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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Strings of Fire

They start off slowly, but then ... woo hoo! :-)

The Grand Miracle

The doctrine of the Incarnation ... digs beneath the surface, works through the rest of our knowledge by unexpected channels, harmonises best with our deepest apprehensions and our 'second thoughts', and in union with these undermines our superficial opinions. It has little to say to the man who is still certain that everything is going to the dogs, or that everything is getting better and better, or that everything is God, or that everything is electricity. Its hour comes when these wholesale creeds have begun to fail us. Whether the thing really happened is a historical question. But when you turn to history, you will not demand for it that kind and degree of evidence which you would rightly demand for something intrinsically improbable; only that kind and degree which you demand for something which, if accepted, illuminates and orders all other phenomena, explains both our laughter and our logic, our fear of the dead and our knowledge that it is somehow good to die, and which at one stroke covers what multitudes of separate theories will hardly cover for us if this is rejected.
- CS Lewis, Miracles


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Resurrection

A poem from an old America magazine ...

Resurrection
- by Larry Janowski

Thin as skin behind your knee,
transparent as a dragonfly wing’s
shadow. On such paper Michelangelo
sketched Prometheus prone
and languishing between visits
from the eagle. One day,
full of un-Zeus-like mercy,
the master carried the chained
Titan to the window, rotated it,
and pressed the black chalk lines
to rippled glass so that
daylight washed through
the drawing. On the verso he
repositioned the legs a bit, but
otherwise traced the figure unchanged,
whole, muscled, naked and unbound,
now the Resurrected Christ
and the world became tinder.


Monday, February 26, 2007

The Talpiot Tomb



As things progress on the subject of the tomb, I thought I'd re-do this post, to direct readers to more helpful sources of information ...

* Prof. Mark Goodacre at the NT Gateway Weblog has his current posts on the subject under this link - The Talpiot Tomb

* Prof. Tyler Williams has lots of info on the tomb at Codex: Biblical Studies Blogspot

* Prof. Ben Witherington discusses the subject, with comments from Prof. James Tabor

* Prof. James Tabor's Jesus Dynasty Blog

The Talpiot Tomb is a tomb discovered in Talpiot, Israel, in 1980 that is alleged to have been the burial place of Jesus ..... Inside were found ten ossuaries bearing the inscriptions of names ..... Five of the ten names (Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Mary Magdalene, and Matthew) are claimed by some to be associated with figures from the New Testament ..... The BBC first aired a documentary on the Talpiot Tomb in 1996 .... A second documentary about the tomb, titled The Lost Tomb of Jesus, has been produced by James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici, and will premiere on The Discovery Channel on March 4, 2007 ... - Wikipedia


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Listen to Lent

For those interested, Creighton University has available online an audio Lent retreat given by Fr. Larry Gillick, S.J. I've listened to one of the mp3 files so far - there are fourteen in all - and found it moving. Here's the blurb for the introductory file ...

Lent, spring, and the Spiritual life have this in common; each is a tug of war. Spring is tugging at winter to let go. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are directed at our becoming more aware of human unfreedoms and the free gift of God’s love to help us let go. Lent is the prayerful time to prepare for Easter and prepare for our living the joy of being disciples of Jesus. The Spiritual Exercises help us to ask the big questions and then search for the answers. It is all about coming back to life.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Change of heart

I saw an interesting post by Dennis Hamm, S.J. on Saturday's reading - Luke 5:27-32 - at Creighton University's Daily Reflections page. It's about Jesus having dinner at the house of Matthew (levi) the tax collector - here's some of it ...

***************************

In the Jewish culture of Jesus’ time and place, this fraternizing with tax collectors was not the behavior of “a nice guy.” It was a startling, attention-getting activity. For in first-century Palestine, tax collectors were considered by their fellow Jews to be collaborators with the hated Romans; they were, after all, collecting taxes for their oppressors. What’s more, they were suspected of skimming off more than their share, as their “commission.” They didn’t have many non-tax-collector friends. And those other folks, the so-called sinners, were people whose way of life kept them from keeping all 613 laws of the Torah; shepherds, for example, whose sheep sometimes ate other people’s property. So tax collectors and sinners were unclean people, or, to use a later Jewish term, un-kosher. Eat with folks like these, and you rendered yourself unclean, unfit for sharing in the temple worship.

Another thing to keep in mind is this: in that Middle Eastern culture, eating with others was considered a very intimate human act. Sharing a meal could be a way of sealing a contract. It created and affirmed a close human bond.

So for Jesus to eat with tax collectors and sinners was egregious behavior, probably more startling to his contemporaries than his healing miracles. And the Gospels suggest that this was something he did regularly. He “ate around” ......

Notice that Luke’s version of this episode makes clear that Jesus is not simply being generously inclusive; as he says, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Enjoying Jesus’ hospitality is supposed to create the occasion for a change of heart.

I can’t read this episode without recalling that Jesus’ last act of table fellowship is the Last Supper, and that our Christian Eucharistic celebrations are re-enactments of that supper. There, at least weekly, we enjoy inclusion in Jesus’ hospitality, not just to make us feel happy at being included but to be invited to a further conversion of heart.


- Matthew and Jesus at the dinner, from the movie Jesus


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Contact

Maybe sometimes the irreconcilable differences between science and religion are more perception than reality... I'm thinking, for example, of the Vatican Observatory and a paper by one of its scientists, Jesuit Chris Corbally, on the theological implications of primitive extraterrestrial life having (possibly) been found on a meteorite from Mars (ALH84001, found in Antarctica in 1984). He saw no conflict between religious belief and life on other planets, and ended his paper with a few lines from a poem, Christ in the Universe, by Alice Meynell ...

