Saturday, January 18, 2003
dances with a curious
beside the boulevard's vitrines
quote simmering passages
of summer sonneteers
A denim-coated psalmist
launches caustic vocables
at an army
of traipsing infidels
seeks a kindred soul
at the bottom of Saturday's
inflict a ruthlessness of
upon the bodies of
Innocence dresses in
vestments of indigo
and plays the harlot
for first-time candidates
in a furious flurry
tossed hither and yon
by petulant winds
of naughty propaganda
Active assassins of peace
And mercy dies of thirst
behind the barricades
from Theology of Wonder
It is hard to be a Christian if one has never seen the Christian life lived by another. It is hard to believe in the importance of prayer if one has never known a man of prayer. And while one may accept, and know in one's heart the truth of the poignant force of Leon Bloy's profound word, "The only sadness is not to be a saint," how can one approach sanctity without some living model or exemplar?
:: :: :: :: ::
Sigrist, op. cit. (Crestwood, NY : Saint Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2001), pp. 30 & 31.
from The Illumined Heart : The Ancient Christian Path of Transformation
Considering such a discipline [fasting and other ascetical practices] can seem overwhelming to Western Christians today. As with other spiritual disciplines, it is important to do what one can, and not undertake too much in a burst of hubris. Physical exercise is a marvelous thing; it can strengthen and reshape the body in amazing ways, and grant extraordinary health. We sometimes see heroic athletes in their sixties and seventies completing marathons. I'm not going to be one of them. I am middle-aged, plump, and seriously uncoordinated. There are limits to the amount of exercise I can do, and if I tried to exceed them I would reap both injury and despair.
Likewise with physical disciplines like fasting. They are meant to strengthen the Christian, not break him.
:: :: :: :: ::
Mathewes-Green, op. cit. (Brewster, Massachusetts : Paraclete Press, 2001), pp. 54-5.
from Cables to the Ace, yet again
(The Harmonies of Excess)
The hidden lovers in the soil
Become green plants and gardens tomorrow
When they are ordered to re-appear
In the wet sun's poem
Then they force the delighted
Power of buds to laugh louder
They scatter all the cries of light
Like shadow rain and make their bed
Over and over in the hollow flower
The violet bonfire
They spin the senses of the mute morning
In an abandoned river
Love's wreckage is then left to lie
All around the breathless shores
Of my voice
Which on the coasts of larking meadows
Invented all these children and their mischievous noises
So those lovers teach April stars
To riot rebel and follow faithless courses
And it doesn't matter
The seed is not afraid
Of winter or the terrible sweetness
Of the spring's convivial nightmare
Or the hot surprise and dizzy spark
Of their electric promise
For the lovers in the sleeping nerve
Are the hope and the address
Where I send you this burning garden
My talkative morning-glory
My climbing germ of poems
:: :: :: :: ::
Thomas Merton, The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton (NY : New Directions Paperbook 504, 1980), pp. 447-8.
Blessed are the subtle, for they shall win elections.
But woe to the Holy See, for it is not subtle. And it does not appreciate the politician's need to be responsive to all "populations" in his/her constituency. Especially those populations which favor, for lack of a better word, depopulation.
now does our world descend
the path to nothingness
(cruel now cancels kind;
friends turn to enemies)
therefore lament,my dream
and don a doer's doom
create is now contrive;
(freedom:what makes a slave)
therefore,my life,lie down
and more by most endure
all that you never were
hide,poor dishonoured mind
who thought yourself so wise;
and much could understand
concerning no and yes:
if they've become the same
it's time you unbecame
where climbing was and bright
is darkness and to fall
(now wrong's the only right
since brave are cowards all)
therefore despair,my heart
and die into the dirt
but from this endless end
of briefer each our bliss--
where seeing eyes go blind
(where lips forget to kiss)
where everything's nothing
--arise,my soul;and sing
I WILL cry unto God with my voice; * even unto God will I cry with my voice, and he shall hearken unto me.
2 In the time of my trouble I sought the Lord: * I stretched forth my hands unto him, and ceased not in the night season; my soul refused comfort.
3 When I am in heaviness, I will think upon God; * when my heart is vexed, I will complain.
4 Thou holdest mine eyes waking: * I am so feeble that I cannot speak.
5 I have considered the days of old, * and the years that are past.
6 I call to remembrance my song, * and in the night I commune with mine own heart, and search out my spirit.
7 Will the Lord absent himself for ever? * and will he be no more intreated?
8 Is his mercy clean gone for ever? * and is his promise come utterly to an end for evermore?
9 Hath God forgotten to be gracious? * and will he shut up his loving-kindness in displeasure?
10 And I said, It is mine own infirmity; * but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most Highest.
11 I will remember the works of the LORD, * and call to mind thy wonders of old time.
12 I will think also of all thy works, * and my talking shall be of thy doings.
13 Thy way, O God, is holy: * who is so great a God as our God?
14 Thou art the God that doest wonders, * and hast declared thy power among the peoples.
15 Thou hast mightily delivered thy people, * even the sons of Jacob and Joseph.
16 The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee, and were afraid; * the depths also were troubled.
17 The clouds poured out water, the air thundered, * and thine arrows went abroad.
18 The voice of thy thunder was heard round about: * the lightnings shone upon the ground; the earth was moved, and shook withal.
