Saturday, March 31, 2007
Confucius is Dead! Long Live Confucius!
Mr. Taylor's appreciation of the sage is a breath of fresh air, in that many expatriates living here in Korea tend to attribute anything and everything they find wrong with Korea to his 2,500-year-old philosophy. Essentially, these folks need someone or something to blame for all those areas where Korea is not yet a fully modernized, liberal, Western democracy, which are the very parts I love most about this country.
There is, however, much to disagree with Mr. Taylor: for example, his willingness to "echo Karl Marx" and state categorically that "Religion is a tool of social control." But with this I agree fully: "Taoism is the complement of, and counterpart to, Confucianism. To understand it is to deepen and enrich the Confucian orientation." Western Asiaphiles I've come across tend to take an either/or approach to Oriental philosophy; you're either a Confucian or a Taoist, and the two philosophies are diametrically opposed. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Continues Mr, Taylor: "Confucius and Mencius, and also Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, orient the Confucian to balance Yang and Yin." The last of these sages has always been my favorite. The Way of Chuang Tzu by Thomas Merton is a good introduction, and like the Trappist monk, I see the best of ancient Chinese wisdom as complementary to Catholic thought and life, just as the best of ancient Greek thought is.
Sinologist Sam Crane of The Useless Tree takes on Mr. Taylor's article with a post of his own: Confucius is Dead - and Koreans killed him.... Of all the excellent points he makes, I agree with this the most: "we must reclaim Confucius from Confucianism, not just Neo-Confucianism, but all attempts to co-opt the philosophy in the interests of centralized power." [emphasis mine]
On that last point, what place does the sage have in Paleoconservatism and Paleolibertarianism? For the former case, I direct the reader to this indispensible essay by Mr. Jim Kalb of the Traditionalist Conservatism Page, written in 1995: Confucius Today. For the latter, this post of mine with links to articles expounding two different schools of thought: Chinese Proto-Libertarians ─ Taoists or Confucians?
Three Pre-emptive Strikes from Antiwar.com
Dr. Gordon Prather notes that there may be no face saving in Any Casus Belli Will Do. He ends by noting that "one of the Brits was female and she has apparently been required to wear an Islamic 'hijab' while in Iran."
The Guardian Unlimited's Ronan Bennett begins A peculiar outrage by saying, "The treatment of Faye Turney is wrong - but not in the same league as British and US abuses."
Labels: War and Rumors of War
Double Eyelid Surgery in America
Friday, March 30, 2007
Abolish Drunk Driving Laws!
Here in South Korea, they have breathilzer checkpoints, which I despise, but of which everyone knows the location. They are updated regularly on local police stations' Internet sites! Enterprising South Koreans have also started up "surrogate driver" businesses, in which two guys with a fuel-economy car can make a lot of money by making sure drunks get home with their car.
Anarcho-Traditionalism? Count Me In!
[Googling for the term, I came across an almost two-year-old post of mine in which I discuss my "anarcho-traditionalist leanings:" In Incheon, Again. Funny, it sounded new to me.]
Why Neocons Don't Read Solovyov
Why Toni Morrison Matters
- It is a good thing for Morrison that Arbery is above the politicization of literature. For, though he respectfully deals with her political view on race relations in America, it is not one he necessarily shares. And while he admits that her impassioned interest in such relations "cannot be separated from her concerns as a novelist," his positive assessment of her literary achievement is based solely on the virtue of her art, and on her moral vision as a writer who "chooses, not Us-vs.-Them, but Us-vs.-Us situations," unlike, say, novelist Alice Walker, whose fictional conflicts are generally limited to what Ellis calls "group grievances."
A Confession from Abu Ghraib
Venice and the Islamic World, 828-1797
The Left Is Not Antiwar
- Even today, the Left would go to war for Darfur regardless of consequences, as it once decimated Haiti's economy with an economic blockade under Clinton. In attacking Serbia, the Left did not demand any UN resolutions but used NATO for legitimacy, which severely undermined the pro-Western democratic forces in Russia.
“Down with the Vietnamese Communist Party!”
Bright Lights Series
The St. Anne’s Household -- and Our Own Households
Associate Professor of Liberal Arts
Mayville State University
© 2007 Dale Nelson
Bright Lights Installment One
Bright Lights Installment Two
Bright Lights Installment Three
Bright Lights Installment Four
Bright Lights Installment Five
Bright Lights Installment Six
Bright Lights Installment Seven
Bright Lights Installment Eight
Bright Lights Installment Nine
Bright Lights Installment Ten
Bright Lights Installment Eleven
Bright Lights Installment Twelve
Bright Lights Installment Thirteen
Bright Lights Appendices
Labels: Guest Columns
Bright Lights Appendices
- Appendix A
Perennial Tradition and Modern Outlook
Traditional : Modern
wisdom : technique
duty : rights
salvation : therapy
taboo : free inquiry
symbolism, typology, polysemous significance : reductionism, skepticism, nihilism, pragmatism
reverence for ancestors : personal liberation
creation or emanation from the divine : evolution produced by chance +
time + "laws of nature"
being : number
Truth : different "values systems”
sin, defilement : crime, emotional trauma
sacred or profane : fashionable or unfashionable
craft, trade : career
the Golden Age : progress to One World
Logos/Tao/Reason/Divine Mind irradiates or undergirds all that is : Universe explicable, in principle, by the "laws of nature"--Unified Field Theory
mind, reason : brain, I. Q.
revelation from above : new questions as our tools become more refined and we accumulate more data
plenitude of being based upon the purpose of the Creator or upon Fate : a vast universe that knows and cares nothing for us
microcosm, macrocosm; human being and/or this world reflects higher : We cannot know reality as it is; we just create"models" that have predictive value
virtue: force (gravity, magnetism, etc.)
afterlife : "a better life"
apprenticed to a master : courses leading to certification, taught by certified teachers reviewed by certification boards
custom, elders : law books,lawyers,paralegals, "family services," judges
land : offices
moral laws that have divine sanction : personal autonomy
mystery – truths that can be contemplated, but never fully comprehended (Job 38:4) matter immensely: the Mystery of the Holy Trinity, etc. : mystery – problems that we can solve by application of scientific method, e.g. the mystery how to cure various diseases
personal discipline : Ritalin
A Community Reading Group
What’s in view here is a group dedicated to acknowledged literary classics – the kind of book that many people mean to “get around to” reading but never manage to read. A great many of these works bring readers into contact with wholesome moral and aesthetic qualities. They are a good alternative to the reading of currently popular material. See below in this appendix, however, for some thoughts about the formation of an “Inklings” group.
1.A community reading group may be preparatio evangelica, as qualities in the readings, and issues arising from discussion, encourage reflection on the challenge of ethical living, questions of man’s state, the existence of God, and even about specifically Christian doctrine. But the object of the group is enjoyment of good books, not the propagation of the Gospel. It is a group of readers who find that meeting as a group helps them to stick with the reading, provides enjoyment, etc. Group leaders need to be clear about this.