No planet knows that this
Our wayside planet, carrying land and wave,
Love and life multiplied, and pain and bliss,
Bears, as chief treasure, one forsaken grave.
Nor, in our little day,
May His devices with the heavens be guessed,
His pilgrimage to tread the Milky Way,
Or His bestowals there be manifest.
But, in the eternities,
Doubtless we shall compare together, hear
A million alien Gospels, in what guise
He trod the Pleiades, the Lyre, the Bear.
O, be prepared, my soul!
To read the inconceivable, to scan
The million forms of God those stars unroll
When, in our turn, we show to them a Man.


What brings all this to mind is one of my favorite movies from the past - Contact - which intertwines the ideas of the existence of extraterrestrial life with belief in God ...

Contact is a 1997 science fiction film adapted from the novel by Carl Sagan. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, it stars Jodie Foster as Dr. Eleanor Ann "Ellie" Arroway, Matthew McConaughey as Palmer Joss, James Woods as National Security Advisor Michael Kitz, and Tom Skerritt as Dr. David Drumlin .....


- Matthew McConaughey and Jodie Foster

The movie is interesting on a number of levels ... great special effects, and an appearance by President Clinton (sic) ... but I especially liked the tension between science and religion ... Jody Foster's character is a scientist and atheist involved in the SETI project, but she falls in love with Palmer Joss, who's something of a theologian ... they're at odds throughout the story, yet they seem to reach an understanding at the end, in part due to her close encounter of the third kind. I don't really have an opinion on whther there is extraterrestrial life, but it's kind of comforting to think the Vatican Observatory's all over the subject :-)


Here's the review of the movie by Roger Ebert ...

************************************************

"Do you think there are people on other planets?" "I don't know. But if it's just us, it would be an awful waste of space." Dialogue from Contact.

You can hear an echo there of the hopeful, curious voice of the late Carl Sagan, who spoke optimistically of "billions of billions of stars" and argued that if life can exist at all (and it can), then it should presumably be found all over the universe. Sagan's novel Contact provides the inspiration for Robert Zemeckis' new film, which tells the smartest and most absorbing story about extraterrestrial intelligence since Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It also makes an argument that sounds like pure common sense. Because the universe is so awesomely large, it would hardly be practical for alien beings to go zipping around it in spaceships, tracking down hints of intelligent life. Why wouldn't they simply set up an automated program to scan the skies for signals -- and then auto-respond with instructions on how another race (ourselves, for example) could contact them? That would be faster, easier, cheaper and less of a waste of resources, since if we're not capable of following the instructions, we're not ready to meet them.

This idea, so simple, so seductive, inspires the intriguing payoff of Contact, which stars Jodie Foster as Dr. Ellie Arroway, a radio astronomer who has dedicated her life to the cosmological field of SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). She uses a giant radio telescope in Puerto Rico to scan the skies for signals that might originate from intelligent beings. One clue would be a series of prime numbers, which can be easily transmitted in a universal code, would be the same everywhere and would stand out from random radio noise.

The movie is about Ellie's search, but it is also about her mind and personality. It's surprising to find a science fiction film exploring issues like love, death and the existence of God; science fiction as a literary form has of course explored those subjects for years, but sci-fi movies generally tend toward titles such as Independence Day, and are about actors being attacked by gooey special effects. (Why do we always assume aliens will be bug-eyed and ugly? The next time you look in the mirror, ask yourself how you'd feel if you were a cat, and Earth was visited by something looking like you.) Ellie's scientific quest is a lonely one. Her superior, Dr. David Drumlin (Tom Skerritt), tells her the SETI field is tantamount to professional suicide. She's needled ("Hi, Ellie. Still waiting for E.T. to call?"), but her obsession runs deep: With her father (David Morse), she shared the excitement of picking up distant stations on a ham radio outfit. He died while she was still young, and she became convinced that somehow, someday, she could contact him.

This conviction is complicated by the fact that she does not believe in God or the supernatural; perhaps her SETI is a displaced version of that childhood need. In Puerto Rico, she meets Palmer, a young man who does believe in God. They have a brief but tender and important love affair, and then, when the dubious Drumlin pulls the plug on her research, she leaves for New Mexico and an alternate research site.

Before they separate, they talk about a paradox: Pondering the immensity and mystery of the universe, you're tempted to explain it with a concept like God, and yet you wonder if "God" isn't a patronizing simplification. Ellie and Palmer disagree about God; as viewers, we are surprised and pleased that the movie lets them debate the subject. Most Hollywood movies are too timid for theology. (Question for discussion: Should man's first emissary to an alien race be required to believe in God? And if so, whose?) Ellie's research project has been all but ended when there's a sudden breakthrough: unmistakably intelligent signals from space! Drumlin, in the manner of all bureaucrats everywhere, conveniently forgets his opposition to SETI and smoothly takes the credit. The signals, which include a startling bounce-back of a TV image from Earth, provide a schematic diagram for a machine that, apparently, would allow a representative of the human race to travel to the home of the race that sent the signal.

Zemeckis has filled his movie with intriguing characters, played by good actors. There is, for example, old Hadden (John Hurt), a billionaire incorporating elements of Howard Hughes and Armand Hammer. He follows Ellie's search and commands vast resources of his own. And there are two presidential advisers (James Woods and Angela Bassett) who, in the great tradition of movies about aliens, consider the signals to be a possible threat. And there are others, but I will not describe them, in order to leave key secrets intact.