19 Thy way is in the sea, and thy paths in the great waters, * and thy footsteps are not known.
20 Thou leddest thy people like sheep, * by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Friday, January 17, 2003
from Cables to the Ace
I seek you in the hospital where you work. Will you be a patch of white moving rapidly across the end of the next hall? I begin again in every shadow, surrounded by the sound of scandal and the buzzer calling all doctors to the presence of alarm.
After that we'll meet in some Kingdom they forgot and there the found will play the songs of the sent. Surely a big bird with all the shades of light will beat against our windows. We will then gladly consent to the kindness of rays and recover the warm knowledge of each other we once had under those young trees in another May. (It is a big bird flies right out of the center of the sun.)
Mrs vonHuben at Oblique House blogs on the Dangers of Idiomatic English.
I was going to link to this post, simply because she used the expression tant pis (and really, what other reason does one need?), but the Idiomatic Danger Post is, shall we say, delightfuller.
Of course, tant pis could be used as a launching-pad for a bit o' blogging on the dangers of anglicizing French expressions!
or, I didn't realize that you wrote poetry
Spent part of the wee hours writing dithyrambs in the manner of the surrealistic Cables to the Ace, a book of experimental prose and poems by Thomas Merton. About which, more later.
Discovered some passages therein, of frankly autobiographical import, which had previously escaped my notice. Passages which I had missed on every reading since the first, nearly 12 years ago!
Her senators are Arlen Specter (vigorously pro-choice) and Rick Santorum (every bit as vigorously pro-life). Both, please note, are Republicans.
She lives in Massachusetts, where the Republican governor is pro-choice and the Democratic speaker of the house is pro-life.
What, pray tell, is this "rigid right-wing orthodoxy" of which she speaks? And does she think that the morbid left-wing orthodoxy of choice, choice über alles is preferable to the moderately conservative main stream of the party she has just abandoned?
Prediction : When the campaign's over, and someone other than John Forbes Kerry is (still) President of the United States, she'll rejoin the Grand Old Party. Perhaps quietly.
The blogger at Sainteros gives us The Poem of the Morning (working title), a wonderfully clear meditation, of remarkable fluency. Remarkable because the poet disclaims proficiency in metrical verse.
Trusting that you will find his scansion unimpeachable and his poem very good, indeed!
of the title of a James Joyce work
When I first saw the title of a slender volume of verse by the titanic James Joyce, Pomes Penyeach, I couldn't figure out what language it was, and pronounced it "poe mess pen yake."
Turns out (as might be obvious to some of you; but as I discovered only after three years of owning The Portable James Joyce, whereupon I derided myself with an "oh, duh") that it's misspelled English : "poems [a] penny each."
Under the "Catholic sites" heading of Places Oft Visited, chesterton-library.net, a link to much of G. K. Chesterton's writing, has been added. Many delightful essays and diverting poems.
I'm not the hugest Chestertonian, having read only his St Francis biography and a few poems -- perhaps liking best "The Sword of Surprise" -- but do click on whatever title catches your eye! For me, this page is enabling the discovery of much that is new; but for some of you, this might be the strengthening of a beautiful friendship!
Memorandum to self : Do read Orthodoxy someday. (Yikes! But not online. The website, alas, did not divide the text into chapters.)
Do have a look at the Essays and Poems, though.
Thursday, January 16, 2003
TRULY God is loving unto Israel: * even unto such as are of a clean heart.
2 Nevertheless, my feet were almost gone, * my treadings had well-nigh slipt.
3 And why? I was grieved at the wicked: * I do also see the ungodly in such prosperity.
4 For they are in no peril of death; * but are lusty and strong.
5 They come in no misfortune like other folk; * neither are they plagued like other men.
6 And this is the cause that they are so holden with pride, * and cruelty covereth them as a garment.
7 Their eyes swell with fatness, * and they do even what they lust.
8 They corrupt other, and speak of wicked blasphemy; * their talking is against the Most High.
9 For they stretch forth their mouth unto the heaven, * and their tongue goeth through the world.
10 Therefore fall the people unto them, * and thereout suck they no small advantage.
11 Tush, say they, how should God perceive it? * is there knowledge in the Most High?
12 Lo, these are the ungodly, * these prosper in the world, and these have riches in possession:
13 And I said, Then have I cleansed my heart in vain, * and washed my hands in innocency.
14 All the day long have I been punished, * and chastened every morning.
15 Yea, and I had almost said even as they; * but lo, then I should have condemned the generation of thy children.
16 Then thought I to understand this; * but it was too hard for me,
17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God: * then understood I the end of these men;
18 Namely, how thou dost set them in slippery places, * and castest them down, and destroyest them.
19 O how suddenly do they consume, * perish, and come to a fearful end!
20 Yea, even like as a dream when one awaketh; * so shalt thou make their image to vanish out of the city.
21 Thus my heart was grieved, * and it went even through my reins.
22 So foolish was I, and ignorant, * even as it were a beast before thee.
23 Nevertheless, I am alway by thee; * for thou hast holden me by my right hand.
24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, * and after that receive me with glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? * and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of thee.
