February 28, 2013

Our Holy Father's Finale

It seemed appropriate, to say the least, to catch up on All Things Papal tonight. Listened to an excellent Gus Lloyd satellite radio show today featuring a Dr. Christopher B., whose last name unfortunately I did not catch. Interesting to hear such frank Catholic radio. 

Watched Benedict's last General Address via YouTube and his Ash Wednesday homily. A lot of "lasts", sadly.  Watched his helicopter go and I felt a moment of abandonment, truth to tell.  It felt unduly symbolic.  My wife asked me why previous popes don't usually retire and I didn't have an answer. But I think it's because we call him our "Holy Father" and just as my dad doesn't retire from his fatherhood, so do popes generally not retire from their position. In other words, it's not a job but...family.  

But in this fast-paced time there's a case to be made for younger, more vigorous popes.  Everything happens faster now, in part due to technologies which speed communication, so I think Benedict recognized that given the pace of cultural and political change the papacy (and thus the Church) might benefit from shorter pontificates and younger men.  As a big respecter and proponent of reason, it's understandable he would - he doesn't strike me as one particularly sentimental but enamored of truth, be it in reason or faith. And so he goes. Perhaps a case where his predilection for meditation, prayer and study coincided with what's best for the Church. We'll miss him.  

Prayer for the Church

Via Dylan

Heavenly Father, We, the People of God, gathered in solidarity as did the disciples in the Upper Room, pray for the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the cardinals who will be in conclave for the election of the next Vicar of our Lord Jesus Christ.

May the hearts of our cardinals be open to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, beyond any human judgment, to elect the candidate most pleasing to You, Heavenly Father, and who will guide the Church at this momentous time in history at the beginning of the Third Millennium.

We invoke our Mother Mary, united in prayer with the disciples in the Upper Room, to intercede for our cardinals to select the next Holy Father in docility to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, her divine Spouse.

Holy Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, we entrust this conclave to your maternal and Immaculate Heart, and offer these prayers for your guidance and protection over the choosing of the next Vicar of your Son:

1 Our Father
1 Hail Mary
1 Glory Be

Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us!

This & That

Giddy from the discovery (and coincidence given my recent lament about not buying a bunch of books at a time) of a boatload of Kindle books priced at $1.99-$3.99.  Bought like crazy: “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis, “Simply Jesus” by N.T. Wright , “A Jesuit Guide to Everything” by James Martin, the story of Handel's Messiah, “God Wants You to be Happy” by Fr. Jonathan Morris, a Christopher Hitchens bio of Thomas Jefferson, a book chronicling the story of Atlantic City and its famous boardwalk.

Hopelessly and helplessly behind in my reading now, as if I wasn't before. But at those prices how can one resist? I forget that the crucial variable in determining whether to buy a book or not is not its cost financially but its cost time-wise. I have more money than time when it comes to books. The trick is to read the books I want or need, regardless of monetary price.

Of course, buying a bunch of books on Kindle is not nearly as much fun as having the books themselves. It's sort of like how it'd be more fun to have a thousand pieces of gold to play with and stack up rather than just have a high number on a bank deposit statement.


Thinking of getting “Rebuilding Catholic Culture” due to it promoting the Catholic Catechism as the way forward in the New Evangelization. And speaking of the Catechism, read some great, great excerpts from it today, a book jam-packed with good news. I tend to look a gift horse (i.e. confessio divina) in the mouth.The catechism says:

“Catechesis strives to awaken and nourish in the faithful faith in the incomparable greatness of the risen Christ's gift to his Church: the mission and the power to forgive sins through the ministry of the apostles and their successors….'Priests have received from God a power that he has given neither to angels nor to archangels'…”

Extant memories of the cruise are fading. I no longer easily feel being submerged in that salty tang watching fish swim decisively by. Or the excitement of the nightly entertainment there in the big auditorium, the hearty bell-laughs at the hard-working comedians. Or the gal dancers who reminded me of the wisdom of one woman writer who remarked simply, “Guys just like looking at pretty women.” How great was that first day exploring the ship head-to-toe? If I had to do it over I'd sneak in one of the “Crew Only” doors and try to see where the other half lives. Especially now after reading this book about their lives below.

Of course there was that brilliant, brilliant sun. Man alive but sailing past Cuba (“Cuber” as JFK sometimes called it) was nice. It's just different down there in the Caribbean compared to Florida. Warmer. More summer-like. Sunnier than even the Sunshine State. And the perishable quality of the cruise, the mere four days, somehow made it more special.

Current conditions: 39° Rain


I wonder why do we not say 'Alleluia' during Lent when it means 'praise God' and yet we can say “Praise to You Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory”? Mysteries of the church volume 43.


It's kind of odd now to remember how infrequently one heard a Pope's voice.

I'm thinking back to 1990, say, with Pope John Paul II. No internet, no cable, no EWTN at least not in our neck of the woods. So when I had the chance to order a CD-rom with his voice (chanting Our Father among other things), I jumped at it.

How novel it felt! How connected I felt. And how strange it is now to imagine a time when you can't YouTube somebody's voice in 10 seconds from the device in your pocket.

But it's still strange, as was pointed out on Lino Rulli's show today, that we won't see Benedict again. It is strange to see a public figure suddenly “go black” although there are cases of it happening with sickness, as with Ronald Reagan or now Margaret Thatcher.


Strong run down in the weightroom. Felt downright quenching. It's funny how much more I'm enjoying running these days. Maybe it's the indoor thing that just works better because I don't know how far I've got to go - don't look at the clock hardly ever and when you're running outside you always know how far you've got based on your location. Plus with the lack of scenery I can zone out. And think about things, like the cruise ship under the aegis of Caribbean weather.

 I learned from the cruise ship guy that passengers are known as “cones”, either because we look like traffic cones when all wearing our life preservers at muster, or because it's like the movie the Coneheads where people eat everything in sight. I figured the crew had an unflattering name for us, though I 'spose it could've been worse.


“Dante dances the romance lost, the love that never was,
and the great love missed because of dreaming.”  - Jack Gilbert

In low moments I once felt faux-safe by
the freedom desperation confers,
in sea dreams of castaway lights;
Oh the places you will go
if desperation calls!

“If I was broke!”
(I'd live in a cardboard box
with my books and be gloriously jobless.)

“If I was wanted by the police!”
(I'd escape to a foreign country,
cross the river into Mexico
like a desperado.)

