Wednesday, December 22, 2010

When you've a foolish heart.

When you've a foolish heart,
I think it can be taught to be constant;
but not the other way around.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hi brow humor

Anyone looking for to split a gut need look no further than the first two paragraphs of the wikipedia page for The Three Stooges. An excerpt of the first and the entire second paragraph:

Curly Howard replaced brother Shemp, who later returned when Curly suffered a debilitating stroke in May 1946. After Shemp's death from a heart attack in November 1955, he was replaced by comedian Joe Besser, after the use of film actor Joe Palma to film four Shemp-era shorts. Ultimately, Joe DeRita (nicknamed "Curly Joe") replaced Joe Besser by 1958. The act regained momentum throughout the 1960s as popular kiddie fare until Larry's paralyzing stroke in January 1970 effectively marked the end of the act proper. Moe tried unsuccessfully one final time to revive the Stooges with longtime supporting actor Emil Sitka filling in for Larry. Larry ultimately succumbed to a series of additional strokes in January 1975, followed by Moe, who died of lung cancer in May 1975.

When I got to "lung cancer" I 'spit take'd coffee all over my screen.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Atheist Friend sent me this NYT op-ed.


I'm a yutz.

This guy has everything: a soft job, a PhD from Cambridge, a lovely home in the Garden State* and the chance to write op-eds for the gray lady... who lives ONE HOUR AND TEN MINUTES AWAY... IN TRAFFIC!!!** And he's a mental midget--dumber than a cretin. Whereas I am a computer programmer in Winnipeg (which is an hour and a half away from more wilderness in all directions) who lives in a wretched hovel and writes angry letters to the Winnipeg Free Press. And a yutz, did I mention?

Dr. McMahan starts out with a perfectly valid challenge to believers: the problem of suffering innocents.*** He must have read it somewhere; I'm sure he's incapable of thinking it up for himself. Then he applies it to dumb animals as if no one had ever thought of that before. After that, everything he says--beginning with his very next point, "Gotcha!" (I'm paraphrasing)--is not just wrong, but stupid; a base appeal to our emotions masquerading as argument.

The first error he makes is to equate pain with suffering which is invalid even if we confine our study to human beings. The vast majority of people would not equate their own greatest suffering with their own greatest physical pain. Further, when we are in pain it is worthwhile to examine how much of the suffering that does come with it is psychological. The equation of pain and suffering is even less valid when applied to animals. I do not say animals don't suffer, but their suffering is analogous in some uncertain way--not equivalent--to humans'. And while the suffering of animals is not quite an imponderable mystery, we can agree chickens simply do not spend their time in feeding cages yearning to be free to scratch for worms.

I won't go through paragraph by paragraph to dismantle his non sequiturs one by one. His continual and everywhere anthropomorphizing both of animals and of God ("any self-respecting deity" {groan} WHAT. AN. IDIOT!) is enough to cast grave doubt on (if not completely invalidate) his conclusions. However, one particular argument shines brilliantly out in its fatuousness, his defense to the charge of playing God. Forget for a moment it's a straw man in the first place. Can it be that each of the two prongs of his argument is more idiotic than the other? No, I suppose the first one--that believers don't distinguish to his satisfaction between administering patients poison and administering them analgesia--is a simple (self-respecting) tu quoque.
Incredulous: How in the world did you get a PhD in philosophy from Cambridge?!
Jeff: It was easy: luckily in those days you could skip the logic stream entirely.

The second head of his argument is completely impenetrable. From the bare unsupported assertion that there is no God (Wow! Who knew?), he draws the conclusion that therefore it's okay for him to play god. No, if there is no God wouldn't that make it many times more dangerous to play god? After all, God doesn't have your back then. I guess we're supposed to take comfort in his other bare unsupported assertion that he would have made a better god than God. I can only gape.

But then, I'm just a yutz.

* State motto: Our mobsters make great fertilizer!
** Hat tip: Google Map
*** One day I would like to write more about this problem--or at least about how to plumb its depths.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Letter to My Other Protestant Friend (MOPF) and My Trad Friend (MTF) on the suggestion that Christ's miracles were primarily to prove his Divinity

I don't know very much about this--to me, Christ's miracles remain a deep mystery-- but it seems to me "to prove His Divinity" must be among the least of reasons for Jesus' signs/healings. If it is a reason at all, it is certainly less important than the simple demonstrations of kindness {MTF} suggests, and I would even put it beneath His attending to the needs of the needy, though it is significant that He never did--or suggested a way to do--away entirely with the needy by, say, raising their consciousnesses under the tutelage of a priesthood of community organizers. To whom is He supposed to have proved His Divinity anyway? Not His contemporaries; they didn't believe it. Even among those closest to Him (excepting, of course, His mother), we wait until after His resurrection to hear Thomas pronounce Him "My Lord and my God". Not the people coming after him. First: no one hearing the apostolic teaching or later reading the bible will learn of our Lord's baptism, transfiguration and resurrection and believe that they happened as related and yet not also believe that His miracles happened as such. Second, given that, no one believing all these things will take the miracles as proof of His divinity unless they first take the baptism, transfiguration and resurrection as such. So the miracles are either ineffective or unnecessary as proofs of His Divinity.

I would agree that the miracles offered His contemporaries (and Jews of several succeeding generations perhaps) demonstrations of the messianic nature of His ministry at a time when the Messiah and the Godhead were never remotely dreamt to be found in one and the same person. The manifestation of messianic credentials by signs would not only have been in the sense that {MTF} suggests they prove His Divinity (he can do miracles, therefore he must be the Messiah and/or God), but also and more importantly would come to have been seen as fulfillment of prophecy surrounding the Messiah (cf Matthew 8:17 referring, if perhaps obliquely, to Isaias 53:4). But even this would only be noted by men already disposed to welcome the Messiah. So very much like us, the Pharisees and Sadducees comfortable in their offices might theoretically hope for the Messiah to bring salvation, but perhaps not just yet.

Contemplation of the miracles is complicated by some queer circumstances surrounding them. Several things strike me immediately: in no particular order, the fact that He was often reluctant to display His talent for miracles--the conversation at John 2:3-5, a case in point, so short yet with such power to lend understanding and vexation seemingly in equal parts; the fact that so much of the time He admonished people not to spread news of the miracles but to keep them secret accompanied by the fact that He was so often disobeyed in these instructions (Luke 5:14, Mark 7:3). These first two points in the paradoxical way of all deep truths seem at once to illustrate and refute the possible purpose of the miracles being base public relations. It seems beneath our Lord and Savior to trouble himself with PR, yet there is no doubt that it is intrinsic to His mission that He hear first cries of, "Hosanna," and then shouts of, "Crucify Him." The kind of notoriety that makes both Palm Sunday and Good Friday possible surely stems at least in part from unauthorized reports of His private miracles being ratified by His more public displays of power.