26 My flesh and my heart faileth; * but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
27 For lo, they that forsake thee shall perish; * thou hast destroyed all them that are unfaithful unto thee.
28 But it is good for me to hold me fast by God, to put my trust in the Lord GOD, * and to speak of all thy works in the gates of the daughter of Sion.
an address by C S Lewis in The Weight of Glory
Let us construct a fable. Let us picture a woman thrown into a dungeon. There she bears and rears a son. He grows up seeing nothing but the dungeon walls, the straw on the floor, and a little patch of the sky seen through the grating, which is too high up to show anything except sky. This unfortunate woman was an artist, and when they imprisoned her she managed to bring with her a drawing pad and a box of pencils. As she never loses the hope of deliverance, she is constantly teaching her son about that outer world which he has never seen. She does it very largely by drawing him pictures. With her pencil she attempts to show him what fields, rivers, mountains, cities, and waves on a beach are like. He is a dutiful boy and he does his best to believe her when she tells him that that outer world is far more interesting and glorious than anything in the dungeon. At times he succeeds. On the whole he gets on tolerably well until, one day, he says something that gives his mother pause. For a minute or two they are at cross-purposes. Finally it dawns on her that he has, all these years, lived under a misconception. "But," she gasps, "you didn't think that the real world was full of lines drawn in lead pencil?" "What?" says the boy. "No pencil marks there?" And instantly his whole notion of the outer world becomes a blank. For the lines, by which alone he was imagining it, have now been denied of it. He has no idea of that which will exclude and dispense with the lines, that of which the lines were merely a transposition -- the waving treetops, the light dancing on the weir, the coloured three-dimensional realities which are not enclosed in lines but define their own shapes at every moment with a delicacy and multiplicity which no drawing could ever achieve. The child will get the idea that the real world is somehow less visible than his mother's pictures. In reality it lacks lines because it is incomparably more visible.
So with us. "We know not what we shall be"; but we may be sure we shall be more, not less, than we were on earth. Our natural experiences (sensory, emotional, imaginative) are only like the drawing, like pencilled lines on flat paper. If they vanish in the risen life, they will vanish only as pencil lines vanish from the real landscape, not as a candle flame that is put out but as a candle flame which becomes invisible because someone has pulled up the blind, thrown open the shutters, and let in the blaze of the risen sun.
You can put it whichever way you please. You can say that by Transposition our humanity, senses and all, can be made the vehicle of beatitude. Or you can say that the heavenly bounties by Transposition are embodied during this life in our temporal experience. But the second way is the better. It is the present life which is the diminution, the symbol, the etiolated, the (as it were) "vegetarian" substitute. If flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom, that is not because they are too solid, too gross, too distinct, too "illustrious with being." They are too flimsy, too transitory, too phantasmal.
LORD, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, * according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen * thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared * before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles, * and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Wednesday, January 15, 2003
by James Joyce (1882-1941)
Gaunt in gloom
The pale stars their torches
Ghostfires from heaven's far verges faint illume
Arches on soaring arches,
Night's sindark nave.
The lost hosts awaken
To service till
In moonless gloom each lapses, muted, dim
Raised when she has and shaken
And long and loud
To night's nave upsoaring
A starknell tolls
As the bleak incense surges, cloud on cloud,
Voidward from the adoring
Waste of souls.
pulchritudo est omnis divisa in partes quattuor
What we might call beauty, it seems to me, falls more properly into four categories : the Awesome (or Truly Beautiful), the Pretty, the Gorgeous, and the Cute.
And the characteristics of these four types of beauty can be discerned by the verbs that indicate the degree, the variety, the quality or intensity, of the attraction :
The Awesome inspires.
The Pretty delights.
The Gorgeous entices.
The Cute amuses.
:: :: :: :: ::
1. The Awesome (or, the Truly Beautiful)
This is the beauty which reminds us of God, this is the beauty that thrills the heart. This is the beauty that produces much poetry. This is the beauty to which prolonged attention is not culpable. This is the beauty the which to contemplate is to be revivified. This is the beauty of a light snowfall on Christmas Eve. This is the beauty of the stars in heaven. The literature of this kind of beauty is, in terms of works that treat of human love, Shakespeare's sonnet 18 and Dante's La Vita Nuova. This sort of beauty can be found where there is no conventional "prettiness." The awesome can be quite austere. Gregorian chant in a Trappist monastery is awesome. Or any ancient and reverent liturgical music. The Tantum Ergo speaks, of course, of the awesome. The awesome is a mystery larger than ourselves, and larger than the world. When Emerson wrote that nature certifies the supernatural, he was aware that what is sublunary, earthly, ordinary, can speak to us of the awesome. What is awesome can be either imperious or gentle, silent or symphonic -- but it contains something, a hint and perhaps more than a hint, of the numinous. The awesome is a foretaste of Heaven.
A possible subset of this "truly beautiful" category might be the Lovely; and I begin to think that this category should endure a fission into clearer, more discrete subcategories. But there's always the use of adverbs! The quietly Awesome; the modestly Awesome?
2. The Pretty
Prettiness is the beauty of a prevailing convention. Prettiness delights or pleases, without having the overwhelming force of an inexorable imperative. Prettiness is not "as terrible as an army with banners." Prettiness is something akin to Wordsworth's daffodils. Prettiness, if we can derogate, bears the same relation to beauty that Donovan's "Mellow Yellow" bears to Mozart's Requiem. Prettiness is to be found in the glossier magazines. Prettiness is standardized beauty. It is a non-threatening beauty. It is what we agree to find agreeable. The prettiness of an object, a scene, a painting, a person's face does not always mean that beauty doesn't exist. In personal beauty, prettiness suggests the other type of beauty. Prettiness is, perhaps, concentric with beauty but of a smaller radius. After prolonged examination of the pretty, we may discover (and a glorious discovery it is!) that what we thought was merely pretty was in fact entirely beautiful. Prettiness is, then, a "surface" thing, and can never be an emotional or interior quality.
