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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Martha Nussbaum talks about ....

- religious equality and conscience .....


- same-sex marriage ....


- Aristotle :) ...



Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The spirit and the letter of the law

At Reuters FaithWorld blog - Dutch vote to ban ritual animal slaughter, Jews and Muslims unite in protest - and here's a bit from another story about the issue, this in the New Statesman - Is Kosher still kosher?...

The lower house of the Dutch parliament has voted by a large majority to ban the slaughter of animals without prior electric stunning, as practised by religiously observant Jews and Muslims. The Netherlands would not be the first European country to have such a law -- it is already banned in Sweden, Norway and Switzerland -- but the vote has inevitably reopened the debate on the balance that any modern society must strike between common standards and the rights of minorities to maintain their own traditions ...

The collision of secular society's evolving understanding of what's ethical and religious groups' faith traditions/teachings is rife in the news lately -- in this instance, my sympathies lie with secular society's ethics. Maybe I'm not objective because I'm a vegetarian. And I know this is about Judaism and Islam, neither of which have me as a member, but in many of these collisions between my own church and the state, the religious teachings are often based on a few time-sensitive bits of scripture that don't seem integral to the core faith, and when I weigh that against suffering, I want to end the suffering. I hope I don't offend anyone, but perhaps this is a case where the religious letter of the law is now frustrating the actual spirit of that law, -- eliminating unnecessary suffering.


- Marianne Thieme, leader of the Dutch Animal Rights Party, at a goat farm in Amstelveen, the Netherlands, December 11, 2006/Koen van Weel - Reuters


Crunched car and hollyhock

My sister was in a car accident (she's ok) and her crunched car is living here in the driveway until the insurance stuff is done - then it will be towed away to the dead car place. The hollyhock in the foreground isn't looking too good either - tiny spiders seem to be making it their home.




"These tedious 'universals'"

Here's a link to a neat poem about the writer V. S. Naipaul and his contempt for women writers .... Poem Composed While Waiting for the Gynecologist to Come In. (Seriously.) (credit to Feminist Philosophers).


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Raining all day here




Monday, June 27, 2011

Three poems

Study for Salome Dancing Before Herod
by Eric Pankey

In the movement toward disappearance,
She is pulled by an undertow of ecstasy.
She wakes in a room where she never fell asleep.
A thousand starlings leaf-out a bare tree.
She wakes in a dusky, tenebrous zone.
Evening on the ridges and in the mountains,
But light still spills on the valley floor.
What transport brought her here?
The shape of gravity embodies a pear on the table.
Here time is the only sovereign.
She is like an arrow slipped from its quiver.


Requiem
by Angie Estes

Each October the house beyond
the woods appears, then goes away

in May. The maple opens
to let the blue jay in, then

closes, while all
the trees keep pointing

in the same direction.
Every house is

a missionary
, claimed Frank Lloyd Wright,
but what is it they want

us to believe? Beside the house,
a road, and onto the road raccoon,

possum, ground hog, deer occasionally
stray: how the hind leg rises

at death, saluting
the sky, just as at the end

of Stravinsky's Rite of
Spring
, a girl steps onto

the stage and dances herself
to death. The ground keeps opening

but will not speak. To attract
birds, you must make sounds

like a bird dying. Begin
with alarm—psssshhtt—then

move on to the high-pitched
noises small birds make

when seized by a predator: loudly
kiss the back of your hand

or thumb. The origin of music was
grief: a dirge sung annually

in memory of Linos, ai Linon, alas for
Linos from the Phoenician ai lanu, alas

for us
, a harvest
song, lament for the death

of the year. In October, as in Wagner,
you can have the gold

but only by renouncing
love, the past can sometimes be

forgotten, and heaven go up
in flames. Wagner always loved to be

where he died, in Venice,
because he could hear music

only in the city's silence.


from Epitaphs
by Abraham Sutzkever
Translated By Jacqueline Osherow
Read the translator's notes

Written on a slat of a railway car:

If some time someone should find pearls
threaded on a blood-red string of silk
which, near the throat, runs all the thinner
like life’s own path until it’s gone
somewhere in a fog and can’t be seen—

If someone should find these pearls
let him know how—cool, aloof—they lit up
the eighteen-year-old, impatient heart
of the Paris dancing girl, Marie.

Now, dragged through unknown Poland—
I’m throwing my pearls through the grate.

If they’re found by a young man—
let these pearls adorn his girlfriend.
If they’re found by a girl—
let her wear them; they belong to her.
And if they’re found by an old man—
let him, for these pearls, recite a prayer.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

A few bits

There's an interesting NYT's philosophy blog post from last year that's on the imagination -- Reclaiming the Imagination -- by Oxford philosopher Timothy Williamson. I find the imagination interesting partly because I spend a lot of time imagining stuff :) and partly because it's an important part of Ignatian spirituality. Here's an article on that aspect -- Pray with Your Imagination by David L. Fleming, SJ

***

There's also an interesting current post at the NYT's philosophy blog -- The Ways of Silencing by Jason Stanley -- that touches on pornography. It reminded me of a past article by David Bentley Hart on pornography -- The Pornography Culture. I didn't like Hart's article that much - he seems to have something of a "Theology of the Body" view of women? Here's just one (long) paragraph from his article ...

