why should we assume they are religiously motivated for something even farther away in time? Perhaps the motivation is that the believer thinks it is the best explanation for reality?

I like "hey I'm onto something!" moments, even when lived vicariously. I got that feeling reading of Scott Hahn's discovery of an obscure book written fifty years ago by a Harvard professor. It wasn't listed on and they have a decent selection of out-of-print books. Mr. Hahn found Zimmerman's "Family and Civilizations" to contain an excellent descripiton of the devolution of families in great civilizations:

- "Trustee" family where the family obligations are considered sacred and extend through time (adultery is considered a crime and a sin)
- Nuclear family where family obligations are considered morally correct (adultery a sin)
- Atomistic family where obligations are considered something to escape (adultery as lifestyle choice).

Zimmerman wrote that no great civilization began without a trustee family situation and all great civilizations ended in an atomistic family situation. No civilization was ever able to reverse the trend, i.e. go from atomistic to nuclear or nuclear to Trustee. A one way throughfare.

November 25, 2002

TV sitcom Friends new model of happiness?

Saw this NY Times story , on the best-selling computer game (Sims):

Interestingly, the stories generally don't seem to regard marriage as the happily-ever-after ideal. Instead, cliques are the key to paradise. In story after story, the happy denouement comes when the main character settles into her new home, furnishes it to her taste and then invites 5 or 10 people over, and they surround her with companionship and celebrate her triumphs.
What to do
with our unutterable smallness
victims of our own success;
we mete out meager portions of courage;
fighting tiny battles like Saint Therese.
To eat the untoward critique,
to clean the dishes unbidden,
to declench from the stray erotic dream.

But who defines tinyness?
Creation was
an act of dizzying
smallness for Him;
that He delights in it
is the message.
Card Dreams
Looked up an old friend – Mickey Mantle, 1961. Perenially young, the Mick was my favorite player growing up even though he'd retired when I was an infant. The Mick was it, the Oklahoma boy who filled Dimaggio’s shoes. Wearing the holy pinstripes of the Yankees, he epitomized grace, beauty and a godly above-it-all-ness. The 1961 card was my favorite, my source of solace. He looks out with that praternaturally calm visage, bat on his shoulder, eyes fixed with a look of slight amusement as if the game were merely that – a game. He has an aristocratic air; the narrowed eyes, Roman nose and thin lips. It isn’t a baseball card as much as a work of art.
My other hero was Roberto Clemente, 1971 card. Quiet, even taciturn, he let his playing do the talking. He was constantly on humanitarian missions to his home country when one went awry and a plane accident took his life – a week after he’d finished the season with exactly 3,000 career hits. It was the kind of symbolism that appealed to me, as if it an act of God. 3,000 hits exactly – neat and clean, like the way John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day: the 4th of July.
A wonderous Friday morning – a gulp of lectio divinio under the unlikely guise of John Steinbeck. Chapter 25 of “East of Eden” soothed a spiritual nerve. It was a long discussion of Gen 4:1-16 and the nature of free will, and it led me by the nose to the wonderful resources I’ve been blessed with. I looked up Cain in the New American Bible Dictionary, then Gen 4:1-16 in both Haydock’s Bible Commentary and “A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture”. I bathed in the light of verses I had never examined so closely before, prompted by a secular source.

November 24, 2002

Wise Man
If I were conjuring up a wise man, I would give him a deep understanding of Scripture and an intense relationship with God. Add a generous heaping of philosophy, from Aquinas through the moderns. Test him in the fire of adversity. Give him the soul of a poet.

God, I love our pope.

November 23, 2002

Fallible Consciences
It was spring of '78 and I was reading May Sarton’s “Journal of a Solitude” between newspaper deliveries and fights with my sister over her infuriating lack of allowing me to get the last word (which Bill O’Reilly so generously provides his guests).

The one thing we could agree on was that anyone who wanted a newspaper before 9am was in serious need of a life. Those people should be enjoying their rest. Nine a.m. on a Saturday morning was the middle of the night and heck, they just plain didn’t need a newspaper before then. Sometimes I felt a little guilty about it but when I examined my conscience I asked “would I want a newspaper before 9 on a Saturday morning?”. I said “heck no!” and this eased my conscience greatly. I was doing unto others as I would others do to me.
Nature dies,
the annual capitulation
insulated by our furnaces
we ignore the message.

November 22, 2002

My brother-in-law, God bless him, sent the family an email entitled "Must read- this is a tear-jerker". The e-mail was a meandering "Open Letter to Buckeye Fans" from an Iowa fan who, in it, struggles to come to terms with his conflicted feelings concerning the great issue of our day: whether to support OSU tomorrow. The verdict? A resounding "Beat Michigan". Days later, I'm still attempting to work up some tears. Apparently I'm an unfeeling bastard.

Example of a tear-jerker:
For a Female:
-a child is kidnapped, a tornado levels a neighborhood, man cheats on wife, anything on Lifetime network
For a Male:
-an Iowa fan tells a Buckeye fan: "Beat Michigan"

Oh....I almost forgot: GO BUCKS!
Steinbeck's Biblical Exegesis
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD." And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions.

And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen?

If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.

- Gen 4:1-15...RSV version

character from East of Eden:
The more I thought about the story, the more profound it became to me. Then I compared the translations we have - and they were fairly close. There was only one place that bothered me. The King James version says this - it is when Jehovah has asked Cain why he is angry. Jehovah says, 'If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.' It was the 'thou shalt' that struck me, because it was a promise that Cain would conquer sin."

Samuel nodded. "And his children didn't do it entirely," he said.

Lee sipped his coffee. "Then I got a copy of the American Standard Bible. It was very new then. And it was different in this passage. It says, 'Do thou rule over him.' Now this is very different. This is not a promise, it is an order.
After two years [of learning Hebrew] we felt that we could approach your sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis. My old gentlemen felt that these words were very important too-'Thou shalt' and 'Do thou.' And this was the gold from our mining: 'Thou mayest.' 'Thou mayest rule over sin.'

"Don't you see?" he cried. "The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in 'Thou shalt,' meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel-'Thou mayest'- that gives a choice. It might be the most important word inthe world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if 'Thou mayest'- it is also true that 'Thou mayest not.'

Now there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, 'Do thou', and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in 'Thou shalt'. Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be...

It is easy out of laziness, out of weakness, to throw oneself into the lap of deity, saying, 'I couldn't help it; the way was set.' But think of the glory of the choice! That makes a man a man. A cat has no choice, a bee must make honey...It is true that we are weak and sick and quarrelsome, but if that is all we ever were, we would, millenniums ago, have disappeared from the face of the earth." - John Steinbeck


Note that God retains his choice, in favoring Abel's gift, as He favored the Blessed Virgin in the Immaculate Conception. God often favored the youngest instead of the oldest, the weak against the strong in Scripture, contrary to earthly thinking (especially in OT times when the eldest was the most respected).

November 21, 2002

All I ask is to be onto something.
“When college was over and Adams had to get a real job he had this to say: 'Total and complete misery has followed so suddenly to total and complete happiness, that all the philosophy I can muster can scarce support me under the amazing shock'.”
-McCullough's John Adams
"Never ... despair of the Mercy of God!"
-final line of the Rule of Saint Benedict
NRO's Benny Nirenstein has an interesting article:
I don't know whether the gap between Europe and America has ever been so great. No one I know identifies himself as pro-American. Despite recent waves of anti-Semitic and racist violence, and Le Pen's strong showing in the French elections, Europeans believe Americans to be racist, while they themselves are culturally tolerant.

The inability of Europe to truly separate religion from state compounds the problem. No Italian politician can afford to ignore the Catholic Church. British politicians still look toward the Church of England for their moral guidance. When religion and politics mix, it can breed two extremist outcomes: One of fundamentalism as afflicts the Islamic world, and the other of irresponsible pacifism that now afflicts Europe, with an effect equally dangerous.
Knee-jerk No Mo'
When I look at the political parties I see differences that sometimes appear arbitrary. For example, there is no good reason the Democratic party should be so anti-life given its history of sympathy for the defenseless and given the Catholic influence (Catholics were just about all Democrats 50 years ago).