3. The Gorgeous
The gorgeous can be dangerous. The gorgeous is siren-song. It is beauty that entices to the point where we almost take leave of our senses. It is beauty whose contemplation very easily and very quickly becomes culpably immoderate. The gorgeous is probably related most to the "love" which is called eros. (And in terms of personal beauty, whether someone is gorgeous depends a large part on the preferences and the disposition of the observer.) In literature, the gorgeous might describe a work that has too much of a certain kind of beauty. Some bad poems can have gorgeous lines. Some unpretty poems can be quite gorgeous in sound. I'm thinking here of Dylan Thomas, and maybe parts of Gerard Manley Hopkins, where his alliterations and echoes almost overdose the reader. Something that makes us sad (the "Mesto, stanco e spirante" aria from A. Scarlatti's Sulle sponde del Tebro) can be quite gorgeous, indeed. The French Symbolist poets, Baudelaire in particular, was particularly susceptible to the Gorgeous. The gorgeous and the awesome both command, they both are imperious and regal; but perhaps the Awesome is chaste, and the Gorgeous carnal. The gorgeous is excessive. The explosion of color in fall foliage is gorgeous.
Addendum, Thursday morning : There are times, I think -- upon further reflection -- when the Gorgeous is not unholy; when it is accompanied by joy. The fall foliage, yes; but even in human beauty, the Gorgeous need not inspire obsessions and unwholesome fixations. It can inspire love poetry much like that of Theodore Roethke (see "I Knew A Woman," "She," "Words for the Wind, etc.). But the joy-giving Gorgeous perhaps more properly belongs to the "truly beautiful." Or should we say that whether the Gorgeous is celestial or infernal, sanctified or un-, depends on the dispositions, the temperament, the response of the observer?
4. The Cute (or, the Comic Beauty)
The cute is something that could never make us sad. It attracts, it delights, it pleases -- but most of all, I think, it makes us happy, glad, merry, and in the old sense of the word "gay." Cute is the bubbles in champagne. Cute is Drew Barrymore. Cute is Ogden Nash's poetry, or the comically naughty rhymes that Cummings would append to his letters. Cute makes you smile; cute makes you laugh. Comedy is cute or pretty. Tragedy is awesome, sometimes gorgeous in that the gorgeous can lead to tragedy. Baudelaire never wrote about the cute. We need the cute. There's a salubrious, salutary, mirthful quality to the cute. The cute never engenders an erotic obsession, or a fatal attraction; the cute doesn't drive you to drink, or make you go insane. Life would be very dreary indeed without the cute.
If we were to try to connect the Four Beauties with the language employed by the venerable C S Lewis in The Four Loves, the attempt would fail, certainly, but there might be some loose correlations in thus wise (and note, I have here introduced a term not found in the aforementioned work by Lewis!) :
The Awesome : agape
The Pretty : philia
The Gorgeous : eros
The Cute : eutrapelia
Or, in order : the holy; the agreeable; the seductive; the gladdening.
:: :: :: :: ::
Here endeth the lesson -- or, rather, since the foregoing is far from being a scholarly tract -- the exploration of the four beauties.
Comment is cordially invited and warmly encouraged!
American Beauty is not one of them!
Since there has been throughout St Blog's -- but with the preponderance of the impetus provided by Mr Riddle -- a wonderfully involved, cautiously adventurous, consistently thoughtful conversation of late about the nature of Beauty, and how we can determine if something is objectively beautiful, etc., I may shortly propose what I call the four beauties, intending an echo of C S Lewis's The Four Loves.
This will not be high scholastic philosophy; rather, the carefully (but not too carefully!) considered opinions of an underschooled layman. The essay will probably seem to the reader to be dreadfully off the cuff, but I think that if we look at some of the adjectives we use to describe beauty, we get different nuances with each one -- and perhaps a different moral quality to how we treat our perceptions of beauty.
A longish "teaser," that. But with each of these four beauties, examples shall be provided. Perhaps the example shall be a person, or a work of literature, or a natural phenomenon (fall foliage, a rainbow, stars, a mountain sunset). But the literary examples might work best. With persons, the criterion is bound to be dreadfully subjective! But the adjectives can be used -- and are quite often used -- to describe persons.
Here can be found photographs of a recent visit to Mexico City by Metropolitan HERMAN, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America. Among the holy places visited : the Catholic Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Appropriately, the most recent bulletin from Boston's Saint Francis Chapel treats of the Baptism of Our Lord. With an excerpt from the Holy Father's Rosarium Virginis Mariae and an illuminating meditation from the chapel's director.
Here, the Mighty Barrister delivers (is the term permissible?) a dope-slap to the psyche of one Sheryl Crow.
And here, Jeff Miller wonders how, precisely, is Joe (What, Me Worry?) Lieberman different from other Democrats.
And then the men go marching out into the fray,
Conquering the enemy and carrying the day!