“If I was depressed!”
(I'd up and run to Hawaii,
Germany, Thailand and
find my mojo elsewhere.)

“If I couldn't find a mate!”
(I'd get one of those Russian brides
by priority mail.)

But man doth not live by contingency plans alone
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.


However chancy life looks, with its economic uncertainties and physical and mental trials, in the end you have to trust God.  Our “golden years” may or not be golden and the very term seems to have about it a “protests too much” quality. No one needs to label their youth as “golden” since that's usually self-evident. We call harsh things by pretty names to lessen their sting (see: “pro-choice”).

Certainly William F. Buckley had a hard time of his last years, which is sort of daunting given his spiritual and intellectual attributes. He became "self-medicating” with Ritalin and other drugs. But then his son said he had that in common with all great men - they are used to controlling their situation. Which gives me some comfort since I'm not a great man. From the Washington Times review of Christopher Buckley's memoir:

“Buckley was increasingly 'self-medicated.' 'Pup’s self-medicating was … a chemical extension of the control he extended over every other aspect of his life … Put it this way: Few great men — and I use the term precisely, for Pup was a great man — do not seek to assert total control over their domains. … Great men (and yes, of course by that I include women) tend to be the stars of their own movies.'”

Stars of their own movies. The constant temptation of life! How incredibly different is that from the Virgin Mary's life, she who was the star of another movie - God's movie - a part for which she did not apply for nor dream of.

If she had been starring in her own movie, would she have ever imagined a role so audacious as Mother of God? Would she have ever included a hurt so deep as to see her son humiliated and crucified? The heights and depths of God's movie, as opposed to ours, are much deeper than we have the stomach for. And yet God's movie is the only real show in town. All else is make believe and waste.


So I read more of the cruise ship book, fascinating but certainly not in accord with St. Paul's advice that we think of “higher things” as Christians. The author is master of “too much information” (I really don't know how it is that nowadays one's sex life is somehow fodder for books but I suspect it's related to the fact that the book was self-published) but at the same time I do have a grudging respect for how much work he evidently put into the book. He sweat the details, would study what made stories interesting, thought constantly about how the book would go and is a pretty darn engaging writer for a computer guy. Another left-brained worker wanting to use his right brain.

The contrast between the catechism and the cruise book is striking but in a strange way complementary. The catechism feels like a chore in the beginning but eventually leaves me glowing and with a good taste in my mouth. The cruise book is immediately satisfying but eventually goes stale and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.


Sometimes it seems the modern definition of the word magic is “anything that can't be verified by scientific method.” Thus the Eucharist, grace, Holy Spirit promptings are all pilloried as “magic” The great falsehood of our age!

February 27, 2013


"Faith is not superfluous. It is as necessary as our daily bread. That is why Christians are as truly bound by the imperative of the multiplication of the loaves: 'Give them to eat!' as by the words with which Jesus rejected Satan’s temptation that Christianity limit itself to the multiplication of loaves and become a social welfare organization: 'Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" - Cardinal Ratzinger's Coworkers of the Truth

February 25, 2013

Random Thoughts

My wife set up a webcam and now we can check our pets Buddy and Deedle while we're away from home via an internet connection. Nice to see them wandering around during the day: Conclusion? Buddy sleeps a lot. I almost feel sorry for the piker. Wish I could get him a book to read or something. His intellectual life looks limited at best.


Read of recent popes in the latest National Review. JPII and Benedict a change not only in nationality (i.e. not Italians) but also having pastoral experience and having never worked in the Vatican diplomatic corps. Scholars! A new breed of pope.

Interesting article by John Allen today on the coming papal conclave. He mentioned that some cardinals thought Benedict's resignation - especially if it becomes the new template - erodes some of the luster of the office. “May as well be the Archbishop of Canterbury!” is how one prelate put it. Interesting thought that hadn't occurred to me. There was something romantic about the papacy being a job that controls you - i.e. you serve till death - rather than you controlling it by fixing its cessation if not its beginning. Chesterton wrote that romantic things last forever and thus the papacy was of that kin. Am sort of fascinated how the uber-tough German Ratzinger wasn't willing to clean up Vatican mismanagement. No heads rolled. Wow, if even a German can't make heads roll who can? Not that the Vatican mismanagement matters to the average Catholic including me, at least up until the malfeasance reaches a criminal level, such as the awful pedophilia scandal of the church. But the whole Vatileaks thing seemed a sideshow compared to the greater issue of the need for a Catholic renaissance.


A bit of suntastic earlier today, at least for Cloud-umbus. Took advantage of it by taking Buddy for a walk and letting my mind go to that surreal moment of snorkeling on Cozumel followed by those delicious shrimp tacos and quintet of Dos Equis. Rare you get such a combination of pleasures: beach, sun, beer, food. All at once. Glad I broke out of my rather rigid vacation “schedule” of not drinking before 3 and always skipping lunch. It was like we had a picnic on the beach under that umbrella. Gosh that was great. If short-lived.


Having purchased the most basic Logos Catholic virtual library, I now feel how nice it is to have things like Pope Benedict's book on Jesus, entirely “free” of charge. It's sort of like how when you prepay for a week of meals at an all-inclusive resort, it feels really good to partake without pulling out the credit card. Totally illusory but still. It's the first time I've ever pre-bought a library of books and between the de Sales book and this papal book I do feel like there's a lot of riches contained within. I certainly am impressed by those folks who have purchased the more expensive sets. It's almost like they must be able to justify it almost as like it were a donation to a good cause, keeping those Logos workers employed spreading the good news, translating new volumes from Latin, providing a richness of resources for future scholars. Because really only scholars need this sort of thing it seems to me.

But I've always wanted to just drop a couple hundred dollars just once at a bookstore. Maybe even including a thick history book of stout stock, or a coffee table art book. The closest I've come was when given money for around my 13th birthday and Mom took me to a bookstore and I came home with four books. I spread them before me and took a picture. It's kind of surprising I've never just thrown caution to the wind and spent like crazy at a bookstore before. I don't have that overly wild streak of generosity, towards others or myself. I don't have that willingness to live high on the hog for the moment, to feast, to celebrate in a truly robust fashion. I'm too wary of the future I guess, or perhaps too cognizant of the cost of celebration. Too wary of Lent to enjoy Easter I guess. Must be the impact of the English on me, that English concern about money that imprinted itself on the Irish consciousness over the centuries. Certainly influenced my frugal Irish grandma, although likely it was the Great Depression that did the influencing there. It was kind of funny to have seen my 100% Irish Grandma acting like an English protestant when it comes to the purse.