What happens in the last third of the film, indeed, I will not describe. Some of it you can guess. You may be guessing wrong. In a later article I'll speculate about what happens, and whether it happens the way it seems to. Zemeckis uses special effects to suggest the climactic events without upstaging them. (Earlier effects, however, that seemingly incorporate President Clinton into the film are simply distracting.) Movies like Contact help explain why movies like Independence Day leave me feeling empty and unsatisfied. When I look up at the sky through a telescope, when I follow the landing of the research vehicle on Mars, when I read about cosmology, I brush against transcendence. The universe is so large and old and beautiful, and our life as an intelligent species is so brief, that all our knowledge is like a tiny hint surrounded by a void. Has another race been around longer and learned more? Where are they? We have been listening for only a few decades. Space and time are so vast. A signal's chances of reaching us at the right time and place are so remote they make a message in a bottle look reliable. But if one came ....

*****************************************


- Foster, about to be sealed into the alien travel device


Eliot's Ash Wednesday

Poetry-challenged as I am, this is my first time for reading this poem, written by TS Eliot after his 1927 conversion to Anglicanism ...

Ash-Wednesday

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

II

Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to satiety
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been contained
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live? And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:
Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.
It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying

Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other,
Under a tree in the cool of the day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.

III

At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jagged, like an old man's mouth drivelling, beyond repair,
Or the toothed gullet of an aged shark.

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs's fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy
but speak the word only.
IV

Who walked between the violet and the violet
Who walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary's colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary's colour,
Sovegna vos

Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke no word

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew

And after this our exile

V

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

O my people.
VI

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth This is the time of tension between dying and birth The place of solitude where three dreams cross Between blue rocks But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Were our Founding Fathers Christians or Deists?

IMHO, the short answer is ... Deists. Does it matter? Maybe. I think perhaps those in the Christian religious right would like to believe our nation was founded by people like themselves, belief-wise. I'm not sure that's true, and though I'm a Christian, I'd rather think we had Deists as founders, who planned for a state without a national religion.

But here's a disclaimer - though I have a master's in history, I managed to completely skip almost all American History classes ... the only one that was manditory was taught by a free thinker who let us decide our own course work and give ourselves a grade. We all gave ourselves As and spent the whole semester playing pool.

It will not surprise you that my handicap in the area of American History will not keep me from expressing my thoughts :-) and since this week we celebrate the birthdays of presidents, I thought I'd write about a couple of things that have a common presidential theme ... a post at First Thinga, Was Washington Really a Deist? ... and a movie I recently watched, National Treasure, starring Nicolas Cage.

First of all, what is Deism? Wikipedia says ...

Deism is a religious philosophy and movement that became prominent in England, France, and the United States in the 17th and 18th centuries. Deists typically reject supernatural events (prophecy, miracles) and divine revelation prominent in organized religion ...... Currently (as of 2007) there is an ongoing controversy in the United States over whether or not America was founded as a "Christian nation" based on Judeo-Christian ideals. This has spawned a subsidiary controversy over whether the Founding Fathers were Christians or deists or something in between. Particularly heated is the debate over the beliefs of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington, for all of whom the evidence is mixed ...

An example of a Deist take on Christianity would be the Jefferson Bible. In this version of the New Testament written by Thomas Jefferson, the miracles and all references to the Trinity, the resurrection, and to Jesus as God, have been removed.

The First Things article works very hard at trying to make a case against Washington as a Deist. Here's some of the article (see link above) ...

Most historians of the last hundred years have said the Father of Our Nation was a deist (in his excellent recent biography, Joseph Ellis called Washington a “lukewarm Episcopalian and quasi-Deist”) and suggest, along the way, that his virtues were Stoic rather than Christian .... A more sustained investigation into Washington’s God, however, makes all claims that he was a deist highly problematic and finally untenable .....

The evidence on this point comes down to this: When Washington prays and urges the nation (or his army) to pray, does he expect God to care about the fate of the American cause, as distinct from the British cause, since they also pray to the same God? Does he imagine God actually interposing himself in the events of history? Or inspiring a human mind with ideas, or forgiving sins? The most important answer to these questions is found in the prayers that, as general and as president, Washington publicly urged upon the army and the nation ......

he wrote: “I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.” ....

These are the prayers, the non-deistic prayers, which gave General Washington fortitude and hope in the very dark days of more than 230 years ago, in 1776. Now again, we are a nation in great need, under the powerful threat of a murderous worldwide terrorism ....


Wave all the flags you want, I'm unconvinced by the article ... I think he was indeed a Deist. For more on this, read this - Washington Post review - of a number of books on the subject, including David L. Holmes's The Faiths of the Founding Fathers ...

We learn that Benjamin Franklin, for example, believed primarily in a God of reason but had serious doubts about the divinity of Jesus -- though he strongly subscribed to the moral ideas Jesus preached. Jefferson similarly saw Jesus as a "reformer and moral exemplar" and took a pair of scissors to his Bible to cut away all the parts -- miracles and supernatural interventions -- that offended his intellectual sensibilities. ..... Washington's religious affiliation, on the other hand, is notoriously ambiguous. Raised as an Anglican, Washington attended church, sometimes regularly. He served as churchwarden, observed fast days and vigorously promoted religion among the soldiers of the Continental Army. Yet he was never confirmed, avoided communion and during his lingering death never prayed nor asked for a clergyman. When he spoke or wrote of God, he favored words with decidedly deist and Masonic connotations: "Providence," "the Deity" and "the Grand Architect." Holmes concludes that Washington was a deist primarily concerned with morality and order, one who favored religion because of the useful role it played in society ...

And the Washington Post article says this of the book that the First Things article's authors wrote (Was Washginton a Deist?) ...

This tract, which is openly hostile toward deism and the "so-called Enlightenment," obviously wants Washington's God to be the same as the authors' God. While that might make for an effective polemic, it makes for less than convincing history. It's too bad, because the authors raise some interesting points about the limits of Washington's deism, and they make it clear that this is a subject worthy of further scrutiny. That scrutiny would be better done by scholars less determined to find the results that will most please them.