Hark! The blood is pounding in our ears.
Jubilation! We can hear a grateful nation's cheers!
And Then? added this day to Places Oft Visited ... The Rat & Not for Sheep were added yesterday.
LORD, I call upon thee; haste thee unto me, * and consider my voice, when I cry unto thee.
2 Let my prayer be set forth in thy sight as the incense; * and let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice.
3 Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth, * and keep the door of my lips.
4 O let not mine heart be inclined to any evil thing; * let me not be occupied in ungodly works with the men that work wickedness, neither let me eat of such things as please them.
5 Let the righteous rather smite me friendly, and reprove me; * yea, let not my head refuse their precious balms.
6 As for the ungodly, * I will pray yet against their wickedness.
7 Let their judges be overthrown in stony places, * that they may hear my words; for they are sweet.
8 Our bones lie scattered before the pit, * like as when one breaketh and heweth wood upon the earth.
9 But mine eyes look unto thee, O LORD God; * in thee is my trust; O cast not out my soul.
10 Keep me from the snare that they have laid for me, * and from the traps of the wicked doers.
11 Let the ungodly fall into their own nets together, * and let me ever escape them.
two sonnets from 95 poems (harcourt, brace & world, 1958)
:: :: :: :: ::
over us if(as what was dusk becomes
strictly immeasurable nowhere flames
--its farthest silence nearer than each our
heartbeat--believe that love(and only love)
comprehends huger easily beyonds
than timelessly alive all glories we've
agreed with nothing deeper than our minds
to call the stars. And(darling)never fear:
love,when such marvels vanish,will include
--there by arriving magically here--
an everywhere which you've and i've agreed
and we've(with one last more than kiss) to call
most the amazing miracle of all
:: :: :: :: ::
noone and a star stand,am to am
(life to life;breathing to breathing
flaming dream to dreaming flame)
united by perfect nothing:
millionary wherewhens distant,as
reckoned by the unimmortal mind,
these immeasurable mysteries
(human one;and one celestial)stand
soul to soul:freedom to freedom
till her utmost secrecies and his
(dreaming flame by flaming dream)
merge--at not imaginable which
instant born, a(who is neither each
both and)Self adventures deathlessness
Excerpt from one of the readings in The Joyful Christian (Touchstone, 1996 : this passage, pp. 94-5). Originally appeared in Letters to Malcolm : Chiefly on Prayer.
The attempt is not to escape from space and time and from my creaturely situation as a subject facing objects. It is more modest : to reawake the awareness of that situation. If that can be done, there is no need to go anywhere else. This situation itself is, at every moment, a possible theophany. Here is the holy ground; the Bush is burning now.
Tuesday, January 14, 2003
again, from "Membership" in The Weight of Glory
As personal and private life is lower than participation in the Body of Christ, so the collective life is lower than the personal and private life and has no value save in its service. The secular community, since it exists for our natural good and not for our supernatural, has no higher end than to facilitate and safeguard the family, friendship, and solitude. To be happy at home, said Johnson, is the end of all human endeavour. As long as we are thinking only of natural values we must say that the sun looks down on nothing half so good as a household laughing together over a meal, or two friends talking over a pint of beer, or a man alone reading a book that interests him; and that all economic, politics, laws, armies, and institutions, save insofar as they prolong and multiply such scenes, are a mere ploughing the sand and sowing the ocean, a meaningless vanity and vexation of spirit.
-- Lewis, op. cit. (Macmillan, 1980), pp. 108-9.
Crazy, but that's how it goes --
Millions of people livin' as foes ...
Maybe it's not too late
To learn how to love and forget how to hate!
It'll be some time before I'm able to post the complete transcript of the Osbournes' remarks at last night's American Music Awards. I know you're all disappointed.
Sharon Osbourne on Mariah Carey : "I f---ing love her!"
Sharon to Mariah : "Get your arse out here!"
Ozzy on his missus : "You can't take this f---ing lady anywhere!"
The headline above is my comment on a bit o' blogging by William Luse on the subject Pete Townshend's recent arrest.
from "Membership" in The Weight of Glory
The society into which the Christian is called at baptism is not a collective but a Body. It is in fact that Body of which the family is an image on the natural level. If anyone came to it with the misconception that membership of the Church was membership in a debased modern sense -- a massing together of persons as if they were pennies or counters -- he would be corrected at the threshold by the discovery that the head of this Body is so unlike the inferior members that they share no predicate with Him save by analogy. We are summoned from the outset to combine as creatures with our Creator, as mortals with immortal, as redeemed sinners with sinless Redeemer. His presence, the interaction between Him and us, must always be the overwhelmingly dominant factor in the life we are to lead within the Body, and any conception of Christian fellowship which does not mean primarily fellowship with Him is out of court.
:: :: :: :: ::
Equality is a quantitative term and therefore love often knows nothing of it. Authority exercised with humility and obedience accepted with delight are the very lines along which our spirits live. Even in the life of the affections, much more in the Body of Christ, we step outside that world which says "I am as good as you." It is like turning from a march to a dance. [...] We become, as Chesterton said, taller when we bow; we become lowlier when we instruct. It delights me that there should be moments in the services of my own Church when the priest stands and I kneel. As democracy becomes more complete in the outer world and opportunities for reverence are successively removed, the refreshment, the cleansing, and invigorating returns to inequality, which the Church offers us, become more and more necessary.