I may be revealing just how quaintly reactionary I am in admitting that nothing about our pornographic society bothers me more than the degraded and barbarized vision of the female body and soul it has so successfully promoted, and in admitting also (perhaps more damningly) that I pine rather pathetically for the days of a somewhat more chivalrous image of women. One of the high achievements of Western civilization, after all, was in finding so many ways to celebrate, elevate, and admire the feminine; while remaining hierarchical and protective in its understanding of women, of course, Christendom also cultivated—as perhaps no other civilization ever has—a solicitude for and a deference towards women born out of a genuine reverence for their natural and supernatural dignity. It may seem absurd even to speak of such things at present, after a century of Western culture’s sedulous effort to drain the masculine and the feminine of anything like cosmic or spiritual mystery, and now that vulgarity and aggressiveness are the common property of both sexes and often provide the chief milieu for their interactions. But it is sobering to reflect how far a culture of sexual “frankness” has gone in reducing men and women alike to a level of habitual brutishness that would appall us beyond rescue were we not, as a people, so blessedly protected by our own bad taste. The brief flourishing of the 1970s ideal of masculinity—the epicene ectomorph, sensitive, nurturing, flaccid—soon spawned a renaissance among the young of the contrary ideal of conscienceless and predatory virility. And, as imaginations continue to be shaped by our pornographic society, what sorts of husbands or fathers are being bred? And how will women continue to conform themselves—as surely they must—to our cultural expectations of them? To judge from popular entertainment, our favored images of women fall into two complementary, if rather antithetical, classes: on the one hand, sullen, coarse, quasi-masculine belligerence, on the other, pliant and wanton availability to the most primordial of male appetites—in short, viragoes or odalisks. I am fairly sure that, if I had a daughter, I should want her society to provide her with a sentimental education of richer possibilities than that.

***

There's a post at dotCommonweal about the vote in NY for marriage equality, and it's opined that Archbishop Timothy Dolan didn't have that much to do with trying to stop the passing of the bill. I think that's untrue and I thought I'd mention a post I saw recently which is worth reading if only for the title ..... Archbishop Timothy Dolan and the Zombie Apocalypse


Black-eyed Susans

See the little one? When they're new, the petals are all folded in :) ...




Saturday, June 25, 2011

Threshold


- Brent Spiner as a NASA-employed microbiologist

My Netflix rentals lately have been of the defunct 2005 science fiction tv series Threshold. I'd not heard of it before but the Netflix bot recommended it to me so I gave it a try despite the fact that it had been cancelled even before the first season was over.

The series has some interesting actors -- Brent Spiner (Data), Brian Van Holt) (Black Hawk Down), and Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent) -- and the plot had an interesting proposition: that an alien probe that comes to Earth can transform the DNA of life here through visual and auditory sensory data (research has shown that what you see and what you hear can actually change the structure of your brain). I don't know if I'd recommend the series -- it's not that great -- but as compensation, there is a very cute little dog in it :) Here's a description from Wikipedia ...

The series stars Carla Gugino as Dr. Molly Caffrey, a high-level government crisis management consultant .... one of her plans, code-named Threshold, is developed for dealing with the unlikely eventuality of first contact with aliens. One night, the crew of a U.S. naval vessel encounters a UFO .... Caffrey's Threshold plan calls for the formation of a secret government task force known as the Red Team. As a result, several top scientists are seconded: Dr. Nigel Fenway (Brent Spiner), an individualistic NASA-employed microbiologist; Lucas Pegg (Rob Benedict), a somewhat unsure-of-himself aerospace engineer on the eve of his marriage, and Arthur Ramsey (Peter Dinklage), a mathematics and linguistics genius whose libido makes up for his lack of height. Caffrey's government liaison is Deputy National Security Advisor J.T. Baylock (Charles S. Dutton), while freelance paramilitary operative Sean Cavennaugh (Brian Van Holt) serves as the "muscle" of the group (and apparent potential love interest for Caffrey).

And here's a YouTube of the beginning of the pilot .....




Religious exemptions to law

Here's a bit from a post at the Close Read at The New Yorker ....

[...] An hour and a half after the bill got through (33-29 in the State Senate, with four Republican votes), Governor Cuomo signed it, meaning that weddings can begin in thirty days. Ours is the sixth state, plus the District of Columbia, to legalize same-sex marriage. There will be voices complaining about Friday’s vote—Archbishop Dolan, for example, who has been neither helpful nor humane—but they will be increasingly abashed.

Why the change in public opinion? Governor Cuomo, in his victory speech, said that the challenge in passing “marriage equality” had been getting people to focus on the second word—equality—rather than the first one. Maybe; he got this one through the absurdist maze of Albany, when other governors had failed, and so he probably knows what he’s talking about in terms of lobbying tactics. (President Obama, in contrast, has been more of a follower than a leader.) And the situation was urgently unfair .....


On Faith has asked the question ....

A bill legalizing same-sex marriage for couples in New York state is at a standstill over the issue of exemptions for religious organizations and individuals. The reach of these religious protections is wide-ranging -from whether Catholic adoption agencies may reject same-sex couples, to the right of religious caterers to refuse services for gay weddings. In New York’s Marriage Equality Act, should there be exemptions for religion? What should happen when equal rights for gay citizens and the right to religious free exercise clash?