St. Polycarp feast is today. A martyr for whom the flames did not scorch. But the sword did twain. Which is an interesting thing - it seems like with a lot of the early martyrs it took multiple attempts to kill them. Which seems odd in a way, as if God was protecting them from one form of death only to have them succumb immediately to another. But I suppose it was a way of showing the miraculous (and that God cares) even when evil has its way. It was a way of God saying, “I was with them even though they died.” Would surely be inspirational to the flock to hear that flames did not hurt Polycarp.


How I'd longed to be wombed within that “Temple of Peace” as Gladstone called his library, inside my idyllic house of books. House and Gardens? Call it House and Libraries and I may subscribe!

Reading Benedict's second book on Jesus. Learned about the history of the word hosanna. Fascinating! I've said the word a million times without delving into its rich past.

Sometimes it feels like the Christian life is, reduced to its core, storing up a different sort of treasure than we normally store up. That is, the storing up of love, of charitable acts. Which suggests that instead of going for the gratification of self in this life, we seek to delay our gratification, we seek to work for the next life.

Some of us seem to have the capacity to delay gratification and some don't. A study was done on nursery schoolers in which they could have a single marshmallow immediately or wait for an undetermined time (up to fifteen minutes) and receive two. Most children couldn't wait. The psychologist tracked the children for the next 40 years and found that those who waited lived "productive and in many cases outstanding lives." Those who immediately grabbed a marshmallow didn't do as well. It also made for a difference of a whopping 215 points on their respective S.A.T.s!

It sounds so deterministic to say, but sometimes it seems like there's such an inborn, genetic component to self-control. Of course Jesus say that to whom much is given, more is required implying that there's an intrinsic difference in what some are given as opposed to others. And the Spirit is what matters given the frailty of the flesh.


Went on a C-Span Boston binge. I watched an hour special on the Old North church that was especially thorough. Despite having visited there twice, I learned new things or things I'd forgotten. Like the fact that it had originally been called “Christ Church” and the boxes weren't for privacy but to stay warm from drafts in an unheated church. I was shocked to learn that the church's plain white look was not the way it would've looked like originally, but was the early 20th century's historical vision of how churches in that time period looked. We thought they were all into simplicity and lack of decoration when they had angels painted and wallpaper and decorated those spare cubicles with furniture and art. Funny how our view of history constantly changes and how, despite that, we assign our current view as having some sort of definitive authority. They'll laugh at us a hundred years' hence.

That got me hungry for Boston history, so I searched the C-Span website and found an archived hour-long video concerning the Granary Burying Ground, the famous place where Paul Revere and John Hancock are buried, second oldest in Boston. I really wanted to find the graveyard next to the hotel we stayed at on the Freedom Trail but this sufficed, and the guide was very helpful in describing how gravestones changed (and quickly!) from the time of Puritan simplicity (just writing, no pictures) to late 17th century death heads with wings, to happy face heads with wings, to urns and willows (following Roman images) when an interest in all things classical emerged in the late 1700s. A very satisfying history lesson.

It's amazing what all's on C-Span. Imagine having your own private guide to places like Gettysburg, the Old North Church, the Capitol building, etc… including access to places where the general public isn't allowed? All from your own home. And yet we do not avail it!


After church, Fr. Jeff apparently out with a cold and an African priest substituting who was difficult to understand, I returned to home and hearth.

And speaking of Africans, the NY Times (oh how I envy the Left for having such an impressive organ) had a piece about how the Catholic Church in Africa is exploding and how it's attributable to the Church being able to serve people when dysfunctional states can't. In one sense it's as though the Times is simply attributing success of a religion to the mere satisfying of material appetites, be they providing places of quiet and safety in Nigeria, or payment of a crushing debt for someone in Rwanda. And that's kind of insulting, an Obama-like “cling to their guns and their religion” thing attributed to fear or desperation or material deprivation. But on the other hand, isn't this cradle-to-grave takeover by the state uneasy to the devout in part for fear that people won't look to God? And didn't Jesus say that the rich will find the way to Heaven hard because they are already full?

Caught a bit of Bishop Campbell's homily this week and he quoted a pagan observer of Christians around A.D.150 who said Christians were different because they “stay true to their marital vows and don't kill their children.” Interesting to see how the same challenges confront today's Christians, given how high the rates of divorce and abortion are. It seems like human nature and societies don't change, only how Christian Christians are.

In Fr. Barron's Lenten meditations he writes, “Unless you fast, you may never even recognize how hungry you are for God.” Fr. B says not to treat fasting as self-punishment but “feel that hunger as a kind of sacrament of your divine hunger.”


Still amazed by that statistic that that the eventual SAT score of nursery school was 215 points higher for those who, more than a decade before taking the test, could wait in order to receive the reward of a second marshmallow. Interesting too that the feeling of stress is related to this - people who can wait feel less stress. Though I suppose it's something of a catch-22 since if you can wait you are inherently better at dealing with “stress” where in this case stress is defined by simply waiting.


Conjectures about the Holy Father are naturally rife these days; I always got the sense that he never really wanted the job given that he is a scholar and a pope must, first and foremost, be a shepherd of people and thus work with people far more than ideas. And yet the fact that he remained pontiff for almost eight years is nothing to sneeze at. Eight years is a pretty decent stretch so I can't see how anybody could think he shirked his duty. The benefits of his pontificate were surely front-loaded and skewed towards the beginning years anyway.

What I miss most is the prospect of future encyclicals and books. He's a writer so trenchant and prolific that despite having a “glut” of his writings I always feel like he's capable of say something fresh and new and addressed to exactly our (or my) condition. If John Paul II was a tough act to follow, so too is Benedict XVI given that he is arguably the smartest cookie in the church militant. We had the most charismatic and beloved of popes in John Paul II and the most intelligent in Benedict, both qualities being pretty nice to have. Who wants a good administrator or a good diplomat when you can have holy man with charisma or holy man with intellect? God has certainly been good to the Church lately given the run of popes of the last hundred or so years. Lots of saints or potential saints in the bunch: Pope St. Pius X, Blessed John XXIII. Pope Pius XII being considered, as is of course John Paul II. Even Paul VI is being considered: “The Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted in favor of Pope Paul VI’s 'heroic virtue.' This clears the way for Paul’s beatification (though a miracle still must be approved). Paul’s beatification could occur during 2013.”