2.Everyone should know at the outset that the group exists for the purpose of reading classic literature. It might be well to specify pre-20th-century literature from the beginning, so as to head off pressure that might arise to read current books a la the Oprah club. One can generally assume that pre-20th-century, Western literature, while often not fully, truly Christian, retains connection with the Tao – that is, that it has a fairly high degree of ethical wholesomeness, respect for decency, etc.
3.However, it might be well to be more specific even than that, and to commit the group, at the outset, to certain authors as undoubted classics, e.g. Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Scott, Alessandro Manzoni, Dickens, the Brontë sisters, Elizabeth Gaskell, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, et al. That is, one could draw up a list of 20 or more books or authors and suggest the group stick with these, at least for the next few years.
4.Meet twice a year for about eight or ten weeks at a time. This should suffice for two long novels, or for a choice such as Dante’s Divine Comedy plus a shortish novel.
5.Assure everyone that sessions will run an hour, or 75 minutes, and will begin on time. At the end of the designated session, the leader should indicate what the reading for next week is to be. At this point, anyone wishing to leave would be comfortable doing so, while, if it is desired, informal discussion may continue, social chat, etc.
6.The reading schedule should be distributed to interested persons before the first session, if possible. For the typical classic novel, something like a hundred or even a hundred and fifty pages a week may be appropriate. The fiction of Dickens, for example, goes best when read in good-sized chunks. When one reading group read the Divine Comedy, the sessions tackled about seven cantos a week.
7.Ahead of time, suggest that biographical and critical aids not be used, as a rule. (It may be appropriate to use them in an “Inklings” group – see below.) You want to avoid a situation in which one person is always the eager beaver who has dug up some critic’s take on the book and is ready to summarize that. Speculation about the author’s life is to be gently discouraged. Some recourse to historical sources may be useful, though. If the discussion leader has some historical knowledge, he or she may be surprised by the assumptions about history made quite confidently by some group members, e.g. about the status of women before the 20th century, the Inquisition, etc. Quite simplistic views of the past (to its discredit over against approval of our own time) are likely to be expressed by some participants. The reading of old books helps to show that the past is more interesting, and more complex, than such views.
8.The host/hostess (discussion leader) should have a few questions prepared to start the conversation and to energize it if it slumps.
9.The sessions should not be held in a church but in homes or other neutral territory.
An alternative type of reading group may be desired, an “Inklings” group that would be dedicated to the writings of Lewis, Tolkien, and their associates. The current popularity of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings or the Narnian books could work in favor of such a group. Encourage people to focus on the texts and not on their memories of the movies, but associating the readings with the release of films might be appropriate, e.g. setting up the schedule of a Lewis reading group such that everyone will have read Prince Caspian shortly before the film opens.
Certain passages of Scripture for various holy orders and positions,
admonishing them about their duties and responsibilities
For Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers.
A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; not a novice; holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. 1 Tim. 3, 2ff ; Titus 1, 6.
What the Hearers Owe to Their Pastors.
Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel. 1 Cor. 9, 14. Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Gal. 6, 6. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the Word and doctrine. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn; and the laborer is worthy of his reward. 1 Tim. 5, 17. 18. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you. Heb. 13, 17.]
Concerning Civil Government.
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For the power which exists anywhere is ordained of God. Whosoever resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For he heareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Rom. 13, 1-4.
What Subjects Owe to the Magistrates.
Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's. Matt. 22, 21. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers, etc. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For, for this cause pay ye tribute also; for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom, to whom custom; fear, to whom fear; honor, to whom honor. Rom. 13, 1. 5ff. I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 1 Tim. 2, 1ff. Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, etc. Titus 3, 1. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether it be to the king as supreme, or unto governors as unto them that are sent by him, etc. 1 Pet. 2, 13ff.
Ye husbands, dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered. 1 Pet. 3, 7. And be not bitter against them. Col. 3, 9.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord, even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord; whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. 1 Pet. 3, 6; Eph. 5, 22.
Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Eph. 6, 4.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord; for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. Eph. 6, 1-3.
For Male and Female Servants, Hired Men, and Laborers.
Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service as to the Lord, and not to men; knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. Eph. 6, 5ff ; Col. 3, 22.
For Masters and Mistresses.
Ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening, knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with Him. Eph. 6, 9; Col. 4, 1.
For Young Persons in General.
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time. 1 Pet. 5, 5. 6.
She that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. 1 Tim. 5, 5. 6.
For All in Common.
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Herein are comprehended all the commandments. Rom. 13, 8ff And persevere in prayer for all men. 1 Tim. 2, 1. 2. Let each his lesson learn with care, And all the household well shall fare.
Labels: Guest Columns
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Iran War Speculation Roundup
- Col.-Gen. Leonid Ivashov of Moscow's Academy of Geopolitical Sciences said that the U.S. is planning a large scale air strike on Iran's military infrastructure shortly. The USS John C. Stennis, accompanied by eight support ships and four nuclear submarines, is heading for the Gulf. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has been there with similar support for over three months. The U.S. is also sending Patriot anti-missile systems to the Persian Gulf region.
World War 4 Report's Bill Weinberg, from Iran attack set for next week?:
- Conspiracy guru Webster Tarpley, citing "well-known Russian journalist Andrei Uglanov" in the Moscow weekly Argumenty Nedeli, citing "Russian military experts close to the Russian General Staff," says the US attack on Iran will begin at 4 AM on April 6, with a strike on the Bushehr nuclear facility. The campaign, which will target some 30 sites around Iran, will be code-named Operation Bite.
Common Dream's Heather Wokusch, from Easter Surprise: Attack on Iran, New 9/11… or Worse:
- Russian media is sounding alarms. In February, ultra-nationalist leader Vladimir Shirinovsky warned that the US would launch a strike against Tehran at the end of this month. Then last week, the Russian News and Information Agency Novosti (RIA-Novosti) quoted military experts predicting the US will attack Iran on April 6th, Good Friday.
Prison Planet's Paul Joseph Watson, from Ominous Signs Suggest Iran War Close:
- As tensions surrounding Iran's seizure of 15 British navy personnel continue to build, ominous signs that war is nearing give an indication that this could be the new "Gulf of Tonkin" Bush and Blair have long yearned for to justify air strikes on Iran.
Asia Times Online's Kaveh L Afrasiabi, from Iran ahead of the game - for now:
- As usual, the US double-speak has continued unabated. Thus, precisely at a time when the overwhelming weight of US firepower is put on full display against the Iranians, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has expressed the his country's readiness to engage in "high-level" dialogue with Iran, as if to make a small dent in any Iranian paranoia about the military intentions of the United States.