You can read about the exemptions here - Religious exceptions within New York’s gay marriage bill


Friday, June 24, 2011

The Archangel Gabriel and Zechariah

Zechariah's Annunciation
by Pamela Lee Cranston
Anglican Theological Review, 2004

(Luke 1:5-23, 57-79)

It was not to Elizabeth (you realize)
that the angel came,
treading down the stair of muslin air
thick with resined incense,
but to Zechariah, her husband
the rural priest and pragmatist
doing his yearly turn of duty
by the altar in Herod's Temple.
His body froze, as Gabriel knew it would,
when the vocabulary of Grace poured
like liquid fire from his lips.
(Angels always carry warning signs for these events.)
What he didn't expect
was a heart gathered against Good News
like a clenched fist.
Zechariah's doubt turned his tongue
to stone - was forced to gestate
in its womb of silence
nine months long, waiting
like the Rock of Meribah
to be smitten, cracked open
by his grief and the strict staff
of the living Word.
Only Gabriel knew how that tongue,
once purified, would give birth
to pure praise, poetry
unstuttered - ringing prophecy
giving to his son, at last,
the true name
he never found
for himself.


- The Archangel Gabriel appears to Zechariah, Limbourg brothers, Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry


Thursday, June 23, 2011

A vampire Fellow of All Souls College


- gilded wooden angel from the roof of the Chapel at All Souls College (see bottom of post)

I'm still reading A Discovery of Witches: A Novel by Deborah Harkness. The book isn't great but still it's fairly interesting - it has a lot of info about Oxford, it has a couple of minor but positive gay/lesbian characters, and it focuses on details often overlooked, like scents. The vampire character describes the way his friend smells to him ...

You smell of willow sap, and chamomile that's been crushed underfoot. There's honeysuckle, and fallen oak leaves too, and ancient things ... horehound, frankincense, Lady's mantle ...

But anyway, the vampire character, a scientist, is a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford :) This college is different than the others at Oxford ....

Unique to All Souls, all of its members automatically become Fellows, i.e., full members of the College's governing body. It has no undergraduate members, but each year recent graduates of Oxford and other universities compete in "the hardest exam in the world" for Examination Fellowships ...

But times change ...

The word on Oxford University's All Souls fellows exam is: axed

It is thought to be the hardest exam in the world. For almost a century, just a handful of the brightest young Oxford graduates have been picked to sit it each year and often only one is successful.

But this year, for the first time, the All Souls fellows exam is dropping its most gruelling element – the one-word essay question. The task has defeated even the most brilliant of minds in requiring them to open an envelope, inside which is a card with a single word – for instance, innocence or morality – and to write coherently about the subject for three hours.

The historian Lord Dacre and the author Hilaire Belloc were not up to the challenge, unlike the philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin and the judge Richard Wilberforce. Those who excel, and who succeed in four other – more conventional – papers, are admitted to Oxford University's graduate-only college, All Souls. ....



- (click to enlarge) The Chapel still retains its original medieval hammer-beam roof, which together with the gilded wooden angels that adorn the ends of the beams dates from the fifteenth century. The angels owe their current brilliance to a late twentieth century regilding. - Architecture of the college


"Two months in Rome - how bad could that be?"

Maybe I shouldn't post a review of this week's movie rental, The Rite, as I gave up on the film halfway through. It would fall into the "religious horror" genre, I guess, and many in that genre have ended up on my favorite movies list, but still this movie, based on The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by journalist Matt Baglio, just rubbed me the wrong way.

The plot -- Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue), a young man who lives with his ultra-Catholic undertaker dad (Rutger Hauer), hates his Six-Feet-Under life and applies to seminary on a scholarship to get away from home, planning to drop out after graduation instead of becoming a priest. He does well in seminary, except for theology studies, and feels no doubts about not being ordained. That is, until his priest-mentor says that if he does leave without becoming a priest, his scholarship will turn into a $100,000 student loan (can seminary really cost this much!?). The priest tells him he'll let him off the financial hook if Michael will agree to take a two month exorcist class at the Vatican. Michael agrees.


- Two months in Rome - how bad could that be?

Michael joins the class in Rome (based on a class sponsored by the Legionaries of Christ - yikes!) but remains skeptical about the existence of the devil and the worth of exorcism, as does a fellow classmate, a reporter, Angelina (Alice Braga). The instructor sends Michael to work with practicing exorcist, Fr. Lucasa (Anthony Hopkins), a Jesuit (heh). Lucasa lives in a church-affiliated hovel with a courtyard filled with stray cats, and seems tired, distracted, depressed, and disturbed, but hey, given his job, can we be surprised? He takes Michael under his wing as he exorcises demons, yet Michael continues to doubt until one of Lucasa's exorcees dies under mysterious circumstances .... Michael then begins experiencing unpleasant supernatural phenomena and Lucasa becomes himself possessed.

I've read that the film goes on to have Michael successfully exorcise Lucasa's demon and then decide to become a priest after all, But a small frog had already been tossed into an incinerator and I was starting to worry about the continuing well-being of all the stray cats so conveniently living at Lucasa's dwelling ;) so it was at this point that I stopped watching the movie -- it wasn't just the animals in jeopardy that made me quit watching -- the film was just so dark, depressing, and emotionally ugly (and, ok, scary) that I didn't want any more of it in my head.