I guess his resignation teaches, again and as if I should have to be reminded, that we should never take anyone for granted. Somehow I pictured Benedict would write as many encyclicals as John Paul despite the advance age of the former. Having known only one pope my whole adult life in John Paul I think I assumed somehow that Benedict would be the pope for another large period of my life.

February 21, 2013


Found on The Digital Hairshirt



How astonishing it is that language can almost mean, and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say, God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words get it wrong. We say bread and it means according to which nation. French has no word for home, and we have no word for strict pleasure.

A people in northern India is dying out because their ancient tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost vocabularies that might express some of what we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would finally explain why the couples on their tombs are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated, they seemed to be business records. But what if they are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light. O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper, as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor. Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script is not a language but a map. What we feel most has no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses and birds.
- Jack Gilbert [line breaks removed]

February 19, 2013

Catechism o' the Day

Read my weekly catechism lesson. Have been doing it via the Logos Bible Software 'Year of Faith' group. 'Twould seem that's the magic way to keep me going, that combination of convenience (not needing the actual catechism text) with electronic prompts.

Some good stuff in latest reading about how we can become kings, kings over our wayward desires and passions. Sometimes it's good just to know it's possible:
“By his obedience unto death, Christ communicated to his disciples the gift of royal freedom, so that they might 'by the self-abnegation of a holy life, overcome the reign of sin in themselves':
'That man is rightly called a king who makes his own body an obedient subject and, by governing himself with suitable rigor, refuses to let his passions breed rebellion in his soul, for he exercises a kind of royal power over himself. And because he knows how to rule his own person as king, so too does he sit as its judge. He will not let himself be imprisoned by sin, or thrown headlong into wickedness.'”


Nice to be able to share spousal cruise pictures with each other via the automagic of Dropbox. So nice today to see those images captured from the underwater world of fish and coral.

Man but THE moment of the cruise might well have been that Saturday morning on Paradise Beach with the whole day ahead and the sun so sterling that I actually steered us towards the umbrellas. Oh but what a refreshing moment that was, as was the whole cruise. The joy of anticipation. The knock-knock on the door in the mornings bringing liters of coffee and trays of food. Oh for those moments settled in the chairs on the top deck. And oh what a painful feeling of loss I feel now! Oh to have those magic waters rolling below me again, or be sipping a beer while listening to that Mexican jazz band in the quiet Olive or Twist bar, memories so plangent now for their brevity. The insouciant carefree days of godlike sun, the sweet Kindle profferings of ancient Homer and modern Melville, the feeling anything could happen on that page, or on that stage, or with that drink. The expertise of cooks and comedians skilled at making you glad. Oh where but on a cruise do you eat at a fine restaurant every night, see live entertainment every night, drink in the sun listening to a reggae band and occasionally explore a port of call? For a midwinter Midwesterner it's surely a glam life.

Even some of the pictures, blown up on iPad, do give me some feeling of being there - which is rare for photographs, really. Most of the time they don't do it justice. I'm amused by how enraptured I am by some of the little touches on board - most especially the rich, smooth wood railings along the balcony. No wonder I stood there looking out at the sea for so long. I couldn't get over the astonishing sight of such colorful ocean juxtaposed against that white ship and wood railings, enjoying that atavistic thrill of being suspended directly above the ocean blue.

February 18, 2013

Why Mardi Gras?

Fascinating look behind the medieval mindset on sin and salvation.:
Many historians and anthropologists have tried to “unpack” Carnival and undercover its “meaning.” Predictably, they tend to see Carnival as an act of subversion on the part of “folk culture” against the repressive and stuffy culture of the upper classes, or else they see Carnival as a “release valve” that allowed the masses to escape from the rigors of Christianity and blow off steam. I find these explanations to be wholly inadequate. They are attempts at shoving Carnival into modern categories of psychology, social discipline, and class conflict. Indeed, it is a mistake to view Carnival as an exception to the Medieval Christian order. Rather, it was something that had a place in Christendom because of how Christians themselves understood and practiced Christianity: in the late Middle Ages in many parts of Europe everyone from the peasant to the noble, to the priest and bishop participated—it was a part of what Christians did.

I’m not sure there is an easy explanation for Carnival. It is only with extreme difficulty that we moderns can set aside our relentlessly scientific categories of thought and so understand what the revelers were up to. But I do think that it had something to do with their understanding of sin and with their understanding of time.... (more at link above).

To Tune American Pie

Link here:
Benedict X V I

Not so very long ago
I can still remember how “Habemus Papam” made me smile
And I thought if he had the chance, he’d make those wacky liberals dance
And we’d forget that VII for a while.
But February made me bitter--with each new tweet up from Twitter
Bad news from each blog host; I hated each new blog post
And everybody seemed to find lots to say that was too kind
And I thought I would lose my mind the day the pope resigned.

So bye, bye Benedict X V I
Seems the Novus is still Ordo and I just don’t know why
And all my friends, from the Low Mass and High, are singing
“Popes should stay the pope till they die,
Popes should stay the pope till they die.”

Did he write that “God is Love” and isn’t that on a felt banner above
The altar in that “worship space”
Now, do you know Gregorian Chant? Do modern church songs make you rant?

....(more at link above)

Orthodoxies & Heterodoxies

Read a fascinating article from the Xenos non-denominational outfit about why Jesus was not of the priestly Levitical tribe. I became curious recently because Garry Wills, that indefatigable anti-Catholic Catholic said on Colbert's show that the Catholic priesthood is a sham because the book of Hebrews is a sham and if God wanted priests he'd have made Jesus a Levite. But the Xenos article adds light to the fact that Jesus priesthood is eternal and with a new “law” (that of the spirit rather than the letter) there should be a new priesthood. But then King David had some priestly functions so it's not like it was limited to Levites. And, of course, the killer deal is the mysterious presence of Melchizedek, that “priest forever” outside the Levite line.

With Wills it just goes to show that once you start rejecting doctrine you'll eventually go whole hog. From the rejection of the Church's stand on birth control, to a disbelief in the bible ("throw out the Book of Hebrews!") to the sacraments (“the Eucharist is just bread”). I'm oddly comforted by some of the writing Wills does because it shows how wrong he is; by his lack of detachment and fairness he betrays himself.