News Hounds' "Ellen Elaborates," from FOX News Chickenhawks Exploit British Captives To Beat Iran War Drums:
- ... FOX News producers did their best to tie this situation to the 1979 hostage crisis – and, presumably, ratchet up animosity for Iraq – by putting “Day 4” and “Hostage Crisis” on the screen.
LewRockwell.com Blog's Mike Tennant, from It's 1938 Munich Again, Says Ben Shapiro:
- *SIGH* When is it not Munich in 1938 for neocons?
The next President of the United States on the floor of the House:
- Ron Paul - Gulf of Tonkin
Gore Vidal on CNN International
Descansa en paz, Angelita
- On Wednesday, a Catholic church held a baptism and funeral Mass in Spanish and English for the baby girl, who was dubbed "Angelita DeOrosi," or Orosi's little angel.
Later, under the shade of a corrugated plastic awning, sheriff's officials and grandmothers delicately sifted handfuls of dirt onto her white coffin before it was lowered into the earth.
"This little community is a family. We know pretty much everyone else's business and they know ours," said Eugene Etheridge, principal of Orosi High School. "It's concerning that this could happen again when the most precious thing we have is our children."
Henry Adams on Our Lady and Gothic Architecture
- In the eyes of a culpable humanity, Christ was too sublime, too terrible, too just, but not even the weakest human frailty could fear to approach his Mother. Her attribute was humility; her love and pity were infinite.
Iesu, mercy; Mary, pray.
Our author then goes on to prepare the reader of the beauty of the shrine through which he is to guide us:
- The palaces of earthly queens were hovels compared with these palaces of the Queen of Heaven at Chartres, Paris, Laon, Noyon, Rheims, Amiens, Rouen, Bayeux, Coutances,--a list that might be stretched into a volume.
- All put together, and then trebled in importance, could not rival the splendour of any single cathedral dedicated to Queen Mary in the thirteenth century; and of them all, Chartres was built to be peculiarly and exceptionally her delight.
Also remarkable is this passage about the architectural achievment of the Greatest of Centuries, grossly mislabled a "Dark Age" by moderns:
- If you are to get the full enjoyment of Chartres, you must, for the time, believe in Mary as Bernard and Adam [de Saint-Victor] did, and feel her presence as the architects did, in every stone they placed, and every touch they chiselled. You must try first to rid your mind of the traditional idea that the Gothic is an intentional expression of religious gloom. The necessity for light was the motive of the Gothic architects. They needed light and always more light, until they sacrificed safety and common sense in trying to get it. They converted their walls into windows, raised their vaults, diminished their piers, until their churches could no longer stand. You will see the limits at Beauvais; at Chartres we have not got so far, but even here, in places where the Virgin wanted it,--as above the high altar,--the architect has taken all the light there was to take. For the same reason, fenestration became the most important part of the Gothic architect's work, and at Chartres was uncommonly interesting because the architect was obliged to design a new system, which should at the same time satisfy the laws of construction and the taste and imagination of Mary.
- :--Who has ever seen!--Who has ever heard tell, in times past, that powerful princes of the world, that men brought up in honour and and in wealth, that nobles, men and women, have bent their proud and haughty necks to the harness of carts, and that, like beasts of burden, they have dragged to the abode of Christ these waggons, loaded with wines, grains, oil, stone, wood, and all that is necessary for the wants of life, or for the construction of the church?
Police State, USA
Andaman Islands Miracle
Another Spring Famine Up North
South Korea has placed several observations points south of the DMZ. There, civilians can get a glimpe into North Korea by looking through coin-operated viewers like the ones you find at Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon. Perhaps the bleakest scene I've ever seen was of some poor souls returning from a days work on a collective farm.
His Excellency Bishop George V. Murry
- "My experience is, the Catholic Church has a lot to say about God's relationship to men and women," he said. "The church offers to African-Americans the same thing it offers to Europeans, Asians and Hispanics. It offers an opportunity to worship and hear God's voice."
Because of its worldwide scope, Murry said the church holds universal appeal.
"There's not a sense of this or that particular parish," he said. "The church in India is the same church in Africa."
Murry said Catholicism also should appeal to minorities because of its emphasis on social justice.
"It's a call to all Catholics to see every human in (the image of) God," he said. "I think African-Americans can find a solid home in Catholicism."
Murry said that as spiritual successors to Jesus' original apostles, a bishop's role is threefold: To teach the faith, to administrate, and to lead the church in prayer.
"The chief role of the bishop in any diocese is first to teach and preach the faith passed on by the Apostles through the centuries," he said. "He is the chief priest of the diocese."
Labels: The Catholic Faith
Ron Paul on YouTube
Bright Lights Installment Thirteen
- 13. Conclusion
The Four Loves
As we prepare to leave the St. Anne’s household, we should remember that it is characterized by love. One of Lewis’s last books was The Four Loves, in which, with much wisdom (and with many passages that illuminate That Hideous Strength) he expounded the Greek “Four Loves” along these lines:
Storge is affection, such as parents have for their little children, or pet owners for a beloved dog or cat. This love gives a sense of comfort and security in daily life. In the world of literature, treatments of storge might include books that children love about dogs, such as Jim Kjelgaard’s Big Red, and horses, such as Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty. Human love of the natural world may considered under this category -- the love that is evident in the artistic renderings of plants and animals in the nature studies of Albrecht Dürer or Beatrix Potter. Philia is true friendship. This love is not the passing companionship of people who hang out together, but a deep loyalty and esteem that can last a lifetime. Philia may contribute much of the interest of life to those who love in this way. Many war movies celebrate the faithfulness of buddies who “go through hell” with and for one another. The Bible tells of the friendship of David and Jonathan. Eros is passionate love of man for woman or woman for man. Despite the coy usage of “erotic” for movies and books that are pornography, eros is something other than the passing lust that wants use of someone’s body for a few moments, but is not really interested in the person herself or himself. Eros passionately aspires to union with the beloved person – emotional as well as physical. This love is depicted in the Bible in the Song of Songs. Non-biblical literary examples are abundant; a good one is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, which chronicles the growth of plain Jane’s love for Mr. Rochester, and his for her, right up to the triumphant moment when Jane tells us: “Reader, I married him.” When not bridled by conscience and subordinate to Charity, eros becomes imperious in its demands, propelling lovers towards a “union” in death, as in Wagner’s opera about Tristan and Isolde. Agape is Charity or self-giving love. While the other loves have a strong element of need, it’s of the essence of agape to give. Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan, who crossed ethnic boundaries to assist an injured man who had nothing to give him in return, is an example of agape in action. The Samaritan probably wasn’t even aware that he loved his neighbor; he just saw the man’s need and took care of him, administering “first aid” and paying the man’s inn bill while he recuperated. Dante taught that the other loves need an element of agape so that they do not become destructive and selfish: “Set love in order,” he wrote.