I suppose part of what I disliked about the film is the sort of Catholic stamp of approval it seemed to be wearing -- the movie is said to be based on facts, it begins with a the-devil-really-exists quote from JPII, the script writer was Catholic, the US Bishops approved of the film, and Catholic Roger Ebert gave the movie three stars. Is my church really all about "the devil made me do it" ? :(


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Magic, science and history

I'm reading A Discovery of Witches: A Novel by Deborah Harkness ...

... historian of science and medicine, specializing in the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries Harkness has published two works of history, John Dee's Conversations with Angels: Cabala, Alchemy and the End of Nature (1999) and The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution (2007) .... Deborah Harkness is a professor of history at the University of Southern California.

I've just started the novel but like it so far. It begins in Oxford, at the Bodleian Library, one of the oldest libraries in Europe ...


- Entrance to the Library, with the coats-of-arms of several Oxford colleges

... where the main character finds an old manuscript by celebrated English antiquary, politician, officer of arms, astrologer and student of alchemy, Elias Ashmole (of Ashmolean Museum fame).

Here's a bit from a review of the book in the Los Angeles Times ...

Deborah Harkness' 'A Discovery of Witches' started with airport bookstores

[...] "People believed that the supernatural and the natural existed, intermingled. We think of ourselves as having very little in common with people in 1558. And yet there were walls of this stuff. What if 16th century people were right, and the supernatural and natural coexisted? How would that play out? It started out almost like a kind of logic problem."

The result of her inquiry is her first novel, "A Discovery of Witches," which starts out in a contemporary England in which witches, vampires, daemons and humans fight for good light in Oxford University's libraries and even sometimes attend the same yoga class. Humans know about these creatures but keep their distance: There's an uneasy detente, with stereotypes, wariness and even bigotry in the mix.

But mostly, life goes on, until the novel's scholarly protagonist and primary narrator, Diana Bishop, comes across an elusive medieval document, long thought lost, which might hold the secrets of eternal life. And Diana attracts not only the attention of a host of pesky creatures but the dark eyes of a brilliant and terrifying vampire whose quiet charisma she works hard to resist.

The subject of intense interest by publishers worldwide at the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair, "A Discovery of Witches" is now, two months after publication, already in its seventh printing. Entertainment Weekly's Karen Valby calls it "a thoroughly grown-up novel packed with gorgeous historical detail" and "a gutsy, brainy heroine to match." It's also become a New York Times bestseller, debuting at No. 2.

And though comparison to Meyer's vampire novels and the misty-spired fantasy England of the Harry Potter books are inevitable, Harkness has not — for the last two decades or so — read much fiction written after the death of John Milton. Instead, the novel comes directly out of her work as a historian. She studies the transition from the superstitious Middle Ages to the rational, science-loving Enlightenment, which moved to banish the supernatural from its worldview. (Her novel's protagonist describes her era as "the age when astrology and witch-hunts yielded to Newton and universal laws.") ....



If I only had a thumb

I've often wondered if the only difference between successful us and most other animals is a bit of luck and the opposable thumb. Thanks to MadPriest, now I know :) ....




Almost




Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's day

Check out a post by Todd at Catholic Sensibility which expresses well what parenting is about - Why The Bishops Are Very Wrong On Adoption.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Plutocracy


- The Grasberg Mine complex from space

Denny has a post on the economy with a video that's worth a watch. One tidbit of info from the video ... the top 1% used to take home about 10% of the total income, now it takes home more than 20%, and the super-rich have 40% of the nation's entire wealth. All this money at the top has given the super-rich lots of political power ...

When I heard this, I realized I lived in a plutocracy :(.

[...] plutocracy is a reference to a disproportionate influence the wealthy have on political process in contemporary society: for example, according to Kevin Phillips, author and political strategist to U.S. President Richard Nixon, the United States is a plutocracy in which there is a "fusion of money and government." The wealthy minority exerts influence over the political arena via many methods .... Within government bureaucracy, there is often the problem of a revolving door: the employees of government regulatory bodies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States, often transition to and from employment with the same companies they are supposed to regulate.

This reminded me of a past post I had on an American company that runs the largest gold mine in the world in New Guinea, and which has guys like Henry Kissinger on the board (read more about Kissinger and the mine at National Catholic Reporter). So often I hear justifications for our involvement in other countries' politics based on the needs of the downtrodden - well, there are downtrodden people in New Guinea who've needed our help for some time but we've been doing the opposite of helping them. Here's just the beginning of a quite long article from 2005 in the New York Times that describes how the rich and the powerful in our government are disenfranchising people and destroying the environment for gold ....

Below a Mountain of Wealth, a River of Waste
By JANE PERLEZ and RAYMOND BONNER
Published: December 27, 2005

JAKARTA, Indonesia - The closest most people will ever get to remote Papua, or the operations of Freeport-McMoRan, is a computer tour using Google Earth to swoop down over the rain forests and glacier-capped mountains where the American company mines the world's largest gold reserve.

With a few taps on a keyboard, satellite images quickly reveal the deepening spiral that Freeport has bored out of its Grasberg mine as it pursues a virtually bottomless store of gold hidden inside. They also show a spreading soot-colored bruise of almost a billion tons of mine waste that the New Orleans-based company has dumped directly into a jungle river of what had been one of the world's last untouched landscapes.