Lewis, op. cit. (Macmillan, 1980), pp. 112, 115-6.
and read everything that Mr Huw wrote yesterday, esp. the post on openly religious people on juries (New Jersey has its qualms) and the one on the real versus the imaginary Ireland (the post begins with stuff about Greeks and ends with stuff about Iraq, but is mostly about Ireland).
An adjective besides "round" -- or perhaps a noun -- comes to mind.
MCNS of Ad Orientem on the liturgical "norms" proposed by Bishop Sylvester Ryan of Monterey, Calif.
Fr Groeschel relates the anecdote about Soren Kierkegaard that he would often sit outside his church on Sundays and drink beer. (I've heard this nowhere else, but if anyone can confirm the non-apocryphality of the ale tale, I'd be much obliged.) One wonders what the 19th century Lutheran from Denmark would do if he were a 21st century Catholic in Monterey.
I'd probably start drinking beer in Church. Hardly less reverent than what Bishop Ryan proposes, even if the beer in question were Blasphemy Brew Winter Lager.
I'd become a liturgical ... NORM !!!
Incidentally, sometime in the next 48, I have to post more Lewis, probably from "Membership." In that address, he thanks God that in his church, there are times when one kneels.
Monday, January 13, 2003
(Part of a discussion in a Yahoo! club over a year and a half ago. Here I propose to my interlocutor, a death-penalty advocate and evangelical Christian, some reasons why opposition to the DP is not unreasonable.)
I think some good arguments can be made for clemency, or at least for some skepticism about the death penalty. They are:
1. Inconsistency/inequality. Not everyone who deserves the death penalty, or who appears to deserve it, gets it. Timothy McVeigh was executed on June 11th. The following day was the anniversary of the Nicole Brown Simpson & Ronald Goldman slayings. Their murderer still lives. Also, mobsters who have killed, or helped to kill, dozens of people, regularly make plea bargains or cut deals for immunity. Do we have a sound criterion for "choosing" who receives the death penalty? Or is it dependent on time, chance, & the skill of lawyers?
2. It may strike some as misplaced sympathy to consider the family of a murderer, but is it just to make a murderer's family grieve the death of their child (by execution)? Granted, as the President said of Timothy McVeigh, he chose his fate, he chose darkness over light, and death over life. But the family members of murderers are innocent. (This is perhaps not the most persuasive argument in favour of clemency.)
3. Some relatives of murder victims oppose the death penalty, citing love of enemies.
4. Should concern about a killer's mental state -- possible derangement -- enter into the equation? Sin is not pathology, and murder is not always indicative of mental illness, but serious & thoughtful people propose that it ought to be a consideration in the choice of execution or life imprisonment.
5. To the Christian mind, are we to assume that in even the vilest murderer the possibility of conversion is extinct?
What clemency advocates should not do, it seems to me, is equate the execution of a murderer with the taking of an innocent life (some people's understanding of the "consistent ethic of life" comes close to this). Such an equivalence is morally unsound, to me.
What clemency advocates must do is address the widespread feeling that for a murder, and especially for multiple murders with no discernible motive, life imprisonment seems somehow less than proportionate.
:: :: :: :: ::
My interlocutor's responses to each point
1. True enough, but I suspect that you could make a strong argument to that effect about every criminal sentence. What about clemency in those cases? On the other hand, the death penalty is obviously not just another criminal sentence, as it involves the irrevocable act of taking a human life. As a result, it may merit special consideration.
2. I don't feel that sympathy toward the family of the condemened is misplaced, but I don't think that it should influence whether or not someone is condemned to die. I did feel badly for the parents of Timothy McVeigh: although they undoubtedly made their share of mistakes as parents, I'm sure that they didn't raise their son with the intention of him becoming a mass-murderer.
3. Love of enemies is a Biblical mandate for individuals, but not necessarily for the state. Even if individuals forgive the murderer, the state still has a responsibility to mete out justice on the behalf of its citizens. I don't necessarily see inconsistency in forgiving someone, but still believing that justice requires them to pay for their crimes. Having said that, in practice it does seem a bit bizarre to say "I forgive you" and then "throw the switch" on the electric chair ...
4. Ohio just executed a man last week (the second execution in the state in the past 30 years) for murdering several people in Cleveland nearly 20 years ago. Opponents of the death penalty claimed that he was mentally ill. He may well have been when he was executed, but not when he committed the crime. I don't see why this should be a factor. However, if someone is mentally ill (and I mean CLEARLY mentally ill - as in they honestly have no idea of what they are REALLY doing) I see no problem with that as an extenuating circumstance -- it's just so difficult to prove, though. Psychology has really made a mess of things.
5. This is where I think many pro-death penalty Christians go wrong (I don't think it's an issue for non-Christians, for they rarely even consider this possibility.) I believe that anyone can be forgiven for anything, provided that they are truly repentant. Christ forgave the thief on the cross, saying "This day you shall be with me in paradise." Having said this, conversion should not necessarily negate the sentence (justice should still be served and I think we would suddenly see many "conversions" if it did.) I would think that someone who is truly sorry for their crime would be the first to admit that they deserve to be punished.
On finding God in church & in the world : not a conflict, but a contrast
A brief religious meditation by the great American poet.