Readers of That Hideous Strength will have no difficulty in relating each of the four loves to persons and situations in the novel. We may pause over the unobtrusive subplot about Ivy Maggs and her husband, who has been imprisoned for petty theft. He is the object, not of pity, but of love and compassion. A recent essay by Michael Knox Beran, “Conservative Compassion Vs. Liberal Pity,” in the Summer 2003 City Journal, discusses the distinction with real insight. It is available online. Beran’s article readily connects with the agape that embraces Tom Maggs.
During the war years in which Lewis was writing That Hideous Strength, another Inkling, J. R. R. Tolkien, worked on The Lord of the Rings. That great novel is another work that, even in our present disordered time, celebrates the Loves. (“Rings of Love” by the present author may be read at the archive of Touchstone magazine.) The Lord of the Rings may be profitably reread with the theme of the Four Loves in mind. So, of course, may innumerable other examples of the world’s finest literature.
The St. Anne’s household inspires readers to reconsider their own households. Perhaps we will too readily assume we can emulate it with just a little effort. No -- when we examine ourselves in the light of God’s Law, we see (a little) the disorder and failure of our lives.
And yet it is even such sinners as ourselves who, trusting in Christ for the forgiveness they never in this life cease to need, are told: “Ye are the light of the world. A city [a household?] that is set on a hill cannot be hid” (Matt. 5:14); Christians are to “be blameless and harmless, the sons of God … in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15). The Orthodox monastic Father Herman said, in the interview cited in the third installment of this series, “My view is that the darker the night, the brighter the stars. I feel that now is a time when society has become so dark… that this genuineness shines brighter – and people get it.”
Whether they do, at last, “get it” or not is beyond us to bring about, but not only is life adapting the principles of St. Anne’s beneficial for us, it will also benefit our neighbor.
Labels: Guest Columns
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The Disasters of War
The photographer of the above Goyaesque image─reminiscent of the great Spaniard's series Los desastres de la guerra (1810-1815)─is interviewed here: A War Photographer's View of Iraq.
[image from Chris Hondros Wins OPC's Robert Capa Gold Medal Award]
Thomas Jefferson’s Admonition
- Whether it’s a war on drugs, a war on illiteracy, or a war on whatever, people say ‘well, it’s a war; we have to be willing to sacrifice our liberties and let the government take care of us’…we would be safer and we would be more economically secure if we assumed responsibility for ourselves.
A Day in the Life of Cullen Thomas
- Nothing much happens in prison, but the details are fascinating. As Mr. Thomas describes it, violence is limited to occasional scuffles, and the atmosphere of terror and intimidation in American prisons is absent. Although consensual sex occurs, usually for pay, rape is unknown. It’s no “Midnight Express.” In an unspoken arrangement, gangs keep order in exchange for privileges. [emphasis mine]
Let's be honest, the situation in American prisons is scandalous, as is the complicity and silence with which it is met in the rest of society. Stop Prisoner Rape is an organization that aims to civilize our barbaric prison system.
Thank You, Mr. Sailor
Israel Stands Up Vatican
One wonders how this goes down with the neocons over at the Catholic Friends of Israel? The blog is so embarrassing that contributer Christopher Blosser has removed his surname from the page.
The Trouble (Evangelicals Will Have) with Ron Paul
Bright Lights Installment Twelve
One gropes for a label that will not put some people off, or titillate others.
Jane’s dreams in That Hideous Strength are more than a plot device. Aside from the specific subject of clairvoyant dreams, “The Paranormal” suggests, e.g., mystical, visionary, or other “psychic” experiences. Jane has a vision in Chapter 14. Readers of Lewis’s autobiography, Surprised by Joy, will recall its account of his youthful experiences of sehnsucht, of intense, “mystical” longing, which came over him from time to time, and his eventual resolution of their significance for him as a convert to Christian faith. Likewise, Lewis’s pupil and friend Alan (later Dom Bede) Griffiths wrote, in the Prologue of his autobiography, The Golden String:
One day during my last term at school I walked out alone in the evening and heard the birds singing in that full chorus of song, which can only be heard at that time of year at dawn or at sunset. I remember now the shock of surprise with which the sound broke on my ears. It seemed to me that I had never heard the birds singing before and I wondered whether they sang like this all the year round and I had never noticed it. As I walked on I came upon some hawthorn trees in full bloom and again I thought that I had never seen such a sight or experienced such sweetness before. If I had been brought suddenly among the trees of the Garden of Paradise and heard a choir of angels singing I could not have been more surprised. I came then to where the sun was setting over the playing fields. A lark rose suddenly from the ground beside the tree where I was standing and poured out its song above my head, and then sank still singing to rest. Everything then grew still as the sunset faded and the veil of dusk began to cover the earth. I remember now the feeling of awe which came over me. I felt inclined to kneel on the ground, as though I had been standing in the presence of an angel; and I hardly dared to look on the face of the sky, because it seemed as though it was but a veil before the face of God. … Up to that time I had lived the life of a normal schoolboy, quite content with the world as I found it. Now I was suddenly made aware of another world of beauty and mystery such as I had never imagined to exist, except in poetry. It was as though I had begun to see and smell and hear for the first time. … The sight of a wild rose growing on a hedge, the scent of lime tree blossoms caught suddenly as I rode down a hill on a bicycle, came to me like visitations from another world.
For Lewis’s thought on mystical experience in general, see Letter XII of Letters to Malcolm. W. H. Auden, in his introduction to the anthology edited by Anne Fremantle, The Protestant Mystics, suggests that mystical experiences may be classed according to four categories: “The Vision of Dame Kind,” which is what Griffiths experienced in the passage quoted above, an experience wherein one feels “an overwhelming conviction that the objects confronting him have a numinous significance and importance, that the existence of everything he is aware of is holy”; “The Vision of Eros,” in which one falls in love with someone, feeling for her “awe and reverence” as for a “sacred being”; “The Vision of Agape,” in which one’s feeling for one’s neighbors correlates to a sense of their “infinite value”; and “The Vision of God, “the direct encounter of a human soul with God.” Auden’s introduction is available in his Forewords and Afterwords. See also “The Beatrician Vision in Dante and Other Poets,” in Dorothy L. Sayers’s The Poetry of Search and the Poetry of Statement.
It seems that it is not all that unusual for people to have, often without having sought them, experiences that transcend those supposedly legitimized by the materialist world-view. Interestingly, so persistent are such accounts, that they appear to be increasingly admissible for many people who in general are committed to social engineering, biotechnology, the ever-increasing presence of the State in people’s lives, etc. – that is, who on most matters line up on the “Modern” rather than the “Traditional” side (cf. Appendix A).
Sometimes, facts about these things that would tend to favor Christianity are suppressed. The reader is encouraged to read the classic account of a Sioux visionary, Black Elk Speaks by John Neihardt – and Michael Steltenkamp’s fascinating revelation of the rest of the story, Black Elk: Holy Man of the Oglala, which tells how the same visionary lived for forty years beyond the conclusion of Neihardt’s book, serving as a Roman Catholic catechist among his people on the reservation, his death being marked by glorious light in the heavens!