What is far harder to discern is the intricate web of political and military ties that have helped shield Freeport from the rising pressures that other gold miners have faced to clean up their practices. Only lightly touched by a scant regulatory regime, and cloaked in the protection of the military, Freeport has managed to maintain a nearly impenetrable redoubt on the easternmost Indonesian province as it taps one of the country's richest assets.

Months of investigation by The New York Times revealed a level of contacts and financial support to the military not fully disclosed by Freeport, despite years of requests by shareholders concerned about potential violations of American laws and the company's relations with a military whose human rights record is so blighted that the United States severed ties for a dozen years until November.

Company records obtained by The Times show that from 1998 through 2004, Freeport gave military and police generals, colonels, majors and captains, and military units, nearly $20 million. Individual commanders received tens of thousands of dollars, in one case up to $150,000, according to the documents. They were provided by an individual close to Freeport and confirmed as authentic by current and former employees ......



Thursday, June 16, 2011

Just a few odd links ...

- I saw this post at the WSJ by Jonah Lehrer - Boot Camp for Boosting IQ - and the methodology mentioned reminded me of this game ... Bloxorz :)

- some music: The Lady of Shalott by Loreena McKennitt ....


- If I do ever get another pet - and that's a big if - maybe I really should get mice. I found a great website, for those interested - Everything you need to know about caring for pet mice




Inspired by ....

MadPriest, who had to go and mention dogs :) ...




Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Some hopeful news in New York

Here's the beginning of a post from Close Read at The New Yorker .....

***

Gay Marriage: New York, not North Korea
- Amy Davidson

“You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn’t black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing,” New York State Senator Roy McDonald, a Republican from Saratoga, said Tuesday. You hope to get there; McDonald did. He became the thirty-first of sixty-two senators in Albany to say that he would vote for a bill, submitted by Governor Andrew Cuomo, allowing same-sex marriage in our state. McDonald’s statement, as captured by the Daily News, continued,

You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, f— it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing.

I’m tired of Republican-Democrat politics. They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue-collar background. I’m trying to do the right thing, and that’s where I’m going with this.


I do like that; and who wants to be cynical? What, really, could be less cynical than a heartfelt commitment to marriage? The bill is only one senator short now, with a vote scheduled for Friday, and its proponents are optimistic that another senator will have reached the point in his or her life that McDonald has. Some of the pressure McDonald was shaking off came from religious groups. Archbishop Timothy Dolan posted a diatribe against the bill on his blog Tuesday, in which he wrote, “Last time I consulted an atlas, it is clear we are living in New York, in the United States of America—not in China or North Korea.” His point was not that gay marriage is allowed in those places—it is not, though it is in Iowa and five other American states—but that over there “communiqués from the government can dictate the size of families, who lives and who dies, and what the very definition of ‘family’ and ‘marriage’ means.” Is Dolan picturing a marriage altar as a sort of death panel? Or does he just think all that should be left to the church? .......

***

I hope the bill passes.


Relics :(

Today I moved a low table that was near the couch. I had bought it at a thrift store so that I could sit on the floor while using the computer. When Kermit got really sick and spent all her time on the couch, I dragged it over there so I could sit by her while using the computer. Here she is laying on the top of the couch ....



I kept the table and computer in the same place after she died - it was sort of comforting - but a couple of months ago when my computer died, I put the replacement on another higher table and today I moved the low table. Doing that made me so sad - it was like I was erasing Kermit. It's at this point, I guess, that people get new pets, but I'm reminded of what Data said to Geordi in the Star Trek episode Time's Arrow ...

Geordi: I never knew how tough this must be for you ... Knowing that you would outlive all your friends.
Data: I expected to make new friends.
Geordi: True.
Data: And then to outlive them as well.

:(


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Seven Wonders



When shadows fall, he'll close his eyes
to hear the clocks unwind
powerless to leash the hands of time

Kingdoms fall, the earth revolves
the rain will come this spring
and nothing he could say would change a thing

Seven wonders crowed the man
knowing six are gone
and how the great illusion lingers on

He can't enfold, the sun or moon
or wind within his hand
but count the times he'll
shout the great I am

With all the while, a pontiff smile
veiling his disgrace
at never owning more than second place

Seven wonders crowed the man
knowing six are gone
and how the great illusion lingers on

Seven wonders crowed the man
knowing six are gone
and how the great illusion lingers
oh, the grand illusion lingers
while the sad confusion lingers on


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Eek!



That's me holding a container of live ladybugs - it's out of focus because I'm so nervous my hands are shaking :) Last year the pecan tree was just eaten alive by aphids, so this year I thought I'd be pro-active and buy ladybugs to eat the aphids before the aphids could eat the tree. You can buy them at the hardware store where they're kept in the refrigerator. The cold supposedly makes them dormant, but mine seemed pretty lively. You're supposed to first water the area where you want them, then place them there at dusk. I was hoping my sister could help blind-as-a-bat me do this, but she couldn't, thus me being nervous. I thought I'd sprinkle a few of them under the rose bush, then put most of them under the pecan tree, but the whole ball of straw they were sitting on fell out under the rose bush and I had to pick it up and carry it over to the pecan tree - yikes! I hope all goes well.


Discouraged


- The Ecumenical Council, Salvador Dalí

In the news - Liberal U.S. Catholics say their Church is not listening (Reuters). Bryan Cones at US Catholic also has a post on this. Here's a bit of his post ...