From a page called (sans blague) The Hartford Friends and Enemies of Wallace Stevens.
(I can only assume that the spelling errors -- "dieties"; "alter" -- are not the poet's fault.)
A small book by C S Lewis containing nine essays/addresses. Bought second-hand nearly a year ago, but somehow I could never get into it. The color & design of the cover doesn't help. Peach tones, with navy-blue lettering of an immodestly "swirly" sort. Nor did it help that the essay I most looked forward to reading ("Is Theology Poetry?") was like unto watching paint dry.
But necessity has made me read "Why I Am Not a Pacifist"; and pleasure has made me read "Membership."
"Membership" is great; it speaks my veriest thoughts in language that is not so near at hand, but should be. And it explains why presbyters who overemphasize "community" are to be regarded with suspicion, and why a prejudice against kneeling at Mass is a vile thing, indeed.
The essay also goes into the issue of "good" and "bad" egalitarianism, senseless and sensible democracy.
Its starting point is the thought that we are not members of the Church as we are members of a party or club (a statistical unit), but members of a Body with Christ the King as Head, and salient inequalities -- of function, of station -- among the members.
Now, the trick is : How to excerpt this so that it entices the curiosity, without my having to transcribe the whole blessed thing?
And do I continue to post excerpts from "Why I Am Not a Pacifist"? (A word I have trouble typing : it always comes out "pacificist" on the first go.)
Or should I treat the pacifist and anti-DP issues by asking (directing the question to two splendidly intelligent, unfailingly charitable fellow bloggers in particular) : Should we also favor disarmament of the police force? If our objection to the death penalty (and it is oft heard) is that innocent people may someday be executed, and even if not, all killing is bad, should we not immediately demand that all urban police forces renounce the use of firearms?
One can point to scores of innocent persons "executed" by the police force. In this city alone, the record is distressingly high. A young & entirely innocent Cape Verdean woman, shot dead because she was the passenger in a car which struck a police officer (non-fatally; slight injuries to the leg). And police frequently shoot people who have done much less than what would merit the death penalty in ordinary circumstances.
Or should we rather say, in terms of lethal force used by cops, abusus non tollit usus? If something can be wrongly used, it can also be rightly used. If something can be done immoderately (drinking alcohol; gambling), it can also be done moderately.
And ultimately, do we believe a given city would be safer if the police were to disarm? That, friends, is the question.
Sunday, January 12, 2003
from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not." (65)
2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's. (66)
2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.
2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people's rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party. (67)
2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent." (68)
65 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,64,7, corp. art.
66 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,64,7, corp. art.
67 Cf. Lk 23:40-43.
68 John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56.
The Catechism on the death penalty. Copied and analyzed. It is not abolitionist. It does claim, that in many instances, clemency is "more in keeping with the common good and more in conformity with human dignity" ... but even these words do not suggest that the death penalty is inconsistent with the common good, or out of conformity with human dignity.
Nowhere (but nowhere) does the Catechism say that the death penalty is always illicit; nowhere (but nowhere) does the Catechism call the death penalty an evil, or unjustifiable. It says that the death penalty is indeed defensible, and has always been considered in consonance with "traditional Catholic teaching"; it says merely that if non-lethal means are sufficient to defend the public against the aggressor, the State will limit itself to such means.
But who decides whether non-lethal means are sufficient? The answer seems plain -- the State itself. The "legitimate public authority" mentioned in paragraphs 2265 & 2266, the same legitimate authority that has "the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility."
We see, in some rhetoricians, a steamrolling over the nuances and finer distinctions of the Catechism. And while steamrollers are good for making asphalt nice and smooth, they are not particularly astute theologians.
Finally, a question : Does the Catechism exist online? I know I've seen the link somewhere. I'll look for it myself; a search engine should cause it to turn up. Is it on the Vatican website? (Yes. It's here.)
on 'Resist not evil, turn the other cheek'
Does anyone suppose that Our Lord's hearers understood him to mean that if a homicidal maniac, attempting to murder a third party, tried to knock me out of the way, I must stand aside and let him get his victim? I at any rate think it impossible they could have so understood him. I think it equally impossible that they supposed him to mean that the best way of bringing up a child was to let it hit its parents whenever it was in a temper, or, when it had grabbed at the jam, to give it the honey also. I think the meaning of the words was perfectly clear -- "Insofar as you are simply an angry man who has been hurt, mortify your anger and do not hit back" -- even, one would have assumed that insofar as you are a magistrate struck by a private person, a parent struck by a child, a teacher struck by a scholar, a sane man by a lunatic, or a soldier by the public enemy, your duties may be very different because there may be then other motives than egoistic retaliation for hitting back. Indeed, as the audience were private people in a disarmed nation, it seems unlikely that they would have ever supposed Our Lord to be referring to war. War was not what they would have been thinking of. The frictions of daily life among villagers were more likely to be in their minds.
-- C. S. Lewis, from "Why I Am Not a Pacificist" in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (Macmillan, 1980), pp. 49-50.
Other excerpts from this essay, perhaps, to follow.
according to George Will, non-judgmentality
A must-read essay (Happy Eye, pp. 24-26) on crime, on punishment, on psychobabble, and on a progressive élite's refusal to call anything bad, except intolerance.