For readers of this series who may be priests or pastors, here is a question: Suppose a member of your congregation, like Jane, had a “paranormal experience.” Would she be comfortable discussing the matter with you? Would it even occur to her to do so? If not, why not? People do have the experiences.
If the present author might address any of his fellow Lutherans who are reading, for a moment: You might be surprised to learn that Martin Luther and his family experienced various “paranormal” episodes. For example, Luther’s wife dreamed that two splendid young men came to her, asking her daughter Magdalena’s hand in marriage, the night before Magdalena died; Melanchthon interpreted the dream as a vision of holy angels coming for the fourteen-year-old girl (Hoffman, Theology of the Heart: The Role of Mysticism in the Theology of Martin Luther, p. 56). A friend and mentor of the present author (a conservative Lutheran pastor) sent this narrative:
My great-grandmother's cousin was always known as a very
intuitive person. Perhaps today people would say that she
had certain psychic abilities. But she did not cultivate
them, or anything like that. She just sensed that certain
things were going to happen, and they did, and so forth.
One day while she was in bed, in her upstairs bedroom, she
saw her grandson John appear to her. He addressed her as
"Grandma," and said that he had just been killed, but that
she should not worry or be too upset because he was going
to heaven to be with Jesus, and everything was going to be
O.K. for him. He comforted her with such words, or with
words to that effect. In her shock she screamed out, which
caused the other members of the household to run up to her
room. She told them what had happened. They surmised that
she had been asleep and dreaming, even though she protested
that this was not the case. About a half an hour later a
state police cruiser rolled into the driveway. (This was in
the days before telephones were very common, so the police
were not able to call.) He gave the family the sad news
that about half an hour earlier John had indeed been
killed, in a motorcycle accident.
This story was told to me by a woman whose late husband was
a first cousin of the man who was killed and who appeared
to their mutual grandmother.
Finally, here is an account written by a (non-Lutheran) correspondent of the author’s, who confided, after the passing of some time devoted to discussing C. S. Lewis, that he had had the following remarkable experiences:
The following testimony is true. It all began in the early months of 1991 when, as a 25 year old ex-student, I was making my way home from work. It was late afternoon, and I was walking through a pleasant outdoor shopping mall in the Sydney CBD, when . . .
It happened in a sudden and unexpected instant. It was as if a blindfold suddenly fell from my eyes, and something akin to ear plugs were dislodged from my ears. Oh, the sublime, crystal clear vision! The rarefied harmony of sound that suddenly arrested my awakened sense! Before my very eyes stood the same shopping mall—only now suddenly transfigured!—or was it translated!? Now I could see a glorious celestial parade, lined this way and that with sublime, unearthly palace-like mansions. The noble folk going about their business were radiant with a glory and beauty unspeakable! They were angels! All things were suffused with an ineffably sweet, soft, and gentle celestial light—as if with a kind of resplendent (“glassy”) ethereal dew. I couldn’t help but stare, very much as a child overcome with rapture, wonder, or curiosity might stare, at the radiant countenances about me, only I could not understand how it was that many betrayed a blank, sleepy inattention and indifference—sadness in some cases—when such intoxicating joy and splendour was all about! In my naïveté I could not fathom how the angelic folk on whom this exquisite, ennobling glory rested (as if like a mantle) were the very folk that were oblivious to it.
In the days and weeks that followed I felt like a sportive little child gamboling in his father’s private paradise. The celestial light suffused everything from the vital creation down to what debris there was in the streets. Sydney was my celestial city-home, as if heaven itself were superimposed upon it. Yet this light did not merely illuminate things in the ordinary sense: it literally informed creation with (seemingly infinite) significance and meaning—as if, in a kind of self-effacing manner, nature was directing her own and man’s attention to a beauty and mystery (meaning) beyond itself. Equally remarkable was the animated life and personality to be found in those things normally deemed dead or insignificant. Indeed, the whole of the creation was in full, exultant voice, as if perpetually “chattering” away about something or other which, despite my concentrated efforts at understanding, was unintelligible to me. I felt like a new-born babe, seeing all and yet understand nothing. In this world, then, I did not see the sun as the scientist sees it—a fiery ball of combustible gasses. No indeed! For me he (the sun) was a jovial, noble, benevolent creature who, like a faithful friend, would gently wake me at his appearing, before vouchsafing me his blithe good morning. So replete with life and activity was this blissful world that one day spanned for perhaps the length of several days in our so-called “real” world.
Some months later, and still enveloped in paradisaical delight, it happened that on a particular evening I was baby-sitting a little child—four year old Jessica, the daughter of dear friends of mine in Sydney. On this particular night my gaze was somehow directed into little Jessica’s endearing, innocent, eyes. Oh! How words, even these twelve years hence, utterly fail to capture what I saw there! For, as I gazed into those limpid, liquid eyes, before I knew what had happened I found myself submerged in their sacred, infinite depths. There I was abandoned to the most indescribably sweet, intoxicating, crystalline love—so pure, and holy, and sacrosanct, that no language could ever hope to communicate it. I knew that there, in the heart of little Jessica’s eyes, I had met with Love Himself. It all happened in an ecstatic, seemingly endless moment; and I have never forgotten it since.
But this glorious world, and its concomitant joy, was beginning to fade—as if something dreadful and inscrutable were slowly eating its way into it. An inconsistency, or split personality of good and evil, began to manifest itself in the very things that at one time seemed wholly good and consistent. I began to feel as if the creation was turning on me, shunning where it once welcomed—conspiring to shut me out of its circle of blissful existence. It would be between 9-12 months from the day the glory first broke in upon me that the shutters would come down on my world again—only this time with a darkness more dreadful than before: denser, and akin to a living death. For the next 9 years I was as one cut off from the land of the living.
Those harrowing years, which (in resignation) I had all but accepted as my fleeting life’s final fate, suddenly and unexpectedly came to a head in the middle of 2001. For 3 days I knew a terror such as I have never known: it was as if death suddenly dragged me into regions of deeper, unprecedented darkness and despair—where there I stared into the face of Horror itself. But our Lord Jesus, Who conquered death for us all, chose to have mercy upon me, wretched sinner that I am, hearing my despairing, tormented cries and taking pity upon the thing that I had become. Then it was as if I was plucked from the throes of death and oblivion; and in a silent, almost inconsequential instant, I suddenly found myself in the light of day—I was alive! It was as if I’d shed, in that moment, a dreamy, shadowy, and long-forgotten 9 year existence. He has allowed me to participate in the light of life—to breathe the open air again—a gift which I cannot in a thousand lifetimes hope to recompense. I currently see things, no longer in a glorious celestial light, but simply in the light of the sun; nevertheless, I will always remember that joyous light which, though veiled from me now, continues (I believe) to illuminate all things even as I write.