The far more intriguing issue for me is not whether the FFs were Deists, but the connection between them and Freemasonry, as explored in the movie National Treasure. Oh, I know the movie is all exageration - a sort of secular Da Vinci Code - but many of the FFs were indeed Masons and this not only fits with Deism but leads us in a fun direction :-) So here's a little about the movie from Beliefnet - Just What Are the Facts About 'National Treasure'? ...


- tombs of Knights Templar

"National Treasure" has been the top-grossing movie in America for the last two weekends, even though it was largely panned by reviewers. But movie-goers are apparently drawn to the plot line, which goes like this: An order of European Knights, called the Knights Templar, amassed a huge amount of treasure originating in the Temple of Solomon. Their treasure is rumored to contain artifacts of spiritual significance retrieved by the order during the Crusades, including the genealogies of David and Jesus and documents that trace their descendants to French royalty.

According to the movie, Freemasons--the descendants of the Templars--brought that treasure to colonial America, then concealed it in a super-secret location in New York City to protect it from the British, leaving clues about its location on the back of the Declaration of Independence and other places in the original colonies.

We looked into some of the claims of the movie in an attempt to separate fact from fiction ....


Read the rest of the article for some fun factoids on the history behind the movie and its questionable (but so cool!) insinuations about our founding fathers.


- Nicolas Cage on the run with the Declaration of Independence

BTW, in reading up on this stuff, I found that Washington was seriously into cricket, even playing it at Valley Forge, ... :-)


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Forever War

I read something today about gays and the military, and it reminded me of an old science fiction novel that I liked very much. The book was The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, which won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards. Below I've posted what Wikipedia says of the plot and I think it's worth a read ... our beliefs about both homosexuality and of war seem so colored by our culture, our times, our personal issues, etc., that it can be something between a slap in the face and a breath of fresh air to gain the different perspective science fiction can afford us ... let's take advantage of it :-) ......

******************************************

The novel tells the story of William Mandella, a university student conscripted for an elite UN task force being assembled for a war against the Taurans, an alien species discovered when they suddenly attacked human colonist's ships. They are sent out for what might be described as reconnaissance in force, though vengeance is also a major factor in the politics behind their formation.

Because of the unknown nature of the threat, many cadets are recruited for unique knowledge and talents, including telepathy and luck. Mandella believes that he is chosen for his understanding of math and physics. All the cadets, however, (who seem to be evenly split between men and women) are very intelligent and are close to perfect physically. This concentration of the elite of the elite, apparently supposed to represent the best of mankind, numbers only several dozen when the training enters the serious phases (where the story starts).

After a grueling training regimen on Earth and later on Charon, which results in a high number of casualties due to the use of live weapons including nuclear warheads, the recruits finally ship out to remote bases orbiting "collapsars", wormhole-like phenomena that allow travel to thousands of light-years away in a split second. However, travelling to and from the collapsars at near-lightspeed has massive relativistic effects.

This first expedition lasts only a few months from the soldier's perspective, but due to time dilation, upon return to Earth many years will have passed. The soldiers experience future shock firsthand, as the Taurans employ increasingly advanced weaponry against them while they themselves do not have time to return to Earth and re-arm.

Mandella, together with fellow soldier, lover and companion Marygay, initially returns to civilian life, only to find humanity drastically changed. He and his fellow soldiers have difficulty fitting into a future society that has evolved almost beyond their comprehension. The veterans learn that, to curb overpopulation, which led to world-wide food wars, homosexuality has become officially encouraged by the world government. The changes within society alienate Mandella and the other veterans to the point where many re-enlist simply to escape, even though they realize the military is a soulless construct. The inability of the military to treat its soldiers as more than valuable, highly complex machines is a major theme of the story.

Almost entirely through luck, Mandella survives four subjectively experienced years of military service, which time dilation makes equivalent to several centuries of combat and change. He soon becomes the 'oldest' surviving soldier in the war, attaining high rank through seniority, although not from personal ambition (he is portrayed as an eternally reluctant soldier, who acts mostly from natural talent and a melancholic sense of duty). Despite this he is separated from Marygay, who has remained his last contact with the Earth from his youth, by inexorable and impersonal military machinery. As the commanding officer of a 'strike force', Mandella now commands soldiers who speak a language completely unrecognizable to him, whose ethnicity is now nearly uniform, and are exclusively homosexual.

Engaging in combat thousands of light years away from Earth, Mandella and his soldiers battle to survive what is to be the last conflict of the war, which has already officially ended in the meantime. During the time that has passed on Earth, mankind begins employing human cloning, resulting in a new species calling itself Man. Man develops a means of communication unique to clones, which allows them to begin peace talks with the Taurans. It turns out the war was a colossal mistake - the Taurans are a naturally clone-based species and could not communicate with the pre-clone humans. Misunderstandings, especially by the trigger-happy human military, led to the conflict.

Man establishes several colonies of old-style, heterosexual humans, just in case the evolutionary change proves to be a mistake. Mandella travels to one of these colonies, named 'Middle Finger'. There he is reunited with Marygay, who had been discharged much earlier and had intentionally used the collapsar jumps' time dilation to age at a much slower rate, hoping and waiting for Mandella's return.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

David Hart on Dupré

I came across a review in First Things by David Bentley Hart of the book Religious Mystery and Rational Reflection: Excursions in the Phenomenology and Philosophy of Religion by Louis Dupre - it's interesting, as it's about religious experience. I've just posted the first three paragraphs since it's long, and I didn't think I could do it justice by picking and choosing bits ...