Lord have mercy but does this pope speak to me. Specifically in the meditations called Co-Workers of the Truth. He has so much of the OT prophets about him given his diagnosis of the follies we're prone to:
“What curious inversion of the concern for the future accounts for the fact that every effort seems to be concentrated on the silent and sure elimination of the “danger” of new life? There are, to be sure, many reasons for this. But is it not ultimately the concern as to whether human life is, in fact, a reasonable option, if it is a meaningful gift that one can in conscience pass on unsolicited, or if it is not, in truth, an insupportable burden so that it would be better not to be born? Who will answer this question that makes man more and more uncertain despite the apotheosis of the future? The strategists for a new world? Hardly. For the question as to whether it will be worthwhile tomorrow to be human does not depend on how goods will be distributed, but on the deeper questions.”
“It is only by enduring himself, by freeing himself through suffering from the tyranny of egoism, that man finds himself, that he finds his truth, his joy, his happiness. He will be all the happier the more ready he is to take upon himself the abysses of existence with all their misery. The measure of one’s capacity for happiness depends on the measure of the premiums one has paid, on the measure of one’s readiness to accept the full passion of being human. The crisis of our age is made very real by the fact that we would like to flee from it; that people mislead us into thinking that one can be human without overcoming oneself, without the suffering of renunciation and the hardship of self-control; that people mislead us by claiming that there is no need for the difficulty of remaining true to what one has undertaken and the patient endurance of the tension between what one ought to be and what one actually is. An individual who has been freed from all effort and led into the fool’s paradise of his dreams loses what is most essential, himself. There is, in fact, no other way in which one can be saved than by the Cross.”

February 15, 2013

7 Quickish Takes

Ran giddily around the running track for a half-hour, which Larry Czonka'd me, i.e. zonked me. Didn't think it would take me out like that. Maybe I ran faster than usual due to remembering that Sunday spent out on the balcony reading ocean and book.


Went to "amateur night" mass Wednesday where the crowds are thick with ash-lovers. Touched by the priest telling me, personally, those familiar words: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” A chilling prophecy, to the extent one can call a certainty a prophecy.


Was riveted by news reports of the poor Carnival Triumph, the boat that docked next to us in Cozumel on Saturday. What a miasma of misery! Apparently it's hot on board with little food or working bathroom facilities, any one of those conditions would be unpleasant let alone all three. There are folks eating onion and pickle sandwiches, sleeping on the deck, and dodging fecal matter in the hallways. Hits awfully close to home given the timing of our own cruise. As great and fabulous as our cruise was it's a wake-up call to how fragile the whole thing is, how easily the gossamer surface can become a “shanty town”.


Odd to be in “sensual mode” on a boat full of nearly naked people and then come home to Lent.


Kind of interesting to read the Catechism today and see a reference to St. Paul in Romans 10 saying, to paraphrase, “who will they hear without someone preaching to them?” and I thought how that was interesting given that he “heard” without anyone preaching to him, unless you count the direct encounter with Christ. But then he did say he became an apostle "abnormally" given that encounter.


Kudos to our Spiritual Life Committee for mailing out Fr. Barron's Lenten meditations this year, a breath of fresh orthodox air after the usual liberal Catholic/conservative Protestant offering.


Counting calories seem to work, at least so far. We do tend to observe more closely that which we measure.

February 13, 2013

Let's Play...Why's My Bookbag or E-Reader Equivalent So Heavy?

Joe Queenan's One for the Books:
The great books of the world are like a gigantic warning from the Office of the Surgeon General: Attention, readers: Even if you are a hugely successful, highly respected individual—a captain of industry, perhaps even a pillar of the community—this thing is going to end badly.


by refusing to expose themselves to the music of chance, they have purged all the authentic, nonelectronic magic and mystery from their lives. They have rolled over and surrendered to the machines. This may be convenient, but that’s all it is. All technology is corporate.


“No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes than a public library,” wrote Samuel Johnson; “for who can see the wall crowded on every side by mighty volumes, the works of laborious meditations and accurate inquiry, now scarcely known but by the catalogue.”

From Moby Dick:
Let it go. Look! see yonder Turkish cheeks of spotted tawn—living, breathing pictures painted by the sun. The Pagan leopards—the unrecking and unworshipping things, that live; and seek, and give no reasons for the torrid life they feel!


For with little external to constrain us, the innermost necessities in our being, these still drive us on.


"Drink and pass!" he cried, handing the heavy charged flagon to the nearest seaman. "The crew alone now drink. Round with it, round! Short draughts—long swallows, men; 'tis hot as Satan's hoof. So, so; it goes round excellently. It spiralizes in ye; forks out at the serpent-snapping eye. Well done; almost drained. That way it went, this way it comes. Hand it me—here's a hollow! Men, ye seem the years; so brimming life is gulped and gone. Steward, refill!


Yonder, by ever-brimming goblet's rim, the warm waves blush like wine. The gold brow plumbs the blue. The diver sun—slow dived from noon—goes down...


Oh! time was, when as the sunrise nobly spurred me, so the sunset soothed. No more. This lovely light, it lights not me; all loveliness is anguish to me, since I can ne'er enjoy. Gifted with the high perception, I lack the low.


We'll drink to-night with hearts as light, To love, as gay and fleeting As bubbles that swim, on the beaker's brim, And break on the lips while meeting.


Oh, boys, don't be sentimental; it's bad for the digestion!

From Chabon's Telegraph Avenue:
A change of state. Molecules in transition, liquid to vapor. A Chinatown dollar-store teacup flying a dragon kite of steam.


Archy found himself unexpectedly on the verge of tears. That verge was as close to tears as Archy usually allowed himself to come. Regret, hurt, bereavement, loss, to permit the flow of even one tear at the upwelling of such feelings was to imperil ancient root systems and retaining walls. Mudslide and black avalanche would result and drown him.


Shameless meant you suffered from a case of laziness so profound that you could not be bothered to hide your misbehavior; but it seemed to suggest also that you had nothing to hide, no need to feel any shame.


You could damn yourself with silence but never so effectively as by running your mouth.


One of the man’s balls there to question the testimony of the other, both of them doubting what his dick had to say.


Aviva liked him for his immobility, his effortless parsimony of movement.