In this essay, Will cites the opinion of one David Gelernter, a Yale professor of computer science who was seriously injured by a Theodore Kaczynski mail-bomb. Below, an excerpt :
The point of executing murderers, writes Gelernter in Commentary magazine, is not vengeance, or we would let the grieving parties decide the killer's fate. Rather, capital punishment is a "communal proclamation" of virtuous intolerance : it says that murder is intolerable. "The community certifies births and deaths, creates marriages, educates children, fights invaders. In laws, deeds, and ceremonies, it lays down the boundary lines of civilized life, lines that are constantly getting scuffed and needing renewal."
But here's the rub : "An execution forces the community to assume forever the burden of moral certainty; it is a form of absolute speech that allows no waffling or equivocation. Deliberate murder, the community announces, is absolutely evil and absolutely intolerable, period." So critics are exactly wrong when they say capital punishment reflects surrender to emotions (such as grief and rage). Quite the contrary, it represents modern society's overcoming its impulses, such as sentimentalism, squeamishness, and, most of all, the restful flight from being "judgmental."
Discussion of the above is cordially invited.
From a 1936 British tourist-guidebook :
One may walk the streets for years without seeing anything more criminal than the solicitation of alms or the manifestations of inebriation.
Via George F. Will's latest collection of columns With a Happy Eye, But ...
by the Bee Gees
Feel I'm goin' back to Massachusetts,
Something's telling me I must go home.
And the lights all went out in Massachusetts
The day I left her standing on her own.
Tried to hitch a ride to San Francisco,
Gotta do the things I wanna do.
And the lights all went out in Massachusetts
They brought me back to see my way with you.
Talk about the life in Massachusetts,
Speak about the people I have seen,
And the lights all went out in Massachusetts
And Massachusetts is one place I have seen.
I will remember Massachusetts ...
from the New International Version
11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
1. What do you like on your pizza?
Used to be pepperoni & sausage; but the double-meat topping causes one to wake up at 1 am with a thirst that a gallon of water can't slake. So pepperoni alone, or pepperoni & mushroom. Rarely, mushroom & garlic. Even more rarely, au naturel (just cheese).
2. What do you think of the following entertainers (pro, con or neutral shrug)?
a. Andy Kaufman
b. Melissa Etheridge
c. Bob Dylan
d. Susan Sarandon
Andy -- the Mighty Mouse thing was cool, and Taxi was cool when he morphed from Latka to Vic Ferrari; but as someone said, he went nuts. And failed to see that annoyance isn't comedy. The abstract expressionist stuff -- con.
Melissa -- Oh, quite pro, for reasons that Mrs vonH describes. One of the most perfect practitioners of yon basick olde rock 'n' roll. Comparable to Mellencamp, in this respect. And her "Born to Run" rendition was the highlight of the Oct. 2000 concert for New York, which aired on VH-1 (well, that, and hollery redham getting booed).
Bob Dylan -- Good with lyrics, even in the 80s ("What seems large from a distance, close up ain't never that big"). But he sings like a fly.
Susan Sarandon -- The cons outweigh the pros. But she can act. And I can take her a bit more than I can take Tim Robbins, whose Lefty Homework Movies entice me not.
Bob & Susan are alike in that it is not lunacy to acknowledge their excellence in certain things, but there are too many other things that curtail or thwart our enthusiasm.
3. For those of you who've read a heap o' Merton, what are your favorite moments in his writing (books, passages, poems)?
For me, the two big books are New Seeds of Contemplation and Thoughts in Solitude. Had come to prefer Thoughts in recent years, New Seeds being too long & too sure of itself, but there are marvelous chapters in New Seeds, such as "Sentences" (chapter 15).
Then, the Journals, esp. from the late 50s on; any poem of his dealing with winter (but I confess a weakness for the surrealist Cables to the Ace, as well); the letters in Road to Joy, esp. those to Suzanne Butorovich, Mark Van Doren, his Aunt Kit in New Zealand; all the letters to Robert Lax, in that Joycean argot they employed so exuberantly!
4. For those of you who've seen more than just one Benigni film, would you rather watch Life Is Beautiful or Johnny Stecchino?
Johnny. Too foo-nay. See. At once. Subtitles. 'Tis good to laugh.
5. Who is your favorite politician outside your own party?
Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- but among the still active? I'll pick Mass. Speaker of the House Thomas Finneran, only because he's reputed to be pro-life. And he vexes off large numbers of people. And he's smart. And he seems to be a human being. Commentators & analysts with Dem backgrounds who are nonetheless eminently fair to Repubs : Chris Matthews, Tim Russert. Bob Kerrey's hard not to like, in some ways. Also like Robert Reich, despite George Will's noting an invented anecdote in one of his books.
6. Should we care if J. Edgar Hoover was a drag queen?
Mister, we could use a man like Edgar Hoover again? I think that people who care deeply about such stuff hate Hoover for other reasons (he wasn't warm and fuzzy, was he?). Digression : I want to bring back HUAC. Investigate Helen Thomas, on suspicion of being a communist shrew.
7. Who is your favorite pre-Chaucerian poet?
Catullus & early Christian hymnographers. I like Michelle's answer of King David! I like all of Mr Riddle's answers, & am bewildered by the breadth of reading from various time-periods. But for me, it's all about Catullus. So many different moods, so personal; sometimes, so brutal. One of the greats, in (mostly) small form.