May 19, 2014

I Yam What I Yam

A city of books / Una ciudad de libros (autor desconocido)

It occurred to me that the new social network at work, Yammer, seems pejoratively named. “To talk in an annoying way usually for a long time” is the definition. Is that what the network is designed to do? Is that meant in a hip, ironic way, or was the name chosen simply because someone didn't know the true definition of “yammer”? Did they look in a thesaurus and pick a name for “talk”? Mysteries ne'er cease.

From the web:
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, one of the judges of the panel on which Yammer launched, commented: 'I really like this company the best.The name is not very corporate. It reminded me of what I’m having for Thanksgiving. Maybe you could use a Yam for a logo.“
Elsewhere, one of the founders says they brainstormed for names: "Chatter” and “huddle” came up - but the only name that folks could remember later was “yammer” and the domain was available. The founder says the connotation they're going after is “persistent communication”.

Having the Internet means having the answer to almost any meaningless question you might wonder about, but without answers to the things that really matter.


In 1774 Goethe wrote: "See how nature is a living book, / Misunderstood but not beyond understanding." Interesting to see where author Annie Dillard's quest to see the Creator from creation without a trust of revelation and doctrine ended up. Her eclectic oeuvre and persona reminds me of Heather King's, but fortunately Heather hasn't given up Catholicism as Dillard has. On her website the latter writes that she sees as “absurd” the doctrines of “divine omniscience, divine mercy and divine omnipotence”. What kind of god does that leave you with? A god of limited power, effectiveness and love?


Shelby Foote once said, and he's not alone in this I'm sure, that “the more trouble I have learning something, the longer it stays with me; and the easier time I have learning it, the faster it leaves me.”

Couldn't God, the ultimate Teacher, employ the same methods with us? Is that why we learn so slowly of his reality, and his love and benevolence?

John Keats said “a fact is not a truth until you love it”, again applicable to God perhaps, in how the truth of Him comes after faith. “Faith before understanding” is the famous phrase I believe.


Read copiously of Rick Barnett's novella Living in the Meantime (so funny) and Kingsley's magisterial Everyday Drinking. Call me shallow, but I'm finding, halfway through, Donna Tartt's Goldfinch to be depressing and well-nigh unreadable. So despite the acclaim it's received and despite I've already invested a lot of time in it I'm thinking it's time to either speed-read or give up the ghost. I wonder if the modern equation is “serious = nihilistic”. Read a bit of National Review but it's so whiney. I grow tired of the endless criticism of liberals, no matter how well-deserved. Why waste a minute of your life reading about the pathetic Harry Reid? I'd say only 20% of any given NR is worth reading, but that's a lot when added up over a whole years' worth of issues.


Very surprising was Maureen Mullarkey critique over at First Things. Dang but she was hard on our populist pope. She's also none too fond of the instant sanctity model for recent shepherds. Sounds like that other more famous Maureen, Dowd:
This expedited exercise in saint-making was a premature apotheosis, a pageant of synthetic piety staged for immediate media consumption. With this as a precedent, canonization risks becoming one more pseudo-event, like bread and circus, thrown to a culture besotted with virtual reality.

In our lifetime, we have watched the papacy descend into spectacle. By now, showboating—from kissing feet to a mega-Mass on Copacabana Beach—is an established feature of the modern papacy. As if spectacle itself could cure the malaise that has emptied churches, closed parishes, and turned cathedrals into pay-per-view tourist sites.
….In [Benedict's] last general audience in St. Peter’s, he lapsed into the kind of mutual deception that fans celebrity culture: “The Pope belongs to everyone, and so many people feel very close to him.”

No, the man does not belong to everyone. Any suggestion that he does is a saccharine oblation to consumers of image. That illusion of intimacy, so seductive and so crippling, is the very ground of demagogic populism. It is a dangerous chimera, as lethal to the judgment of a faith community as to electoral politics. Catholics—popes among them—are no less subject than anyone else to the lure of the star system and its crafted emphasis on personality.

It took no time at all for Francis to degrade into a celebrity. And like any politically astute showman, he takes to the camera for carefully designed photo-ops. (Posing with an anti-fracking T-Shirt in November, he conferred on activist filmmakers the kind of endorsement we expect from Yoko Ono and Matt Damon.) Media-conscious symbolic gestures are mirrored in an airy, imprecise rhetoric that is a receptacle for whatever meaning the public drops into it.
Provocative to say the least. I don't know what to make of that but I just read Lino Rulli's adoration of Pope John Paul II and it's hard to see that as mere sentiment.