But parties have to draw clear lines, clear differences. And so one party starts flirting with pro-life or a pro-abortion stand, find it draws people and begin solidifying it in stone. The parties lurch leftward or rightward to preserve the distinction.

I make this in order to warn of the danger of viewing denominations in political terms, although they do share certain similarities in that positions are staked out. Thus, I think part of the anger I hear from Protestant circles concerning Mary seems to betray an anger well beyond what a reading of scripture would indicate (i.e. "all generations will call me blessed"). Similarly, when I hear of older Catholics who think bible reading is for Protestants, well, it makes your hair curl. As if Protestants had cornered the market on bible reading. Or on a personal relationship with Jesus (what can be more personal than eating his Body and drinking his Blood?). So to both sides I pray, let us eschew knee-jerk responses to foreign stimuli.
From Fotos del Apolcalypsis:
A like of spirits is usually seen in catholic atmospheres, wine mainly.... It comes from a defense (conscientious leading to militant) of the simple pleasures of life, a Christian attitude that took root in the Middle Ages (with types like St Francis... and Chaucer...) and which the Latin, southern catholicism would try to maintain against a puritan Anglo-Saxon Protestantism. Yes, this is harshly delinated, but the reader will know to mollify.... Such Anglo-Saxon converts are suspicious of this vision of the things - and it does not seem to me bad. Chesterton has, in his typical vision of the things, poetries like this one: "And Noah I have often said to his wife when they sat down to dine, ' I don't care where the water goes it it doesn't get into the wine.'

In a case of role reversal, I once played devil's advocate to a Protestant friend (who drinks). I said something like, "why shouldn't we error on the side of not imbibing since no one is saved by drinking but some have perhaps been damned?". He bristled, having grown up in a Fundamentalist household. Evidentally he'd heard that line before. Having lived with prohibitions of gambling, of dancing, of watching movies with the nudity skipped he didn't like that argument. (He once told his minister dad - who didn't have a problem with movie violence but did with sex - "You'd sooner see a breast chopped off than fondled"). Anyhow, the idea is that by making prohibitions on oneself one eventually could end up prohibiting enjoyment in general. There is a Christian book titled, "When I Relax I Feel Guilty".

And so we risk being charged with looking askance at some of the good things God has given us. What child looks at something his father gave him and says, "I'm going to error on the side of pleasing you by not enjoying what you have given me"? Obviously none of this is a license for immoderate behavior. No father gives his son a video game and then wants him to play it all day and night to the exclusion of everything.
Is it Politicians, or us?
I think part of the reason that politicians are so negatively viewed is that they serve a spoiled electorate and thus have to contort themselves in ways often not becoming. I don't agree with Michael Kinsley on much, but his book "Big Babies" seems truthful. His premise is that people want big government and low taxes, which is impossible. Politicians, in order to be elected, must then walk this tortured path of promising as much as possible while not raising taxes. It invites, though doesn't excuse, dishonesty.

November 20, 2002

“The question of whether God exists is less important than whether he is love”.
- from an Advent meditation book
Hey now, that ain't nice...
"A man who is converted from Protestantism to Popery, may be sincere: he parts with nothing: he is only superadding to what he already had. But a convert from Popery to Protestantism, gives up so much of what he held as sacred as anything that he retains: there is so much laceration of mind in such a conversion, that it can hardly be sincere and lasting."
-(Anglican) Samuel Johnson
Which causes
cause affect so deep
they scale my cold, rational heart
and cross its ramparts?

On the banks of the Savannah
I caught sight of a bronze statue
of a woman signalling ships
waving blankets
with a dog, ears-up at her side.
For forty years
so legend goes
she waited for her missing fiancee
to come down that river.

Or in a darkened theatre
watching Speilberg-Kubric's conglomeration
a winsome lad sits
in prayer at the bottom of the New York sea
for his savior to make him real.

is love.
Written about a co-worker I respect
Bigger than life, there once was a nearly mythical centaur named "Dute" Holland who managed to hold together the paradox of a pluperfectly banal work life at a hokey company with a highly charged intellectual life. He refused to be a simple automaton living life in binary terms and lusting for the next issue of PC Monthly. He shuffled a job, a wife and a daughter with the feat of having read most of the Western canon. Ruthlessly logical, he was allergic to patriotism and faith for he was a realist and pessimist and could see or imagine the flaws of both. He would not be suckered. His only compromise with society was the trading of the best part of every day for a paycheck that provided everything but financial independence.

He is, of course, perfectly of his time. There is nothing in the least anachronistic about him either in his job skills or his worldview. His rebelliousness is limited to complaining about company and government, easy targets indeed. There was no sense that he was rebellious in any serious sense; he would fit the mold of any post-Enlightenment individual, subscribing to the god of rationality and the tenets of the average Upper West Side pseudo-intellectual. His sense of adventure was limited to knocking down already crumbling institutions.

He seemed to have eyes in back of his head. You would provide an obscure, unattributed excerpt from a magazine and he would refer to the author's name in the rebuttal. Or he would correctly spell the name of the book that you were currently reading and have the grace not to point out that you'd misspelled it in your note. It was as though he could see right through you. Your lame, sometimes hypocritical replies were exposed as either non-sequitors or ideological falsities.

I like Dute.
the unbearable
are the phone calls, of course,
demystifying last moments
a horror Poe
couldn't conceive -
notifying a 31-year old
of her impending widowhood
as death's valley almost bridged
husbands tell their wives
they have not six months
but six minutes.

what power those last words
- "i love you" -
must have in their new-found rarity
in their new-found scarcity
three words to sum a life
and carry the other forward.
I'd like to take a minute to thank our sponsor - Serving all your search needs.
News to Me
Pope John XXIII's last words on his deathbed, as reported by Jean Guitton, the only Catholic layman to serve as a peritus at the Council, were: "Stop the Council; stop the Council."

Found this on the internet, I wonder if it is true.
A Modest Proposal
The mission in life for teens - their raison d'être - is to shock parents. Particularly with music. So I propose we get ahead of the curve, since all is lost anyway (Eminem without his shock value is like Mr. T sans muscle and gold chain). The key to this particular problem is in what we find outrageous. Let us find outrageous the strains of Bach and Beethoven. Let us arrange for Mahler's 9th to be heard and let us react viscerally, saying, "I never want you to listen to that crap!".

Failing that, we will see that what passes for music will continue to freefall. Soon the clashing of garbage can lids will symbolize what youth wish to say. Eventually there might be a "Variations on Nails on a Chalkboard". Or "Fugue for Solo Organ" (insert your own joke here). Er, hope I'm not providing ideas for any record company execs.

November 19, 2002

Watched a C-Span 2 Roundtable concerning religion...
One author said that countries with an established Church are the least religious. Britain, Sweden, Denmark are clear examples of this. The European example has been that to establish a church is to kill it. (Though what about Spain during Ferdinand? Or Ireland in the 50s? Perhaps he was only referring to modern examples. Ireland is probably not a good example since they are Catholic in the face of opposition by the Prots in Northern Ireland...did the presence of the Orangemen make the Irish more loyal and devoted Catholics?

- Another commented that Protestants are moving towards thinking themselves as Protestant or non-denominational - in the 1950s, if asked their religion, they would say Baptist or Methodist, never Protestant. Now they are more likely to use that term and he said the reason is because of evangelical mega-churches and the fact that US culture is so "multi-religioned" now. Is this Protestant bonding because the external threat - once perceived as the Methodists or Episcopalians down the road in the 1950s -now the Muslim or atheist in 2002?

-Another said that while Protestants are moving closer together, Jews are splitting ferociously apart. He said the Jewish religion is imploding, what with the Orthodox versus the Reformed, etc..with great anger directed inside.

Finally, he said that Catholicism in America is nothing like, for example, Poland since America tends to Disney-fy religion. I would've liked to have heard more of the program and gotten lengthier explanations of some of the above points, but I proffer them for what they're worth, with due apologies for not even remembering the author's names.
Simple in their Ordinariness
What farmer-poets
cast doggrell upon a
wizened paper-scroll
by seal of candlewax and tears?
Who’ve left their leavenings
unread, unsaid, unfound
in that plain potato-loving soil
with faces long and fatalistic
and wit mordant, biting, slaked
by fishy ales?

