November 20, 2015

Seven Quickies (as made popular by Jennifer Fulwiler)

Proof positive that I'm utterly and hopelessly out of the mainstream:

1) I couldn't believe America could be shallow enough to elect someone with as invisible a resume as Obama as president in '08


2) I wouldn't/couldn't/can't believe Trump is seeing.

My barber Barb feels similarly. I mentioned that Trump was coming to Columbus on Monday and she laughed at his name, which I thought telling. You can't but smile when you hear his name, it's like a punchline. She said she can't believe people are taking him seriously given his lack of impulse control when it comes to his mouth. No filter. I agreed, saying I can't believe some people want to give him the nuclear codes.

The black shoeshine man there chipped in some “colorful” news "facts". The killing in France was retaliation for a French bombing in Egypt that had clipped the nose off one of the Pyramids.  Bush knew the planes were headed for World Trade Center but didn't want to shoot commercial planes down. What's the fuss about Planned Parenthood making money off baby parts was because you'd be surprised at how many of our foods (like Heinz) use baby parts in their recipes.

You can't argue with insanity so I said, “man, I ain't eatin' no babies!”, said like “I ain't afraid of no ghosts!” in Ghostbusters. Barb immediately got my reference from the tone of voice, the way I said it.

There's low info voters and there's bad info voters.  For this country I can only weep. The show's over, we can all go home.

When Barb said Obama wasn't any worse than any other recent presidents I said I couldn't support any president whom the Little Sisters of the Poor are suing. Scooped them all on that story. Figured it didn't make the national news enough to filter down to average Jane.


I am blown away by how good a writer is Edmund Morris. His pen is pyrotechnic, his talent prodigious. His Teddy Roosevelt biography was legendary enough such that Ronald Reagan chose him as his official biographer. The result, Dutch, was panned at the time of publication for its creative license and fictional additions, and rightly so perhaps, but Morris sure is winning me over with the entertainment value (I sound like a Trump voter!)  Maybe as I age I'm more interested in truth than facts and sometimes facts don't give you the real truth, and sometimes the truth can't be reduced to mere facts.

My interest in Reagan has recently been on the ascendant given how I've begun to internalize the fact that I will likely never see his like again. He may be “my president”, the one great one every generation (century) is allotted. Trump, Obama, Shrillary - they all make me go back, nostalgically perhaps, to that morning in America, and I have a new understanding of just how rare it is to have the stars and the man and the time align.

Just as I was spoiled as a child with Reds baseball success (they went to the World Series when I was 7, 9, 12, and 13), I was spoiled with the first president I ever had the opportunity to vote for, Ronald Reagan. Since then I've voted many times with middling success; I count Kasich as Ohio congressman in the '90s and as governor in '10 as particularly satisfying, and Pat Buchanan in '96 felt really good. But other than those the well has been pretty dry. Now most of my votes are as unenthusiastic as they are dubious: Bush in '04, McCain in '08, Romney in '12.

I rewarded Bush in '04 despite his incompetency in Iraq. I voted for McCain despite his obsession with foreign policy and hawkishness. And I voted for Romney despite the fact that he flip-flopped more often than a pancake at iHop.

I felt a brief flair of enthusiasm for Palin when she was tapped as McCain's running mate until she self-destructed in a painful but glorious fireworks display. I had to learn the hard way not to put my trust in Republicans. (Democrats, I already had down pat.)

No matter. They can't take the Reds championships away, nor the triumphs of Reagan. It's all good, as the kids say.


A segue to something much more edifying.  Great point from Pope Benedict from one of his books on Jesus:
"We should not suppose for a moment that the “Lord’s Supper” ever consisted simply of reciting the words of consecration. From the time of Jesus himself, these words have always been a part of his berakah, his prayer of praise and thanksgiving.
For what was Jesus giving thanks? That his prayer was “heard” (cf. Heb 5:7). He gave thanks in advance that the Father did not abandon him in death (cf. Ps 16:10). He gave thanks for the gift of the Resurrection, and on that basis he could already give his body and blood in the form of bread and wine as a pledge of resurrection and eternal life (cf. Jn 6:53–58)."


Interesting FB comment from Fred K:
"De Lubac's book Catholicism blew my mind when I read it. Sadly, nobody else brings out the deep, Patristic connection between the social teaching of the Church and the sacramental mystery like he does. Everybody else wants to take the mystical for granted and move on to ethics only."
Yes, that's so true. You can't get to the ethics before you get to the love. The love has to come first.  You'll never get to love via rules (witness the Pharisees) but you can get to rules with love (witness the saints). Although of course the Ten Commandments did precede Christ, the Old Law preceding the New Law, but I've always chalked that up to man's slow discovery rather than to God's design. I could be wrong.