Then there is the fact that so often the healings involved children as part of His particular concern with children (e.g. Matthew 15:28, John 4:50). Though rife with meaning, among the important realizations we take from it is the knowledge that Christ is building not simply a spiritual framework upon which individuals can base their one-on-one relationship with God, but a physical and communal Church in which such a relationship as a parent's to his child matters in itself as well as signifying something greater. Fourthly we have the widespread belief at the time (being disinterred by some strange Protestant sects today) that misfortunes and physical infirmities were indications of Divine disfavor (John 9:1,2). This one Christ turns on its head making the sensible sign of physical healing the assurance of spiritual health. A fifth point, the fact that the apostles also performed miracles must be borne in mind (Acts 3:6, 5:12) when considering their import. It would seem definitively to refute the notion that Jesus' miracles necessarily prove His Divinity.

What then are the principle purposes of the miracles of Christ? There may be many, but what strikes me chiefly in considering the word sign so often used in Scripture for miracle is that it is the identical word Catholics use when describing the notion of Sacrament: to wit an efficacious sign of the grace of Christ. I propose that the principle function of our Lord's miracles is to be as types of the Sacraments themselves. I should rather say this is the function of our accounts of the miracles, for, after all, what does it matter that a particular man was cured of leprosy or blindness when so many others are not? The Sacraments in turn, viewed expansively, are mysteries (the Greeks actually say Mysterion for Sacrament) and gifts that adumbrate the principal mystery and gift of our faith--that of the Incarnation. In a circle then, the Second Person of the Trinity takes on flesh (i.e. matter) in time and space and uses space, time and matter in turn to illustrate both the salvific power of the Incarnation and how that power is to be carried forward to the end of time in the Sacraments, particularly that mystery most like the Incarnation itself, the Eucharist.

The Eucharistic symbolism in the miracles {MAF} mentions is obvious. Even so, we do well to meditate on how the signs of bread and wine reach not only forward to the present day Mass but back through Mosaic manna to Abraham's encounter with Melchizedek at the very birth of our Faith, highlighting the essential Sacramental/Incarnational nature of a Church instituted by Christ from outside time for all time. Christ's promise in Matthew 28:20 thus is very real and He keeps it in a very complete (that is to say both physical and spiritual) way.

We could consider each miracle in the Gospel for its sacramental hints and messages, but perhaps just a few will suffice. Recall the blind men Christ heals with spittle and in particular the one at John 9. Why does He use spittle? To prove His Divinity, better to heal with just a word or just a thought--no, the reference to Baptism is inescapable. Then, the words which follow, "Go now and wash in the pool called 'Sent'," of which the closing words "Ite missa est" are so reminiscent, require of us not only the passive acceptance of Sacramental graces, but our continuing cooperation in them. Finally, I find particularly glorious the notion of His mixing spittle with dirt to confect a plaster of mud. Once again Christ reaches back, even farther this time to the very creation of Adam from the same mud, to demonstrate that His is a physical-spiritual relationship with us from creation for all time.

Consider also the healing of the paralytic at Luke 5:18-26 this time as a type of the Sacrament of Penance. At the heart of the passage is Jesus' forgiveness of the man's sins, the physical healing--prefiguring the natural psychological healing which so often accompanies the Sacrament today--merely the sensible sign of that more profound cleansing, and Jesus delivers a short but profound catechesis to this effect at v.23. It is significant that it is not on account of the man's own faith that he is healed, but on account of the faith of those who brought him. The Catholic implications of this are many. It speaks once again to the communal nature of the Church and in particular the validity of petitioning the intercession of Saints, but the point I want to draw from it is just how little Christ expects from us before allowing us to turn back to Him. The fact that the man himself had not enough faith to effect his own healing signals the fact that we do not have enough contrition to effect the forgiveness of our own sins. Yet imperfect (and sometimes very imperfect) contrition suffices, and forgiveness is always forthcoming. The Source of Grace is always one however many conduits it may have.

Again, we could run on about the implications for the Sacramental priesthood (Holy Orders) in the draft of fishes, or the symbols of infant Baptism in the cases of miraculous healing of children, but this is perhaps enough to go on with.

Friday, August 27, 2010

New Letter to My Atheist Friend (MAF) et al.

Though my own thoughts on the Ground Zero Mosque (GZM) may be hopelessly confused, it is abundantly clear that Katha Pollitt's take is at least as simple-minded as any of her opponents'. The problem for Christians and for those of us who still take our ethical cues from the remnant of a Christian culture is not just the First Amendment, but predominantly the golden rule. Before any recourse to constitutional law it made, we firmly and devoutly wish to treat the Mahometan and his accouterments as we would have him treat us and our stuff--not merely as he may in fact treat us. Thus those of us who point to Christians’ plight in Arabia as an example to reciprocate are to me a source of shame (not that their direction of our notice to the "muslim" in his own element is entirely gratuitous, as we shall see). To a large degree, Christian, Jewish and secular Americans have been commendable--especially since "9/11"--in their fidelity, however grudging, to this aim. However, times are when it would seem that the barrier laid across our path is a suspicion not easily dismissed that we are being asked to treat their tiger (or if it be only a polecat the question is the same) as we would have them treat our good mouser.

We may note that if the analogy only really applies at a mundane level--that of politics--we still are called to be sly as serpents, not to hold politics beneath us. I'd be the last to argue that the problem of our treatment of Allah's children is not complicated immeasurably by its consideration on a spiritual plane. For example, how do we take into account the observation that Christianity blossoms under persecution and wilts almost as soon as it is able to poke its head above the fray? Luckily that needn't concern us here as long as due care is paid to avoiding sinful action and motive.

Certainly we have these things. First, the peace among religions in America has had a long development: the mythic torture and execution of a Fountainhead, catacombs and early fathers, a long period of medieval philosophy, inquisitions and pogroms, Reformation and Counter Reformation, thirty years' war (thirty?) and Enlightenment (for good and ill) all shaping the eventual Westphalian detente which was the social and political nesting place of the Bill of Rights and whose benefits we had enjoyed until comparatively recent times' crises of education and belief allowed secularism to claim for itself a default position. While this novel secularism, maintaining a synoptic if not myopic view of religions, is able to treat with Christianity and Islam as though they were different colors of the same bird, the fact that the evolution of the religion of mosque and minaret is layered with little variation on its inception as a triumphalist revelation to a prophet finding immediate ratification in supranormal success at arms holds open the question whether the even handed ornithologist is not in fact considering pigeon and merlin as one.