American Catholic Council opens in Detroit

[...] The council is proposing a Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. Sound too American? Well, none other than Pope Paul VI proposed just such a thing--a basic law or constitution--for the church to be included in the revision of canon law. Pope John Paul II scrapped the idea, though its contents survive in canons 208-231.

I can hear already the protest that the church is not a democracy, to which I give my pat response that neither is it an empire, a monarchy, an oligarchy, or a dictatorship, though it in many ways is currently mirroring those forms of human government in various ways. I would also argue that from its foundation the church is profoundly democratic, and its history is full of examples in which the "fundamental equality of the baptized" (that's from canon law and Lumen gentium) was exercised in things like the selection of bishops, the governance of religious communities, and church councils ......


Do I think anything will come of this? Sadly, no - with B16 at the helm, the church is headed in the opposite direction and it doesn't want to listen to any differing opinions. Just yesterday I was reading about Salvador Dalí's painting, The Ecumenical Council - I feel so discouraged about the future of the church, in contrast to Dalí ...

Dalí was inspired to paint The Ecumenical Council upon the 1958 election of Pope John XXIII .... Religious symbols are pervasive throughout the piece. The title is an homage to the coronation of Angelo Guiseppe Cardinal Roncalli, who became Pope John XXIII in 1958. When John XXIII met with Geoffrey Fisher, the Archbishop of Canterbury, it was the first time the two churches had officially communicated in 426 years. Dalí was enthusiastic about the meeting.

But anyway, here are the rights and responsibilities mentioned above, which sound pretty good to me ....

1. Primacy of Conscience. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to develop an informed conscience and to act in accord with it.
2. Community. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to participate in a Eucharistic community and the right to responsible pastoral care.
3. Universal Ministry. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to proclaim the Gospel and to respond to the community’s call to ministerial leadership.
4. Freedom of Expression. Every Catholic has the right to freedom of expression and the freedom to dissent.
5. Sacraments. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to participate in the fullness of the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church.
6. Reputation. Every Catholic has the right to a good name and to due process.
7. Governance. Every Catholic and every Catholic community has the right to a meaningful participation in decision making, including the selection of leaders.
8. Participation. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to share in the interpretation of the Gospel and Church tradition.
9. Councils. Every Catholic has the right to convene and speak in assemblies where diverse voices can be heard.
10. Social Justice. Every Catholic has the right and the responsibility to promote social justice in the world at large as well as within the structures of the Church.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Happy Pentecost


- Getijden van de Heilige Geest

I came across Holy Spirit in the World Today Conference talks which has mp3s of Rowan Williams, Jürgen Moltmann, and others. And here's an article from a past post on Yves Congar - The Contribution Of Yves Congar's Theology Of The Holy Spirit.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Modern churches

I went hunting for a photo of a dove for upcoming Pentecost and before I knew it I'd gotten sidetracked so often that by the time I finally stopped, I'd spent two hours looking at photos of modern churches :) Here are a few of them ...

- Grundtvig's Church, Copenhagen ...


- St. Ignatius Church, Tokyo ...


- Herz-Jesu-Kirche, Munich ...



Thursday, June 09, 2011

The latest at The Stone

There's an interesting post at the NYT's philosophy blog by Linda Martín Alcoff, professor of philosophy at the City University of New York - When Culture, Power and Sex Collide - which asks the question of whether sexual harassment/violence is intrinsically wrong or rather only perceived be so depending on our own cultural backgrounds. Here's part of the post ....

When Culture, Power and Sex Collide
- Linda Martín Alcoff

The recent events swirling about the ex-next-president of France, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, have revived old tropes about how culture affects sex, including sexual violence ...... [the] question is whether relativism is relevant to those domains we generally want to put in the non-benign category: harassment, sexual coercion, even sexual violence. Could it be that offensiveness is relative to the perspective of the recipient, based on her own cultural sensibilities? More troubling, could it be that our very experience of an encounter might be significantly affected by our background, upbringing, culture, ethnicity, in short, by what Michel Foucault called our discourse? ..........

The slide toward a complete relativism on these matters can be halted on two counts. First, there is the question of the physical body. Sex, as Lenin correctly argued, is not akin to having a glass of water. It involves uniquely sensitive parts of the body around which every culture has devised elaborate meanings, from adulation to abomination ......

Second, there is the question of power. Differences in status and the capacity for economic self-sufficiency — not to mention the capacity for self-regard — compromise the integrity of consent, no matter the culture. Status differences can occur along the lines of age, class, race, nationality, citizenship and gender (all of which apply to the alleged attempted rape by Strauss-Kahn of an immigrant housekeeper). Power differences alone cannot determine whether something is benign or harmful, but they do signal danger. It cannot be the case that cultural context can render power differences completely meaningless. Obvious power differences in sexual relations should raise a red flag, no matter which color one’s culture uses to signal danger ........



"Bring Back the Real Rowan Williams!"

The Archbishop of Canterbury has criticized the conservative government (the Big Society) and its brutal social service cuts - The government needs to know how afraid people are. I agree with him.

The response: Giles Fraser has a good article on this in The Guardian - Archbishop of the opposition. Conservative Catholic blogger for the Telegraph, Damien Thompson, a fan of the Big Society, criticizes the archbishop (Rowan Williams returns to Old Labour sloganising as he desperately tries to distract himself from Anglican meltdown), as does Prime Minister David Cameron (Cameron rejects archbishop's broadside).