So That's Why He's Retiring

It's occasionally interesting if trying to see what non-Catholics, like this Wesleyan University professor, have to say about things Catholic:
Quite a surprise that Pope Benedict is passing the baton this way. You wonder what's behind the scenes to break with a 600 year precedent. A beef Ratzinger's always had, that Pope's spent their last years on autopilot? Afraid of other people running it while he's frail? Wanting to have influence on who his successor is? [emphasis mine] If I had to pick one, the last one would be high on my list as a factor.
To see every office in terms of merely the exercise of power is the boringly typical ideology of our age. To quote the Holy Father himself:
"There is an ideology that fundamentally traces all existing institutions back to power politics. And this ideology corrupts humanity and also destroys the Church. Here is a concrete example: If I see the Church only under the aspect of power, then it follows that everyone who doesn't hold an office is oppressed. And then the question of, for example, women's ordination, as an issue of power, becomes imperative. I think this ideology produces a totally false point of view, as if power were the only category for explaining the world and the communion present in it. If belonging to the Church has any meaning at all, then the meaning can only be that it gives us eternal life. We are not in the Church in order to exercise power as if in some kind of association."

February 12, 2013

Benedict We Hardly Knew Ye

Hey, well, now that was surprising. Not every day do you read the Pope is retiring. Wow. I wonder how this jibes with that Malachian prediction that this is the last pope before the end of the world. Seems we may not have much time left.

I can see the Holy Father retiring in part because he has the freedom that Christians ought feel, that freedom not to follow conventions but to possess a spirit of liberty. Thus the fact no pope has retired since 1415 wouldn't be much of a deterrent to this holy pope. And he might well have considered that his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, already taught by his example of the dignity of old age and that the value of human life is apart from what can be “produced”.

Finally, the timing seems interesting given that this comes on the heels of producing the three volume work on the life of Christ. At the beginning of his papacy he wondered if he'd complete it before his death, and perhaps once it was done he felt he'd accomplished what he'd set out to do.

Of course another reason for his leaving, besides simply that it's his discernment of God's will, is that he can't travel anymore and in this day and age travel seems almost a job requirement for that position.

Bush v. Obama

Am intrigued by how parallel the Bush and Obama presidencies feel. Both got two terms despite bitter, near fanatical opposition from Americans belonging to the other party. Both, without remorse, betrayed a huge part of their respective bases: Bush by spending wildly and engaging in nation building, Obama by continuing most of Bush's hated anti-terrorist policies like drones, Gitmo, civil liberties infringements.

Both Bush and Obama, though, did the One Thing Necessary to secure their own bases: Bush cut taxes and Obama remained a black person. (Kidding - Obama got health care passed.) And, of course, Obama was suitably bloodthirsty on abortion rights while Bush was pro-life. So that soothed both bases as well.

In the end, Obama found the Democrat playbook that worked: hawkish on foreign policy, dove-ish domestically - except for unborn children. Basically the platform comes down to “death to terrorists and unwanted children but love to every one else except the rich.”

Ye Trip Log of Four Days on a Cruise

“I had discovered the crowning error of the city, its Pandora's box. Full of vaunting pride the New Yorkers had climbed here and seen with dismay what he had never suspected, that the city was not the endless succession of canyons that he supposed but that it had limits - from the tallest structure he saw for the first time that it faded out into the country on all sides, into an expanse of green and blue that alone was limitless….” - F. Scott Fitzgerald, My Lost City, 1932.


"Walter always, lifelong, working that 51/49 smart-to-stupid ratio." - Michael Chabon, Telegraph Avenue

It never fails to amaze me just how big this country is. We had a layover in Atlanta, a city that feels deeply Southern to me and yet it was a longer journey from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale than Ohio to Atlanta. Whole lot of real estate. Makes me wonder if the winters are really as genteel in Atlanta as I imagine.

On our approach to Atlanta there was a deeply fetching fog. We were struck by the sight of a tiny collection of skyscrapers visible above it - maybe ten or fifteen in all. It looked sort of like Stonehedge, these truncated 'scrapers.

Meantime I used the Liturgy of the Hours on iPad and wonder what the Orthodox Jews behind me on the plane think. Maybe that I was “stealing” their prayers, which is what one rabbi joked to Cardinal Dolan upon noting that his breviary was composed mostly of the Psalms.

And this just in: Orthodox Jews are very loud. Wow. Wasn't just us that noticed, we overheard the people in front of us talking about it too. Last trip we took we also had a guy and his family next to us talking extremely loudly. It's purely anecdotal, but I wonder if it's a coarsening of culture, an indifference to other passengers, or if it's just we're too used to quiet.

The odds finally caught up with us. After all the trips it was finally time for an airline to lose my luggage. Fortunately we arrived in Fort Lauderdale a day before the cruise and so have some wiggle room, although it wasn't particularly comforting that four hours after reporting the lost luggage there's still no update. If they don't find them I suppose we'll have to find a Walmart and buy clothes. Which kind of sucks. Won't have any contact lenses either for the trip.

So there's a sense of unease today despite how pleasant the hotel. Seventy-five degrees at 4pm! Nice weather if you can get it. A stunner of a day. The pool frocked with palms. Sun, yes. Wearing jeans because those large suitcases cannot be found. I was thinking yesterday about how odd it is we need a passport or driver's license to prove we are who we say we are. The importance of that one little piece of paper, or laminated card, is huge. And how easy to lose. And yet here it's apparently possible to lose two forty-pound suitcases. Fortunately I didn't pack the passport in the checked luggage. In the future I guess I'll have to be more sensitive to what I pack in carry-on. Like your house getting broken into, you're usually only wiser after it happens. Otherwise you play the odds.

Six pm, no bags. I plan a trip to ye olde neighborhood CVS (or “csv” I called it, obviously still in work mode) to buy a contact lens case and solution in order to try to extend the life of my one-day disposable to five days. But then, just before we walk out the door, they call and have our bags.

Rather than suffer the ignominy of drinking a $5 non-craft beer downstairs I head out to the local supermarket. Found a quick-mart and bought a six of Sierra Nevada Pales. A six is more than I'll drink and the cruise folks are Nazi's when it comes to smuggling in alcohol, so I have beers to spare. I happen across a homeless-looking man while walking back and figure he'd appreciate a beer. I walk towards him, nod to him, hoping he'll ask me for money at which point I'll present the free brew but he doesn't and I don't. So here I am sitting on this “gold mine” of three extra beers.