So let's to Byrne’s pass
and take a stand
though we fall like heroes
our blood split like a tabby’s milk
lapped by our enemies
the brave music be our
surcease and comfort
the British musketries
be none but jigs and reels
and sing we to our deaths
till bow stands on end
and the fiddles arch to piercing no recall
no retreat.
Let the beat of the bodhran
be heard even to the English hills.
Pro-Lifers on campus
A year ago, the Pro-Life Cougars sought permission to put up their display in a public space previously used by groups like the National Organization of Women and Planned Parenthood. The university prohibited the exhibit, and, to obtain equal access, the group had to file a lawsuit in January.

"It’s about time the university stopped treating pro-life speech as if it were pornography." - comment from the lead attorney in the case.
Interesting story in the NY Times on the phenomenon:
...But is by far the Perettis' most ambitious project. "When you talk about race, it touches off a lot of people's individual issues," Ms. Peretti said.

Though much of the site's humor isn't that original — comedians like Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock have all lampooned white people's flubbed attempts at relating to blacks — the fact that the dialogue is transpiring on the Internet allows for user participation and a more honest exchange of views than is often afforded in daily life.
Misc Quotes
"My treasure is to be found in prodigality, and only he possesses me who gives me away. For I am indeed the Word, and how can one possess a word other than by speaking it?" - Fr. Balthasar

"If many souls fail to find God because they want a religion that will remake society without remaking themselves...a soul passes from a state of speculation to submission. It is no longer troubled with the why of religion, but with the ought. It wishes to please, not merely to parse Divinity." - Archbishop Sheen
Excerpts from Beppe Severgnini in "Ciao, America":
It would be an exaggeration to say that the Roman Catholic religion had to turn into a kind of Protestantism to survive, as Mario Soldati wrote in America Primo Amore. It is true, however, that Mass in America is not for spectators, as it is in some Italian churches where actually singing or saying the responses is considered a lack of respect.

He then goes on to describe, in excrutiating detail, the sign of peace, the holding hands during the Our Father, and then...

During Communion, in the States, everything is beautifully choreographed. The communicants in the front pews get up, form a line in the center aisle, and go back to their places by filtering down the side aisles. When one row sits down, the next makes its move. Have you ever seen what happens in Italy? Everyone stands up at the same time, forming a dozen separate lines that engulf the pews like milk boiling over from a pan. Those returning to their seats - apparently aborbed in silent contemplation - bump into those who are still waiting in a spectacular reenactment of the traffic jams that enliven the working week....In Italy, the announcement that Mass is over produces an effect similar to that of a gunshot in a cattery. - Beppe Severgnini Ciao, America!

At last I have an explanation why we were nearly stampeded by Italian nuns in St. Peter's. It seemed unseemly to have bodily contact with a nun, so we waited till they made their way through.

Mr. Severgnini's theme throughout the book is the preternatural friendliness of Americans. I'm starting to understand why I like curmugeon-bastards so much:

Friendliest Countries of the World
1) Australia
2) United States

Friendliest Regions of the U.S.
1) Midwest

No wonder I liked Italy so much. The friendliness of a region or nation is generally inversely proportional to their attraction to ideas, not practical ideas like "How to build a better mousetrap" but more esoteric. Those who traffic in ideas generally are kind to people in the abstract, but nasty in person. The intellectual and the melancholic go together like cake and ice cream. Beppe goes on:

Thanking people is even more challenging. The straightforward British exchange "Thank you" - "Not at all" is strictly for beginners. Say a passerby asks you to change a dollar. You hand over four quarters.
Passerby: Thanks.
You: Not at all.
Passerby: You're welcome
You: You're more than welcome
Passerby: Sure.
You: Don't mention it.
Parallel Universe
Concerning "hypothetical forms of matter."
Ein Prosit!
I should read the Old Oligarch more oft...

November 18, 2002

Reminder to Self
What makes defending the unborn so easy is their total and complete innocence. Giving money to the poor overseas or in Latin America is also relatively easy since most of the poor there are innocent victims of despotic leaders or overpopulation or bad economic policies. But many charitable acts, especially in this rich country, require that we cast a blind eye to the fact that the receiver was in some way responsible for their own mess. Of course that is no excuse not to give, since we ourselves are constantly being helped out of our own messes by Christ.
Advice from a Homeless guy
I thought this was solid information. Via the well-named Daily Meds.
via a broken music...
Political Party/affiliation: Republican.
Favorite Political, er, Person: Alan Keyes
Favorite Political Quote: WFB's "I'd rather be ruled by the first 500 names in the Boston Metropolitan phone book than by the faculty of Harvard"
Pet Issues: Adherence to the text of the Constitution. A recognition that human nature does not change. The ascendency of logical thinking. Since a line has to be drawn, why not at conception and thus error on the side of life?
Ideal Presidential Ticket 2004: W & Dick Cheney
Ideal Presidential Candidate 2008: Hmm...haven't given it much thought but maybe Jeb? Gov. Bill Owens? or Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson?
Who will the Democrats run in 2004? Gore
Favorite Gun: the ones in the "Three Amigos"
Least Favorite Politico: Albert Gore, whose view of abortion conveniently changed when his party began marching to the tune of NARAL.
Favorite Political Periodical: National Review
Favorite Columnist(s): the ususal suspects - WFB, Noonan, Will, and Jonah Goldberg.
Favorite President: recently, Ronald Reagan. historically, John Adams.
Least Favorite President: Clinton.
Favorite Supreme: Obviously Thomas and Scalia.
Favorite Senator: Phil Graham, Jesse Helms. From the udder side, where they suck the teat of the public fund, I love Robert C. Byrd. He's like watching Dan Rather, you wait for him to do something crazy. We need more eccentrics.
Favorite Governor: Colorado's is the real deal. Bill Owens deserves the nomination in '08 if he continues what he's doing. While other states flounder with huge deficits due to spending like drunken sailors during the 90s, Owens kept his powder dry.
Favorite Political Book: David Frum's, "How We Got Here", anything by Bill Buckley, "Closed Chambers" - Lazurus, "Right from the Beginning" - Buchanan
Favorite Conservative Polemicist: Bob Novak
Have you ever been assaulted by a former Weatherman or Black Panther member? Not that I know of, although one rarely bothers with affiliations during an assualt.
Favorite Experience Being Oppressed By a Liberal Teacher/Professor: I was too naive to notice. My antennae weren't up yet.
Favorite out of the closet conservative/Republican celebrity? I suppose Charlton Heston. The pickings are slim - Tom Selleck and Bo Derek & Chuck Heston? Maybe that Ray Romano guy? That's about all I know of.
Were you ever a member of the Communist Party? Nope.
Secret Political Shame: Voted for the crazy man in the attic - Ross Perot. Bush 41 gave us Souter and higher taxes. Of course, if the polls were close I would've voted Bush.
How Satanic is John McCain? He's a gamer, I'll give him that.
Political Organization(s) that Scares You More than Death, Spiders, and Death by Spiders: of course, the Disunited Nations. Also NARAL.
Things that made me Republican
Tis the banal story that so many conservative can point to. A serendipitous day at the college library led to the find of "National Review". An instant hit. "Rebellious conservatism"

November 17, 2002

dylan has an interesting post on drink mathematics. Job / % Heavy Alcohol Users
Construction Workers = 20.2%
Nurse= 2.4%
Computer Programmers = 2.7%
Food Preparers = 16.2%
Janitors = 10%
Waiters = 12.1%
Grocery Stores = 5.8%
Truck Drivers =14%
Dep't Stores = 3.5%

More here
a Hodge-podge of Discontinued Items
tomato vines decay in lumpen lumps
the fenian bastards gave up
before the aspergill


songs of porter and Finnegan’s Wake:
Stout full enough to stand
a night laden with tea and cakes.