In-laws Thanksgiving the other day. About which I had misgivings. Trying to celebrate a holiday on another day just doesn't work. It feels forced and there's no spirit, no reminders or associations to it. No Detroit Lions on TV, no TV/radio/newspaper exclamatories that put you in the holiday mood. Nothing at all to suggest an ordinary Sunday like the15th is “Thanksgiving”.  But a family gathering is its own reward.


Read part of Ted Koppel's book on the next big terrorist event: the bringing down of the electrical grids.  It's not if it's when, and coming from such an eminently respected source (i.e. not an Apocalyptic prepper), it's doubly scary.  The more I read about it, the more I think of how little we can do to prepare as individuals.  At the very least I should buy more bottled water, more food for home storage, a generator.  But all of that will be pitifully inadequate if cyber-terrorists send us back to the mid-19th century, as they could do.  It's a situation where money can't insulate you.  A good reminder of how dependent we really are. What I especially hate is how it'll likely happen when I'm in my golden years, which is when I can least take something of that magnitude happening like that. But then I won't be alone and even youth can't protect you when there's no water (due to our water supply being dependent on electricity) or food.  It makes me wonder why government isn't more concerned about it given that even self-interested congress members won't be immune from the chaos, one would think.

So that wasn't exactly cheery.  A gratitude to make up for it:
"Here ends another day, during which I have had eyes, ears, hands and the great world around me.  Tomorrow begins another day.  Why am I allowed two?" - Chesterton

Chapter 13 of the book of Wisdom reads like it was written for today.  Really speaks to the modern.  Perhaps it's fitting that a Biblical book that appreciates beauty finds a home in only the Orthodox and Catholic Bibles given Ortho & Cath emphasis on beauty.

The book was heavily influenced by the Hellenic spirit. From a commentary:
"Wonder or amazement normally forms the basis for attaining wisdom, since it leads to questions and analysis of experience. This experience should lead one to work “by analogy,” that is, by comparisons, to reach the beautiful and powerful Creator (v. 5). Note that the emphasis on beauty is not strictly a Hebrew interest but more Greek."

I can count on one finger the number of times I've seen interesting art in a corporate office, so I was transfixed enough to steal into one office when the new owner was gone.  I even took pictures.  There was a sketch of Abraham Lincoln with some scene at bottom, a vibrant and colorful Kandinsky print, and a 1800s-era depiction of the steamship *Lexington* burning, one of Cornelius Vanderbilt's.   (It burnt due to bad ship design, which I suppose might be the moral of that one - design and plan well O company less you burn and sink!)


Many holy Catholics find Pope Francis borderline heretical but I'm forever in his debt for his encyclical on climate change. It really lit up my mind, expanded it, gave me a stronger belief in the goodness of matter (since it was created by God).  It made me 50% less Gnostic by volume. For those on the Left with an open mind I can't believe it wouldn't touch them evangelistically.  On paper it seems a master stroke - affirm what the non-believers affirm (the importance of Mother Earth) by pointing to the Creator and Father God.

I've slowly experienced a revolution in my thinking on nature and matter.  First there was that glimmering paragraph in a book by Mark Judge about swimming in the ocean and the sheer goodness of it all. Then came our beloved dog Obi's death and I struggled hard to try to reconcile why God would create something only to destroy it, and then came the climate change encyclical.  They have all taught me to take more seriously God's care and concern over not just our Spirit but our bodies, and environment, and animals, etc.. And I've begun to see that we're not spirits trapped in bodies, but fused body and souls, not originally intended to be separated and only temporarily so.

Psalm 24:7 opened my eyes as well when I thought of the doors opening to God were my own, my own flesh made of God's ancient matter.  I always think how it takes a saint to empty bedpans, to be so comfortable with the muck and mire of bodily fluids.  But if I have a truly enlightened view of matter perhaps I wouldn't be so put off by those things that are part of being human and are God's ex nihilo creation if in a somewhat disguised form, to put it mildly.  


From a Lenape Indian in the 18th century to a white man: "My friend, it seems you lay claim to the grass my horses have eaten, because you had enclosed it with a fence.  Now tell me, who caused the grass to grow? Can you make the grass grow?"  Very Pope Francis-ish.


Genealogy research came about by yesterday having received a requested copy of a great aunt's SSN application.  Finally the elusive daughter of my elusive great-grandfather has been pinned down, if only for a brief moment in time:  4/1/1941. Address 248 Broome St. -- right in the heart of the Lower East Side.  Manhattan in all its fullness. She was dirt poor, as were all of they were in that area, but what an amazing experience to live in a place where the whole world was present.  Recent immigrants from so many countries, all living cheek by jowl in the capital of the world.

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