This open metaphor is fleshed out in perfectly reasonable hesitations over such questions as: the extent to which the mass of Islamic believers embraces the notion of the division of the world into two houses Islam and war (Harb); what is the preponderant interpretation of jihad (there can be no question of not embracing the Koranic concept jihad--the only possible wiggle room is in its real world application and I personally have heard intelligent Mahometans argue each side) and to what extent is the current condition of, for example, the Coptic or Chaldean Christian at home its end in America; and finally indeed to what extent in the minds of not only American “muslims”, but also GZM backers (moral and financial) worldwide, its construction is a consummation of the events of September 11, 2001--just as, arguably, the construction of the Dome of the Rock on the site of the last temple signified the triumphal conclusion to the conquest of Jerusalem.

We might heartily endorse {MAF}'s obeisance to religions’ freedoms with its proviso that they cannot effectively act against other religions and still maintain a healthy agnosticism concerning where the limit of being meets that of acting or whether indeed they may overlap--nay, whether in some philosophies they be synonymous. Can the First Amendment be held to protect a religion to the extent that its essence is act--and that act of war? Building a "cultural center" certainly is action not ontology, and whether it is an act against someone is another open question. The pain felt by Sep 11 victims' loved ones if not decisive cannot at least be dismissed outright.

I think those who unreservedly endorse the GZM should stop to consider a hypothetical case in which Christian internecine frictions approach in intensity those between Christians and Mahometans not just in the U.S. but throughout the world. Suppose for instance a poor Black Protestant church (and under-insured) in the South is successfully targeted by Klan arsonists. What is the proper Christian attitude for members of the congregation of that church to take, when they discover that a comfortable White Protestant congregation whose members probably include a few Klan sympathizers (though less likely Klansmen and probably not arsonists) has legally purchased the land and is planning a larger more opulent White church on site? What should right-thinking city planning and zoning officials do?

Affidata al Cuore Immacolato di Maria

Yesterday they installed I discovered they had installed the stone at her head sometime in the last three days. It's beautiful and I kissed the letters in her name.

I'm not sure it's where they said they'd put it though. I thought it was going to be just half on her spot and half on the spot next to it which I've two thirds paid for. It looks better where it is. Maybe we can wait to move it until I'm underneath.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

August 11, 1962 - April 1, 2010

Today was her birthday.

Date begins

Pro'lly a mistake to try to walk for nearly an hour in this humidity to make 7 AM mass at the Shrine of Bl.FX Seelos (yes, he's German, but seemly). They asked me if I swam, but I know they were joking because I didn't smell as bad as the River (not quite as bad). Weekday early morning mass isn't at the Shrine, though, it's around the corner and six blocks up ________ St. in the little wooden chapel associated with the shrine. The small rectangular white wooden building seems like a small country Protestant church, complete with an organ lofts so tiny there wouldn't be room for much more than Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn to sit with their legs dangling over between the rails. The Mass was Catholic but with a Protestant Evangelical sort of atmosphere. The way people came up with their own Prayers of the Faithful reminded me of giving "Testimony"--I did too, though,;I asked for prayers for the repose of ms' soul. Fr X (I know his name, but I'll leave him anonymous here) toured the whole church--maybe thirty people--at, what's it called, hand shaking time? People were good though and greeted with kind words and condolences afterward. And I can't say there were any liturgical abuses, although I prefer my sacred vessels purified on site rather than taken off stage right by the server and returning after a minute or two of loud pressure washing sounds. I joke, but when I think of all the churches around the world in which the Blood of Our Lord is not worshiped down to the smallest trace it disheartens me. In aggregate, the tiny drops spilt must be an ocean for each tiny drop spilt on Calvary.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Day 7 ends up all well.

Ah, THIS is why I came: Gumbo at Coop's and Miss Sophie Lee at the Spotted Cat on Frenchman Street.

Day 7 in NOLA continued.

Once or twice I've mentioned the smells I'd noticed coming in the car window in this or that location, or in such and such county. Drive with the windows down in hot summer in Louisiana; a new aroma meets your harried senses each time you inhale. The odors ranged from deadly sulphur to animal carcass through rotting vegetation; the fragrances from far off sea salt to sweet fruit pies baking, including ripening summer crops and heavenly fried chicken and seafood. Most often you'll encounter a maddening mix of any three to five of these, and more, too--unidentified, sure, but instantly remembered should you ever pass by again.

New Orlean's famous French Quarter is different. Here, every city block has its own peculiar scent. The few block of Bourbon street between St. Peter and Bienville is oppressive. The smells are largely rotting garbage, vomitus and excrement smells plus others I don't recognize. The sights seem to confirm that no one here is happy; everyone desperate: the locals on the make desperate to suck the next dollar out of the brushcut and coiffed, rounded pink middle-American boys and girls desperate to suck "experience" out of New Orleans. Fail to quicken your pace and avert your eyes when passing the fleshpots (at once viscerally and intensely attractive and just as intensely repulsive in nearly the same organs), their hands are on your shoulders and back and fingers tug on your sleeve. (is there a possibility I'm guilty of slightly more than failing to quicken and avert? Ummm.)

I return to my hotel to wash for dinner. Panic is a point like one of those black spots in your eye that darts over to a different locus when you try to examine it, but never disappears--but in my head not my eye. The rest of my body seems to take the brunt of Bourbon's Street's oppression, and I'm slow of foot and heavy of shoulder, my entrails sunk deep in my abdomen. Misgivings. Why have I come here?

Friday, August 06, 2010

First post in NO. Day 7.

I've only been NO a few hours, but everyone here seems a little subdued, even slightly unhappy. At least people speak more quietly -- they come to life at night maybe. We'll see.
I checked in and parked my car about 8 blocks away and on my way back from the parking lot to the B&B with all the stuff I had forgotten (natch) in the car, including a framed 8X10 of ms--like, I know, I know; stupid, eh?--carrying a picture of your dead wife around on vacation--I stopped in to have lunch at Fiorella's on Decatur (their specialty is Fried Chicken--and it IS good--but they were out of oysters [do you even serve oysters in August?]) and I didn't exactly set the photograph up on the table on purpose, but it was face up on top of my notebook, another book and some papers. Anyway, although of the two waitresses I had the middle aged one, the twothirdsways pretty twenty something one kept looking at me and smiling. The mind of a 30-pounds-overweight and on the short side, fifty (can I say -ish? Nah, guess not) year old (hey, at least I'm not balding) widower... boggles. Still, my grip on reality still can curb my considerable vanity from running away THAT far! I noticed, too, that had I brutally inflicted multiple fatal stab wounds on my waitress screaming that the red beans were cold, the stunning eighteen year old houri that had entered the restaurant five minutes behind me would never have picked me out of a line-up.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Day 7. Red Stick

It thundered and poured all night but it cleared up for me to make Mass @ St. Agnes. Found it in time for confession with bad directions, one educated surmise and one stone dead guess. Again, someone wanted me to find it. Agnes? Simple respectful celebration in the Ordinary Form nothing to complain about, but I'm still in withdrawal after the Oratory. The church itself is impressive, but I forgot my camera in the hotel. The priest knows people from Canada (I confessed being from Canada as one of my sins)--Alberta--and he asked if I knew them (okay, he never asked that). Within seconds of reaching the hotel after Mass, the sky opened up once more with capaciously diluvian intentions.