flanneled before the fire
beholding books with serrate edges and
flourished Danish typefaces;
entranced, he sits, engorged on lyrics like:
“this type was first set in 1642 by …”.
Have recently been pondering the looming crisis in health care (and, perhaps, higher education). As both become relentlessly more expensive, one sees no end game other than either a return to the barter system (i.e. you do my double bypass and I'll fill out your taxes, which, by 2011, should be considered equivalent in terms of complexity), or a disorderly decline in quality and timeliness of health care (translated: higher rates of mortality). Health care costs are exacerbated by a host of monsters: malpractice suits run amuck, and bad behavior run amuck (resulting in 'crack-cocaine' babies and the need for AIDS cocktails)...but also by a host of neutral factors: like the increasingly high relative cost of human capital and the tremendous cost of new medical technologies like artifical hearts and the like. The usual thing to do in situations like this is to debate where the pleasure/pain point is - i.e. where additional taxes or costs do not lead to significantly higher benefits. What is unique to the health care field is that it is impossible to put a value on a human life. Whereas higher taxes may provide an afterschool venue for troubled youths and one could debate the merits of that, greater health care costs may provide saved lives, which is a very different debate. Complicating it is the boomer's obsessive desire to live forever (due in part to a lessened belief in an afterlife) and the very expensive life-extending measures that result...I believe the Church teaches that we don't have to go to unnatural lengths to extend life, but that devil is very much in the details. It seems it will be very difficult to arrive at a consensus in our society as to what extends life unnecessarily and what doesn't.

Concerning the human capital cost, Daniel P. Moynihan wrote years ago that the problem with health care and education is that new technology does not help make either profession more efficient. So while most jobs can be constantly made cheaper and productivity will rise, it does not happen with human-intensive jobs like teachers and doctors because computers and robotics don't help (in fact, the need for schools to have computers and health care to have expensive lasers adds to the price rather than subtracting).

So, how willing are we to become partial serfs to health care? And the general rule is that everything we give to the gov't to do becomes not less but more expensive. Thus to universalize health care should eventually make the current social security tax look like as harmless as a summer day (in the 1950s 1% was paid to social security 'trust' fund, today you and your employer pay 15% and it's in lousy shape). But I'm not sure there is an answer since the private sector has failed, and continues to fail.

November 15, 2002

Poetry Friday
Huge vapours brood above the clifted shore,
Night o'er the ocean settles, dark and mute,
Save where is heard the repercussive roar
Of drowsy billows, on the rugged foot
Of rocks remote; or still more distant tone
Of seamen, in the anchored bark, that tell
The watch relieved; or one deep voice alone,
Singing the hour, and bidding "strike the bell."
All is black shadow, but the lucid line
Marked by the light surf on the level sand,
Or where afar, the ship-lights faintly shine
Like wandering fairy fires, that oft on land
Mislead the pilgrim; such the dubious ray
That wavering reason lends, in life's long darkling way.
- Charlotte Smith
Here, we shoot off
every day to new horizons,
coffee shops and bars,
natural tonsorial parlors,
days, streets,
pamphlets, days, sun,
heat, love, anger,
politics, days, and sun.
- Jay Wright
If our faith in God is weak and slow to rise to God on account of the multitude and magnitude of our sins, we should remember this, that everything is possible with God, and that what he wishes is bound to take place, while what he does not wish cannot possibly happen, and that it is as easy for him to forgive and cancel countless sins, however enormous, as to do it with a single sin..." - St. Albert the Great
Shakespeare's Measure for Measure
... title inspired by the book of Matthew (i.e. as you measure, so will it be measured to you).
The tempter or the tempted, who sins most? Ha!
Not she: nor doth she tempt: but it is I
That, lying by the violet in the sun,
Do as the carrion does, not as the flower,
Corrupt with virtuous season. Can it be
That modesty may more betray our sense
Than woman's lightness? Having waste ground enough,
Shall we desire to raze the sanctuary
And pitch our evils there? O, fie, fie, fie!
What dost thou, or what art thou, Angelo?
Dost thou desire her foully for those things
That make her good? O, let her brother live!
Thieves for their robbery have authority
When judges steal themselves. What, do I love her,
That I desire to hear her speak again,
And feast upon her eyes? What is't I dream on?
O cunning enemy, that, to catch a saint,
With saints dost bait thy hook! Most dangerous
Is that temptation that doth goad us on
To sin in loving virtue: never could the strumpet,
With all her double vigour, art and nature,
Once stir my temper; but this virtuous maid
Subdues me quite. Even till now,
When men were fond, I smiled and wonder'd how.

Note how when Angelo realizes he, and not she, is at fault, Shakespeare emphasizes the "I" with "lying" and "violet" in the same phrase "but it is I / That, lying by the violet in the sun". Angelo realizes in the last couple lines that he not only is the same as other men but worse given that while whores tempt other men, the virtuous tempt Angelo. It is also interesting that Angelo struggles with his identity in asking "am I what I do?" by asking What dost thou, or what art thou, Angelo?
John Steinbeck
Steinbeck wrote books in a variety of styles, so if one doesn't appeal to you surely another will. His prose is translucent and a necessary anodyne to a surfeit of the thick, jungle prose of another John (Updike).

It is perhaps unfair to take these passages out of context since that cumulative effect of his sentences should not be underestimated...But here goes:

"Two stories have haunted us and followed us from our beginning," Samuel said. 'We carry them along with us like invisible tails -the story of original sin and the story of Cain and Abel....No story has power, nor will it last, unless we feel in ourselves that it is true and true of us. What a great burden of guilt men have!

...I found some of the old things as fresh and clear as this morning. And I wondered why. And, of course, people are interested only in themselves. If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen. And I here make a rule - a great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting- only the deeply personal and familiar.
Give me a used Bible and I will, I think, be able to tell you about a man by the places that are edged with the dirt of seeking fingers.
Of all the children Una had the least humor. She met and married an intense dark man-a man whose fingers were stained with chemicals, mostly silver nitrate. He was one of those men who live in poverty so that their lines of questioning may continue.
[Tom] could life and run and hike and ride with anyone, but he had no sense of competition whatever. Will and George were gamblers and often tried to entice their brother into the joys and sorrows of ventue.
Tom said, "I've tried and it just seems tiresome. I've thought why this must be. I get no great triumph when I win and no tragedy when I lose. Without these it is meaningless. It is not a way to make money, that we know, unless it can simulate birth and death, joy and sorrow, it seems, at least to me - it feels - it doesn't feel at all. I would do it if I felt anything - good or bad."
- John Steinbeck East of Eden

November 14, 2002

Augustine for me
What theologian are you?
As an oxymoron gourmand, I am fascinated by attempted reconciliations of seeming contradictions. Perhaps this is part of why I like this dylan's "I am large, I contain multitudes" site so much, although he protests of more contradictions than I see. But I'm especially interested in how grand old Christians like Victorian Prime Minister Gladstone and current artiste extraordinaire Updike manage to marry an unseemly devotion to, well, perhaps lustfulness (some can look and not lust) and Christianity. Call it envy on my part (trading one of the seven deadly for a different I suppose).

So, I happened upon this bon mot from blogesse Natalie, with a story of contradiction linked below.

Meanwhile here is her (correct) view of the male psyche:

I encounter a variety of customers working at the comic book store. The majority of them are men, the comic industry plays into the male psyche beautifully. The common hero is the underdog male, mundane in existence by day, cape wearing vigilante by night. A classic reflection of one's secret self, the longing to be something other than what one is. The second aspect played is that of approachable female. Comics are entertainment, fantasy. And given to pen, women in the comic world can perform impossible contortions while wearing the least amount of clothing and still have a personality. Even feminist Wonder Woman skips around in a near bikini. Obviously, your "real life" woman isn't going to fight crime and the forces of evil in high heels.

And here is the story of contradiction.