And other accounts from the present author’s circle of acquaintances could be added. The present author is not a parapsychological researcher; he was first told about these things quite apart from some attempt to solicit evidence for the paranormal. Evidently unsought paranormal experiences are not as uncommon, or as restricted to oddballs, as is widely believed.
It is a matter for concern, then, that an article (now some thirty years old), published in The New York Times Magazine, noted that the persons who were least likely to be told about people’s paranormal experiences were their clergy (Greeley and McCready, “Are We a Nation of Mystics?” New York Times Magazine 26 Jan. 1975). People who have had such experiences may need the counsel of faithful priests or pastors (who may not have had such experiences themselves) to help them rightly to interpret their significance. Clergy need also to caution their parishioners about the dangers of seeking paranormal experiences.
Labels: Guest Columns
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Gore Vidal on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Death of the Old Republic
- Fifty years ago, Harry Truman replaced the old republic with a national-security state whose sole purpose is to wage perpetual wars, hot, cold, and tepid. Exact date of replacement? February 27, 1947. Place: The White House Cabinet Room. Cast: Truman, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson, a handful of congressional leaders. Republican senator Arthur Vandenberg told Truman that he could have his militarized economy only IF he first "scared the hell out of the American people" that the Russians were coming. Truman obliged.
- In a meat-loving culture founded on kolbasa and pelmeni, and buttressed by kebabs and shaurma, it's difficult, almost sacrilegious, to imagine a life sustained by vegetables.
But Leo Tolstoy did, in 1885.
That year, a Russian aristocrat turned commune member known by his assumed name Frey -- researchers differ on his first name -- convinced Tolstoy to accept vegetarianism. In 1892, Tolstoy wrote "Pervaya Stupen," or "The First Step," in which he extolled a simple diet as a means of mastering gluttony and tempering human desires.
Russian monks and Eastern Orthodox Christians have observed a regime of fasts for more than a millennium, wrote Peter Brang, professor of Slavic philology at the University of Zurich, in a book on the history of Russian vegetarianism, "Rossia Neizvestnaya," or "The Unknown Russia." These meat- and dairy-product-free fasts include the Veliky Post, or Great Lent, which this year began on Feb. 19 and continues until Easter, April 8.
After Tolstoy's 1892 paper, a group of followers who became known as Tolstoyan vegetarians developed, Brang said by telephone from Zurich. Vegetarianism then grew until the 1917 Revolution, after which the Soviet government declared it a cult. The last vegetarian society was shut down in 1929, and the word vegetarianstvo disappeared from usage in the 1930s.
While vegetarians in other countries often decide against meat for animal rights or health reasons, vegetarianism in Russia has more of a spiritual basis, Kalanov said. "In the West, it's not as connected to religious ideas," he said.
Rudy in Drag
An Interview With a Used Bookshop Owner in Seoul
Opposition to the Coming War on Iran
4GW Takes to the Air
Bright Lights Installment Eleven
- 11.The Beautiful, continued
Encounters with new cultures usually support the idea that human beings try to make beautiful things – things that really are beautiful, not just “beautiful to them”: when Europeans saw the pagodas, etc., for the first time, didn’t these structures, for all their strangeness, appear beautiful to them? Marco Polo thought they were beautiful.
To consider, for a moment, not the matter of bodily beauty per se, but the adornment of the body: it should not be too quickly assumed that some practices that seem to contradict this idea of universal awareness of beauty, e.g. bizarre tattooing, really are merely a matter of difference of taste as regards the beautiful. People adorn themselves not only for the sake of beauty strictly speaking, but also from a sense of play, or from a desire to attract attention, etc. The patterns formed by cicatrices on a young Sudanese girl’s body may be the same sort of patterns as, say, Norwegian children like to make with pebbles; so the oddity of the African scarring is not, perhaps, precisely attributable to a difference about beauty. This probably holds for variations in traditional architecture and dress, also, allowing for variations due to climate, fabrics, etc.
Granted, mankind’s fallenness is always liable to deform our sense of the beautiful, just as our consciences may become seared (in individuals and in collectives). Always there is the pull of the perverse, the urge to violate the norm.
Discernment and praise of the beautiful (without the necessity of owning it) must be cultivated:
… beauty as such is not a phenomenon and is not observable; what is observable is the material or psychic entity through which beauty is manifested in some degree and in some mode. The endless variety of its modes, in each of which it can achieve a sort of perfection that reflects its universality, bears witness to that very universality, to the fact that beauty is in its essence a principle and not an accident, independently of whether it be manifested in a flower or in a star or in a human soul. (Looking Back on Progress, p. 96)
At the least, one must strive against the encroachment of that which encourages depraved tastes. Lewis dramatizes, in Mark’s experiences, the attractiveness of the ugly (That Hideous Strength, pp. 268-9).
Here are some words about the rap “music” so popular today:
It is spoken without love of words or things … degraded and filthy … dreary and repetitive with hatred and contempt, too long removed from good to retain even verbal vigour, save in the ears of those to whom only the squalid sounds strong.
Actually, this is J. R. R. Tolkien’s description of the brutal speech of the irredeemable Orcs of Mordor, slaves of Sauron, puppets of his will, vandals defiling the beautiful and noble monuments of Gondor (The Lord of the Rings, one-volume edition, p. 1108).
To combat such stuff at home, a twofold campaign seems called for: the exclusion, as much as is practicable, of deliberate ugliness from our households, and the cultivation of alertness to the beautiful, which need not always imply the purchase of the expensive. Perhaps most people must live in modern towns and cities, about which Lord Northbourne wrote:
If a modern town were in conformity with the real needs and destiny of its inhabitants, they would love it and seek it, instead of getting out into the country or to the seaside at every available opportunity, often at the cost of great and prolonged discomfort and inconvenience. But they cannot help bringing the town out with them; the car, the radio, the newspapers, the cartons; and in doing so they gradually destroy the very thing they are seeking. That thing is in the last analysis, did they but know it, not so much natural beauty as communion with God. It is that, too, that the lover of flowers is really seeking, etc. (Looking Back on Progress, p. 103)
Similarly, John Senior, who founded the Pearson Institute at the University of Kansas – a program oriented according to the Permanent Things – commented:
Take a look at your city, suburb, town, or even factory-in-the-fields still anachronistically called farm. Ask honestly if the place has been improved since its purchase from the Indians or if you have been improved by living there. … You can move back a hundred years by a trip to rural Europe. There are still some villages left where you can see direct, visible proof that the human race can live in harmony with nature on a human scale, decently in “glad poverty,” not in destitution but with a snug, hard-working frugality where villages like necklaces and rings still ornament the hills. You can see with your own eyes that there is no inevitability in the suicide of civilization. If America had been governed by its farmers and craftsmen supplying their real needs and nothing more, as Jefferson hoped, not catering to lust and the agitated sloth which masquerades as lust, without the waterbeds and cyclotrons but obedient to the Christian religion and the rough philosophy of frontier common sense, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles would be as beautiful as Assisi, Chartres and Salamanca and its sons as strong, generous and free as cavaliers. … Go home to the ruined neighborhoods and villages of your childhood and rebuild them. (The Restoration of Christian Culture, pp. 65-66)
Lewis’s St. Anne’s household does amount to a “rebuilding” of home that is coming about in the only way it usually can, one household at a time. That, at least, most of us can attempt.