After cooling my heels (or jets, I can't remember) for a coupla hours in the hotel, we set out for New Orleans in a steady but much reduced rain. Great White, Once Bitten, Twice Shy came on the radio and got me ta thinkin'. So I did some research and discovered that twice bitten is not four times shy, but three. And like you I erroneously jumped to the conclusion: n times bitten, n+1 times shy. For upon further investigation it was revealed to me that three times bitten, five times shy--and shouldn't it have been obvious from the beginning that Fibonacci was behind it all?

I called it "Nawlins" once quietly to myself in the car, but even though I was alone, I blushed; so we won't be doing that again. It's sunny here.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Entering LA day six

I wish my right ear weren't deaf instead of my left, then I could listen to the radio in the car when the windows are open. Instead, I sang: Me and Bobby McGee and Don't Get Around Much Anymore, both twice straight through and I thought about ms (somewhere near Salinas, I let her slip away; awfully different, without you). Then I cried for while and afterward repeated snatches of Don't Get Around all the way through St. Francisville.

Now I'm busted flat in Baton Rouge.
No, wait! Here--I have my credit card and it looks like about forty-five bucks in cash. Sorry about that; false alarm.

More day 6 in MS

In Natchez the river stinks. It's flat and broad and iron rust and grey and it looks dead, but it's not, it's just very tired. While the Mississippi in Minnesota can betray a gentle but buoyant hope and even down in Missouri can cling to those expectations, nowhere on its length does it manifest that boyish exuberance that comes only from springing--a synonym of giving, not coincidentally.
The Mississipi is a taking river, sucking up all the waters of every rivulet and stream from the Rockies to the Appalachians. Like an old man (to dust off a hackneyed metaphor) who's spent his entire life taking, who once vainly expected to find life restoring novelty in each avaricious aquisition, and whose impotent lust finally now is worn off, in Natchez the river is jaded, flat and broad and it looks dead, but it's not, it's just very very tired.
In New Orleans where the river seems to lie in pieces, I fully expect to find them celebrating its wake.

Note to self: Change boyish to youthful.

Day six in Vicks (burg)

I like Vicksburg; my foot started to feel better on the Vicksburg National Military Park Tour (I recommend it, if you haven't been: it's very moving, and large scale--actually surrounding the town just where the Yankee besiegers and Confederate defenders did at the time); The people there are very friendly--it's the first place I'd say I'd encountered true Southern friendliness--and industrious. And I did one of my favorite things to do in a strange city--got my hair cut. And I got my picture taken with the barber (shamelessly allowing her to believe that the haircut was so good, I was gonna show the photo to my barber at home).
It's a picturesque city with still many very magnificent plantation houses kept up, but what they really know how to do is cemeteries. On top of all the memorials to fallen officers which simply are absolutely everywhere in town, the graveyards just poke themselves out at you, ironically demanding your attention where the graves themselves, row upon row, are individually so humble and nondescript--the private not just the military graves. The whole town's a memento mori--but more: a testament to courageous, anonymous and thankless death. We flatter ourselves that people will remember us when we're gone. Not for long, buddy, not for long.

There are some run down parts of Vicksburg and some people hurting, but nothing like the degradation in Memphis (especially in the South). Pray for the people of Memphis. ( I was gonna write, "they need hope... and change" but that would be insensitive of me).
Fruit only idea died after seeing "Solly's Hot Tamales" on Washington Street and admirably resisting temptation only to discover I've been heading down Washington in the wrong direction. I defy anyone to drive past Solly's Hot Tamales est 1939 twice. The tamales are twice as good and half again as Abe's in Clarksdale.
Driving through Port Gibson the main thoroughfare corresponding to highway 61 is known as Church street (as in "Save Church Street") and it is literally lined with churches, one after another First Baptist, Second Presbyterian, Third Methodist, Second Baptist, Third Presbyterian, Second Methodist, First Episcopalian, First Methodist--I couldn't figure out why the Methodists rans in the opposite direction to everyone else.
You DO know I'm just making most of this stuff up, right
Update August 8: I only just noticed now that the enormous couple of sunburnt whales I met on the Vicksburg Park tour and kepts running into (not literally, I should point out to those who know it's a driving tour) at the many points of interest, who said they were from Louisiana and who told me each time we met to "be careful" in New Orleans--were in fact angels.
So... I apologize for being so unobservant and slow.

On the sixth day...

I missed 6:30 Mass at St. Mary's in Vicksburg. Slept through my wake up call and my alarm. Own damned fault: on this computer much too late.

At breakfast I got my first southern, "Bless your heart," of the journey--maybe of my life if you don't count jocular ones--after I apologized for standing, "confused and dazed," like a slack jawed lump in someones way. I'm going to treasure it in said heart. Anyway, the fruit only idea took a little knock 'cause I slept late so there were no fruit left at breakfast.

Day V - Northanger Abbey (No Spoilers--they're unnecessary)

Day five comes to a close with me navigating my Chevy up the drive of Northanger Abbey, General Tilney at my door graciously to hand me down...

Naw, just kidding. I meant to say I finished Austin's (Jane, not Steve) Northanger Abbey at lunch and the ending is horrible. What's more, the authoress knows it is and jokes about it. The last snippet of narrative relates the facts Henry and Catherine walked to the Allens' house and back after a short visit. The rest is just the authoress herself--not even the "narrator"--telling us she's not going to write the ending, but here's how it would end if she did, complete with a little, "Remember that little machina I introduce back in chapter twenty summat? I forgot to tell you there was a deus in it; anyway, he popped out, so that solved that problem, right?"
There was a place for the authoress to slip back into the first person she began the novel with, so I'm not complaining about that. Just that it should've been two or three chapters later, when the story was actually finished.