You can read more about the whole thing, can find some interesting links and read some interesting comments at this Thinking Anglicans post - Rowan Williams criticises the British government. I especially liked this comment to the Thinking Anglicans post ......

Now this really is the Rowan Williams I remember - one who stands up for the poor and needy, the outcast and reviled. Why does he not then stand by his seminal writing in 'The Body's Grace' - by standing up to the Conservatives of the Communion? Bring Back the Real Rowan Williams!

A couple of my past posts on the Big Society .... In the UK ...... The Big Society


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Ruth


- The Story of Ruth by Thomas Matthews Rooke

I saw a neat post at Dina's Jerusalem Hills daily photo blog that mentions Ruth, and it reminded me of a past homily by Rob Marsh SJ on Ruth. Here's the beginning of the homily ....

Friday Week 20 Year I
Rob Marsh SJ
August 19th, 2005

Gormless, uncouth, inept and ruthless… we’ve lost their kinder, gentler opposites gormful, couth, ept, … and ruthful – full of ruth. What does ruth mean? You have to make a leap from ‘ruthless’ somewhere into the territory of care and concern. Ruth is that piercing sorrow you feel when you can’t dodge someone else’s distress. It’s the ill-defined opposite of hardness of heart.

We need so badly to flesh out that tender term that its such a pity Ruth’s book gets such short shrift today and tomorrow. But those few lines on Ruth’s lips tell us a lot:

‘Wherever you go, I will go, wherever you live, I will live. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God’.

.........



The fuzzy purple flowers ...

are back. They're about an inch long. When I sent for the seeds a few years ago, the package came with a big hanging pot - the plant was supposed to end up huge, with large flowers. Oh well :)




Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Becoming

- flowers becoming strawberries ...


- flowers becoming Boysenberries ...



Monday, June 06, 2011

Terrence Malick

Is Terrence Malick the world’s greatest living filmmaker? I'd say no, but David Bentley Hart thinks so ....

Not long after seeing the trailer for Atlas Shrugged, I came across the trailer for quite a different kind of film: Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Malick is the world’s greatest living filmmaker, and this project has been with him for years. The two minutes or so of clips that have been released are far more beautiful, moving, and profound than anything associated with the name of Ayn Rand could ever be. “There are two ways through life,” a woman’s voice announces as the trailer opens: “the way of nature and the way of grace. We have to choose which one to follow.” That is arguably the great theme of all of Malick’s finest work; and I suspect that the deeper question the film poses is whether these two ways can become one. If what little I have heard about the film is right, moreover, the answer will have something to do with a love capable of embracing all things, and of both granting and receiving forgiveness. But we shall see.
- The Trouble with Ayn Rand

And after reading Fr. James Martin's review in America magazine's blog of Malick's just out The Tree of Life, I'd say Fr. Martin agrees with Hart. They aren't alone - see Roger Ebert's review in which he gave the movie four stars.

I haven't seen the movie yet myself, just watched the trailer and read a few reviews, but I can already feel taking hold that tendency I have to want to disagree with the majority opinion ... yes, I'm getting ready to dislike the movie ... and it doesn't help that the film starts off with God's non-responsive answer to Job's question about why he allows evil -- "Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation...while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?" -- I hate that!

This is not to say that former philosophy student Malick doesn't make beautiful movies. The one film of his I've seen so far was The New World which I did like very much (my review). It had beautiful visuals .....



... and a beautiful soundtrack (like Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 used in this scene) .....



..... and doubtless The Tree of Life has a similar beauty. But I'm not one of those who thinks beauty will save the world, and I'll need more than beauty to distract me from getting a real answer to Job's question.


Sunday, June 05, 2011

Aloysius Stepinac - a bad example

The pope's recently visited Croatia ... Croatia's bid to enter the European Union backed by Pope Benedict. In reading about the pope's visit I came upon something rather disturbing - mention of Aloysius Stepinac by the pope as a "heroic" example to others. Here's a little about Stepinac from Wikipedia (see the page for footnotes) ....

Aloysius Viktor Stepinac (Croatian: Alojzije Viktor Stepinac, 8 May 1898 –10 February 1960) was a Croatian Catholic cardinal and Archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 to 1960. In 1998 he was declared a martyr and beatified by Pope John Paul II ....

During World War II, on 6 April 1941, Yugoslavia was invaded by Nazi Germany, who established the Ustaše-led Independent State of Croatia. As archbishop of the puppet state's capital, Stepinac had close associations with the Ustaše leaders during the Nazi occupation, had issued proclamations celebrating the NDH, and welcomed the Ustaše leaders. Stepinac also objected against the persecution of Jews and Nazi laws, helped Jews and others to escape and criticized Ustaše atrocities in front of Zagreb Cathedral in 1943.

After the war he publicly condemned the new Yugoslav government and its actions during World War II, especially for murders of priests by Communist militants. Yugoslav authorities indicted the archbishop on multiple counts of war crimes and collaboration with the enemy during wartime. The trial was depicted in the West as a typical communist "show trial", biased against the archbishop; however, some claim the trial was "carried out with proper legal procedure". In a verdict that polarized public opinion both in Yugoslavia and beyond, the Yugoslav authorities found him guilty of collaboration with the fascist Ustaše movement and complicity in allowing the forced conversions of Orthodox Serbs to Catholicism.