November 13, 2002

OED Update
Accept no substitute! Twenty volumes or bust! (answer: bust). The new Shorter is an illegitmate, pusillanimous version of the real thing. The value-added to my already fine dictionary does not to a sale compute. Besides, look at the sort of stellar resources online. You can have your computer pronounce a word for you.
Wise One
"It is charity, not creed, that creates the conditions for Christian unity." - our Dominican friar, pointing out that as necessary as the Creed is, it is not sufficient for unity. He also points out that apologetics should not be used to "prove" Catholicism but merely to show that it is reasonable (Charity does the rest). If we all focus on Christ, we will necessarily be draw to the same point, the same Body, the same Church.
OED update
Have not bought it yet. Stalling for time by waiting to look at it at a bookstore.
For purposes of clarification...
I certainly do not assume that everyone who holds a view point other than my own does so from ill will. I do believe there is Truth, I reject moral relativism, and I do not consider the moral views I hold as "mine"; they are merely given to us by the Church, who stands on the shoulders of giants like Paul, Augustine, Aquinas and Newman.

The original post was prompted by wondering what I would do in Nazi Germany. Would I have helped the Jews, been indifferent or actually wished them ill? Perhaps others have more faith in their innate goodness than I have in mine. I could see myself in a role of indifference - a shrug of my shoulders and "what can I do?" or the venal "at least it's nobody I know". We are conditioned, now, to recognize the Holocaust as the horror of horrors, but there were far too few Germans who recognized it at the time.

What bothers me is the preversity of things like this: the controversialness of the partial birth abortion ban. It seems gratuitiously preverse to deny a baby - one that looks, feels, thinks and acts like one - a full birth when it is geographically indisposed (i.e. not completely out of the mother). This suggests an evil, or a level of culpability, that is more profound than those in favor of stem cell research. (It's the "they should know better" issue).

Certainly ignorance is, to some extent, protective. If you don't know something, you can't be held responsible for it. So the many pro-choicers out there who are pro-choice through invincible ignorance are not (thank God!) going to be held accountable. Ultimately where "invincible ignorance" ends and responsibility begins who can know but God?

November 12, 2002

Rank of my favorite founding fathers at age 12:
Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Washington, Hamilton

Rank of my my favorite founding fathers circa 2002:
Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton
She stands like Patience on a monument. - Shakespeare

I don't know why but that just resonates with me.
Gestational Bloggings
* the bible and the scarcity principle
* knee-jerk oppositionism as illustrated in the Miss America and the issue regarding abstinence
Latest Google Search
"mexcian creation stories"
I wunder if I shuld start intintionally misspelling words sinc apperently one of mine led to this visit. Nihil Obstat note bene.
The Perils of Blogging
By way of All But Dissertations I've learned of the new Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. It's a two-volume set that comprises 1/3rd of the master 20 volume set. Since I will never (ok, never say never) buy the 20-vol set, this is sorely tempting. I've found it for $90 out-the-door price (regularly $150). One third of the whole OED for $90 is pretty amazing. The full OED is $995 for purposes of rationalization.
From The Observer on the popularity of young writers:
The mark of this new literature is that it’s accessible without being dumb. Literary, but also pop...In the book world, David Foster Wallace may have perfected that kind of sensibility a decade ago, but the kids have taken the ball and run with it.

Writers like Ms. Smith don’t feel they have to give up on a mass audience in order to say serious things. We’re reaching the end of an era in which obscurity plays as intelligence; date its demise from the publication of Jonathan Franzen’s takedown of super-convoluted postmodern novelist William Gaddis last month in The New Yorker. And yet it’s not that the new literary stars are rejecting the ethos of high-toned literary deconstruction they learned in their college English classes—they’ve already assimilated it...

November 11, 2002

Opus Dei and Flagellation?
CS Lewis quote:
The problem about avoiding our own pain admits a similar solution. Some ascetics have used self-torture. As a layman, I offer no opinion on the prudence of such a regimen; but I insist that, whatever its merits, self-torture is quite a different thing from tribulation sent by God. Everyone knows that fasting is a different experience from missing your dinner by accident or through poverty.

Fasting asserts the will against the appetite - the reward being self-mastery and the danger pride...The redemptive effect of suffering lies chiefly in its tendency to reduce the rebel will. Ascetic practices, which in themselves strength the will, are only useful in so far as they enable the will to put its own house (the passions) in order, as a preparation for offering the whole man to God. They are necessary as a means; as an end, they would be abominable...In order to submit the will to GOd, we must have a wil and that will must have objects...

Doubtless we all spend too much care in the avoidance of our own pain: but a duly subordinated intention to avoid it, using lawful means, is in accordance with "nature" - that is, with the whole working system of creaturely life for which the redemptive work of tribulation is calculated.

The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in. The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: buy joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast....The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bath or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.

-CS Lewis, Problem of Pain
Painting, like spirituality, is liberating. Both are expressions of one's distinct and deeper relationships with the world - and with God.
-artist Fr. Jerome Tupa, OSB
But let concealment, like a worm i' the bud,
Feed on her damask cheek: she pined in thought,
And with a green and yellow melancholy
She sat like Patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed?
We men may say more, swear more: but indeed
Our shows are more than will; for still we prove
Much in our vows, but little in our love.
- Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
Quiz mania
The quizzes are edging towards parody. I'm waiting for "Which pop-up ad are you?". But hey I loved "Which Founding Father Are You?". Maybe I'll try to think up one of my own: "Which Papal Legate are you?"
Excerpt on Evangelical Theology
Precisely because modernization has created an external world in which unbelief seems normal, it has at the same time created a world in which Christian faith is alien. It is the inability to resist this oddness that is now working its havoc on the Christian mind. The Christian mind in the midst of modernity is like the proverbial frog in the pot beneath which a fire has been kindled. Because the water temperature rises slowly, the frog remains unaware of the danger until it is too late. In the same way, the Church often seems to be blithely unaware of the peril that now surrounds it.

What makes the disappearance of confession in academic circles almost inevitable, barring an occasional episode of rebellion such as that mounted by Karl Barth and his allies, is that there is now an insurmountable coalition between the Enlightenment idea that it is the subject who defines reality and the universities that are now structured not only to make this idea normative but also to make its orthodox alternative unacceptable.

The disappearance of theology, in both Church and academy, is itself one of the fruits of modernization and . . . it has little to do with the way that theology is being constructed per se. Furthermore, the unraveling of the ties between contemporary Christianity and historic orthodoxy is not the result of a deliberate strategy but is rather one of the effects of modernity that Christians have unconsciously accepted.
- David F. Wells
Mark Shea Pulls No Punches
On the religious nature of abortion to the Democratic party: principle remains: the inviolable sacrament of abortion. It's the only real core belief of American liberalism. They have made a covenant with Death and the grave. Republican whores dally with it. But the Democratic party is married to it, a succubus that is draining the life out of the party with vampiric gripping strength.- M. Shea

Does Shea's polemic serve the public debate? In one sense, yes in another no. In one sense it asserts a truth that people want to forget or soften. By being so clear, he offers an implicit rebuttle to moral relativism. He also "fires up his base". One reads that and wants to go out and pray outside an abortion clinic, or contribute to a pro-life charity. The American Revolution would not have been fought if not for firebrands like Thomas Paine. Their contribution is undervalued; few will be moved to action on an issue seriously if it is couched in academic language or is in some way softened. People respect strong opinions - Paul Wellstone had many conservatives who spoke well of him.

On the other could alienate those who are on the fence. I'm not sure how many fence-sitters there are on the subject; Bill O'Reilly said he knew a few and said pro-lifers should be aware of this and tone down the "rhetoric". I'm unconvinced. One can catch more flies with sugar, but it seems like the flies aren't taking it. That's why I contribute to the Center for Bioethical Reform and their rather radical attempt to communicate the truth about abortion on the most visceral level - by trucks panelled with billboards of aborted children. America tends to care about only what it can see (i.e. we would've have gone into Somalia except for CNN's pictures).
Shakespeare Trivia
Five references in his plays to St. Peter, four to St. Paul....I knew Shakespeare was a papist! (Just a joke).

Others include: one to Patrick, two to Anne, one to Michael. St. George and his day actually beats all with eighteen references.
The Coming War
Nope, not Iraq. An internal one. I don't mean to sound incendiary, but there is something happening in America that is not too well reported - black prejudice.