The all-you-can-drink alcohol package on the Royal Caribbean cruise is a rich $45-55 a day. Which was an easy "no" in my case. Kind of interesting to see what RC thinks is the over/under on drinking. I assume they're making a slim profit or at least breaking even on the $50 a day plan versus people just paying ala carte. Assuming drinks are $5-ish a pop, that's a healthy ten drinks per day. Of course you figure that people going for the alcohol package are going to skew towards the heavy drinkers but still that's a pretty generous amount of quaffing. (A quick Google shows mixed drinks on RC cruises are $7-9, but that's still five mixed drinks a day.)


Oh but a hotel pales, even one in the warm, sunny climate of Flor-i-day, beside the frisson of a boat, including a cruise ship. Laying out next to a pool is not unlike what I was doing at the hotel pool but it feels different here. On the elevator we had two big black dudes, us, and the Amish. This cruise feels downright multicultural. Oh the youth surrounding me. “Banquets where beautiful and virtuous ladies walked half-naked, with their hair loose like brides,” to quote a Jack Gilbert poem.

We clung to the pool until the muster drill, or as I joked the “mustard” drill. (Hit fake applause sound effect here.) About a half-hour of time-wastage but at least we don't have to have life jackets now. A buzz-kill no doubt for the many semi-inebriated cruisers since alcohol sales stop a half-hour before the reveille call. They let you on the boat now pleasingly early providing an almost full day on the first day. Can't get in your cabin till 1pm but that hardly matters. Folks seemed slower to respond to the muster than a decade ago and of course I spy in that, as always, the Decline of Civilization. Or maybe just the Europeanization of American life, like how in Rome people take rules “under advisement”.

Fatigue was the order of the day, so I drank recuperative beers (they really seem to help with exhaustion) very slowly and then half-slept, half-read and half-watched the rippling pool waters. The pool was smartly designed with a very shallow beginning (2 inches of water) before the edge of a six foot drop. Then to the room - how splendid to see the ship depart from our private balcony! Idyllic. Oh it's been almost a decade since my last cruise. I remember the appeal now: from the kitschy plastic toucans of the pool area to the viscerally real ocean from the balcony. From Disney to raw nature in one fell swoop. The infrastructure of Fort Lauderdale behind us, we headed through a narrow passage into the wide sea, the ship's horns blasting while people fished from a dock and looked so small.

We'd set dinner for early, 5:30pm, and to my delight got seated at a table for two next to windows with incredible views of the sunset over Fort Lauderdale and then Miami. The food was excellent and the waiter chagrined we didn't take his recommendations (steak, carrot cake). He's from Turkey, late 20-something, maybe 30, and has a fiancee, an American, who decided to convert to Islam for him it would seem.

Opening show at the Platinum Theatre was very pleasing. A little bit of everything - orchestra, singers, an acrobat, a funny comedian, Bruce somebody. Enjoyed the music but it was too short-lived; Styx 'Come Sail Away' was the only song. These shows seem tailor-made for short attention spans with a mega number of entertainment options elsewhere on board.


I believe I have my sea legs now. What a difference a great sleep makes. Slept 9:30-8 and it felt a tousand (as the Irish say) times better than the previous night's sleep for some reason.

One funny thing about a cruise is that you wouldn't know you're on one except for the room balcony. On the ship itself you can spend 99% of your time next to a pool or at dinner or at a show with no clue you're actually sailing on water. Few good ocean views in the lounge chairs of sunny areas. . But out on the balcony - which presently is surprisingly pacific with the lack of a strong wind - you get that full view of sea from six stories up. There's only one word for it: majestic. Majestic sea meets majestic ship - they seem to kiss in mutual respect. And the briney waves coming off the ship's hull are mesmerizing. Purblind bliss to be alive, and it makes me want to read something sea-worthy, something majestic, like Homer's Odyssey or Melville's Moby-Dick.


Closest thing to breakfast in bed is breakfast brought to the room on cruises. Perhaps my favorite part of the cruise! And all “free”, ha. I watch the slow parade of waves generated from the ship…lulling, calmer and more “organized” than the waves on a beach. The consolation of two seemingly immovable objects, sea and ship. Of course both impressions are illusory if the ship's much more. I want to dive off the balcony and dream into that azure sea! Just for the experience of it, the thrill of jumping off a cruise ship, for the momentary straying from limit and convention. Not a good idea at any point but especially when not next to land, and yet the ocean's bigness still seems something of a rumor to me. I tend to think, oh so falsely, that there's always another boat that'll come around despite the fact that ocean distances are heroic. Oh the water so true blue / I'd love to hole up in your hue.


So this morning was time for a leisurely enterprise we've never made time on a cruise before. We explored, methodically, every deck. From the wedding chapel on deck 15, to the cool jazz bar on 14, and all the nooks and crannies down below. Basketball court, rock-climbing wall, putt-putt and a wave pool where people tried, almost all unsuccessfully, to surf. Among the spectators was the Amish crew, still fully dressed under the Caribbean sun. Then came to an out-of-the-way deck area that included a topless woman bathing. The extremes of bodily modesty I guess.

The days get behind you wickedly quick here. How could it be two in the afternoon already? With no reading, no drinking. Just cruising by the long, long island of Cuba. Didn't know I felt starved for the sea, the sparkling sea. How great is it that cruises and air travel have become affordable for the masses? This would be an unattainable luxury just a few decades ago.


We moved twice to avoid obnoxiously loud people. Ear plugs are a cruise necessity. The second move was a bit of a maneuver given my precarious balance of carrying beer mug, half beer can, full bottle already opened (I bought an extra beer to prevent premature bar-ulation), towel, shirt, and shoulder bag. The bridge too far was using my foot to try to move a lounge chair, resulting in a spectacular crash of beer, getting a poor man wet. I apologized profusely and he said it was okay. Embarrassing. I was one of the obnoxious people. My first beer so I wasn't alcohol-impaired. All because of my overestimating my athletic ability.

Of course the real downside of a 4-day cruise is that it's only four days long. That's what we call a killer flaw that all vacations share. Plus I'm mentally accustomed to week long beach-like vacationeering, so we're on the short stick of time. Drink ye well tonight for tomorrow we shall die. Friday already and tomorrow is Cozumel, leaving only Sunday as a cruise day and its consolations. In some ways this is the second to last day already! I figure it's time I get a mixed drink from an itinerant seller who happens to be in the area. His sales pitch is pitch-perfect: “It's medication time!” I'm skeptical of how much alcohol the mixed fruit drinks contain since the received wisdom of the millennium is that they don't contain enough to interest the drinker of the species, men. If whiskey was fruity and came with a drink umbrella men would still drink it out of respect for its potency.