Dafe I've

Breakfast at memphis econolodge (actually in the basement of the club across the driveway). Self toasted--in a broken toaster--bagel and more bad coffee all in plastic and polystyrene was so tawdry it was literally funny. The News Readers on the TV were scaring me with tales of "record breaking" (they actually repeated the phrase several times) heat in the mid-South.
"How ya doin'" seems to be the standard greeting in this part of the country.
Doh! Looking for Madison Avenue in Memphis (you can see where they tape Mad Men) I run up third past Jefferson then past Adams and I see Washington up ahead and I STILL don't realize I'm heading in the wrong direction.
So you're from the Great White North; you're rolling down the 61 at 70 or 75 mph (you don't actually know because you don't have cruise and your speedometer is in kilometers) in 104 degree heat with the windows wide open; not daring to tempt the A/C to fail in case you need it in Arizona; wondering seriously if the engine temp guage needle really hasn't tiny-fraction-of-an-inched up since you last glanced at it... And every two or five miles you come up to a bridge over a little stream or gully with sign just ahead of it warning, "Bridge May Ice in Cold Weather"
Do you drive into oncoming traffic?
The smell of hot humid Tunica county MS is an order of magnitude more intense than that of Jefferson county MO and commensurately more affecting. Fortunately, they've fine tuned the growth:decay ratio to more like 5 to 1. It's a pleasure just to breathe. Sometimes, I never want to stop.
Vicksburg, MS. Foot hurts; touch of gout I think; been eating nothing but meat the last three days. Also it doesn't smell gangrenous and it hurts to much for leprosy... so ya, definitely gout... or cancer. I'll eat nothing but fruit tomorrow and see what happens...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

New facts learned earlier in Day 4 about Day 3

At lunch I was reading the Preface to the Vatican Edition of the Roman Chant and on page xvj at paragraph VII it says in part,
When the Preface is finished, the choir goes on with the Sanctus and Benedictus. If these are sung to Gregorian chant they must be given without a break; if not, Benedictus may follow the Consecration...
That is what happened yesterday. A polyphonic Sanctus preceded and a polyphonic Benedictus followed the Consecration, confusing me no end... well, end, I guess.

Day four ends in Memphis, TN

Beale Street is a cartoon parody of... I guess, Beale Street. I stopped in the first place without a cover charge and caught the The Dr. "Feelgood" (naturally) Potts Band, fronted by Dr "F" Potts himself (naturally). The band was quietly competent if a little staid, and Dr F had one of those great fat blues voices like cranking the Bass AND clicking the Loudness button, if mic'd to distortion and a tiny bit out of tune. He played a mix of well-WELL-worn (I'm talkin' REALLY well-worn)standards and material from his own CD which he introduced by track number (making me laugh out loud, as they say).
I went next door for a pulled pork sandwich. And the band there was SMOKIN'!! But after their break they started to play again and were actually quite good (see what I did there with the "smoking" joke? Funny, eh?) But, seriously, the two white kids on guitar and bass (the first with a thin white person blues voice, I actually found much more credible than Dr. F's) were really good and the drummer was nuts amazing. Crazy imaginative but always always in time. Utterly fresh!
Memphis has some N words who really know how to handle pan. I wonder if an angry rebuke would have turned them away, but that wasn't in me (not to my credit--I'm just built like: always greedy; only rarely angry). I ended up just giving it up, certain enough that my time in town was short enough that they wouldn't have time to take it all.
I think I'll try to make saying "The 'N' word" as taboo as saying the "N" word. Then if it ever comes to pass, I'll giggle myself to asphyxiation, a suitably ironic death.

Day four continues on hwy sixty-one south. I've just entered Perry County

When you live on a river like the Red, it's so little affecting, like a single nondescript tree, you can stare at it every day and walk away unchanged. When you live on the Mississippi, like a terrible mountain, you don't want to look at it. It's too insistent that you come down to the end with it, refusing to grant permission to turn around and contemplate its Source (that must be done sneakily). It's like falling from the sky--or any other activity that comes to an abrupt and unpleasant end with no second chances--I mean, like life.
So people don't look at the river. In the big cities they cater to tourists who wanna see it for the romance, but in the towns and farms they don't look at it--except perhaps those with an already fey disposition, I don't know. You can't see the river from town, there's a railroad between you and it (I asked one fellow if the river was just on the other side of that right-of-way over there; I might have asked him if his victims were just in that freezer over there). And along highway running its length, you're separated by not only the train tracks, but the next set or next two sets of hills or at least a broad muddy cultivated flat (cultivated with what? I'll have to find out). You can't see the river, only the steam above it. But the mist, too, reminds me of death.
There are quite a lot of roadside Marian shrines about.
Stopped to take in the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal at Saint Mary's of the Barrens Church in Perryville, MO for another three decades and to collect on a couple of--uh-- shall we say favors?
Passing through Cape Girardeau, Mary made me turn off 61 onto William to ensure I saw her Cathedral (a fellow in Ste Gen mentioned it, but didn't say where it was, and I didn't find out till I drove up to it), but I forgot to wear a shirt so equally she ensured the doors were locked. So I walked once around it, and on the fourth corner I looked up to see a little fountain garden just in time to glimpse a cardinal flitting off from a drink before flying up to a tree across William Street. "Wrong diocese!" I yelled after her. Old St. Vincent's was also locked... Odd. I thought old St. Vincent didn't get around much anymore.

Day 4

Mass @ Ste Genevieve (Ste. Genevieve, MO), after yesterday is like crashing to earth. The cruciform church itself is very fine but with a small altar plopped down in the front half of the sanctuary like a card table, a very tall priest (with a very short alb) and one elderlish server in civies offering a simple ordinary form Mass in English, it seemed like a little girl playing tea party in a palace with a plastic toy tea set while the good china lay behind her in an ancient cabinet. The tea was real anyhow, so, however humble, it was no counterfeit.
Breakfast a the Old Brick House in St. Gen. Apparently it's the oldest brick building west of the Mississipi to offer free wi-fi (1790 I think they said).
Actually the new altar in St. Gen was lovely, with fine carving in front. It's just small and, to me, looks a little out of place in such a grand sanctuary.
Stopped in a St. Mary's (in St. Mary, MO) for a decade for ms--another church built when architects and artisans still knew that beauty lies in forms not in informalism. No one around. Church door unlocked. (Only the certainty that no one reads this blog quells the concern that someone will now use this info to go steal the silverware).

Monday, August 02, 2010

Day 3. Cont.

In the valley, leaving Jefferson County and entering Ste Genevieve. The crickets are incessant; their whispers culminate in the roar. "Breathe in the fragrance," they say: wet, sweet, lush and green-- to my untutored senses, used to the frozen and sterile North, almost jungle-like; three parts growth and one part decay it fixes my attentions soul and body down to my bowels insisting, "you are temporary." Don't I know it.