Given the sordid history of race in our country it is perhaps our just dessert in some ways. It is typical that oppression corrected still rankles generations later - often in ways more hate-filled than the actual recipients of the outrage. There can be a sort of a delayed-reaction. And so innocent Northern Irish die because of their ancestors.

African-Americans have endured generations of white prejudice and the irony is this: just when white America has more or less gotten over prejudice (it can, of course, never be completely erradicated; prejudice is like unemployment numbers - you can get down to a certain level but never go below that) - black prejudice against whites has grown and will continue to grow. There is a New York City councilman who said that he wanted to go out in the street and find any white person and just slug them. A councilman!

The proximate cause of race riots might be reparations. Whatever you feel about the merits or demerits of the idea, there is an implacable stonewall of disagreement on both sides. There is no way reparations will happen. Politically it is dead. But, if you watch the C-Span and see members of the black caucus discuss it, you see that they feel this is an issue to go to the mat on. One senses that their base will not be satisfied with anything less and will perhaps take matters in their own hands if the black caucus can't. They are serious as the proverbial heart attack about it.

Maybe I'm all wet. I pray so and hope that riots won't happen. But I think there is a growing disaffection of whites by blacks, fueled by left-wing politics and chip-inducing (as in chip on your shoulder) Black Studies programs at universities. That growth can only have negative results.

November 10, 2002

One can take much humility in the fact that Jesus called us sheep. It should tend to dampen our pride for our positions, be they political or religious, although they don't much - myself especially. I've too much of that cussed John Adams in me. Besides, in this day of moral relativism, it is helpful to remember that some policies are right. For those in those in antebellum times, there was a correct view of slavery (i.e. its evilness) that was arrived at either by circumstance of birth (i.e. the North mainly) or by conversion or ultimately war.

As a white male with a middle-class income, I perfectly fit the Republican demographic. My credibility is slim with those like Ono, whose heartfelt discomfiture at the rejoicing in conservative quarters over the election illustrates what I said in my DC triplog - the tyranny of tradition and culture. I haven't yet "stepped outside the box" of my culture much. Sure, the arguments of the conservatives sound utterly convincing to me, but is this a result of true open-mindedness or am I a product of my background? How can I ascribe the latter to those who are liberals but not to myself? You can't tell me that it's a coincidence that 80% (or so) of Protestants never become Catholics and vice-versa. If the claims of Catholicism were equally compelling with Protestantism then one would expect approximately 50% of Catholics becoming Prots & vice-versa.

I wrote about the African-American lady on the tour bus who loves Clinton and is furious at the "crucifixion" he received at the hands of Republicans. She is as surely in her demographic as I am in mine. Real credit goes to converts for they are the brave ones who go against the wind. I don't mean to sound too deterministic, or too close to denying free will, but cradle Catholics should certainly ascribe no pride to the fact of their being Catholic, nor white 39-yr old men to their conservativism. I guess that is why converts like Scott Hahn electrify - it cost them something. And that is why someone like a Justice Thomas oozes credibility.

Obviously, being a Republican has nothing to do with being a Catholic. If the Democratic Party were tomorrow to become the party of life and the Republicans pro-abort, I would become an instant Democrat. And there would be something purifying in that independence, which now I can exercise only in limited areas (like the death penalty).

On the Viewing of Icons
Dove of the first Pentecost
falls on us too;
our affirmation
be our Confirmation.

Note the iconography:
the torches above their heads
look like the torches of blood upon His wrists.
Writings about Nothings.*
We came to the gates of the parking garage at nearly the same instant. My gate opened a half-second or so before hers, but I was in the merge lane and she had the right-of-way given an equal playing field. I waved her on. She waved me on. I waved her on again and she went. In the elapsed second we had become aware of the complexities of the situation.. She waved me on because she was playing by the rule of “whichever gate opened first got to go first”. I waved her on due to the dual weight of my being in the merge lane and that she was female, with its attending chivalric requirements.


The leaves now surrender in the French fashion; they fall in great waves, subject to a moderate wind. The forest floor is bathed in the yellow litter and I come up on a 12-point buck just off the path. He stares, immobile. I walk by and watch as he eventually becomes comfortable enough to cross the path, not twenty feet from me. I momentarily indulge a delusion of grandeur, like I’m St. Francis and the animals love me. It is, by the way, uncanny how our German Shepherd will come up to bedroom to lie quietly when I begin to pray.

* - the new, upscale mall that opened recently puts a period behind titles, like they did back in the 19th century. Hence the period.

November 09, 2002

dylan started a new form of blogger comedy...possible titles for your autobiography. I liked Stand Up Tragedian and Misanthrope's Concerto. Tom Arnold has a good one: How I Lost Five Pounds in Six Years which is reminiscient of my spiritual story.

Possible titles for my autobiography
Eleven Thousand Miles Run, But Not All at One Time
My Other Book is a Classic
Desperately Seeking Unemployment So I Can Catch Up On My Reading
My Heroes Have Always Been Misanthropes
Too Much Falstaff, Too Much Hamlet
Choice? I'm For It.
I am pro-choice - before conception. I think people should be allowed to choose whether or not they want to have sex.

November 08, 2002

[It] is something of a faith vs. reason paradox, in that it is utterly unreasonable to think Sen. Mikulski will abandon her objectively evil vote magnet of a position, yet our faith insists on the efficacy of prayer. Reason can only watch when faith operates in that region between improbable and impossible.
- via Disputations
Apologetically Speaking
..But it is also certain that always there is people "of good will". There are times to speak and to be quiet, and those times to speak are "to give reason of our faith". And it is certain that one knows something of those rare cases in that the discussions are not crossings of words with guts tightened, but souls that learn to communicate, to know themselves and to be considered; and that, as the same G. B. Shaw in a letter to Chesterton: "the intellectual passion to him is after all the most entrancing passion of all." -via fotos del apocalipsis

I liked the phrase "crossings of words with guts tightened". What a beautiful phraseology, and so aptly descriptive (much of the time) unfortunately.
Nobody does it better....the eminently readable Peggy Noonan on the Dem's search for a mission statement.
Pondering Percy
"After the lunch conference I run into my cousin Nell Lovell on the steps of the library - where I go occasionally to read liberal and conservative periodicals. Whenever I feel bad, I go to the library and read controversial periodicals. Though I do not know whether I am a liberal or a conservative, I am nevertheless enlivened by the hatred which one bears the other. In fact, this hatred strikes me as one of the few signs of life remaining in the world. This is another thing about the world which is upsidedown: all the friendly and likable people seem dead to me; only the haters seem alive.

"Down I plunk myself with a liberal weekly at one of the massive tables, read it from cover to cover, nodding to myself whenever the writer scores a point. Damn right, old son, I say, jerking my chair in approval. Pour it on them. Then up and over to the rack for a conservative monthly and down in a fresh cool chair to join the counterattack. Oh ho, say I, and hold fast to the chair arm: that one did it: eviscerated! And then out and away into the sunlight, my neck prickling with satisfaction."
- Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

In a later book Percy has a character comment, "liberals and conseratives need each other...what would they do without the other?" which again implies that "only haters seem alive" and that without the other they would slip into narcoleptic stupor.

On the larger view, imagine a world in which there wasn't a fight between the devil & God, between the angels and demons...hard to imagine. All drama is conflict - where there is no conflict you have no plot...without plot, no stories...without stories....?