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The nine essays that constitute this volume are all concerned, in some fashion or another, with questions of religious experience: its form, its nature, its susceptibility (or resistance) to philosophical scrutiny, its very possibility in cultures that have (for the most part) taken leave of all their gods. The collection as a whole, however, derives its unity (not to mention a kind of haunting urgency) from its pervasive concern with one question in particular: how does one describe the subjective and objective elements of religious experience without reducing one to the other, or reducing religious experience in general to some merely anthropological constant, devoid of any transcendent dimension?

The richest and most suggestive piece in the collection is perhaps the first ("Phenomenology of Religion: Limits and Possibilities"). Could there be a phenomenology of religious experience (or, as Dupré prefers to say, of the "religious act") that would take equal and unprejudiced account both of the objective symbolism in which every properly religious phenomenon is made available to consciousness and of the subjective experience by which the believer receives and (in phenomenological parlance) intends the object of faith? The Romantics tended to dissolve all religion into an expressive subjectivity, while the "scientific" study of religions tends to treat religious symbols simply as functions of the "human" or the "social." Dupré argues, on the other hand, that only if the two moments are taken together in their integral dependence on one another does it become possible to describe the peculiar kind of intentionality that informs the religious act. Religious acts (as opposed to other "symbolic" intentions) present a unique problem, though, because while the experience is inescapably immanent, it comprehends a transcendent object. And so the question must be raised: can there really be a phenomenology of religion, in the end, that accomplishes more than a sort of clinical examination of the various extrinsic forms of religious expression?

Dupré’s answer is that there can and must be, because the transcendence of the object of religious intention appears within the religious experience itself, in its very constitution, and so no responsible or meaningful phenomenology dare ignore the degree to which, within the religious act, human symbolic creativity is provoked and saturated by an object that transcends it - or to be more precise, by an object that is intended as transcendent. No phenomenology that ignores the fundamental passivity at the heart of the religious act, the element of irreducible givenness that is experienced in the object (and so experienced as exceeding the symbolic forms that embody the subjective intention), can really be said to have disclosed the distinctively religious within the field of its investigations. The argument at this point is delightfully lucid, and only mildly subversive: within the expansive "science" of philosophical phenomenology, which means to limit reflection to objects that appear within immanent cognition as representation or as value, the contours of an experience of transcendence as such can be glimpsed. Since the religious activity of symbolic religious representation invokes and expresses in stable and analogous forms that which exceeds all representation, phenomenology cannot deny that a radical receptivity invests our active projections of symbolic meaning with more significance than they can-as objects of immanent reflection-contain. The symbols do not exhaust or even capture their transcendent object. But, then, what is the relation of this transcendence to these symbolic forms? Is the transcendent merely a noumenal absence from representation, a silence that our symbols indicate but cannot reflect? Is religious meaning, in short, a message or merely a construction? .......

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Dupré, a writer on postmodernism and the T. Lawrason Riggs professor of the philosophy of religion at Yale, is an interesting guy. For further reading, here's an interview with him - Seeking Christian Interiority.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Under the Bodhi Tree


- the Dalai Lama and Fr. Freeman

In looking through some old issues of The Tablet, I stopped to read one about Christianity and Buddhism, titled Under the Bodhi Tree, by Benedictine monk and priest Laurence Freeman, founder of the John Main Center for Meditation and Inter-religious Dialogue at Georgetown University. It speaks of the effforts to find common values in Christianity and Buddhism. Since I have an interest in Buddhism (my sister still practices meditation, though I've given it up), here's some of the article below ...

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A single leaf fell. Early December mornings in Bodhgaya are, by Indian standards, rather fresh. By English standards, however, the sun was already quite strong, as we sat down on well-arranged cushions under the Bodhi tree with the Dalai Lama. Here was the most sacred of Buddhist places of pilgrimage, where, two and a half millennia ago, the Buddha came to enlightenment ......

At the beginning of our first session, he gave us a powerful and moving sign. When we were seated and about to begin, a large rolled Tibetan thanka was brought to him, which he presented to our meditation community as a gift. Thankas, painted on cloth, are, rather like Christian icons, portable devotional objects, often of great beauty. As it was being unrolled, the Dalai Lama asked me to guess what the subject was. I thought it would be some Buddhist theme traditional to the genre, a wheel of life or Bodhisattva. Instead there appeared an exquisite Nativity scene, in bright Tibetan colours and gentle style – not at all what I expected. Modelled on a fifteenth-century Dutch altarpiece, it was rendered in typical Tibetan style, so that the ox looked rather like a yak and the lute- playing angel like a descending Bodhisattva, and it drew a gasp and spontaneous applause from everyone.

One has to take risks to make progress. There are apparently some Buddhists who do not feel easy with the familiarity the Dalai Lama shows to Christians. And there are even some Christians who feel that Buddhism presents a threat to Western Christianity. But it is a groundless fear. The Dalai Lama, as he frequently repeats, does not advise people to change their religion although, of course, he recognises their right to do so.

Some do indeed change. But the Western Buddhists I have met generally seem to me people for whom Buddhism is a first genuine religious experience. Why this should be so in a Christian culture is a question for the Churches to answer. The large numbers of young people who frequent Buddhist meditation centres are attracted to Buddhist thought, or even to the Dalai Lama’s personal goodness. They are not apostates – they are seekers. When they find, through The Good Heart, for example, a Christianity open to dialogue which offers them a spirituality of depth and a revelation of joy, they often embrace it with relief. The Dalai Lama told me that of the many letters he still receives because of The Good Heart, the ones that please him most are those from Christians telling him how it has helped them to embrace their traditional faith afresh .....