Up on the crest, highest around, I catch sight the great rolling waves of treetops running East, bluer and bluer they recede until finally after one more crest lies unglimpsed the brown ribbon--how far?--the brown ribbon that will join me to the sea.

Sunday, August 01, 2010


Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales begins promptly at 10 with the ringing of bells. The priest enters anticlimactically at the end of a great procession; such a slight figure with tiny face and hands he looks a callow sixteen, reminding me of some medieval child saint whose holiness at eight years of age is so profound he is allowed to take Holy Orders at thirteen. By 10:14 the last echoes of the Introit have died away and the Kyrie immediately follows; it is short lasting only three minutes or so and we have the Gloria well under our belts by 10:25. Things are spinning along. The homily is largely on pride and so speaks strength to my weakness. Cloths are laid on the altar rails at the Offeratory in anticipation of Communion, a practice with which I was not familiar. The polyphonous Sanctus and Agnus Dei are breathtaking.

The family sitting in the pew directly in front of me are of three daughters well bespectacled, well mantilla'ed and deadly pious looking the image of their mother but for the colour of their mantillas (white) and the lack of a certain gentle and wistful softness only a few years and motherhood can bring; a fourth daughter, too young for mantilla has beautiful big black doomed eyes with which she moons at me; and finally, the son just on the cusp of toddlerhood. Before Mass his father stroked his eyebrows and his lashes blinked closed and open more and more slowly, finally settling on a closed position. I stare at them and think of ms and I cry and I cry again as I write this.

I saw them again all lined up for confession except the three youngest and blest them (for what that's worth) as I left.

Later the Cardinals beat the Pirates as I eat tapas like the antipasti ms used to make.

On my way to lunch I stop and listen to a shirtless old man with grass shears in a lawn chair (with an empty lawn chair beside him--meant for me?) gripe about Mexicans and city hall until I realize there will be no way to end the conversation except for me just to leave. The conversation began, "Know why I'm cutting this grass here (about 2 sq yards) with these?" I resolve to go back and share a bottle of beer with him and sit and listen, but he's gone.

Day 2 finishes up in St Louis.

Exposition, Vespers and Benediction in the Fearful St. Louis Cathedral.

DAY 2 begins in a fog (so what else is new?)

On the road by seven the fog finally lifted by seven twenty (that's a dangling participle, to those who were asking me) giving me my first glimpse of Iowa. It turns out I was misinformed: they DO have corn, there! I also saw some miniature cows which I assumed were closer than they appeared and if you take exit 21 off the I80 you come eventually to a town called What Cheer (no exclamation point, but hadn't there oughta be?).

In Hannibal MO (Birthplace of Mark Twain--though, in one of those strange quirks of literary history, none of the locals knew he was called that until much later) I ate sausage gravy which stands up in peaks on biscuits, and I caught my first glimpse of the Mississippi River. It is not nearly as crystal clear or fast flowing as I'd been led to believe.

Day 1 (cont)

Entered MN @ 4:04 PM. Wilkin County has cornfields and Otter Tail County has great rolling yellow sandy hills.

I fell asleep for a while; suddenly I was in Iowa without understanding why (oh wah). Night comes much earlier and inkier in Iowa. A sickly sweet warm mist lay on Ames I didn't know warned of a dense marine-style fog which was to last the entire night swallowing up Des Moines and then Newton, where the promise of tomorrow's race had poured gentle American folk into all inns to brimming. Slept in a fog, in a car in a fog.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Day 1: July 30.

Interstate Culture, that strange ersatz community of travellers and truckers, gas station attendants, convenience store clerks and motel employees--has a lot in common with InterNET Culture. Everyone is superficially friendly (we'll save for another day my argument that even the worst Internet flamers are actually superficially friendly--at least we can agree that they're harmless); nobody knows anybody; nobody trusts anybody; nobody actually knows anything or if they do there's no way for you actually to know that; and it's the same damn thing no matter where you go. My first encounter with Interstate Culture, this trip was immediately upon entering N Dakota at Pembina. One comfort you CAN count on: the worst cup of coffee known to man. Styled "French Roast" it was worse, if anything, than the little foil pouches of Nescafe they give in Greece to American and English tourists whose sensibilities are too delicate for Greek Coffee.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rene Descartes comments on a blog

"Methinks therefore me is."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Here are nine words that start with the letters T E N.

  1. tenet
  2. tenant
  3. tenable
  4. tennis
  5. tenuous
  6. tendentious
  7. tenacious
  8. tensile
  9. tendril
I can't think of a tenth.

Friday, July 09, 2010

One hundredth day

Of late, I've taken to accompanying each Ave in the fourth decade with a prayer for an everlasting perfection. They change day to day but there are some I pray every day (okay, you got me: I mean every day I make it to the fourth decade--most days).

For example,
{(tacit) Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,} grant her perfect everlasting peace.

This requires no further explanation. We mean what the church means by peace in the prayer resquiat in pace.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I like verbs with past tense same as present.

I cut her sandwiches into quarters. I cut mine in half.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Epitaph Worries.

As of Monday, yesterday, we are worried. The people commissioned to design, build and engrave the stone, which is to be for both beloved ms and your own cricket, seem to think a single epitaph should apply to both of us. Leaving aside the fact that the participle "Affidata" is singular and feminine, it seems obvious to me that each person buried under a stone should have his own epitaph. Having chosen interment in a casket over cremation for myself, I think I want mine to be: "Still wasting space", but I guess I'll give the kids the final say on that.


As of Sunday, two days ago, we've decided on:
Affidata al Cuore Immacolato di Maria

Thursday, June 03, 2010

per la moglie strega

O Jesus:

We pray that she be enfolded within Your blessed Mother's most holy and immaculate heart;
That she might turn at any moment to feel against her cheek of the cold steel which pierce the same graceful heart,
And so suddenly to find her own heart pierced with a love for you as keen as any one of those seven dolors.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Mrs Dilber was next. Sheets and towels, a little wearing apparel, two old-fashioned silver teaspoons, a pair of sugar-tongs, and a few boots. Her account was stated on the wall in the same manner.

Scrooge's effects were so light. Why are hers so heavy?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Double dactyl

Grommity Grammity

How anonymity

Gives me the license to

Spout like a fool

Maybe quite typic’lly

Brooking no cavil, I

Rest on the dictum of

My blog, my rule.