"The storyteller is a pale metaphor for God who creates our world and us, falls in love with his creatures, even obsesses over us because we don’t act right, and always reserves the right to say the final word."
- Andrew Greeley
Interesting Review of Johnathon Franzen's "How to be Alone"
Bestselling and National Book Award winning novelist Franzen (The Corrections) urges readers to say no to drugs, but not the pharmaceutical kind; his opiates are those "technology offers in the form of TV, pop culture, and endless gadgetry," soporifics that "are addictive and in the long run only make society's problems worse." Franzen's just as hard on intellectual conformity-on academe's canonization of third-rate but politically correct novels, for example. As a serious artist, he knows that the deck is stacked against him; after all, a great novel is a kind of antiproduct, one that is "inexpensive, infinitely reusable, and, worst of all, unimprovable." The problem, he says, is that instead of being allowed to enjoy our solitary uniqueness we are all being turned into one gigantic corporate-created entity, a point Franzen makes tellingly when he says that while a black lesbian New Yorker and a Southern Baptist Georgian might appear totally different, the truth is that both "watch Letterman every night, both are struggling to find health insurance... both play Lotto, both dream of fifteen minutes of fame, both are taking a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and both have a guilty crush on Uma Thurman." -From Publishers Weekly

This sameness, this homogeniety, dampens my enthusiasm for travel. How wonderful it would've been to travel to Ireland back in the 80s or 70s - when it was a fully Catholic country. They say Ireland is twenty years or so behind the U.S. - behind in the sense of abortion laws, alienation, urban ills that we endure - I suppose this is as close as one can come to time-travel...
D.C. Capers
Our hotel was on Dupont Circle which is the “only intelligent life in Washington” according to one travel guide. Here lay three bookstores within sight and walking distance, one of which was open all night and day on Friday’s & Saturday’s. Never having lived even near a bookstore, this appeared to be some sort of divine recompense. In one of the bookstores I read the beginning of a novel entitled “Dupont Circle” which celebrated this self-same bookstore. We checked into our Irish hotel, Jury’s Washington, and took advantage of Kramer books (joined with a coffee shop called ‘Afterwords’). The shop had big plated windows with a bright-red “Kramer’s” in neon script. A small internet café served as a corridor to the two rooms of books that lay beneath the second-floor coffee shop where a bass cello played jazz. It felt like something out of a Woody Allen movie. I continued my tradition of being the worst-dressed person there (this place was easy; Walmart is always more difficult). I wondered for t
he first time in months if perhaps I should buy some more stylish clothes. I banished the thought, realizing it was the devil speaking.

After a leisurely breakfast at “Afterwords” we were ready for action, which in this case meant walking. We had some time to kill, since the Holocaust tour wasn’t scheduled till 11:30. Fr. McCloskey, runs D.C.’s Catholic Information Center (and aided in the conversion of one of my favorite pundits, Robert Novak). Did I mention that the CIC also has the largest Catholic bookstore in Washington? So we headed towards the address I had, which apparently was outdated. We cabbed to the Holocaust Museum.

In an age where everyone is a victim it is important to remember what real victims are like. Words fail here, because there is no way to describe the atrocities that hasn’t been said a million times and better. The four floors carry the story chronologically, beginning in 1933 and following through the end of the war to the liberation. It is comprehensive – it is not just about the gas chambers but also the story of how the Nazi’s came to power, and a large and generous wall of remembrance filled with all known non-Jews who tried to save some of those persecuted, and an exhibit to Jewish resistance (I didn’t know there was any).

All Jews were supposed to have a tiny scroll of scripture (usually the verse, “You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength, and with all your might”) above their door; I saw one of the small scroll holders for the first time. It looked no bigger than a doorbell!

There were the sobering exhibits like a picture of all the hair gathered by the Nazi’s. And the exhibit of thousands of shoes of the gassed. As one war correspondent wrote, “one can talk two or three shoes, or a dozen, but this?”.

I walked aboard one of the cars the Nazi’s could’ve used to transport the Jews to long journeys to places like Auschwitz. Luggage lay at the feet of the train, luggage that was immediately tossed aside by the SS. “You won’t be needing anything, there is plenty there.” There were models of the typical concentration camp, and the gruesome efficiency with which it worked. There was an anecdote about a man praising and thanking God in the midst of the suffering. His friend said, “how can you thank God here, of all places!?”. “I am thanking Him that I am not like them.”

There were too few pictures of those who perpetrated the monstrosities, although I did see a large mural of Nazis making war plans, and you look at them just amazed that they would buy into it. Couldn’t they resign their commissions? The power of tradition and culture is such that it seems to overwhelm everything, even common sense. And since no one exists apart from tradition and culture, one can must work to improve the current one. We are sheep.

I wanted to see more pictures of the perpetrators to see if one could tell any difference between them and “normal” people. Are we all that close to being blasé to unimaginable evils? That this could happen in a Christian nation is especially horrifying.

Afterwards, in the bookshop, I found a book by Dennis Prager titled, “Why the Jews?” it attempts to answer the question why the Jews have been persecuted by nearly everyone since time immemorial. Prager attempts to find a common theme.

Recovering afterward, we walked down the Mall in the cold and bought some food before ambling to our next stop, the Library of Congress (LOC). Though we had a tour there on Tuesday, it was nice to take a sneak peak since we were in the area. The building, called by some the “most beautiful building in America” is all of that to me. Russian first lady Putin on a recent visit was said to have said, “I can’t believe you have this without having had Tsars”. There, on exhibition was the Mainz manuscript bible and a Gutenburg bible (one of only three perfect copies in the world). I ducked, illegally, down a hallway marked “Members of Congress Only” but had not the nerve to try the ornate door that held unimagined vistas but was also marked “Members of Congress Only”. I'm of the dylan school of rebellion; tell me where I can't go and I'll make an effort to go there.

I got out of there quickly, hoping the cameras hadn’t caught me, and headed up a couple flights to the perch overlooking the Reading Room floor and a breathtaking view. A huge round magohany desk lay in the center, surrounded by concentric rings of lit desks and the occasional scholar bent over his task. On the edges lay glimpses of stacks of books of unimaginable numbers, all in precise order like a well-disciplined army of knowledge. Suddenly a young girl of perhaps twenty came in, mid-drift bared, looking no more like a scholar than Jack LaLanne. (Okay, I know I'm not supposed to judge by appearances). I thought it possible – I could be there! I could set foot on that hallowed ground! A reverie fell upon me. I hoped the tour would take us there on Monday.


We decided Saturday night to take a bus tour of the monuments, since it was clear (though cold). The 3-hour tour was narrated by a member of the local culture, an African-American woman who is head-over-heels for Clinton (“why did they crucify him?”, she asked. “He didn’t do anything that JFK or FDR or any of the others did.”). We stopped at the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, the Korean and Vietnam and other lesser knowns. By the end, we were hoping there weren’t any more memorials. I fell into bed that night and slept the sleep of the dead.

By Sunday I realized that a lifestyle that involves sitting all day, punctuated only by short 20-30 minute periods of stairmaster or jogging, does not condition one for multiple days of long walks. I woke up sore, my legs stiff as cardboard, my muscles the consistency of thawed hamburger meat. There was enough lactic acid buildup to start a small petro-chemical plant.

But still we gamely moved on rubberly legs to our next destination: the taxi out front. And then onto the Basillica of the Immaculate Concepcion. Upon entering and exploring, I knew I had seen no more beautiful American Catholic church than this Basillica. St. Patrick’s in New York is not close. The mosaics throughout harken to Orthodox spirituality, like icons. A dozen or more side shrines and altars are woven into the sides, private little enclaves to pray and reflect, like wounds in the side of Christ where one can meditate. The mysteries of the rosary are commemorated around the altar, all with short phrases that uniquely penetrate some portion of the mystery.

The bookstore and gift shops of the Basillica were magnificent and a sore temptation to spend. We all did, some more than others, but needless to say I was hypnotized by the quantity and quality. We headed next to the Pope John Paul II cultural center. We toured an art exhibit, then explored a room of personal effects of the Pope. Downstairs was a huge set-up of interactive contrivances.

We walked from our last Metro stop to the White House, walked all around the White House as the sun set and darkness came. I heard later from the Congressional tour guide that there are actually people in the trees on the White House lawn. This is one well-guarded family home.

Did I mention that by now our legs hung like bloody stumps from the barely extant sinews of upper thigh? By the time we stumbled back to the hotel, a warm bath and a 12-hours of sleep sounded golden. Instead we had a rejuvenating dinner at our hotel restaurant. I could feel I was at the edge of a cold and felt nauseaus. Colds are something I have much experience with on vacation (since I always try to do too much) but something I’ve been able to cheat during the past few years by the consumption of a few beers. At last I could drink with the excuse old Baptists give: for medicinal reasons only. The administration of a couple Guinnesses worked magic, and I swear it’s not psychosomatic either. Guinness is good for you!