T-shirt sighted: “If you can't remember it, it didn't happen.” Which is, I suppose, a reason I keep trip logs. Today felt like a vacation tipping point since as long as Cozumel was still in the foreground we could always say, “We always have Cozumel.” And now we can't, for it sped by with greatest rapidity. Meantime I hear the tune “Love Boat” and “Dancing Queen” from the pool speakers reverberating even here to this suddenly mournful balcony. Meaningful kitsch - vacations attract sentimentality like a hull does barnacles.


It's always intense to wake up in the morning and see a different view from the night before. In this case Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, specifically Cozumel. We watched as ten uniformed men and women hurriedly set up a bridge to the dock and a dozen or more steel girders to lead the way. One female agent had a handsome German Shepherd there, presumably for drug or bomb-sniffing purposes, though none of those disembarking were checked by the dog.

We adventured our way off the gangplank and entered Mexico where I would get a proper sun-scalding. But first walked the gauntlet of sellers just past the dock and got a cab to Paradise Beach. A bit on the corny side, with big play-toys in the ocean for kids of all ages to climb and explore, such as a huge slide, which drew me in.

Very shortly a loud family from the East Coast arrived. The young teenage girl shouted that she hates beer, her dad making her drink it since it came as part of a bucket deal. She said she only drinks vodka straight from the bottle. The father also very vocal, hollering here and there and making a spectacle to the Mexican waiter over the fact that umbrellas aren't available in the first row of lounge chairs.

People: the cause and solution of all life's problems. If Paradise Beach can seem as crass and loud as its unimaginative name, the tackiness can't overcome the jewels of sun, water and piscine underwater kingdoms.

The incredible lightness of being
sun-clad, water-dappled
floating over flowery fish
cruising sandy-bottom past
camo'd flounder, single-winged
with one eye
floating on the waters
THIS is time travel
if only for a day or four.
Relax & dream of the witbits.


It's the little things in life, like sitting on a bazillion-dollar ship's balcony in a foreign port of call drinking coffee. Er, that doesn't sound too little. But what a moment it creates, to see the sea in a different way. Riding six stories above the frolicking waves (and yet they somehow look close…maybe fifteen feet down). The grace with which the ship moves - it's like she's walking on the waters. You see the chop of waves but oddly she's rock steady. It's like magic. So definitely the balcony seems the reason for a cruise vacation. What an awesome way to start the day. Can easily see why our planet looks like a blue marble from space - all blue, as far as you can see.

And now the last day at sea. We're going in the wrong direction, away from the comfort waters of the southwest Caribbean towards the “noreastern” clime of Fort Lauderdale. Too late to jump off the ship since no land's in sight!

Joe Queenan in One for the Books writes of the wisdom of classic books, mentioning that if you're a man thinking of early retirement you should read King Lear first. I never thought of that work as having that practical an application. John Switzer, a favorite Dispatch columnist, hates winter but, paradoxically, wouldn't live in a place without dramatic seasonal change. Counter-intuitive, but perhaps you need winter in order to truly enjoy summer, just as you need work in order to truly enjoy one's free time.


I'm really staying put on the balcony, really giving it a good ride today. Want to drink it in and savor if, even if the passing waves sort of physically represent an hourglass of sorts presaging the end of this vacation. But I need not be so grasping - there is a life beyond the physical beauty. There is a sun greater than this sun. From today's morning prayer: “Let us pray to Christ The Lord, the sun who enlightens all men, whose light will never fail us.” The difficulty with which the rich enter Heaven must be related to the sensation of fullness that trips like this foster. It's harder to remember God here. And yet there's also a sense of gratitude that one can consciously refer to God. "And still boyhood operated on their minds, retaining all its former power to confound wishes with plans." (Chabon)

So yes I bathe in this sunny deck, feeling like a less lonesome version of that soul in that Hopper work Morning Sun. I feel enlivened by the lack of noise, the sheer gratuitous joy of a day at sea, passing the island of Cuba. There but for an accident of birth go me. How incredibly fortunate and unmerited to be born in a first world country.

Certainly the timing of this cruise seems liturgically perfect: during Mardi Gras and right on the jaws of Lent. I'm grateful that modern technology has brought air travel and cruises, once unaffordable luxuries, to the middle class. It's kind of interesting that an atheist author wrote that it's the super-wealthy who, paradoxically, first recognize how we can't be satisfied with money or the things money supply. It's often the poor and middle class who seem to think there's some “Big Rock Candy Mountain” to be found in gold and affluence. The quicker you find that out, he said, the better. Not that some of his clients weren't awful despite that knowledge. “Trust fund babies” seem to have a straight uphill climb. Limits are as necessary and natural to humans as the Creator intended. And yet on this very vacation I try to satiate on sun and scenery, sitting on this balcony until the boredom of satiety occurs, a seemingly unreachable goal. The roiling royal blue carpet and ever replenishing waves, yore of yores, gold spilt sun.


We're docked in Fort Lauderdale and it's better than a sharp stick in the eye. You figure getaway mornings will have little to recommend them, but Steph retrieved coffee and so there's a few lingering moments. Actually not a bad length for a cruise. Felt surprisingly full.

Full bore reality sets in apace. Calm before ere storm. A long way from the wonderful live reggae music out on deck 11 by the pool, sipping a 25-ounce Fosters ale.

Sweet flight back. Almost too short. A great time to read, that's for sure. Read some of Chabon's Telegraph Avenue, said some morning prayer, received the shocking news of the pope's resignation via the Drudge Report…The time flew literally and figuratively.

On the plane a 30-something lady grew irate with her sister before the flight, screaming that she was an idiot and even slapping her. After the 2+ hour plane trip, she started hate speeching her again and while walking to baggage claim overheard on a security person's walkie/talkie that two people were having a verbal fight and were heading to baggage claim and it might be a good idea to keep an eye on them. Steph and I overheard, stopped in our tracks, and meanwhile who goes by us but the perpetrators themselves and one of the sisters said, “they're talking about us?” and I nodded my head.

Can it be that I was really on that deathless main? Was it all a dream, those mornings starboard, that stellar weather on the sun-shot water? Now is when it really kicks in, at 7:15 morning with no view, no sun - with work on the immediate horizon. Now is when it kicks in. How it seemed no bind at all to pray last week, “Angel of God….to whom His love commits me here.” Commits me here! To that wonderful place?! Just can't remain there is all...