My people don't work

The notion that the word liturgy means 'work of the people' seems to be popular among a certain type of liturgical progressive not so intent on returning the Mass to the people as on putting his own personal stamp on it. The larger problem with the formulation is that it is not strictly true. While the word leitos for people or public and ergo for “to do” form its Greek roots, the word liturgy was not cobbled together from its roots by early Christians, but taken whole in the word leitourgia from Greek culture. In that context, the word meant “public work” actually of an elevated or rich person, for (not by) the public. What the progressive seem to have in mind is more a new coinage, demourgia—ringing uncomfortably close to the Gnostic concept of the demiurge. Considered seriously, we must humbly admit that the liturgy is not the work of the people, but the work of Christ given through his Spouse the Holy Catholic Church for the benefit of the people. This consideration should be enough to quell any temptation we have to engage in any such tinkering with the Mass as for example (as I have heard recently) altering the words of the Agnus Dei.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

a quarter century

She took me, damaged goods as they say, without reservation some twenty-four years ago--I'm almost certain she never, even at the end, knew just how damaged--and slowly and painstakingly went a long long way toward fixing me. I never even realized what she was doing (she was no scold); sometimes she even allowed me to think it was she who was in need of repair.

The project, however, is still far from complete. I pray she may still give it some of her attention.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Our last conversation

I asked her, "Are you afraid?"

She said, "No."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Conflicting requests

The Church prays:
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace.
But I ask that she experience (among many other things) an everlasting falling into joy, an eternal coronation like unto and only a little less than that of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God, an exquisite cardinal moment of perfection on which all creation--time, space and matter--hinges.

Am I wrong? I cannot quite reconcile these prayers. The Church's plea seems to be for a sublime sort of sleep. But sleep, to me
(as, it would seem, to the Psalmist, For there is no one in death, that is mindful of thee, {6:6 Vulg} as well as to the Preacher, For the living know that they shall die, but the dead know nothing more, {Eccl. 9:6}),
means forgetfulness; and eternity, to me, subsumes the notion of an expected future universal resurrection. What's more I'm praying through the intercession of men and women who also have gone down to eternal forgetfulness, praying that she knows even as she has been known.

If I am not wrong and our prayers are not incompatible, then the answer lies surely in the gaps in my understandings of words like eternity or perpetuity, experience, repose, peace and... and the list doesn't end, really. This is what I hope.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I'm wearing it now.

I just found out this morning that I have a shirt that has buttons on the cuffs that I'd never before buttoned myself.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

40th Day

Well, she did it. What's more, she made it look easy.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Do I need a new prescription? Is that all?

The horizon that seemed so near I pleased to obscure with a clutter of vanity heaped upon vanity now seems immensely distant and the space between barren.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Ero ism o sono ism.

"She is in a better place now," are words meant to console. But, to say nothing of their being taken together, each of the seven words taken separately easily might underlie ten thousand words of contentious and disturbing debate. Well, perhaps not "a", but, then again, maybe so.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Olympic Coverage on Mother Corp.

I won't say it's explicitly part of the mission statement of the CBC automatically to exclude Christ and Christianity from the airwaves, but in their radio coverage of the winter games recently I heard their announcer give details of an Olympic awards ceremony at "BCE Place".

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sad music in my parish.

Our new priest has instituted a music program in which Chant and Latin hymns are forbidden and in which the music draws heavily from post-Vatican II American sources. A few months ago, fearing from things that I had heard that he would take this very step, I wrote him a letter. He seemed pleased to receive it and told me the following Sunday that he was working on a reply. I have received no reply from him in writing, but only the appearance of a new modern (pronounced "godawful") Hymnal in the pews, the almost complete abandonment of the organ, and way - way more electric piano at mass. I mean no disrespect, but if this is what he intended as his reply, I take it to be the equivalent of the raised and extended middle finger. For posterity and with identifying info removed, I reproduce the letter here. If he ever does reply in writing, I will attach it to this post. I welcome criticism from my many readers.

Dear Father
While I was unable to attend the parish music information meeting held last Saturday, it would seem that mine is one of the voices for whose return you made an appeal on Sunday. I note further your undoubted enthusiasm for the establishment of a body of some form or forms of sacred music along with musicians and singers able to draw from it for the enrichment of the liturgy. With this in mind, I hope I might offer my personal thoughts.

I have been a parishioner of St X for the last {a number more than ten} years after having attended for several years from outside the parish. As much as I appreciated in many ways the pastoral care of Fr. Y, as a music lover, the one thing that was often a source of dismay was the state of sacred music both in the parish and in the Church as a whole.

Inspired by a certain understanding of the aims of the Second Vatican Council, a rich and still fruitful patrimony of ancient sacred music had been set aside, as it seemed to me, for the mostly insipid tunes and sometimes profane or heterodox lyrics of a small cadre of 1970’s composers. Even when older hymns and chorales were tapped—a great many of them imported directly from Protestant hymnodical traditions—performances frequently were suited more to nightclub or campfire than to church. This is not to say that there were no bright spots: many examples of musicians and singers sounding truly Catholic hymns both old and new in the vernacular with voices raised to the glory of God and not to their own; just that there were these disappointments and so much of our treasured Catholic musical inheritance simply missing.

So when I was asked about four years ago to help found a choir in the parish that would have as its aim—secondary of course to adoration and worship of God—the revival of chant and polyphony and the return in that context of music truly integrated into the liturgy, I leapt at the opportunity. Since that time we have been working hard to cultivate a command of the media of chant and polyphony while at the same time striving to remain obedient to the wishes of the parish priest and respectful of the sensibilities of the congregation. It was not a case of foisting chant and Latin on the parish, but rather of slowly and painstakingly reintroducing the parish to their richness, beauty and importance and allowing them to take their proper place along side the standard English repertoire.

If the proper interpretation of Vatican II required the summary jettison of music essential—not just incidental—to centuries of liturgical practice, the constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium would not, as I am sure you are aware, have granted Gregorian chant “pride of place” as “proper to the Roman liturgy” and would not have singled out polyphony especially as “by no means excluded”. If Latin were meant to be suppressed in the post-conciliar Church, the 1967 instruction Musicam Sacram would not have provided that “The use of the Latin language is to be preserved”, and Pope Paul VI of blessed memory would not under its auspices have provided the church with the 1974 document Jubilate Deo (see allowing even small congregations to enjoy the manifold blessings of the tradition of plainsong.

As for that tradition, the value of chant in worship must not be underestimated. Its transcendental qualities are known to non-Christian faiths as they were in pre-Christian traditions. It is well known that many chant melodies predate their score-notation by many years, and it is theorized by some that a few are nearly as ancient as the psalms themselves. Certainly the roots of chant lie firmly in the Hebrew tradition of psalmody which was carried into the early Christian Church.