After dinner we went to an Irish pub called the “Four Provinces” where we heard the dulcet tones of irish music played on acoustic guitar. Sandy asked for “The Rare Ol’ Times” and the song was wonderfully done.

I went to the Folger Shakespeare Library while Mark and Sandy went off the Botanical Garden/Conservatory. I ran to get there just in time for the 11 am tour. There was only one other person, an older gent. The guide, a blue-blooded, white-haired lady who was dressed immaculately gave the hour tour. It was also embarrassing how little I knew. She obviously expected us to be very conversant in all things related to the English Renaissance period. She was Alex Trebek, asking for questions. I asked if the staff there were Stratfordians. She gave a bemused half-smile and waited seemingly forever before answering. It was as if I had passed gas.

Susan, our tour guide, was an aide for a Congresswoman from the Poughkeepsie region of New York, and looked for all the world like a typical Midwesterner. I teased her about Hillary Clinton. “How could you guys have elected her?” She angrily answered, “We didn’t, we’re Republicans.” Also apparently a hawk. “Let’s bomb them and ask questions later,” she said about the Iraq situation. Ouch.

My favorite parts of the Capitol tour was seeing the room where the House met up until the 1860s. There were plaques where Abe Lincoln and John Quincy Adams sat. Speaking of sitting, it was cool sitting where the First Lady sits during the State of the Union Addresses in the House chamber.

The bookstores around Dupont Circle were calling, especially Second Story Books, which is the largest used bookstore in Washington. We headed back there and spent an hour or so there. I bought one $20 Updike book of short stories there but the prices were high and the philosophy liberal. Around the store Taro cards were posted. The sexuality section was larger than the religious section. We moved on to Kramer’s, where Mark succumbed to three books and paid some $50 and Sandy bought two books and $30. I escaped without financial damage.We never did make it to the huge chain “Books-a-Million”. One can afford to be selective in such a bookish environment.

We arrived for the 8:30am tour of the Library of Congress just in time. The docent gave us an hour tour of the joint, which was nothing to sneeze at. I had been it already though, so it necessarily lost some of its punch. Lots of mythological figures and lots of unattributed inscripted quotes, which that first librarian, like many librarians after him, preferred we look up on our own.

The tour started 15 mins late and we had Arlington Cemetery planned so time was surreally tight. If I wanted to get down on that Reader’s Room floor I would have to accomplish something this side of “Mission Impossible” – I would have 15 minutes to get to the Madison building and get my credentials (apparently to discourage would-be Walter Mittys, they make getting on to the Reading Room floor as difficult as possible, but that only spurred me on). I ran through a tunnel between the buildings (fortunately there were many signs, though the distance was pretty good) and found room LM-140 where approvals to access the Reading Room are granted. There I waited in two different lines, one to show my driver’s license and acquire the form, a second to fill the form out and have a picture ID taken. After 15 minutes, I have the picture ID required to get on the Reading Room floor. I hurry to the floor but am denied. I have my coat with me. I ask if I can leave my coat at the security desk and the guard says
no, you have to check it. I run like hell up the stairs to the coatcheck. No one there. I realize I can just take them to Sandy and Mark, in fact I have to take it to Sandy and Mark since I am late from when I agreed to meet them. The maze-like quality of the building is now discovered, since the closest stairs and elevator do not take you to the Visitor’s Center. As they say, you can’t get there from here. I was in a no-man’s land where scholars tread, not where the visitors visit, and never the twain shall meet. There were other reading rooms here, off-limit reading rooms that held vistas of old bindings climbing to the ceilings. After asking directions a couple times I do make it to the
visitor center. I ask to at least go in the revered Reading Room (RR) since I have the pass after all...

I walked guiltily by the big imposing reference desk and librarian sitting there. To call it a desk would be to insult it; it was not a desk so much as a fortress, a large circular nautilus with a back some some seven feet tall (such that I could not see the far side of desks). I wondered around, amused by the marble water fountain there and taking a drink of it as if that were the purpose of this meander. I settled into a desk and sat in a surprising quantity of natural light, the sun coming in through the stained glass windows of the cupola above. The library was, in fact, designed to be used without aid of artificial light at all. An immense Victorian-style clock hung at one end. Collossal figures of history in the form of statues surrounded the stories above me. I sat as in a trance. I walked to the other side, as if my trip to Washington would be incomplete if I’d only seen the RR from the west side. I could smell the books, the stacks were right there though off-limits (even patrons of the RR are not allowed in the stacks – you have to request books and they are brought to you). The books smelled old, the half-mildewed scent I associate at the large huge booksales at OSU's library. I wondered if some were like that in Jefferson’s time, if any of his old books smelled that way. The researchers researched – there were perhaps a half-dozen of them. I studied my hand and then a printed map of the LOC.

Finally I tore myself away from this library of all libraries, and felt the rip of the umbillica cord. We moved on to Arlington Cemetery, and Robert E. Lee’s house. The view of Washington was riveting, and one could instantly understand JFK’s wish to be buried there. But my heart was still at Jefferon's library, wondering where his original books might be hidden...

November 06, 2002

Abortion & Politics
I heard one of the commentators on CNN say that Bush's real interest was a Republican Senate and not a Republican House. Why? So he can get his judges appointed. And why are the judges not being appointed? Abortion.

But today tis a feast for our sore, sore eyes! To see the Republicans sweep tis a feat unimagined! Thank you Lord, for the leaders you've given us, and for the voters who cast votes, for although all are flawed, terribly flawed, at least Cheney and Bush attempt the trajectory towards the good.

On "The View", Star Jones said she could never marry someone who wasn't a Democrat. When asked why, she said it would be difficult to raise children if both parents didn't share the same values. When asked what values specifically, she immediately said, 'the right to choose - I feel very strongly about it and want my children to share that value.'. The sound you heard was my jaw dropping. Here we have a real, living example of someone who cherishes the right to an abortion in an almost overtly religious way! It IS their religious issue! Strangely, I feel no animus. I understand her only to be tragically mislead. Interestingly, it is sometimes easier to embrace those whose views are the opposite of our own compared to those we think "should know better".
Schadenfreude Alert
Watching Judy Woodruff cover this election is a near occasion of sin for a conservative. Reminds me of the gruesome joy that a friend of mine used to take in watching the opposing team's cheerleaders cry after the football game was lost.

Must turn channel. Must turn channel.

Can't turn channel. See title of this blog.

There's no joy in McAuliffe-ville tonite, the mighty Clinton has struck out.

note to self: do not enjoy this too much; the lows will feel that much lower (and they will come). Still, it just doesn't get any better than this. Bush can get his judges and Schumer can go back to getting pork for his constituents.

Update: I have successfully turned the channel! "Baby steps" - say like Bill Murray in movie What about Bob?

November 05, 2002

Am glued to my television, watching the wonderful Peggy Noonan on Chris Matthew's show. I morph into a political junkie during elections, and so life is good right now especially given that things are still pretty wide open. The obligatory disclaimer is that I am "over" any illusion that our country will return to sanity on the life issues via political means; it will take the conversions of many hearts.

In other news...I read with interest dylan's comments on Scott Hahn's comments on Orthodox theology. I've read that it is almost inbred in the Western scientific mind to define, define, and define some more. We are very hesistant to ascribe much to mystery. Westerners long for clarity in a way that less coldly rational cultures in Eastern Europe & Russia do not. I was told by one priest that the difference between the Western and Eastern churches is perfectly illustrated by the Consecration. The Western church wants to know the exact moment the bread and wine become the Body and Blood during Mass. The Eastern church has a more vague notion of when it changes (which is perhaps a more humble attitude). The Marian doctrines also come to mind as Western theological advances. Maybe this is what he meant by the stagnancy of Orthodox theology. Their spirituality is certainly rich, and often is like a balm.

D.C. was great; may have to inflict a trip log on you. Architectural impressions ring in my head like glorious pealing bells. The Library of Congress is a building of staggering beauty; surely the most pulchritudinous public building in the USA. (Your humble correspondent applied for a card and got to walk in the hallowed reading room, where I pretended to be a scholar).