Hard choices may also have to be made about the design and adornment of churches and about musical programming. However, perhaps the beauty of many churches would be better enhanced by parishioners who wished to do so resuming traditional gestures such as crossing oneself, bowing at the Name of Jesus, etc. more than by new carpet.
Such aesthetic cultivation, of course, is no substitute for all necessary training of the young, and disciplining of ourselves, in the moral virtues. Note well: persons of high aesthetic sensibility, such as the late British art historian Anthony Blunt, may be habitually immoral, may even be traitors. (See George Steiner’s “The Cleric of Treason,” The New Yorker 8 Dec. 1980, a piece with some pertinence as regards That Hideous Strength – note Dimble’s remark about trahison des clercs, p. 371.) But relegating matters of beauty to the margins of our lives is no protection against wickedness, either.
As for public schools and universities – it may be that the tremendous effort that would have to be expended in the effort to restore and enhance orientation to the Tao and to the Beautiful, should be better directed towards alternatives such as private schools and home schools. The whole deplorable edifice of moral relativism and imperviousness to real beauty and virtue is entrenched by schools of teacher education and teachers’ unions, the universities’ captivity either by leftist ideology – sometimes hand-in-hand with New Age “spirituality” – or by business school vulgarity, and other influential enemies of wholesome tradition. For the fate of the outstanding Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas – a program that had featured excellent teaching and good student response -- see Robert K. Carlson’s book Truth on Trial: Liberal Education Be Hanged, published in 1995 by Crisis Books. Anyone who has recently read That Hideous Strength is likely to be impressed by Carlson’s exposé. Read there how “pluralism and diversity” really mean exclusion and uniformity. During the Dark Ages, the monasteries saved civilization in the West. It may be that civilization will be saved in households, churches, alternative schools, private colleges.
We may leave the issue of the education of children with these remarks by Lewis, from his little-known essay “Is Progress Possible? Willing Slaves of the Welfare State” (from an edition of God in the Dock, 1970):
I believe a man is happier, and happy in a richer way, if he has “the freeborn mind.” But I doubt whether he can have this without economic independence, which the new society is abolishing. For economic independence allows an education not controlled by Government; and in adult life it is the man who needs, and asks, nothing of Government who can criticise its acts and snap his fingers at its ideology. Read Montaigne; that’s the voice of a man with his legs under his own table, eating the mutton and turnips raised on his own land. Who will talk like that when the State is everyone’s schoolmaster and employer? Admittedly, when man was untamed, such liberty belonged only to the few. I know. Hence the horrible suspicion that our only choice is between societies with few freemen and societies with none.
…Let us make no mistake…. The Swedish sadness is only a foretaste. To live his life in his own way, to call his house his castle, to enjoy the fruits of his own labour, to educate his children as his conscience directs, to save for their prosperity after his death – these are wishes deeply ingrained in … civilised man. (Italics mine -- DN)
Labels: Guest Columns
Monday, March 26, 2007
A Papal Message to the EU on its 50th Anniversary
- Is it not a surprise that contemporary Europe, although it wishes to present itself as a community of values, seems more and more to contest the existence of universal and absolute values?
Does not this unique form of 'apostasy' from itself, even prior to an apostasy from God, lead to doubts about its identity?
A Pair for Paul
Oscar Wilde, Deathbed Convert
The Lead-up to the War on Iran
- Both Ron Paul and Antiwar.com columnist Philip Giraldi have warned about the likelihood of a Gulf of Tonkin-style incident in the Persian Gulf, and their predictions have, sadly, proved all too accurate. That it involves the British, not the Americans, is a double victory for the on-to-Tehran crowd: the war-weary Brits, who recently announced the withdrawal of their troops from southern Iraq, will presumably be dragged along in the wake of the coming U.S. military assault as their sailors are paraded before the cameras in Tehran. Once again, "coalition" forces are about to take down a Middle Eastern government, and they are already on the move.
The Austrian View of Bubbles
Daring to Think Locally
The American Republic's Nemesis
- [T]he critical point comes with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Paul Wolfowitz, who was then in the Department of Defense working for Dick Cheney in the first Bush administration, wrote that our policy now is to prevent any nation, or combination of nations, from ever having the kind of power that could challenge us in any way militarily.
This is when we really invite "Nemesis," the goddess of retribution, vengeance, and hubris, into our midst by proclaiming that we "won" the Cold War. It's not at all clear that we've won the Cold War. Probably, we and the U.S.S.R. lost it, but they lost it first and harder because they were always poorer than we were. The assumption was that we were now the global superpower; we were the lone superpower; we were a new Rome. We could do anything we wanted to. We could dominate the world through military force.
The Church's Teaching on Stem Cells
- Human stem cells hold great promise for the development of therapies to regenerate damaged organs, and to heal people who are suffering from terrible diseases. Most scientific research uses cells obtained from adult tissue, blood from the umbilical cord, and other sources that pose no moral problems. Versatile stem cells have been found in bone marrow, blood, muscle, fat, nerves, amniotic fluid, and even the pulp of baby teeth. Many successful therapies have been developed using these adult stem cells.
We Catholics applaud the vast array of scientific research that is conducted ethically and that respects the dignity of the human person. We strongly support stem cell research using adult and umbilical cord stem cells.
- The surveys underscore a deep divide between most Americans, with their attachment to the traditional, and architects and critics, with their preference for the modern, the new and the striking.
In the 1980s, a similar chasm opened up in Britain when Prince Charles attacked a proposed Modernist addition to the National Gallery in London. After a contentious public debate, the addition got a new design that connected in some respects to the Classical main building by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.
Ordinary Brits, as far as one could discern, supported the prince over the Modernist architects, which was surprising. Modernism, after all, began as a reformist effort to create an architecture better suited to our times and our needs, but it now appeared as an elitist effort to impose on people what they didn't like and didn't want.
Modernism's goal was to create architecture for the people, not princes. It would get rid of furbelows and flourishes, columns and wreaths, ornament and imitation, and build directly for needs — efficient factories, orderly homes, sober churches. "Form follows function," "ornament is crime," "less is more" — these were the slogans of Modernism. The giants of the movement — Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe — never polled people about their tastes and desires, of course. But it stood to reason that economical Modernist buildings, stripped of ornament, would provide better housing for everyone and, with design that prioritized open spaces and fresh air, would aggregate into better neighborhoods and cities.