After foreign and domestic pressure, Stepinac was released from Lepoglava prison. In 1952 he was appointed cardinal by Pope Pius XII. Stepinac died while still under confinement in his parish, almost certainly as the result of poisoning by his Communist captors. In October 3, 1998, Pope John Paul II declared him a martyr and beatified him before 500,000 Croatians in Marija Bistrica near Zagreb. This again polarized public opinion .....



- Ante Pavelić, leader of the Ustaše, and Alojzije Stepinac

I think this is another example in which the Catholic Church, in a reaction against communism, became bedfellows with a destructive fascist regime (think Franco and the Spanish Civil War). The Ustaše was a horrible combination of Catholicism and Nazism in Croatia which persecuted Jews, Serbs, and Roma. Especially disturbing is the involvement of Catholic clergy and the Vatican with the Ustaše (link). I don't think Stepinac is anywhere near what I'd call a good example for others. Here's a bit of another news story on the subject .....

[...] Earlier on Sunday Holocaust survivors voiced regret over pope's stop at Stepinac's tomb.

The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants labelled the cardinal in a statement as an "avid supporter of the Ustasha."

"Holocaust survivors join all victims of the Nazi-aligned Ustasha regime in wartime Croatia in expressing disappointment that Pope Benedict would honour Cardinal Stepinac,"it said in a statement.

"Stepinac was an avid supporter of the Ustasha whose cruelties were so extreme that they even shocked some of their Nazi masters," it said.
However, the Holocaust survivors estimated that though the pope was "right in condemning the evil Ustasha regime; he was wrong in paying homage to one of its foremost advocates."
- Pope Benedict XVI praises Croat cardinal as 'defender of Jews', European Jewish Press


Saturday, June 04, 2011

Ascension: Keith Ward, Graham Ward, James Alison


- window at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles

I don't especially like the ascension. For one thing, the idea of Jesus floating off on a cloud is hard to square with science -- as Keith Ward writes in The Big Questions in Science and Religion (p. 107), Jesus ... "ascends" into heaven. We now know that, if he began ascending two thousand years ago, he would not yet have left the Milky Way (unless he attained warp speed).

And even worse, there's the idea of being left behind by Jesus when he goes away for the second time. There may be a feeling of exaltation in his ascension, but as Graham Ward mentions in Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology (p. 176), there's also a feeling of distance, emptiness, and bereavement in his absence.

Having said that, though, I do like what James Alison writes in Knowing Jesus about the ascension (p. 24) ...

[...] the crucified and risen Jesus was not only crucified as a human but rose as a crucified human.

It is I think important to hold on to this, since there is a tendency, helped by the apparent vagueness of the gospel texts when they deal with the resurrection, to imagine that Jesus may well have been human up until his death, but from the resurrection onwards, he reverted to being God, and eventually, like a helium balloon, couldn't be held to the earth any longer, and floated back to heaven where he belonged.

Well, this is not the case. When Jesus died, it was a fully human being who died completely, and when Jesus was raised from the dead, it was a human being who was given back to us. Given back as a crucified and living human being. I stress this for two reasons: first, and incidentally, because if we don;t hold on to this, we make a nonsense of the belief in the ascension .....

That is to say, the ascension was not Jesus beaming back up to Starship Enterprise when the Mission was accomplished, leaving the earthlings to play happily; it was the introduction of a novelty into heaven: human nature. Being human was from then on permanently and indissolubly involved in the presence of God .....

What is important is that the risen and crucified Jesus was no less human after his resurrection than before it. This not only says something about the presence of human nature in heaven, but something about the presence of God on earth. The divine life is indissolubly and permanently present as human. All divine dealings with humanity are on a human level .....



Friday, June 03, 2011

More photos

See the ladybug?


The bluejay



Thursday, June 02, 2011

Discernment of spirits videos

I came across this series of videos by Fr. Brian O. McDermott, SJ on Ignatius of Loyola's discernment of spirits. I've only watched a bit of part 1 myself ....




Baby, you can't drive my car

There's a post at Feminist Philosophers about the driving ban for women in Saudi Arabia and of Manal al-Sharif who's organizing a protest to the ban. I speak from experience when I say not being able to drive is yucky - I lost my driving license not long after college due to deteriorating vision. Wikipedia has a section of this page - Women's rights in Saudi Arabia - devoted to the women driving topic. Here's a video about Manal al-Sharif and the protest ....




Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Maybe the church should get out of the medical business

James Martin SJ has a post at America magazine's blog with a news video from PBS on the Vatican AIDS Conference. I'd watched the video last night at Google news and found it so depressing because I think condom use does help prevent AIDS and that the church's stance of abstinence instead is likely getting people killed.

Anyway, the video is well worth a watch. It mentions the Vatican's continued policy of disallowing people with AIDS to use condoms despite hopes generated by the pope's book interview (cynical me had no such hopes) and there's an interview with Bishop Kevin Dowling (God only knows how long it will be before that brave person is fired). Here's the video ....




Yard photos

It looks like the bluejay has something in his beak, but maybe it's just something behind him?


I planted some sunflower seeds in a pot and now one of the plants is taller than I am :) Still no flowers yet, though.


This photo of rain on a spider web wasn't in focus and didn't turn out right but with my bad eyes the dead leaf looks like a fish in an aquarium :).