One might reasonably argue that the remoteness and difficulty of chant preclude the “active participation” in the liturgy called for by Vatican II, by hampering the ability of the congregation to “sing along”. It must be admitted there is an element of validity to this argument for some; naturally it is desirable that there continue to be offered masses at which music is sung entirely in the vernacular with as much vocal participation as possible from the congregation. However, for many others the dynamic will be just the opposite.

The objection is answered in part by considering the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI’s writings focusing on the more important internal dimensions of “active participation”: a level of involvement in prayer, a focus on the Holy Mysteries taking place at the altar, uniting one’s intentions with the priest’s, recollecting oneself before Holy Communion and making thanksgiving afterwards. Without these and like levels of participation, singing along to the hymns is useless. It can even be maintained that as much as our joining in the singing of folk and pop style songs excites the emotions, our listening to chant—even if the words are not understood—elevates the spirit not only by the melodies themselves soothing the passions that the soul may be lifted, but by the authentic voice of the Church being raised up to God in the words. In this way chant is able actually to enhance active participation in the liturgy truly lending itself to powerful use as a sacramental.

I believe this benefit obtains even granting that understanding of the words be nil. But I would not concede that much: if Latin chant were introduced into the ordinary of the Mass in a systematic way, very quickly the words Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi would be exactly as accessible to the congregation as the words Lamb of God who take away the sins of the world. Truthfully, in either language the greater import of the words remains a profound mystery, as it must. Two advantages of choosing to enunciate the former over the latter are 1) that we speak in the mother tongue of the Church and join in her catholic voice and 2) that the Latin words and melodies of chant are so inextricably bound as to form one organic whole much as our own bodies and souls form whole persons.

A second objection that one might raise is that our particular schola was simply not accomplished enough to realize the myriad benefits of chant. This objection has a great deal more power and not a little truth. But the solution is not to suppress chant and Latin, which would clearly be contrary to the will of the Church, but to foster it: first, I would humbly suggest, on the part of the pastor both by educating the congregation as a whole and by encouraging greater participation in chant by musicians from within the congregation; and secondly on the part of the choir itself both by self study and by practice, practice, practice.

Yours in Christ,

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Euclid meets God (or doesn't)

In a letter to my Protestant friend (MPF) (cc'd to my atheist friend (MAF)) concerning MAF I said,
it would be fruitful, if possible, more precisely to spline the curve of that twisted notion of the Divine from the roots of disbelief to the point where its tangent becomes true, that is to say orthodox.
Some discussion ensued in which MAF opined,
Believers are asymptotic to God (growing ever closer but never actually meeting). Non-believers are parallel to God (in the Euclidian sense).
He seems to have been implying nobody ever meets God. With this, MPF disagreed, saying,
The un-believer is obviously not parallel to God, since his distance from God is increasing... The believer is parallel to God, as the two lines meet in infinity.
(which Euclid might have found surprising, but never mind). After some discussion in which I did not join about the meanings of the word parallel, I replied at length,

As you all know, I love to beat dead metaphors as much as the next cretin. So, preposterously hoping this nag'll gallop a little further let me try this.

I like the notion that believers travel an asymptotic path toward God, never (in this life) meeting. What's more, we always view God around our own individual curve, so when we look toward God we don't see Him. Those greatly advanced in holiness travel through life so close to God they might almost turn and touch. Yet they're in the same position as anyone, seeing God around a curve, though they can more profoundly experience in this way that dark night ably described by the mystics: They run or are carried and so they look not at but in the same direction (nearly) as God; thus suddenly they can find Him absent as a child does when his father runs along beside and just behind his first two-wheeler.

At our deaths we must all hop the gap between our own curves and the True at which point our own paths will be trued. This, of course, is the function of Purgatory, and, the farther we are from the asymptote at our deaths the more jarring this correction will be--as through fire, for some. One of the frightening things about death is that it seems we will be losing a dimension of our existence, as the happy little locus free to range across the fruited cartesian plain views eternal imprisonment on the y-axis as a limitation. But those on the increasingly straight and narrow path so close to the asymptote will begin dimly to perceive the truth in the promise of an unfolding of vast and manifold dimensions of which the dreaded axis death is only the visible edge.

Where we go wrong is in assuming that it's different for unbelievers. No, the unbeliever is on the same species of asymptotic curve (this has the happy consequence of obviating debate on the meaning of parallel), he's just looking in the other direction. When he does look over his shoulder checking for God, he doesn't see Him, He's around the curve, same as for the rest of us. Unlike believers he is unpracticed in following the curve round in his heart and mind where his eye does not reach. {The preceding sentence, of course, refers to prayer} If the angle of his curve is very steep he won't even recognize a hint of God. I used the verb "spline" to describe sounding out another's curve (without, naturally, knowing its parameters) as perhaps a "fruitful" step in helping to bend it toward the limit (this itself a spiritual work of mercy). But it is the wicked not the unbeliever, pace {MPF}, who is actually traveling in the other direction; who is willingly steepening his curve and further obscuring God and goodness, making unbelief ever easier, ever more plausible; who, when he hops the gap, will crash and burn, unable to be trued. This is why wickedness will foster unbelief and why unbelief can also lead to wickedness. It is also why metanoia is so often characterized simply as a turning around.

What {MAF} in his heart of hearts recognizes, if I may be quite bold, is that the plane, or space if you will, in which we are all swimming these paths is at least a moral space; that reality has an intrinsic (non-constructed, non-culturally programmed, non-arbitrary, but real) moral character, giving the path itself, real meaning. {MAF}'s problem is not so much that he doesn't believe--for he does and by that I mean he doesn't think it is "superstitious" to love his neighbor as himself--but that he erroneously thinks it is of any consequence that when he looks for God he doesn't see anyone, and what he does see--others' conceptions of God--he (rightly) sees as fairly ridiculous. He knows, or has a fair idea when he is traveling in the Good direction, though he despairs of seeing God--for the moment anyway. Of course our mortal span is a mere moment, but I see no reason not to hope that some beauteous (if distant) day he will ask in wonder, "when did I see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink?"

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


I personally love the COEXIST (2nd person plural imperative) sticker and would have one on my car (next to my old "nuclear plants are built better than Jane Fonda" sticker) if I could find the right one. For me it conjures up the image, in the one issuing the mandate, of a one assuming all power and authority unto himself and charging all kingdoms to quake before him. It freshens my day in a lovely Ozymandias moment, one with a gentle twist of irony.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

I'd be in a bad mood today, if I weren't in a subjunctive mood.

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I'd be a blackguard and a cad, if I weren't so ineffectual. The less said "About Me", the better.