As we sat under the Bodhi tree one morning before meditation, I read the Beatitudes aloud. Later as we prepared for the dialogue session, I read the Crucifixion narrative. The Dalai Lama listened intently, as we did to his searching questions about Jesus and how Christians see God in Jesus, about hell and purgatory, grace and faith. What does it mean, he asked, that Jesus is the only son of God?

These sessions were far from academic; rather, we pilgrims to Bodhgaya felt as one does after a good workout – tired but energised, clearer and stronger. The point of dialogue with those you love and respect is not to convince but to listen. The greatest changes are wrought by listening. This is what Mary teaches us as we see her gazing on the humility of God in the beautiful Nativity thanka that on Christmas Eve, a week after Bodhgaya, adorned the wall of the church at my Cockfosters monastery during midnight Mass.

Perhaps, though, we were being rather selfish pilgrims. We were thinking, not about how many Buddhists we had convinced, but of how much deeper and more precious our understanding of Jesus had become. And yet, is this not the secret of Christianity, to see how Christ who dwells with the Father and in the human heart dances in a thousand places? Seeing that, we learn the secret of abandoning divisions and fears and embracing the universal friendship which the Dalai Lama shares so amazingly with the world.

Can it be done? Is there enough time to do it? If these are the questions Jesus declined to answer to his disciples, perhaps what we should do is give time to watching the leaf of enlightenment fall and see its hidden meaning. See how simply and naturally it falls and with what divine punctuality and precision.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Rashomon Effect

Have you ever seen the Japanese movie Rashomon? It's a Kurosawa classic, and what stands out is this theme ... if a number of people experience the same occurrance, you can be assured that each will have a different view of it.

I bring up the movie because I've just read two articles oabout the same issue .... gay adoptions/the Equality Act in the UK ... one in The Tablet, and the other at First Things. Thier takes are so different, it's hard to believe they're discussing the same thing. By now, you must know which side I throw down on (the Tablet's :-), but below is a little from each article.

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Moralism and UK Adoption Laws, from First Things ....

Overweening moralism is, if you believe most of what you read in the newspapers, the unique sin of conservative religious people. Of course, it isn’t actually true—as witness this latest example of moralism, a secular-liberal moralism imposed by law, from Great Britain .....

In this case, the religious believers are clearly on the side of conscience and freedom, while secular liberals are promoting a state-imposed moralism that coerces everyone, at least everyone who desires to cooperate with the state for the common good. Thus, the Anglican archbishops of Canterbury and York, in solidarity with their Catholic brethren, wrote to Blair: “The rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well meaning.” .....

The law doesn’t really imagine that Catholic adoption agencies are somehow preventing gay and lesbian couples from adopting elsewhere. The proposed law is, instead, a device to rebuke the Church, to tell the Church that its teachings about homosexuality and marriage are false, a way for gay-rights activists to attack Christianity under the mantel of nondiscrimination .....

The stance that the government takes toward same-sex marriage will have implications not only for state marriage law but much else—including religious liberty. Legal moralists on the left won’t have it any other way.

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And here are a few bits from the Tablet article, Sex and the secular liberal .....

In the past week it has been disconcerting to read about the way the "gay adoption" issue seems to have been tackled by the Catholic Church in England and Wales, which made it clear to the Government that it could not accept equality regulations that would put same-sex couples on an equal footing with heterosexual couples as adoptive parents .....

These aspects of the adoption row obscured a very important point of principle under the surface, one which in a calmer discussion could have been brought usefully to the fore. The Labour Government's commitment to equality is genuine and has grown as more traditional socialist values have lost their persuasive edge ..... The primary duties of the new Commission centre on working for "equality" and "diversity", the first being statutorily defined as "equality between individuals", the second as "the fact that individuals are different" ......

Liberal society is leavened through with toughness: it has plenty of state powers to resist subversion from within as well as from without; it has a whole cohort of laws punishing hate speech and other kinds of unacceptable talk. It now has anti-discrimination laws to prohibit not all kinds of discrimination but rather only those that offend against its model of tolerance and broad-mindedness - like refusing to accept same-sex couples for adoption, for example. In the post-socialist age, non-faith-based progressives are deadly serious about imposing their liberalism, as the Catholic hierarchy has now found to its cost.

How should the Church react to the challenge of this liberal vision of society? It should recognise, first, that it is much better than the rampant capitalist world of competing selfish individuals that might otherwise be on view, and second, that it seeks a much better world than one in which all are allowed to discriminate to their heart's content. And finally, with one large exception, the liberal vision of society is very close to that of the Church, with progressives and Catholics being almost always on the same side on such key issues as esteem, dignity and opportunity for all. The one exception, the radically different approach taken to sexuality, is often more to the fore among the senior church leadership that it is on the ground at parish level.

The liberal vision of a tolerant society based on mutual respect but also on a rejection of intolerance is not one to be feared. Rather, it is an offer of partnership that the Church should joyfully seize. But first it has to work out how on earth to manoeuvre itself out of the cul-de-sac of sexuality into which its universality has forced it. Liberal society knows exactly where it is going; does the Church?

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Wikipedia says of the Rashomon Effect that it epitomizes the subjectivity of perception, by which observers of the same event are able to produce substantially different but equally plausible accounts of it. It seems that nowhere can such an effect be more noted than where the issue of what is "right" is up for grabs.

Read Roger Ebert's review of Rashomon here


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

You are what you love ...

... not what loves you.

Or so says Donald Kaufman in my DVD rental of the week, the movie, Adaptation, which stars Nick Cage (as both Donald and Charlie Kauffman), Chris Cooper, and Meryl Streep ...