One of the most depressing things about living in Asia is the fact that a region with such beautiful traditional architecture has given itself entirely over to Modernist ugliness.
*Use BugMeNot.com to bypass registration.
The Normalization of Torture
The Siege (1998), one prophetic movie that dared to explore the topic, was unwisely marginalized because it portrayed its terrorists as Muslims. Here's one memorable line of dialogue:
- Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: [to General Devereaux] You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to a fair trial. You have the right not to be tortured, not to be murdered, rights that you took away from Tariq Husseini. You have those rights because of the men who came before you who wore that uniform. Because of the men and women who are standing here right now waiting for you to give them the order to fire. Give them the order, General.
World Down Syndrome Day
- ...the Catholic Worker is the rare charity that refuses, on philosophical grounds, to register with the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt nonprofit. The stance dates back seven decades to founder Dorothy Day's admonition to keep the federal government at arm's length.
By toiling outside the system, the Los Angeles Catholic Worker denies itself access to institutional funding — foundation stipends, government grants, United Way dollars — that can be the life's blood for many charities. Contributions to the Catholic Worker are not tax-deductible, even though it feeds and shelters the neediest of the needy and provides them with medical and dental care.
Here is a bit about foundress Dorothy Day:
- A writer, social activist and pacifist, Day embraced the radical politics of the Depression era — her brand has been described as "Christian anarchism" — along with more orthodox teachings of Roman Catholic morality, including an opposition to abortion.
Day, who died in 1980 and has been proposed for sainthood, maintained that charity should be a personal endeavor and that living among the poor is a virtue.
Labels: The Catholic Faith
Bright Lights Installment Ten
The St. Anne’s Household -- and Our Own Households
Associate Professor of Liberal Arts
Mayville State University
© 2007 Dale Nelson
10.The Beautiful, continued
One hesitates to bring up the subject of human beauty. Moderns have at least two problems with the idea of the Beautiful as regards men and women.
First, since it is obvious that some are more beautiful than others, moderns are uneasy about an encroachment upon the ideal of equality. Those who are worried about this may be referred to Lewis’s essay, “Equality,” in the collection Present Concerns.
Second, moderns are apt to claim that notions of beauty vary greatly from culture to culture (just as ethics supposedly do); “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” as a famous show on the old Twilight Zone TV series had it, in which a beautiful young woman feels she is a freak because she doesn’t look like almost everyone else (they being grotesquely ugly). It seems, though, that really there is what might be called a “Beauty Range,”* a spectrum within which nearly all instances of the beautiful, from culture to culture, will be found to belong. When one reads that a femme fatale in an old Icelandic saga, for example, was nicknamed “Long Legs,” or when one inspects old Greek gems with sculptures of graceful maidens, etc., it becomes increasingly clear that there is probably not a great deal of variation, from time to time or from place to place, in concepts of feminine beauty – and standards of masculine beauty probably vary even less. Aberrations -- Chinese footbinding, Japanese blackening of teeth, Amazonian lip deformation, Rubensesque ampleness, or our own recent anorexic look, whereby Botticelli’s Venus would be told to lose 20 pounds -- are, perhaps, just that; they do not amount to evidence that there is no universal sense of the beautiful and that “anything” might be considered beautiful, but, rather, they are idiosyncrasies.
In modern American society, the insistence that beauty is just a matter of personal and cultural preferences (or obsolete evolutionary programming) probably assists the campaign that would have it that morality is also merely a cultural matter (and in a multicultural world, why, who’s to insist on his morality over against someone else’s?). It may be true that modern unease with the Beautiful as a category of reality is unconsciously motivated by hatred of an objective, demanding moral standard, so that the more we reject morality, the uglier we and our surroundings will become.
But perhaps one could hold that, while there is indeed a Tao, an objective moral canon, still, beauty is in the eye of the beholder; but in addition to the question as to whether the empirical evidence really supports this, there may be a biblical problem with the idea. For example, in Genesis 24, Rebekah is described as “very fair to look upon” (v. 16). Modern Christians may add the unspoken gloss according to the notion of beauty prevalent at the time and in that place, maintaining an agnostic view as to whether she “really” was beautiful. Alternatively, one may consider the possibility that Rebekah was beautiful; that anyone who beheld her either would, or should, perceive that she was beautiful. Genesis 6:1-2 seems to imply that even nonhuman intelligences perceived the (objective) beauty of women.
However, if one prefers to let the topic of human beauty alone, there is still a great deal that can be said about beauty. Further comments on this topic will follow.
*In That Hideous Strength, Jane, who is beautiful, admires Camilla Denniston’s beauty, which is said to be “not of [her] own type” (p. 63). It’s obvious that Lewis would hold that no one in his right mind would deny that both women are beautiful despite their difference of “type.”
Similarly, the “range” of the Beautiful accommodates a range of bodily movements and dispositions: the stillness of the reposing figure in Leighton’s painting Flaming June; the simultaneously worshipful and receptive orans posture that ancient Christians used in prayer; the astonishing vigor and gracefulness of Alina Cojocaru as Clara in a recent production of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker; and innumerable others, many of them fleeting. (Worth reading is “The Body’s Possibilities” by Alicia Mosier, in First Things Feb. 2002.)
No one body can embody the entire range of possible beauties: one cannot simultaneously have the limpid loveliness of pale blue eyes and the warm and magnetic beauty of what poets call “black” eyes. A sky cannot simultaneously possess the heraldic splendor of a cloudless Aegean noontide and the ethereal remoteness of certain sunsets. To move from beauty perceived through the eye to that of the ear: distant birdsong is beautiful; profound chords on the organ may be beautiful.
But this variety of beautiful appearances doesn’t mean that beauty is simply in the eye (or ear) of the beholder! Fairy Hardcastle is beautiful neither in form nor movement (though she might become just homely if she repented and if she changed her way of dressing and her manner); and a sky fouled by yellow smog, and the sound of a pneumatic hammer breaking up concrete, are not beautiful.
Perhaps I seem to labor the obvious; but I’m sure there are moderns who would maintain that one cannot speak of the beautiful as a true category of reality; again, they would maintain that “the beautiful” (carefully placed in quotation marks) is just a cultural construct, or an evolutionary vestige, etc. Some wiseacre modern would be capable of saying, “The sound of the pneumatic hammer busting up concrete could beautiful to the city manager who is overseeing an urban renewal project.” But no. The racket is not beautiful.
The beautiful is indeed a category of reality, and even one that is prior to creation itself, because it is an attribute of God. The reference of Psalm 27:4 to the “fair beauty of the Lord,” which provided the title for a chapter in Lewis’s Reflections on the Psalms, is not the only reference to God’s beauty that recourse to a concordance will yield.
It’s beyond the author’s expertise to expound the relevance, for the discussion of beauty, of mathematics -- the Fibonacci sequence, the Golden Section, etc., much of which was recognized by ancient and medieval thinkers.
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