Ch'u Ch'uang I, “A Mountain Spring,” tr. Kenneth Rexroth, One Hundred More Poems from the Chinese: Love and the Turning Year:

There is a brook in the mountains,
Nobody I ask knows its name.
It shines on the earth like a piece
Of the sky. It falls away
In waterfalls, with a sound
Like rain. It twists between rocks
And makes deep pools. It divides
Into islands. It flows through
Calm reaches. It goes its way
With no one to mind it. The years
Go by, its clear depths never change.


Listened to Hugh Hewitt as interviewed by Brian Lamb. Hewitt was a cradle Catholic and converted to Protestant evangelicalism when he couldn't stand left-leaning bishops publishing “dumb things” on nuclear weaponry and economics. He then came back to the Faith when contacted and counseled by Archbishop Chaput, soon to be Cardinal Chaput according to Hewitt.

I can understand Hewitt's frustration but really you can't leave the Church over bishopric political stands.

I was also surprised how good a friend he was to Christopher Hitchens. He says that Hitchens likely never got over the understandable shock of his mother committing suicide. It's a hard thing to believe in a benevolent God after that.

Hewitt also is unapologetically a fan of Richard Nixon (not his presidency, but his friendship). And Mitt Romney as well. Calls those two geniuses in the sense that they'd read everything, knew everything, were always one step ahead of you or knew what you were going to say.  I could do well to recognize Nixon had good qualities as well.


So Monday went to a social justice rally, where 3,500 were said to have shown up. The issues were two and very nicely clear-focused: more care/funding for the mentally ill (with specific agenda items) and requiring Columbus police to recognize Mexican consulate-issued idcards as other cities like Chicago and Dayton do so that illegals don't have to live in fear of the police and so that they'll report crimes committed on them.

There was some hard-corn (short for corniness) to the event - every time a speaker said “Bread” (the group's name) we were all to shout, “rises!”. And there were women with placards up front who held up signs saying, “Care, not crisis!” when we were supposed to say those words (meaning to provide care for the mentally ill before it gets to crisis/emergency room). It seemed a bit overkill, as if we were memory-challenged, as we were told to say “Care, not crisis” in the beginning of the meeting and repeated it a couple of times for the preacher emcee.

It had sort of a PBS feel to it. Lots of good-natured liberals who look like they appreciated Peter, Paul and Mary back in the day. A curious gathering of interfaith and non-faith, including the United Universalist Unitarians. I think. The opening song was Down by the Riverside and opening prayer made no reference to God, but substituted "Love". My stepson, the rare white male under 40, definitely added to the diversity quotient.

We got a taste of black preaching, or at least forceful teaching that gives the flavor. Immaculately dressed with a bow tie, one looked like a member of Farrakahn's group. He gave a rousing address and invoked the Old Testament prophets often as well he might given the focus of the meeting was justice. Justice was given its due, and I got to thinking of how interchangeable those OT prophets seem to me (though admittedly I'm not exactly well-read in the prophetic literature.) But those prophets seemed often very hard on their own while African-American preachers tend, understandably, to preach on behalf of their own. Repentance doesn't mean simply saying your sorry, one said, it means reform, restitution and reparations. Surely that last a word familiar in the black community in connection with slavery. Speaking truth to power, they say, but not too many people want to speak truth to themselves, in this case that you shouldn't be given money just because you had oppressed ancestors. There's an element of self-pity that is perhaps inescapable to avoid in these types of movements.

The Catholics on the list were mostly Latinos talking about the situation where they become a magnet for crime because others know they won't call the police because they're deathly afraid of being deported. It's sad to think that police would deport someone if they'd done nothing wrong. I say if illegals aren't doing anything wrong, let them be. And certainly allow them to report crimes made against them.


My inner Judger came to the fore today. I've been moderately obsessed since yesterday with family members thrilled to go to the anti-Mormon, anti-Christian Broadway musical Book of Mormon. Terry Teachout, I think it was, said it's not particularly brave to pick on Mormons - try that with Muslims, was what one columnist mentioned. Second, there's the infamous part where they sing “$!%^ God”.

1 comment:

Fred said...

ah, didn't realize that about Dillard.