Adaptation. is a 2002 film directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman.... The screenplay is based on a true story. After the success of his screenplay for Being John Malkovich, Kaufman was hired to write a screenplay based on Susan Orlean's book, The Orchid Thief. However, he soon realized that the book simply couldn't be filmed. As he came under increasing pressure to turn in a screenplay, the "adaptation" became a story of a screenwriter's attempt to write a screenplay about a book that can't be adapted into a screenplay ...


- Charlie Kauffman anguishes in front of his typewriter

I appreciated the movie most for that line Donald spoke (you are what you love, not what loves you) - I want so much for it to be true - but I rented it because it's about script writing. I harbor a (probably unrealistic) hope that someday I'll write a screenplay. I'm having a hard time with it, as it's so different from writing short stories. The formatting is a challenge, the length (I page = I minute of screen time) is odd, and the POV is not that of a single character, or even mutiple characters, but that of the viewer ... argh! So, it was intriguing to watch Adaptation, which offered a strangely amusing insight into how scripts are written ... and I so much saw myself in the character of Charlie, it almost made my skin crawl.

Here's some of Roger Ebert's review of the movie ...

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What a bewilderingly brilliant and entertaining movie this is--a confounding story about orchid thieves and screenwriters, elegant New Yorkers and scruffy swamp rats, truth and fiction. "Adaptation" is a movie that leaves you breathless with curiosity, as it teases itself with the directions it might take. To watch the film is to be actively involved in the challenge of its creation.

It begins with a book titled The Orchid Thief, based on a New Yorker article by Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep). She writes about a Florida orchid fancier named John Laroche (Chris Cooper), who is the latest in a long history of men so obsessed by orchids that they would steal and kill for them. Laroche is a con man who believes he has found a foolproof way to poach orchids from protected Florida Everglades; since they were ancestral Indian lands, he will hire Indians who can pick the orchids with impunity.

Now that story might make a movie, but it's not the story of "Adaptation." As the film opens, a screenwriter named Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) has been hired to adapt the book, and is stuck. There is so much about orchids in the book, and no obvious dramatic story line. Having penetrated halfway into the book myself, I understood his problem: It's a great story, but is it a movie? Charlie is distraught. His producer, Valerie (Tilda Swinton), is on his case. Where is the first draft? He hardly has a first page. He relates his agony in voiceover, and anyone who has ever tried to write will understand his system of rewards and punishments: Should he wait until he has written a page to eat the muffin, or ...

Charlie has a brother named Donald (also played by Cage). Donald lacks Charlie's ethics, his taste, his intelligence. He cheerfully admits that all he wants to do is write a potboiler and get rich. He attends the screenwriting seminars of Robert McKee (Brian Cox), who breaks down movie classics, sucks the marrow from their bones and urges students to copy the formula. At a moment when Charlie is suicidal with frustration, Donald triumphantly announces he has sold a screenplay for a million dollars ......

There are real people in this film who are really real, like Malkovich, Jonze, John Cusack and Catherine Keener, playing themselves. People who are real but are played by actors, like Susan Orlean, Robert McKee, John Laroche and Charlie Kaufman. People who are apparently not real, like Donald Kaufman, despite the fact that he shares the screenplay credit. There are times when we are watching more or less exactly what must (or could) have happened, and then a time when the film seems to jump the rails and head straight for the swamps of McKee's theories.

During all of its dazzling twists and turns, the movie remains consistently fascinating not just because of the direction and writing, but because of the lighthearted darkness of the performances. Chris Cooper plays a con man of extraordinary intelligence, who is attractive to a sophisticated New Yorker because he is so intensely himself in a world where few people are anybody. Nicolas Cage, as the twins, gets so deeply inside their opposite characters that we can always tell them apart even though he uses no tricks of makeup or hair. His narration creates the desperate agony of a man so smart he understands his problems intimately, yet so neurotic he is captive to them ......

I sat up during this movie. I leaned forward. I was completely engaged. It toyed with me, tricked me, played straight with me, then tricked me about that. Its characters are colorful because they care so intensely; they are more interested in their obsessions than they are in the movie, if you see what I mean. And all the time, uncoiling beneath the surface of the film, is the audacious surprise of the last 20 minutes, in which--well, to say the movie's ending works on more than one level is not to imply it works on only two.

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If you like looking behind the movie camera, it's worth a watch, especially for the fun of Donald (sic) Kauffman's script writing style ... he used all the worst cliches (car chases, serial killers, gratuitous sex scenes) and they ended up suceeding so very well :-)


- the two Kauffman brothers and their different styles of working on a script


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Jesuits in Japan

Today is the memorial of Jesuit St. Paul Miki and Companions.

Paul Miki is a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. He was born in Japan in 1564 or 1565. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1580 and was the first Japanese member of any Catholic religious order. He died one year before his ordination to the Catholic priesthood. Paul Miki and the Jesuits were responsible for preaching the Christian gospel to many people in Japan. During the persecution of Christians under Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the Jesuits in the country refused to leave or cease preaching. Paul Miki was crucified together with twenty five other Catholics, both laymen, priests and friars, in the city of Nagasaki on February 5, 1597 ... - Wikipedia

Reading about Paul Miki reminded of the most well known Jesuit missionary to Japan - Francis Xavier - but I was also reminded of the novel/movie Shogun, and the portrayal of the Jesuits therein. As the story is told from the POV of Blackthorne, an Englishman and a Protestant (and based on real life sailor William Adams), it isn't surprising that the Jesuits are portrayed as somewhat mysterious and machiavellian. I was impressed by the character of Fr. Alvito SJ, and was intrigued to learn that he was based on a real Jesuit missionary in Japan ... João Rodrigues

João Rodrigues was a Portuguese who traveled to the East as a boy of fifteen. Shortly after his arrival in Japan in 1577, he joined the Society of Jesus and resided there until 1610. He spent the rest of his life in Macao and mainland China. Until his death in 1633 in Macao he worked on a history of the Jesuits in Japan ....

Undoubtedly the most remarkable aspect of Rodrigues’ career was his mastery of the Japanese language and the special relationship with key Japanese leaders deriving from the linguistic skills. He was present in Japan during the period of civil war and eventual consolidation of power with Tokugawa Ieyesu as Shogun. This period also witnessed the expansion of Portuguese presence in Japan and the arrival of the first Englishman, Wil Adams.

Rodriques’ language skills also led to the publishing of the monumental Arte da lingoa Iapam which along with Vocabulario da lingoa de Iapan served to train subsequent arrivals in the country. This extraordinary facility with the language made him invaluable to the Japanese authorities as well as the senior Jesuit hierarchy, and he must have been present at many critical meetings over the years. He was forced to leave Japan permanently in 1610 as a result of the incident of the Portuguese ship, Madre de Deus, which became the cause of a diplomatic crisis between the Japanese and the Portuguese. The ship had been involved in a dispute in Macao the year before in which Japanese sailors were killed. After her return visit to Nagasaki, Japanese authorities attempted to board her and arrest the captain. The ship burned and sank while attempting to exit Nagasaki harbor, and the ill feelings this incident generated necessitated the expulsion of someone. That someone was Rodrigues ...
- link

Some pics of Fr. Alvito from the movie ...


- Fr. Alvito is in the orange silk robe


- the sailor Blackthorne and the Jesuit, Fr. Alvito

Read about the Jesuit Mission to Japan and see some cool stamps here

Read more about Portuguese and Spanish missionaries to Japan - link


Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Equality Act

There is a story in The Tablet about England's upcoming Equality Act, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Catholic Church has said it will close down its adoption agencies rather than allow gays to adopt, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has come out in support of that position.

This question - whether the government has the right to determine the actions of "voluntary bodies" (religious organizations, for instance) - has been a hot one forever, and when Rowan Williams says ... the rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well-meaning ... I think of Thomas Moore.

But I'm not sure I should, because the right the Archbishop was talking about was the right to treat a certain group of people in a discriminatory way. Read this quote taken from the Tablet story, about the Catholic Adoption Agencies .....

... they were renowned to be good at what they do; there were only around 12 Catholic agencies dealing with around 200 children, so homosexual couples had plenty of other agencies to choose from; and this was more about ideology than demand, as there were 3,700 adoptions last year of which 185 were by gay couples .....

Now, re-read it and instead of seeing the words gay and homosexual, see the words Hispanic, or Muslim, or the Disabled. Does it still seem as benign?

I know, I know ... it's all about the teaching of the Church that deems homosexual acts to be disordered, which leads to homosexual relationships being wrong, and marriage being denied, as well asadoption by gay/lesbian parents, as it does "violence" to children ... this is the bit about conscience the Archbishop mentioned above.

But the Church teaching on homosexuality, at least according to some theologians like James Alison, is subject to interpretation, and studies show that children raised by gays and lesbians are not harmed but do as well as those raised by heterosexual couples.

It's the state's duty to protect the rights of all its citizens, and the Church must follow its conscience. I wish I could say I knew what to think when these two things conflict.

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* New Position Statement Adopted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA)
Adoption and Co-Parenting of Children by Same-Sex Couples - link

* Kids of Same-Sex Parents Do Fine - CBS News

* Vatican Document - Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition
to Unions Between Homosexual Persons - link


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Get a Mac

I was thinking of an interesting movie I once saw - Pirates of Silicon Valley , starring Noah Wylie and Anthony Michael Hall ...

Based upon the book, Fire in the Valley: The Making of The Personal Computer, by Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine, this film documents the rise of the home computer/personal computer through the rivalry between Apple Computer (Apple II and the Apple Macintosh) and Microsoft (MITS Altair, DOS, IBM PC, and Windows). The central story of the film begins in the early 1970s and ends in 1985 when Steve Jobs resigned from Apple Computer ...

I've never had a PC but I've heard the horror stories. You out there that have PCs, in the name of all that's holy, do yourselves a favor and get a Mac! :-)



- the Vista episode of the Apple commercials

(Long-time Mac columnist and book author John Rizzo noted in an eWeek article that Vista incorporated features which Mac OS X has had for some time such as fast searching, seen in the "Spotlight" feature on the Mac, Smart Folders functionality already available in the Mac's Finder, and that the icons, terminology and visual appearance mimic those of Mac OS X. Others have come to a similar conclusion that Aero is an imitation of Aqua.) - Wikipedia


Rilke's The Last Supper

They are assembled, astonished and disturbed
round him, who like a sage resolved his fate,
and now leaves those to whom he most belonged,
leaving and passing by them like a stranger.
The loneliness of old comes over him
which helped mature him for his deepest acts;
now will he once again walk through the olive grove,
and those who love him still will flee before his sight.

To this last supper he has summoned them,
and (like a shot that scatters birds from trees)
their hands draw back from reaching for the loaves
upon his word: they fly across to him;
they flutter, frightened, round the supper table
searching for an escape. But he is present
everywhere like an all-pervading twilight-hour.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Calling and Sending.

Today's reading - Mk 6:7-13 - has always touched me. In it, Jesus gathers his followers and picks from them 12 apostles ... he calls them by name and then he describes their sending ... take nothing for the journey but a walking stick -- no food, no sack, no money ... - eek! I both dread and hope I'll get called and sent. I can imagine the scene pretty easily, thanks to the movies. Here below are some pics of the reading from the film Jesus...


- Jesus gathers everyone together


- John, Peter, and Andrew wonder if they'll make the cut


- Jesus walks among his chosen, telling them how it will be


- group hug and a blessing :-)